Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Carpenters

This Carpenters CD is one I love and play a lot. I loved their music in the seventies and I still love it just as much today. Eat your heart out Pop Idols, you’ll never be as good as this.

I find it hard to pick my favourite record from the Carpenters. Yesterday Once More, Rainy Days and Mondays and Superstar are all wonderful.

However, if I had to pick one, I think this would be it, I Need to Be In Love. It just makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The arrangement is superb, the lyrics are sheer poetry and the voice is exquisite. Just wonderful!
Here is a live version of the song and unlike many singers, Karen Carpenter was superb live. The musical arrangement on the CD is a lot better than this version but it’s just great to see them again here. She was lovely.
Sadly the lyrics just about summed up Karen Carpenter's situation. Take a look at her wry smile at the end if the video.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Only the Shoplifters Wear Coats!

About ten years ago, or maybe even longer, I noticed a strange phenomenon one day whilst travelling on the bus. It was the middle of winter, in fact, I remember there was a blizzard. A young chap got onto the bus wearing one of those short sleeved polyester football shirts, a Sunderland FC one in this case but he wasn’t wearing a coat. He must be just going to someone’s house I thought but no, he got off at the football stadium and was obviously going to the match as it was a Saturday lunchtime. In case you're wondering exactly what he was wearing you can take a look at it here. Well this is the latest retro shirt.

Now I used to go to the matches in Sunderland in my youth but I remember being absolutely frozen even though I was well wrapped up with hat, scarf, thick winter coat, gloves and boots. The lad was going to get hypothermia if he wasn’t careful. I wondered whether he had learning difficulties or something as it seemed really daft to go out dressed like that.

However as time passed, I saw more and more young people who didn’t wear coats. I realised that most young people in the North East, especially girls just don’t wear coats or jackets if they are going out somewhere and it doesn't matter what the weather is.

You see them walking the streets winter and summer, rain, hail or shine with no coats, just strappy summer tops and mini skirts, the girls that is. They line up for clubs and pubs, skimpily clad in only their “glad rags” which are totally inappropriate for the frigid Northeast elements. I asked my daughter why they don’t wear coats and she said “Well where would you put your coat”? Mmmm carry them when you get in to a pub or restaurant maybe? No! Apparently you’d look a right prat carrying a coat!

I checked out whether it happens in other countries and apparently lots of youngsters in the USA don’t like to wear coats either. However it’s mainly because they go to school in the car or bus and are only outside for a short while. They do wear light jackets and hoodies apparently. Well they don’t seem to do that here. I see them walking to school in the pouring rain most are just wearing thin cotton shirts. Some have lightweight school blazers but most don’t wear jumpers. They must sit in soaking wet clothes all day. As far as I can tell it doesn’t seem to happen in other parts of the country, just here for some reason.

A few years ago the BBC TV drama series 55 Degrees North told the story of a police detective, Nicky Cole who was relocated from London to Newcastle after blowing the whistle on police corruption. (It was a great series and a pity they didn't continue it.) He found adjusting to life in the North a bit difficult and I found one of his comments about local people and the lack of outer clothing most memorable,

“Only the shoplifters in Newcastle wear coats!”

Well, is there a possible genetic reason for this bravery or is it simply because they like to show off their finery on a night out? Well now scientists want to discover if Geordies feel the cold or have extra thick skin to cope with low temperatures. A survey is to be carried out by staff at the Centre of Life in Newcastle to see how they are able to wear so little.

The online questions include:

'What would persuade you to wear a coat on a night out?'

(The likely answer to that is Nowt!)

The investigation is part of the Newcastle ScienceFest, which will feature a 10-day programme of events to celebrate creativity and innovation. Have to say I don’t believe this for one minute. I think it’s a generation thing. You never see people over forty without winter coats!

Also given that young people seem to drink quite a lot on nights out, maybe that’s why they don’t feel the cold.

For more information check out the BBC website

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Skywatch Friday - 3 April 2009

Crook Hall Gardens
This is a lovely peaceful place to visit right in the heart of Durham City. Hard to believe it's just a few minutes walk from the Market Place. I worked in Durham for years and didn't know it existed. If you like English country gardens this is just up your street!

Crook Hall is a Grade 1 listed Medieval Manor House. It has a 13th Century banqueting hall, and a 17th Century Jacobean room. Not large but very charming. It is supposedly haunted by the ghost of the White Lady. You are advised to avoid the Jacobean Room if you are sensitive to ghosts. I mustn't be as I didn't sense anything. It was rather cold in there on one of the hottest days of the year, but old stone buildings were designed to be cool in summer and warm in winter.
13th Century Banqueting Room

Children can leave messages for the White Lady and there were lots there! When we visited there were lots of pieces of art there, stained glass balloons and kites, butterflies in a net, ceramics and a strange metal object like a bottle in the centre of the maze!
There were lots of things for children to look for such as gnomes and bear heads and a maze to get lost in. Not for too long though as it is quite low.
Alan Titchmarsh described it as "A tapestry of colourful blooms" and it certainly is. You can wander through different gardens such as the Secret Walled Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, the Cathedral Garden and the Silver and White Garden.

Cathedral Garden

The Moat Pool is very tranquil, hard to drag yourself away from it. There are lots of little tables and chairs around the various gardens if you just fancy relaxing, taking in the wonderful scents and the peace of the place.
Moat Pool

If the weather is fine you can enjoy a cream tea out in the gardens and if it's not, just go into the Georgian Dining Room.
The "delightful views of Durham Cathedral" from the gardens were unfortunately spoilt by a huge crane, but luckily just a temporary thing! It's an absolute gem of a place if you like gardens and it's as the leaflet describes, "an oasis of peace in the heart of Durham City".

There are various events going on throughout the season and although it's open mainly from late May to early September there are other activities going on at Bank Holiday times, Halloween and Christmas. For more detailed information about the gardens, opening times, directions, parking, prices and special events
check out the website

Crook Hall Gardens
Frankland Lane
0191 384 8028

Like to join Skywatch Friday? Just go to the Skywatch website and post your pictures. It's easy and we'd like to see them.

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...