Jodhpurs on The School Run

Monday, 11 March 2019

How to Enjoy a Staycation at Home


Last week, the weather in Northumberland was rubbish. We had been fooled into thinking that Spring had sprung by a few very mild days the week before; but last week was a compete return to Winter. Although we hadn’t had a proper downpour for quite a while and were in dire need of it, in my opinion 3 days of solid, perpetual and very heavy rain was overkill. And not content with attempting to drown us, Mother Nature also threw storm Freya out to play as well.
With the weather being so poor and any kind of equine-related activities being shelved in favour of sitting so close to the log burner that my cheeks turned red, I decided to waste most of my weekend browsing the internet for holiday destinations.
This is a complete and utter misuse of my time as after the purchase of my new car (I will blog about this once I have come to terms with the loss of the Widow Maker/Licence Taker) I only have enough money to book an overnight stay in a Travelodge in Berwick upon Tweed.
I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the Berwick Travelodge. For a start it overlooks Morrison’s supermarket and Macdonald’s so you certainly won’t go hungry, but as it’s 30 miles from where I live and on the outskirts of a walled town that I frequent often; I can think of many places I would rather go to escape having to wash the dishes and pick up discarded clothes. 
The issue for us idiots who choose to live in the country with a menagerie, is that a house-sitter/cattery/kennels costs considerably more than the holiday itself. This is why most rural-loving people rarely, if ever go on holiday.
But for those of you reading this drivel who live 20 miles from the nearest pub, have no fear, for I have been thinking about this for a while and I think I have absolutely nailed the whole “Staycation” thing. Inspired by a blog post by the Farmer’s Wife and Mummy back in August, I began thinking of how I could turn my family home (draughty barn of a house) into something that resembled a Villa in Marbella. Admittedly some of these ideas might be better and more pleasant in the Summer months but if you’re really desperate for a break from the norm, go ahead and give them a try. Just a word of warning that you might want to start applying fake tan a week before you do this, so that you have a decent golden glow without the streaking effect that occurs when you’re in a rush.
So the first thing we need is heat and lots of it. Turn the heating onto constant and invest in some oil filled radiators. This might cost a few quid but it will still be cheaper than a package holiday for 4 to Turkey.
If possible, remove all of your carpets, paint the walls white and lay terracotta tiles throughout your house. Limit access to your wardrobe so you are forced to wash your underwear in the shower every few days and invest in a pair of either flip flops or espadrilles. Get your hair cut, paint your toenails, dig out your beach towel and buy a sarong for slipping on over your swimming costume. (You’ll need the sarong and the beach towel when the kerosene runs out from the heating being on 24 hours a day.)
You will need good food, really good food and wine (obviously). Lidl and Aldi are in actual fact very good for this as they stock stuff that you would usually only find in a Supermerkat in Spain. Treat yourself to olives, anchovies, peppers stuffed with cream cheese, artichokes in oil, salami made from god knows what, a tin of squid in its own gloopy black ink and a family-sized pizza. You must also buy some of those partially cooked baguettes that come in a plastic packet and last longer than a bottle of Vermouth. Then you can stick them in the oven for 10 minutes and pretend you have just bought them from the bakery that’s only a 5 minute walk from your villa. Aldi also sells those really shit crisps that you only get abroad so make sure you chuck all your Walkers crisps in the bin because you don’t want anything English to ruin this experience.
Unfortunately the wine in these budget supermarkets is not the same quality as a 2 Euro bottle of Rjoca in Sunny Spain but after the first bottle you’re hardly likely to notice anyway so get stocked up. Lidl usually have odd flavoured liqueurs for sale too, so ensure that you have 1 or 2 bottles that are so bright in colour they scream “E NUMBERS” very loudly when you unscrew the top. You will need these to create cocktails with that bottle of Tequila you won in a tombola back in 2014, when you’ve run out of wine.
If you’re serious about having a go at this “Jodhpurs Staycation”, buy a 12 foot inflatable pool from Argos. It will take 3 days to fill and will be cold enough to freeze the bollocks off someone from Alaska but it will look wonderful in your garden. Buy some inflatable flamingos to put in it and get the sun loungers out. To complete your Staycation patio you will need a table and chairs with an umbrella over it, a bag of sand from your local building merchant and a number of stray cats.

For a true holiday at home experience, you could always invite the local Young Farmers Club round. By the time they’ve drunk themselves stupid and have water bombed each other in the pool while you’re trying to read a magazine on your lounger, you really will feel as though you are on holiday in Magaluf.
If you’re only planning a short staycation, the pool will be fine with a good glug of bleach but if you are scheduling a staycation for every weekend then you’re going to have to invest in some pool chemicals and algaecide. Take it from someone who knows, no-one finds a green pool inviting. Not even shitfaced Young Farmers. On the upside, most pool starter kits supply enough chlorine to keep your pool sparkling clean for around 168 years.
I have found that using Deep Heat on my shoulders, legs and arms recreates the feeling of sunburn enormously well. A generous application will give you that burning, tingly sensation so that you feel as though you have spent a full day in the Mediterranean sun. It does however make you smell as though you have spent 20 minutes in the changing room at the local rugby club so to combat this, I suggest you invest in some scented candles and half a dozen incense sticks.
If you want to experience a party atmosphere on your staycation, simply take your sound system outside and leave it playing loudly all night. For added effect you could also arrange for some of your neighbours to ride mopeds past your house at 10 minute intervals until around 5 in the morning.
Luckily for me, one of Britney’s teachers is from Spain and for a case of Diet Coke she has agreed to come to my house and deliberately not understand my non-existent Spanish when I ask her to serve me a beer. Furthermore for an additional case of Diet Coke she says she will stare at me with a blank expression when I start speaking slowly and very loudly in English.
I also have a friend who is German and she has offered to call at my house and give me directions to the railway station when I ask. This is good, as the only German language I can remember from my GCSE is to ask how to get to the railway station. I have advised my German friend that she must tell me that the station is straight ahead and then on the first street on the left or I will not be able to understand her response. In fairness I can remember how to say “I don’t understand” in German but that will get me (and her) nowhere. Ironically in French, which is the language I studied for the longest, I can ask the way to the Tourist Information Centre. But as the nearest one to my house is 7 miles away and in a town that I visit once a week, it seems a bit pointless to ask where it is or even visit it; especially as I intend to stay in my house all week full of wine and smothered in fake tan.
So there you have it. The ultimate staycation for the cost of a quick trolley dash around Lidl that will cost you £11.32, a £40 inflatable over-ground pool from Argos and 400 quid’s worth of kerosene.
You can thank me later.


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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Having Goals and Scoring Them


Embleton Bay
A hundred years ago when I was at university, the double decker buses that traversed the city all had the slogan “Have Goals, You’ll Score Them” in 3 foot high letters on the side of them. I cannot for the life of me remember what this was advertising but I seem to remember that there was also a picture of Golden-Balls Beckham and a football at one end of the banner.
These days we’re always being told that we should have goals to aim for or a “Bucket List” and recently I started thinking about what my life goals should be. I might be a bit late to the party but I thought having some long term goals might give me something else to think about other than wondering how I am going to do everything that I have planned to do when there are only 24 hours in which to do it. These 24 hours obviously include the hours when I should be asleep. I am mightily fond of sleep which in itself seems a shame as it takes a colossal chunk out of the hours available to do stuff.
So on a daily basis, my goals seem to be mainly getting Britney (Not her real name) to school before they shut the door at quarter to nine and then getting to wherever I am meant to be that day no later than 5 minutes after I was supposed to be there; without wearing my slippers. Other daily goals include being showered and in my pyjamas by 9pm, hanging out the load of washing that I put in the machine 2 hours ago and remembering to brush my hair. Other goals of mine are to get to work without any particle of mud or cat/horse hair on me, being able to find my purse in my handbag and remembering my bag for life when I go to the shop.
Okay, if I am completely honest my “Bucket List” my real goals, are to ensure that Britney turns out to be a good and true human being who knows that bloody Minecraft and the Sims are a complete and utter waste of time; and for me to be the very proud owner of a little 3 and a half ton horsebox that would enable me and Wet Dishcloth Horse to go out and make very poor attempts at dressage and some dire and embarrassing efforts at jumping very small knock-downable fences in the form of showjumping. I also dream of being able to wrap Wet Dishcloth Horse’s legs in cotton wool, popping him in my little horse-van and taking him to my Vet’s clinic to have his teeth filed and for him to have his annual vaccination as this would save me approximately £34,547 a year. I could also trundle off on a Sunday morning for a ride along the beach without having to set aside half a day to hack over the 5 miles of fields and roads to get there. I have lovely day dreams of me and my horse-mobile and as it’s a dream not once do I have to take the equine-mobile to the garage for repairs, fill it with diesel or tax it. Dreams are good. Very good in fact.
However, when I actually and truthfully evaluated my goals/bucket list/pipe dream I discovered that my absolute goal is to have a perfect day at home; all on my own.
This would involve waking up at the usual time (about 7am) and crawling out of my warm bed into my drafty-barn-of-a-home to get dressed. Cold jeans and fleecy top donned, I would then go outside into the arctic air to muck out my horse and feed him. With his clothing changed, I would then put him out in the field and fill a haynet ready for him returning into his stable later that afternoon. After that (and remember, this is my perfect day so I wouldn’t have hit the snooze button on my phone that morning) I would return to the house to greet Other Half having his morning cup of tea, wake Britney (Not her real name) and get her breakfast ready.
Being the most perfect day, I would then have time to get myself a cup of tea (Sainsbury’s blackcurrant and blueberry fruit infusion), get changed and put on my make before sitting at the table in my kitchen and having a quick flick over social media. I’ll just point out that perfect day make up would be foundation, blusher, eye shadow, beautifully contoured eyebrows and perfect lashes. Not the usual manic facial attack with some bronzer that I bought in B&M Bargains, 2 enormous black caterpillars as eyebrows, a row of dots on my eye sockets because I blinked when my mascara was still wet and a quick application of a body Shop lip balm.
In my perfect day, I would have the money to run the Rayburn all the time, so it would be a cosy and pleasurable experience in my kitchen and there would be none of my customary moaning about being cold and searching for my Ugg boots.
In the perfect morning, Britney would appear downstairs ready for school with her hair and teeth perfectly brushed, joyously skip to the boiler room to put on her coat and shoes and would be rushing out the door ahead of me. This would be a stark contrast to the norm which is me sitting in the car revving the engine as she slavers out the door, hair sticking up in all directions, dragging her school bag along the ground behind her.
After the perfect school run which would entail me managing to dodge all the East Coast Mainline trains at the local level crossing, I would return home, wash the dishes in my immaculate (and cosy) kitchen, wash the tiles that the log burner stands on and quickly clean the bathroom. With tiles washed, house clean, washing on the line and in fact the washing basket completely empty, I would then take part in my most favourite part of my goal.
I would put on my pyjamas and with log burner roaring, I would recline on the sofa with a fluffy blanket over my feet and watch Dirty Dancing, Sliding Doors and Love Actually in quick succession. Hell, if there was time I would even watch Pretty Woman, Titanic, Four Weddings and a Funeral, International Velvet, The Bodyguard, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and all the Daniel Craig Jimmy Bond films as well.
In the total perfect, perfect day a chef would serve my lunch. And to be utterly honest I would not care a bit if he or she served me lobster, a pizza or a can of tepid Heinz vegetable soup with a spoon stuck in it.
When your idea of luxury is cleaning the bathroom whilst wearing a facemask, turning the heating on and plucking one eyebrow while you wait for the kettle to boil, someone making and serving your lunch is total decadence.
So yes Mr Beckham, you’re absolutely right because if you have goals you’ll score them. But we all have to live with some idea of realism and that is why my goal in life is for Britney to turn out okay and for me to have my horse-van because let’s face facts; the perfect day at home is never going to happen.
Not ever.


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Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Boy and The Piano


Christmas is rapidly approaching.
I know this not just because the days are growing shorter and I’m a Geordie Get Me Out Of Here is on the television. I know this because the John Lewis Christmas advert was launched a few weeks ago and that to me signifies the onset of the Festive season.
I was snuggled in bed with a poorly Britney (Not her real name) on a Thursday morning a few weeks back and I watched the John Lewis advert on Twatter about 30 seconds after it had been released. If you have been living in a yurt in your garden and haven’t yet seen it, you can click here to watch it.
In previous years there has been a lonely man on the moon, a dog bouncing around on a trampoline and a Monster hiding under the bed, but this year the John Lewis advert shows Elton John reminiscing about his life. Elton is seen playing the piano at school, in a pub and performing in a stadium before we see a young Reginald Kenneth Dwight running down the stairs on Christmas morning and tearing the wrapping paper off a piano-shaped gift from his Mother and Grandmother; and John Lewis tells us that some gifts are more than just a gift.
There had been rumours on social media for some time that Elton was to star in one of the country’s favourite Christmas adverts and it is also rumoured that he was paid 5 million pounds to be in it. As I watched it, I just kept thinking that it was just really, really odd as I had been thinking about Elton John only a few days earlier.
Many, many moons ago I used to go on holiday every year to sunny Spain.
This annual pilgrimage to the home of Rioja and Cava always coincided with the schools’ October holiday as Music Teacher Friend wasn’t allowed to take her holidays during term time and it was her Uncle and Aunt who owned the apartment that we stayed in.
Casa Rioja was a wonderful ground floor apartment in a beautiful place called Calella De Palafrugell which is a coastal town in the province of Girona.

Calella is an hour and a half from Barcelona by car and when we first began going to Spain there were no direct flights from Newcastle to Girona (which is closer to Calella) or to Barcelona. Instead we had the option of flying from Newcastle to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Beijing, Beijing to Rio, Rio to Reykjavík, Reykjavik to East Midlands, East Midlands to Nice, Nice to New York, New York to Dublin, Dublin to Gatwick and then Gatwick to Barcelona.
Alternatively we could have flown from Newcastle to Gatwick, Gatwick to Montpellier, Montpellier to Manchester, Manchester to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Dubai, Dubai to Gibraltar, Gibraltar to Majorca, Majorca to Alicante, Alicante to the Isle of Man, the Isle of Man to Exeter, Exeter to Madrid, and from Madrid to Barcelona. With both of these options we would then have to charter a helicopter to fly us on to Girona and then hire a car to drive the 50 minutes to Calella.
The third alternative was that we could fly from Newcastle to Heathrow, Heathrow to Barcelona and then hop in our hire car. We obviously chose the latter as the shopping was far better at Heathrow compared to Gatport Airwick and Heathrow even had a small Harrods store to enable us to look at things that we couldn’t possibly afford while we were waiting to be called to the gate.
The first time we went to Calella we landed at Barcelona at around 7pm. We collected our hire car, drove around the airport and then went back to the parking space that we had recently vacated to wait for Pilates Friend who had flown in from Heathrow on a later flight. Music Teacher Friend then negotiated the 53 lanes of traffic through Barcelona with me reading directions from a small notebook that her parents had given to us, written on their last visit to Casa Rioja, detailing the journey we had to undertake to get to our home for the next 7 days.
Bizarrely after several visits to Casa Rioja we never did find the motorway with the toll booths on it. To this day we still have no idea how we found our way from Barcelona to Calella De Palafrugell in the dark and without paying 2 Euros for the privilege. The grown ups back home said that somehow we must have taken the old coast road instead of the new motorway every time we visited, despite the excellent directions that were given to us.
Anyway; I digress.
Calella De Palafrugell is a place where you go to experience true Spain and it should not to be confused with the commercialised resort of Calella which is further South and closer to Barcelona. There are very few expats in Calella De Palafrugell and most of the whitewashed houses in the town are empty during the week until the people who live and work in Barcelona arrive there for the weekend. During the winter there are only a handful of bars and restaurants open as that is enough to supply the demand. Back in the day, Bar Gelpi’s was the place to be for lunch. It was situated right next to the beach and served the most amazing Tapas and ice cold glasses of San Miguel, but in the evening the restaurant Les Voltes was our place of choice. It was much more expensive than anywhere else in the town but the food was fabulous and we always visited at least once during our visits to Calella.
Casa Rioja was in the El Golfet area of Calella on the outskirts of the town on the Cap Roig headland. El Golfet is a very quiet area and the only downside to having such a beautiful and tranquil area to stay in, is that the land rises steeply from the beach at Calella. This basically meant that walking back from Les Voltes in the evening after several bottles of wine and a couple of large vodkas each could prove problematic. The hill back to Casa Cava caused us many problems over the years. We collided with lampposts, cars, stray cats, garages and even Spanish people as we zigzagged across the roads and pavements and if our Catalan or Spanish had been any good we would have called a taxi.
If there had been such things in Calella De Palafrugell.
On our first trip to Casa Vino Tinto, we visited absolutely everything in the area. We went to immense ceramic-produced-goods outlets and bought everything from tapas dishes to garden ornaments. We went out in a glass bottomed boat at L’Estartit, we went to fabulous beaches and quaint towns and we even went to the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres. The Dali museum is incredible, from the Rainy Cadillac, to his mad self portraits with rashers of bacon on his face. Dali was an incredibly talented artist but was clearly as mad as a lorry. We spent the whole day at the museum muttering “He was seriously f***ed up” as we viewed every single piece of his art.
It was on our way back to Casa Vodka in the dark after a long day out at the Dali museum that we stopped at the telephone box on the hill to make a very quick call home to let our parents know that we hadn’t yet died from alcohol poisoning. As Pilates Friend took her turn to use the phone the threatening clouds that had been rolling overhead quite literally burst and Music Teacher Friend and I ran to our hired Renault Clio for shelter. There was a huge rumble of thunder as Pilates Friend jumped in the car and as we drove up the hill to Casa Sherry the rain was coming down so hard that Music Teacher Friend had the windscreen wipers on full welly. Pilates Friend had to shout over the noise of the rain on the car roof to make herself heard and pointed at 3 soaked and hunched people walking up the hill ahead of us.
“OFFER THEM A LIFT!” she yelled.
“THEY COULD BE BLOODY AXE MURDERERS!” I roared back.
“IF THEY’RE ENGLISH WE’LL GIVE THEM A LIFT!” shouted Music Teacher Friend.
“WHAT BLOODY DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IF THEY’RE ENGLISH?!” I bawled.
“IF THEY’RE ENGLISH WE’LL BE ABLE TO TELL IF THEY ARE BLOODY AXE MURDERERS!” yelled back Music Teacher Friend.
“THEY’RE BLOODY SOAKED JUST OFFER THEM A LIFT!” shouted Pilates Friend from the back seat.
The 2 women and their male friend were indeed English and extremely grateful for a lift. They told us that they were staying with a friend in one of the enormous Villas that were nestled into the countryside very near to our apartment and had decided to walk back from the town without realising exactly how far it was. The 3 of them had actually flown out from Heathrow on the same flight as Pilates Friend, which made us instantaneously realise that they couldn’t be axe murderers as they were able to talk about how bad the queues had been at security that day.
When we pulled up at the enormous gates in front of their Villa, Georgia, Victoria and Matt invited us in for a drink as a thank you for our taxi service and told Music Teacher Friend to park as near to the front door as she could as it was still raining heavily.
Georgia and Victoria were busy pouring drinks in a luxurious lounge when an agitated bloke walked in.
“Who the f***ing hell f***ing parked their f***ing car there?” he screamed adjusting his coloured spectacles and gesticulating furiously towards the door.
Music Teacher Friend slammed down her drink on the table and in her very best Teacher voice retorted: “Me.” before adding hotly “Because it’s raining and my hair goes frizzy if it gets wet.”
There was a long silence and then he began to laugh and replied that frizzy hair was never a good look.
After that, Elton John seemed to accept us as part of his crazy entourage and we had a tremendous evening. Not having eaten since lunch in Figueres the green coloured cocktails that Georgia and Victoria were creating were going down awfully well. So well in fact that Pilates Friend and I were eating olives and salami straight out of the fridge and Music Teacher Friend was asking Elton to play something on the baby grand piano. In fact as I remember it, she was asking him to play anything except for “that god awful rendition of Candle in The Wind because that was utter crap”.
As we left Villa Elton with the code for the gates written in pen on the back of all 6 of our hands (to enable us to collect the Clio the next morning), we invited our new found friends over to Casa Rioja the following evening. In reality we knew that we would never see them again and talked in very loud drunken voices into the early hours of the morning at Casa Vodka-and-some-fake-Baileys-we-found-in-the-cupboard-as-there-was-no-gin-or-wine-or-mixers-left about what an extreme experience we had just had.
The next morning we woke late with sore heads, collected the Clio from Villa Elton and talked all the way to the local Supermercat about the previous evening, trying to decide if it had all been a dream.
That night Music Teacher Friend created the most gorgeous Botifarra and we relaxed on the candle lit patio at Casa Sangria with soft music playing and the smell and sound of the Mediterranean Sea wafting around us.
And there was a knock at the door.
Initially I think Georgia and Matt were marginally more scared than we were when we opened the door brandishing a steak mallet, an empty wine bottle and a set of barbeque tongs for protection.
Elton took one mouthful of the Rioja that Pilates Friend poured for him and immediately sent Matt back to Villa Enormous for Champagne. Matt duly returned 10 minutes later with a case of Bollinger and Elton seemed happy enough for the rest of the evening, sitting on a window seat in our turret lounge in his tracksuit bottoms and Watford FC top, sipping his Champagne from the one Champagne flute that remained intact after my ambitious attempt at a Cava fountain earlier in the week.
But I know what you are thinking.
You’re thinking: Is it really true? Is it really true that you, Music Teacher Friend and Pilates Friend drank Bollinger out of pint glasses while Elton John and his followers argued over which of your CDs they were going to play next?

No.
Of course it’s not.
In the same way that little Reg Dwight didn’t receive a piano for Christmas from his Mum and Granny.
But let’s face it, there’s no point in a small untruth getting in the way of a damn good story.



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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Equine Champneys



Currently, my horse is staying at the most expensive livery yard in the country.
I’ve never kept a horse at livery before and I am stunned by the amount of time that I now have on my hands. When I get up in the morning, I can put on my office clothes, scribble on my eyebrows and I am ready for work. There’s none of this putting on my jodhpurs for horse duties and having to shower and change 45 minutes later, in fact on Tuesday I was actually sitting at my desk at home ready to add up and take away by 9.15am which is nothing short of a miracle.
I don’t mean to boast about this new found freedom and the decadence of being the owner of a horse at a livery yard as it certainly isn’t something that I have done to raise my status within the local community. You see, despite the fact that I am adoring not having to muck out and that all my fleece jackets have no horse hair stuck to them, the cost of this wonderful equine equivalent of Champneys is now causing me to lose sleep.
This is because this luxurious livery yard of which I write is actually my Veterinary Surgeon’s Equine Clinic.
Thanks to storm Ali, a small particle of something foreign landed in Wet Dishcloth Horse’s eye and caused an ulcer. Despite playing Florence Nightingale for a week and a half, the lesion the size of my little fingernail refused to heal and so a week past Monday I had him admitted to Janey Herriot’s fabulous facility near the town of Morpeth. So at the moment someone else is responsible for administering medication, feeding, grooming and taking care of him and I am driving 60 miles a day to go and see him.
Despite Wet Dishcloth Horse having a very sweet nature, he has a strenuous aversion to the Vet and is what they call “needle shy” which is a gracious way of saying that he will attempt to kill everyone present when the Vet starts feeling for a vein. In addition to that Wet Dishcloth Horse is also nervous of strangers, phobic of men and in short is the worst and most unhelpful patient the equine world has ever seen.
The team at the Equine Clinic at Fairmoor are Saints. All of them have shimmering halos and I can hear the sound of angels singing whenever I am near them. They are so holy that I wipe my feet prior to entering the Horse Hospital and wear a tunic of sackcloth and ashes to apologise at how shit I am at looking after my very own horse in the comfort of my own home.

The team at the Equine Clinic are currently trying their very best to get my pony’s eye mended so that he can return home but I am now beginning to think that perhaps I should have offered to sleep in my car, muck the damn horse out myself, do the accounts for the Veterinary Practice, all the grocery shopping for everyone employed and flick the hoover around their homes on a Friday; in the hope of getting a discount.
Due to the level of care that Janey Herriot’s army are dishing out at their clinic, it costs £89,372 a day to have your horse at their Horsepital. The equine patients eat spun gold instead of hay, are fed shredded £50 notes by hand and lie on a 10 inch bed of rose petals sprinkled with a glitter that is derived from platinum.
Okay, so I may be slightly exaggerating with the platinum glitter. It’s actually just ordinary glitter than is colour coded to enhance the horse’s coat, dust extracted and is produced by a family in Switzerland who supply the same stuff to Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his staff to scatter on his carpets when he’s expecting a Royal visitor.
I was so in-awe of this incredible equine Champneys that on the day that I decided that I was going to have to admit my pony to Horsepital I realised that I could not stand the shame of taking him there looking like an unkempt horse from an allotment; so I hastily washed the rug that he wears every night in his stable. This rug came free of charge with my previous horse who I bought in 2001 and it certainly wasn’t new then. The Aigle Welly Wearer mended this rug with a piece of her husband’s jeans and a sock back in 2003 and I was dismayed to find that once the spin cycle had ended and the sound of clattering buckles against the washing machine door had ceased, the patch that she had sewn on had come off. And due to this shoddy attempt at repairing my rug, I’m afraid I cannot recommend her as a seamstress of any kind.
The other small problem with laundering the rug myself, was that when I removed it from the washing machine I discovered that there was another hole in it which had been secretly storing wood shavings from my horse’s bed like some kind of wood-ingesting ogre, for what must have been literally years. This meant that as I removed it from the appliance and ran to the door to hang it on the washing line, I left a trail of wood chips across my kitchen that would fooled you into thinking you were on a forestry track.
At that point in the day I did not only have a horse with only one eye open, Britney (not her real name) upstairs in bed with suspected tonsillitis, Other Half at the Dentist having an emergency repair job on a broken tooth, a kitchen that resembled a woodland cycle track at Centre Parcs but also a pair of Ugg boots that looked as though they were the result of a violent encounter with a wood chipper and a wind tunnel.
Despite my best efforts with my vintage stable rug, the staff at Champneys must have taken one look at it and called the RSPCA for I have not once visited my horse and seen him wearing it. He is always dressed in the finest of clothing and although I made a mental note to take him some more outfits, much in the way that you would take clothes to a relative in hospital, I have not dared do so for fear that the saintly equine doctors and nurses get such a shock that their halos slip down and choke them.

So in a nutshell Wet Dishcloth Horse is at the very best place to make him better but I have told him, he needs to try much, much harder. This is because and I am shocked to admit it; I miss him a lot.
This is astonishing as I previously thought that I didn’t like him very much, which just goes to show that you never fully appreciate what you have until it is taken away even if the thing you have lost has only disappeared for a short length of time.
If you could spare a thought for my orange-white-legged pony I would be most grateful and I dearly hope that I will be bringing him home with 2 working and yet strangely coloured eyes in the near future.
I had considered cancelling my horse’s insurance many times over the past few years and I thank the Saints at Equine Champneys that I never got around to doing it. I have to confess that I am seriously looking into insuring the shit cat that I own as well because you just never know what is around the corner.


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Monday, 25 June 2018

Grey of Fallodon



I know practically nothing about history. And the thing with history, is that when it’s within welly-throwing distance of where you live you tend to take even less notice of it.
For example I have always known that the statue at the top of Grey’s Monument in Newcastle is a member of the Grey family.
The clue being in the name.
And I know that he was a lot to do with Earl Grey Tea and Howick Hall. But his name? No, sorry, I have absolutely no idea.
My friend the TK Maxx Ambassador was more than a little shocked when she discovered my complete and utter lack of knowledge regarding the area within 10 miles of my home. Ask me who had a fling in 1994 with the man who lives in number 12 and I will undoubtedly know the answer. Ask me why planning permission was revoked at number 17 in 2002 and I will probably know that too but ask me what the state rooms are like at Alnwick Castle, then I haven’t a clue.
Aside from how many tourists there will be in Seahouses on a Bank Holiday weekend, I know only one other thing about my local area and that is that an incredible gentleman lived just around the corner from my home.
When I was a child I was told by someone that there was a Prime Minister buried at the bottom of Fallodon Hall’s garden. This was of no interest to me and it was only in latter years when I began reading about Edward Grey 3rd Baronet of Fallodon that I felt the need to go back to memorial that lies under the trees near the lake, to tell him that I was sorry. So, so very sorry for not giving him the respect that he deserved.
Fallodon has a tranquil but quiet confidence and after reading all that I have about Edward Grey, I can’t help but think that he has a lot to do with Fallodon’s warm voice.
You will have heard words spoken by Sir Edward Grey even if you don’t know his name. He was the man who was Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of World War 1 and after a giving a speech to the opposition in Parliament which led to the British cabinet voting unanimously to go to war, he stood, looking out of a window in his room in the Foreign Office and said: “Lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
He was first elected as the Berwick upon Tweed candidate for parliament when he was 23 and was the youngest MP in the House of Commons at that time. Grey is the longest serving Foreign Secretary that we have ever seen, serving 2 terms from 1892 to 1895 as Under-Secretary of state in Gladstone's final administration and then from 1905 to 1916 in Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Herbert Henry Asquith’s governments as Secretary of State.
Edward Grey was born in London on 27th April 1882 and was the eldest of 7 children born to Colonel George Henry Grey and Harriet Jane Pearson. His Father died unexpectedly when he was 12 and his Grandfather who then took responsibility for him died when Grey was 22. It was then that he inherited the title of Baronet, a private income and his ancestral home where he had learnt to fish as a small boy, the 2000 acre Northumbrian Estate of Fallodon. 
A gentle and humorous man with a great love of the countryside, it is said that upon his adulthood he could only recognise the song of the Robin and the Blackbird. Grey married Dorothy in 1885 and it was she who instilled the knowledge and love of wild birds that captivated him for the rest of his life. He wrote The Charm of Birds in 1927 and it remains today, a beautiful book. Unchallenging to read and comprehend and his knowledge, patience and enthusiasm are evident on every page. I have to confess that I have never read his earlier publication Fly Fishing which was published in 1899 but it is still critically acclaimed even after all these years.
Bird watching and fishing aside, he was also an outstanding athlete, being Real Tennis Champion whilst at college in Winchester and being British National Champion in 1889, 91, 95, 96 and 98. (He was runner up in 1892, 93 and 94 which were the years in which he held Office.)
Grey detested being in London and as Fallodon was too far away to be used as a weekend retreat, he built what he and Dorothy simply called “Cottage” on a piece of land at Itchen Abbas near Winchester. With its corrugated iron roof and modest brickwork, this was initially meant to be place where he could rest while fishing but he and Dorothy used it as a weekend retreat and guarded their time there carefully. After finishing work on a Friday evening Grey would catch the last train from Waterloo and after alighting at Winchester near midnight would walk the 4 miles in the darkness to Cottage. Together he and Dorothy kept a diary of the birds seen at Cottage and on the river Itchen and he later privately published this diary as The Cottage Book.
Unhappily, death seemed to follow Grey with some conviction. He was married to Dorothy for only 11 years before she fell from the cart which she was driving and suffered a horrific head injury. It happened at the hamlet of Ellingham near Fallodon and although Edward caught the train from London and made it back to Northumberland to be with her, she never regained consciousness and died 3 days after the accident.
Grey was devastated by Dorothy’s death. She had been his soul mate and it would be 16 years before he married Pamela with whom it is alleged that he had always had a close relationship. Sadly his second marriage lasted merely 6 years before Pamela was taken ill while staying alone at Cottage. Edward took the earliest train available from Fallodon but was told of her death upon his arrival at Kings Cross.
In addition to the loss of both of his wives, his 3 brothers and his nephew, his dearly loved Fallodon burnt almost to the ground in 1917 and Cottage burnt down after bed linen was left airing close to the stove in 1923.
Work began to rebuild Fallodon on a slightly smaller footprint in 1919 but no such work was undertaken at Cottage and all that remains of it now is the brick chimney stack.
Edward Grey was a man who had the power to stop the mainland train at his Fallodon station, a short walk from his beloved family home. And he was humble enough to never stop a train that stopped at nearby stations unless it was an emergency, in fact The Flying Scotsman only stopped once at Fallodon when Grey was a Cabinet Minister. This was the era when the train from his own private station would take between 8 and 10 hours to get to London. Now, you can catch the train from Alnmouth at 6.21am and be in London at 9.40am. I wish he could have experienced that.
He eye sight deteriorated to the point that he could only read with artificial light and with the book held an inch from his nose. Unable to see to cast a fly or watch his adored birds, he said that the only sport still available to him was hunting for his glasses.

His health was not good in the Summer of 1933 although friends who visited him reported that he was in good spirits, even laughing when a red squirrel fell down the chimney and emerged in the house covered in soot. He continued to serve his “duck dinner” to his wild but unpinioned ducks and feed the squirrels by hand until the day he died.
He passed away at his beloved Fallodon on 7th September 1933.
There is a memorial to him at the Foreign Office where he watches over the Ambassador entrance that he himself used for the 11 years that he was in office. It is inscribed with “By uprightness of character, wisdom in council and firmness in action, he won the confidence of his countrymen, and helped to carry them through many and great dangers.”
Next weekend Fallodon Gardens are open to the public. On Saturday 30th June they are open as part of the National Garden Scheme and on Sunday 1st July they are open in aid of the Red Cross. Fallodon was one of the original gardens to be opened to the public to raise money for Nurses in 1927 and I’m sure Grey would give a rich chuckle of approval at the number of people who have come to look at the gardens since the current family began opening them to the public in 1976.
So this weekend, come to Fallodon and you too can sit beneath the Larch tree where this man gave his Duck Dinner. You can walk through the Victorian Greenhouse where the figs and the apricots grow. You can walk around the kitchen garden where the strawberries flourish to the size of golf balls and see the citrus trees that grow in the heated greenhouse. You can walk down the steps to the sunken garden that Grey created in honour of Dorothy and you can enjoy tea and cakes in the grade 2 listed stable yard.
And if you do come; make sure that you take the path from the hostas by the bog garden. Go through the gate, over the bridge and through the trees to where he lies accompanied by whispering trees and birdsong. The inscription on the stone reads: Here among trees that they planted together are placed the ashes of Edward and Dorothy Grey.


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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Never Meet Your Idols



According to the Daily Mail (so it must be true) Ant Mcpartlin is out of rehab. They know this because just the other day they stalked him while he was out walking his dog.
Britney (Not her real name) was delighted by this news as hearing about a shitfaced Ant McPartlin careering around London in his Mini hit her unbelievably hard.
After a few days for her to digest the news that the Geordie lad who she looked forward to seeing on television every Saturday night had completely and utterly fecked things up both with his life and his fans, she became very angry with Newsround.
“I thought Newsround told the truth!” she roared in the kitchen one morning as we got ready for school.
“It does.” I said soothingly, “And that is why you watch it at school to encourage your development of current affairs awareness.”
“No.” Replied Britney, “Newsround said that Ant had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol but you told me he was addicted to prescription drugs.”
I made a mental note for future discussions regarding celebrities and narcotics and hastily packed Britney and her bags into the Licence Taker.
We discussed Ant’s misdemeanour as we travelled the 3 miles to school. I told Britney that all people regardless of who they are, make errors and that the important thing in life is how quickly you put things right.
“But I looked up to hiiiimmmmmmmm.” she wailed.
I reassured her that we all make mistakes, even celebrities (I mean there’s Big Brother and Strictly for a start) and again reinforced the point that correcting mistakes is the essential thing. Apologise, put it right and move on.
The people of Facetube clearly did not agree with this point. And if you were brave enough to make any comment about Ant McPartlin’s attempt at driving home after drinking enough beer to remove his coordination to the point that he couldn’t have ridden a bicycle and make his vision diplopic, you will know exactly where I’m coming from.
If you said he was a d**khead; people trolled you and if you said he had issues that he needed to address; people trolled you. If you said his Mum should have stopped him; people trolled you and if you said he was a total ar**hole with no regard for the law; people trolled you. If you said you felt sorry for him; people trolled you and if you said he was a rich lad who knew nothing about real life and could afford a driver; people trolled you. If you said he was an idiot; people trolled you, if you said his Mini was nice; people trolled you and if you said you didn’t give a damn about Ant McPartlin being the top news story; people trolled you.
I actually saw a comment on one of my friend’s completely innocent “Oh no Ant, what have you done?” posts where someone had said that people who are taking antidepressants shouldn’t drive. To enforce the truth in this observation the poster also reported that members of her family had taken antidepressants and would NEVER have dreamt of getting behind the wheel.
I was curious as to how many people this mad bitch wanted off the road with this brainless yet sweeping statement, but could only find data from the NHS relating to 2016. Apparently, the National Health Service dispensed 64.7 million antidepressant items that year, forcing me to wonder if the female who made the comment was either an Uber driver or a trolley pusher for Virgin Trains East Coast.
Personally, I was just glad that even though Saturday Night Chinese Takeaway is (was) sponsored by Suzuki, Ant had the sense not to own one. Surely the only thing more shameful than getting hammered, leaving your mate in the shit, disappointing an army of fans and almost killing someone; is to be seen driving an Ignis.
Anyway, during the last week of the Easter Holidays I discovered something on the internet that helped me to relate to Britney’s feelings of disillusionment regarding Ant McPartlin.
It’s called LinkedIn.
Firstly, I must say that I genuinely have never laughed so hard in years. I cried with laughter for many minutes and felt remarkably good once I managed to stop. Britney came running at one point and enquired if I was alright as all she could hear a strange howling noise followed by seconds of silence when I couldn’t breathe. She was alarmed at first when she saw me wiping my eyes and rolling on the floor completely unable to speak until I explained that this was called hysterical laughter and it was going to continue for quite some time while I read all the fictitious job titles that some of my acquaintances had generated in an attempt to make themselves appear much, much, much more important that they actually are.
For those of you who have a life and don’t resort to wasting 4 hours of each day on social media, LinkedIn is a platform where you can find a job, a training course and share inspirational messages with your fellow professionals. It’s a bit like Facebook; but for posh people with jobs.
But there are no ordinary people on LinkedIn, there are no cleaners, joiners or grooms. Although if there were, they would probably be called “Sanitation Development and Control Managers”, “Coppice Enterprise Maturity Executives” and “Equine Clientele Regulators” so perhaps I just missed them.
I had literally hours of fun working out the real job titles behind the counterfeit ones like some mad game of Risk with a stoned and drunk derivatives trader. I discovered that Head of Leisure and Tourism translates as “cleans holiday cottage on a Friday and uses Booking.com”, Transport Manager means Bus Driver, Flooring Specialist means Carpet Fitter and a Digital Accounts Executive is someone who spends all day playing on Facetube, Twatter, Instaphoto and Pinboard.
I particularly enjoyed viewing the profiles of the Entrepreneurs in my network, especially when their company name ended with the words “Enterprises Limited”. And I was further amused that my own profile had been viewed a number of times anonymously. I do hope they enjoyed reading the information that I submitted to LinkedIn, which roughly translates as “Dear god, some of these profiles are about as convincing as Doctor Crippen’s defence case”.
LinkedIn tells me that some users prefer to browse anonymously because Many private viewers are recruiters looking for candidates. Others tend to be professionals who browse privately to find sales leads, potential clients or business partners.
This statement is an absolute load of bollocks and on Facetube, this kind of behaviour is called Stalking. If you want to look at someone’s profile, for heaven’s sake just view it. There’s really no need to hide unless you feel the need to conceal yourself for fear of being ridiculed for your own fictitious job title.
There are endless possibilities should you wish to generate your own occupation identify and it’s very simple too. Simply pick a word that vaguely relates to your employment activity, pop it in to Google and add the word Synonym after it. If you want to make sure that your new job title is not American, I would recommend that you use the online Collins Thesaurus.
Unfortunately if you use the latter method, the word Bookkeeper (which is what I am), returns no results and suggests a Shopkeeper, Innkeeper or a Boozer. To be fair, it could be worse and I think I will update my Linkedin profile forthwith. I just need to upload a photo of one of my shoes and an empty Special Brew can as my profile picture.


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Sunday, 4 March 2018

Alexa and Gordon Ramsay


Gordon Ramsay has made me late for work on many occasions.
This is because just as I am about to go to bed, I see that he is about to appear on television in his “Kitchen Nightmares” programme. Watching the drama unfold in some under-achieving restaurant in the United States of America, means that I then don’t go to bed until after 1am, am knackered when I wake up in the morning and am consequently late for work.
Other Half and I usually hold a sweepstake as to how many minutes into the production Gordon is going to shout “Shut the f**king Kitchen!” or “You’re gonna f**king kill somebody!” Extra points can be gained if he eats some shellfish and then runs outside retching, especially if he roars “Are you trying to f**king kill me?” as he staggers back inside to have a faceoff with the chef.
I love the fact that Gordon swears like a docker, hurls abuse at the depressed and struggling restaurant owner and yells that he’s not there to “blow smoke” up their arse. I love the fact that he orders from the lunch menu then declares that it has the consistency of a soiled nappy and tastes like cat vomit. In his own words, he just doesn’t give a sh*t.
I was severely tempted to buy an Amazon Alexa thingy just so I can have Gordon’s voice flinging abuse around my own kitchen. I was a little disappointed to hear that Amazon have bleeped out all his swear words as surely this is taking the fun out of the gimmick. I want to be able to ask Gordon how to boil an egg and have him retorting “For f**k’s sake! Anyone can boil an egg, you f**king doughnut!”
Why on earth bleep out his profanities? If you are offended by swearing, you’re hardly going to pay for the privilege of having Gordon Ramsay’s voice on your Alexa, are you?
Perhaps the person who is offended by Gordon’s swearing had better not venture into any kind of equine establishment either, as these facilities are notorious for having an air which is tinged with blue. Like Gordon, the ancient Anglo Saxon used in most yards is not meant to offend but is merely a way of expressing an opinion.
For example “a right b***ard of a horse” is simply a way of saying that the horse has a very strong mind, is prone to suicidal thoughts and can suffer from murderous tendencies. In the same way “a right f**king wuss of a horse” means that the animal lacks confidence and needs a positive and knowledgeable rider with more patience than a Primary school teacher, to give him self-belief. A racehorse that is “f**king useless” does not mean that he cannot gallop fast enough to keep himself warm, but means that he might be better suited to a different discipline in the equine world and a horse described as “a right f**king a***hole”, usually means that the animal is perhaps not suited to the activity to which he is being asked to undertake.
Equine people also have the most marvellous ability at swearing mid-word. This is a skill in itself and my personal favourites from over the years are “Bus Conf**kingductor” and Eggf**kingsacktly”.
But this makes me consider another issue with the Alexa thingamabob. After over 20 years of being around horses, how will Alexa/Gordon cope with my swearing? Will Gordon understand when I yell: “Gordon, the Chicken Tonight sauce is stuck on the bottom of the f**king pan, what the f**k do I do now?!”
I know for certain that this will be an issue after spending an evening with my Brother The Sniper and his wife, The Verruca Expert. Having lived for 30 something years over the border in Scotland and The Verruca Expert being originally from the Land of Scotch, Alexa was totally bamboozled by what they were asking her to find on the Amazon Firestick. This, coupled with Britney (Not her real name) who it has to be said, speaks with a bit of a Northumbrian accent, had Alexa ready to lie in a darkened room. Chuck into that mix, Me, with my moderate Geordie/Northumbrian accent and Other Half protesting that being from Dorset, he was the only person in the room who Alexa had the slightest chance of understanding; Alexa lost the plot altogether.
Requests for Little Mix gave us the Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift gave us guitar rifts, Queen’s I want to Break Free gave us Glee and Rag’n’Bone Man gave us Steptoe and Son. Frankly I was surprised that Alexa hadn’t offered us Gazza rapping his way through Fog on The Tyne and Andy Stewart singing Donald Where’s Your Trousers.
Crickey if I was to ask Alexa to order toilet rolls I would probably end up with sausage rolls, Stilton would probably get me Milton, I would get Melons instead of Lemons, Crumpets would result in Puppets and god alone knows what I would get if I asked her to order Tampax. Probably a fake Rolex, a pallet of Anthrax and a house visit from the local constabulary.
Alexa in my house would resemble the Two Ronnies doing the 4 Candles sketch so there's no point in me shelling out for the Gordon Ramsay edition.
F**king shame.


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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Magical Mary Poppins

In my last post, I told you about my wonderful Boxing Day.
A trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, delicious Bloody Mary Soup, horse racing from Kempton Park and Mary Poppins on the television.
There was one thing that marred the day ever so slightly and it occurred when I was in my favourite reclining position on the sofa whilst watching Mary Poppins.
Britney (Not her real name) had been given a new game for her X Box and as she and Other Half were trying to figure it out, I was in the lap of luxury – in the lounge with the big television and surround sound. On. My. Own.
This is something of a rarity and I was thoroughly enjoying it.
Then Britney came into the lounge to ask a question, just as Mary, Bert, Jane and Michael jumped into Bert’s chalk drawing.
“That is so fake.” said Britney as she returned to her X Box.
Even though I retorted that the film was made in 1964 and that kind of trickery was ground-breaking at the time, I have to confess I was a bit hurt that Britney was pouring scorn on one of my favourite films.
It’s not surprising though.
Britney is used to Finding Dory and Moana on Blu Ray and let’s face it, they look a lot more believable than Mary’s horse breaking free from the carousel and winning a horse race.
But her remark got me thinking.
I have seen the film Mary Poppins a little over 163,000 times and yet it had never crossed my mind how Bert managed to hold down so many jobs. No wonder he didn’t want to sweep Mrs Bank’s chimney (that’s not a euphemism) as the Lord Mayor’s was needing done. If he was a one man band 1 day, an artist the next and then selling bloody kites whenever the wind got up, when the hell did he get the chance to sweep all the other chimneys?
I’d love to see his CV. You would be putting it in the “can’t hold down a job and is easily bored” pile if you were shortlisting for interviews.
And if Bert only sweeps chimneys one day a week, how does he know so many other chimney sweeps? Do they all just work one day a week? I’m not surprised the London smog was horrendous if all the chimney sweeps regularly bunked off work so they could get together on the roof in the hope of a quick knees up with Mary Poppins. She should have been encouraging them to get on with their work instead of tapping her feet and cheering when they jumped over their chimney brushes. Mary even cavorts with a number of the sweeps during this tea dance among the chimneys and I can’t help but feel that her conduct is sending out the wrong signals. Especially as when Admiral Boom starts aiming fireworks at them, they all end up back at Mary’s place. Thank goodness Mr and Mrs Banks returned home before any major tom-foolery could be undertaken. The Banks family should count themselves lucky that all the chimney sweeps did was terrorise their staff for a very short length of time.
And was it really appropriate for Mary and Bert to have tea together, alone with just some penguin waiters as chaperones? She even insults poor Bert by singing to him that although he’s just a “diamond in the rough” underneath his “blood is blue”. Should Bert not be horribly offended by that remark? It’s a bit like saying “Bert, you’re a bit of a scruff but you act like a posh bloke at the end of the day”. And whilst Mary is beaming and Bert is altering his trousers to resemble that of MC Hammer, what are Jane and Michael getting up to? They could have eaten their own bodyweight in candy floss and won 15 goldfish a piece by the time Mary and Bert rocked up to the fairground. At least in1910 there wasn’t an 18 page risk assessment and an online compliance form to complete before taking the children on an outing so that’s a bonus.
The children obviously loved the magical days with their nanny, but how many years must Jane and Michael have had in counselling to get over a tea party on the ceiling?
Therapist: Yes, yes, I’m sure there was a tea party on the ceiling…
Jane: But there was! Mary Poppins even said I could pour some milk for us to drink.
Therapist: I’m going to prescribe you with some medicine, Jane. It will make all these bad thoughts completely disappear and you will feel completely relaxed.
Jane: (Hammering fists on the table) How many more times do I have to tell you? There was a bloody tea party ON THE CEILING!!
Therapist: (Smiling) Yes, of course there was Jane, now if you would just put your arms in this straight jacket…..
Scarred for life.
Imagine both of them drifting through the rest of their lives thinking that every time a dog barked it was actually saying something, that Greenwich Mean Time was taken from Admiral Boom and that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was a truly acceptable thing to say when you are stuck for words.
I’m a little perturbed about Mary’s manipulation regarding the whole tuppence-gate affair as well. Too be fair it probably would be better spending your money on feeding the birds rather than entrusting it to the bank, but pigeons are simply vermin with wings that get in the way and shit all over everything. Perhaps if they had been endangered songbirds or parrots I would be more with Michael on this one. And the kerfuffle that ensues when Michael digs his heels in is nothing short of calamitous.
If I had done something that had ended up getting my Dad sacked especially if my Mum was out all day raising awareness of the lack of women’s voting conveniences, I would have been running much, much faster than Jane and Michael. In fact the vagrants and beggars of the East End of London would have been the least of my worries.
It was just as well that Bert was on his chimney sweep day to help them home after they’d run away otherwise they’d probably have ended up sweeping chimneys themselves. Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d been on his one-man-band job that day? Jane and Michael might not have made it.
You would have thought that Mr Banks would have had to work some kind of period of notice too, especially as he had worked at the bank for so long. And he must have done other bad things at work. There would have to have been 1 verbal and 2 written warnings before they could vandalise his umbrella and ravage his bowler hat so badly that it let the rain in. And as his Father had worked for the bank as well, I can only conclude that loyalty must mean absolutely nothing to this company.
After having his employment terminated, Mr Banks then returns home shitfaced and humiliated, wondering how he can continue to afford to pay the nanny, cook and maid and heads straight to the cellar to make the most rubbish job of mending Jane and Michael’s kite.
And it took him all night.
All night to stick a bit of tape on a kite.
It took Walt Disney nearly 20 years to strike a deal with Pamela Travers who wrote the Mary Poppins books and by all accounts she was a very difficult woman to please. Travers was not happy with the animation, the music (she treated the Sherman brothers who wrote and composed the music for the film appallingly) and was not invited to the film’s premier. She was so aghast by the whole film making process that when she was approached years later regarding the making of British stage musical, she requested that only English born writers be used and no-one from the original film production be involved. These points were even stipulated in her last will and testament, ensuring that Disney would never be allowed to get involved with her Mary Poppins stories ever again. Clearly when she finally agreed to give Walt Disney the film rights to Mary Poppins, the royalties from her books had dried up and she was facing a very hard time financially. Travers was interviewed in 1977 and said that she had seen the film a few times and had learnt to live with it. She said “It’s glamorous and it’s a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it is very like my books”.
During the film’s initial run it grossed $31-33 million. In honour of Walt Disney Productions’ 50th anniversary it was released theatrically in 1973 and earned an estimated $9 million in American rentals. It was released once more in 1980 earning another $14 million and has a lifetime gross of over $100 million, quite a feat for a film that was made on a $6 million budget.
Mary Poppins was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 5 of them (1 of them for Best Visual Effects, Britney). It was nominated for 2 Golden Globes and won 1, won 2 Grammys and The Writers Guild of America awarded it Best Written Musical.
Mary Poppins was the first Disney film to be released on DVD in July 2000 and on 14th December 2004 it had a 2 disc release in a digitally restored 40th anniversary edition. It was released again on 27th January 2009 as a 45th anniversary edition and was released on Blu-ray as the 50th anniversary edition on 10th December 2013.
If the film Mary Poppins was a person she would be driven everywhere in a 1960s Cadillac. She would wear diamonds and fur and would make time to speak to every person at the side of the red carpet. She would willingly stop for autographs and as time progressed, selfies, with her fans. She would do breakfast time television interviews with exceptional charm and would be able to have a glass of champagne and still hold her decorum. As her years advanced she would hold the respect of all the up and coming films as they would be humble in her presence and value what she had achieved in 1964. She would even have the grace to forgive Dick Van Dyke’s Irish voice coach for telling him that his cockney accent was acceptable.
She would indeed be practically perfect in every way.

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