November was a nice, quiet month (for a
change!) We have been enjoying getting to know
Tara and she us. We have established a reasonable
routine, now, which makes for an easier life for
us all. Hounds like routine, we find, and Tara is
no different. She goes to bed and sleeps through
without hassle and, like us, doesn’t really
like getting up in the morning especially when
it’s cold … and certainly not when
it’s raining. She enjoys her walks on a set
route for morning, afternoon and evening
“pee and poo” sessions. She also loves
going for rides in the car and we have had a
couple of lovely visits to the Greyhound Trust
people one of which was their Christmas Fayre at
Hardwick Park. We have also had a super session
at home with Vicky from Have a Good Dog
(www.haveagooddog.co.uk) who started us on basic
training (in fairness, it really was us rather
than Tara who needed training). Vicky really was
great and we got a proper set of notes, handouts
and references as part of the fee, as well as a
very enjoyable session. Thoroughly recommended.
now a link in the menu on the left for
Tara’s background data including her
pedigree and race results before she retired. And
some photos too.
from that, the month has seen a lot of
interviewing for new JPs – Durham &
Cleveland are right in the middle of a
recruitment campaign at the moment and we’ve
also had a couple of excellent events at the
University. And Ian had a very enjoyable
“black tie” dinner at the UTC to launch
their new STEM initiative.
all in all a very pleasant month with enough
interesting things but a lot of enjoyable stuff
going on too.
and the Christmas trees are up … in
November! I know!!
Well, what a month October has been! We
had the last bits of the new kitchen fitted and
the decorating more or less done. In amongst
that, Lois had a few days on holiday in London,
visiting her family and catching up on some of
the genealogy stuff she’s been working on.
We got the rubbish removed from the old kitchen
(a truck full) and the old but still good fridge
and freezer as well as a whole lot of other
superfluous stuff went to the BHF charity shop.
Later in the month, Ian did a quick run up to the
North West Highlands! Alongside all that we
attended an excellent Lieutenancy dinner and got
on with our usual Judicial business; so all in
all a very packed month!
we know you don’t want to hear about any of
that! You want to hear about Tara don’t you!
It’s a while since we had someone in the
household that needed lots of care and attention
- 25 years, in fact! Rescuing a greyhound is
remarkably similar to having a baby! September
saw Tara settle in, understand what a house is,
what stairs were and what a hoover is like.
October has been much more about getting her into
routines to that she feels comfortable as a new
member of the family. What they say about a
couple of hours’ snooze for each half-hour
walk is about right and we have found some lovely
routes round about that keep us clear of the main
roads. We have been pleasantly surprised by the
amount of green space there is around here –
loads of it. All of which makes for a wonderful
smellscape to be created for a hound. We
daren’t let her off her lead, though ... she
finds rabbits very attractive and will go for
magpies like a shot; well, she did race at
Sunderland after all (that’s a local joke).
But other dogs rattle her ... unless they are
other greyhounds. We attended the monthly Sunday
walk organised by the Darlington Greyhound Trust
where she linked up with some of her old friends
and we made some new ones!
September was dominated by the arrival
of Tara. But that wasn't the only thing that
happened, so before we tell you about Tara, here
are the other highlights ...
spent a wonderful week in Shetland. We've done
Orkney before, so wanted to go a little further
afield and do the northernmost extremity of the
UK. Details are in the travel blog, of course,
which you can access from the Adventures link in
the menu on the left or by clicking here.
our return, we prepared for a lunch to which we
invited some friends. It turned into quite a big
"do" with about 20 people coming. We'd
originally envisaged it being a barbecue but the
weather was a little unkind to us - maybe not a
surprise for mid-September, but annoying
nevertheless. Instead we did a roast dinner
(beef, lamp, pork, chicken, salmon and a veggie
option too). It seemed to go down well and we had
a very relaxed afternoon eating, drinking and
chatting; it was very pleasant. In parallel, we
had emptied the kitchen because, yes although
we'd said we had finished the renovations for
now, we got an excellent deal on a new kitchen so
went for it. Not great timing, but ...!
all that was the arrival of Tara who we adopted
on 12th September. Tara is a four year old
ex-racing greyhound, rescued by the Greyhound
Trust at Darlington. Tara’s first race was
on 21st July 2017 in Kilkenny, Ireland and she
raced 5 times before coming to the UK. Since she
was trained in Ireland she has an identification
tattoo is both ears. She raced at Sunderland 48
times from 8th September 2017 to her final race
on 30th June 2019, winning six times.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for her) she
wasn’t all that good at keeping to her lane
as she raced and there are numerous notes in her
record about bumping which means that she bumped
into the dog running beside her or crowded them
– she didn’t baulk them, which would
have meant that she interfered with them, she
just wandered a bit. She also has notes about
being slow away and running on. In other words,
she wasn’t a very good racing greyhound
which presumably is why she went for adoption at
quite a young age.
still settling in to life here - we've had a few
sleepless nights and some "accidents"
too, but things are improving by the day as she
learns to trust us and enjoy her new life with
August has been a month of getting on with life,
really. There have only been a couple of
excitements! We have both been settling in to our
volunteering, catching up somewhat on things that
have drifted by. For once we didn't do much in
the way of holiday ... we didn't need to because
we can go any time (did I mention we're retired).
And anyway, Scotland is currently sinking under
the sheer number of camper vans on its roads -
best to stay away unless you have a camper van of
your own. We nipped up to Edinburgh to collect
Hannah from university - for probably the last
time. We've done this for seven years, what with
her first degree then her PhD, and it was a bit
of a "lump in the throat moment" to
drive away after we'd loaded up. We'd intended to
have a "final breakfast" at Frankie and
Benny's in Fountain Park, but they don't open
until 9:00 and we were ready to leave at 8:10, so
we went to McDonalds in Berwick-upon-Tweed
instead which was very nice and a fitting
"full stop" - or maybe a semi-colon -
in Hannah's educational journey. Next month she
starts her first full time job!
spent a few days up at the caravan, which
alternated between very hot and pouring rain on
what seemed like an almost hourly basis, but
which was actually only daily. The key
entertainment was watching the croft owners using
a mini-digger to remove rhododendron bushes
(which are weeds up there). It ranks alongside
"Bones" in entertainment value. Ian
also had some work with UHI so than necessitated
a trip to Inverness which is never a hardship.
kept the big new until last, though. You'll
recall we we're considering adopting a rescue dog
and we have spent a good deal of time in July and
August visiting rescue centres, seeing all kinds
of dog (often embodied in one animal). After a
lot of thinking, an interview, a home visit and a
great deal of reading around the subject, we have
reserved Tara - pictured above with Hannah - who
will join us in September. We'll begin yet
another chapter of our history as a family ...
and we'll tell you all about it here.
Last month I promised to tell you about
the photograph of the Forth Bridges, above. Well,
here you go!
In February 2015, Lois was in Scotland visiting
Hannah in Edinburgh and decided to drop in to
South Queensferry to see if she could find out
about the building of the Forth Replacement
Crossing, as it was called then. Construction had
been going on since 2011 and it was due to open
in 2016, so it was close to opening around the
time of Ian’s 60th birthday, she thought.
Something linked to the bridge, like a visit to
an exhibition about the construction might make a
suitable additional birthday event. While
wandering along the narrow road through South
Queensferry and admiring the existing bridges
that reached so high she spotted a small shop and
studio on the High Street called Words &
Pictures. Along with wedding and family portraits
there was a nice print of the Forth Bridge and
the Forth Road Bridge, plus another photograph of
local architecture. These took her eye and she
called in. She met Alistair Pryde, the studio
owner and chatted with him. Between them a plan
was hatched that involved a commissioned
photograph of the three Forth bridges, to be
taken once the new crossing had been completed.
This was agreed and then the wait for the perfect
quickly realised, based on our brief and his
creative knowledge, that a night-time photograph
would be best, but even after the formal opening
by The Queen the work on the bridge was still
going on. There were overnight lane closures
(with all the orange flashing lights necessary
for those) and the bridge’s own lighting
design was still under discussion so was not yet
in place. Furthermore, there were still lots of
construction paraphernalia on the bridge –
portacabins, plastic sheeting and so on. It
didn’t make for a good photograph, so we
waited … sort of patiently. It wasn’t
until November 2018 that the works were finally
completed and the construction paraphernalia
cleared away. So Alistair had not been able to
take advantage of the autumnal light which he
favoured. Meanwhile he had been hunting around to
select the best spot from which to take the
picture. We waited for further news. The winter
weather, however, was very poor which led to more
delay. January 2019 Alistair had chosen the
perfect location, but now faced another problem.
The newly installed lighting to complete the
bridge was an issue. Alistair wrote:
“The lighting on the Queensferry
Crossing continues to frustrate us because it is
so much more intense than the lighting on the
other two. So shooting at dusk is the solution to
this dilemma and will give us the contrast that
Ian wants, and will look spectacular in black and
9 July 2019, we collected the print!
picture hangs on the end wall of our dining room,
alone and spectacular. The causeway in the
foreground takes you as you walk into the room
from the other end and leads you forward into the
picture. On the left is the new Queensferry
Crossing, to the right is the Forth Road Bridge.
Look beneath the Road Bridge and you can see the
from the picture (which obviously took over the
month, really) we've fitted in another couple of
things. Ian had a very enjoyable couple of days
at UHI sitting on their assessment boards. Always
very good discussion and an excellent group of
people. He also had a day at the University of
Sunderland Graduations - it's always lovely to
see the students crossing the stage. Mind you,
Ede & Ravescroft lost his gown booking so he
had to process in a Sunderland gown rather than
his Keele robes! We also attended Matins for the
Courts at the cathedral which is always a
terrific event and we went to a Lieutenancy event
too. All in all, quite a busy month.
news (maybe) is that we have started down the
road considering adopting a rescue dog. We
visited a few rehoming charities and even took a
rescue greyhound for a walk (see the picture
above). Lots to think about!
June has been busy. We haven't had the
refurbishment to deal with although see above for
one of the results, which is our new dining room
now complete with the stunning picture taken for
us by Alistair Pryde of Words & Pictures in
South Queensferry (the full story will be in
July's update). But there have been many other
things to so! Mostly to do with the voluntary
stuff we do. So both of us were undertaking
Judicial duties a lot, Lois has been doing things
as a Trustee at the Hospital and Ian's been doing
UTC stuff too. In between those, we found time to
collect Ian's new car (see the vehicles page for
more) and we did some entertaining in the
"new" dining room, which was a really
good start for the new floor and decoration. It
was a pity that the big bridges picture wasn't in
place then; that's due in July so more about it
then. But the meal and the company were lovely.
Hannah and Lois sent a couple of days in York
while Ian was tied up with interviewing. They had
a great time away and came back buzzing! We also
did a "spur of the moment" theatre trip
to see Susie Dent at the Gala. She's the words
woman on Countdown - from the telly. We weren't
sure what it would be like, but for a start it
was a sellout and it was also hugely
entertaining. Two really good hours of
intereresting stuff, presented very well. Perhaps
the highlight of June was a day at the Royal
Highland Show in Edinburgh. It's a long time
since we've been to an agricultural show but we
had the chance of tickets and took it. It was a
lovely day - my word it got hot as the day went
on! Some really interesting displays and stands
as well, of course, as the tractors and stuff!
Lois bought a very fine hat which is shown above.
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!
spent 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
EVERYWHERE - 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 we’ve
done very little to our home over the last 20
years or so following the big remodelling.
We’ve done maintenance, of course – it
doesn’t 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
didn’t do it properly, so it has
“popped”. The notion of plaster
“popping” is a new one on us, but
it’s where it parts company with the wall
that it’s supposed to be covering and starts
moving away. Eventually, it’ll fall off and
although it hasn’t 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. That’s one each, not all for all!
Christmas Day was mostly taken up with lunch at
the Grand Café (it’s 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 we’re back home – a new year and
we’re 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.