It could be true what they say….

That men are from Mars.
Yesterday afternoon Michael was going to our local Asda store ten minutes walk away so I asked him if he would get me a Kingsmill Thick Wholemeal loaf  – a simple enough task, and it would save me calling in there on my way home from work just for one item. I went out before he came home but when I got back from work I found that he had indeed got me a thick sliced Kingsmill loaf but it was white – and I don’t have white bread unless there’s absolutely no alternative. He said he thought at the time it was strange that I should ask for white so obviously he’d misheard me but never thought to question it, though I don’t think the word ‘wholemeal’ sounds anything like the word ‘white’. I actually used a couple of slices of it for toast this morning but it’s just not the same.
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Today he had to go to an HR meeting at work and on his way home he called back in Asda to get me the thick wholemeal loaf I really wanted, although I hadn’t asked him to – well he came back with a Kingsmill loaf and yes, it’s wholemeal, but this time it’s only a medium! I haven’t said anything to him as I don’t want him to think I’m ungrateful but I’m now wondering – if I sent him out again would it be third time lucky and would he finally come back with the right combination?? He’s a wonderful son but sometimes I really do wonder which planet he’s on!

 

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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.
Southport - Oct. 2017 001
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.

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.
Palais 1
The Palais, late 1940s/early 1950s
Inside Palais
A busy dance night in the ’50s
Ritzy
Ritzy nightclub, early 1990s
Ikon 1
Ikon, 2014
Ikon 2
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.

What a disaster!

Today I was cleaning at the boss’s house when I had the mother of all disasters.
Four months ago he moved from a modern detached house with a large kitchen and modern units to an old bungalow with dated kitchen units and nowhere near as much cupboard space as in the previous house, but as the bungalow will eventually be demolished and an ultra-modern eco-friendly house built in its place it’s not worth him replacing the units. One of these is a cupboard with a drawer above it and a slide-out shelf inside, with the shelf having plastic-coated wire sides and front rather like a freezer shelf, and it’s this cupboard where the crockery is kept – plates and bowls on the bottom and cups, mugs and glasses on the slide-out shelf. I’ve often had my doubts about putting breakables on that shelf but with limited cupboard space there’s nowhere else for them to really go.
So today I emptied the dishwasher, put all the pots and pans in their rightful places and the mugs and glasses on the shelf, and it was when I pushed the shelf back in that disaster struck. Somehow – and I really don’t know how as it happened so fast – the shelf came off its runners, tilted forwards and crashed down into the bottom of the cupboard, depositing most of its contents in a heap on the kitchen floor. Fortunately most things survived the drop but several things didn’t, the breakages totalling 3 tumblers, 2 mugs, 2 large cappuccino cups, 2 beakers, an espresso cup and a half-pint beer glass – luckily the shelf had missed the plates and bowls in the bottom of the cupboard otherwise the damage would have been a lot worse.
It was while I was surveying the carnage that my phone rang – it was Michael with the immortal words “Are you busy Mum?” “Yes Michael, I am a bit – I’m standing in the middle of Andy’s kitchen wondering how the hell I’m going to tell him that half his pots are in the bin”. Now when Michael starts a conversation with that sentence I know he wants something, this time he wanted me to check online for flights to Ireland so I told him I’d do it when I finally got home and I set about clearing up the mess. The front and sides had also come off the shelf so I fixed those back on, checked that the runners weren’t broken and put it back into place, then with the surviving mugs and glasses also back in place I gingerly pushed the shelf in and closed the door on it.
I was just about to ring Andy to tell him what had happened when someone else rang me; the conversation was long and tedious so I decided to see Andy in person instead and I called up this evening after work – and the conversation went like this – “I’ve come to confess my sins and I just hope you won’t kill me” “Why, what have you broken?” “Well let’s just say you won’t have as much washing up to do now”. When I explained what had happened with the shelf he told me that he wasn’t surprised as it’s been playing up for a while, and there was still lots of stuff that hadn’t  got broken so not to worry about it.
Breaking things belonging to other people isn’t something I make a habit of doing, especially not on that scale, so I’m glad Andy was okay about it. And just for the record, when I finally got home this afternoon I checked the flights for Michael and he’s off to Ireland again tomorrow, coming back next Thursday – it’s alright for some!

Never put the tile grout near the soap powder

It’s not often that anyone is in when I go to clean the boss’s house but today he and his partner were both there. She was in the process of loading the washing machine and he was just about to go out, and as he got to the door he jokingly said to her “Get the right packet this time”. I had no idea what he was talking about but after he’d gone she enlightened me.
The cupboard next to the washing machine is where all the laundry and dish washing items are kept and last weekend, seeing what she thought was a new brand of soap powder, she tipped some into the drawer of the washing machine. It was only after she’d done it that she thought it looked rather strange for soap powder, and when she looked at the packet properly she realised it was white tile grout. Luckily she hadn’t started the machine so she scooped out as much powder as she could, took all the washing out and ran the machine on an empty cycle to get rid of the residue from the drawer. She had been teased about it a couple of times over the last few days but when she showed me the packet I had to agree that with the name, the colours, and no actual wording saying ‘TILE GROUT’ it did look like it could be soap powder.
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It was an easy mistake to make though lucky that she realised what it was before she started the washing machine otherwise the clothes could have ended up a total mess. But then it wouldn’t really have been her fault – only a man could put tile grout in the laundry cupboard!

Only my son could do this

Back towards the end of June Michael, through no fault of his own, managed to accidentally break his ankle, resulting in a trip to A & E . X-rays showed it was a very bad break and he came out on crutches and wearing a supporting boot strapped up his leg, with an appointment to go back for another x-ray six days later when it would be decided if he needed a plaster cast or not. He came back from that appointment still with the boot on, another appointment for the following week and some medication which he had to inject himself with to prevent a DVT – that was assuming he did nothing but sit or lie and rest, however within minutes of getting back home he decided he was going to Ireland that night!
So in spite of having other things to do (I was having a weekend away myself and needed to sort things out) I spent the next hour or so on the pc, organising his journey. He couldn’t fly out as he needed a doctor’s note authorising the syringes he had so I booked him on the Holyhead to Dublin night ferry with coach connections at both ends then a flight back from Dublin to Manchester the evening before his next hospital appointment the following Friday. He had already left home when I got back from work that evening but he rang me at various stages of the journey to let me know he was okay and he arrived safely at the family home in Roscrea the following morning. All went well until the evening he was due to come back home then everything went pear-shaped, producing a string of complicated and confusing events.
The flight back from Dublin on the Thursday was 9.30pm and I’d arranged to pick Michael up from Manchester airport an hour or so later, however at 7.15 he rang me and his first words were “Mum, I’ve messed up”. Now to put you in the picture, over the last few months he’s become friendly with a girl in Roscrea and he’d called to see her before setting off to come home, only to be told by her next door neighbour that she’d had a bad epileptic seizure and had been taken to hospital 35 minutes drive away. As the coach to Dublin passed the hospital where his friend had been taken he’d decided (not very wisely as it turned out) to stop off there to see if she was okay, only to find out when he got there that she’d recovered from her seizure, checked herself out and presumably gone home. By the time he’d come out of the hospital and made his way back to the main road he’d missed the next coach to the airport and hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting there in time for his flight so the only thing he could do was get the next coach back to Roscrea and start again the following day. He would miss his hospital appointment but it could be rearranged.
So once again using the trusty pc and various timetables found on the internet I came up with an alternative. Flying back was now out of the question as Friday and weekend flights are very expensive, so it was decided that he would wait until Saturday and come back on the night ferry; Saturday was also the day when I should have gone to Anglesey but there was no way I was going until I knew Michael was safely back home. Unfortunately there was nowhere in Roscrea where he could make a direct ferry booking, he couldn’t make an internet booking using his phone as for some reason he couldn’t get into the system, and I couldn’t book it for him from here as he would need a printed ticket, so the only thing he could do was get to the ticket office at the bus station in Dublin and make his booking there.
Now not knowing what time the Dublin ticket office closed I suggested that he get the 1pm coach from Roscrea which would get him to Dublin by 3pm, so assuming that the ticket office closed early at maybe 4pm he would be in plenty of time. However, even that didn’t go according to plan; at 1.45pm on the Saturday I got a text ‘Still waiting for coach’ so I rang him. The 1 o’clock coach hadn’t turned up and there was no timetable at the bus stop so yet again I got on the pc to check, only to find that the timetable I was looking at then wasn’t what I’d been looking at the previous day – it had changed overnight and there wasn’t now a coach at 1pm. The next one was 3 o’clock, which got Michael to Dublin bus station a few minutes after 5pm – just five minutes too late for the ticket office! The only thing he could do then was get a taxi to the port and see if he could get on the next ferry as a foot passenger, though he would have to sort out his own way of getting home from Holyhead once he got there.
However, for the first time since all this mess began he actually had a stroke of luck – the young woman in the ticket office got into the booking system and he was booked in on the night ferry for the full journey from there right back home; all he had to do was wait for the coach which would take him onto the ferry then he could relax for the rest of the journey. He did text me at one point ‘Now on ferry, just set sail’ to which I jokingly replied ‘Well don’t get off anywhere!’ and back came the text ‘Even that would be impossible for me now!’ He eventually arrived home just after 7 o’clock on the Sunday morning, the coach having dropped him off at the local Asda store ten minutes walk away – and I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see him.
I finally went to Anglesey two days later than planned, leaving Michael home alone, and he went to his rearranged hospital appointment on the Friday that week. This time his foot was put in a plaster cast which goes halfway to his knee – and on his way back home he stopped off in town and booked himself on the ferry back to Ireland that night! He would have been going anyway as it was his birthday a few days later and he’d already booked the time off work as a holiday so he wasn’t wasting it. The following Tuesday I got back from Anglesey to an empty house and Michael finally arrived back the Sunday afterwards, though even that journey hadn’t been without incident.
For some reason the driver of the coach from Roscrea to Dublin had taken a different route round the city and hadn’t stopped at the main bus station where Michael had to pick up the coach for the ferry; when he realised that the coach was heading towards the docks on the way to the airport he had to ask the driver to stop and let him off. He then had a choice – a taxi back to the bus station and risk missing the ferry coach or onwards to the port. He chose the port, and though he had to wait a while he was able to pick up the ferry coach there. He’s been at home since then but I know he’s planning on going back to Ireland after his next hospital check up at the end of this week; if he does then hopefully things will all go according to plan but if they don’t…..then watch this space!