My first postcard

Less than two weeks after joining Postcrossing and sending out my first four postcards I’ve just received my first one back. It’s from a semi-retired man in Germany who wrote me a nice message in which he says he likes travelling and walking or cycling by the sea or along rivers.
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Last Saturday I spent well over an hour looking round the town centre for postcards of my local area but couldn’t find a single one – every place which would logically have had them doesn’t seem to sell them now and even the one shop where I would have been guaranteed to get some didn’t have any in stock. So I turned to the internet and was lucky enough to find some unused English postcards for a very good price so I sent for 100. They arrived on Thursday and yesterday I sent out cards to France, Japan, Italy and Finland – I was really pleased when I got the Italy address as it’s a lovely town on the Ligurian coast which I visited several years ago.
While I’ve been typing this I’ve just had an email from Postcrossing to say that someone (not the recipient) has ‘favourited’ one of the Southport cards I sent out and which has been uploaded to the gallery – it’s nice to know that someone likes it as I do think it’s quite an attractive card. I think this Postcrossing thing is getting more interesting by the day and I can’t wait to see where my next card will come from.


Another sad story

Following on from this post which I wrote back in April, this story has just been in my local paper
                                 Swan put down by RSPCA after suffering severe injuries on canal
A swan which survived an attack on a local canal several months ago has had to be put down after it suffered severe injuries in another incident.
In April this year a male swan was shot and killed by a gang of youths on the stretch of Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal in Little Lever, and its partner has now died. The cause of the female swan’s injuries has not yet been discovered but the RSPCA said the bird had not been shot.
The charity went to the canalside to try to catch the bird after a member of the public called to say it had been seen with injuries above its beak. RSPCA animal collection officer, Gina Ratcliff, said: “I was very lucky to catch her at all, someone else had been out the night before, but had no success. She was very wary of me and the water was quite deep where she was so I knew I only had one chance from dry land. I lay down on the canal bank and luckily managed to get hold of her with a swan hook.”
“We don’t know what caused the injuries she had sustained, but they were severe. She was taken to our specialist wildlife centre RSPCA Stapeley Grange in Cheshire but very sadly there was nothing that could be done for her and she had to be put to sleep. It’s always upsetting when things go this way, but more so here because of what previously happened to her mate.”
Patrols along the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal have been stepped up in response to a rise in illegal incidents affecting the bird population in recent months. Anyone with information about what caused the swan’s injuries should call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018.
With no mention of any cygnets I can only assume that any eggs she had at the time her mate was killed didn’t hatch; there’s currently no evidence to suggest that she was targeted by the same youths who killed her mate, but however she came by her injuries the fact remains that a whole family has now been wiped out – and that’s just so, so sad.

Another broken ankle update

Exactly four months after breaking his ankle Michael is still no nearer to getting it sorted out properly and he’s understandably getting really cheesed off with the whole situation. Back on September 1st he had an x-ray and got an appointment to see a specialist, Mr W, two weeks later ; he made another trip back to Ireland on the 6th, then while I was away camping in Norfolk he came back home on the 14th for his appointment the following day but that proved to be a total waste of time. He was kept waiting for forty minutes after his actual appointment time then when he finally did see someone it was the collar bone and shoulder specialist!
This guy prodded, poked and manipulated Michael’s ankle and asked if it hurt, to which he replied “Yes, it ****does!!” then he was told he would get a letter in two to three weeks time to see Mr W – which is what that day’s appointment was supposed to be for! Needless to say, he wasn’t very happy as there had been no real point in coming back from Ireland just to be told that, so on his way back from hospital he called at the bus station ticket office and booked himself on the ferry that same night – he rang me and said he’d got an open ticket so once he got a letter from the hospital he could come home in time for whenever the next appointment would be.
Unfortunately, even after four weeks there was still no letter for him from the hospital so rather than ring he decided to come back home and actually go there to find out what was going on. He arrived back here at 6.30am on the 13th of this month then after a couple of hours sleep he went up to the hospital, only to be told that they had no record of a further appointment for him! At this stage he (sort of quietly) hit the roof and was finally able to speak to Mr W’s secretary who immediately gave him the earliest appointment available which was for today.
That appointment was for 10am but it was 11.30 before he was seen and he was in for quite a while, during which his ankle was prodded and poked yet again but without the specialist coming to a firm conclusion. From there he had to go to physio where the guy there just gave him a few exercises to do at home to strengthen the new bone growth, and he now has to wait for yet another appointment to have a scan this time, when (hopefully) it will be decided whether or not he needs an operation. Needless to say he’s really fed up with the whole ongoing situation now and really needs a final decision to be made one way or the other as he wants to get back to work – his ankle is still very sore but even though he can now walk about without the boot the nature of his job means that he isn’t even allowed in the bakery so as much as he wants to go back to work he can’t.
However, he is  going back to Ireland on Friday night, with an open ticket so he can come home whenever he needs to, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the post for him, though he said he’s only going to leave it for a week before he rings the hospital, and he’ll keep ringing them until he gets that next appointment date. I really hope something gets sorted out for him soon as I’m just as fed up with the situation as he is – and though it’s nice to have him at home when he is  here I do miss my presents of free bread and teacakes!

Something new and interesting

Thanks to reading Sharon’s blog over breakfast last Sunday morning I’ve recently discovered Postcrossing. I’d never heard of it before and it sounded so intriguing I checked out the website, and what I found interested me so much that I joined immediately. Basically it’s a way of sending and receiving postcards to and from different people all over the world – you create an account and profile, request to send a postcard and get a random name and address of someone somewhere else in the world. You send them a postcard, they register it on the website once they’ve got it and you then become eligible to receive a postcard from a random member somewhere else – and the more cards you send out the more you get back.
After reading through the website a couple of times I couldn’t wait to get started so while I was in Southport later that day I picked up half a dozen cards from a newsagent’s near the promenade, then when I got home I logged onto the website and requested to send four cards. You are only allowed to have a certain number ‘travelling’ in the system at any one time so I thought four was enough to start off with and I wrote them that night – to Galway in Ireland, New York, Germany and Moscow – then posted them on Monday morning.
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Tonight, just about an hour ago, I got an email from the Postcrossing website to say that my card to Ireland had been received and registered today, having travelled 273 miles, and the lady in question had even sent me a nice little message. It will obviously take a while longer for the other three people to get theirs but now I know the first one has been received I’m really looking forward to eventually getting some back – and not knowing who or where they’ll come from means I’ll have some nice surprises dropping through my letterbox before long.

An afternoon in Southport

Almost six weeks since I last saw him, Michael finally arrived home from Ireland early last Friday morning ; circumstances kept us both busy on Saturday but yesterday the weather was looking quite promising so we decided to have a ride out somewhere and Southport was the choice. We arrived there at lunch time and with four hours on the car park ticket we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up again at 3pm to go for a meal somewhere – it had been several years since I was last there so I wanted to be off exploring and taking photos and I didn’t expect Michael to trail round with me.
Starting off near the pier I walked along one side of the Marine Lake then went up onto the bridge which crossed the lake and took me to Princes Park, then from there I wandered along to Pleasureland, the large amusement park. On my last visit to Southport the funfair had been a partially closed small shadow of its former self so this time I wasn’t expecting to see much, however I was quite surprised to find that it’s now grown into a large vibrant and colourful amusement place with rides and attractions everywhere I looked.
After wandering round there for a while I made my way back to the lake and headed through King’s Gardens towards the pier then went down to Lord Street, the long main shopping street. With many nice old buildings, monuments and gardens I could have taken several photos along there but unfortunately I ran out of space on my camera card ; having the dogs with me meant that I couldn’t really go in any of the shops and as it wasn’t far off 3pm anyway I just made my way back to the van and waited for Michael.
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Southport pier
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Marine Lake
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Pleasureland amusement park
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Hook A Duck stall
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Colourful artwork on the carousel canopy
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King’s Gardens
As Michael had been a frequent visitor to Southport over the last few years he said he knew a nice place to go for a meal so I settled the dogs in the back of the van and off we went back to Lord Street and to the Westminster Tea Rooms – and this place wasn’t just any old cafe. With wood panelled walls hung with old pictures and mirrors, ornate coving, chandeliers, white table linen and proper napkins, tea and coffee served in silver pots, afternoon tea served on 4-tier cake stands and the waitresses in black dresses with white collars and aprons, it had a very 1920s feel to it and I felt as if I’d stepped back in time. The meal was good too and once we’d finished we made our way back to the van and I took Sophie and Poppie for a short walk along the lakeside before we set off for home, arriving back just before I needed to put the van lights on. All in all it had been a really nice afternoon, and the old fashioned tea room experience had made a nice change – I don’t know when I’ll get to Southport again but at least now I know of a really nice place for a meal when I do go back.

Echoes of Homeward Bound

No doubt many people will be familiar with the Disney film Homeward Bound, in which two dogs and a cat trek across America to find their family; well this story is in my local paper today and though the journey is nothing like crossing America it’s still impressive for a little dog so I thought I’d share it.
Lost dog Patch’s incredible eight-mile expedition to find his mother
PATCH the Jack Russell has an extraordinary ‘tail’ to tell after he went missing and turned up eight miles away at his mum’s front door.
The little five-year-old was out walking in Hall i’th’ Wood on Sunday evening when he got lost in the woodland. His family desperately searched for him to no avail . . . but the next morning he was found sitting on the doorstep of his mum Bess’s home in Westhoughton.
Patch has lived with Lisa and John Hilton and their children Annabel, aged 15, Oscar, aged 12, and Millie, aged nine, since he was a puppy while Bess, aged 12, lives with Lisa’s father, Edward Horrocks, aged 90. The family, who live in Crompton Way, were shocked and delighted to discover he was safe and sound, but are completely amazed by the unusual journey.
Mrs Hilton, aged 47, said: “It has been a traumatic experience, but we are so glad it’s a happy ending to the story. We have always gone to my dad’s house in a car. Sometimes the windows are open and maybe that’s what led him there. I said to the kids, ‘when you are vulnerable who do you want? It’s your mum’.
“That little dog of ours, we can’t believe he made it all that way and what he might have gone through when you think about all the roads and roundabouts he would have had to cross without getting run over. We don’t know how many miles he ran – he’s absolutely exhausted now but he’s our little hero!”
Patch — who is microchipped — was walking in the woods off-lead with Mr Hilton, aged 53, when he disappeared at around 4pm. Panicked, the family gathered around to hunt for him, handing out numbers to passing dog walkers and posting Patch’s picture on Facebook. Meanwhile it’s believed the dog made his way to Crompton Way and started his journey west.
It is not known exactly what route Patch took, but his family believe he could have travelled along part of Moss Bank Way and through Johnson Fold before arriving at Landedmans in Westhoughton some time between midnight and 6am, when a neighbour spotted him sitting obediently outside Mr Horrocks’s front door.
That morning, after a sleepless night of worry, Mrs Hilton received a call from her dad. She said: “He asked if I was sitting down and I thought the worst, then he said ‘You’ll never guess who’s sitting next to me!’
“It went from tears to thinking what a clever dog we have got. He wasn’t hurt, just a little shocked and tired. We are thrilled he’s back home now though and just hope he doesn’t do it again!”
I know the place names won’t mean anything to anyone else but the Hall i’th’ Wood area isn’t far from where I live and I’m familiar with where little Patch ended up – I know it’s quite a trek from one place to the other so it beats me how on earth he managed to find his way. An in-built homing instinct maybe? A desire to find his mum driving him on? Who knows, but whatever it was it just shows that dogs aren’t as ‘dumb’ as many people think they are.

A night in the life of a ‘Hitman’ dancer

Following on from my previous post, where I mentioned having been on tv in the late night dance music show The Hitman And Her, I thought I would give you an insight into the making of the show and what it was like to be a Hitman dancer.
Rehearsals were held every week on Tuesday and Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon at a dance studio in central Manchester – I went to the Sunday sessions as I worked evenings during the week. The Sunday ‘dance mega-blast’ sessions were three hours long and consisted of an hour of high-powered aerobics, an hour learning a new routine and an hour of practise. Clive, the main dancer/choreographer/ instructor (the guy known as ‘Wiggie’ with the wild white wig who appeared in all the programmes,) was always there to teach/nag/bully everyone to get things right (he was a great guy really and a lot of fun) and in his words those sessions weren’t “a walk in the park but bloody hard graft as nothing else works!!” And that was true, Sunday afternoons were three hours of intense work but they were also fun and I enjoyed every minute.
Although the tv programmes were broadcast late on Saturday nights – well early Sunday mornings really as they were shown between 2am and 4am – they were actually recorded on Thursday evenings. They came from a different nightclub each week and all dancers had to be at the venue no later than 6pm. The evening would kick off with an hour of high powered aerobics to get warmed up then 7pm to 7.45 was a practise session and run-through of dance routines. This was followed by an hour of relaxing and getting something to eat and drink from the free buffet which was laid on for us and at 8.45 we would have a final quick briefing and take to the stage/floor/podiums/balcony etc, then at 9pm the music would start, the doors would be opened to let the crowd in and the night started.
The first hour was just like it would be on any club night with the resident dj (though probably with a lot more clubbers) then at ten o’clock the Hitman theme tune heralded the start of the actual tv programme being recorded. There were really only two ‘rules’ which had to be adhered to – (a) that no space should be without a dancer so any dancer seeing an empty space had to take over, which meant that I often moved round from stage to podium/balcony/front line crowd control etc and back to stage again, and (b) that no-one was allowed to go to the bar – anyone wanting a drink had to ask one of the production crew to get it. Programme recording finished at midnight though we would usually carry on dancing until the end of the night to music played by the resident dj.
The whole evening would be very hot and thirsty work – I could quite easily drink three or four pints of orange cordial during the four hours I was dancing – but it was also very very enjoyable and I loved every minute. It was a very sad time when the Hitman programmes finally ended in December 1992, and although Pete and Michaela have appeared separately in other programmes in the years since then I’ve sometimes wondered what became of Wiggie and the other dancers. My own love of dancing has stayed with me throughout though – a couple of years after Hitman finished I got a job in a local nightclub working weekends as a dancer – and even though I’m older now I would be the first to apply if that show was ever brought back again.

The end of an era and some local history

It was the end of an era a few days ago when a local dance hall and nightclub was finally demolished after plans and campaigns to save the iconic building were unsuccessful.
The Astoria Palais de Danse, referred to by generations of locals as just The Palais, was opened in 1928 at the time when dance band music was all the rage. Created by a local builder who was a staunch teetotaller, it was somewhere where parents could safely let their daughters go, and it was the manager’s job to watch from the balcony all evening to make sure that girls weren’t being pestered by young men; any young man who tried was taken outside by ‘two strong-arm men’ and sent on his way. Even throughout World War 2 The Palais remained open, often visited by American servicemen who arrived by truck from their base, and some of them visited so often that they were eventually able to speak with a local accent.
People didn’t go to The Palais just to dance though, they could go for coffee on the balcony and for sixpence they got not only a cup of coffee but sugar as well, which at that time was strictly rationed, and in the 1940s the Bolton Palais de Danse company bought the local Greenhalgh’s Bakery shop, owned by James Greenhalgh, purposely to supply the dance hall with bakery products. The 1950s saw a boom in ballroom dancing and many young people would have lessons so they could dance properly and impress any prospective partners; The Palais was the epicentre of local social life and many relationships and marriages started off there.
Mecca Dancing Ltd took over The Palais in 1956 and the Phil Moss Band became the featured entertainers; in October 1958 the BBC’s popular Come Dancing programme was broadcast from there and a local couple reached the semi-final of the Inter-town Novice Quickstep Contest, but sadly they were eclipsed by a couple from Sheffield. As society changed over the following years the new Palais management brought in plans to replace the youngsters’ Tuesday night jiving sessions with Bingo, moving the jiving nights to Mondays, and in 1963 more than 500 teenagers signed a petition objecting to the new plans as hardly any of them could go on Monday nights. In 1965, after four previously unsuccessful applications, Mecca Dancing was finally granted a licence to sell ‘intoxicants’ on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which were the ‘older age’ nights.
Slowly but surely, as pop music became the rage, discotheques took over from dance halls and dancing changed completely. In 1979 The Palais finally lost the original dance hall look and became Cinderellas Rockerfellers disco, usually referred to as just Rockerfellas. It operated successfully until 1987, then after a short period of closure and another revamp it became Ritzy; unfortunately a fire in 1990 caused a substantial amount of internal damage but after months of refurbishment the club reopened in 1991 and continued as Ritzy until 1996. The club then operated for a while as Central Park with a smaller venue, Jumpin’ Jacks, in the basement, then another change saw it renamed Ikon with Jaxx in the basement, and it remained successful for a number of years until a drastic downturn in trade finally forced its closure in January 2012.
Since then the building has been up for sale twice with various plans, including a 300-seat world buffet restaurant, being put forward, but after suffering a suspected arson attack in 2014 it was left empty and unloved. It was finally purchased by the owners of the nearby Market Place Shopping Centre and enjoyed a brief revival in 2016, reopening in its former dance hall glory, and with a live band, for one night only as part of the BBC2 series You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. But in spite of a long-running petition signed by many locals who wanted the building restored and reopened properly its fate was sealed – demolition started on the inside several weeks ago and the outer shell finally gave up the ghost a few days ago.
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The Palais, late 1940s/early 1950s
Inside Palais
A busy dance night in the ’50s
Ritzy nightclub, early 1990s
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Ikon, 2014
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Just a pile of rubble – October 2nd 2017
Strangely, even in my later clubbing days, I never went in that particular nightclub until 1991 when Ritzy reopened after months of major refurbishment following the fire the previous year  – and that’s why the place holds particular memories for me. The 14th of September that year was the first time I appeared on tv as one of the dancers on the late night ITV club/dance music show The Hitman And Her, with Pete Waterman and Michaela Strachan, although the programme had been recorded two days previously. It was actually broadcast between 2am and 4am and my parents, at the age of just over 70 bless them, stayed up all night to watch it.
Quite coincidentally, while I was searching for the details to write this post, I came across a recently posted Youtube clip of the first half of that programme – it’s almost an hour long but if anyone fancies having a look you can find me here. I’m wearing black cycling shorts with a fluorescent yellow stripe down the sides and a crop top, fluorescent yellow with a white front and ‘Body Power’ in black writing. There are several brief shots of me throughout the programme but the best ones are between 24mins 38sec and 27min 26secs (the people they got up singing were excrutiatingly bad but that’s when you see more of me) then at 31mins 28secs where I’m directly behind Pete and Michaela, 38mins 39secs where I’m picked out in the ’10 out of 10′ section, and 53mins 59secs and 54mins 20secs where you see me on one of the podiums. It was a brilliant night, the first of many, and though The Palais is now just a heap of rubble I still have my memories.
**None of the above photos are mine by the way – certainly not the first one as I wasn’t even around then! – so I’ve sourced them from various online articles originally published in the local evening paper.

Animal sanctuary open day

Today I took my friend Lin and her daughter Dee to the autumn open day at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary about ten miles from home. It’s a place we visit regularly and it’s open daily from 10am to 4pm, with the special open days being held four times a year. As well as the normal gift shop and book shop they have stalls in the courtyard and one of the barns, a bouncy castle and other attractions, and in dry weather they have fun dog agility classes which anyone can join in for free. These events are always well attended and they make a good couple of hours out. The place seems to be very well named though as it’s close to the moors and in winter it really is bleak, although it’s lovely there in summer.Bleakholt open day
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Views from the picnic area
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Nudging the balls to get the treats out
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A resident in ‘Old Woofs’ block
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Waiting for a forever home
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Archie, now reserved
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Part of the remembrance garden
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A resident in the kitten block
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Two ‘oldies’ residents
Although the morning had been cloudy and grey it did brighten up at lunch time and the sun came out, but unfortunately it was very brief and it soon clouded over again. While I was in the cat block, sitting in with the oldies, it started raining and when I came out it was pouring down, so I found my friends and we took shelter in the cafe where we had a meal and a brew so none of us had to cook anything when we got home. We were in there for quite a while but it was still raining when we came out so we just had one more look round the stalls in the barn then called it a day and set off for home. It was such a shame that it started raining as it literally put a dampener on the afternoon for everyone, but it won’t be long before the pre-Christmas open day which is always a really good event, so hopefully the weather will be kind and the sanctuary will have lots more visitors then.