There are some things in life that make you feel very ‘English’ – fish and chips, cream teas, supporting the underdog, losing penalty shoot outs, apologising and of course queuing!
We are known across the world for our truly amazing queuing skills on all occasions (mostly in cars on the roads into Manchester city centre!) and how many times do you say ‘sorry’ in a day. No one says sorry as much as the English do – why is that? Sorry you’ve just stood on my toe! Sorry you closed the door on my hand!
So, it should really have been no surprise on a June Saturday night, as we made our way to Old Trafford stadium to watch the fantastic Billy Joel (69 and still rocking despite a double hip replacement!) to see these English traits in action!
We politely walked from the city centre in a nice orderly moving queue and then turned onto one of the side streets approaching the ground to be met by a sea of people – mostly standing in a huge queue. What were they queuing for? Did anybody know? We asked a few people who answered that they ‘had just joined it’. What should we do? Amongst the sea of people stood a smallish member of the stadium team with a loudspeaker barking instructions that no one could hear whilst thousands of people politely stood and queued!
Feeling a bit rebellious we made our way down the middle of the very congested street (I can’t lie the number of ‘queue jumper’ looks aimed towards us was very unsettling!) We reached the front and had no idea what to do or where to go! Cue much-needed police take over (is that really their job?) and at last some order appeared as they began to direct people into more queues! We went as one giant snake back out of the stadium grounds, round the outskirts and then back in.
Join the queue to pass through the turnstiles, queue to find your seats and I am not even going to comment on the length of the queue for the lady’s toilets. Make new friends in the queue, find people from your hometown who (on the advice of the stadium) have parked in the worst place and will be queueing again in a few hours (don’t mention that though.)! And all the time stand politely, smile often, talk to strangers and don’t forget to apologise at every opportunity!
Are we sorry we went? Definitely not! Two and a half hours of favourite songs, band led jamming, Nessun Dorma(?!) and even some Glory, Glory Man Utd! The promised rain and thunderstorms never showed up and as the sun set the stadium was every photographers dream. Thank goodness for the trusty Huawei P20.
Standing ovation, encore, rousing finish, then off we go to stand politely and queue again!
Trees, forests, woodland we both love them. Wonderful places to walk and photograph. Settings for many of our favourite horror films – we probably watch too many of those - we were all completely freaked out recently by a long grey jacket hanging on a tree in the middle of a forest! Wildlife everywhere you look – well at least until you get your camera out! And don’t forget to look up the view through the tops of the trees is breathtaking.
I suppose by the time you reach our age thoughts turn to where you want to live in retirement. We both have major split personalities and can never decide whether we want bright lights, big city or lakes, mountains and trees, lots of trees. In an ideal world when my Nan’s ‘ship’ eventually comes in (its been a long time coming…) how wonderful would it be to have both? That’s not going to happen for us unless we’re in a shepherds hut and a tent!
I read last year that Manchester city centre housebuilders are trying to attract the more mature house buyers into city centre apartments – what a wonderful idea. But hang on this article was talking about the over 35’s! Guess that makes us geriatrics, but even when we have our zimmer frames and struggle to remember the way home we would still love city life. How could you not? Museums, art galleries, restaurants, events happening all the time, walk to work and restaurants – did I say restaurants? New ones every week to try – make sure you’re quick as some don’t last too long!
So we watch the new city centre housing developments with interest not sure whether to take the leap and move to the city and then we go on holiday…
Now as all our holidays seem to end up being in the highlands of Scotland (we do look elsewhere!) every time we find ourselves back in the middle of a forest with walks to a loch and mountains to climb all thoughts of citylife disappear and we start house hunting there!
Maybe I’m a product of Little House on the Prairie (could you watch any episode without crying?). A log cabin in the forest with its own loch and mountains behind how wonderful would that be. Log cabins must surely be easy to build – I remember 7 Brides for 7 Brothers - they built theirs between dances in about 10 minutes!
Who wouldn’t love life in the forest? Peace and quiet, wildlife at your doorstep, long walks taking you to magical places, picnics by the lochs and amazing sunsets from the top of mountains. So we look in the estate agent’s windows, weigh up house prices and jobs and then we go home and go back into the city…
How do you make your dream home become a reality when you don’t even know what your dream home or more particularly the location is! I suppose - we could always sell up and travel the world in a camper van….
You might be thinking here that I am completely uncultured but how wrong you would be! Art to me is big. I love a big installation the quirkier the better. Maybe I’m a product of watching too much Art Attack when the kids were younger – do you remember the amazing massive designs Neil Buchanan used to create – visible only from the air! Go check YouTube if you haven’t!
As a family (always drag everyone else along with you!) we were fascinated by Cornelia Parker’s amazing exploding shed ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, gazed in awe at the intricate paper cut sculptures in the First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and still can’t quite believe that we spent such a long time looking at a giant crack in the floor ‘Shibboleth’ at the Tate in London (it really was just a completely fascinating crack in the floor!).
The growth in giant art outdoor installations across the country has led us to extend our journeys many a time calling at random towns and roads just to see one! The Angel of the North standing proudly near Gateshead, the Kelpies close to Falkirk in Scotland and their sister sculpture "Arria”, Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ 100 cast iron figures (allegedly all of him and very naked!) spread out across Crosby Beach - these should all be on your must see list. We even manage to have our own slightly smaller sculpture in Wigan Town Centre - The Face of Wigan, representing all the inhabitants of Wigan.
Art should be whatever gives you pleasure to look at whether that’s an ageing oil painting, an unmade bed (?!) or giant metal horse heads. Photos hanging in a gallery, children’s paintings on your wall and yes, I definitely think Instagram. An art gallery you can view from anywhere in the world at any time - at times inspirational and emotive - check out our account @mwgu50 and have a look at some of our amazing followers.
Holidays - maybe they are not the most important thing in your life but for us the need to escape and recharge is something we cannot manage without. Equally at home in the big cities or out in the wilderness. We don’t really do exotic and despite extensively researching different countries, towns and cities every year we seem to have developed a tendency to just drift back to Scotland – well specifically the highlands of Scotland.
It’s hard to see my childhood holidays as anything other than a vintage postcard (not the saucy ones!) caravans, seasides, you and your sister in matching clothes, picnics in the car after a ‘drive’ (who does that anymore!), Grandad leaving his false teeth everywhere, Nanny and her crochet bag who despite the heat always produced a new blanket for someone! We holidayed across the country finding special places on the Isle of Wight and Lake District, Wales, Devon and Norfolk – once we even ventured as far as Dumfries! Almost every holiday was self-catered which (unless my memory is beginning to fail) was a cheap and cheerful way to get away and have some fun. Caravans and chalets (not as exciting as they sound and definitely nothing remotely like a swiss one!) and eventually progressing to country cottages!
Somewhere during the past ten years self-catering holidays changed. Hot tubs began to appear, luxurious accommodation, chefs to cook in your cottage and a gradual climb in the cost. Like a large amount of the country we are tied to school holidays (job not children) so any potential break we decide to do always involves the most expensive prices of the whole year. 6 people (and the dog) appears to give you an average price of £2000 for a week in the summer and whilst researching Cornwall last year we were quoted £7500 for one property! Prices for a summer break on the Isle of Scilly would definitely make your bank manager (probably a robot now) faint! Needless to say, we didn’t take up any of those options but for those prices to be quoted presumably someone is paying them.
It’s almost become cheaper to stay in a hotel now with food, but for us (and probably many others) we like the relaxation of a self-catered holiday. Free to eat when and where we want and (boringly) even be able to wash and iron during your stay. There is nothing nicer than a suitcase of clean clothes ready to hang when you reach home! We look (after price) for somewhere to sleep all 6 of us and the dog (we never know who is coming!), at least two bathrooms, somewhere we can eat outside (providing it doesn’t rain all week!) comfy beds and most importantly – location.
Thankfully, if you look hard enough you can get all of these things without breaking the bank. Our most recent choice proved to be one of the most perfect self-catering accommodations we had ever stayed in and for a very reasonable school holiday price.
Handpicked Lodges' ‘Riverside Lodge’ should really have given us a clue as to what we could expect, and we fell in love with the house and its location the minute we walked through the door. Patio doors on every bedroom and a living area looking out over a fast-flowing river. Comfy beds, red squirrels running around outside, a firepit next to the river, Netflix (bring your own log in!), birds to photograph, leather couches, a forest on your doorstep and so many little extras (loved the local beers and famous Scottish delicacy the Tunnock Wafer!) and it even had a washing/drying/ironing room!
Thanks to a week of sunshine and heat, meals on the patio every night and wildlife by the bucket load it was a memorable holiday and thankfully midge-free. Time to start thinking of our next trip – where shall we go? Scotland again? Why not….
Life and other