Sunday, 16th October, 2022
Up at 4.30 am and straight into the gym. After 3hrs on the treadmill, I’ve woken up and I’m ready for orange juice and coffee. Shower, shave and packing the car. On the road by 9.30 am.
Everywhere is very quiet. Where is everyone? Surely not in bed on a Sunday. Don’t they know there is no time to waste? The M25 is empty. The M1 is empty. Our sat. nav. keeps saying the M1 is closed because of a fatal accident but it is one of those annoying, out of date messages that we are not sure whether to believe and follow a huge diversion or not. Having learnt from past experiences, we pulled into Newport Pagnell Service Station for coffee and to enquire about the information.
Glad we did, we moved on regardless and pulled into Repton village just after mid-day. We went straight to the little, private graveyard where my family are buried. I go at the same time every year and without fail it is damp and dull.
It made a change to stand and remember them in warm sunlight. Still strange though. As I walked between Mum & Dad’s headstone, Nana & Grandad’s headstone and that of their best friends, Nellie & Bert, I am overwhelmed by the memory that these are people who I spoke to, touched, kissed, to who I owe my genetic makeup but are no more other than through me. I tell myself I am being too self-indulgent and leave quickly to drive up to Yorkshire.
The further North we drive the more Autumn is advanced. The colours of the trees are delicious and the M1 remains quiet. By 3.30 pm, we drive into the grounds of our hotel and unload enough luggage for a 3-month American trip never mind a week in Northern England.
The grounds are quiet but beautiful. Because I have been up since 4.30 am, have walked more than 10 miles and driven about 6 hours, I am indulged with a meal in our suite and freedom to watch Liverpool beat Man. City. on TV.
While I am writing my Blog, I get a call from my friend, Brian, in Royton. I am supposed to be meeting him on Tuesday, but he tells me he has been in hospital for 5 days and has to have an emergency operation on his prostate. Brian is a very strong man – former policeman – ex drugs squad, ex murder squad – but he sounded very emotional and clearly didn’t want me to see him like that. We agreed to meet in the Spring when I return from Florida. It just underlines for me the lesson that I have learnt in the past couple of years evaporating time underlines the importance of friends.
Monday, 17th October, 2022
Interesting day as a start to our Northern sojourn. A lot of our timetable doesn’t fit with what I intended but that’s life. The morning began at 5.30 am …. walking in warm, dry West Yorkshire. After Breakfast we drove a few miles for a lovely visit to … Halifax. The Piece Hall looked wonderful in this lovely, October weather.
It was fairly quiet this morning although there are lots of lovely little coffee shops and seating areas to meet up with friends and discuss life past & present.
Built out of local stone, the Piece Hall is a statement of prestige and financial achievements of the past in a town that has seen better days like so many in the North. As we walked back to the car through the town centre streets, we had to make our way through huge bus queues of the old and the poor which seemed to symbolise a time decades ago. It starkly delineated North and South, poor and rich. We just don’t see those sorts of scenes on the South Coast. Of course, we have buses and bus services. We have poor and more wealthy people but those sorts of socially deprived scenes just do not occur.
Tuesday, 18th October, 2022
Woke up late at 6.15 am this morning. Must have been tired. It turned out to be a glorious morning as I worked out in the hotel gym – my old health centre from almost 15 years ago. Did about 90 mins and then had breakfast before showering and changing and driving off to Hollinwood Crematorium, Oldham. The Pennines, from bright sunshine, blue sky and shades of green/brown were incredibly beautiful this morning.
As we dropped down into Denshaw, thick mist hit us. It was so evocative of years of driving over the moors to work.
We spent a few minutes talking to Pauline’s Mum/my Mother-in-Law in the lovely, warm light. I don’t remember that before in the 12 years since she died. We didn’t stay long because another, well attended funeral was taking place. We moved on to explore Middleton – a place I haven’t been for so many years. I found much of it hard to recognise. It is, essentially, very old and very Northern in character but it was helped by the incredibly warm weather.
I went on to visit old stomping grounds in Derker, particularly the site of the school I was Head of in the early 1980s before it was closed and demolished. I feel really moved by the thought that this ground was the site of so many lives, experiences, emotions. I was haunted by staff who had given so much but had been hit by serious illnesses and died in the years I was in charge.
I was moved by the terribly poor state of the housing in Afghan Terrace even after ‘modernisation’. I could tell you so much about the lives of residents there 35 years ago if I could manage it without weeping. Looking at the housing stock, the residents’ lives can’t be so much better now particularly if they are renting.
We drove on to meet friends in Holmfirth at the Vineyard. We had a late Lunch there with Margaret and Viv and a couple of hours’ chat over old times before driving back to our hotel and another hour’s exercise to work off the food.
I’m very tired and a little emotional after the long day but I’m really grateful for the friendship of the people who met us today. The older I get and the less time I have left, the more I realise the importance of old friends.
Wednesday, 19th October, 2022
Up early and did 90 mins of exercise before breakfast. Drove up to visit Christine & Kevin Northwest of Leeds.
Post rush-hour, the traffic was light and it only took us 30 mins. We spent about 5 lovely hours with them. Chris cooked a gorgeous meal of pork strips in sauce with jacket potatoes and salad followed by apple crumble. It was absolutely lovely. It is always hard to cook for a cook. Kevin kept us entertained and even showed me his bike. I taught them how to calculate their State and Teachers’ Pensions based on this morning’s announcements of September’s CPI upon which our pensions will be uprated. It was a really enjoyable day in which the years rather dropped away.
It is obvious that our experiences over the past 50 years have resulted in a divergence of views. It would be surprising if they hadn’t but the core of human values that attracted them to me are completely evident. They are good people. Someone once said that they would not have chosen the people at College. They were just random people of that time they wouldn’t want to see again. That is not my view. The people of my past still populate my present thoughts and are really valued for their diversity. Maybe it is just my sad perspective!
Drove back late afternoon through terrible traffic to visit our former doctor who bought one of our houses – 4 houses ago – and still lives there 22 years on. We loved that house and lived in it for 16 years but sold to raise money to finance our Greek build in 2000. That house is now 40 years old and we wouldn’t move back for anything although we loved it at the time.
Thursday, 20th October, 2022
A dark, dank morning in which the distant views from our hotel are shrouded in mist. Total change to the first half of our stay. Only 12C/54F here this morning. At home on the South Coast the temperature is 17C/63F – quite a big difference.
An hour or so in the Gym, breakfast and then we are going shopping in Leeds this morning. We are going to the magnificent Victoria Quarter, Leeds:
It echoes the more renowned arcade of Milan on, perhaps a slightly smaller scale.
…. and then reality struck. The Tories removed their truss and heavy rain closed the M62 just as we were on it. We were stuck for a while as police cars with sirens and flashing blue lights in and out of the lanes. Fortunately, we were near to an ‘exit’ and managed to get off and back to our hotel just as the Tories imploded live on Sky TV.
The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the hotel gym and following the unfolding drama in Westminster. Whatever anyone will admit to at the moment, this marks the turning of the Brexit tide and the start of the long march back. No one will tell you that yet least of all the Labour Party who don’t want to frighten the horses prior to the election but it will be in their economic recovery plan just as it is in that of the more sensible Tories.
Friday, 21st October, 2022
Strange day which began at 6.00 am as I looked out of the hotel window to see thick fog and heavy, driving rain. The North knows how to say goodbye. Went down to the Gym and did 90 mins exercise before Breakfast.
Went back to our suite to finish packing, have a final cup of coffee and then packed the car. Set of for the South by driving … North. It is how you have to do it. To get on to the M1, the quickest way is to take the North bound M62. Actually, in spite of the rain which was obliterating all the road markings, this section of the drive was the smoothest. The M1 was dire with long hold-ups due to accidents in the heavy rain and the M25 was even worse with the Friday night traffic causing congestion most of the way.
Highlight of the drive was a stop at Newport Pagnall Service Station to get some fresh air and have a cup of coffee. The first half of the day featured heavy, foggy, darkness and rain. The second half saw the temperature rise as the skies cleared and we actually saw some sunshine. Even so, it took the best part of 6,5 hrs this time.
When we got home and unpacked, I still had to do an hour in the gym. Actually, it was quite de-stressing. I received communications from Kevin, Christine and Julie which felt nice. I worked off some of the stiffness from all that driving. We also had to nip out to refuel the car because we have to set off for Gatwick Airport at 7.00 am tomorrow to collect P&C from their Florida flight and take them to their Surrey home. Finally, I have to contact some of those people I failed to meet this time. Have to go back in the Spring!
Saturday, 22nd October, 2022
After the exertions of yesterday, the radio still came on at 5.55 am and we were up for 6.00 am and were driving out by 7.00 am for Gatwick Airport South Terminal. P&C were supposed to be landing at 8.30 am from Tampa but, having checked the flight on my BA App, I found that they had left early and would land really early. By the time we had got into the Short Stay Carpark walked through the airport to Arrivals, their plane had landed and we were waiting for them to appear with their luggage.
Really interesting watching people arrive and be greeted by their friends and relatives. British people are fairly cool and hardly acknowledge the reunion at all. Ethnic minority groups are incredibly excited, warm, enthusiastic displaying lots of hugs and kisses and laughing. Some groups have special, ethnic greetings. There was a group who had to say a number of ceremonial greetings and formal kisses to each member of the party. Another group brought flowers and a traditional, flat, round loaf that is offered to the arrivers. The diversity on display was delightful.
We got P&C home to West Byfleet safely where they were enthusiastically greeted by their cleaners who had done the shopping and the dog who had obviously missed them. I set their iPad up and then we left smartly because we had so much to do ourselves.
We are leaving for Florida in two weeks and staying for three months. I am told we need more luggage so we made a trip to M&S to collect it. Of course this meant parking up and walking along the beach road and past the pier. It was deliciously warm and sunny and there were lots of people out enjoying the day.
By the pier opening, it seemed to be ‘Mods’ day because there were a lot of old people standing around in ‘Parkers’ admiring the array of scooters parked up. I suppose it takes all sorts.
Finished the day watching Man Utd hold Chelsea to a draw and sleeping through Strictly Come Dancing. See you on the other side, Dear Reader!