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

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Are we gluttons for punishment? All in the name of research we visited The Room in Liverpool. What a difference. Same menu but somehow the food was so much better. My crispy duck  was a beautifully cooked duck breast with little shreds of crispy duck between sliver-thin slices of crisp parsnip. I decided I couldn't risk the inch of soup and had hot salmon mousse - a huge improvement.

A horrible virus had me in its grasp for two days and when I tried to get out of bed on Sunday night I felt as though I had bell ringers in my head. Fortunately it was short-lived and I'm still around to tell the tale. A bit of comedy should do the trick and I'm looking forward to seeing French and Saunders at the weekend although our 30 year-old tells us it might be a bit too crude for us. Well if it is, I'll be in the money-back queue - I'm good at that.

I'm rather sorry that my letter to Winner's Dinners saw the light of day last Sunday. It was phrased in language I don't normally use and began "By Gum" - an old Lancashire expression, which the Sunday Times sub-editors saw fit to change to "Bay Gum", an expression I've never heard in my life. When he'd spotted it at the head of the letters column, my husband wanted to know when exactly I'd had my breakdown. I'll have to put down my poison pen for a while I think.

The London son has sorted himself out with a studio flat. It'll seem funny for him to sleep within the same four walls for more than a week at a stretch. He's been so used to camping out in friends' and strangers' spaces. 

Got my tickets to see REM at the Manchester cricket ground in August. We paid extra last time for hospitality tickets and the run of the club house, but since this turned out to be the area furthest from the stage, we reckoned we'd got a bum deal, so we're in the cheapo standing area this time - I may be getting a bit old for this malarky but I keep telling myself that Michael Stipe isn't far off my age and if he can jig around the stage for two hours then the least I can do is stand and watch him.

Friday, 22 February 2008


We went to The Room in Manchester for lunch. A cross between a gentleman's club and a canteen. Soup took on a whole new meaning and came disguised as an inch of thick white paste in the bottom of a huge white bowl. It was only my husband's scowl that prevented me from asking where the rest of it was. Lunch for two came to £64 and included a plate of stale cheese at £5.50. I believe the Manchester United players and their WAGS eat there - enough said.

Our daughter has got to take an exam in Excel. I told the London son who told me to ask her if she knew about smurfs nesting in the lockups. I relayed this message and was given a blank look. Apparently I should have referred to nested sumifs and nested v lookups - I prefer my version.


I now have something new  to worry about. The London son has booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur with a view to visiting the orangutans. I know he'll ask what there is to worry about - now, where shall I start.....

Tuesday, 19 February 2008


On the recommendation of the artist son we went along to the Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition of the work of the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Anything that involves an admission fee is a no-no as far as my husband's concerned (I only hope St Peter doesn't require one) so I had to get my purse out. I was glad I did. I usually feel out of my depth when looking at art - never really knowing if I like something or not - but because I'm a child of the Sixties these pieces really struck a chord. Bright, almost psychedellic paintings and pieces where things are stuck on boards (is there a name for that?). When I create something (even if it's only arranging furniture in a room) I'm very aware of the overall look and balance. This artist gets it spot on for me and if I'd been thrown into the gallery with no idea who the artist was I'd have known 100% that it was a woman because everything, even if it was just broken crockery stuck onto a piece of wood, was perfectly balanced and arranged. Very pleasing.



We also had a look at the exhibition of Stanley Spencer's work. This is part of the 2008 DLA Piper sponsored art show and I had to explain this to my husband when he asked me if we were looking at paintings by DLA Piper.


The Albert Dock area was crowded with Italians, in Liverpool for the Inter Milan match. For once a bit of style on the quays as these tanned Adonises  paraded in their designer clothes and sunglasses and chatted to their girlfriends on their expensive mobile phones. I wonder if Liverpool supporters will spend time in the cultural quarter of Milan and sip coffees before the return match.

Monday, 18 February 2008

The artist son has got more of his work in magazines - this time it's his Terrorism Kit. He had to post it to London so that photos could be taken. He sent it recorded but was at a loss when he had to describe the contents to the cashier at the post office.


The sky has been unbelievable lately - morning and night.



Friday, 15 February 2008

I'm getting far more hits than usual since the artist son re-did my website - it seems that whatever someone searches for on Google it somehow brings them to this site - I only hope they aren't disappointed when they get here. For instance Keane fans searching for the latest news on their idols,  suddenly find themselves reading the mundane ramblings of a middle-aged (yes, 56 IS still middle aged) blogger.

I picked the London son up from Lime Street and held him captive for 40 minutes in the car while I grilled him on every detail of his life since I saw him last. His is definitely a life in the fast lane and I was exhausted by the time we pulled into the driveway. His Dad, who stresses the benefits of rail travel to me at every available opportunity,  wanted to know all about his day trip to Paris by Eurostar. Apparently it was excellent - just what I didn't want to hear because I know that all the rail travel brochures will now resurface and I will yet again have to voice all the reasons why I definitely DO NOT want to go to  Papua New Guinea, the Himalayas or any other godforsaken place by train.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Our younger son is coming home for the weekend from London. I couldn't say where his home is at the moment because for the past six months his address has been  "no fixed abode" while he was waiting for his flat purchase to go through. This week, after yet more dire warnings over the future of house prices, he decided that enough was enough and called the whole thing off and we all gave three hearty cheers. Many sleepless nights have been had in the Atkinson household because of this transaction. His dad lay awake working out the figures while I lay there trying to work out the design of a 5ft by 4ft kitchen (it could have been worse, one property had a kitchen measuring 3ft by 1ft 8ins).  The trouble is this still leaves him virtually homeless so we've got the fatted calf and a clean bed ready for him this weekend; the washing machine's on standby and the ironing board's at the ready. A neighbour spotted me in Tesco yesterday and asked me if I was stocking up for a seige - "no, the London son's coming home " I said.  When she asked me how long for, and I worked out that he'd actually be home for one full day, I felt rather silly.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Southport today as snapped by the artist son
Another day - another pensioner outing. Again the Tom Tom was set and again the driver completely ignored the instructions - I now realise that he sees it as a battle of wills - his over hers. This can only be because he knows he can't win an argument with me. I decided to leave them to it and listened to my ipod.
We managed to find Bents Garden Centre, although it probably took twice as long as it should have done, allowing for taking every opposite direction on the map. But it turned out to be worth it. Lots and lots to see - and buy. I found a Yankee candle called "Baby Powder" and loved it so much that I put it on the table while we had our evening meal. "How come we're eating to the smell of baby powder?" our daughter asked.
Next time we visit the centre I'll make sure we haven't already eaten because the scones were the size of footballs and looked absolutely delicious.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Our day trip to Skipton made us hanker after a longer break in the Yorkshire Dales - perhaps not the best week to go considering the weather forecast - but we went anyway and visited all our usual haunts, staying at The Aldwark Manor where there are always great deals.Fish, chips and mushy peas at the White Swan in Ampleforth and calves liver and mash at The Nags Head in Pickhill all helped to warm us up after days fighting against icy gales and freezing hail. But even in that sort of weather and at this time of year I'd go there in preference to a scrubby sun drenched bit of the world - am I mad?I'm slightly regretting giving the Tom Tom to my husband as a Christmas present. It accompanies us on every journey and I was forced to spend 20 minutes sitting in a freezing car in the hotel car park while my husband shouted YORK into the machine. When the woman inside it eventually got that bit right she asked for the name of the road. Well we didn't have the answer so my husband shouted "NO NAME" which sent her scurrying off in search of  a street called No Name in York. She was finally called a name I can't repeat and we set off under our own steam. The upshot of all that is that I now have acute bronchitis.The Innocent son's trousers sold for a magnificent £132 on eBay and all the money is on its way to save the orangutans in Borneo.


The pair on the right are the ones he sold - we felt sorry for him, having to part with his old tartan trousers so we sent him a replacement pair - pictured left.