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

Saturday, 21 February 2009


We went to the recording of Any Questions last night at the BBC studios in Manchester. We arrived at 6pm and the programme was on air at 8pm so I thought that there'd be lots of rehearsals and warm-ups to sit through. Not a bit of it, as cool as you like, Jonathan Dimbleby



led the panellists into the studio at seven minutes to eight. There was just time for a quick practice question and then we all listened to the 8 o'clock news as it was being broadcast and then bingo we were off - live. The panel was made up of Sunday Times columnist Minette Marrin; Culture and Sports Minister Andy Burnham; Francis Maude MP and Liverpudlian author Frank Cottrell Boyce. Many members of the audience had submitted questions and the ten best were chosen but in the end only about five or six had the chance to read out their question. The time flew and it was all very enjoyable and amusing.

I knew that a lot of the BBC was moving to Salford but until last night I didn't realise just how much - for instance I had no idea that Blue Peter would be filmed there or that the Blue Peter garden will now be based in that area. I have nothing against Salford - in fact all my dad's side of the family were from that region - but somehow I can't imagine that it will ever have the glamour of London. I look forward to tripping over dozens of celebs next time we venture out to the Lowry.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009



Yesterday we went to have a look at the famous Minton floor in St George's Hall in Liverpool - which is only open to the public for a few weeks every few years. It was very interesting - but more interesting was looking round the basement cells where Victorian prisoners used to be kept and the old court room complete with judge's robe and wig. I can hardly believe that I've lived within 20 miles of Liverpool all my life and have never been inside the hall until now.

I ordered a car seat for Oscar - for the days when we're left in sole charge - and on the way to Liverpool my husband said that he wasn't sure how the car seat would be fitted in our car. "Elaborate" I told him. He said that because the driver's seat has a memory and glides backwards and forwards when the door is open, it might cause problems. "Go on" I urged - almost knowing where this conversation was heading. "Well it would mean Oscar would be moving with the seat."  Yes, as I suspected,  he thought that the baby seat would be strapped to the back of the driver's seat. This is a man who held down a responsible job for 40 years. And as our daughter pointed out, what would happen to a baby strapped to the back of the driver's seat in a two door car? The mind boggles. And I'm rather relieved that we got this nonsense over with before the seat was delivered.

Thursday, 12 February 2009



This was Byland Abbey from our bedroom window when we decided to call it a day and come home early - but not before five members of staff, including the general manager and the chef, dug our car out of the car park.

And it had all started so well. We arrived at the Abbey Inn


when the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Our suite was magnificent with a four poster, flagon of madeira, fresh flowers and a bathroom the size of a hockey pitch. The first morning's breakfast of locally smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs from local hens, was delicious and we were looking forward to the evening meal in front of a cosy fire. But it was not to be. The fast-falling snow got the better of us and we swerved and skidded our way out of the Yorkshire Dales and into dry-as-a-bone Lancashire.

We'll return one day.


a little bit of the beautiful suite that was ours for a short (very short) time


The view of the Abbey from our window when we arrived

Monday, 9 February 2009


The London son is in France this week on a course in a lovely chateau somewhere outside Paris. It's the "somewhere" that seems to be causing problems. He'd been told that a taxi from the Eurostar station in the city to the hotel would take 45 minutes and would cost £140. So, as usual with this type of excitement, his dad and I clock-watched, until in our minds, we'd got him safely installed at the chateau. At 10pm, an hour after our ETA  I received a text: "Still in taxi. Driver lost. "  Everything went through my mind, especially as the text seemed to trail off with the word "French".  Was the driver a maniac - had he murdered our son - should I phone the chateau? In the end, the journey took more than two hours - longer than a flight from London to Paris would have lasted, had he opted to fly (which as it turned out he couldn't have done as all Parisian airports were closed due to a storm alert).

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


We stayed up last night to watch the Everton/Liverpool match on television - this was some feat since we're normally tucked up in bed at 10pm But our daughter's a Liverpool fan so we battled it out. Then after two hours' viewing the screen went black and a sponsor's advert came on - mayhem. The minute the picture was restored Everton scored.  My mobile rang: "Are you watching the football or the advert" asked the London son. Apparently where he was, when the picture came back on Everton were celebrating. So he hadn't seen the only goal of the match. I wonder if we'll get an explanation today from ITV.

Oscar's due to visit again tomorrow. I'm sure I can see those toothy-pegs peeping through


Am I the only person who watched "Ladies of Letters" on ITV3 the other night? I used to listen to the series on Radio 4 with Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales (not actually with them). Maureen Lipman takes one of the television parts and it's witty and funny. In fact I meant to tape the whole series - but forgot as early as episode 1.