|April and May 2019
April and May and at last ... the end of
the refurbishment is here. Just a couple of tiny
things to do and then we'll be done. Phew!
the bulk of April away from the mayhem - we went
to Devon for a bit - all documented properly in
the travel blog - Part 2 2019. That
included some terrific things which we found
exciting and enlightening, but we'll let you read
the detail for yourselves. We saw, in Inverness,
one of the best drama productions we've ever seen
- The Lady Vanishes at the Eden Court Theatre.
This is a lovely little theatre, probably
punching way above its weight actually. The
production really was excellent.
we also built a roomful of Ikea furniture and
then took a skipload of cardboard packaging to
the dump! The carpets and flooring were down last
month, so things are, as we've said, getting
there. Ian did a whole lot of plumbing and carpet
laying for what will later become the guest flat
but more immediately in preparation for Hannah's
return home at the end of her PhD study in
August. He took out the bath and turned it round
(so that the lashup made by the original builders
stopping it draining could be corrected) and
fitted a new "rain shower" system. All
that remains it the facings on the bath and so on
to be done professionally and some new flooring
too, to finish that off. Lois spent a happy
(that's a lie) week or so prepping and painting
the new dressing and study areas. It all looks
has been quiet ... putting all the stuff back,
for example, and doing quite a lot of judicial
stuff since that's been rather neglected over the
last few months (we've been distracted). The
highlight was a visit to "The House of
Gentlemen" for Ian - which we know sounds a
bit dodgy but is actually a rather good barber's
shop in Durham. Ian, at last, has been "made
over"! We also saw The Red Hot Chilli
Pipers. A terrific show at the Gala in Durham.
Billed as "bag rock", that wasn't a
reference to the agegroup of the audience who
ranged from 14 to 80, we thought, but to the
bagpipers fronting the show. It's a long time
since we have been to a rock concert - Floyd 2
was the last, but that was a tribute band ...
Santana at Bingley Hall Stafford, in 1979 was
probably the last time we saw an original group!
Anyway, it was brilliant!
March was dominated by the rebuilding
and refurbishment work, which I won't bore you
with the detail of here! Suffice to say that the
new floorcoverings are now down (wooden floors
and carpeting), the redecoration has happened and
the new curtains are up. The new wardrobes that
we got from Ikea last month are built and filled,
- we have finished! No-one more pleased of that
fact than us! But we are SO pleased with it all.
One or two small bits to do, like the Forth
Bridges picture install and the Ann Dabbs picture
being copied ... but we'll tell you about those
Another month largely dominated by the
refurbishment works. It's getting there, though
(well, that's what we keep telling ourselves
anyway!) We got a few nice days out, including a
great day in Ikea, which sounds sad except that
it was to choose stuff for post-refurbishment.
They have a "way" of describing things
that really makes you go in to have a look - we
can't really make head nor tail of the
descriptions on-line, nor the photographs.
Deliberate, no doubt, but they do a great lunch.
We also went for lunch with some friends which
turned out to be dinner in the end and which was
very pleasant indeed.
between times, we had a visit to Edinburgh,
ostensibly to see Hannah but also because we like
it there! Had a fabulous meal out and went to see
Alistair Pryde of "Words and Pictures"
in South Queensferry from whom Lois commissioned
a photograph of the bridges four years ago.
Delays to the building of the Queensferry
Crossing, and then delays in the removal of the
post-building painting scaffolding (we sympathise
... we're living that particular dream too) meant
that he's only just been able to take the
photograph. But we have now seen it and we're
really, really looking forward to getting the
finished picture, hopefully next month.
had a visit to UHI in Inverness for a Board,
which was great ... it was good to get back up
there and breathe fresh air that's not laden with
there you have it - as usual with February, a
We started the year off with a
pantomime. Hannah accompanied us because you
can't really go without your children, can you!
When she reads this she'll be furious to be
referred to as "our children" when
she's in her twenties! It was Aladdin at the
newly refurbished Darlington Hippodrome, which is
terrific - and so was the show. Even Louie Spence
did great - his script was littered with double
entendres which went straight over the kids'
heads (thankfully) but which the adults loved!
month at home so far has been dominated by the
refurbishment work that we set up last month.
Plastering is very dusty, and that started the
month off! Jason, Andrew and crew got going
taking off the old plaster that has
"popped", which also involved removing
(and later replacing) a radiator. Messy ... and
did we mention the dust! Plaster dust gets
EVRYWHERE - it's so fine. They also built a wall
in the dining room thus carving off the leg of
the "L" and forming a small study for
Hannah when she comes back to write-up. Once
they'd done their bit, Ian (not me) stepped in to
do the joinery - skirting boards (which Lois
likes to call wainscoting, much to the confusion
of the trades), architraves etc, and then ...
finally, Nick and Shaun came in to redecorate all
the new bits plus the old bits that, as we
mentioned, haven't been done for YEARS. In the
mean time, we had the new gas fire and marble
fireplace fitted and new curtains for the lounge
and the library. Frankly, it's been hell, but
well worthwhile because it looks lovely.
between all that, we've been out to the theatre a
couple of times, including (see above) Burns
Night where we held our own supper celebration in
Heworth Metro Station car park from a thermos jar
before getting the metro to the theatre to see
"A Comendy About a Bank Robbery", which
was great entertainment. It was fun and actually
very successful. Haggis, neeps and chappit
tatties stay hot longer that sausage and beans
which was our last (less successful) attempt at
this idea. We've also seen the very first
performance of "Shy Manifesto" at the
Live Theatre in Newcastle - a one-man play which
was interesting and thought provoking. The venue
is great - a bit like a cabaret - and well worth
having done the downstairs, we're just about to
start on round two - upstairs. More plastering
I'm afraid, but then some new wood flooring to go
down and then the rest of the house to be
decorated ... but we have a month off before that
be nice when it's finished.
December was dominated, of course and as
it should be, by the festivities. However, we did
still have time to get quite a lot of other stuff
done most notably making some organisation
towards the refurbishment of the house. Those of
you who know us will also know that weve
done very little to our home over the last 20
years or so following the big remodelling.
Weve done maintenance, of course it
doesnt leak but little else. Things
are tired. SOOO, during December we spend a lot
of time getting quotes for decorating, which
meant we also had to get quotes for replastering
the bits where the cowboys of 20-odd years ago
didnt do it properly, so it has
popped. The notion of plaster
popping is a new one on us, but
its where it parts company with the wall
that its supposed to be covering and starts
moving away. Eventually, itll fall off and
although it hasnt got to that stage, there
are some alarming cracks! We also decided to
treat ourselves to new curtains (those are over
25 years old bought when we moved in!) and
so on. It all needed visits, quotes, negotiations
and so on, and that took much of December to sort
We had one outing to A Jazzy
Christmas at the Sage, which was really
good and set the Christmas festivities off to a
We spent Christmas Eve doing the
Edinburgh Christmas Market, including lobster and
chips I kid you not - salmon and
bratwurst. Thats one each, not all for all!
Christmas Day was mostly taken up with lunch at
the Grand Café (its not a café!
not even close but it is very grand). Full
details of all that on the blog.
Then we went north and came back via Stirling,
which was lovely. Again see the blog for that
So now were back home a new year and
were all set for the disruption of the new
It's been quiet. We haven't done very
much - no long trips away for the two of us, for
example. However, we have done a couple of things
around here that were good. We went to see the
Sue Ferris Quintet at the Gala - one of their
Jazz lunchtimes. Now, we didn't even know that
they had Jazz Lunchtimes, but a lot of other
people did - it was packed! Sue taught Hannah the
saxophone a long time ago when she (that's
Hannah) was at school, so we already knew her to
be an accomplished musician; and we were not
disappointed with her quintet, either. It was a
good gig. Monthly lunchtimes at the Gala and
similar frequency at the Newcastle Lit and Phil,
too. We had been looking for some decent jazz
gigs for a long time and all of a sudden, we've
found two regular ones. Lois sent a good day in
Runcorn making new connections with family
members unearthed through Ancestry. The trip with
Transpennine Express was poor since they simply
terminated her service early, denying her onward
connections and delaying her for a full hour.
Typical, we thought, of a company that puts its
own considerations above those of its customers -
but sadly all too common. The compensation claim
is in! Together we attended the EIT (European
Institute of Innovation and Technology) event at
Newcastle. This organisation brings together
university students with researchers and
entrepreneurs to innovate (and the UK's
involvement will be another victim of Brexit).
The theme of this day was to invent something to
assist older people in the kitchen. It was great
to be involved, working with the student teams to
test and challenge their ideas and let them hone
their thoughts into something new, exciting and
useful. Why were we there? Well, we counted as
"older people" for whom the innovation
could be useful.
came down for a holiday from Edinburgh and we did
two great days on her PhD together ... as well as
other stuff of course.
attended the University graduation ceremonies,
too - it was good to go back and see how the
place is doing under the refreshed leadership of
its new V-C - rather well, actually! Fabulous
opening speech by him - best I've heard of the
five V-Cs (including acting) I've experienced
since UoS became a university. As well as some
old faces, it was nice to see Alison Griffiths
(she of retirement cake fame) cross the stage to
receive her Master's - congratulations to her.
get the Christmas cards done!
Another busy month, although not very
much of it was at home!. We visited Hannah in
Edinburgh, ostensibly to hand over the Christmas
tree and decorations, but actually to go for
lunch. It was a nice stay, albeit brief. Later in
the month, all three of us spent a lovely day in
Glasgow. Ian was going there anyway to attend a
meeting for the University, but we turned it into
a family outing! It's a nice city that's always
worth a visit. Lois and Hannah appeared to have
spent all their time in Clark's Shoes ... but
maybe that's just perception.
we had a lovely holiday away from it all in the
highlands - two weeks away this time, with some
of it all three of us. We spent a bit of time
pondering on the notion of the use of the word
"holiday" when it's from retirement!
Can one have a holiday from retirement, or is
that going back to work? Whatever, it was a very
relaxing time away. We also entertained for
Bonfire Night, and even had some fireworks -
although the Tesco 18 event Firework Cake was a
bit of a surprise since it was over so quickly!
Very pretty while it lasted, but my word it was
all in all a good month of family activity and
relaxation, ready for the rigours of Christmas to
We've had a very busy month! We popped
up to the NW Highlands for an excellent week.
Really enjoyed that and the weather was
excellent! Hoping to return again soon!
attended the Lord Lieutenant's Dinner in
Hartlepool which was a really nice event.
Interestingly, we met more colleagues and
ex-colleagues on that evening than we've seen for
ages. It was great to catch up. Terrific venue,
too - we were at the new Hartlepool Art Gallery
which made a spectacular venue for a formal
(black tie) dinner. The meal was super and, given
that there were getting on for 100 of us there,
the service was fast and efficient. Thoroughly
recommended! We went to the NE Circult Legal
Service at York Minster, which was a really
enjoyable event. We followed that by lunch with
an old friend and his new partner - a really
lovely occasion. Ian also nipped down to London
for a judiciary meeting, which was tiring and a
good meeting, but it reminded us why we prefer
living in the north east!
top of all that, we've had the tiling done so
apart from a bit of painting, the bathroom and
en-suite renovations are done. All we need to do
now is persuade Lois to use the new steam
We are REALLY enjoying our retirement! That's the
first summer gone that we didn't have to go away
... so we didn't! We stayed at home and started
on the refurbishment of the house. We now have a
new steam shower cabin ... very nice it is, too -
this morning I steamed with Yanni* and then
showered off. Fantastically relaxing, especially
listening to Darlene Koldenhoven sing
"Aria". And we have a lawn that's
green. We even had a day at the Edinburgh
now, when all our ex-colleagues are gearing up to
start the new university term, we're not and are
planning our next travel.
travel blog is in Adventures - I really need to
"Live at the Acropolis" - the steam
cabin also has bluetooth.