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

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Something not altogether pleasant must have happened in my brain. I can only put it down to the fact that I am definitely aging. Today I was playing a Cliff Richard Christmas CD (a give-away from the paper) in my car and I was enjoying it!  "Mistletoe and Wine" is (was) my all-time most hated song and yet there I was singing along! I fervently hope that this new-found Cliff groupiness has something to do with me being a bit of a rebel. If the radio stations aren't going to play his music then I am. But a big part of me is very worried that this is the new me. Next month I shall receive my bus pass in the post - then what? Heaven save me from Barry Manilow.

Oscar has already identified all the age spots on my hands and face, although I call them beauty spots. This week when I was sitting next to him in the car he stared at my neck. What is it this time, I thought. "What's that red thing on your neck?" he asked. "Is it a beauty spot?" I said. "No it isn't", "is it a line?" "no".  I told him to point to it on my neck. "Well, if it isn't a beauty spot or a line,  it must be dirt," I told him. He leant as far away from me as he could, within the confines of his car seat, looked at his finger and wiped it on his jumper. I should think that the entire pre-school fraternity now believes that Oscar's grandma has a dirty neck.

Oscar's mummy says that when she was last shopping with him, he saw a toy that he fancied. "Put it to the back of the shelf and we'll tell Father Christmas to save it for you," she told him, cleverly thinking on the spot. She carried on shopping but began to wonder what the supermarket shelf-stackers were looking at. When she turned round she saw that Oscar had pushed almost everything to the back of the shelves in preparation for Santa's visit.

Monday, 14 November 2011


A couple of weeks ago I decided to sell a painting that had been hanging on our dining room wall for all of five days. It was bought in a charity shop for not very much by my mother.

I put it on ebay and over the ten days that it was there it hovered around the £100 mark. Five minutes before the sale was due to end it went through the roof and then into the clouds, came out the other side and almost hit the sun! It was my Antiques Roadshow moment. And the profits will see me through Christmas. Well done ebay - but now I'd like to discover what it was the bidders knew - and I'm a little afraid that the next time I see it might be on the real Antiques Roadshow when it will be valued at £10m


Just back from a lovely fast-paced weekend in London during which we saw The Jersey Boys, took in a wonderful illuminated manuscript exhibition at the British Library

looked round our son's Covent Garden office, visited family members in Kent and had a guided tour of beautiful Muswell Hill.

I find it amazing that areas of London which are only minutes from the centre by tube can be so villagey, hilly and attractive. Even the chewing gum, so ugly on pavements elsewhere, has been turned into an art form in Muswell Hill.

  What a brilliant idea

Our travels have also taken us to Hull recently where our daughter lives. I knew nothing about the city apart from what I'd read - and generally that wasn't very complimentary so I was very pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful marina full of magnificent yachts

as well as a fantastic fish restaurant, where we had lunch, overlooking the harbour.

Meanwhile, Hugo is desperate to be as grown up as big brother Oscar

Friday, 14 October 2011


After the Bob Dylan let-down I hardly dared hope that One Man Two Guvnors would be as good as all the reviews had claimed - but it was. It was the funniest thing we'd seen, possibly ever. It got off to a bit of a slow start and as usual other audience members were falling off their seats at things we couldn't raise a giggle at. I began to despair. However, pretty quickly it turned into a real old-fashioned slapstick farce with a waiter like Mrs Overall on Acorn Antiques almost stealing the show. There was ad-libbing with the audience and James Corden was just brilliant.

I'm sure Oscar will keep the laughter going when he comes to play today

.....someone has already taught Hugo his first party trick

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Yes, he's 70 and allowances have to be made, but if you take £75 a ticket from fans and then don't even say hello and add insult to injury by raspingly shouting song words into a microphone battling with an over-loud band you shouldn't be surprised by a review giving one star out of five - which unfortunately, I saw in the paper after buying the tickets.
This was a prime example of ripping fans off in a blatant attempt to feather his pension nest. I only recognised two songs because everything he sang sounded the same - rasping, shouting, with loud music. And "Don't Think Twice" was three-quarters of the way through before I latched on to the fact that that was what he was "singing". I felt particularly sorry for the people in the seats opposite ours because for almost the whole show, Dylan had his back to them while playing the keyboard behing two giant speakers. He refused to have close-up screens and his hat completely hid his face. So it could even have been someone of 5ft 2ins in cuban heels impersonating him for all we knew. Plenty of wine and beer was swilling around the MEN and some old-timers were jigging around appreciatively but this morning I bet they can't remember why.
Mark Knopfler was the support act and Dire Straits were my all-time favourite band so I had high hopes. But I just don't like his new stuff. He got the biggest cheer of the night when, almost as an afterthought at the end of his slot,  he treated us to "So Far Away" - one of only two Dire Straits songs he managed to fit in. 

So my message to self is - don't try to recapture your youth. It just has the opposite effect.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


I've always, always wanted a telescope. Stars and planets fascinate me so when an old school friend decided to have a clear out and was selling her husband's remote control model, I jumped at it. It's now all set up and pointing the right way. When I first got it home I knew nothing about viewfinders or lenses and was looking through the wrong bit of the telescope with it pointing at a door. I told my husband that I thought we must have broken it during the journey between my friend's house and ours. He is much less technically-minded than me so when he said he thought it was facing the wrong way I sent him off to golf with a flea in his ear. However, just before giving up completely, I turned the telescope round - lo and behold I could see our neighbour's chimney pot. So now all I need is a clear night. I just hope our neighbours don't watch Spooks or I might get a call from our local bobby.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


We don't often see our younger son. He lives and works in London so when he and his girlfriend visit, my shopping trolley overflows, I spend the previous week baking and working out menus and we try to make sure they enjoy their stay. This time I poisoned him.
Knowing that belly pork is one of his favourites, I bought the biggest piece I could lay my hands on and left it in the oven for a whole afternoon. The skin was crisp and the meat delicious. He loved it. So as they left to drive back to London on Sunday I packed a bag with plenty of food including the delicious pork. The journey home took them six hours, thanks to the baking heat and the traffic. Starving by that time, our son tucked into the pork. Food poisoning took hold at 7am and continued throughout his busy working day and into the evening when he had his first lectures at Birkbeck College for his Masters degree. I think it'll be a long time before belly pork re-enters his list of top-ten favourite foods and it will be even longer before I forgive myself.

Monday, 3 October 2011


We love to trade on the fact that our younger son went to Cambridge by going each year to the Alumni Weekend. For two days we get a little taster of what university life was like, going to lectures and mixing with very clever people. It's a real treat. This year we were played sounds from the universe by one lecturer who had raised the frequency of the sounds given off by the sun and various planets and meteor showers. The normal frequencies are much too low for human ears to pick up, which is just as well or we'd all have to shout to be heard against the sound of the sun rumbling away in the background. Another talk was entitled "Are Your Genes to Blame When Your Jeans Don't Fit?" and surprisingly (to me anyway) they could be. Apparently a deficiency of something called leptin can make people put on huge amounts of weight. All interesting stuff and the best bit is that we can sit and listen and it doesn't matter one jot if we forget it all afterwards - no-one is going to test us!

David Starkey was a controversial speaker - talking about his biography of Henry VIII - praising him and telling us how misunderstood he has been over the centuries. All the while I couldn't help remembering all the beautiful monastreries that we've visited which are in ruins thanks to that 'wonderful' king.

Our younger son celebrated his 28th birthday on the same day that Oscar celebrated his third. Family celebrations were put on hold until this weekend when everyone was together. Oscar loved the dinosaur egg that his uncle gave him but was desperate to find out if the baby dinosaur that would emerge when the egg was submerged in water, would be real. In fact dinosaurs made up the birthday theme with jigsaws, sticker books, rubber models and story books among his presents. And when I stood on the bitrthday boy's doorstep holding the train cake that I'd made, a crestfallen Oscar said "But I wanted a dinosaur cake". I had to remind him that three weeks ago when the cake was being discussed Thomas the Tank was flavour of the day.

It reminded me of the television programme Outnumbered when Oscar was whizzing around on his new motorized quad bike. After doing a perfect three point turn on the pavement and running over my toes in the process, Oscar then swung his machine into his front path with his dad shouting: "stop now Oscar, stop Oscar...STOP" as Oscar careered up the front step and straight into the hall.

Quad bike and dinosaur helmet - of course.


While waiting on the phone to speak to my internet service provider this morning and being told that the advisors were too busy to take my call, I stripped three beds with the phone wedged under my chin, re-made them, hung the washing on the line, emptied and restacked the dishwasher, made a coffee, completed two of today's sudokus and then managed to solve the problem I was calling about.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

1 YEAR 11 MONTHS AND 16 DAYS..........

I have just double-checked my state pension date (surely not old-age pension these days?) and the countdown has begun. The government site tells me that it will come my way in one year, eleven months and 16 days. Now I have a dilemma. I'm tempted to chalk up the digits on my office wall and score them off day by day like a prisoner in solitary confinement but if I do that I'll be wishing my life away. I'm very happy at 59 years, nine months and four days and apart from looking forward to my pensionable age, I'm not that desperate to be 61 years eight months and 20 days.

More to look forward to in December, free prescriptions - hurray! And a bus pass. Can I really be that old? Apparently I already look it because last week when I travelled by bus with Oscar the driver asked me if I had to pay. Cheek.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Thomassy Rabbit

When Oscar came to play yesterday we spotted the fat robin in the garden. I asked Oscar to give him a name and suggested Robert. "Thomassy Rabbit" he said without hesitation. Thomassy Rabbit is in the garden again now waiting for his breakfast and normally I would call to him, but I think I'll just leave it for now.

I taped the dinosaur programme the other night in case Oscar fancied watching it. Some of it It was rather gruesome but I thought I'd fast forward through those bits. Yes, said Oscar, he wanted to watch it, and he positioned himself on the settee furthest from the television, torch (on) in one hand and football rattle in the other. As soon as a dinosaur appeared that wasn't one of his favourites, the football rattle was put to good effect- continuously until the dinosaur had left the screen.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Last month I enrolled on a distance-learning Latin course, run by Cambridge University. I've wanted to learn Latin for many years but it doesn't feature on any local college itinerary. I hope the course will eventually enable me to do what I want to do - which is understand the many Latin phrases I see dotted around in all sorts of reading matter. But I'm not convinced that reading about the cook preparing a peacock and the slave creeping into the dining room and tasting the peacock while his master sleeps, is exactly the way forward. However, I will persevere because this is the very same stage at which I ditched Latin when I was 15 and surely I've grown up a bit since then.

I was surprised to see a letter of mine in the Times on Friday. When I checked the paper's on-line site late on Thursday night it wasn't showing up so I presumed it had been binned. Reading the letters page on Friday, I thought someone else had written in on the same topic - then I realised the words were very like mine. Hang on, they were mine......

Hit the high notes for less than £10

Sir, Enjoying an opera in the Royal Opera House, means, for us, an expensive rail trip to London, plus the cost of an overnight stay (letter, Sept 1). This problem was briefly solved when a production was beamed live to a cinema in Liverpool. From our £8 seats we watched the London audience chat, heard the orchestra tune up and then as the lights went down, we were given the best view of the performance with close-up camera shots.
Since then other operas have been screened but none of them live. As there is nothing to match a “live” performance, could I make a plea for more of the same. There are many opera lovers north of Watford.
Deb Atkinson
Southport, Merseyside

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Whenever I look out of the kitchen window, there's my little friend. He was very curious when my husband had some turf delivered the other day. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011


We saw quite a bit of our two little grandsons last week. Hugo came for his first solo visit and spent three hours chuckling, sleeping and guzzling milk.

I was lucky enough to win BBC studio tickets to see Mr Tumble at the BBC's new Media City complex at Salford. And on Saturday we went with Oscar. It was a slightly surreal experience overall, what with Mr Tumble yelling (quite nastily) at the crowd that he couldn't help the torrential rain that we were all standing in while he was on a covered stage and Oscar yelling in reply "It's behind you..." because he thought he was at a pantomime. I reckon Oscar was happier with his ice lolly and two balloons than he was with the man himself.

On Sunday I went with Oscar and his mummy to a family church service. I explained to him that the kneeling cushions which were hanging on the pews had been embroidered and were for people to kneel on during prayers. The minute the vicar said: "Let us pray" Oscar shouted "it's a prayer" and set to work, unhooking the cushion, throwing it down and kneeling on the reverse side. He really enjoyed banging a tambourine during the hymns (how church services have changed. I use the word 'hymn' very loosely, these versions were more like pop songs and sung from a digital screen, not a hymn book) and was tested to the limit when he had to keep his drum stick away from his drum during a ten-minute sermon. The truth will out though and Oscar's sermon verdict was "this isn't very good". Actually it was all about keeping our integrity and how we shouldn't go shoplifting with friends just to remain popular (I don't think I have those sorts of friends) - as we filed through to the porch to shake the vicar's hand, I realised that I still had one of the children's books from the church toy box, under my arm. Perehaps the sermon had been directed solely at me!


Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon - my top two favourite actors ever. I'd looked forward to last night's screenplay "Page Eight" ever since watching the trailer. WHAT AN ENORMOUS LET-DOWN. The script was like something from a junior school play. Michael Gambon just about carried it off  but then he was carried off - a third of the way through. I watched until the end in the hope that things must get better but they didn't. Not one believable character, a pathetic plot with no tension and Bill Nighy was absolutely wooden. It was the worst thing I'd watched in a very, very long time. I'll look out for the next thing written by David Hare and avoid it like the plague.

Why didn't he run from the script?

Monday, 22 August 2011


I found some old adverts the other day. From that golden era pre-political correctness / health and safety and human rights.


Oscar went to Knowsley Safari Park yesterday and met a lady with face paints. She asked him what he'd like to look like. "A worm" he replied. That must have been a first because she admitted that she couldn't do a worm. Next choice was a butterfly which his mummy reckoned was a bit effeminate so Oscar was given the choice of a moth or a tiger - well, which would you choose?

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Just after the riots I was listening on the car radio to a debate on the causes . I expected the usual soft soap, probably talk of how these thugs had been abused in childhood and almost certainly a hundred reasons why they should be excused. I was ready to shout my reply and change channels when on came a soft-spoken Irishman who I'm pretty sure was reading from a script that I'd written in my mind. Common sense from someone who had worked with disaffected youngsters. Since then I have read that other people were also listening to Winston Smith  (obviously not his real name, but since he still works with miscreants it's not in his best interests to be identifiable) while driving and had to pull over to take in what they were hearing.
When I got home I Googled him and bought his book. "Generation F" should be compulsory reading for every politician. The hand-out system in this country is an absolute disgrace and I really object to money I have paid in taxes being used to pander to the whims of no-gooders. If you haven't read it, I recommend it wholeheartedly. It's an eye-opener.


Am I the only person who wouldn't fancy a course in crashing while learning to drive......?

I've just spotted a new photo in amongst Oscar's daddy's Picasa albums - either Oscar has very generously given his life-long companion to Hugo, or I see trouble ahead!


If, at gunpoint, I was forced to choose just one area as my favourite in the whole world, it would have to be the Yorkshire Dales. When we're there - as we were this week - I want to swirl round and round like Maria in The Sound of Music and just absorb all the beauty.

We found a perfect little retreat in the grounds of a 16th century manor house and when we drove up to the cottage every evening three lovely dogs would come bounding across the sweeping lawns to greet us. We were surrounded by plum, apple and pear trees and there was honeysuckle round the doorway. And all for £40 a night!

As soon as we got back we went with Oscar to the Southport Flower Show - beautiful weather this year, which is almost unheard of. Not much fun for a two-year old though, when all he could see were people's knees.

His mummy and daddy bought him a quad bike as an early birthday present.

But only after he had sampled everything with four wheels in Toys R Us


Friday, 12 August 2011


Today Oscar was playing with a torch and I've absolutely no idea how I delved into the deep recesses of my ancient mind to recall Torchy the Battery Boy - a programme I must have watched when I was knee-high to something or other. Isn't the internet fantastic. Within two minutes I had a black and white episode playing on my computer and Oscar was transfixed. He sat still for almost half an hour and when I asked him half way through, if he'd had enough he didn't hear me. He even watched as the credits rolled at the end. I love this sort of thing - children enjoying good old-fashioned innocent entertainment.

He also loves baking with his mummy and daddy

long may he stay the way he is now!


Our old pink bathroom suite finally gave up the ghost. It was time to look for a new one. I'd become a bit rusty on bathrooms and silly me for thinking that I could just walk into our local bath and basin supplier and buy another pink suite. PINK? was the response I got. It seems the world has gone boring and everyone wants white. "WHITE?, no thanks" was my response. So our new white suite was installed yesterday. I have to say that it didn't look that big in the showroom. My husband says that when he looks into the wash hand basin he gets vertigo and Oscar and Hugo's dad has asked if he could use it for Hugo's christening. Anyway it's not going back because I've decided it's a very happy room now, when anyone walks in, they can't stop laughing.

Following on from Oscar's comments about my wrinkles and his dad's about the bags under my eyes, I asked Oscar today if he knew what ankles were. He pointed to his knees. So I rolled up my trouser leg to show him what ankles were. "You've got VERY big ones" he laughed. I suppose I asked for that.

Our daughter and friend have just returned from a scorching week in Sorrento. Being football fanatics they decided to go and see Sorrento play one evening and went the whole hog, buying a Sorrento football shirt each. They described how they strode down the road to the ground, full of pride wearing their new strip. They said they were getting some strange looks on the way in and presumed it was because they were plainly not locals. As they took their front-row seats they looked around expecting to see all the other supporters dressed like them. Slowly it dawned on them that their shirts were quite different from everyone else's - but why? After and hour and a half of sliding down in their seats and taking up the foetal position they left, anxious to know just what shirts they had been sporting. Apparently Sorrento has two teams - the one that was playing, and another rival team five divisions lower,  yes. you've guessed it!

Our daughter's friend told us that she knows a mum who has told her little boy that the ice cream van only plays a tune when it's run out of ice cream! Ingenious.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


At 9am today I was waiting for Superdrug to open. I wanted a tube of the latest wrinkle disguiser. The reason? - While having his dinner at our house last night, two-year-old Oscar fixed his eyes on one particular part of my face, but politely said nothing until I asked him what he was looking at. "What's that?" he asked. "What's what?" I countered. "that" said Oscar. I asked him to point to whatever it was that had so caught his attention. He plainly didn't want to touch "that" but indicated the area under my right eye. Not being able to see the offensive part of my face myself, I told him that it must be a beauty spot and that grandma had lots of beauty spots because she was very beautiful (I hope this wasn't relayed to my daughter-in-law). After he'd been ferried home I took a long look in the mirror. No, it wasn't a beauty spot, in fact I couldn't really see anything out of the ordinary. I repeated the conversation to my son - Oscar's daddy -  and he reassuringly said that he must have meant the bags under my eyes. If my bags and wrinkles are so noticeable that they're worthy of comment by a two-year-old then something has to be done. Superdrug's £9.99 Optimum serum has certainly got its work cut out.

Meanwhile, Hugo wouldn't yet know a wrinkle if he saw one.