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

Thursday, 31 July 2008


I'm absolutely determined not to give the greedy fuel companies any more of our hard-earned money (Whoever is responsible for British Gas's PR, needs the push. Fancy announcing huge profits the day after telling us that fuel prices are going up by 30%) so I Googled "saving energy" and  eventually came to a site that told me to put my computer into hibernation when I wasn't using it. This has had two immediate effects. It raises my blood pressure every time I come to check my emails and find my computer asleep but to balance that out, it makes me do other things. This morning (6.30am) when I found the screen snoozing yet again, I decided to go and read a book instead of spending time surfing the net. This was very calming and amusing (Virginia Ironside - No I Don't Want To Join A Book Club - I can recommend it, especially if you're nearing 60) and in between reading I looked up and saw blue sky and the sun shining on the garden.


This is the life and I'm so glad I've kicked rude men with dirty doors into touch (see earlier entry). They're welcome to their aggression. Now I'm off to the dentist's.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Last night I set up a business. Today I've closed it. It was a local mystery shopping company called something-or-other - not really called something-or-other, it's just that I can't remember what I'd decided to call it. I couldn't sleep for excitement last night - I'd contacted a garden centre about my venture and a director rang me, she was on for 40 minutes and wanted my views and was very enthusiastic. So far so good with my new enterprise. Then this morning I got a nasty email from a local businessman saying that I was obviously very busy trying to tell other people how to run their businesses (because I'd pointed out that his glass doors were dirty). How rude. That settled it. Unless I absolutely have to come into contact with people like that, I'd rather not. So my money-making scheme has bitten the dust at the first hurdle - if that's not mixing metaphores.

Then at lunchtime we went and did a mystery dine in Liverpool (on a train packed with screaming kids) and it took an hour and a half to get one course. The form asked me to say what the atmosphere was like. "Tense" was the only polite descriptive word I could come up with.

Saturday, 26 July 2008


What a gloriously hot and sunny day - hurray. To celebrate summer we decided to christen our new patio set and eat outside. Whenever we watch travel programmes on the box we see whole Italian families eating outside at long tables - it all looks so placid, unrushed and relaxing. Whereas with us it's a half-day's work to sort the umbrella out. The advert for the patio set stated that the price included a market-sized umbrella. This sounded great - bigger surely meant better. Not always. It took three people to lift it and screw it into place and before we could wind the umbrella up, my husband had to get our biggest set of ladders out, climb to the top and wield a brush to poke the protective cover until it fell off. By that time everyone's nerves were shattered and our al-fresco meal stuck in the gullet. We haven't yet worked out how the cover is going to be put back on.

Friday, 25 July 2008


This is one of the London son's videos from his Malaysian holiday

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Aaaaaaarrrrrgghhhh! It was quite a novelty when the hits on this website increased one hundred fold because people were Googling "George Clooney at the Open" and arriving here. BUT THE NOVELTY HAS NOW WORN OFF. So let me inform you once and for all that the man was never here - it was all made up by the press. In fact he was in Italy during the golf. And reports that Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas were all knocking back pints in our local were also a load of rubbish. So by all means come to my blog but only if you want to read the mundane ramblings of a mad woman - not if you want to read about celebrities who weren't at the Open Golf.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Patricia Routledge MUST have been Queen Mary in a past life. The resemblance was uncanny when we saw her last night in Crown Matrimonial at The Lowry. She's brilliant of course and how she remembers all those lines I just can't imagine. We used the Tom Tom to get there and when the lady in the box gave instructions such as "turn left then take the first exit at the roundabout" - no sooner had she uttered the words than I'd completely forgotten what she'd said. So my idea of hell would be to have to learn lines. Patricia Routledge reminds me of the best teachers we had at school - spinsters who devoted themselves to their work - do they still exist?


I felt as though we were part of an Alan Bennett production while we were waiting for the play to start. Four elderly ladies with broad Lancashire accents were in the seats behind. We learnt all about their hatred of the dark, how one carries a torch with her to the theatre and how another had a panic attack when she went to a monkey show and the lights went out. "Ooh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Ooh No no no no no - well, they'd have to put me out," is a snippet from the conversation. My husband, whose banter is almost non-existent,  seems to take delight in mimicking people in theatres. And I suddenly heard him shout: "YES, YES, YES" out of the blue. Then when we were on the terrace at the interval listening to other people laughing and enjoying themselves, he gave such a loud, hearty laugh at nothing at all that I'm thinking of enrolling him in the local amateur dramatic society.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


The artist son has a new website  which seems to have taken off. I already keep abreast of all his exhibitions and publications via his other two sites  - now that there's a third, I can see I'll have to pencil in a regular diary slot.


The barometer has swung round to fair, the sun is out and the golf is over. The weather definitely had it in for us  - even yesterday morning we were huddled under umbrellas in the stands as rain lashed down, driven sideways in the icy gale-force winds.  We plodded home at lunchtime - our Open over for this year and settled back to watch it on TV. But could that be the same place we had left only minutes earlier? The sky was blue instead of black and people seemed to have taken off all their waterproof cladding - typical is all I can say. And we'll probably now have a heatwave until the first day of York Races.

The London son was home for the weekend with a friend - and they filled us in on all their Malaysian escapades with the orang utans - our daughter was so impressed that she's gone and booked a holiday in Atlanta so that she can visit the giant panda cub that we've all been keeping an eye on via a webcam for the past two years.

When we got home from the golf yesterday I immediately set to work preparing the lunch. When I turned round I saw two big plates of 24 beautiful fairy-cakes. My brain couldn't take it in - where had they miraculously appeared from? While we'd been out our son and his friend had found my Nigella Lawson cookbook, nipped down to the village for ingredients and then made and baked them. My pudding problem was solved.



By last night there were just two left

Friday, 18 July 2008


Blimey, is it only day two of the Open? I feel as though I've taken root in the mud. We were dodging torrential showers today and then sat at the 18th for a bit. It was lovely meeting up with one of the London son's friends,

who had travelled up for the day and was cheering on Greg Norman in between enjoying corporate hospitality in some style, next to the first tee (I'd better point out, that the picture here wasn't taken today. It was taken during a pre-Global-Warming August).

It doesn't matter where we stand or sit - there are always whoops and screams and wild applause coming from other directions - we're always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday, 17 July 2008



We have our very own Superlambanana. Not we as a family - obviously. But we as a village. He appeared out of nowhere on our roundabout, where we had been told an old war plane was going to be sited. He's lovely and I can say for certain that it won't be long before he's sat on,  stolen or grafitteed. A council rep has stated, apparently, that he is a tribute to Tiger Woods - very strange, since he's not even playing here this year.


I would have happily stayed in and watched the golf on tv today but since we have week-long tickets we felt as though we'd better get value for money. We missed the worst of the weather by setting off after lunch but it was still cold, windy and drizzly. Fortunately I managed to find some spotty wellies that I'd bought last summer when I went with my daughter to the Knowsley Hall Music Festival - the weather was even worse then and we waded through knee-deep mud.

Today we followed Cabrera, because my husband had given him the kiss of death by betting on him, and then Rocco Mediate, who now seems to be one of the leaders. Surely the weather must be better for tomorrow?

Today's celeb watch revealed Claire Balding, who is much smaller and slimmer than she seems on television - who says the camera never lies?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008





Another day at the Open - or should I say almost a day - we had to cut it short because we were absolutely frozen - gale force icy winds. It's not right is it? How often do we get red hot weather in December; so why do we get this in the middle of the summer? Anyway today we saw Statto, and that was the total of our celeb spotting.


 A mother and father got off the train at Hillside (The "Open" stop) with two buggies. There are 32 steps to climb - as the platform posters tell you - but there wasn't a single rail official to help them. At the top of the 32 steps there were a dozen rail officials and five policemen and women - a fat lot of good.

Then, at the point of entry for the Open, there were two queues - one for people WITH tickets and one for those without. Those without had five gates and security barriers at which to buy tickets, while those WITH had one. Guess which queue moved five times faster. At this point I had to kick my husband in the shins to cheer him up otherwise it would have been one of those grumpy days.

And the picture below is the best I could do - a back view of a photo that will probably be in tomorrow's papers!


Tuesday, 15 July 2008



Lunch in the Royal Birkdale's club house at the invitation of our friends, was superb. First we enjoyed drinks in the bar overlooking the 18th and then went upstairs to the dining room which has a big bay window, again overlooking the 18th. There were white daisies in the middle of each table in the shape of a golf ball, standing on a tall vase, representing the tee. Asparagus and then lemon sole with salmon mousse followed by a chunk of marmalade bread and butter pudding.


Fortunately we then walked a lot of the calories off as we followed Justin Rose (above). Some of his putting seemed a bit shakey - but better to get the nerves overwith now. The sun shone again - all's right with the world.

The artist son is curating an on-line exhibition which looks good.

When he was a little boy, our younger son came running through to our bedroom one night, shouting that the moon needed polishing. I knew just what he meant and when I looked out of the window last night it reminded me  of what he'd said.


Monday, 14 July 2008


Just enjoyed a second day at Royal Birkdale and spotted Alan Hansen with Kenny Dalgleish - Alan Hansen looked a lot younger than he does on the TV and I was getting ready to tell him but then we saw some friends having a coffee and joined them. No sign yet of George Clooney or Robbie Williams. It must have been 20 degrees cooler today but still no rain. Tomorrow we've been invited for lunch in the clubhouse so I'm exprecting to see some A list celebs. Just hope my hay fever holds off - all that grass is TROUBLE.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


We've just walked in after a few hours watching practice rounds at Royal Birkdale. We're only one stop away on the train. The whole area has changed beyond recognition as golf fans from Dallas, LA and Florida wander through our village. Most people in the area have rented out their homes - some for as much as £70k for the week and we've watched people have extensions and conservatories built on the strength of their rental income. George Clooney is rumoured to be staying in Alan Hansen's house, which overlooks the course and the friend of a friend has Justin Rose in her house. All very exciting. An American caddy on the station platform has just asked me: "what time do you have?" I was waiting for the rest of the sentence - "what time do you have dinner etc" but the rest never came and I presume he meant "what's the time?" How quaint.  I suppose that'll be the next Americanism to creep into our vocab - joining the very annoying: "can I get a beer?" asked of the barman.



me at the 18th


Lots of yellow AA signs went up around the town bearing the words:

L.O.L.  Buses 

I thought that perhaps someone at the town council had a sense of humour but that doesn't seem likely so I reckon it must be something to do with the Orange Lodge procession that took place yesterday.


Tuesday, 8 July 2008


I know it's bad manners to talk about money so here goes.......

The credit crunch, usually something I've only read about and then turned the page, is now starting to crunch me. Ever since I left the paper I've written press releases for the Chester branch of Barratt Homes. The HQ is a lovely modern building very handily (often too handily) placed for the Cheshire Oaks outlet village. When I went along the other day for my normal monthly meeting there was an unusual air of gloom about the place. Apparently, the night before, every single one of them had been given their marching orders and the whole place is to close at the end of the month. I'm desperately sad for them - most have families and mortgages and they're not getting any younger - but I'm sorry to report that a bit of self-pity crept into my head as well. That was a very nice regular income and paid for birthday and Christmas presents. So what now?

I've increased my mystery shopping activities (should I have kept that a mystery?) and my entrepreneurial spirit is coming to the fore. All I need is that one big idea...... any helpers?

As I write, the London son is en-route for Heathrow via Dubai. I see there are severe weather warnings for the South so this morning's worry is that his plane will skid off the runway. I woke up with a splitting headache and will tell him when I see him that I simply can't take any more adventures this year.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


We had an unexpected text and email this morning from our younger son who is now in Penang. He said it was hotter than ever. I only wish we could get a bit of the "hotter than ever" here in Southport where we've been dodging showers all day. It was the Ainsdale show today and just a glimmer of late afternoon sunshine saved the day - for the rest of the time the tents rattled in the wind and the show-goers got a soaking. I spotted the traffic wardens in the village this morning - the first time for ages, and on show day too - no wonder they get a bad name.


We all went along last night to Liverpool's newest commercial art gallery - for the opening night and to see the artist son's work of course. It was a fantastic champagne event with hundreds of people there, spilling out on the pavement in the summer evening sunshine. I found a piece in the metro newspaper about it.


 The artist son and his wife in front of his exhibits




Thursday, 3 July 2008



I never miss an episode of "In Our Time" on Radio 4 and even listened to repeats on my iPod while on holiday. I signed up to receive weekly emails from Melvyn Bragg (whose programme it is) and they're always interesting and to the point. I've copied a couple of paras from this week's - I hope he won't mind (presuming he's got the time to Google his own name and then stumble upon this blog). 

"I’m on my way now for a meeting at the Royal Society. Its
headquarters in London are in Carlton House Terrace, in one of the
entirely magnificent houses overlooking The Mall and looking over to
Westminster, to the Wheel and, from its great terrace, to St Paul’s
and the City.

I was there last night for their annual soiree, where Fellows of the
Society bring up to London evidence of the work they have been
doing in the last year. It’s an extraordinarily inspiring event. Mostly
young people stand in front of what could almost be called stalls and
explain the work they are doing, which is often of the highest quality,
in some cases leading the world, especially work being done at
Imperial College at the moment. These young people are erudite,
polite, diffident and helpful. They are a much bigger part of this
country than the media ever allows them to be. What a shame that
we spend so much time demonising so few and so little time taking
account of the many people who not only keep things going, but push
things forward and do so in a manner and style which slots in very
easily with the best of what we are."

Wednesday, 2 July 2008



 Hadrian's Wall



 me at Hadrian's Wall (we think so anyway - this section could just have been the boundary wall to some old farm judging by the looks we were getting from hiking-types......)

Northumberland has now entered my "favourite places" list. And I'm ashamed of the fact that I'd written it off as a wilderness without ever having visited the place. We've just enjoyed a mini-break at Slaley Hall on the outskirts of Hexham.


Beautiful weather, fantastic surroundings and delicious food. When I couldn't sleep one night last winter I watched an Open University programme all about Vindolanda - the Roman settlement next to Hadrian's Wall where the oldest surviving writing tablets had been discovered, buried beneath mud and clay.


The originals are now in the British Museum but facsimiles are in the museum at Vindolanda - and touchingly, one is a birthday invitation from the wife of a Roman soldier, to her friend.

On the way home we passed a field of Alpacas (I want one).


 and a garden with some beautiful roses


Our younger son arrived at Dubai, then Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Sandakan (orang utan territory) but that's when communication stopped and by now he should be somewhere else so if I don't get a reply to my texts tomorrow I'm off to who-knows where with Air Asia.