Friday, September 15, 2017

Mum. Feisty, determined and courageous.x

Back in 2014 when we were living in UK we had a bad few months.

On June 5th 2014 dad died sat in his armchair in the front room, while mum had a snooze in the bedroom. It was just 14 weeks and 4 days later that Chris called me and Buffy, while we were in Barcelona on holiday to tell us that mum too had now died. It was September 15th. Just 3 years ago but if feels so long ago now - But also it feels like yesterday. 
We said it then, have said it many times since and I will repeat the exact same thing now: -
Mum died of a broken heart.
Mum and dad 'Courting'.

She missed dad and never really managed to cope without him. I wrote a little about dad earlier this year and promised I would do the same for mum around the anniversary of her death. This is it.
There are lots of words to describe our mum but the one I like most is feisty. The dictionary describes this word as ‘a person, (typically one who is relatively small or weak) but lively, determined, and courageous). I don’t think I would pick a better description of our old mum. Definitely small, appearing to be weak, she was definitely determined, courageous and extremely lively. We were never surprised when our 4ft 10inch mum would do something like grabbing one of us by the head and dragging us upstairs to dunk a head in the bath where dad would be relaxing because we had done something she didn’t like. This actually happened to one of the three of us when we were pretty much grown up adults. 

When Gareth joined the army

On Holiday in Southport maybe?


Mum was ace though and wouldn’t take shit from anyone, especially us kids.
When mum and dad met all those years ago, she apparently didn’t get on too well with nan. Apparently, she may have had a ‘reputation’ as a youngster, but I suspect it’s just because everyone who knew her, knew not to mess with her. Mum and nan loved each other though and mum used to go to Bingo every Thursday with nan for years when we were growing up. Often coming home with boxes of crisps bought from the ladies who ran snack stall in the church hall. 
How hen nights have changed!

On Dorothy and Roberts farm in the Lake District with Gareth 

I have no idea why - but definitely in Southport

I think us boys got a lot of our independence from our mum. When we were kids and a lot of our friends would come home to their parents, our mum would work at our school. Both as a cleaner and as a dinner lady. So as quite small kids no older than 7 or 8, we would go around the corner to home for our dinner, while mum was working at the school. We would end up cooking and cleaning up after ourselves with no one else around to help whilst mum served dinner to our class mates.
Snoozing one afternoon on holiday in our awesome old caravan

Working those boots!

The one thing we didn’t get from our mum was driving skills. A story we heard often was when she was learning to drive how she drove through a flock of sheep somehow avoiding all of them, but never drove again until she got her trolley after dad died and proceeded to drive it through the garage wall.She did this with a huge smile on her face as she said dad would have killed her for doing so!!

With Dorothy and Robert - friends for so many years.

Our old kitchen in Moss Vale Road

On the beach, probably near Skeg, with Nan and one of us kids

Mum also spent a long summer looking after us when dad was ill with meningitis. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to have dad lying ill upstairs in bed for months, while keeping us kids occupied, fed and happy. To be honest we never suffered when dad was ill and nothing really changed for us, but in days when food delivery wasn’t a thing, she continued to work, shop, look after us and dad all at the same time. She must have been knackered, but it never really showed.
The first day that mum and dad spent with Buffmeister

Mum asked if I would marry Buffy. I said yeah. They would both be so happy for all us 3 kids with our great wives (I include Emma in that - I cant wait till the wedding!)

After Gareth and then I left home to join the army and Chris settled down in Manchester, mum and dad moved back to Skegness – where they felt really at home. They both loved their bungalow and with mums’ supervision and dads DIY skills, they got the conservatory built the garden sorted and the house decorated. Mum would have watched as dad did a lot of the work, but she was always there with a cup of tea, sandwiches and maybe a biscuit or two when he needed it.
I'm so happy I can talk to Jon and Susan about mum and dad. They got on really well.

Mum also liked to talk. She had a lot of old friends in town, who she could go ages without seeing and would pass them by in town before grabbing them and gossiping for ages about anything that came to mind. I do know from a lot of people who I spoke with after she died that she was incredibly proud of all 3 of us kids and would talk constantly about whatever any of us were doing.

She was also one for what I will call ‘undefined exaggeration.’ This is when one of us kids would tell her a story – let’s say I was going to visit a friend a few miles away from Manchester. Somehow, this would end up in a story where I would be living in London for a month or flying a plane to Italy. I have no idea how sometimes we would tell her one story and we would hear back something completely different from a friend or family member a few days later. She did love to chat though and would always keep up to date with Robert and Dorothy at the farm who they were friends with for probably over 30 years as well as Aunty Brenda or Tony and Joyce, one of her best and oldest friends who also lived in Skegness with Tony for a while. Mum and dad would drive a couple of hours every now and then just to meet up with Tony and Joyce and have a chat over a cup of tea and a sandwich. Real friends who we all love.
Mums flight in a Helicopter - over Manchester a week before she died

This was such a happy day - we did so much and had a great time. 

After dad died, mum was visibly broken. She, put on a brave face though and the day after dad died,  we went to visit Tony and Joyce and mum had a lovely time playing with one of their grand kids. We spent a lot of time with mum over the next 14 weeks. Sometimes visiting her in Skegness for the weekend and at others bringing her back to Manchester where she would come for a beer in the pub or watch TV with us at home. She would disappear for the day in her ‘trolley’, which she drove round like a mad woman to visit old friends and to see Brenda at home. There were times when mum seemed great – especially when she had Taz the dog stay with her for a week. But there were times too when we would catch her wiping a tear from her eye or just laying down for a sleep in the middle of the day.
A photo from their wedding

Cutting a cake with Dot and Robert who they shared an anniversary with

When mum and dad came to visit me in Northern Ireland for a week

She had a huge amount of help from friends and neighbours who would stop by every day to chat, see if she needed anything and just generally check to see if she was OK, but mum being mum would say everything was fine even if it wasn’t. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hello and make sure she was OK.
Another early holiday picture - Filey maybe?

Look at that hair! This is at Nans flat in Old Trafford. Early 70's

I do genuinely think there were a few times when she could get dads death out of her mind and she had some fun. I remember her eating cockles on the seafront in Skeg, laughing that dad would never let her have any. She also enjoyed a great night out eating chocolate curry at a local Indian restaurant with me and Buffy.
Mums cockles

With Buffy having a chocolate curry

Unfortunately, no matter what we did to help, mum would never get over losing dad. They were together over 50 years and no matter what life threw at them they remained solid and devoted to each other and to us kids. I know there were times when they argued but that was because they cared so much about us and each other.
At home  - how many pictures is that caravan in!!

After dad died she tried to continue to be solid and stable, but we all knew she was suffering. The end came just 102 days after dad died and brought an end to her suffering. In one way, it seems that it was the best thing that could happen. She had been quite ill for a while and didn’t like having to carry an oxygen tank. So when she passed away it was a relief in some ways that no she was no longer in pain and no longer finding it hard to breathe.

On the beach

After she died we all gathered again in Skegness to say goodbye. It was a sad occasion but one where she was talked about fondly and with utmost respect. She was a tiny woman, but with a huge heart and presence. No one who has ever met her will forget her complete open honesty, her sly wit, her inner strength or the stories she would tell.
Courting days again - A drink with Aunty Eleanor

Its 3 years now since she died and I can honestly say that I still think about mum and dad all the time. I am extremely proud to call them my parents and of who they allowed me, Gareth and Chris to be. I know they are proud of us and our choices. They loved all 3 of us boys and Tracey, Emma and Buffy too. They would do anything for us or anyone they knew and I know as we continue through life we will always remember them and try to live up to their expectations.

Mum and dad. We will always miss you.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bacon week and a legend returns from the dead...

Bacon is good.
People like bacon.
Pigs may be good as pets, but are better as food.
Dogs also like pigs.
They eat the ears.

So, someone somewhere has the job of preparing the pig to become bacon. I don't know what that person actually does, but I imagine it consists of talking to the pig and explaining how tasty bacon is. Then telling the pig how special he will become in the lives of so many humans, who will spend the early part of one morning, preparing the tasty, salty, crispy meat of piggy, to be eaten on a sandwich or with eggs - maybe even as an addition to a delicious burger. Or as we saw this weekend - bacon served stood up in the glass of a spicy alcoholic drink. Weird, but that's what happens on bacon night in Manitoba.

Outside the game!

Also, someone else or maybe the same person who prepares the bacon must have the job or preparing the pigs ears for dogs to eat. I don't want to know how this happens - whether there is a special technique to remove a pigs ears, or if, by some strange phenomenon, the pigs ears fall off as soon as someone says 'Bacon, bacon, bacon', out loud in view of a fully grown pig. Who knows?

BACON IS GOOD!!!!   🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷

Anyway, Bacon Night? What the hell is it? Its actually a really good night out at the local Baseball team - The Winnipeg Goldeyes. Bacon night is when the Goldeyes are sponsored by the evening by Manitoba Pork. Everything is pork or pig related - The Goldeyes wear bacon coloured shirts, there are special pork sandwiches available to eat. Small pigs are given away to the crowd (there is actual video of this) and some drinks come with a strip of bacon standing up in the glass - yep Winnipeg is strange sometimes.

Goldie the Goldeyes mascot- a bit of a tart chatting up the girls!


We had a great night out - The Goldeyes won 5-2 in the end and we we treated to lots of entertainment, free gifts, good food, cheap drinks and as is commonly stated on the radio adverts for the Goldeyes, it is Winnipeg's best patio - with just about 5000 people enjoying a lovely summers evening a few drinks and a good game of baseball.
Great view from the posh seats

Piggy 🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷

Buff has half a head...

Now, baseball isn't one of those sports where you have to watch every single second, so there is plenty of time to chat to the people around you, but you dont tend to move much - so halfway through the evening, the game stops and a keep fit video plays on the big screen encouraging everyone, including the players, to stand up and stretch, twist and basically stop being a lazy bugar. Its all a bit weird and most people did it with a beer in at least one hand still - but it was fun.

At the conclusion of the game, we noticed that the game ended when the Goldeyes  struck out the 2nd batsman in the final innings. However, no one seemed to notice that there should have been another set of pitches to come. 🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷We spoke to lots of people to see if there was some kind of weird rule, that means in the 9th innings there only has to be 2 batsman given out, but no one seemed to know or care - so I emailed The Goldeyes themselves. They replied within 20 minutes telling me that the scoreboard operator had made a mistake and there was actually 2 batsman already out. But it was funny that nobody seemed to give a shit!

By Friday, it had already been a good week - We had one of our favourite nights out earlier in the week - We both love to go to the theatre and see a good show - So as soon as Phantom of the Opera was advertised as coming to Winnipeg, we got ourselves some tickets. I had never seen the show before, so a couple of weeks ago, we watched the movie version so I knew what the story was about before seeing the stage show. I must admit I really enjoyed it - The staging was great with huge sets that hid stairs, rooms and all kinds of surprises inside. The singing was great and the phantom was just creepy enough. 🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷
The Phantom stage

For anyone who doesn't know the story - he basically teaches a young girl to sing and then gets weird when she falls in love with someone else. The phantom then causes all sorts of havoc in the theatre by killing a couple of stage hands ad basically being a bit of a knob. He then gets to almost kill his love rival before the girl gives him a kiss so that he feels real emotion and finally lets them go before escaping from the police himself. Its classed as a love story, but is really a bit fucking weird! i do love the theatre though and really enjoyed a great night out with some ice cream at the interval.
This weekend we had a choice - Baseball on Friday and then a weekend in the city or 36 hours at the lake. The weather didn't look great for Clearwater Bay, so we decided to stay in the city and take advantage. I got to see the United game at the pub with a few mates. Buffy got to mellow out for the afternoon and we also looked after Cuddy and Loa for the day. We taught Cuddy to read and also gave the two dogs a nice treat - a whole pigs ear each to eat! Yum!!
Baby dog eats dead pig 🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷

Snooze after eating pig

Actually he wanted to read a cookbook about pork recipes.


Going back to the United game at the pub - A couple of weeks ago, one of the guys who runs the United supporters club here, had a heart attack. He actually died for 15 minutes before being revived and was then put in a coma to recover. We have all been following his recovery for the last week or two and were really pleased when he started to post comments on Facebook. Then when I went to the pub for the game yesterday - guess who was there - The man himself - Adam! I don't know if he sneaked out of the hospital or was given a day pass, but he was in the pub, in his lounging pants and flip flops, still with cotton wool over the IV lines that had been removed from his arms. I must admit, he looked tired but remarkably well for someone who had a pacemaker fitted less than 24 hours before. Now that is what you call a true United fan. Adam - You are a legend mate!

The one other thing we got to complete this weekend was the back porch. I started to decorate it when Buffy was away at the start of the month, so this weekend we built some new shelves and put in a rod for hanging coats on. We are really happy with it now it doesn't look like a cave that some old tramp has been smoking in for 30 years anymore. Its lovely now, although Buffy did take over the shelves with her hat collection!! haha 

I like it!!
There was even more bacon themed goings on a few days ago. We went out for the evening to meet up with Randy and Krys to chat about their upcoming nuptials. It was decided that we should meet at Brazen Hall - a fairly new pub/eatery on Pembina - a place we hadn't been before. 
We were sitting chatting and decided on a snack, so took a look at the menu and saw - Brazen Bacon. Just that - BACON WITH NOTHING ELSE. It seemed like a good idea so we ordered some and it arrived shortly after in a little tn bucket. 6 slices of well cooked bacon, stood up in a bucket, covered in a a brown sugary sweet sauce with a peppery aftertaste. I am not sure if it was amazing or terrible, but we ate the whole lot in a matter of minutes. 
It was a good end to our couple of weeks where pig related products seemed to be available and digested on every opportunity. Pigs ARE cool. But they also taste great. I wouldn't like the job of pig ear chopper, but bacon taster sounds amazing!!


Friday, August 25, 2017

Bombers, giraffes and the moon hides the sun!

The blog I write (this weird internet page you are currently looking at) has undergone a number of changes over the years. It started out as a kind of journal of my trip to Australia and its continuation around Asia and finally onto USA and Canada. I called it the ‘Extra Long Summer’, because it sounded cool and because it was the journal of an extra-long holiday. I never envisaged that during my travels I would meet a woman of all people, move to Canada to live with her and then go back to bloody work when I finally got settled. 

That just wasn’t supposed to happen. 

If I had thought that would be a possibility I would have called it something like ‘Moving On’, or ‘Growing up’. Two things I don’t think I will ever do properly. Anyway, in the last few months it has been harder and harder to sit down and write ‘The extra-long summer’, because it feels like that was something that happened years ago, and now being back in work, married and doing the normal things that young (Buffy at least) married couples do, there isn’t much travel or going out related stuff to write about.

But, then I realised that most of the people who spend their toilet time reading rubbish like this online, don’t live in Winnipeg or even North America, so maybe just maybe, they will be interested in the normal everyday lives of someone who does, but sees things through weird shaped, Northern English manc eyes. So, I will endeavour to carry on and write a little more often. It won’t be like in the early days where sometimes I posted every day. There may be days and weeks where nothing special happens. But I will try to give you an insight into our everyday lives, plus some of the fun shit we get up to when in and out of work. The extra-long summer lives on.

House, walking places and Bombers.

Work holidays over here are a bit shit. The normal time allowed off work a year is 2 weeks. That’s abysmal, isn’t it? If you work for the same company for several years it can increase to 3 weeks or more, but that’s still pretty dire. Buffy is lucky and gets 3 weeks off compared to my 2, so she decided to take an extra week off alone and travel to BC where she spent a week walking the West Coast Trail – a 75 km, 5-day trail with multiple ladders, river crossings and beaches to sleep on. She loved it and if you want to know more about it, ask her or take a look at her Facebook or Instagram feeds for photos. I stayed in Winnipeg and worked for the week – day and night. Days doing the normal phone thing, but at night I changed into DIY man and spent my hours doing stuff in our little house.

The front after painting

Ugly before

The front and back garden fences all got painted. New house numbers were positioned to replace the old plastic yellow ones I hated. Curtains and a new light were put up in our front porch which now resembles a lovely clean relaxing oasis to sit in and watch the world go by instead of a dingy yellow cave. Another new light was hung inside at the bottom of the stairs and the back porch was stripped bare through the yellow and green paint that was probably there for the last 50 years. It took me hours, half-dressed under the hottest light bulb known to man to scrub and sand the walls and ceiling, before patch painting and then real painting the entire room. It’s now a clean and painted in a light grey colour matching the front porch. In the next few weeks we will fit a sort of shelving and hanger system and finally we will have a back porch to be proud of!

New curtains

A mess

Nearly done

After Buffy, had been away we decided we needed to do some ‘local’ stuff, so last Thursday we got tickets for The Winnipeg Blue Bombers game at Investors Group Field.

The Bombers are the local CFL team – CFL is the Canadian Football League – Basically a very similar team game to American Football. The CFL is the national Championship which plays out between June and November each year. It’s quite a competitive league and the Bombers are definitely on the rise. The game we watched was against the Edmonton Eskimos, who had won all 7 of their games so far this season. Until the Bombers smashed them!!

Pink Lemonade on the way


It started with a walk from Buffy’s mum and dads house where we were staying the night. It was really similar in distance to when we used to walk to Old Trafford when we lived in Manchester, but instead of stopping on the way to grab pie and chips from the chippy, we stopped by a small kids’ lemonade stall and had a couple of glasses of pink lemonade at 25cents a glass. A lovely way to start a great night,

What not to do in the toilets part 1

After the 45-minute walk, we had a wander around the outside of the stadium taking in the 
atmosphere before going inside and finding our seats. I have been to many United games over the 
years and wanted to get in amongst the real fans, so we chose seats in the Fanatic Fan zone. (Their 
version of the Stretford End) and it was awesome. Loads of people turned up in costume – People 
wearing dog head masks, a bloke dressed as Ted, skeletor with gold face mask and even a golden 
boy (one of Winnipeg’s symbols) were there amongst many others.

Feed the snake

Loudest fans  in the league

What not to do in the toilets part 2

                                                                              The fly by!

We were welcomed with open arms by all the locals and became a part of the craziness of building 
beer snakes and hurling abuse at the poor Edmonton players every time they came near. There was 
even some points when the bombers scored and the entire offensive team came over and jumped into 
the crowd right where we were – just proving that we were in the fanatic area! There is also a crazy 
bloke in a plane (yes, a plane) who drives it onto the field to celebrate whenever the Bombers score - 
he tipped it over at one point and bits of it were left lying on the field and had to be cleaned up by 
security. We thought it might get boring with all the advert breaks, but the whole night flew by and 
we loved every minute. There was a great atmosphere, we had a few beers, good food and loved 
being part of the fanatic fans (The official loudest fans in the CFL) made it a great night out -  at 
some points it was a lot louder and more crazy than some days I have spent watching United at Old 
Trafford., so we will definitely be going back sometime soon to see another game.

We may have had a drink

After the excitement of the Bombers we had a lovely weekend trip to the cabin. A couple of beers, 
we sat round and looked through Buffy’s photos of her recent trip to walk the West Coast Trail and 
on the Sunday afternoon me, Buffy Jon and Susan went out on a boat trip with the two dogs Cuddy 
and Loa, to take in some of the sights of Lake of the Woods and eat a picnic on a beautiful little spot 
overlooking the entrance to Cul de Sac lake.

Dogs excited for a picnic!


The final bit of excitement after the weekend occurred on Monday lunchtime. It was a cloudy, rainy 
morning and as the rest of North America seemed to be loving watching the eclipse in a clear blue 
sky, we were told not to bother looking up as there was no chance to see anything. But I did look up 
and it turned out I could see the sun and the moon and the clouds gave it a weird shadowy 
mysterious look. It was well worth the effort looking up!

There it is

Not bad!