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

Monday, 29 December 2008


It's been lovely having everyone around over Christmas.But having dieted for a whole year why I decided to have a full blow out of fish, chips, mushy peas and bread and butter on Christmas Eve, I just don't know. The result has been four days of gripeing stomach pains - which began on Christmas morning -just to put me in the mood for cooking the mammoth five-course Christmas dinner. We were given some beautiful presents including vouchers for one of our favourite countryside inns; a digital photo frame with 200 images of Oscar on the memory card, and which I am mesmerised by and our daughter gave me a set of fantastic Bed Head products which have already transformed my split ends into glossy locks.

Mum and I decided that we'd tighten our financial belts and just exchange books - and it felt wonderful. We hadn't had to wander round shops deciding what to buy each other and we each ended up with something we really wanted. My book is more of the James Lees-Milne diaries. And my one resolution for 2009 is to keep a well-written diary. This resolution is going to lead to another - do more interesting things - otherwise my new diary is going to be deadly dull.

Oscar was as good as gold on Christmas Day and seems revel in camera flashes, which have been a major part of his life since he came into the world 12 weeks ago.





Oscar's puzzled mode - probably wondering why he ends up with things on his head as soon as he falls asleep

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


I haven't been feeling the slightest bit Christmassy so I was looking forward to last night's "Spirit of Christmas" at the Philharmonic. My old chum Angela Rippon was the presenter and the evening kicked off with "In the Bleak Midwinter" so far so good but then we were trailed all over Europe (Poland, Latvia, Germany, France.....) to hear carols in foreign languages. I daresay if I'd looked at the programme in advance I'd have been made aware of this fact but, and call me old fashioned,  I thought the Spirit of Christmas in Britain was to be found in good old British carols. So I left feeling cross not Christmassy.

I set the alarm for 6am (or I thought I did) because this was to be turkey buying day. I awoke at 7.05 am - already past M&S opening time and felt even crosser than when I'd gone to bed. Anyway my husband, now able to lift himself out of bed after man-flu - saved the day and set off in search of a big bird. He returned with a sparrow and then trawled the supermarkets for another. Now we have two turkeys - one fresh, one frozen and I'm sort of going off the idea of December 25th.

But my Christmas cakes were well planned (yes, Cheshire wife, I have not one but two Christmas cakes). I saw a recipe in a Good Food mag and bought star cutters and ribbon on eBay and I'm pleased with the result although we've not tasted it yet.


Saturday, 20 December 2008


My old school friend Barbara, who now lives in New Zealand has asked what happened to my birthday cake in the pic below. On second glance it does like as though there's been a massacre so I thought I'd post a photo of my real birthday cake.


Friday, 19 December 2008


I've just had another birthday and had a lovely time - Oscar visited, dressed as Santa and even signed my birthday card.


fortunately my daughter didn't buy the full complement of candles for my cake


But flu is the order of day - my husband is suffering and now our daughter has it and we heard from the London son on Tuesday who also has it. So I'm dosing myself with Vicks First Defence but I'm sure I must be fighting a losing battle. I'm just praying that the nasty virus misses me because I've got so many lists to get through that even half a day spent lying on the settee will kaibosh all my Christmas good intentions.

Friday, 12 December 2008





Oh the weather outside is frightful, 
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Thursday, 11 December 2008



When we finally reached the summit of Everest and took our seats in the MEN last night, my husband's face was green. He said that when it came to leaving time he'd be going down the steps backwards on the hands and knees - he never did have a head for heights. Coldplay were really good and even came up to the back of the arena to perform a set.

We enjoyed a mystery dining meal first which was also very good and I completed the forms this morning - only to receive a phone call from the Mystery Dining company to say I'd visited the wrong restaurant and so wouldn't be paid. Great.

I've just had my annual mobile phone upgrade so friends and family have been receiving unfinished texts as I try to fathom out a Nokia instead of a Samsung. Yesterday I thought the Rotary Christmas float was in the area and flung open windows to hear the carols, which sounded a bit modern for my liking. Nope, the music wasn't any louder with the window open so I walked from room to room - only to discover that my new phone had decided to show me who was boss by singing a song in Kylie-mode. It happened again this mornring, but because I don't know why it starts, I'm unable to stop it,  so I'm just hoping it doesn't do it when it matters.

Actually, looking back, yesterday didn't start terribly well. My husband left his dearly beloved wallet and his phone in the hall when he went to golf. I chased round the house trying to find my mobile so that I could ring him to tell him. My daughter says she doesn't know which of us is the more stupid.

Oscar paid a visit yesterday and was smiling and laughing for ages, until the bottom lip went. But I really have to hand it to him - he tries not to cry for as long as is humanly possible - he even let a few silent sobs out yesterday which made me want to cry with him.


at home with his dad

Saturday, 6 December 2008


Just back from beautiful Bruges. Every time we go there I come back bursting with ideas for decorating the house - especially around Christmas but then when I get home I realise that it would all look completely out of place in Southport.  The people there have such good taste and everything is so pretty.

The hotel - DeTuilerieen - must be the best hotel we've ever stayed at. French antiques everywhere, blazing fires and a breakfast to knock your socks off - champagne, warm home-made crepes with soft, runny jams; an enormous chocolate fountain; every cheese and fruit imaginable; smoked salmon; shrimps; light-as-a-feather almond croissants etc etc etc.

The hotel lounge - the cakes on the coffee table didn't last long

While we were there we walked for a mile through a snow blizzard to see the festival of ice - hundreds of larger-than-life ice sculptures, surrounded by walls of ice - it was minus 6 and my face and fingers ached. I've no idea how Eskimos survive.

Last weekend we went to the Classical Spectacular at the MEN. But first we looked round the shops and Christmas markets in Manchester. I have never seen the place so busy and if there's a recession, the people of Manchester haven't heard about it.

Meanwhile, baby Oscar, who is now ten weeks old, is keeping as snug as a bug in a rug

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


After a delicious lunch of very rare roast beef sandwiches and big fat homemade chips at The Bay Horse Inn, Forton,


we made a huge mistake and drove down the motorway to Botany Bay - an enormous converted mill over five floors, which I thought housed millions of antiques. Tha car park was rough and flooded and once inside we joined a handful of other bewidered souls, wandering around deserted booths and stalls. We felt like The Survivors. It was most depressing and has now joined our ever-growing list of places we never want to visit again.

It was lovely to have the London son home for the weekend and Oscar managed a few beaming smiles for him.


BY juggling plates and dishes around, I have at last found a home for my Royal Copenhagen dinner service. I now have three huge boxes of old crockery waiting to be taken to the charity shop and 25 items on eBay  and my mother says she will never visit our house for a meal ever again as she refuses to eat off a plate that I've told her is worth £200. Well, she'll just have to bring a plate of her own, while the rest of us dine in style.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008



We had a run out to the Yarrow Valley yesterday (we stumbled across it, while looking for somewhere else) and had a lovely walk in autumnal countryside - we've made a mental note to take Oscar there for a picnic one day.

Right next to the country park is a garden centre where they had the best selection of Christmas decorations I've seen and we discovered, the best warm buttered scones.


We had lunch at the Yew Tree Inn near Rivington - I'd read about it in Lancashire Life and was delighted when we saw sign posts to it and even more delighted when I spotted smoke belching out of the chimney. We plonked ourselves in the hottest seats, next to the blazing fire - bliss. The bar food was on the expnsive side but my piping hot bowl of curry and mango chutney was worth every penny and I'm sure by the time we left my glowing face could have acted as a beacon in the grey drizzle.


Meanwhile, for friends who keep asking how Oscar's getting on - here's the latest photo with his grandad.

Thursday, 13 November 2008



Back in May the London son heard that he'd won a place in the ballot for NFL tickets. Because he was at work, I sat by the computer at the allotted hour and swooped on Ticketmaster for four over-priced tickets. The tickets duly arrived by courier and our son and three friends set off for the match and the tail-gate party. An immense amount of planning went into the occasion with presidents' masks being ordered online and a morning screening of a film about the said presidents arranged. At home in Southport, videos were set and we all sat around the screen for five hours watching a game that none of us understood or had any interest in save that our son and his mates were there and we stood a chance of seeing them on tv.

So imagine my surprise - nay, horror - when, the following morning, our son sent a text saying that he didn't see the game because there'd been a mix up over tickets. Apparently one ticket (his) did a disappearing act so he ended up on the train home after the tailgate party, only to discover - too late - that the ticket had been found. If I was a cynic I might think that copious amounts of alcohol had been consumed by Messrs Reagan, Kennedy, Nixon and Carter and perhaps played a part in this fiasco but if not, then all I can say is that I thought it was only female blondes who were dizzy.

I think this was our son - although who knows? I wouldn't have been surprised if the lot of them had been flung behind bars.


I only go to the hairdresser's every five or six weeks but every time I fork out around £50. In these belt-tightening times I decided that that was too much and tried to think of alternatives. I remembered that the local college has a hairdressing department where students train for three years. I looked the salon up on the internet and found that a cut and blow dry with a first year is free; with a second year it's about £4 and with a third year it's £6. This afternoon I had my hair done by a third year student who was being assessed. This meant that she was ultra careful and that the cut was double checked. I'm sorry to report that the assessor failed her! I can't be much of a judge because I was very happy - but then I'd just saved myself £46.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


We went to the Lowry last night to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest production of Romeo and Juliet. It almost goes without saying that it was totally superb. I'm never sure if I'm going to like modernistic productions and this was set in what seemed like the '30s but with the RSC you just forget about the costumes and even the settings because of the brilliance of the acting - and of course Shakespeare's words, which keep you on your toes all the time. The play lasted three-and-a-half hours and it seemed to be over in minutes. The only downside (does there always have to be one?) was that we were two of only a handful of adults in the audience. The whole place was taken over by school parties and teenagers who thought they had to giggle and wolf whistle at every opportunity - and also, eat. It seems to be impossible for some people to last an hour without stuffing their faces, rustling papers and swigging from bottles. I'm sorry if this isn't PC but the fattest boy in the world squeezed himself into the seat next to me and had a bag of wrapped sweets which he dipped into constantly. In the end I gave an audible tut. From then on he put the fully wrapped sweets into his mouth and then spat out the papers. I wished the London son had been in my seat because one of his famous glares would have seen the obese offender off  good and proper.

The London son - not glaring

Sunday, 9 November 2008


I love British Gas. I now have every radiator on and am basking in a gloriously warm house and I only rang British Gas an hour ago. Last week we registered for their Priority Call Out scheme which is only £2 a month. The engineer is guaranteed to be round by the next day and for £99 will fix whatever's wrong. Our boiler needed a new fan (proper price £200) so we're already in profit. What a fantastic service.

Oscar called yesterday and let his mum and dad know in no uncertain terms what he thought about the fact that they'd forgotten to pack his bottle.

Saturday, 8 November 2008



Even in the misty drizzle, the Yorkshire Dales are majestic and I've never seen such beautiful autumnal colours as I saw this week. We drove down windy lanes of burnished golds and deep shades of orange and the hills were an absolute delight - a patchwork of deep, rich hues. And thanks to the credit crunch, this time, when we looked in estate agents' windows we worked out that we could even afford a little cottage by a stream - if we sold all our worldly goods that is.

I've always wanted a piece of furniture made in the Mouseman workshop at Kilburn. We've visited many times and I've admired the workmanship. This time we saw the men in the old workshop, handcrafting the beautiful tables and chairs and carefully carving the little mouse on each one and I got my piece of - well, I can hardly call it furniture - it's a pin tray but it has the very same mouse that the grander bits have.

We enjoyed some fantastic bar meals in front of roaring log fires and went to all the places we love - Helmsley, Ripon and Thirsk. It's a real tonic at this time of year and it was not so nice to return home to our bitterly cold house with a broken boiler! Roll on tomorrow and the gas man.

Monday, 3 November 2008


I have received an apology and a £10 voucher from Whitbread - Costa Coffee - for the state of their Lord Street cafe. All well and good but we'll see if the complaint has made any difference to the level of grime before getting too ecstatic.

Today I received a text from my very clever five week old grandson, telling me that he'd but on another 4oz and now weighs in at 11lb 5oz.

Saturday, 1 November 2008



I don't know how they do this pavement art - very clever.

there's more here....


There was a thick frost here this morning and although we've had clear blue skies, it's freezing and it's Saturday and the gas boiler has packed up. There is no boiler repair man who is ready to sacrifice his weekend and come out so we'll just have to get on with it. Fortunately we opted not to have central heating in the conservatory so we've been able to drag the electric radiators in from there. I've now got two pairs of tights on enhanced by a pair of shocking pink bed socks; fleecy trousers and two jumpers and I have to say that I'm surprisingly cosy. The electric blanket is on and I have a hot water bottle at the ready. We'll show those boiler repair men...

Friday, 31 October 2008


A friend said she'd been to an auction house in Liverpool where they were filming Cash in the Attic. Not one to be outdone, I went along today with my husband in tow. Again they were filming Cash in the Attic and I was chatting (as you do) to Angela Rippon. The saleroom was cold and there wasn't much that was worth a second glance - apart from an old 70-piece Royal Copenhagen dinner service, which was very lovely. Ms Rippon said she'd seen me looking at the dinner service and said she also thought it was a beautiful set. It was number 43 on the list so we decided to wait for that lot and then go. I know Royal Copenhagen and have a small collection and I expected the dinner service to be well out of my range. And it appeared that that was going to be the case when the auctioneer announced that he'd got lots of interest on the phones. He started the bidding at £120. I showed my hand at £160. He said the bid was with him at £170 and asked if I wanted to go to £180. I said no because I felt that the bidding was just going to get silly. "Will you do £175 then?" he asked so to be polite and because he seemed to be helping me I said yes. I honestly could not believe it when the hammer came down. Angela Rippon said she thought it was the best lot of the day and I am still feeling thrilled. All 70 pieces are now spread out on the dining room table and I just keep looking at them. And, I might add, that I have looked on the internet and my £175 has bought me £9,000 worth of Royal Copenhagen - jammy or what!

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Today I made gingerbread. I was tempted at one stage to take a photo of the mess that was all over the kitchen work surface. I never make biscuits because of past failures but I thought with Hallowe'en approaching I'd make some gingerbread men. I didn't have a cutter so had to treck round Tesco's aisles in search of one. The bargain of the week must be the huge tub of different shaped cutters for £2. The mixture was rather gooey to say the least, and the first gingerbread man was disabled so I turned instead to a star-shaped cutter. This was more successful and a rectangular one was better still. If they were on a cake shop shelf, I'm not sure that I'd buy them. but Oscar's dad paid a visit and polished four off including the disabled gingerbread man and our daughter asked for two with her coffee - a triumph. Now I'm getting adventurous and might just cover a few in chocolate.

I had another run-in today with a call centre in India. This time it was Barclays. I'd rung to complain about the semi-closure of our local branch on Shore Road in Ainsdale. As soon as I heard the voice on the other end of the phone a great wave of frustration overcame me. Imagine trying to explain something about Shore Road in Ainsdale to a lady sitting in Delhi. We got nowhere, which wasn't her fault but Barclays'. Why oh why can't I just ring my local branch?

Yesterday I got a phone call asking me if I would be prepared to be interviewed for a magazine or radio on the topic of sore knees. The lady who rang said that I would be paid £175. I said I wasn't sure that my knees were sore enough to warrant an interview but she persisted and said that I would receive the call at 2pm today. I don't know why. but one of my knees has been unusually sore all day, maybe in preparation for the call. Anyway 2pm came and went and my views on sore knees were never sought. I feel most aggrieved because I'd already worked out what I was going to spend my new-found wealth on.

Oscar had a four-week knees up at a Chinese restaurant. His mum and dad treated us to lobster, sea bass, cha sui,  duck, belly pork, abalone and king prawns. Oscar wasn't impressed and said he preferred milk, followed by another sleep.

Sunday, 26 October 2008




It's years and years since we even thought of visiting Hesketh Park in Southport. When I was a lad - sorry, girl, I used to be taken there with my parents and it was beautiful - a sensory garden for the blind, a lovely rose garden and a floral clock then the vandals and the druggies took it over so it was place to be avoided. Now, however, lots of heritage lottery money has been spent and the old days have been recaptured - gilded statues and fountains, Brent geese, ducks galore and even better, a brand new colourful children's area where Oscar

might be able to run around and play.

After our Sunday morning constitutional around the park we dropped in at Costa Coffee.  Another letter of complaint was been fired off when we got home. The place was absolutely filthy - tables, chairs, floors, trays, toilets, stairs and even the ceiling. The barista (or whatever they're called) was so busy trying to show off his skills that wet coffee grains were flying everywhere and I wouldn't like to know how many or what sort of bugs were multiplying on his apron.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008


We've enjoyed lots of meals at the Manchester branches of Wagamamas so when a restaurant opened in Liverpool One we were delighted and looked forward to lunch there yesterday. I ordered my favourite dish which is Chicken Katsu Curry and which is always piping hot and delicious. What a let down. The dish arrived looking a bit strange, the plate was cold and the first mouthful was less than lukewarm. It couldn't be eaten and had to be sent back. I was informed that a replacement would be brought in one-and-a-half minutes! Unfortunately the replacement was exactly the same temperature as the first. I think it was Michael Winner who said that everyone has an off day but the customer shouldn't be expected to pay on-day prices for off-day food.

Monday, 20 October 2008


Because the brand always goes down well as birthday and Christmas presents I decided to take advantage of the American Eagle 50% off clothes offer. The postage was pretty pricey but even so, the deal was a good one and the total amount in dollars translated very favourably into sterling. That was before I received an official looking letter from Parcel Force which informed me that if I wanted the parcel I would have to pay the grand total of £41 made up of VAT, import duty and an £8 Parcel Force handling fee. I rang Parcel Force who told me that the customs people check one in seven parcels and I was just unlucky. I rang the customs people who said Parcel Force were wrong and that EVERY parcel worth over £18 is liable for the duty. The only alternative to paying would be not paying and that would mean my parcel being returned to the sender. I'd still have to pay postage and then would have to try to get a refund on the goods. I was in a cleft stick so I paid up. What a pain.

Friday, 17 October 2008



Oscar rules the roost. His dad took this photo first thing yesterday and it speaks volumes!



The London son is home for the weekend to catch up with Oscar and he's been showing us some youtube videos - I'm going to have to reapply my makeup because I'm a wreck with all the laughing!

Sunday, 12 October 2008



Oh dear. Can it really only be me who has niggles after these nights out? I try to put my age aside and imagine how I'd have felt when I was 20. Maybe then I wouldn't have minded temporary deafness after a concert but I don't think even at that age I'd have expected to have my eardrums assaulted at a Boy George event. As it was we couldn't pick out a word of any of his songs or catch any of the, presumably witty, asides between songs. That was such a shame. He has a sweet melodic voice and that's what we'd gone along to hear but it was at least 30 seconds into each tune before we could recognise what it was - the speakers killed the whole evening. The best of the repertoire was Hare Krishna and that was because he joined forces with the backing singers to belt out the lines. My husband needn't have worried about standing out in the audience - the majority in the circle were our age while the "boppers" downstairs were in their 30s.

The only good thing about the noise level was that we couldn't distinguish any of the self-penned songs sung by the support act - Declan someone. Because he'd written the things himself we had no way of knowing whether they were good or bad but then he came to the finale - his version of Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" - one of my all time favourites. He murdered it and then stamped on its grave. Shocking. At one point he apologised in advance for the swear words in his next song - he needn't have bothered because no-one could make out a single word, in fact to start with I thought, judging by his name, that he was singing in Irish.

Thursday, 9 October 2008



We've (ok, I've) booked tickets for Keane and because every time I see them, I want to see them again, I've booked twice - once for the MEN and once for the Liverpool Arena. I'm just listening to their new album and can't wait till it's out on Monday. I've also just booked for Coldplay in December at the MEN - a bit late in the day and we'll need our binoculars to see them and I'll have to blindfold my husband who has a massive fear of heights. But first, Boy George this Sunday.

Our daughter has asked me to be by the computer at 9am today in order to book for the Pussycat Dolls - never heard of them!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


There's a new (well, it opened in March apparently, but it's new to me) Barton Grange  garden centre at Brock, to the north of Preston and I reckon it's the best in the North West. Every year I rant and rave about Christmas decorations going up too early but the selection of decorations at this place was so incredible that I couldn't resist them - so now they'll have to take their place beside all the others in the loft until the week before Christmas. The other irresistable things about this garden centre are the cakes - massive meringues, gorgeous buttery toasted tea cakes etc etc so we polished off a hearty selection and then made our way to the Plough At Eaves for lunch


The menu was better than the actuality!

After 24 hours of worry yesterday about a certain family member who has his savings with icesave, we were more than a little relieved this morning when our generous Chancellor of the Exchequer promised to bail him out. Thank goodness.

Oscar has us all wrapped around his little finger and here's another picture of him for my good friend Barabara, in New Zealand!

Sunday, 5 October 2008


I hate anything that makes me face up to the fact that old age is creeping up on me so standing in a long queue of OAPs which included my husband, waiting for a flu jab didn't go down well today. Anyway it's now done - along with a second jab for pneumonia so now I can dance the night away in the pouring rain wearing t-shirt and shorts - theoretically, my family will be relieved to hear.

Oscar knows how to dress for the chilly weather

Friday, 3 October 2008


Friends recommended The Craven Heifer in the Trough of Bowland so we went yesterday. I can hardly believe that there are still such smashing places within a comparatively short drive, that we don't already know about. Anyway, this place is now on our favourites list. I had a bowl of piping hot fish soup (more like a fish stew and full of delicious monk fish and salmon) with warm, crusty bread and my husband loved his battered fish with home-made tartar sauce in a big buttered bun. We sat by a roaring fire, overlooking beautiful scenery bathed in October sunshine.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008


We've just booked a few days in Bruges when the Christmas markets are on - can't wait. The hotel overlooks the canal and last time we stayed there every room was full of beautiful antiques (we didn't steal them so presumably they'll still be there). I'm looking forward to the moules and frites and the gorgeous beef stew served with hot apple sauce.


We might be able to pick up a few unusual Christmas presents for Oscar.

Now that the betting is over for the date of his birth, quickly followed by the time of birth, we've now resorted to taking bets on his future career - Harvard student, architect, quantity surveyor and musician have all been thrown into the pot. And through it all this beautiful little boy just keeps his own counsel and sleeps.

Monday, 29 September 2008


It's turned into a tug-of-war for baby Oscar. Everyone wants a turn of holding, jogging, and patting and he doesn't seem to mind a bit. He's taken a particular liking to the taste of my chin


but I took the hint when his dad asked me if my chin was clean!

We went to 59 Rodney Street the other day, where a professional photographer lived with his wife until 1988. When he died, the National Trust took the house over and now it's open to the public. The couple lived for their work and did nothing whatsoever with the house - it's just like a time warp and even the cupboards are full of pre-war food. Fascinating.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


This has been some weekend. It started for me with my letter in the hot spot in the Times, followed by the birth of our beautiful first grandchild on the London son's birthday


Then today the London son has had his letter in The Times. Add to that the glorious weather and - perfection! I hate to tempt fate by writing about it all - but I can't help it.