10th October

Sarah declared today should be fuck it Friday!

We took Ben to school and then came home to sort out the rubbish. We also decided as we were going into Bishop Auckland we would go to the dump and get rid of all of the cardboard boxes that I’d emptied this week that were hanging out in the shed. The dump is so different to the ones in Kent as the staff are so friendly and helpful – excuse me which bin does this go in? Don’t worry sir I’ll take that for you!

Afterwards we went for breakfast in Tesco and then next door into the poundshop where we managed to get some of the things we needed like bulbs for the kitchen light which were 2 for £1 in here compared to £3 each in Tesco and 2 for £5 in Wilkinsons. We also got some silicon for the window, some highlighters for Sarah’s OU and a couple of advent calanders.

By now we had got almost everything we needed but we still went into the town centre anyway. We looked in Wilkinsons and then Sarah wanted to buy Ben a long sleeved top for his trip next week.  On the way back we mooched in the charity shops and i found a copy of an album by a local comedian Bobby Thompson.  My parents were quite big fans of his local humour and even went to see him perform a couple of times. I decided it must have been a while a ago and Thompson died in 1988. I bought the better looking of the two copies they had for a quid!

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The traffic chaos has been getting worse all week! Even though the bit of the road that passes the end of the road the school is in was resurfaced yesterday the traffic lights had been placed at the end of the school road and tonight a huge lorry had helpfully stopped blocking the entrance. So we had to drive past and go down to the petrol station to turn round. We then had to sit in the traffic jam going the other way till we could get to the junction. Poor Ben was one of the last ones left in the yard by the time we got there.

Today was Becky’s 21st birthday but as she is down in Brighton we sent her cards through but we’re going down at half term to see her. Sadly I also heard from my eldest daughter that her Gran died this morning. I’d sent her a text asking how she was yesterday so I knew that it was imminent so when I got a phone call from her this evening I knew straight away what it was. (It’s her mum’s birthday tomorrow too). She’d been ill for sometime and had been suffering from dimentia for even longer so in some ways it’s a release.

By coincidence when I went to the chippy tonight the moon was rising blood red from the east – the direction of where she died!

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9th October

One of those days where what you were planning to do just went straight out of the window. One of my colleagues dropped some last minute music stings my way. They were needed for tomorrow which is typical of her. One of my former colleagues used to call her the seagull because she dashes in, flaps around,  shits on everyone and leaves!

The roadworks are still going on and they were resurfacing the stretch of road where it meets the road the school is in which caused absolute chaos at picking up time.  We ended up having to park on the main road and dodge the road roller to get over to pick Ben up. We had to double back through the backstreets to avoid the traffic on the way back.

Ben went to cubs and we had to dash over to Consett to get Lissi.  Driving back it was just getting dark which was lovely driving through the countryside in the half light. Ben got his cub badges to replace the ones he had from his previous pack.

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8th October

Today was a good day! And not just because I was home alone!

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We had to get up really early. Sarah had been offered her first supply job but it was in Boldon (quite near to where my Gran used to live) and she had to catch the 7:19 bus from Durham. So we left the house at ten to seven and drove into Durham making it to the Bus station in time despite the efforts of some dickhead learner on a motorbike so held up all the traffic for a good part of the journey. I dropped Sarah and Lissi off and me and Ben went back home to get him ready for school. It was a beautiful morning all the time we were out but an hour later when we left for school the mist had descended.

After dropping Ben at school I came back home and even though it was a day off I did some work. I thought yesterday that I’d finished something and then at the last minute found 2 more I had to do so I did them and sent the files via wetransfer. I then decided to put all the musical instruments up in the attic as they’d been living in the shed since we moved in. The attic is slowly starting to take shape but there is still some stuff to sort out.

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I was just about to go down to the post office to post a card for Becky’s birthday when I got an e-mail from a client who needed some help with something so I sorted that out for her and then just as I was about to leave Sarah rang so I talked to her for a bit before setting off to get the stamps. When I got there it was closed! So I headed home and decided to do something I’ve been wanting to do for ages – go for a walk.

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I headed up the hill towards the top of the village and turned onto the road down towards Esh. I had planned to walk down to where the wind turbines are to take photographs but as the sky was quite white I wasn’t sure if this would be worthwhile. I was mulling this over as I walked and then I spotted a sign on the other side of the road pointing into a field. I went over to check it out and it said Public Footpath and Nature Reserve – which sounded good so I followed it.

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I’d only gone a few yards when I spotted some mushrooms growing by the fence. I have no idea what sort they were but made a mental note that this is the sort of thing I should find out about. There were 3, one of which I accidentally disturbed but the other two can be seen in this picture.

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I continued to follow the path until I got to a fork and although I’d have liked to have continued away from the village I decided that the other path was more sensible given I had to pick Ben up at some point. The path skirted along the side of a small copse which was made up of some very tall impressive fir trees. It got a bit muddy in places but I was able to pick my way along. As the trees petered out it opened up into a field covered with heather. As I was picking my way through the undergrowth I noticed some one coming in the opposite direction.

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He shouted to me “have you got any dogs?” No I replied to which he said as I got closer “you can have this one!”. He had two dogs, one on a lead and a smaller one who was running free. As soon as this one saw me he started to bark, in that way that is more to reassure himself than to threaten you. I tried to get past him but he ran away. I moved towards him again and he ran further. So I stood to one side to let him pass me but he wouldn’t. It was a bit of an impasse as I could move without him getting further from his owner. Eventually the man had to almost come and get him and it was only when he was quite close that the dog felt safe enough to pass me.

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I continued to follow the path, deviating for a while to investigate another small copse, till eventually the path returned me to the A68 at the top of the village. I walked back down the hill passing the workmen who have been working on resurfacing the road all week. We keep joking about the traffic chaos in the High street but we both laugh because we know compared to where we used to live it’s just a minor blip!

I went back to the house and had some lunch before going to the Post office again only to find that it was half day closing! So i came home and set about peeling some potatoes for dinner. I then had to do another bit of work before going to get Ben from school. I told him he had to do his homework because we would have to go and get Mummy shortly and to my surprise he sat down and did it – albeit with a bit of help from me. We set off in the car to Durham to go and get Sarah. She’d suggested we park in the car park under Wilkinsons because she wanted to get some paint so I’d set the Sat Nav and I soon found it and parked up.

We emerged into the shopping centre and were looking for the post office when I found Charles Eagle’s photography shop. I had bought my first camera from his shop in Sunderland many many years ago (I’ve still got it!) and I’d been wondering where the Durham shop was. I went in to see if they sold film for cameras and was pleased to find they did. I bought two rolls of HP5 120 film for my older cameras and was pleased to find it was reasonably priced – not like the snappy snaps I’d gone into in Beckenham a few weeks ago.

I wandered up the road and was trying to Google post office but I discovered that since I reset my phone it didn’t seem to be connecting any more. I was just using my work phone and as I was typing Post Office I looked up to make sure I wasn’t about to walk into someone and found I was virtually standing outside of it! Afterwards we went to meet Sarah off the bus – it was the service number 50 and was nicknamed the whey aye five-o!

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We bought the paint and a few other bits and pieces and I was quite pleased to find that this meant we got the car parking free! We headed home and I cooked Shepherds Pie for dinner (I nearly wrote tea then – the northernness is coming back!) – I could get used to being a House Husband!

7th October

Another day working from home but first I had to take Lissi into Consett and what a beautiful morning for driving over the hills. Clear blues skies in complete contrast to the wet miserable day yesterday. 

I got really wound up about that Keynote presentation as the PM rang me to say he’d unzipped it and it wasn’t a keynote. However as he’d unzipped it on a pc which wouldn’t have recognised it. I decided to try on the mac and the bloody thing wouldn’t unzip. I started to panic as i knew how long it took to send it. I tried to unzip it using the programme instead and that worked and that was when i realised I’d sent the previous version by mistake. I started to send it again but that seemed pointless so I sent the changes and the logo that I’d changed to have a transparent background. Then the PM rang to say that it wouldn’t open in Keynote and we discovered that the Mac he had had the older version on it. That was something he was going to have to sort out himself!

Ben and I were going to get our haircut tomorrow but Sarah got offered a days work in a school near to where my Gran used to live so instead we went off to Lads and Dads tonight as it was open till 7. I even got brave and got her to trim my beard as well!

6th October

Working from home today

I have several pet hates about creating presentations and this client seems to be hitting them all!

I hate it when they indignantly point out spelling errors and you check back and the reason you spelt it wrong is because they sent it to you that way!

Or when they want to change something in version 4 that’s been in versions 1,2 and 3!

Or when they send over a new script and you’ve got to go all the way through it to find the changes!

Or when you get sent changes at 8:40 on a Friday night and seriously expect you to not only pick up the e-mail but do the changes and send it back to them!

Anyway jobs tomorrow and they’ve been told that any further changes will have to be done on site!

Been trying to get a cv and covering letter together to apply for a job with a local company.  That’d be cool as not only would i not have to drive down south every other week but we’d have a load more money to play with.  I’ve been putting the letter together on my new tablet which is also what I’m blogging from. 

14th September

It was a strange time to visit Scotland – it could be the last time we go while it’s part of the UK! The Independence debate is in full swing with the referendum being next Thursday. There was a massive No demonstration in Edinburgh yesterday which we saw from the train. This morning I went to get some milk from the local garage and stood outside the garage and read all the headlines in the Sunday papers (including the Scottish ones) and they were almost all anti independence! My personal favourite was “Salmond blamed for drunken dwarf riot”.

Opposite the garage was this sign:
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A few hundred yards down the road stood this one:
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It’s easy to see how divided the country is over the issue but good to see that at least something had re-ignited the interest in how we are governed in this country. The Westminster parties have morphed together so much that there has been such a decline in interest in politics over the past 20 years – that old saying that it doesn’t matter who you vote for the government will get in has never been truer! So I can quite understand why a huge number of Scots are saying lets go it alone, it can’t be any worse than it is now! I also note how the Westminster elite have also started to panic in the past few weeks when they started to realise that the Yes vote might just win. Their cosy life depends so much on maintaining the status quo that they suddenly woke up and saw what was going on north of the border!

I tend to think if I was Scottish I’d be voting Yes on Thursday. I feel empathy with the Scots and how they have long been ignored by the London centric Governments and businesses. I’m from the North east originally and have obviously just returned there after 30 years down south. The reason I’d moved away in the first place was because the north of the country has been ignored for the best part of my life time (and longer if you think about it) As you head north up the A1 the road starts to narrow the further you get north, it’s clear that the investment lies in the south. I would probably have moved away after university anyway but had the opportunities been available in the north I may have returned a lot sooner. As it was I missed out on so much time with my family who were all gone by the time I came back. Ironically it was the same reason I returned – money! I wanted to come back to live an easier life instead of living in the south where my money just went on paying the mortgage, bills and getting to work – but I digress.

The No campaign has shocked me over the past few weeks. They say that patriotism is the last refuge but they No campaign in my mind, just like some of the people in the demo on Saturday, has started to look like BNP propaganda relying heavily on the we are a great nation, who won the war etc etc. The Sunday Telegraph headline today made me feel physically sick – it was all about how Scots had fought and died for the UK and how the yes voters would dishonour their memory. I’m sure the people who went and fought in the wars would be just as shocked to find out how the inequalities that they thought had gone for good are now back and worse than ever and it’s not the average Scotsman who is sitting on the revenues from the North Sea!

So I’d vote yes – my father always said I had a problem with the establishment and he was right. I won’t doff my cap to anyone. When we told people we were planning to move to the North East they all looked at us as if we were mad. When we said it out loud it sounded mad. But we knew in our hearts and in our heads that it was the right thing to do – it may yet go horribly wrong but if you want something bad enough you’ve got to go for it and damn the consequences. It will work if you make it work. It might take 10 years or even longer but if you don’t do it you’ll forever be thinking what if…..So Scotland vote Yes for all of us!

13th September

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Went to Edinburgh for the day. We drove most of the way then pulled off the A1 to go to a park and train stop at Newcraighall and caught the train into Edinburgh Waverly. Obviously as soon as we got there food was required. Ben was grumpy and wanted McDonalds but Xara wanted to find somewhere that sold Haggis so I directed her and Becky to Rose street while we took Ben for a happy meal.
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After lunch we went off to find the pair of them but this ended up with me “having” to go into a record shop! I could have spent a fortune! They had the new Robert Plant on vinyl plus a copy of Marquee Moon and a couple of Sun Ra discs as well. That lot on it’s own would have set me back in excess of £60! I mused that it doesn’t seem that long ago since I would have stood in a record shop wondering if I should spend the extra money to buy the CD rather than the LP and now here I am thinking the exact opposite!
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We then went off to find the Camera Obscura. There are two things I remember about coming to Edinburgh with my mum and dad when I was about six. One was the castle which I know we visited because there is a photo of Garry and I on one of the cannons. The other one was the camera obscura. I remember being in the darkened room looking at the images of the city projected onto the circular screen. It hadn’t changed at all – well the actual camera hadn’t but I bet the rest of the displays weren’t there back in about 1967!

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It was fun though as we played with all the exhibits. Ben loves this thought of stuff, think a career in science beckons! My personal favourite was the vortex. A huge rotating light tunnel with a metal bridge running through the centre. I love  the way that the visual stimulus can actually convince your body that the bridge is moving so much so that I found myself being thrown against the edge of the bridge. I went through twice, once more than Ben and two times more than Sarah!!

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When we came out we realised we were right next to the castle entrance but it was closed. We had a look in a shop next to the gate which sold Scotish products. When we came out Becky asked if I’d seen anything good in there and I replied “yes a nice Harris Tweed jacket, a kilt and sporran and a set of bagpipes but your mum wouldn’t let me buy any of them!” We walked back to the train station and caught the train back to the car. We then drove to a carvery and had a lovely meal before heading back to the caravan.

12th September

I got up to take Lissi to Consett twenty minutes before we were due to leave and discovered that she wasn’t actually up yet! There was a mad dash to get her out the door and we arrived at Consett bus station just as the bus was arriving! It was quite misty but beautiful with the sun trying hard to break through. It’s a beautiful drive at the best of times but it looked extra special this morning.

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I had some work to do and then we had to go into Bishop Auckland to get some shopping. We had planned to go to Wilkinsons to take the doorbell back but we ran out of time and we had to dash back to pick Ben up. Then I had to go over to Consett to pick up Lissi again. Then we loaded up the car and headed off to Scotland – except we had said we’d call in at the Stepmum’s as Becky hadn’t seen her for a long time – possibly since my Dad died as she was hit hard by his death and wouldn’t go to the house.

On the way to her house we remembered two things. Firstly we would have to go through the Tyne Tunnel for which we’d need £1.60 so we had to have a rummage to find enough change! Secondly, and more importantly, we had forgotten to bring any teabags with us! Odd really as we’d remembered the milk! So we had to stop at a shop and buy teabags, sugar and coffee!

We got to the caravan site at about 8pm and once we’ve got the bags inside we set off to find a chippy – we drove to the village and then round the area but couldn’t find anything so we went back tot he first place we saw only to find it closed at 9pm. At this point we had only one choice and that was the kebab shop but luckily it did stuff that Ben would eat.

Five minutes after we went to bed Becky threw up!

11th September

Didn’t have much to do  at work today and then just as I was packing up and thinking that I could leave my Mac in the office an e-mail suddenly arrived from a client outlining some changes she wanted making so I quickly had to grab everything I needed and take it with me.

I had to get off on time as I was driving home and first I had to drive into Croydon and pick up Becky and her girlfriend Xara from the station as they had come up from Brighton. It was a good journey up but it was still almost midnight by the time we got home. Lissi had come home from my stepmum’s and had waited up to see her sister so it was nearly 2am by the time we got to bed.