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

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Four times a week there's quite a performance in our kitchen as my husband prepares his flask of coffee to take to golf. I've watched the coffee spill all over the work surface on many occasions and asked no questions but this morning I got my brain into gear and tried to work out what was going on. First he puts a sweetener in a mug, then milk, then the coffee, then it all (or whatever doesn't spill) goes into the flask. I'd sort of thought that this must be so that he takes just enough to fill a mug but I realised that he doesn't take a mug with him, he uses the top of the flask as his cup. So I asked; and I really wish I hadn't because his reply made no sense WHATSOEVER. He performs this complicated regime so that he can stir the coffee and distribute the sweetener. Now, a woman would just shake the flask, although since the golf trolley jogs all over the course, there's no need to even do that. I explained all that as politely as I could and apparently it's not the same - one day, when I can be bothered, I'll perform a secret taste test.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


I'm sure I must be one of Dad's Army's biggest fans - I know just about every word from every episode so when my husband said he'd take me to a stage production of the programme at The Lowry, I was delighted. I was a bit apprehensive though because obviously the television cast was handpicked and can never be bettered.
But the cast of this brilliant show did a really wonderful job and they had clearly studied their characters to the nth degree and had so many of their mannerisms that in parts it was almost possible to believe we were watching the real thing.
There were four episodes including the superb "Don't tell him Pike" and the one where there's a misunderstanding around Walker being a long-distance walker!
There's plenty of time to get tickets and extra dates have been added - it's a great way to start Christmas.
But what are they going to do about the Lowry shopping centre? The last time we went, it was deserted. Yesterday - a late-night-shopping Thursday in the run-up to Christmas, it was still deserted. What a shame.

I knew it would happen. This morning while only half awake, I squirted ear drops into my eyes. Just in case you're thinking of trying it - don't bother - it hurts.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


If you live in the North there's still time to buy tickets to see Take That at the MEN - you'll find them on eBay and all I can say is YOU MUST do it. This was the best concert we had EVER seen. The glitz, the spectacle, the sets. Absolutely fantastic. They were on for a solid two hours and no matter where you sit you'll get a great view because half the programme is performed on a central platform - and then the boys mingle with the crowds. Great value for money - I'm tempted to go again.

We enjoyed a hot bratwurst at the continental markets followed by ten mini Dutch pancakes covered in a hot chocolate sauce. There are more stalls than ever this year - and some excellent ones on a side street opposite the town hall where you can sit at tables under heated lamps to eat you meal - much less crowded than the main site.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The artist son graduated with a distinction in his MA this week so we all went along to the ceremony in Preston's Guild Hall and very proud we all felt too. This time he wore his cap and gown without any pressure from us (unlike the first time round in Leeds when it took every bargaining tool and bribe we possessed). So now he's BAMA and he reckons that's "Bummer" to a Londoner - Nice!

We went to the Classical Spectacular at the MEN last night and it was, well, spectacular. The performance featured a stunning new light and laser display, and joining the show for the first time ever was the young violin sensation David Garrett, watch out for his name because he is absolutely brilliant.

The baritone Mark Holland and tenor Paul O’Neill made the evening for me with their rendition of Bizets "The Pearl Fishers" - spine tingling stuff.

The Muskets and Cannons of the Moscow Militia made everyone who hadn't been before, jump out of their skins during the dramatic finale of the 1812 Overture with their thundering muskets and cannons, accompanied by an explosive indoor fireworks and ceiling-high flames. Brilliant. And this year we even remembered to take our Union Jacks with us.

While we were in Manchester I wanted to find a Jo Malone counter to smell the Pomegranate Noir fragrance that I keep reading about in the glossy magazines. I hunted one down in Harvey Nicks, sprayed a tester all over my wrists and couldn't smell a single fragrant note. Must be the old sinuses playing up again, but how annoying. We're back in Manchester tommorrow for Take That so I'll have to have another squirt then.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

My mother decided she'd had enough of the Northern Rock uncertainty so she wrote to them requesting her money back. By return of post she received a letter from them asking her when she'd changed her signature and demanding to see something else with her signature on. She searched through her bureau and came across two pink forms both with her signature on. The first was certifying that the rat catcher had put poison down round her patio and the other was stating that the gas man had condemned her gas fire! I can only presume that the staff at the Northern Rock thought that here was some batty old millionairess who lived in a freezing cold flat surrounded by rats, because her cheque arrived the following day!

Last night we went to the Tapestry of Music event at Rufford Old Hall. I had paid almost £100 for three tickets - a two course supper followed by Tudor music in the Great Hall.
We are National Trust members and we went along really prepared for a wonderful Christmassy evening. The car park wasn't lit and there were no signs telling anyone where to go. We stumbled around with other lost souls on the dark, muddy paths until eventually we saw a light in a window. We tried to find a welcoming open door or at least a sign but there were none. Eventually we were admitted but the dining area was cold and the main solitary light did nothing to create a warm atmosphere. A few candles on tables would have made all the difference. The food was hot and tasty. However, after the meal, we were again left to our own devices and joined six other people wandering around in the dark, trying to find a way into the Great Hall. We had been told by someone in the dining room that there was a blazing fire to look forward to. No such luck. The fireplace was dark and miserable and the Great Hall with its 60 foot high ceilings (that's a guess) was absolutely freezing and I'm sorry to report that we left at the interval. The musicians worked hard and had we been seated next to a big log fire we'd have been more than happy to stay the course.
As soon as we got home we lit the fire, got the coffee on and wrapped ourselves in blankets - it took us until bedtime to thaw out.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

My husband has done a lot of driving recently so when the sun was shining on Friday I suggested a trip to Chester by train. Never again. The normal 50 minute journey by car took two hours by train, waiting on chilly platforms for connections and then sitting in carriages next to people who should have been nursing their sniffles in bed. People watching was enjoyable though. Two university students were discussing their education. We learnt that they'd taken some of their A level modules three times before passing them and that neither of them knew what an appendix was. One repaid the other a £1 loan saying: "You can't go letting people lend off you all the time."

Saturday, 24 November 2007


I think I'll have to acknowledge gracefully that I am getting older. I can roar with laughter at Peter Kay (as I did while listening to him via my ipod all the way to Hamburg and back) and I used to find Jimmy Carr almost equally as funny. But we went to see him last night and although all the youngsters around us were drunkenly splitting their sides, the only reason I was forcing a smile was because we were on the second row and I felt sure I'd be singled out if I sat there with a straight face. Granted, I did find the odd bit amusing but so much was simply sick or downright blue that we might as well have been in a seedy workingman's club. We left at the interval - not just because we didn't find him terribly funny, but also because being so close to the stage gave me a crick in the neck and there was an icy blast blowing on the side of my face.

When we got home we watched the recording of last night's HIGNFY with Ann Widdecombe and Jimmy Carr and found it hillarious!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Someone has just told me that they googled "embarrassing mums" and my site came up! Perhaps I'd better stop now.

Although I prefer the Yorkshire Dales to the Lake District, I have to say the scenery on the road between Keswick and Borrowdale takes some beating. We went this week to take my husband's 80 year uncle out for lunch. It was miserable and pouring down when we left home but as we travelled the day brightened up and by the time we arrived at the Borrowdale Hotel the sun was shining and it was peaceful, still and warm. The reflection of the autumnal trees on the lake was stunning. After the meal we stopped off at Keswick for a wander and I bought a huge Cumberland sausage and some local pork - which lasted no longer than tea time.



We went to see "Whipping It Up" starring Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew) at the Lowry this week. It was ok - a bit boring in parts - but it was good to see him in real life and also the man who played Nick his neighbour in One Foot in the Grave. I couldn't understand why the theatre was about a third empty though. Then after the interval lots of new people arrived - they'd been in coaches that had been held up because of an accident on the motorway - what a shame. They only saw 45 minutes of the play but I didn't hear anyone complaining - "It's just one of those things," said one elderly man. How refreshing to come across that sort of attitude instead of the compensation-culture we've grown used to.

The Lowry

Before the play we had a lovely meal in Lime, one of the bars at the Lowry Centre. It was beautifully presented and hot and tasty - my three main markers when it comes to a decent meal.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


I studied King Lear for A level English but I don't remember it being a brutal play. I'd managed to get superb seats for the RSC production of the play in London, starring Ian McKellen. And at the end of the three-and-a-half hours I was completely washed out - the brutality was absolutely amazing and brilliantly done - people swiping blades all over their skin and apparently gushing blood, eyes being gouged out and the first half ended with the "fool" being hanged from the scaffolding - and continuing to hang from a noose right through the interval, while people ate their ice creams. Ian McKellen was fantastic - it was a once-in-lifetime experience. We took the car as far as The Holiday Inn near Hemel Hempstead and then crossed the road to the station. It was a very easy way to do London and meant we could set off and arrive early in the day - instead of waiting for the cheaper train times.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


We enjoyed a lovely weekend in Hamburg, where the Innocent Drinks son is working. We even overcame our intense dislike of flying and I have to say that Air Berlin were the business. Efficient, smooth and on time and the return fare was only £79.

We stayed in the Mercure Hotel, a lovely room with everything we could ask for but the hotel itself was a little bit out of the way - in fact it was so out of the way that over the weekend we must have walked 50 miles. And that's no exaggeration - my legs, hips and feet will back me up on that. The shops in the city were fantastic and I could easily have spent a fortune if my husband hadn't frog-marched me past every shop window. There are lakes, rivers and canals right in the middle of the city - and I believe there are more bridges (2,000 plus) in Hamburg than in any other European city.
And the food - the food. Germans love their meat and fried potatoes and more importantly their cakes. We had cakes for breakfast, elevenses and afternoon tea - all varieties but mainly filled with glorious custard.


Thursday, 1 November 2007


We went to the Manchester Apollo last night to the War Child charity event starring Keane. They were as good as ever but they had to cut it short - the singer had flu and although he started off full of life, by 10.30 he couldn't stand and had to do a couple of numbers sitting down - anyway we all appreciated him being there at all - especially after the disappointment of Sting calling his Manchester gigs off. The compere came on in a Hallowe'en outfit with a large Peter Kay mask in front of his face. He came on again later in the show and removed the mask - it WAS the man himself - what a brilliant surprise. He did a ten-minute stand-up slot which was hillarious even though he was obviously just making it up as he went along.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


The Millstone hotel at Mellor - between Preston and Blackburn was recommended to us by friends who also enjoy what we like to call "OAP days out". It's just a pity that it's within a short drive because I'd love to book in. I was sorry that there weren't any log fires going but nevertheless we enjoyed beer-battered fish with superb chunky home-made chips, mushy peas and home-made tartare sauce. The half-lemon was wrapped in a muslin parcel to stop the pips falling out! Something I'm now going to emulate at home when I'm feeling posh.


The lovely area around The Millstone Hotel At 7.10 am I received a text from the Innocent Drinks son in Germany - I think he must have forgotten that there's a time difference! He wanted to know if one of his shirts was at our house because he wanted to wear it tomorrow. Fortunately by the time I'd started to raid the wardrobe in the room he has earmarked for his "at home" use, he sent another text to say it had been found by a friend - in another of his wardrobes in London. I must say I'm relieved because how I was ever going to get it to him by tomorrow I don't know.

The artist son and his wife have had a couple of days in the Cotswolds. This is one of our favourite areas so before they set off I gave them a list of the prettiest villages worth visiting. On the last minute I asked if they had a decent map. You'd have thought I was asking if they were visiting the moon. Map? Why would they need a map? So I gave them ours. Despite this I got a text yesterday which said that they'd set off for home but had gone in the wrong direction and were in Bristol. When I mentioned the map, a text replied "doesn't work". I told him that it's his brain that doesn't work, not the map.

When they got home six hours later he was still arguing; "we didn't go the wrong way, we just didn't go the most direct way." I should have remembered that he's always had to have the last word - since he was two.

Friday, 19 October 2007

I want a curly pig


Our younger son (Innocent Drinks) has been searching for a flat that he can afford to buy in London. It became more difficult when he moved to Hamburg for four months with his job so to help him out we drove to London and looked round ten flats on his shortlist - this was more difficult than it might sound because we did it in a day - driiving through London traffic, parking on London streets, racing from one tube to another and then legging it between addresses. What it proved to us was that yes, he could afford something but that something was basically a room - in one case a room 11ft by 10ft - to live, sleep and cook in.

However, one flat he's liked all along looked good and "had potential" as they like to say on TV property programmes. They've accepted his offer so now we're trying to sort a mortgage/survey and finances out between London and Hamburg from our home on Merseyside - thank God for the internet.

Nice but small...... 
The artist son was asked to create two pieces for the launch of the new Adidas shop in Liverpool.  Let's hope a Liverpool footballer likes them and commissions a few for the walls of his mansion.


Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Innocent Drinks son was home from Hamburg at the weekend. We had traditional English fayre - fish, chips and mushy peas; roast beef and Yorkshire puddings followed by bread and butter pudding and I made sure he downed plenty of vitamin and omega 3 tablets. When he flew back on Sunday night his case was full of washed and ironed clothes which made me feel a lot better if a little tired!

I went to a Horticultural Society Trophy evening the other night, to collect my award for cake and jam in the summer show. I was thrilled to discover that they'd engraved my name on the trophy. As I was leaving with it someone called me back to take a note of my phone number and post code - they obviously weren't taking any chances!

I've often thought that I was living with Victor Meldrew. Now I know it's true. I'd told my husband that the bulb in the outside lantern needed replacing. I was pleased with him because I'd only had to ask twice. We went to see the firework championships with both sons in the car on Saturday night and as we reversed out of the driveway, they were completely doubled up with hysterical laughter, unable even to speak to say what was so funny. Then I saw the lantern. From somewhere - and I know not where - their dad had found a tangerine electric fire light bulb and put it in my antique lantern. I think he does these things so that next time I'll do the job myself.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


We went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Liverpool Empire yesterday afternoon. I'd booked tickets months ago fearing that otherwise, I wouldn't get decent seats - I should have known better. The place was empty. The cast were probably grateful for that because in the show's final seconds, when Beauty kissed the Beast and we were holding our breaths for a happy ending, the safety curtain suddenly came down and a voice announced that there had been a technical hitch - anti-climax or what!

After five minutes of twiddling our thumbs the curtain went up and we saw the Beast being winched up by a pulley and doing mid-air somersaults until eventually, like a contortionist he managed to get his Beast mask ripped off. I was a bag of nerves by this time and felt sure he'd plummet to the stage floor and be killed.

Then we raced home for the Liverpool match, which our daughter assured us started at 6pm. In fact it was 8pm, and then they lost, so a bit of a fruitless day all in all.

The Innocent son is home tomorrow from Hamburg. I honestly don't know how he's coping - strange country, foreign language, dossing down in a hotel, looking for a flat in Germany and looking for a flat in London.  All stressful situations in their own right - but lump them all together!

We've booked a flight to visit him in Hamburg in November - too early for the Christmas markets I think but looking forward to it none-the-less.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

It's our daughter-in-law's birthday today and yesterday she held a 'Quaint and Cravat' party - I wasn't sure what that was but it didn't matter because tiaras lay in wait for us! I have to say I enjoyed my afternoon looking like Lady Muck. Actually, as my husband (aka Richard) opened the door of the car for me while sporting a cravat, I felt more like Hyacinth Bucket.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

We,ve just been soaking up some brain cells in Cambridge. We had three days of lectures and tours for the alumni weekend and we gate crash every year using the second son's name. It was wonderful. We (or should I say I - since I caught my other half's head nodding lower and lower) learned about Renaissance architecture and music in Venice and there wasn't a dry eye in the lecture theatre when a sample of singing from St John's College Choir was played as they sang in a small hospital chapel on a Venetian island. We heard a debate between Sir Peter Hall, Sir Trevor Nunn and Julian Pettifer about Shakespeare at Cambridge; we were shown onto the T.B. balcony (where all the beds were pushed) of the Judge Business School which used to be Addenbrooke's Hospital and we heard Zadok The Priest sung in the magnificent Kings College Chapel.

We went along to the artist son's Masters Degree exhibition the other night. He found out on the night that he's got a distinction - so we're all thrilled and we're now looking forward to yet another graduation ceremony. We never ceased to be amazed by our clever children - especially since neither of us even went to university.

Our daughter starts her Masters Degree this week and she's moved back home for the year. I thought I'd got rid of all that extra washing, ironing and cooking - but I suppose I'm secretly enjoying being useful again.

The London son is now living in a Hamburg hotel room and trying to understand and speak German. The Innocent Drinks newsletter claimed that his favourite word is Guinea Pig (in German). It's his birthday today and last Friday while in Cambridge I posted a birthday cake to him - as luck would have it it arrived today and I've just received this photo - talk about the wonders of modern technology!

Monday, 17 September 2007

The younger son has just returned from Sicily with a healthy tan. He stayed in the Art Hotel and moved to a different room each night - apparently every room is designed to reflect the work of a modern Italian artist. They looked a bit too abstract and bare for my liking but he said he can recommend it.


one of the arty rooms

No sooner had he landed in this country than it was time to set off for his work-based sojourn in Hamburg. But he'll be jetting back next weekend to meet us for Sunday lunch in Cambridge - more about that anon.

Our daughter meanwhile is now back from a whirlwind tour of New York - she fitted so much in - The Lion King, a baseball match, the Open Tennis at Flushing Meadow plus journeys up and down the highest buildings she could find - that it's difficult to believe she was only there for a week.


The artist son has been working on the exhibition for his Masters degree and at the same time doing illustrations for a Dubai magazine.


He's also been working on his new studio which to me now looks as cluttered as it did in its former life as a garage.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Our daughter is in New York with a friend. We left them to their own devices when they booked online. The consequence of that was that their plane from Manchester went East to Amsterdam before setting off West for the Big Apple. A journey that would normally take seven or so hours took 13. They rolled up at their hotel/hostel at 10pm only to be told there was no reservation. Our daughter called Expedia - the company they'd booked through - and they had no record of the booking. Fortunately my husband had asked her as she hurried out of the door with her suitcase if she had the confirmation print-off, and fortunately the hotel/hostel did have a spare room. They said that this happened frequently with Expedia bookings.  Although the London son says that he has booked through Expedia on many occasions without a hitch and blames his sister 100%

Talking about the London son, he was home to dump the contents of his flat  before going to work in Hamburg for three months and brought the Innocent Cow Car, complete with pink lips, long eyelashes, tail and udder. It was fascinating watching people's reactions as they walked past.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Just back from York races. While we were there a friend texted me with something that was spotted in an ad feature for a health and beauty spa "Go on, soil yourself !" - brilliant!

York racecourse was packed. We managed to pick a winner each but the best bit for me is peering through the binoculars at the moneyed set across the track. You can tell the real money from the nouveau stuff. I've never seen such fat old mutton dressed as spring lamb. Backless and almost frontless dresses and stiletto heels just weren't the right things to wear in biting gales and feather designer hats look distinctly comical when worn at a tilt after too many glasses of cheap bubbly.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Our tilt and slide patio doors were fitted exactly ten years ago and recently the top runners broke. We persevered for as long as we could and then one morning the whole door fell on me as I opened it - time to get serious about getting it fixed. I rang the company who fitted it and someone came out two weeks later. He told us that he would try his best to get the parts but didn't hold out much hope because "designs had moved on in ten years". I couldn't really understand why they didn't keep parts for doors that they had fitted in the past. After hearing nothing for a further two weeks I rang again. The news was bad - he had tried everyone, everywhere and absolutely no-one had the parts so he would put an estimate in the post for a new door.

I went on the internet and without even having a clue about the make of door or what the technical term was for the runners, within five minutes I'd found the parts, rung the man who stocked them, ordered and paid for them. The helpful supplier even talked me throughthe fitting process. They arrived the following day and are now fitted. All for £10.30. I just love that sort of result!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Innocent Fete in Regents Park was great - and how the organisers managed to choose London's hottest weekend of the year I just don't know.

Our younger son works for this fantastic little drinks company so the whole family, including cousins and great nephews went along with around 50,000 other like-minded people. In sweltering temperatures and under clear blue skies we saw duck herding, welly wanging, ate some of the best food ever at sensible prices and enjoyed free Innocent smoothies of all colours and descriptions.


And in the middle of Sunday afternoon we boogied to the fantastic soul sounds of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band! When I heard that the band would be appearing I emailed all the children because I couldn't believe that this icon of the '60s would be in the park. "Who is he?" they all wanted to know. So just for once I was one up and I was able to give them the low down!


and the Innocent son was in the Drum Club

To round off the weekend we went to a performance of Othello at The Globe Theatre. I felt really sorry for the people who were standing (did I spot Sir Gerry Robinson?). We could see them wilting as the two-hour first half drew to a close.

It was lovely to have all the family together for the weekend and good to see the Innocent son who will soon be off to Hamburg for four months.

On our returne I found this little chap had taken up residence in our garden. He seems to love apples.

Friday, 20 July 2007

I am absolutely sick and tired of people referring to anyone over 50 as "the elderly". On the breakfast news the other day they showed pictures of a sign which is to be put over some supermarket parking bays. The sign showed two decrepit bent-over individuals who I would have guessed were 120. Apparently the sign signals that these bays can be used by the over-50s. Then a new mobile phone was shown, the size of a brick with big numbers and a huge screen - again, for the over 50s. I DO NOT want a special parking bay or a mammoth mobile phone - THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I listen to Amy Winehouse, I go to music festivals, I don't walk with a stoop or with the help of a stick and nor do any of my friends. Doris, my mother's friend in Scotland, who is 91 would also be extremely insulted. Imagine if they brought out a special phone for Muslims or parking bays for gays - DO YOU SEE WHAT I'M SAYING......?

Monday, 16 July 2007

The Artist son found these in his garden this morning

Sunday, 15 July 2007

My perseverance paid off! For weeks I have been destroying shelves of neat Innocent smoothie cartons in a quest to find the ones with the London son on. I have found two (needed 6 - friends, relatives etc).

Thursday, 12 July 2007

We went to Dublin to see REM

and they were on top form. We were practically on the stage, it was such a small theatre. The band were rehearsing tracks for their new album, and I'll be interested to see which ones they select from the ones they played that night.

We took a tour bus around that fair city and are determined to return. We loved Southern Ireland - the people, the food and the scenery. The view from our hotel bedroom was just beautiful

I ate far too much though - Irish bread is the best in the world.

Last night I had a call from the organisers of the Knowsley Hall Music Festival - in response to my letters and emails of complaint (I've now had blood tests, lung function tests and x rays following that nightmare day in the mud). No refund will be given but - wait for it - I will be receiving two free tickets to next year's event. Not in a million years!

The Innocent Drinks son did a stint with the company's grassy van at the local village show.

I was amazed to find that my raspberry jam had won first prize, my Victoria sponge won a 2nd and I won a trophy. That evening one of the organisers rang to tell me I'd won first prize in the raffle - £100! Someone was looking after me that day.

I would normally have shared my winnings out but there was something I'd been wanting for a while - an ipod. The artist son persuaded me to go for the 8gb version and it arrived yesterday. I've now downloaded - or is it uploaded three episodes of Ricky Gervais. The trouble is I find I attract some very strange looks when I'm walking round to the bank laughing to myself. From now on I'll have to confine its use to the house and garden.

Our daughter went to London for the start of the Tour de France last weekend. She sent a picture to our mobile phones and we immediately turned the TV on, certain that there would be reports of a girl with a camera getting in the way of 400 cyclists and causing a huge pile up.