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

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


They say things come in threes - I do hope they're right. Just before Christmas our Sky box suddenly packed in. On Christmas Eve we developed leaks in the dormer ceilings of two bedrooms (one leak just missing the pile of Christmas presents by inches) and then on Boxing Day something started grating under the car, which rendered it useless until it was fixed today. That's three mishaps by my reckoning. Please don't let there be any more.

Oscar found it hard to decide whether his Christmas presents were inside the big boxes or if the boxes were the presents. He went out looking for Santa on Christmas Eve...



Tuesday, 22 December 2009


little johns

"In  15  years' time you won't show my girlfriend this will you?"

Monday, 21 December 2009



Ever since I did domestic science at school I've hankered after a Kenwood Chef. When my old electric hand mixer broke the other day I decided to enquire locally about the price of a Kenwood. Between £270 and £500 I was told. So I ruled it out. Later in the day I looked on Amazon - £120 with free postage and a liquidiser attachment thrown in.  I ordered it on Sunday and it was delivered on Monday morning. It's now sitting proudly on my kitchen worktop, giving me pleasure every time I look at it.  But where's the encouragement to buy locally........?


santa 2

It's almost impossible to get a decent photo of Oscar these days - he runs from room to room like the wind.

card 2

He appreciates all his Christmas cards.

We went to The Lowry last week to see "A White Christmas" . Aled Jones and Ray Dotrice were in it and it made me feel very Christmassy - especially at the end when snow poured onto the audience for about five minutes. My husband was more concerned with studying the snow to work out what it was made from and if it might mark his jacket.


Saturday, 12 December 2009


It was very satisfying to see that my letter to Giles Coren was one of three published in yesterday's Times magazine. For years I've seen rave reviews about the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill and every time I've read them, I've silently (well, not always silently) seethed.  I paid a fortune for a less-than-mediocre meal for my husband's birthday and have been awaiting the opportunity to tell the world. Great stuff.

I was delighted to see Stacey voted off the X-Factor last night. At last justice has been done and I look forward to seeing Olly crowned as the X-Factor winner tonight.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


We went to Liverpool yesterday, and very impressive it looks - especially at night when everywhere is lit up. We had a meal in a restaurant that overlooks the new big wheel - it's a pity that Oscar wasn't with us because he loves lights and things that go round and round - he'd have been in his element. He'll be there on Saturday though when he visits Santa's grotto.


And since he's been practising walking like a penguin, he'll be able to meet up with his pals - the city is covered in them


It's just as well Oscar's not learning how to spell yet. A huge stall in the pedestrian area of Liverpool was covered in signs proclaiming "scalves £2 each"

Oscar's latest trick is walking backwards which he can now do at great speed, usually ending up at the far end of the room, against the settee.

at settee


Meanwhile the London son is discovering more and more facts about Bristol in the dark.  He 's spent the past three weeks there with his new job. His hotel overlooks the river but since he leaves before it gets light and arrives back after sunset he hasn't seen much of it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


I feel flat, totally let down and as though a friend has just pinched £80 out of my purse.  I am one of Ricky Gervais's biggest fans and haven't missed a local live performance. 'Politics' and 'Animals' were clever, hilarious and very witty. 'Fame' less so but 'Science' is an hour's worth of gratuitous filth. Not clever and not witty. And it's a pity that Gervais holds his fans in such low regard. When he said near the end of this pathetic performance that he hoped he hadn't offended anyone, the theatre went silent. Yes, Ricky you offended us all - but not with your unfunny un-pc 'jokes'. You offended us by taking the mickey and taking our money under false pretences. Unless you can be bothered to put a bit of work into a live performance, don't expect us to turn up.


 An impersonation of the fans who wait  outside the theatre to get Gervais's autograph - so you get the idea.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


The London son started his new job last week and spent three nights in a hotel. He's back there tomorrow for the week and in the meantime has five shirts to wash, dry, starch  and iron. I'd love to be a fly on the wall.


The artist son is busy organising a Lancashire zine and book fair for January and yesterday had his Cafe Royal goods at a Manchester fair.

book fai




Oscar waited up for him to get home after enjoying a dinner of noodles.


In any case, if he'd got tired of waiting he could always have bedded down on the floor....



We're X Factor nuts. We've not missed a single second - and even watch the Xtra Factor on ITV2 . The Antiques Roadshow is my favourite programme (ever) so the fact that I now tape this so that I can watch the X Factor, says it all.

I've got money on Olly and Jamie to win outright and after Olly's performance last night I think I might be onto a winner. I like Lucie too but I CANNOT STAND Stacey. Five minutes in a room with her and I'd go round the bend. I hope she goes tonight - but I doubt it.



I've just bought tickets to see Count Arthur Strong again - this time at the Lowry. It was only by chance that I looked at the listings brochure I received in the post. But it turns out I was a bit hasty because on re-reading the brochure it says that this is a repeat of last year's tour - which we saw at Bolton! Still, he was funny then and I daresay we'll have forgotten most of the gags. My husband certainly will,  so I'm not letting on that this is a repeat.

Saturday, 31 October 2009



What did we find on our doorstep at 8 o'clock last night but a fluffy orange pumpkin in striped wellies, clutching a little black balloon tied to a chopstick! Voices in the background seemed to be demanding a treat or a treat.

Apparently Oscar was feted like a little celebrity as he walked round Liverpool in his Hallowe'en attire and it had taken his mummy and daddy hours to get from one shop to another thanks to crowds of shoppers gathering round shouting oohs and aaahs. 

It was only a few days ago that our 13-month-old grandson took on the guise of a dragon


I can't wait for Christmas .........

Sunday, 25 October 2009



Saturday was manic. We had tickets for a matinee performance of Twelfth Night at Stratford. Only when I booked last year I hadn't realised that this was the first day of half term. The roads were packed and so were the motorway cafes (if I was looking for a new business opportunity I would rent a small space in a service station and use a kettle and a jar of instant coffee and serve mugs at £1 a time - I queued for 25 minutes for  giant paper cups of  too-strong coffee when all we wanted were small cups and we paid £7 for the pleasure).

We arrived at 12, had time for a quick sandwich before the play started at 1.30. Richard Wilson was brilliant as was the entire cast, which also included Hugo from the Vicar of Dibley. Then it was a mad dash home, through torrential rain and black skies so that we wouldn't miss the X Factor.



We saw Michael McIntyre at the MEN last week. I don't understand why comedians who are really hilarious without blue humour have to resort to swearing and crudity as soon as the television cameras aren't on them. By far the funniest bits of his show (and the rest of the 14,000-strong audience thought so too) were the cameos that looked at real-life situations. If he can get laughs like that without smut, why go down the lazy route and trawl out  every swear word and mention every bodily function known to man (especially man).

Monday, 19 October 2009


The London son is in New York for a few days and then will be home for a while before starting his new job as a supply chain consultant. They gave him a good send-off at L'Oreal and I think he's a bit relieved that all the "because you're worth it" jibes are at an end. 

I was looking forward to hearing about the flight and about the apartment he's renting in Times Square so I was excited when I got a text from him - until I read it. "What was the Villa score?" it said. He was using his girlfriend's phone as he can't get a signal on his (ridiculous - I can get a signal in the depths of the Yorkshire Dales so what's New York playing at?). This left me even more disappointed as I was hoping to spot them on the Times Square live webcam, but this can only be achieved with the help of texting.

Yesterday Oscar spent two hours sitting at a little desk, colouring in. He seemed happy for me to sit with my feet up on the settee, enjoying a coffee. Long may it last.

Monday, 12 October 2009


Well, well. If at first you don't succeed...... A couple of weeks ago I sent a letter to the Times regarding train-speak. It wasn't used. So on Saturday I reworded it slightly and sent it in again. Not only did it get my favourite bottom-right position yesterday but it was read out by Sarah Kennedy on her Radio Two breakfast programme. My husband listens to her show on his way to golf and almost crashed the car when he heard my name mentioned. In fact he says that he thought I must have been writing in with a dedication for him (what? After 35 years of marriage, doesn't he know me any better than that!) I got the blame for his worst round of golf ever.

ps I did the listen-again thing to see if I could hear her read my letter out but had to give up - isn't she dire?

I also have to confess that the story really belongs to the London son, who uses Virgin trains a lot more frequently than me.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

bike 41

Oscar has perfected "No" and accompanies it with a shake of his curls. He put it to good use last week after his weigh-in at the clinic when the nurse attempted to pull his trousers up. He even managed to up the "no" a few decibels when she ignored him.



Last year we saw I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue at the Lowry just a few weeks before Humphry Lyttleton died. Last week we saw Jack Dee in the chairman's role at the Southport Theatre. His deadpan wit fitted in well and he's a great choice - he's not Humph - and the evening wasn't as hilarious as the one last year, but very funny nonetheless. There was a kazoo on everyone's seat and the producer made a funny announcement about how a certain percentage of the audience would think that their kazoo wasn't working.

We brought ours home to show Oscar and my husband said his wasn't working. I ignored what I thought was an attempt to get a cheap laugh. But I quickly discovered that he really did think he'd been given a dud. He was blowing into the wrong end and then into the front bit where the noise comes out. Even Oscar grasped the concept almost immediately.



We went to the Lowry the other day to see what was billed as a comedy. "Entertaining Angels" starring Penelope Keith. The scenery was fantastic and so was the acting but as for comedy... there were a few genuinely amusing lines, but as the play progressed they became almost non-existent due to an overload of pathos.  Penelope Keith wailed and flailed within the limits of her emotional range and yet again an audience has to sit through a moralistic play when all we wanted was a few laughs.


My husband found a bargain online when we were looking for new phones. Yesterday he discovered why they were "a bargain". At 4am I was rudely awoken by him leaping out of bed shouting "what the hell's going on?" As he opened the bedroom door I could hear a female voice booming in the hall. "your call will be answered after six rings....answer on.....answer off....answer on....answer off...." I daren't turn the phones off in case my mother rings, so the incessant chatter continued ....and continued, like a torture.

I had a list of jobs to do yesterday, one of which was putting a new fanbelt on the vacuum cleaner. As I was tussling with the belt, screwdriver and machine, getting hotter and hotter all I could hear was "answer on, answer off, answer on, answer off....." The woman inside the phone doesn't know how near she was to being drowned in the bath. Anyway they're now on their way back to the bargain basement - a refund? I'll believe it when I see it.

Our daughter is down in London. Last night she went to the NBA match at the O2 Arena with the London son. She's just sent me a text telling me that her brother had an argument (as is his wont) with a waiter over tap water. I just hope the jug of tap water never appeared because I've heard of waiters spitting (or worse!) into the jug if they don't like the customer.


I have never, ever seen as many geese flying over as there are this year. It's magical - the noise and the huge V shapes...... I like autumn.


Monday, 28 September 2009


The London son and his nephew, Oscar share the same birthday so we've just had a weekend of celebrations. We sang Happy Birthday a ridiculous number of times and suffered from cake overload but it was great and we even managed a trip to the beach to see a birthday fly past by the Red Arrows .  Just to show how grown up he was Oscar insisted on walking to the pub for Sunday lunch, wearing his Sunday best.


Uncle and nephew sharing a birthday


now, what can it be.......

surprise 2

aahhh - that's what it was


strolling to the pub


For Sunday lunch


The Red Arrows say Happy Birthday



Saturday, 19 September 2009


Our daughter is in San Francisco. As if that wasn't bad enough I keep receiving worrying texts. Yesterday I got a photo of the Golden Gate bridge with the message "Just cycled over this". The only way it could have been more worrying was if it had said "Just going to cycle over this". Anyway, there's no point in ripping my hair out for the week she's away. There's nothing I can do and should she plummet from the bridge I'm afraid she's on her own, because you wouldn't catch me on a 16-hour flight.

The London son is also giving me cause for concern. He's about to start a new job which could regularly take him to any continent on this earth and not content with that bit of excitement, he spent yesterday paintballing - an activity where you pay good money to be hit and bruised by bullets of exploding paint. I'm not sure where these spirits of adventure come from. Give me a knitting pattern or a good book any day.

Talking of good books. Yesterday I spotted an enormous "Family Devotional Bible" in a charity shop. It's dated 1880 and is full of engravings. I could barely carry it it was so heavy. But for £20 I reckon it was a good buy. I'm just not sure where it's going to go. My mother reckons I should have a pulpit made for it and stand it in the hall - perhaps that's going a bit far.


Just by chance I wandered into the kitchen on Friday as Cash in the Attic was half way through. It was our Cash in the Attic - the one filmed around March  when I bought the Royal Copenhagen dinner service. I ran through to the lounge to tape it then ran back to watch it in the kitchen. There was no sign of us, although I did see my dinner service spread out on a table. That night I watched back what I'd taped and lo and behold, there we were. We must have appeared as I was running from one room to the other (not that we have a mansion with long corridors, it's just that these days running  takes me  some time).


Oscar's first birthday is on the horizon and his mum and dad are planning a party. It's the air show that day and the Red Arrows will be going over his house during the birthday celebrations.  A little white lie and a few photos to back it up would give him something to brag about to his pals in the future.

sept 14 2

He's even got the matching t-shirt

Thursday, 10 September 2009

PAIN IN THE.......

It's like a doctor's waiting room in this family. I've been hacking and coughing like there's no tomorrow, my husband's been walking like old Amos ever since he bent down to pick up his cap during a round of golf and the artist son has been alternately squinting and wearing a patch due to a scratched eyeball.
Oscar, on the other hand has been raring to go, testing our backs, hips and knees as he clambers upstairs, pausing only to rattle the bannister every now and again. We thought we'd have him stumped with a difficult new game of "put the ball in the basket". We were so chuffed when he grasped the concept that everyone in the room cheered loudly and clapped. This he liked. So now we have to repeat the performance every time the ball goes into the basket - which is roughly once every fifteen seconds.


o basket


The ball goes into the basket and we cheer and clap

 I was never one of those people who believed that we stereotype boys and girls according to their gender. Give a boy a train - that's what I say. And Oscar agrees.

o train 2


Monday, 31 August 2009


I watched the Edinburgh Tattoo on TV last night and thought this drum corps from Switzerland was fantastic. I wish they were on tour....

Friday, 28 August 2009


Never mind the X Factor and you can keep Strictly Come Dancing. My idol is now Maka Paka. A beige furry alien-looking character who washes stones, claps his hands and can keep Oscar and Percy the Penguin amused for a full half hour, gets my vote any day.


Tuesday, 25 August 2009


I'd run a mile if anyone invited me to a karaoke party but my timidity hasn't rubbed off on any of my offspring. The London son was raring to go to a friend's karaoke and fancy dress event. I thought he looked the part as one of the Gallaghers (I think he was Noel but he looks a bit like Liam)


 and his girlfriend looked frighteningly like Slipknot

fancy dress


Oscar went to Chester Zoo this week and had his very first taste of ice cream and chocolate into the bargain - he must have thought it was his birthday!



Until then broccoli spears and sprouts had featured high on his list of preferred foods but I have a feeling that ice cream, chocolate and the custard he enjoyed on Sunday will now take pride of place right at the very top of that list.

The London son has been at the Edinburgh Festival and every text he sent contained names of celebrities he'd either passed in the street or seen on stage. He told us that he was eating in the same restaurant as Clarissa Dickson Wright. All I can say is, he's got too much money.

The artist son has sold one bike and bought another. The latest is the fixed wheel variety and he does things called track stands on it (I discovered from Facebook). I don't know what they are but they sound highly dangerous. We lived through wheelies and all sorts of risky skate-board manoeuvres when he was 12.  He's now 32!

Our daughter is FINALLY seeing the light at the end of an extremely long tunnel. We have lived through her Master's dissertation with her and quite frankly I cannot wait for Friday when it is to be printed, Monday when it is to be bound and next Friday I'll be tempted to drive her to the university, carry her over the threshold and watch as she hands it in. Then, I don't know about her, but I'm going to party.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


A couple of months ago we booked a hotel near York through On Monday, the day before we were due to go, my husband rang the hotel to confirm the booking. Never heard of us, no booking and anyway there were no rooms left, due to it being York Races week (which was why we were going).  This resulted in a two-and-a-half-hour phone call to which is based in America. "There's been a glitch" they said. Funny how the glitch didn't prevent them taking the money at the time of booking. Fortunately we know York very well and my husband was able to rule out all the alternative hotels they came up with. To cut a very long story very short we ended up in a castle with views over sweeping parkland, fallow deer and a croquet lawn, they gave us $20 towards travel expenses and $80 towards our next holiday. The artist son is now going to book a break through and just hope they make a "glitch".


swinton view

swinton deer


Oscar is now eating and drinking for Britain, after a week of shaking his head whenever a spoon or cup was put near his mouth. He had a sore throat, swollen glands and finally a red rash all over his little body. It was horrid seeing him like that and if any of us could have had the symptoms for him we gladly would have done. But now he's back to his cheeky self, dancing to the catchy tune of "In The Night Garden" and throwing things for anyone daft enough to retrieve them.

We took him to Martin Mere recently but forgot his sun hat so he had to make do with his grandad's.

m mere

Sunday, 9 August 2009


We had a run out last week to Bury Market. We lived in Bury for two years when my husband worked in Rochdale and I have a soft spot for the market - it brings back memories of taking the artist son, aged one, in his pram for miles just so he could have a go on the da-da-dat (roundabout). However, when we got there it was completely unrecognisable. It is now huge and very, very busy. The days of fillet steak at 50p a lb and stacks of whiting for 40p are long gone. My husband kept saying that if we could locate the da-da-dat he'd be able to get his bearings. But the roundabout had gone the way of the 50p fillet steak. Not surprising really, because when we thought about it, it was 30 years since we'd last set foot in the market. It was strange to see children aged about five sitting on stone steps devouring warm black puddings and plastic cups of hot black peas - not something I could imagine many children round here enjoying.




Because a friend gave me two tomato plants earlier this year I bought, for the first time, a big bottle of tomato food - at £5 this represented a hefty investment. But it has paid off in unexpected ways. My tomatoes might still be small and dark green but my window boxes and hanging baskets, which have received a daily dose, are blooming like never before.

h bask

w boxes

w boxes 2

w boxes 3