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

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Usually when we visit Skipton it's en-route for the Yorkshire Dales but on Friday we decided just to make a day out of Skipton. Although we knew the route off by heart my husband set the Tom Tom. We got as far as the bottom of our road and then she sent us left instead of right. "Well, you've set it so just go the way she says," I told my husband. We were taken all through the countryside and over Parbold Hill and much to my husband's satisfaction, arrived at our destination a full ten minutes later than if we'd followed his route.
A friend had recommended The Royal Shepherd for lunch. We've never ventured off Skipton's main street so it was all new territory, trying to locate the pub. It's on Canal Street, overlooking the canal and its barges, and you pass some trendy little boutiques on the way. The wind was bitterly cold so it was a real pleasure to step inside this no-frills Yorkshire pub and to smell the home-made food. I've been on salads for so long that the pie, mushy peas and gravy (£3.50)was like heaven. It was brought in a bowl with a knife and spoon. The elderly waitress was so caring that it wouldn't have surprised me if she'd asked if I needed a bib. Instead, she asked if I wanted mint sauce (must be a local custom).
My husband's steak pie was enormous and the plate was overflowing with mashed potato, roast potatoes, veg and there was even a Yorkshire pudd on top.

Afterwards we visited Skipton Church and had a coffee in the refectory - resisting all the beautiful home-made cakes. If you're after a cheaper pie, peas and gravy, you'll find it here at £2.50.
We'd left our daughter at home, studying so I bought a pie in the butchers and she had it for tea - with, guess what - mushy peas and gravy (and a spoon).

Monday, 21 January 2008

Our younger son was treated to afternoon tea at Claridges - it was a birthday present.

The menu read as follows:

A selection of sandwiches:

Hickory smoked Daylesford organic chicken with spring onion and honey mayonnaise on granary bread

Scottish oak smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers on rye bread

Dorrington ham with watercress, English mustard and redcurrant butter on milk bread

Organic egg mayonnaise with tomato and mustard cress on brown bread

Organic cucumber and rocket with cream cheese on onion bread
Freshly baked raisin and apple scones with Devonshire clotted cream and Marco Polo jelly
A selection of French pastries

it's alright for some.

It was such a miserable, wet day today that we decided to go somewhere where the weather wouldn't matter. The Trafford Centre it was then.  I remembered that The Chill Factor had opened right next to the Trafford Centre - and I just fancied sipping hot chocolate on an Alpine slope. The Chill Factor is the biggest indoor ski slope in the country -and you can either ski or snowboard - or just pay to throw snowballs. If you do what we did it's free. But once you've seen someone ski from the top of the slope to the bottom, that's about it. Maybe I've just got a low boredom threshold.

Friday, 18 January 2008


Oh dear, we left at the interval. The last time I saw a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta it was by the D'oyly Carte at the Savoy Theatre and I suppose you can't get much better than that. But you can get a lot worse. G&S must have been turning in their graves as The Opera della Luna company performed the Mikado in the Quays Theatre at The Lowry, Salford.
To start with, the acoustics in The Quays are very poor and any singing was always going to be sucked into the stage flooring, add to that a very poor and thin orchestra and a stage setting that seemed to based on old black boxes and you'll get a taste of this insulting production. Throw in the odd "sh**" word and a mobile phone conversation and you'll get the drift. Before the show started someone came from behind the curtain to announce that Yum Yum had not only fractured her arm in three places but had lost her voice. To get round this problem, Yum Yum would do the dancing but her vocal part would be sung and spoken by someone in the wings. This left Yum Yum miming the words to a voice off stage - if it wasn't so terrible it would have been hillarious. So my letter asking for a refund is in the post. I'll let you know the outcome.
Just btw (as they say on other blogs and forums) The Opera della Luna has a group of supporters officially known as "The Lunatics" - I know why.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


The Innocent son's tartan trousers are up for sale on eBay. Not only have they featured on Innocent's website

but they've also been used as an illustration on the one litre cartons of smoothies.

All the money is going towards a save the orangutan charity and our son hopes to take the cheque when he visits the sanctuary in Borneo later this year.

Monday, 14 January 2008


The London son gave his dad a good pub guide for Christmas and today we made good use of it and the Tom Tom when we went to The Pheasant pub on the outskirts of Chester. In fact it's on a hill top (the Peckforton hills) and overlooks some beautiful Cheshire countryside. It's 300 years old and the best bit - it has at least three roaring log fires. We enjoyed a tasty pub lunch - shrimps with walnut bread; Cheshire ham and mustard on fresh white bloomer bread. A candle factory was over the road and I'd love to have called but it was pouring down and it would have meant quite a treck from the car park. If you fancy a trip out it's south east of Tattenhall. How does the Tom Tom know where we are when we switch it on? The whole thing reminds me of "Spooks".

Saturday, 12 January 2008

I think I'm going to write a book based on people's experiences with courier companies. I've written in this blog about umpteen delivery disasters - all of which were guaranteed to raise the blood pressure. Vans catching fire (allegedly); drivers saying our address didn't exist; drivers saying they'd picked things up when they hadn't - I get cross just thinking about it. The artist son ordered a TV and stand on the internet and paid extra to have it delivered between 6am and 7.30 am. Needless to say it didn't arrive. After numerous angry phone calls he was put through to the driver who told him to meet him in Tesco car park "and I'll hand the package over to you." No doubt before he went in for a fry-up. My son pointed out that the package was a 37ins TV and a stand and he didn't have a car. Ok, the driver said, I'll definitely deliver it after 4.30. At 4pm the driver called again to say sorry but it would be there in the morning. Lo and behold it arrived and our son set it all up and switched on. The screen had been smashed in transit!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

I've already broken the sort-of-resolution I made yesterday about buying nothing new for the rest of the year. It was my husband's fault - the weather and a stiff back prevented him from playing golf and he suggested a trip to Boundary Mill, the outlet place near Colne. Everything was reduced - by a lot, and it would have been foolhardy not to have bought the long skirt, short trousers and matching top in preparation for the cruise; then there was the Viyella polo shirt that was a snip, oh and the brown jumper, which I did actually need. And the six china mugs were a necessity, although I'm not sure where I'm going to put them.  I think I'll have to have another credit card cutting up session.

We went to see an excellent production of Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. It was the ideal antidote to a dark and rainy Manchester night - very funny and with plenty of recognisable Wilde quips. My husband said he couldn't understand why I'd bought tickets to see an ideal husband when I could have watched him for nothing - oh, hahaha.
We had a look round the sales - I found Valentino face products reduced from £125 to £15 and a Hobbs jacket at £39 from £150 but amazingly came away empty-handed. I'd read in the paper about two women who, at the start of 2007, had decided to buy nothing new for 12 months (exluding food obviously). After the excesses of Christmas this seemed like a good idea to me - I'm not sure how long it will last but I was quite proud of myself yesterday - until I bought three t shirts in M&S (they don't count though because they were really cheap).

We ate in Wagamama's -  we're probably a bit outside the normal age range for a noodle bar but the food is tasty and the service is efficient so we just ignored all the 20-somethings and tucked into steaming bowls of ebi katsu and kaisen gohan.

Friday, 4 January 2008

My husband finally fathomed out his Christmas present, a Tom Tom, yesterday. Initially it was giving all instructions in French which led to a return visit to Halfords. Although we knew the route to the Cheshire Oaks like the back of our hands we decided to give it a whirl. At first we could hardly hear the woman's voice and I was having to hold the screen up to my ear as we travelled - surely that couldn't be right. Eventually I discovered how to alter the volume and all was well until we reached Bootle and the woman was insisting that we took a different route from the one we knew and loved. What with her constant parroting and my husband shouting at her, by the time we reached the outlet village my head was throbbing. On the way home, when we were approximately 300 yards from home I unplugged the machine. "Why did you do that?" asked my husband. I explained that we could do that part of the journey with our eyes shut. But apparently it was very rude just to unplug her before she'd seen us safely to our destination. I think this present is going to be trouble.

It was lovely to have everyone at home over the Christmas holidays although it seemed to be a constant round of laying and clearing tables. I trained my husband to ask: "What can I get you?" instead of the usual: "You don't want a drink do you?" and now that it's all over I'm making lists of ways of economising. I'm afraid this smacks of the "Grumpy Old Women" syndrome that I've been reading about in the book of the same name which was a Christmas present. I almost found myself saying that I'd save the wrapping paper on this year's presents for next year - but quickly stopped myself because it's exactly what my mother says every year.