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

Saturday, 31 January 2009



My ears are still fizzing. As always, Keane were fantastic last night and they really seem at home in Manchester. They did a full two hour slot and I've never seen a band work so hard or put so much effort in. And they're such nice boys into the bargain (that'll age me). Our seats were the best ever, row D, on the edge of the stage (booked at 9.04am on the pre-sale day). The atmosphere was warm and friendly and unlike at the NKOTB concert, there were no screaming teeny boppers.

When we arrived and my husband spotted a metal barrier in front of us (as there had been at Old Trafford for REM) he said that if he saw any Mormons swinging over it, he was leaving. I was intrigued by this and as I was mulling it over he realised that he'd meant morons.

The artist son is giving a talk at the Tate this afternoon on zines and our daughter is off to Manchester to find out more about  Camp America so it'll be a small gathering for Sunday lunch. We'll be missing the little cheeky chappy - at the rate he's going it won't be long before he's tucking into roast beef and yorkshire pudding.



Wednesday, 28 January 2009



We've managed to book a hotel that we absolutely know will be first rate. We've tried so many times to get a room (there are only three) at the Abbey Inn, overlooking Byland Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales and every time the place has been fully booked. My husband spotted a mid week break deal and we've managed to get the front bedroom with a four-poster and windows overlooking the abbey. There's a full Yorkshire breakfast to look forward to and I cannot wait. I spoke to the owner on the phone. She sounded middle aged, pleasant, friendly and efficient so I don't expect to find a broken toilet, glass on the floor or paper peeling off the walls - three cheers.

Today was a gardening day - beautiful warm sunshine - and now I'm aching all over but at least it's done.

Monday, 26 January 2009


My Christmas present to my husband was a weekend in Cambridge. I chose The University Arms Hotel because we'd loved it when we stayed there when we took the younger son to the university in 2002. What a difference seven years makes!

It would make me too cross (still not chilled, Rob) to recite all the failings but the main one was an absolutely shambolic breakfast (40 minutes to get a plate of cold bacon and sausage) followed closely in second place by a lift which was covered in broken glass for three days. Dirty windows, peeling wallpaper, a bedroom door that didn't work and a broken toilet seat (which someone had mentioned on Trip Advisor months ago) - and you get the picture. As I have mentioned on this blog, I am now keeping a long-winded diary, which I took with me to Cambridge. I used it to list all the shabby things about the hotel in preparation for my letter of complaint. I only went and left it in the bedside drawer! I daresay it's now been passed around all the reception staff - but I want it back so I had to own up and sent an SAE for its safe return. I don't think we'll be welcomed with open arms next time - but then, there won't be a next time.

The highlight of the stay in Cambridge was something completely unplanned. A candle-lit service in Kings College Chapel - just magical. I was so happy to see that Alex (from A Boy Named Alex) was in the choir and when we left the black sky was completely clear and the stars were glittering above the college - I wish I could have put the evening in a bag and put it somewhere safe.



We missed Oscar in his Chinese New Year panda suit while we were away -


and here's one from last week:


So many changes in a few days - while we were away Oscar was tucking into lamb hot pot and rice pudding - that, I've got to see.

We caught up with the London son and I was sorely tempted to get stuck into his ironing but there just wasn't time - we had a walk round Hammersmith and Chiswick in the pouring rain and had a lovely meal at Brasserie Gerard where the service outshone any that we'd received at our hotel.

I now have my beautiful new washing machine, and it's SO quiet that I have to keep checking that it's actually switched on.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


I can't wait for the new washing machine to be installed on Monday. I'm now an expert on every Hotpoint, Bosch and Miele washing machine in existence and I'm also an expert on salesman speak. I know now that "we match any deal" means "we won't match internet deals" and that the machine advertised at £279 instead of £399, doesn't really exist. So having trawled through the major chains we've settled for the little old electrical shop in the village whose owner doesn't charge for delivery, installation or removing the old one and who will come at 2pm on the dot, not somewhere between 8am and 6pm.

Oscar came to play again and saves his biggest beaming smiles for his grandad. He might be developing an American accent because  his talking toys sound like all-American kids.

We're looking forward to a break in Cambridge and a trip to see the London son.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


A picture of Oscar - guaranteed to calm me down


Monday, 19 January 2009




I'm using this blog as therapy because I cannot believe how many incompetent people have jobs dealing with the public.

On a bitterly cold day this month we trecked through Southport calling at banks and building societies to get the best ISA rate. Found it, opened it, forgot about it - sorted. Not sorted. At 5.30 pm yesterday I had a phone call from the new ISA provider saying that I had now missed the good rate because Experian couldn't "verify" me. Delving deeper I asked what this meant. "You must have moved recently or changed your name." NO I HAVEN'T. I rang Experian - ultra-rude woman answers phone and tells me I must pay for a credit check - OH NO, you're not getting me that way I say, I've never been overdrawn, I've never had a bad debt so I know my credit rating can only be 100%. "I'm transferring you now"  then an automated idiot tells me for ten minutes that my call is important but that operators are busy chatting about last night's Big Brother and after all,  I'm not THAT important. I hang up.

I'm just about to boil over. Now, I have just signed for a parcel that turns out to be something for the London son, that should have been sent to his address - a broadband modem. This has been ordered from O2 after six months of fruitless phone calls on his part to Orange.

And while I'm at it, having read Robert Peston's book on who's to blame for the financial mess the country's  in I can see that the incompetency starts at the top. Sack the lot of them and put a woman in charge - me.

Friday, 16 January 2009



I'm not sure what to say about the first night of the European leg of the New Kids on the Block tour - at the MEN arena - they're better looking than they were 15 years ago and obviously more mature. They sounded good but they're stuck in the same dance routines that were "ground breaking" back then but are old hat now. Whereas Take That have reinvented themselves and with their shows you get spectacle as well as singing, with NKOTB you get singing and dancing full stop and somehow the sight of middle aged men grabbing their crotches and revealing their boxer shorts just isn't appealing. To me anyway. The arena was about 60% full but if the jigging, yelling girls around me were anything to go by they love a sugar daddy and most were screaming for the aged stars to "get 'em off" . The band did so many encores that by 11pm I was screaming for them just to get off.

Talking about ageing, my mother brought an album of black and white photos from when I was 13. Our daughter was leafing through the album and without a hint of sarcasm declared that she thought they were very good quality considering their age.

Then I picked up a "retirement" magazine in the supermarket. I wish I hadn't bothered. It contains page after page of adverts for funeral directors, chapels of rest and nursing homes. And while I'm on my hobby horse, why do magazines like this one lump anyone over 50 in the same decrepit bracket? You don't see Judi Dench or Helen Mirren or Mick Jagger for that matter, reaching for their zimmer frames. So the magazine has taken its rightful place, ripped to shreds, in the bin.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Southport is looking like a shanty town, with shuttered shops and "closed down" signs almost everywhere. The credit crunch is certainly weeding out all the over-priced designer label shops as one after another bites the dust. I can't say I'm terribly sorry about this - I've window shopped at Emma Somerset over the years and when I actually bought there once, during a sale, I was treated like dirt. So maybe they've received their come-uppance.

Meanwhile, in Ainsdale short-sighted individuals continue to open shops which simply don't stand a chance. Two interior design shops opened and then closed within a matter of months and now we have a huge  premises turned (seemingly at great expense) into a sweet shop! Needless to say it is always empty - in part because the local high school shut down last year - removing what would have been the target shoppers. Don't people do any homework before they plough all their savings into a shop? I'll give it three months, which is two months more than I give the Orange phone shop that has opened next door to it.

I've just managed to get tickets to see Count Arthur Strong.


There was nothing doing at The Lowry - sold out, so we'll have to travel to Bolton, but I'm sure it'll be worth it.

Monday, 12 January 2009


Today Oscar came to play - on his own, with a bag of toys. My heart was in my mouth when he arrived, wide awake and ready for action. He had a kicking session on his back, an exploratory session on his front and then we sang songs about Snoopy watching the snooker. We had socks on and socks off, dummies in and dummies out and Oscar stayed amused throughout and when I looked over to see what grandad was up to I discovered that he was fast asleep on the settee.n523670143_5265369_8619

Thursday, 8 January 2009


Today my cut and blow dry cost me £3. I had a second year student at the local college. I can hardly believe how much money I'm saving and while I was there I saw a sign saying that men can have their haircut free of charge! Well, you can't get much cheaper than that. The artist son says they also do back waxes.  I've passed that info onto his dad who didn't seem impressed - although he might have been asleep.

Today I took Oscar out for a walk. His eyes were like saucers as he watched all the trees going over his head. I kept up a barrage of chatter in case the bottom lip trembled - but no, he was just fascinated and so was I. Unfortunately I didn't bump into anyone I know (I did try).


Wednesday, 7 January 2009


I just hope The Killers don't cancel their Manchester concert. The tickets I put on eBay sold a few minutes ago for £200 - a 100% profit which seems too good to be true.  A cancellation would really upset the apple cart.

We went to Boundary Mill today. It was relatively warm in Southport when we left (4 degrees!) but by the time we approached Colne we hit banks of thick snow and sleet. My husband finds it hard to put in half an hour's shopping, whereas after half an hour I was still perusing the first rail. I came away with boring bedding and towels - I'll definitely have to go on my own.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


I'm finding it difficult to get out of the institutionalised Christmas mode and have barely been over the doorstep for days and days. This is due in part to my main New Year resolution (not the one about keeping a diary - actually there's hardly anything worth recording at the moment since I seem to have made myself housebound) - which is to de-clutter. I hit upon this resolution on New Year's Eve when I was talking to a neighbour. She actually manages to get not one, but two cars in her garage, which is exactly the same size as ours. We've not had a single car in our garage since - well, I can't really remember. So the garage has to be decluttered, but it's a bit cold for that, so today it was my office and tomorrow it'll be the kitchen.

I rashly bought tickets off eBay to see The Killers at the MEN. I've since taken pity on my husband and relisted them on eBay - good move. I paid £100 and they're now up to £145 with 23 hours to go.

The London son went back to his old college with some pals, just before Christmas for a game of football. An action-packed picture has appeared on the internet (I just hope it's not someone's copyright)


Over Christmas the artist son managed to set up a timed photo of all of us when we were at Mum's