Deb's Digest
Debbie Atkinson’s family life column, as featured in the Southport Visiter.

Monday, 23 July 2012


I had my 30th letter published by the Times on Saturday. This time about something that drives me (literally I think) mad!

Sir, I can’t see any reason to single out the Fylde coast when it comes to missing apostrophes. St Albans, St Andrews and St Helens all deserve similar treatment, not to mention Earls Court, Harrods, Queens Park Rangers, Reuters and Crufts.
None of them makes me “grrr” but when I saw a supermarket advertising the local paper with a sign “new’s and view’s” I exploded (although not “literally”).
Deb Atkinson
Southport, Merseyside

A couple of months ago we set aside a week which we would keep free from commitments so that we could jet off somewhere hot if the weather here was still dismal. The weather was still dismal but somehow we managed to talk ourselves out of jetting off to warmer climes and opted instead for a two day break in Derbyshire and one day in North Wales!

We visited Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth House while in Derbyshire as well as the pudding shop.

Hardwick Hall

I'd wanted to see Chatsworth after watching the television series, and it more than lived up to expectations. The trouble was there was just far too much to look at - paintings and tapestries covering every wall, painted ceilings in almost every room, fantastic four-posters, gorgeous dining tables, libraries and books galore. Well before we'd finished our tour I was just keeping my eyes straight ahead, because if I looked right, left or upwards I would get caught up in more beautiful objects that I'd want to know all about - and there just WASN'T TIME! 

We stayed at Hassop Hall, which was a treat in itself.

We were told when we arrived that breakfast would be served in our room. After asking a few questions later on, we discovered that most guests looked on this as a treat! Not me! Too much like a nursing home treat for my liking, so we asked if we could have our breakfast in the dining room. We must be decidedly odd because we were the only guests to opt for that. In the morning, while waiting for breakfast, we sat by the log fire in the magnificent hallway reading complimentary papers and were offered a pot of freshly brewed coffee. Then we were led through to a fantastically cosy dining room, full of polished panelling and antiques. Our table, next to the window,  was set with starched white linen, a jug of fresh orange juice and a vase of shocking pink roses. We overlooked the magnificent grounds while we enjoyed crispy warm croissants, local bacon and sausages. How can that compare to breakfast in a bedroom with an unmade bed and suitcases?

Our day in North Wales was made up of a visit to Bodnant Gardens and Swallow Falls. We love Bodnant but have always been in April/May. This visit was a bit of a disappointment because the vibrant colours of spring and early summer have been replaced by mainly green! Although the blue hydrangeas were a picture. And quite a novelty for us because our Southport soil/sand turns ours pink.

Swallow Falls never fails to capture my imagination. There's something very thought-cleansing and refreshing about waterfalls and I could have stood and watched the water for hours. It is a constant source of wonder and mystery to me where all this water comes from - millions of gallons of the stuff day in day out - never stopping. Our younger son even asked the question of a Cambridge professor for me and brought me the answer but it still doesn't make sense to me.

Oscar and Hugo have now broken up for their summer holidays so on one of our last days with them we went to Windmill Farm, where children can mingle with the animals. Actually, we needn't have paid the entry fee because Oscar was more than happy just to mingle with Boots, the giant Newfoundland who was wandering the car park.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


'Daddy I've been werry good. I sorted out the toys I don't want so I can give them to charity. Look they're in that bag'

Monday, 25 June 2012


Although we enjoyed The Jersey Boys, we were quite disappointed that most of the songs we knew and loved were abbreviated to fit them into the show. So when I saw that the real thing - Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons - were coming to this country, there was no question about it, we were going to see them. And see them we did on Saturday in a never-to-be-forgotten concert in the courtyard of Hampton Court Palace. One of the best live acts we've ever witnessed. Hit after hit after hit and unlike Bob Dylan, whose voice has deteriorated beyond recognition, Frankie Valli's was every bit as good as it was all those years ago. "Dawn" "Oh What A Night" "Sherry" "Beggin" "Walk Like A Man" - and scores of others were belted out and by the end bof the evening, even though the heavens had opened and everyone was soaked to the skin, we were all on our feet for a dance.

The more hardy enjoyed summer picnics with champagne under the cover of some magnificent trees on the lawns leading down to the river.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


As long as The Times sees fit to publish them, I'll keep sending them in........


British Bouquet

Although good to see wheat included in the Olympic bouquets, it would have represented the British countryside more to use oilseed rape

Sir, Although I am pleased to see that Jane Packer is including wheat in the 4,400 bouquets to be presented to winning Olympics competitors (“Winning numbers”, Daily Universal Register, June 22), might not oilseed rape flowers have better represented the British countryside?
Deb Atkinson
Southport, Merseyside

Friday, 22 June 2012


We wanted to squeeze in another visit to Borrowby Mill in the Yorkshire Dales, before it appears on Channel Four's "Three in a Bed" programme this summer, by which time the world and his wife will want to stay there. It didn't disappoint and for £60 a night we were treated to the most beautiful bedroom overlooking fantastic countryside and cottage flowers, a breakfast of fresh strawberries served on a silver salver, home-made marmalade in a crystal jar and locally produced sausages, bacon and eggs.

We were only there for a couple of days but managed to visit a couple of lovely National Trust properties - Beningborough Hall with its delightful grounds

and Fountains Abbey which was a bit of a hike with a gammy knee, but well worth the pain....

We had a delicious lunch (I think - see below!) of hot pork and apple sandwiches  sitting by the river in the grounds of the Dawnay Arms

and feasted our eyes on the floral decorations that seem so healthy in this part of the world

It was a lovely, sunny couple of days that did us both good. But I won't be truly happy until I can sniff a rose and smell something, or distinguish between a bowl of curry and a grilled plaice! For two weeks I have had no sense of taste or smell whatsoever and when, last Sunday, I could hear sizzling from a pan, I was amazed to see that the vegetables had boiled dry and were completely burnt. Even standing over the pan I couldn't smell the acrid smoke. So that, together with an ear abcess which I can only hear through by almost touching the floor with my head (while my embarrassed husband walks quickly on)  has made me feel a bit sorry for myself. I'll certainly appreciate good health when (or if) it returns!

Oscar has a real little friend in his baby brother, Hugo. Oscar was having a bit of a tantrum this week and 13 month-old-Hugo went over and hugged him - and wouldn't stop hugging him until he'd stopped crying! Long may it last.

Saturday, 26 May 2012


We're still on a high after the younger son's wedding last weekend. I'd had two, no three, major worries beforehand. a) the weather; b) the speeches and c) Oscar!

The weather couldn't have been better - after weeks of rain and wintery weather, the sun shone and we were able to mingle on the terraces of Brocket Hall's golf club. The speeches were funny and within the bounds of decency (just) and Oscar performed his page boy duties with aplomb and the help of a few jelly beans.
The bride was an absolute picture and we were very proud parents, grandparents and in-laws throughout the day.

Oscar collected the confetti

and Hugo had a great time too

and at the end of the night some of the more flexible among us enjoyed a limbo

Sunday, 13 May 2012


The head of an all girls' school had a letter in last week's Times, extolling the virtues of single sex education. I wholeheartedly agreed with everything she said until she added that she was trying to get a ps on the school motto stating "I did not emerge from the womb holding a duster." What feminist clap-trap. My career as a journalist might not have been on Fleet Street, but a career I did have and I can honestly say that nothing I achieved in the office could compare to the feeling of satisfaction I got when I flopped into a comfy chair with a cup of coffee after having cleaned the house from top to bottom using my trusty yellow duster.
Raising children, cleaning, baking and taking a pride in the home are jobs that should not be demeaned and to my mind are every bit as important as moving up a rung on the career ladder.

Instead of a stick to kill people with, Oscar took a spanner into Sunday School today. I wasn't sure how he would weave it into the Bible story and I even found myself thinking up reasons that we could give, if questioned. As luck would have it, he found a drum more interesting and I was able to slip the spanner into my bag. Half way through the service he piped up in a loud voice "when are we getting the bread and wine grandma?" Sticks, spanners, cups of wine........ I can see we're going to be viewed as partners in crime.

My mother spent a couple of days in hospital last week. So for reassurance I got her a big red mobile phone with large numbers to keep in her bedroom  in case she ever felt too unwell to get to her phone in the kitchen. I instructed her never to turn it off and to leave it on the table next to the bed. When I called on her today I saw that the phone was not on the table next to the bed. "No," she said, "It's in its box in my wardrobe so that it doesn't get dusty."