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

Saturday, 28 June 2008



The view from our son's balcony in Ibiza



It may seem rather unfair to compare Dunoon with Ibiza but the comparison is fresh in my mind because our younger son has just returned from three scortching days while my mother has just telephoned from Dunoon where she has been lying on her hotel bed all day watching the rain teeming down. I had a look at hotel and airfare prices to the Spanish island and it would have cost her half as much as she's paying for a week under leaden skies.

Our son spent half an hour on the phone this morning relating his Ibizan escapades and I've spent every minute since with my head in my hands - I was surprised he had half an hour to spare because he's now en-route to Malaysia where the weather (according to the BBC's 5 day forecast) is much the same as in Dunoon (only hotter).  May I offload my worries here?:

  1. Will his plane be hit by lightning?

  2. Will he remember to take the soluble aspirin that could save him from DVT?

  3. Will he get his connections - 3 planes to Kuala Lumper

  4. Will his luggage be lost?

  5. Will he wake up in time for his plane on the second day?

  6. Will he be scratched or bitten by an orang utan?

  7. Will he swim in the sea and be eaten?

That's enough for the time being. I read something very profound the other day by someone called Kahlil Gibran. It was: "You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." I think someone must have drawn my string back a bit far.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


The London son is sunning himself  in Ibiza. He and his work colleagues were asked to tick what they wanted to do on the first morning (because after all, this is a working holiday!) - go-karting; have a massage or lie by the pool. I held my breath because I thought I knew that he'd plump for go-karting. But no - his tick went next to lie by the pool - sensible lad. When he gets back he's got precisely six hours before he leaves for Kuala Lumpur - complete (I hope) with soluble aspirin, circulation socks and Deet.

The artist son has definitely got green fingers - absolutely everything he plants and transplants, thrives. I got two free clematis plugs through the post last month - I kept one and gave him one. Mine has completely disappeared while his is half way up his fence.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Well I passed the maths exam - 72.5%. But since I achieved 71.4% when I walked into the classroom off the street four weeks ago, I'm not over-the-moon. The trouble is, I left all my revision until this morning, when I had a three hour session at college leading up to the exam. If you're a keen follower of this blog you may remember that people have rudely stormed out and other people have done a runner, after asking to go to the toilet. So today it was just me and the tutor. And since she's roughly the same age as me we got talking about families, suntans (using olive oil and vinegar), holidays and careers. By the time we'd got through that lot there wasn't a lot of revision time left. Then I took a break and visited the sales. I did practise dimensions though by cramming shoe boxes into carrier bags.  I don't think I've got enough time left to get to where I wanted to get to mathematically - which was the Big Bang.  I'll have a cup of tea and think about it.

Monday, 23 June 2008


A few weeks ago I decided to take a maths course at the local college and tomorrow it's the exam. I've had a stack of pretend exam papers on the dining room table for two weeks and when I make my daily "to do" list the pretend papers always feature (at the bottom of the list it's true, but none-the-less they're there). Needless to say they haven't been touched and when my daughter asked me when I was going to start my revision I told her I'd probably do a bit on the morning of the exam. Well, the roof almost caved in as our roles reversed and I got a stern ticking off.   Whatever.

The London son went to a lovely wedding at the weekend and the reception was at Ragley Hall. He met up with his pals from Cambridge.


and if this picture disappears it's because I've had another ticking off.

Saturday, 21 June 2008


I bashed out another letter to the Times yesterday and lo and behold it's in today's paper. My husband's not spotted it yet so I'm holding my breath. I've just been looking at some of the photos from the Cotswolds - it's a beautiful area.




 It's my own fault - I shouldn't have been eating cholcolate. A big chunk of filling came away this morning just as I was enjoying a chunk of Cadbury's Dairy Milk. I'd spotted some temporary filling mix in the chemist a while ago so rushed down to the village for a pack. Handed over my £5, came home and got in a right mess. I mixed the powder and the brown liquid (the kitchen smelled like the dentist's surgery) and then tried to fill my own tooth - the stuff went everywhere and it burnt. In fact the side of my face felt as though I'd had three injections. I'm left with yellow cement covering more gum than tooth and I can hardly wait to phone the dentist on Monday. My Dad used to use super glue to stick fillings back in - maybe that was a better idea.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008



We've just got back from Stratford where we had tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Courtyard Theatre. We were on row A and the stage was at chest-height in front of us. It was very shiny and at times we thought that the actors were going to slide off into our laps. The production was a classic and very funny. My only slight quibble was with the costumes. I'd booked to see the play as near to Midsummer  Night as I could get because to me it conjures up summer flowers, mossy banks and pretty fairies. But these fairies were Goths holding macabre dolls - not quite what I'd had in mind.

Sunday, 15 June 2008


The new phones have now been fixed - in a manner of speaking. They're called "Symphony" phones and they're living up to that name. Whenever we get a call, each phone makes a different sound - one plays Happy Birthday. At the moment it's quite amusing but I think we're going to tire of the row very soon.

It was lovely to have everyone at home for Father's Day and extremely appropriate cards were given - in fact I was convinced that the London son had stuck a photo of his dad on the front of his.




My husband can now go on his travels wearing a new shirt and gardening gloves  and equipped with a Fortnum and Mason picnic hamper and a pair of secateurs.


I wish I could put the delicious scent from these Abraham Darby roses on the site.


and while I was in a flowery mood I took a picture of the Nicotiana that seeded themselves in the pot where my fig is growing - they're the biggest I've ever seen and I can only presume that they're benefitting from the food I give the figs.


Friday, 13 June 2008


Before the European football matches started I'd decided to have a bet on Croatia - purely because I liked their strip when I saw it in Dubrovnik shop windows. Time has passed and I've done nothing about my bet. When I saw them play last night I thought I'd better do something about it. My old friend William Hill didn't seem to be taking bets so I enrolled with Betfair. Great odds - 16/1 so I snapped them up and placed my £3 bet. "unmatched" came up in red which I think means that there isn't enough in the kitty to pay me out if I win - apparently someone else has to have a bet against Croatia winning and then that money will be used for my winnings. So I deduced that if I laid a bet against Croatia winning, they'd have some money to pay me with. (are you still there?)  I put £3 on Croatia to lose. This bet was successful and in red I was told that if Croatia won I'd have £45 deducted from my account - HELP!

Our betting-wizard of a son is on the train home from London so I'm hoping against hope that he can sort me out - otherwise I'll be screaming for my chosen team to lose.

And while he's at home perhaps he'll be able to show us how our new set of phones work. I've now cut six callers off in their prime by trying to transfer them to a phone in another room.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


 A friend emailed this to me - I thought it was funny although not funny enough to be sent to the Tower for so if any lawyers are reading this - please let me know. And if any Americans are on my site - sorry.

 To the citizens of the United States of America from

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories except Kansas, (which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

(You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide.
2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour'
and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise'. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as 'like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf and its spell- checker will be adjusted .

-------------------4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists.
The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without sueing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler.
A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. Roundabouts will help you to understand the British sense of humour.

8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been wrongly calling gasoline)-roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager.
South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth-see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.


11.Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters.


12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer.
Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full  body armour like a bunch of nancies).

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.


14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.


15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).


16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (not cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God save the Queen.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008



Victor Spinetti

We were back at the Lowry last night for "Come On Jeeves". It was very, very funny and there were some well-known names (well known in the sixties anyway). Darren Nesbitt, who was just about unrecognisable but very good as a bumbling old Harrods floorwalker; Anita Harris, to whom the years had been kinder as an American millionairess and the loveable Victor Spinetti who was just brilliant. We'd seen him in "Hard Day's Night" on the cabin TV last month but my husband still couldn't recognise him.

It turned out the London son was staying with colleagues at a hotel 500 yards down the road from The Lowry and I was tempted to pay him a visit but he'll be relieved to hear that I thought better of it.

While we were there I received at text from the artist son, who seems to be going loopy. "Just going to Bham to get a bike". I had to put my glasses on to make sure that it really said Bham and struggled to think if that could be anywhere other than Birmingham. This must be SOME bike.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


I never used to believe there was such a thing as "one of those days" but today I changed my mind.

I hate trains at the best of times but since there's nowhere to park for a three-hour stretch, I get the train to my maths lessons. I was about to step into the compartment this morning when the driver closed the doors and drove off. I shouted "Thanks" through his open window - how lame was that.

Got to the maths lesson and the receptionist sent me on a wild goose chase all round the college in search of the right room. The lesson starts at 9.30. At 11.30 a student wandered in and said "sorry I'm late" - unbelievable. Then another student asked if she could go to the toilet and never returned. For newcomers, this follows hot on the heels of a student shouting and storming out of lesson one.

I've been put in for the exam the week after next which will mean I'll have had one lesson. I've always liked to think that I'm fairly quick on the uptake but this could be stretching it.

Anyway. This afternoon I had to go to Widnes on business. I've been to the place five or six times before so poo-pooed my husband's offer of the Tom Tom. I don't know where I went wrong but I was lost for two flaming hours - I went over the Runcorn suspension bridge twice (almost three times) and I passed Widnes Station four times. It was baking hot, I didn't  have a map and my mobile was down to its last battery band. I was almost giving up, driving home and crying. I eventually got there 90 minutes late thanks to directions relayed over the breaking-up phone by my husband. We've had toast for our evening meal because that's as much energy as I could find. Fortunately yesterday I bought a bubble bath named "stress relief"  - I must have known.

Monday, 9 June 2008



It was good to see queues forming at the Klimt Exhibition, and not just because we had pre-booked tickets. The Albert Docks is a bleak, dark and gloomy place and even yesterday with the temperatures in the high 70s (no idea what that is in centigrade - maybe I'll learn that during my maths lesson today) and the sun blazing in an azure sky, the Tate was bathed in darkness so the queues brought a little much-needed life to the place. And Klimt brought some colour and some gold. I hadn't realised how similar some of his work is to that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As well as the paintings there are a number of interesting artefacts and I'm now determined to find some cutlery just like the 106-piece set in the exhibition.

After our allotted hour in the Tate we crossed the road to see Liverpool 1 - the new commercial section of the city. The new John Lewis is terrific but I was permitted only a 15 minute runaround because my other half was sitting on a step outside. So on a golf day I'll return for a proper look.


That part of the City of Culture looks good but it now leaves the huge question of what's going to happen to the previously-bustling area where all the big shops used to be. It's becoming a bit of a shanty town as one shop front after another is boarded up.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


The artist son has some work in a exhibition in the Capital of Culture next month. I'm intrigued to know how the exhibition got its name "These Living Walls of Jet". It's taken from a poem by John Donne "The Flea"   - I wonder if I'll be able to find out - watch this space .....




Well, he may not have personality or rhythm by the bucketload but he can't half sing. Two full hours (no support act - excellent) of one foot-tapper after another belted out in that deep melodic, gritty voice and it's the last time I'll take any notice of a review in the Times (2*s).

Our seats, which I bought on the last minute, were behind the stage and I had visions of staring at his back for the evening. The seats were on the second row and I've never been so close to a performer - we were almost on the stage and actually, we experienced what it was like to be Neil Diamond because we were facing the same sea of faces. He didn't neglect us either and regularly came to our side of the stage to sing to us! I was going to call the London son when he sang Sweet Caroline (it's the only one he knows and likes to joing in with the ba ba bas) but I was so busy clapping and singing that I couldn't find my mobile.

My husband enjoyed it too but took a bottle of water to swig so that he didn't have to clap.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


I'm aware that Google ads change but as I'm looking at my blog there are Google ads for diarrhea (use a spellcheck Google); digestaid and digestassist. And since these things are supposed to correspond to items written about within the blog, I can only assume that the people sitting around at Google think I've got verbal diarrhoea - I suppose they could be right.


I thought this was really good and this shows you how it was done.


Thursday, 5 June 2008


We went for a run yesterday (in the car - don't be silly) and ended up at The Mulberry Tree gastro-pub in Wrightington. Rather early as it happens (my husband likes to leave plenty of time in case we encounter non-existent traffic jams) and it must have seemed as though we had no homes as we sat in the car park for half  an hour waiting for it to open. With the beginnings of a sore throat and a hint of hayfever I was determined not to like it but it was actually faultless from start to finish. The unobtrusive, polite service melted my bad mood and the beautifully-presented "fish fingers in a buttered bun" was not-at-all how it sounds. Two home-made-breadcrumbed big pieces of white fish smothered with fresh rocket and homemade tartar sauce sitting inside an enormous fresh barm cake (bun to southerners).  There, that's the end of my restaurant review.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Hurray! I thought I was losing my touch. I've not had a letter printed in the Times for a few weeks now (not that I'm a fanatical letter-writer) but this morning I've got one in. My only disappointment is that it's not in the coveted bottom right position - although it's not far off. This week there was an obituary in the paper and the headline stated that the person had been an avid letter-writer to the Times - I wonder if they'll say that about me?


Good service pleases me - especially when shopping online. For his dad's birthday, the London son brought home a beautifully-wrapped package of cruise items - really appropriate since it was just two weeks before we were setting sail. He said he'd found the site  while browsing on  the internet (although he probably put it in a 'cooler' way than that). A friend also loves cruising (posher than us, she goes on the QE2) so I knew exactly where to go for her birthday present. The gifts arrived yesterday and I couldn't be more pleased. Included along with my order there was a thank-you note from the store's owner and  a lovely little fan in the shape of a dolphin.



Monday, 2 June 2008


The artist son has always got reviews and interviews in various magazines at any one time but I found the latest one particularly interesting, since a lot of it refers to his childhood. Apparently he gave his teachers a hard time - something I'm glad I didn't know about at the time and since he's too old for a smack I'm forced to let it pass.




We've now studied the holiday itinerary left behind by the L'Oreal son. I didn't sleep last night - all I could see was a haze of Air Asia planes and missing luggage followed by imodium and rehydration tablets. For ten days he and C from Harpenden will be whizzing from Kuala Lumpar to the orangutans and from there to Penang and from there to somewhere else with time zones flashing past like there's no tomorrow. His Dad has asked me to knock him out and wake him up when the homeward-bound plane lands at Heathrow. I have to say though that the hotels look superb and if someone could just lift me up and put me in one I'd be very happy.


Sunday, 1 June 2008


It was good to see the L'Oreal son looking well when he came back for the weekend and he went back a bit more tanned than when he arrived.  There was the normal sibling banter and insults flying around as our three offspring discussed money-making schemes  such as opening a shop called "Urine Alley Tearoom" - nice. My suggested name of "Coffee and a slice" was shouted down by our daughter who thought that customers would expect to be knifed - I don't know what sort of tearooms she frequents. Anyway in the end I think we all decided that by the time I'd made the cakes and scones for Urine Alley Tearoom there wouldn't be much of a profit. And I daresay the joint would be closed down before it opened.