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

Friday, 29 December 2006

I got a very smart digital camera from my husband for Christmas, which he said contained 7.2 million pixies. The house is a tip as usual and there are still presents littering the lounge floor. I couldn't resist a letter to the Times

about son number two's drumsticks


We had a fox in the front garden over Christmas and red squirrels in the back - as long as the two don't meet I suppose it'll be ok.

Now for the saga of the Christmas present art poster:

On December 16 I bought, over the phone, a limited edition poster signed by the artist for the artist son's Christmas present. It was from the Hayward Gallery in London and they asked when I would be able to pick it up!! I told them I needed it sending and they said they didn't do that and I would have to sort out a courier. On the Monday (18th) I arranged for it to be collected that afternoon and delivered to me on the Tuesday. Nothing happened. When I rang the courier company they said they'd called and there was nothing to collect. I rang the gallery and they said a courier had arrived but with no details about what he'd come for or where it was going and since they have collections and deliveries all the time they hadn't a clue what he'd come for.

I had to pay a re-collection fee and was told that it would be picked up on the Wednesday - nothing! On the Thursday I rang again and was told it would be picked up that day. On the Thursday afternoon I rang the gallery who told me it had been picked up. On the Friday morning I rang the courier (Post Van) to verify that it would be delivered to me that day. They said it hadn't been picked up - I told them it had. They insisted that it hadn't and said a courier would pick it up that day. It turned out that it had been picked up on the Thursday morning and another courier had gone to pick it up in the afternoon and was turned away - and that's why they thought it hadn't been collected.

I asked them to confirm that I would get it on the Friday and was told that it was now  lost in the system. I rang another branch of the courier firm and was told that it was at Norwich and definitely wouldn't be delivered until the 27th. At this point I was too worn out to care. On the 27th I rang and was told that it had never been at Norwich and was at Bury. "He'll try to re-deliver it today" I asked what she meant and she said he'd had a problem with the delivery address. I asked what the problem was and she said he couldn't find it.

It eventually came at 3pm on the 27th, so our son didn't get his present on Christmas Day and I've had to pay £22 for a pathetic service - I've emailed my complaint but of course have had no reply.
I would think it was a one-off except that the very same thing happened a couple of months ago with a different courier service.

Friday, 22 December 2006

I wish I could screw today up in a ball and throw it away. It started off at 7am with someone stealing the milkman's Christmas tip from outside our front door. Then a parcel I'd been trying to get couriered all week got lost in the system (this item has been the subject of 20 phone calls and many wasted hours). It was supposed to be collected from London on Monday and wasn't, then on Wednesday and wasn't. It was finally picked up yesterday and because I'd paid for a next day delivery I naturally assumed it would arrive today. However, I've been told it's now lost in the system, then that was changed to "it's at Norwich and will be with you next Wednesday" and the reason given was "we're just too busy at this time of year." So I won't be using again and they have my complaint in writing. Unfortunately that doesn't make up for the fact that one of the major Christmas presents won't be here in time for Christmas.

The next thing to go wrong was my daughter's ipod, and since I don't understand how they work, I don't understand how it broke - she'll have to sort that one out.

But it's just been that type of day - annoying!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

I'm now 55 and my husband kindly informed me that I'm now nearer 60 than 50 - frightening.

The house is full again - the London son and Loughborough daughter having descended for Christmas, and the washing machine and tumble drier are feeling the strain. In fact it's just like old times with people in dressing gowns draped over chairs and laptops all over the lounge floor.

I got some lovely birthday presents including six books that I can't wait to read - but judging by the amount of ironing, cooking and shopping that'll have to be done over the next few days, it will be some time before I can sit down and turn a page.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

I'm patting myself on the back. I had to do a bit of detective work but it was worth it. When we stayed in the Cotswolds recently I spotted a lovely clothes shop in Tetbury with designer coats hanging in the window. My other half was standing in the rain and wind as I gazed longingly at the display. Anyway this week I remembered the coats and got to work on the internet - I found the shop - not bad considering I didn't have a clue what it was called and couldn't even remember the Tetbury bit. The coat arrived today in its own little bag.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

We went to the Classical Spectacular at the MEN last night. My husband, who has a phobia about heights, spent the entire night clinging on to the sides of his seat and the canons, muskets, flames and fireworks prevented him from having a snooze. During the afternoon we'd looked round the continental markets - I've never seen them so busy - and the bratwurz and fried potatoes together with the gluwein gave off some heady aromas. Every time I go I want to buy the box hedges that they sell for a fraction of the prices charged by local garden centres -but how do you get huge potted bushes from the centre of Manchester to your car?

Friday, 8 December 2006

We put the decorations up today. I'm not feeling a bit Christmassy yet but it was a case of if I don't do it today it'll have to be after Christmas, and that would be silly.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

We've just been to the continental market in Ormskirk - braving bitterly cold gales and driving rain. It took us precisely two minutes to walk round the stalls and apart from a bit of salami and the whiff of ripe cheeses I couldn't see anything continental about it - it was just a very small version of the town's standard twice-weekly market. Costa Coffee was doing a roaring trade though as disappointed market-goers piled in to warm up.

On Friday we went to Boundary Mill. My now-retired husband has suddenly developed a penchant for shopping - well, browsing - not much is ever actually purchased. We managed to make a full day of it and had a Christmas dinner complete with crackers in the little restaurant outside. Never have I felt so much like a pensioner and if I'd had any false teeth I'm sure I'd have put them on a side plate.


Bannisters Restaurant

I have just given the London son a lecture by email. A pack arrived for him yesterday from the London Marathon organisers saying that his application to run in next year's marathon had been unsuccessful. He's already injured his knees - twice - by running round the streets of the city. This is something that's supposed to be healthy, so I've just told him what I think, and then I realised that I was sounding just like my mother......

Friday, 1 December 2006

The sky was glorious this morning

We went to “An Audience With Peter Sallis” last night at Crosby Civic Hall. The place was only 75% full so why we were all jammed together like sardines I just don’t know. In a way it was quite funny because everyone was sitting with their shoulders hunched and their arms straight out in front of them. Peter Sallis looked old - he’s 85 - and came on with the help of a stick. He’s hard of hearing too and kept having to ask for questions to be repeated. By the time the interval came around we both had cramp in our arms and legs so called it a day. A pity because we’d have liked to buy his book and get it signed - but the Civic Hall has a lot to do if it wants to join the 21st century (cleaning the toilets would be a start).

Peter Sallis

I’m amazed that the London son hasn’t come down with raging food poisoning. I’ve had numerous texts asking me if bits of food that he froze and then thawed can be re-frozen and yesterday he wanted to know if some lamb chops he bought four weeks ago and then froze would be ok in two days’ time, bearing in mind that he thawed them out three days ago. I just dread to think…. I suppose I should be glad he buys fresh meat rather than ready-meals. I’m grateful that Innocent provide his breakfast, and more often than not, his lunch - at least it reduces the salmonella risk.

Talking of eating - we enjoyed a fantastic Sunday lunch at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club this week

This was thanks to our lovely neighbours and now every Sunday lunch will be a bitter disappointment because the meal we had just could not be bettered and looking out over the magnificent course to the sea was the icing on the cake.

We’ve just come back from a few days in the Cotswolds but we might as well have been in Outer Mongolia for all the mobile phone reception we had. On the journey home I found I was replying to texts that had been sent two days previously and I’m sure the recipients must have wondered what on earth my replies meant - having completely forgotten their original enquiry.

We stayed in Bibury

Arlington Row, Bibury


The Swan

and sat by log fires in the lovely old hotel reading Cotswold Life. There was an article about Jilly Cooper and about the village where she lives. We decided to look it up the following day along with the pubs she recommended. After travelling on single-track roads for an hour we eventually stumbled across Bisley. Very nice. Next stop, Jilly’s recommended pubs. Well, I can only assume that she didn’t want readers to find the places where she actually does go because the two she’d mentioned looked like working-men’s hang-outs. So all in all a bit of a disappointment. And trying to get out of the place was a nightmare. We had to reverse down the same stretch of hill five times because every time we got to the top a van or tractor was coming towards us.

Our daughter was home for the weekend and planned to get the 4.15 train back to Loughborough yesterday. It should have got her there at 6.30ish. Instead of that she eventually landed at 10pm after two cancelled trains and another train at the end of her journey where the doors jammed and instead of stepping onto Loughborough’s station platform she found herself being transported back to Nottingham. I’d like to know what passengers in Switzerland would make of this and in Japan I’m sure the drivers are beheaded if they’re more than two minutes late.

I had another letter in today’s Times. However the subs had changed the wording. I’d written “Christian name” and it was altered to “first name”. Honestly, what are things coming to.

The artist son’s got a new book out called Social Club, it’s a limited edition and is signed and numbered and I’ve ordered two. So when he’s a sought-after illustrator I’ll be able to sell them and live in luxury.

I’ve just upgraded to a smart new white mobile phone. There are just a couple of problems. The first and possibly most important is that I can’t hear it. I can’t hear the message tone and I can’t hear the ring tone, which in a way almost defeats the object of carrying it around with me. I’ve just paid to have the Twin Peaks theme tune as my ring tone and that has made matters even worse - because if you can remember it, it’s a soft sort of tune anyway. The other problem is that I can’t use it. I’m not being limp-wristed I just can’t make it out. Sometimes I press the camera button and get the video; other times I’m writing a message and when I glance at the screen I’ve compiled a string of numbers. Sometimes I get the message right but just as I’m about to send it I hit the wrong button and the thing completely disappears and I have to start again.
This was all very annoying but it got worse. Son number two has also upgraded his phone and in the process lost all his contacts’ numbers. He sent me a text (which I didn’t hear - obviously - and only saw it by luck) asking me to text him everyone’s phone numbers. Then he sent me a photograph of himself and I tried to send him a picture of me. The phone numbers and the photograph took me over an hour and I have a feeling I sent him the picture of me looking like a witch five times. I could almost hear him cursing at the other end.

So I don’t know what I’m going to do. Perhaps I’ll start by getting my ears syringed.

My husband’s turning into Victor Meldrew. Never a day goes by without him arguing with someone in a shop or swearing at other drivers. Yesterday he had a disagreement with a cash machine and the poor woman behind him in the queue looked bewildered. But she was even more bewildered when he instructed her to stand on her head before using the machine.
Our daughter was home last week and told me she’d tried on some lovely Ug-type boots. Yesterday I thought I’d get them and surprise her on Christmas Day. They weren’t to be found so in the end I had to ring her while I was in the store. “They’re hanging up, beige and dark brown and I’d like the dark brown ones please.” Surely she didn’t mean the soft ones hanging below the pyjamas? She did. Slippers. “O and I nearly bought them and I’d have worn them to work,” she said.

I know I’ve got an interest here but it’s well worth popping into Tesco - the big one litre packs of Innocent smoothies (nothing, but nothing but fruit!) are only 20p dearer than the little bottles - they’re on special offer and the use by dates go up to the middle of December so worth stocking up. My interest (in case you didn’t know) lies in son number two, who works at Fruit Towers.

As well as watching the baby panda I’m now hooked on a prison in Mississippi. I’ve just seen three handcuffed prisoners taken in- this should be compulsory viewing for young thugs in this country. It’s a lesson in boredom.

Woo-hoo we had five lottery numbers last night. I reckon we should now be millionaires but we’re not. But just one more number and we’d have bagged £9m.

Son number two went to Chelsea to see “his team” play. Not Chelsea, but Aston Villa. The match wasn’t on telly but I happen to know that there’s a webcam at the Chelsea ground so I logged on to see if I could see him and his friend. Texts were flying as usual and I asked him where they were sitting. “Far far left, behind the corner flag” came the reply. His sister and I had the magnifying glass against the computer screen as the picture jumped and then froze. We didn’t spot them but on four occasions we did see men in blue shirts hugging each other. I can’t remember him ever going to see a match that Villa won.
The artist son and his wife are house-hunting. They have very little time and we have loads so we decided to drive round town and make notes. I have to say I found our journey quite depressing. Tumble-down houses with roof slates missing, dirty curtains which seemed as though they were permanently drawn and un-weeded gardens. My list read something like: “Tip; unkempt; overpriced; looks filthy” . Anyway in their limited free time, they’ve managed to come up with something clean and tidy so all is not lost……

I’ve had a Christmas cactus for the last 20 years. From January till November it lies neglected in the greenhouse and then as if by magic it starts to flower. And then it’s like a shocking pink firework. I decided to tell it how glorious it looked and took a photo - so here it is

I saw an airbus today - a most surreal sight, sort of floating in a clear blue sky.

Lovely to watch - but you’ll never catch me in one!

After moving everything out of the London son’s old bedroom (which took a week) and then having new furniture/carpet/curtains fitted we’ve now crossed the landing into our new bedroom. This meant that all our son’s stuff had to be brought up from its home in the garage to our old bedroom which has become his new bedroom. I don’t think he has thrown anything out in his 23 years and I’m beginning to regret that we ever started on this project. I realised that when he next comes home he won’t have a clue what we were going through so I decided to take pictures.

I emailed them to him and the response I got was: “Haha. That green recycling box isn’t mine.”



We’ve just got in from our Antiques Roadshow stint. It was so unlike anything we’ve ever done and really interesting. Unfortunately we’re not millionaires but I can’t say we expected to be.

We were led through the Floral Hall and given refreshments behind the scenes. Then we had make-up slapped on (much to my husband’s disgust). Then the mikes went on and finally we were led out into the hall to see our painting in pride of place with three huge cameras pointing at it and floodlit. We met our expert, Philip Mould


Then they started filming and I really can’t remember anything else - my mind’s gone completely blank! I remember saying “So we can’t buy a stately home then” when he told us the value. My husband keeps saying there’s something he can’t remember and it’s annoying him. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re put in front of a camera.

On the way out a woman from a BBC history programme stopped us and said she’d like to feature the painting and its history on her programme. I didn’t know my husband could sprint.


If you’ve got hours and hours to spare have a look at this site. It’s a live webcam of a six week old panda and you’ll be hooked.

The paintings are now wrapped and on their way to the Antiques Roadshow. The London son has just rung to say he’s on a two day course at The Crazy Bear Hotel near Oxford . He said his room has velvet and fur-lined walls and he has an infinity bath which apparently means it fills from the ceiling and just constantly overflows - sounds like the sort of thing I’d get the plumber out to. He’s just discovered that he can have breakfast in bed - so some things never change. Oh, and the reception area is in a double decker bus.

I’m THRILLED, THRILLED, THRILLED. The artist son was in yesterday’s Times. But I’m so cross - because I’ve studied the arts pages for years hoping to see his name. Yesterday was the FIRST TIME EVER that I didn’t get chance to open the T2 section. So now I’ve had to order a dozen copies.,,585-2417649.html


Carpet cleaner (Allkare) due to arrive at 9am. Call at 8.58am to say someone’s rung in sick and “we’ll come on another day”. You MUST be joking. We’ve moved all the furniture and planned our week round this long-standing appointment. You either turn up as arranged or you don’t get our £130. Yet another name to add to the list of firms we won’t be doing business with in the future.

The Antiques Roadshow people REALLY ARE interested! They rang last night to say that they’re calling to pick the paintings up - we don’t even have to take them off the wall, they’ll do everything. Can’t wait for Thursday.

Our new bed from Bensons is SO comfy that I really didn’t want to get up this morning and sleeping in a brand new bedroom is lovely - no dust, no clutter - I wonder how long that will last.

Today it’s the turn of the carpet cleaners, what and exiting world I live in!

Knowing that the Antiques Roadshow was coming to town I emailed the producers about a painting that my husband’s grandma did over a hundred years ago (a copy of Landseer’s Dignity and Impudence). I was amazed when they actually called at the weekend. Now I’m practising saying “No, I’ve never considered the value” and “Oh, as much as that?” to a pretend camera. And I’m wondering if it’s “done” to ask Michael Aspel for his autograph.

I want to do business with a company that can tell me to within 60 minutes when my purchase will be delivered. Over the past three weeks I have spent days waiting in for things that haven’t arrived and hours on the phone listening to automated options on expensive 0870 numbers as I tried to find out where the item had got to.

Curry’s promised a tv on a Thursday. Apparently the lorry burned out (we got a call at 7pm after we’d spent all day waiting in the house) and we were put back to Saturday. Parcel2Go were supposed to collect a parcel on a Monday - no sign of anyone. A call centre employee told me that the driver had logged “failed collection, item not ready” . I soon put her straight about that! The next day there was still no sign of Parcel2Go. By 5pm I was frazzled and my blood pressure was through the roof. At 6pm a driver called and told me that he’d run out of time the previous day (so ‘failed collection’ meant he’d failed to collect) and had been on his way back to the depot that day until his boss had told him there was an irate woman on the phone.

Add to that the fact that a decorator booked two months in advance let us know the day before he was due to turn up, that he was working on another job and you’ll get an idea of my state of mind!

I have to add however that a bed bought from Benson’s beds has just arrived - on time!

There was a beautiful rainbow over the house the other day. My hi-tech son told me it was almost impossible to capture a raibow on a camera like mine. But look….