Were you jiving at the Mavericks’ Manchester gig?

I was so lucky to be able to go to not one, not two, but three Mavericks gigs… and the final one was the last of the UK part of their tour, yesterday night in Manchester. It was at the Apollo, a very famous venue but which I had never been to, despite living in the city for years and years and years!

Obviously the Mavs were absolutely fabulous, fantastic, and amazing (but more of them in another post) but here I would like to say ‘wow, you are great dancers!’ to an anonymous couple who were jiving in front of me.

Within a couple of numbers, half the audience were on their feet – however, on my side of the auditorium there had not been a very positives reception to the few who had stood up – words were exchanged… now in a way I can understand that you might feel miffed if someone stands up in front of you and starts dancing – but come on! it’s what you do at a Mavericks performance!! The solution to the difficulty is to stand up and join in! Of course if someone isn’t very nifty on their pins, then standing up and leaping about might not be an option, and I guess the fans in front would respect that and sit down…

There are aisles at the side, and sometimes up the middle, and there is a space at the front – perfect for dancing and not making it difficult for anyone else. I know that the band really like their audience to join in, and in fact, in the past, when security has been heavy-handed, they have threatened to stop playing until fans can really ‘enjoy’ themselves!! While I was waiting for the gig to start I noticed a lot of security up and down the side aisles and I just hoped there wouldn’t be a problem…

… and there wasn’t! So the people sitting next to me, and me, leapt up and went to the side and danced the night away big time… and then the jiving couple appeared. I think they had been at the front, with others standing by the stage and I think they were asked to move to the side, which they did and arrived in front of me.

It was difficult to gauge their ages, maybe in their forties, maybe a little older. The lady was wearing a fabulous sleeveless dress with blue and green patterns on it (it was dark!) the chap was just dressed normally in shirt and jeans… but wow could they dance!! In a restricted space they moved gracefully, but considerately of those around them – the only trouble for me was they were so watchable they were a little distracting – I think I managed to keep one eye on them and one of the Mavs when they were actually dancing as opposed to swaying in time to the music.

It must be wonderful to be able to dance so well, to be so in tune with your partner, that even with your eyes shut you know where their hand is going to be so you can take it, you know which way to turn, which way to lean, when to move forwards, when to move back… they were perfectly in time with each other – pretty much like the band!

Towards the end when literally everyone was on their feet (an old lady in her wheelchair had elevated it so she could see over people’s heads) the jiving couple moved back to the front where there was now more room and they could dance a little more freely.

If by some chance you are the jiving couple, thank you! You were fabulous, you really added to the enjoyment of the evening, and I am so envious of your skill!

PS the featured image has nothing to do with jiving, or the mavericks, it is just jolly and happy, like the gig yesterday evening!

Glasgow 2018


Caff vs Café

This morning we breakfasted in Bristol; we didn’t intend to – we’d had a quick snack before leaving home for a day out to visit the city and also to go round BBC Broadcasting House. The group we went with split into two, and our half was due for the tour at 1:00 so we had a morning to visit the art gallery and museum and then join our party. We didn’t realise that neither the art gallery nor museum opened until ten, so we popped into a small café for a drink… and then feeling peckish had a spot of breakfast.

The café we went into is quite small, with a couple of pavement tables outside, and describes itself as ‘a casual hang out-style cafe for a range of comfort food dishes from the UK and America.’ It has a bar, serves food as well as drinks,  coffee and shakes, is pleasant and attractive, has lots of nice features, and we had good coffee and a satisfying breakfast (pancakes, bananas and maple syrup for him and avocado, rocket, tomatoes and sour dough toast for me) Sitting near us were three young women who were obviously students from the nearby University. I couldn’t help but think how different  my friends and I were as  students. We were the typical scruffy student types, we had no student accommodation but were in what was laughing called ‘a flat’ in actual fact an attic at the top of a very old building, shared bathroom on the floor below, no kitchen, only a Baby Belling, a one ring cooker with tiny oven. There was no heating, and in winter there was ice on the inside of the windows. These young women were fashionable and smart and were sitting in this nice café for their breakfast before heading off for lectures.

It made me think back to where my friends and I had breakfast. I have to say, we thought it was marvellous, cheap, decent food, interesting owners. – but it was from a different era. Burt’s  was in a cellar in Manchester, in a building near Piccadilly Station, opposite the Fire Station. I don’t think the buildings are even there now. All though the café was clean, no doubt the building had all sorts of vermin, I dread to think about it now. it was run by Burt and Mrs Burt; he was Polish or Ukrainian, or somewhere in what was then Communist block Europe and he may have well been in England since the war – in fact I think it’s almost definitely he case.

The cafe was tiny, as I remember, with maybe no more than eight tables, a single counter and that particular sort of yellowy light cast by a 40-watt bulb. I can’t remember now what the menu was but certainly at breakfast time it revolved round standard breakfast items, on toast or in a sandwich. Whether there was a different menu during the rest of the day I don’t know. I remember usually having a sausage sandwich (filled hungry students up best) or an egg sandwich, and tea or instant coffee. It was a limited menu, cheap but satisfying. Mrs Burt was always very friendly, Butt himself was usually jolly, but sometimes taciturn, sometimes decidedly grumpy. On the other hand, we were probably quite annoying!

The three young women we saw today would have been horrified by Burt’s… we would have been astonished by the café we were in today!



The story of a house

I first met my friend Andrew Simpson, a very long time ago when we started at Manchester Polytechnic together. You can read his fascinating blog which covers so many different subjects here:


As you can see from the title of his blog, it is mainly about the town of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, in south Manchester but now part of the city, its boundaries long swamped by the metropolis. One of the series of stories I particularly enjoy is his history of the house he lives in now on Beech Road. He first moved in, as I did, when a friend of ours owned it; I’m not sure how long I lived there, two or three or maybe four years, I can’t quite remember now. It’s a wonderful house, a magical house, a large end terrace property built in about 1914 – you will have to read his blog to find the exact dates!

Life moves on, and so did we – I moved to London, then back to Manchester when I stayed with Andrew in another Chorlton house for a couple of months before moving into my own place. Life moves on again, and Andrew was able to buy the Beech Road house – and he lives there still!

Andrew is now a much admired and respected local historian, and has written about Chorlton-cum-Hardy, and Manchester on his blog, and in several books which you can find in your local bookshop if you live in Manchester, or on Amazon if you live anywhere else in the world! One of his series of blogs is about the Beech Road house and its history, charting it’s actual construction by Joe, who continued to live there until his death, to our brief few years there, and now Andrew’s own personal and family history of the lovely old place.


I think these stories which reflect the social and historical situation of Chorlton as well as the personal stories of the inhabitants of the house, would make a great book – a biography of a house! Here is one of Andrew’s stories from a month ago… a mystery!


In my Radwinter stories, the main character Thomas looks into the past too, finding his own family history but also doing genealogical research for other people – and these investigations  are part of the narrative! Thomas’s family has grown somewhat, and it has occurred to me that realistically a modern family of seven could not live in the small house they occupy – yes, I know in the past people with large families lived in very cramped circumstances – and Thomas reflects on this, and I also know that today, many people still live in cramped and overcrowded conditions. However, Thomas and his wife are beginning to think they should move house…

I have a house in mind for them, based on a beautiful house I know in real life (never been in it, just admired it from outside) I think the move will have to take place in another novel – if I write one, but it struck me that Tomas, like my friend Andrew, could write the history of the house – do its genealogy! My imaginary house’s history would be totally fictional, but I would base it on proper research so that it is believable to the reader.

If you are interested in Andrew’s fascinating book about Chorlton, here is a link:


… and he has also written books on Manchester and the Great War, and other illustrated books about the city.

If you haven’t yet read Thomas Radwinter’s stories, or my other novels, here is a link:


Moving house…

No we are not going to be moving house, but someone near and dear to us is. Moving is such a nightmare – not the getting the new place which is so exciting, nor saying goodbye to the old place which is sometimes left with regret, sometimes with relief, sometimes with a mix of the two, but the actual physical packing up of stuff is the nightmare, and moving it out and then in, and then unpacking!

If you are moving somewhere bigger it is not such a problem… if you are moving somewhere smaller it definitely is! But whether it’s bigger, or smaller, the sorting out of everything, throwing away/giving away/recycling/charity shop donating/tip taking to… sorting stuff out, not getting side-tracked by reminiscing/reading a book you forgot you had/looking at old photos/making yet another cup of tea, trying to pack cleverly (I have to admit, brag even, that I am amazing at packing stuff, whether it’s shopping or luggage for holiday, or the boot of the car, I am brilliant!) and not running out of energy, enthusiasm, patience…

I’ve moved many times in my life – the first I can’t really remember, when I was fourteen and the family moved from a two bedroom flat into a three bedroom semi-detached house. The garden was a jungle and I remember that, I remember there was a lot of renovation needing doing, and that my sister and I had our own rooms for the first time. I can barely remember it, to be honest, I know I had wallpaper with Egyptian pictures on it and hieroglyphs… but the move, no, I can’t remember!

Two years later we were on the move again – and this time from the east of the country to the west. I really don’t remember it at all, because I wasn’t there; I was on holiday with cousins for the whole of the summer holiday – maybe to get me out of the way! So when I came home, I came home to a new place, a bungalow on a hill…

The next move for me, though not for the family, was to Manchester to do my degree. I was there for three years, and moved from flat to flat many times – five times I think! of course, then I was mostly moving clothes and bedding, and a few bits and pieces of cookery equipment, books and LPs. Then there were a series of moves round Manchester, mostly in rented accommodation, but then into a flat I was buying and then a move out of the city to Oldham. I only really remember one of those moves… we were moving out of a house, literally round the corner to another house; we’d hired a van to move all the furniture which I was driving… load the van, drive round the corner, unload the van, drive back, reload etc. etc… boy was it exhausting!!

Eventually after another move in Oldham, we moved down here to Somerset… This time it wasn’t me on my own, but with a husband and two small children! I’ve written about it elsewhere, and i do remember it – the moving that is, I don’t remember the packing up or the unpacking! Maybe it is just as well!

So to our dear house-movers, good luck next week, we will do all we can to help!!


Latin and me…

When I went to secondary school, a girls’ grammar school, we had the usual array of subjects – English, French, History, Geography, Science, Maths, PE… At the end of the first year we had to choose a further subject, either German, Spanish, Latin or Domestic Science. I desperately wanted to learn German – I had a book of birds with the names of each bird written in English, Spanish, German and Italian – and hoping it would help me, I learned all the German names… which unfortunately now I have forgotten!

I put my first choice as German, second Spanish, third Latin and said I absolutely and utterly did not want to do Domestic Science. To my great disappointment I was put in the Latin group, the ridiculous reason being I was not good at spelling (untrue) and Latin was easy to spell… and is German not? Is Spanish not? So I was put into Latin.

Our teacher was a dear old soul… when I say old, I actually mean old… she was my aunty’s teacher (who went to the school in 1935, and she was old then! Our teacher was a real dear, but pretty hopeless… in my first term of Latin I got glandular fever and was away from school for six weeks. Glandular wrecked my ambitions as a swimmer, and wrecked any chance I had of succeeding at Latin.

Over the next few years I worked harder at Latin than any other subject – and I was a very studious and hard-working school girl! However I could make no sense at all of it, I was totally baffled, and my exam results showed it… 11%, and then 8%… My mum, who was extremely shy and quite nervous, even came into school to ask if I could give it up… but no, no I could not – and when it came to the time to give up a subject, I was forced to give up science (even though my dad was a scientist and would and could have helped me)

I struggled on; then eighteen months before we were due to take our public exams our sweet but useless teacher left, and a new teacher came. She was young, she was amazing, she was very strict, she came from New Zealand… Her name was Mrs Stanton – although with her accent we heard it as Mrs Stenton who taught us Letin.

She was a fantastic teacher… suddenly I grasped it! Suddenly I understood! My results improved – to 38% then to a magnificent 56%! I’d worked so hard! I’d made so much effort! Mrs Stanton had gone above and beyond to help me!

I took the ‘mock’ exam… not brilliant, but I would pass!! The headmistress, the vile old cow (sorry, but she was) told me she was not going to enter me for the exam… Once again my mum went to see her – and no doubt was treated with disdain… I was not allowed to take Latin.

Two years later when I was thinking about going to University to study English which I was so passionate about… guess what… in those days you had to have Latin to be accepted! I didn’t even get an interview at any of the thirteen universities I was able to apply to, let alone the offer of a place. When my results came out, I did not even get through clearing (when Universities match up available places with people needing them)

Somehow or another, and I didn’t know then and don’t know now, the new Manchester Polytechnic came across me and I was offered a place there. In actual fact, it was the best possible result for me. An amazing place, stunning lecturers, great course, life-long friends, a city I fell in love with…

It’s funny how things work out – and even though I wouldn’t swap what happened, I still have this utter fury that I was treated as I was by that despicable headmistress… and even more, that I can’t speak German!


In the summertime

The summer of 1970, and I just remember exams finishing, revision over, and we danced in the street in the rain – well, it was Manchester! The song I think of is ‘In the summertime’ by Mungo Jerry… I never once thought or connected it to T.S.Eliot…

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer
were a very notorious couple of cats.
As knockabout clown, quick-change comedians,
tight-rope walkers and acrobats
They had extensive reputation.
They made their home in Victoria Grove–
That was merely their centre of operation,
for they were incurably given to rove.
They were very well know in Cornwall Gardens,
in Launceston Place and in Kensington Square.
They had really a little more reputation
than a couple of cats can very well bear.

If the area window was found ajar
And the basement looked like a field of war,
If a tile or two came loose on the roof,
Which presently ceased to be waterproof,
If the drawers were pulled out from the bedroom chests,
And you couldn’t find one of your winter vests,
Or after supper one of the girls
Suddenly missed her Woolworth pearls:

Then the family would say:  “It’s that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie–or Rumpelteazer!”
And most of the time they left it at that.

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer had a very
unusual gift of the gab.
They were highly efficient cat-burglars as well,
and remarkably smart at smash-and-grab.
They made their home in Victoria Grove.
They had no regular occupation.
They were plausible fellows, and liked to
engage a friendly policeman in conversation.

When the family assembled for Sunday dinner,
With their minds made up that they wouldn’t get thinner
On Argentine joint, potatoes and greens,
And the cook would appear from behind the scenes
And say in a voice that was broken with sorrow:
“I’m afraid you must wait and have dinner tomorrow!
For the joint has gone from the oven-like that!”
Then the family would say:  “It’s that horrible cat!
It was Mungojerrie–or Rumpelteazer!”
And most of the time they left it at that.

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer
had a wonderful way of working together.
And some of the time you would say it was luck,
and some of the time you would say it was weather.
They would go through the house like a hurricane,
and no sober person could take his oath
Was it Mungojerrie–or Rumpelteazer?
or could you have sworn that it mightn’t be both?

And when you heard a dining-room smash
Or up from the pantry there came a loud crash
Or down from the library came a loud ping
From a vase which was commonly said to be Ming–
Then the family would say:  “Now which was which cat?
It was Mungojerrie! AND Rumpelteazer!”
And there’s nothing at all to be done about that!



Many years ago I left home to move to Manchester to study for a degree, I moved to a city where I knew no-one and had only visited briefly twice before – once for a weekend A-level studies, once for an interview at Manchester Polytechnic.

It took me no time at all to fall in love with the city, and I started my life there, and stayed for over thirty years. Circumstances took me away, but I still visit as often as I can, visiting dear friends, but visiting the dear city too.

I was horrified and saddened by the news late last night, of the cowardly and despicable attack on children and the parents who might have been with them. There are no words really to describe the immorality and depravity of the individual who carried it out – looking round him at those innocent young people as he detonated his weapon – yes, a suicide vest is a weapon.

As a mother my heart goes out to the victims, and those whose lives have been changed forever. A senseless and meaningless act, because it will not achieve whatever its warped ambition was…

Manchester has seen much horror of a similar kind over the years, other ‘events’ have murdered the innocent, but only made the city and its people, old and young, stronger and more united. This pathetic act will have the opposite result of what was intended.

The victims will be remembered and be the heroes.