Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hessle Road

Hessle Road in Hull, best street for shopping in the country.
Sometimes when my Mum and Dad want something when they come to visit, anything at all, bike tyre mending kits, little roses for putting on knitted baby's bonnets, straw boaters (I am not kidding) they go to Hessle Road and they know they will find it.
Note the lack of blandness on the part of the shops. This is not the sort of high street you often see nowadays with all the shops the same as every other town's high street, these are proper shops, family businesses, and each peculiar to Hessle Road.
Note the flags. People are very patriotic round here and Tony's Textiles is the shop you go to if you want an England flag for your car. Tony's Textiles has bins of every conceivable textile:dusters, tea towels according to season (eg Xmas t towels),lace nets(everybody is very much in to their lace nets, if you live in terraced housing facing other terraced housing they are a necessity, not tacky, a necessity. I myself vowed never to have them but was forced by reality to get some, from Tony's Textiles) furry cushion covers, leopard skin cushion covers, elaborate bedspeads and swags to transform your boudoir into something akin to the Arabian Nights.
Lots of people have dogs round here and here is the Charity Shop. Setams, old fashioned L-shaped department store with many interesting things. If you fancy a cheap day out with small children you can just spend the day looking round Hessle Road where they will see indoor water fountains, African masks, glass snow storms with a variety of different scenes or, if they are an older boy, unusual army surplus gear.
Note the coffee shop. That little sign says 'New York Coffee'. Who says Hull isn't sophisticated?

Monday, 30 July 2007

Some gritty urban pics

I live in Hull which is a city in Yorkshire.
It has the reputation of being rather an unprepossessing city, but I have never found this to be so. So in an attempt to prove otherwise I have been out and about with Scamp in Hull taking a load of pics, more to come in future blogs.
The above pictures were all taken on inner city council estates. What I like about them is that they display the individuality and eccentricity which is tolerated and celebrated in Hull and which I think of as a virtue and one of the reasons I like living in this city.
Take the nautical garden. Maybe it belongs to a retired fisherman and it is delightful. Many gardens are decorated like this is Hull and it is one of the reasons I was never short of anything to talk about when I used to take my kids out and about in their buggy when they were smaller. Maybe they even helped increase their vocabulary, I don't know.
I also like the the decorated walls in the above pictures. There is a street in Hull called Askew Ave, and virtually every house is decorated like this to display the occupant's particular tastes and/or history. Perhaps the lady who owns the first house has been to Portugal for a holiday, as they seem like Portuguese tiles. A little bit of Portugal come to Hull, and even the sun came out when I took the picture. On the right they obviously like dogs as there is a little dog above the porch, rather in the manner of statues of lions at the entrance to stately homes, though obviously we are talking about diametrically opposed classes here.
Some people in Hull may even have lions at their gates as I took a picture of a garden ornament shop and some of the 'ornaments' are massive, as you can see.
A pastel block of flats. People do make attempts to beautify their environments, it is a natural instinct. Also somebody had the care to put a tiled pattern into a rather bland wall.
Your intrepid roving photographer also had a brief exchange with one of the good burghers of Hull today. What happened is that out of nowhere came a big staffie without a collar on who proceeded to run snarling after Scamp while I pulled him round and round on the lead in an attempt to get him away. The bloke ran up (shirtless) while I shouted 'Get him off', and he said 'It's not a he but a she' and I said 'He, she,I don't care what it effing is just get it off' ''F##k off''.
So while there maybe some attractive things in Hull sometimes the language isn't so pretty.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Why I really like King Kong

My son has two posters around his bed of his heroes, and they are Russell Crowe as Gladiator and the poster of the remake of King Kong. I don't know why he has them by his bed. For inspiration maybe. Maybe he wants them to seep into his unconsciousness while he sleeps so that he becomes more like them (like you are supposed to leave a tape recorder of exam revision material running by your bed while you are asleep to seep into your unconsciousness) or may be he wants just to dream about being them.

We went to see the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong when it was on. Superb graphics, maybe too good as the whole thing got too scary. I put a coat over Eleanor so that she couldn't see (asking permission first, of course) but when I had to put a coat over Jack too and people starting looking the whole thing got too ridiculous and we had to leave before the end. We didn't want a repeat of the Doctor Who incident when they were both spooked by a weird kid in a gas mask and both came running down the stairs yelling simultaneously an hour after they had been put to bed.

The King Kong I really like is the one in the orginal 1933 version. He is cute. He has a cute, babyish cartoonish gorilla face. He is not that scary. Often he looks quite bemused. He is funny. I like it when he is looking for Fay Wray and he gets the wrong woman and you see a giant paw slipping into the apartment of the sky scraper and slipping out again with the woman in it. He is gentle. I like it when he tickles Fay Wray in the palm of his hand. He is gallant. He saves her from a dinosaur.

He does bring mayhem to New York, but that is just nature versus civilisation, the id versus the ego, and anyway they shouldn't have taken him there anyway, they were only trying to make money out of him, so that is just nature being exploited by capitalism.

I hate the ending. He nearly defeats the dark capitalist forces, after all he is on the top of the Empire State Building, and they unfairly try to get him with their technology, dive bombing his furry, dare I say cuddly, body with their harsh metal planes, and his poor body banging against the building on its descent. It is one of the saddest things I have seen.

I can't talk much about the remake as I have't seen all of that yet.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

I am on a roll with my downloading.


Bob II Silver birch grown from sapling

Special pocket to put the Tamagotchi in

A lovely pound shop Xmas Village

Eleanor's coat

Like Eduard I like Top Gear (my bedside table)

Scamp being winsome at the window


Double Bass

Daniel and Misty

Tessa in the back garden

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Inner City Schools

I used to work in an inner city school as a teaching assistant to help a little five year old boy called Liam who needed extra help because he had special needs. His mother was an alcoholic and as a result Liam was brain damaged so it was my job to sit next to him during lessons and help him keep up, though this mainly meant me keeping Liam as still as possible while he took the piss, as well he might. In the end I though the best thing to do was concentrate on pulling him around the playground on a truck and playing football with him, as he supported Hull City, but always letting him win. Although I did manage to get him to write his name in the sand pit. Although he had many problems, Liam was quite canny and in once, in an attempt to ingratiate myself with him while reading a book about shops I said to him "And where do you shop, Liam?" "Grandways""Oh, do you, I shop there quite often, too""Well, I've never seen you there."

His best friend was a lad called Neil, whose favourite film seemed to be 'Nightmare on Elm Street' and drew a fair likeness of Freddy Krueger. I was torn between horror at his viewing material and admiration for the skill and verisimilitude with which he reproduced the lovely figure of Freddy Krueger, talons and all. However, I informed the teachers as was my duty and they brought his Mam in to have a word. Anyway, he seemed quite happy and he and Liam took the piss like nobody's business.

My job was also to help at mealtimes. Hull City Council has a policy of free (healthy) school meals for all schoolchildren and it was my job to get them to eat them, by means of giving them a sticker if they did. This was no mean feat and I scoured the shops for more and more superb stickers with glitter, 3D shapes, very large stickers, very tiny stickers, all in a difficult attempt to get the kids to eat their healthy meals as they looked longingly on at their peers with the packed lunches, some of which contained three chocolate bars and a packet of cheesy puffs. I now know how to talk up a sticker and bribe with a sticker.

A lot of the kids had a lot of problems. For instance, I once overheard two little girls taking about their dads "Mine's in prison" "Mine's in the cemetery", but it was a very lively place and the teachers were superb. When they had a themed day like World Books Day everyone in the school go dressed up, even the caretaker. A little girl called Chanel one asked me "How many sisters have you got?" "One, why how many have you got?""Six" but her Grandma was still to be seen as a volunteer reader helping the kids read outside the classroom for free.

My own two kids are the alumni of an inner city nursery school, though a different one. The they imbibed a sense of fun, a fighting spirit and a rather fetching Hull accent. One of the few places at any rate where at the school gates you would see the rather imposing figure of a fellow Mum with a large number of small (happy)children in and around a buggy, fag in vermilion gob, sporting a leopard skin fur coat and a towering peroxide beehive.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Is there any upside to all this rain?

(Though with the proviso that there is no upside for the people who have had properties etc. damaged by it)

But from a whimsical point of view:

i) Better for the complexion. One less year's sunlight damage to the face. All the moisture in the air also has a beautifying effect on one's face.

ii) I like to see ducks happy. They can swim on the Common. Also the Common resembles an African Savannah with plains of large lakes, flocks of not so tropical birds on the water, and instead of elephants the wild horses drinking at the lake's edge. No need to go to Africa on safari this year then.

iii) All the fancy outside candles have been heavily reduced at Morrisons.

iv) Raindrops on roses.

v)The lettuces growing in our garden are prime specimens which could win prizes at the village show. Even Jack was impressed enough to have some lettuce leaves with his ham sandwiches today which has considerably upped his intake of fruit and veg.

vi)You can ride bikes through puddles and make pleasing and impressive arcs of water.

vii) Makes it a lot easier for garden birds as all the worms are already on the surface of the grass. Let's hope it does something to help increase their population.

viii)Got my husband to do some DIY as he had to seal the windows properly as the rain was coming through and Jack needed his packed lunch box.

Grammatical Volte-Face

My Mum started this blog as a way of amusing me and spending some quality time around the computer. However, I have long ceased showing any interest whatsover in this blog. Some of the content me and my brother find ridiculous, in particular Jack takes exception to the line 'Tessa once saved my Mum from some snakes' which he finds foolish and queries the wisdom of writing about ice pops. However, my Mum has read Roland Barthes' 'Mythologies' which illustrates the value of writing about absolutely anything, and he has not.

One of the unwanted legacies of starting off the blog for one's kids and then taking it over for oneself is that one finds one is still writing in the third person. One does not really mind this as one is quite shy and likes to hide behind other people. But the last two sentences prove it can be done and she is getting more confident. Besides, writing in the third person is quite wearing for my Mum. She has agonised quite long and hard over whether and when to switch to the first person, and in particular worries that it will spoil the continuity of the blog, which she values. However, that day has finally come.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


My Mum is a bit of a layabout at the moment but at one time she used to work quite hard and used to do two jobs over the weekend. She used to work at Lidl (great shop, more to say about Lidl later) during the day and then she worked at Jacksons in the evening. She saved up enough money to buy my Dad a special present for his fortieth birthday, which occurred at round about the same time. It was a very special present indeed, because it was a Landrover.

We called it Bob and put it in the back yard where my Dad could do it up. However, my Dad chose Bob because he was cheap and he turned out to be a false economy because he stayed in the yard for about a year where my Dad made increasingly desultory attempts to fix him so then we got Bob II, who was in a bit better nick to start off with.

My Dad does Landrover trials which involves doing daft things like driving about in old quarries trying to go through lots of sticks and trying not to hit them. He is quite good at this and sometimes is top of the ratings. Sometimes he tries to help out the club by going to find new quarries for them to use. Once we were going for a ride in the car (another Landrover, but a Discovery, not a battered old defender like Bob) and my dad said "Look, there's a quarry we could use, lets try it out now" and we were highly alarmed because it looked like a cliff, but he was only joking. Sometimes we do soft trials that are open to the public where we all sit in the car but even then my Mum gets too scared and has to get out because she is scared of going down a hill in a car at a perpendicular angle.

Our other car is a Landrover Discovery, but it is an old one. On two separate bank holidays we have had to come home in a pick-up truck because the landrover has broken down. But we enjoy that because we think it impresses the neighbours. On one occasion we were driving along a motorway when a whole load of smoke came out of the back of the landrover. What had happened was that the driving belt had snapped. However the timing was just right because we had just enough momentum to roll in to the car park of a Little Chef. My Dad fixed the driving belt and stuff himself, which takes a lot of doing according to the bloke next door who has motorbikes. Saved us £400 anyway.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Things To Do with an Ice Pop

Holly is the inspiration for this blog as she was doing some very unusual things with an ice pop the other day.

My Mum is writing this while I am standing next to her with the ice pop for inspiration. However, I've eaten the first one so had to go back to the freezer to get another one.

First of all you can argue about what flavour you want. For instance, if you are like Jack you may refuse the offer of a raspberry ice pop as it reminds you of a bad experience you once had with a raspberry yogurt with bits in which you had a long time ago. I think the best flavours are tropical, which is gorgeous, coca cola which is popular, and raspberry because it is most people's favourite colour.

How to get the top off. You get a pair of scissors and cut it, though if you are on the move you have to bite if off, though you have to leave this to my Mum as the plastic is surprisingly tough. It makes you wonder why people sell ready made ice pops in shops at all. They should at least provide implements next to the freezer for people to get into them without having to resort to such uncouth behaviour outside the shop. There is a shop near here which sells giant ice pops for only 10p, a steal and probably one of the few places left which sell pocket money sweets. Why do have Magnums have to cost £1.50?

We buy them in a box from the shop, but they do take a long time to freeze, overnight, and sometimes we can't be bothered to wait and just have them raw, as it were.

You can suck on the ice pop. Some times it is too cold to pop up and you have to warm it up in your hands a bit so that the seal breaks. You press it with your hands and it pops up, hence the name.

As Holly says, a good ice pop seems to have magical properties. If you eat a bit, and then put your finger in the ice pop the packet seems to grip your finger and the coloured water climbs up your finger. My Mum says this has got something to do with a vacuum, but that seems highly unlikely. Anyway, its not science, its magic. You can use the pictures on the icepop packet to grade how far up the water goes, like how far up the giraffe's neck, if it is a picture of a giraffe.

When you have finished with the icepop you can blow it up the packet and feel hard it is. Air can be very hard which is a true, if funny, fact.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Grading Football Kicks in The Back Garden

Today I was kicking my football in the back garden and I asked my Mum to give me points out of ten for each kick. I quite like grading things and sometimes me and Holly have dancing competitions listening to the music on You Tube and we write reports on each others dancing with points out of ten, a bit like X Factor.

Anyway, here are some of the football kicks and grades:

1. A basic football kick, goes straight and goes quite a long way ......7

2. Angled into the corner, a bit more interesting....8

3. A miss kick.....0

4. Hits the shed and bounces back. A bit like squash. Great, a new sport - Squash football....10

5. Hits a plant.....-1

6. Hits Tessa.....-10

and so on.

During the interval I waved to a jumbo jet and said 'Great, it's seen me.' My Mum asked how I knew it had seen me and I explained that we had been asking Mr Coombes (my teacher) how you could tell if a plane could see you if you waved to it and he said that there is a red light on the bottom that they will flash on and off to say that they have seen you, a bit like a lighthouse.

Later I tried to see how far up the line I could reach the pegs on the washing line. Another new sport.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

How to Clean Sixteen Hotel Rooms in Five Hours

Here is my Mum's advice on cleaning hotel rooms, though you are better off asking her friend Sally as she was a lot better at it than she was, and some of the ideas here are hers.

1. Faced with a corridor of rooms go down them opening all the doors and windows, get a bit of oxygen to the brain. A feeling of space and light is also helpful.

2. Turn on the TVs in the rooms to the radio channel and listen to loud (preferably dance)music. Radio Four doesn't quite cut it. Remember to keep turning off the TVs as you go along because five TVs blaring is a bit loud and you will get into trouble.

3. Go down all the rooms and chuck out all the rubbish. Take off all the sheets. Empty the rooms and start again. The rooms all look a lot better. It's a psychological thing. Remember to scavenge any useful items, but nothing like razors even if the packet looks unopened. It's a bit dodgy. If it is a Sunday you might find some Sunday papers to take home and read later.

4. Different ways of doing it. It depends on how you feel on the day. The best way of doing it is going down the rooms doing lots of the the same thing e.g. do all the beds, or all the bathrooms. Then you don't have to think about it and can go into a rather pleasurable trance. My Mum finds it rather therapeutic doing physical work you don't have to think about. Gets all the endorphins racing. Don't do it one room at a time, it gets too complicated and you have to walk about and think too much. Also using the first method, you can get further up the floor in the same time and again it's a psychological thing.

5. Don't complain it is too much like hard work ,along with the students, especially not in Monica's (the polish girl) hearing. Remember she has worked a lot harder than you have ever have to.

6. Take short cuts. You've only got five hours. Dispense with the mop. Get a used (hand) towel and work it round the bathroom floor using your feet. Use dry towels to polish the furniture. You don't want to use polish, anyway. It's not environmentally friendly.

7. Always rinse out the tea cups in hotels with boiling water if you stay in a hotel. You don't know how they've been cleaned. Not that my Mum was guilty of anything like this, she just knows what sometimes happens.

8. Air freshener. A tricky one. To use or not to use? Some of the smells are quite nice and my Mum particularly liked 'Marine'. Don't use too much or a guest might come back to their room too early and find it difficult to breathe.

9. Eat the hotel biscuits to keep your strength up. Is this stealing? Remember that everyone else does it and how much money the hotel is making out of you by exploiting you with this slave labour.

10. Beware of any facetious comments from your fellow employees. For instance, you might be walking along carrying a pillow and duvet and somebody might say 'Now is not the time to sleep.' Try to think of a witty reply.

11. At the end triumphantly finish off all the rooms by going into each and everyone with the vacuum cleaner. It's nice looking at sixteen clean hotel rooms. It feels like all is right with the world.

Actually my Mum quite liked doing this job.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Going to See Grandma

Today we went to see my Grandma and Grandad who live in Knaresborough, which I have been looking forward to.

I brought my Brownie book to read in the car and a plated wool necklace which I had made at Brownies as a present for my Grandma.

On the car journey I was listening to a really funky song on my MP3 player and I told my Mum it had a double bass on it (I am learning to play the double bass) and handed the MP3 player to my Mum to have a listen. My Mum suggested that when the singer said "Bass" she was actually doing an intro to a funky bass line which was actually played by an electric guitar, but said that double basses are great because you can play in jazz bands and maybe eventually a lead into the electric guitar.

We had a great time with Grandma and Grandad but Jack was getting a little facetious. They have a family photo of us up and Jack was really getting very cheeky indeed because he said 'Look, there's Freaky, Baldy, Blondie and Normal, with himself being the Normal. Inspite of herself, my Mum found this highly amusing and throughout the day she and Jack amused themselves by making up some sort of alternative band of the Seven Dwarfs, starting with Scampy as Scruffy.

To save my Grandma time and energy we all went to a fish and chip restaurant in Harrogate.

While we were getting the parking ticket Jack was fiddling about with the return coin slot on the parking ticket machine and my Mum suggested that if he stayed by the machine all day he might collect just enough discarded coins to save up for the Play Station game which he had been wanting. Some bloke who was using the machine overheard and pretended to recheck the coin slot.

As we ordered the dinner I was reading the menu and I said that 'I want a cider'. My Grandma said 'Well I don't think you can order cider, pet' but I said it I actually meant side order and I just hadn't finished speaking yet.

We decided to go and give a Scamp a run by the River Nidd, whose waters were still swollen by the floods. I don't think had ever been to a river bank before because he tried to pick up a stick which was actually a tree root and then seemed to wonder he why couldn't pick it up.

We crossed a bridge and my Mum said watch Scamp because he might fall off the bridge, and he can't swim.

On the bridge somebody had carved 'Bev', which is my Mum's name. As a joke, my Grandad said it was my Mum who had carved it some time ago in her youth. Entering into the spirit of the thing my Mum said that he had and, noticing the 'Jo' next to it said 'And Jo was the friend I came here with'. Then noticing the picture of a heart between the 'Bev' and the 'Jo' said 'Well, actually he was my boyfriend'. Jack said 'It says 1999 there, and I was born in 95'. My Mum said 'You are right', I can't have done it.'

Later on I helped my Grandma make the tea, because a Brownie does a good deed everyday. I like her folding silver cake stand.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Social Workers

My Mum was going to write a vicious satire, positively Swiftian, on the subject of social workers but because she wants this to be a nice blog she is not going to do it.

Anyway slagging off social workers is a bit of a cliche.

For whatever reason she is not going to do it.

Thursday, 5 July 2007


My Mum spends quite a lot of time worrying about pigs.

I know we eat bacon sandwiches but it is not a contradition in terms to be worried. My Mum reasons that pigs are not the sort of animals which could survive very long in the wild, they need a raison d'etre, and that, unfortunately for the pig, is bacon sandwiches.

She worries about the conditions in which the pigs are kept. They are as intelligent as dogs, and she knows how intelligent her dogs are.

There is an agricultural college round here with a model pig unit which you could visit and my Mum kept checking the expressions on the pig's faces to see if they were happy. They didn't give much away in their expressions but her eyes met with intelligent eyes. The piglets played delightfully, like puppies.

My Mum thought this is a model pig unit that you are allowed to visit so obviously the conditions in which the pigs are kept must be pretty good, maybe other units aren't so good, but quickly brushed that thought aside as it would give her too much to worry about.

When we buy eggs we always buy free range eggs and British bacon and if my Mum sees anybody buying battery eggs or Danish bacon she always starts talking in a loud voice 'Eleanor, would you get the free range eggs. We don't buy battery as it is cruel'.

Same thing with rabbits. Our guinea pigs are allowed to run about and when we went to the Open Gardens there were a few rabbits in hutches looking really bored and my Mum started worrying that maybe the owners didn't let them out. She openly suggested to Lily that they buy a guinea pig as a companion to their rabbit, who subsequently complied.

Same with fish. We used to have some goldfish in a big bowl but my Mum bought an aquarium to put them in. She kept looking at the fish. They seemed to be quite intelligent as they always congregated round the spot where she put the fish food in. The fish started, as fish do, to grow to the size of the tank and this, coupled with issues of our boisterous behaviour and possibilities of us falling onto the tank made her advertise in Tesco for a new home. A lady came who owned a pond, and you could tell she liked fish by the way she declined the offer of a proffered net and gently picked them up in her hands when getting them out of the aquarium. My Mum sees her walking about and regularly checks on their well-being.

My Mum used to work in a hotel and there was a lovely Polish girl there called Monica (who who had come to this city to work and lived in the hotel. My Mum knew that Poland is a bit third world in its standards (Monica had never tasted beef, for instance, and seemed to have lived on cabbage soup) and perhaps the animal welfare isn't up to much but she was not prepared for the sight of Monica's goldfish who seemed to live in all intents and purposes in a large decorated plastic vase, which was oxgenated by blowing into a straw. My Mum started looking at the goldfish and started worrying.

Her chance to save the goldfish came when Monica went away for a while and the gold fish was being kept in the staff room., looked after by the supervisor. The whole oxgenation problem was compounded by the fact that every one was smoking in the staff room. My Mum tried gently to hint that perhaps the goldfish needed to live in something with a larger surface area so that more oxygen could be absorbed into the water. The goldfish did not look too happy.

Then my Mum took action and grabbed a large bucket. She went into one of the hotel rooms and, at some personal cost to herself as in her haste she got drenched, with the shower head from the shower, put some lovely bubbly oxygenated water into the (clean) bucket. She went back to the staff room and put the goldfish in the bucket on the side. So that nobody would pick up the bucket by accident thinking that it was just a bucket and spill everything she put a sign on it saying 'Warning, Gold Fish'.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Bun Update

Jack couldn't make his buns last week because of flood damage to the cookers at his school.

So my Mum has another chance to do right by him this time and pack his cooking ingredients properly.

She has bought some more chocolate chips as he ate the last packet for dinner last week as the school canteen wasn't working due to the flood damage. She has noted that the ingredients from last week had gone off, even though she had placed them in the fridge. She has gone out and bought some silver foil from Morrisons and carefully wrapped the ingredients in the foil instead of throwing them all in together. The margarine used is low fat Olive. She had difficulty in reading the scales and making the conversion from imperial on the imperial on the scales to the metric on his recipe sheet so has been consulting charts in cookery books in order to make exact measurements. She has wrapped his eggs in cotton wool so they don't break. She has upgraded the container from a Bettabuy Vanilla Icecream tub to a Morrisons Cornish.

She has also ironed his apron.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Why It Is Better In The North

1. You get more fairy lights. At Christmas most of the houses round here are festooned with Xmas lights. Icicle lights hanging from roofs, lights flashing in complicated sequences round peoples houses fronts, reindeer lights in the windows, little lights like flowers on sticks on people's lawns and fairy lights twinkling in bushes and trees. One house opposite is like a mini Blackpool illiminations.

You also get loads of giant blow up Santas and Father Christmas's and Santa figures climbing up people's walls and disappearing up people's chimneys. Some people go completely crazy and have grottos and shrines and life size models of Father Xmas and his reindeers.

We have noticed that this phenomenon exists in inverse relation to how posh it is. You don't get many fairy lights in York or Harrogate, for instance.

I bet they don't get as an impressive Xmas light show down South.

2. You can enjoy the remants of a glorious industrial past. There are more area of parks (Victorian) in this city per capita than anywhere in the country. The avenues into the city are lined with elaborate and beautiful Victorian villas.

3. You get cheaper (and better) fish and chips. At a chippie near us you can feed a family of four for a tenner. It is so good it is frequented by royalty. We know this because there is a poster of Prince Charles talking to the queen in the chippie. She is saying 'I do like these fish and chips, Charles' and he says 'Yes , Mumsie, I got them from the chippie on Askew Ave'.

4. Pound Shops. These are shops where you can buy everything in the shop for a pound. You can get delightful things like Noel Cheesecake candles in a tin, windmills for the garden, recording pens which record any thoughts you may have, dog treats in the shape of a pizza, little craft sets with pom poms and glitter for making easter rabbits and bunnies, little battery-powered Xmas towns with windows that light up, topped by a moving Father Xmas and reindeers, and which plays Silent Night, all for a pound each.

5. The men. You should see my Mum's window cleaner.

6. Eventful bus rides. The other day my Mum rode into town on the bus. On a ten minute journey four blue light ambulances sped past, some people on the top deck spontaneously burst into song, and the man behind started talking to himself and nobody batted an eyelid. When my Mum and Alisha went to Asda in Hessle Road we saw a similar gentleman sitting on a bench, talking to a person that nobody else could see, watched over by two security guards. When the gentleman saw Alisha he stopped talking to the person and said 'Hello, Princess'. My Mum later saw him choosing which toilet to use. When he got to the disabled one he said 'Well, I'm not disabled'.

7. Hessle Road. My Mum thinks this is one of the only places that if you have got a child in a buggy you are guaranteed that people will help you, open shop doors and talk to the baby.

8. The biggest and best fair in Europe that everybody goes to. It happens at the time of my birthday so it is a regular birthday treat.

9. Interesting sights. The other day me and my Mum were walking into town (in fact, to get the Heelies) when we saw a bike tyre round the base of a lampost. And it hadn't been glued together round the lampost either, because we checked.

How on earth did it get there? It was a very tall lampost with the light part sticking out quite a long way out at ninety degrees.

Did somebody shimmy up the lampost and put it on? Did somebody get a ladder up to the lampost and put it on? Did people stand on top of each other and then pass it up so that the highest person could put it on?

However, somebody must have been quite brave, or drunk, to do it.

Are bike tyres round lamposts a Northern thing? I think so. You couldn't imagine it happening in, say, Harpendon.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Dogs and the people that you see

My Mum spends a lot of her time walking dogs and knows a lot of people on the dog walking circuit.

It starts in the morning when an old woman walks past our house on the way to walk her son's dog with a luminous green woolly hat plonked on her head. Later on she sees this lady and her husband walking their own Jack Russell and the old gent invariably bends down and says to Scamp 'Now then, you little devil'. When Scamp had his op my Mum had an interesting conversation with him about how in the olden days shepherds used to do lambs, as he used to work on a farm. It wasn't very nice and involved spitting things into a bucket.

Because Scamp is a very lively dog my Mum likes to take him to play with the Boy Racers of the local dog world who will tire him out. They usually congregate on the hill at 10.30. There is Jack, who is part bull terrier. He is a very lively dog indeed, who can knock people clean over but is a rescue dog whom his owner has persevered with which my Mum finds admirable. He frightened Scamp at first, but now he has grown up a bit is more of an equal match.

Cindy is the fastest, fittest dog on the circuit who can reduce Scamp to a quivering, prostrate wreck who just wants to go home. This is because the little terrier is owned by a retired man who regularly exercises her while riding a bike. Although retired he wears an earring which my Mum finds intriguing.

Zak is a huge alsatian who is owned by an oil rig worker who, when not on the rigs, walks him up to seven times a day. He has grown up a bit now and is not as playful, but is regularly teased by Scamp. When this goes too far Zak will pick Scamp up by the scruff. He has never show any signs of viciousness but once growled at the husky whom he saw walking along and apparently trades insults with from his back garden as they live on the same street.

When my Mum walks on the water works fields she regularly sees a lady who owns five red setters who are a magnificent if daunting sight as they bound along. When my Mum first saw them she said to the lady 'You seem to like red setters' and 'They must cost a lot to feed' but the lady must have heard this many times before because she looked a bit cross and said 'Well, they are my one luxury and I don't smoke or anything'.

The local dentist has just moved which is a shame as he had two Afghan hounds which we used to see walking about. His wife was very pretty but she was very tall and slim with quite an aquiline nose and long sandy hair and regularly wore a light brown suede jacket with lots of long feathery tassles on it floating in the wind, which just confirms that old adage about the appearance of dogs and their owners.

On a Sunday afternoon in the park at 5.30 you will see a middle aged gentleman with dreadlocks followed by a motley collection of rescue dogs tottering along very slowly in a stately procession. These are dogs that would never have been given a chance if it wasn't for this kindly gentleman. One of the dogs is blind and deaf and has to be permanently on a lead or he would get lost. However, he regularly sniffs the air as if to take in the scene. Some of the dogs wander off course and have to be retrieved.

It turns out that he is an art teacher at the local school. My Mum found this out as she was walking across the Common and some school kids said to her 'Are you Mr Thompson's wife?'. My Mum had to confess that she didn't know what they were talking about but it transpired that one girl had seen my Mum talking to Mr Thompson in the park though why she thought that my Mum was wife to a middle-aged hippy I have no idea.