Author: Tony

another fine night at The Italian

another fine night at The Italian

Looking back over the years I suppose our default place to get together to celebrate family events – birthdays, anniversary’s, christenings etc is The Italian in Romiley.

Last night was another of those occasions – Richards 30th birthday and so once again we found ourselves at The Italian – and as ever Alex and the team were brilliant.

Taking account of Daniel, Emma and Harry meant Richard had booked us in fairly early on Wednesday evening, the children were excited to see Richard and brought him cards they had made and gifts they had bought.

Pat and I had made sure we were there a little early so as to hand over Ricard’s birthday cake to be presented to hm later on.

It was no surprise at all that the service was good, the food was great and all within a pleasant environment – which added up to another decent evening and yet another family occasion shared at The Italian.

Anyone that knows Richard will know that he can always find a minute (or two) to talk about football – and I’m guessing Alex has been waylaid on more that one occasion to talk football with Richard … after the lights had been dimmed, Happy Birthday sung and the cake cut – Alex presented Richard with a Napoli away shirt – a perfect end to another nice evening.

No doubt we will be back there again to celebrate the next family event and in between times I’m pretty certain that we will be there (perhaps not all together) just to enjoy a really decent bite to eat. Well done and thanks to Alex and the team.

time for a bit of mud …

time for a bit of mud …

It’s not everyday that you make something for your Grandsons 2nd birthday with the express plan that it gets covered in mud – but that’s just what I have ended up doing.

A month or two back my daughter asked me if I could make Harry a ‘mud kitchen’ for his second birthday, I said I would if it was all possible (and of course within my limited skill set), a short while after a picture of a ‘mud kitchen’ was sent to me and I duly accepted the commission in line with my Grandparents job description – which essentially boils down to being able to fix or make anything in the world!

I think the essence of the mud kitchen idea is the clear recognition that it’s pretty good fun to get dirty, in the park, in the garden or wherever and there really is life and fun t be had away from an over reliance on technology, and spending too much time in front of a screen.

A mud kitchen ticks a few boxes, creativity, imagination, interest and … well just getting muddy, dirty and having a bit of fun – quite apart from what ever it does or might do to help build up a healthy immune system.

It turned out not to be difficult at all, some wood, a couple of bowls, some garden shed/fence type paint and a bit of blue gloss paint that I had in the shed – along with a few hours effort in the shed.

Once done my wife and I sourced a few hooks, some kitchen implements and it’s pretty much job done.

Harry isn’t two until next week and given that he has no access to social media I think I’m safe in posting this in advance of his birthday, so we will have a short wait to see just what he makes of it,

I’m hoping that much more than mud pies will be produced – perhaps a range of products that might include: pies, pasties, cakes, sausages – maybe even garnished with grass. Of course it may be that he wants to diversify and turn out a range of garden scented after shaves, balms, perfumes and other delightful offerings.

In any event I hope that Harry along with his his brother Daniel and his sister Emma end up filthy and covered in mud!




great trip to lincoln … part 3

great trip to lincoln … part 3

This is the final part of the Blog post following our trip to Lincoln.  I wrote in Part 1 about the super accommodation we had stayed in close to the cathedral quarter and then in Part 2 about our visits to the Bomber Command Centre and the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, but it was our final day that was probably the highlight of the trip when we drove the few miles from Lincoln to call at RAF Scampton to visit the Heritage Centre.

As RAF Scampton is an operational air base, visits there must be pre-arranged. It’s pretty easy to do that, but demand, availability and the fact that it’s only small groups at any one time mean that if it is the sort of thing that you want to do then you need to make plans in advance – you simply cant just turn up on the day.

RAF Scampton was the home of 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) and if thats a story you have any interest in then this is a mus visit place.

The Heritage Centre is run by volunteers, and our guide was as enthusiastic as he was knowledgeable – there’s a good collection of historical artifacts that lend to the story of the airbase and not surprisingly there is a significant chunk of the visit given over to Guy Gibson and the background, story and aftermath of the Dambuster Raids, we found it truly fascinating and and there was a lot to take in.

During the visit we were able to visit Guy Gibsons office and sit at his desk as well as handle and  touch a whole range of things including the ‘Y’ shaped bomb aimer that was used to establish the correct range for releasing the ‘bouncing bomb’

The airbase is also home to the RAF Aerobatic Team – The Red Arrows, and although not the primary focus of the visit it was neat to see the Hawk aircraft being pushed out ready for practice and then to see four of them training overhead.

The latter part of the visit provided an opportunity that was just too good to miss, and my wife and I both enjoyed the experience of sitting inside one of the Red Arrow Hawk aircraft before a quick walk round a new display that commemorates 100 years of the RAF.

My parents, wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to RAF Scampton (which took the best part of three hours) which really did top off a great few days in Lincoln.

After that it was a longish drive back from Lincoln to Manchester via Cardiff – all in all a cracking short break.

You can see Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


great trip to lincoln … part 2

great trip to lincoln … part 2

I wrote a few words about out recent trip to Lincoln in Part 1, this post continues with a few more words about an excellent second day.

Our first port of call was to the International Bomber Command Centre just a ten minute or so drive from where we staying – it’s a terrific place and has been set up to be  permanent point for recognition, remembrance and reconciliation for Bomber Command.

The visit itself probably takes the best part of two hours with a clear history of Bomber Command provided in a well thought out and pretty engaging exhibition area.

The place itself is visible from a good distance away, due to the monument feature known as The Spire which itself is surrounded by the Wall of Names. The height of The Spire is equal to the wingspan of the wartime Lancaster bomber and apparently is recognised as the UK’s tallest war memorial.  It’s all quite impressive and certainly worth a visit if you are in the area … and there’s also some fine cake and decent coffee to be had in the on site cafe!

After that we called down to the Brayford Waterfront area. On warmer day I suspect it would have pretty nice to have sat out there – but to be honest despite the forecast of better weather it hadnt materialised and it was actually pretty chill. Because of that we didn’t hang around there too long, but took a walk into the city centre and had an alcoholic refreshment before heading off to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life – which turned out to be brilliant.

The Museum of Lincolnshire LIfe is more than worth calling into and we thought it was something of a find. There is no cost for entry but donations are welcome. There really is a lot to see and so much to trigger memories of yesteryear – it basically is home to a vast collection of around 250,000 objects that really do paint a vivid picture of the social history of previous generations.

Our second day in Lincoln really was more than decent – but the absolute highlight of our visit was  yet to come when we visited RAF Scampton the home of The Dambusters – which I will write apart in the third and final part of this Blog post.

To read Part Three – click here

great trip to lincoln … part 1

great trip to lincoln … part 1

We were away for a few days last week with my parents in Lincoln.  We stayed in Newport on the Sunday evening so as to make for a short journey to Cardiff first thing Monday morning, and decided to book into the Hampton by Hilton hotel just a few miles off the M4 motorway.

It’s not a chain that we had used before but based on our first experience there we will certainly use them again for this type of stop. Decent accommodation, decent breakfast, good parking and extremely good value – and in our opinion compared more than favorably with Premier Inns and Travel Lodge accommodation.

After picking up my parents – Monday saw us drive around 200 miles to Lincoln, broken only by a decent stop at Butlers Coffee House located in a Grade II-listed former butcher’s shop in Bingham (Nottinghamshire) and about 30 miles of so from the accommodation we had rented at No 24 Church Lane,

Our accommodation was perfectly located very – close to the Cathedral Quarter and really is the proverbial stones throw from the cathedral and castle.  The hosts Dan and Rosie just couldn’t have been more helpful from booking through to arrival. The accommodation is ideal for four people, superbly fitted out and full of lovely touches – the sort that make all the difference and make for a very pleasant and comfortable stay.

In fact I would go so far as to say that if you’re planing on visiting and staying over in Lincoln this place should be high on your list when checking availability – I’d be surprised if my wife and I don’t stay there again at some point in the future.

Monday afternoon saw us head off for a walk towards the very pretty Bailgate and Steep Hill area for a wander and browse around the place before we took refreshments in the Magna Carta public house.

Once suitably refreshed we continued to wander and headed into the simply magnificent cathedral – which by any measure is a must see place if visiting Lincoln.

Building work on the cathedral started in 1088 and for a period of 238 years (between 1311 and 1549) it was actually the tallest building in the world. It’s an impressive and inspiring place and we really enjoyed our visit there, in fact the Victorian writer John Ruskin once said of it:  “I have always held… that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have.”

After that it was a bite to eat in a local pub before heading back to our accommodation where my Mum and Dad cut the anniversary cake that my wife had made and we shared a bottle of Prosseco.

You can read more in Part Two by clicking here

You can read more in Part Three by clicking here

refresh the bench …

refresh the bench …

Almost three years ago my daughters neighbours gave her an old garden bench for the children. The bench was passed onto me for a bit of restoration work and you can read about that here.

The passage of time meant that almost three years on it was time for a refresh and a couple of months back the bench ended up in my garden shed waiting to be done.

With Spring around the corner I set to it the other week and yesterday the bench was returned, good to go for anther couple of years … although the pig is a little more pink than last time round!

another capital day out …

another capital day out …

Pat and I were in London again a few days ago and I think it was the third time we have taken advantage of the cheap travel from Virgin Rail. Last time we were there was back in October so it seemed that a reasonable amount of time had passed since we were last there .

We had no specific plan for our day but set off first for Carnaby Street, then towards Piccadilly Circus, down the Mall and onto Trafalgar Square (mainly to see the new item on the Fourth Plinth).

We were blessed with fine weather and a real feel of an early Spring day, which was an added bonus for the numerous street artists and entertainers.

Later we headed to the Covent Garden area for a drink and once refreshed we headed out to Greenwich – the 02 Arena and the Emirates Cable Car. Before heading back on the Docklands Light Railway.

Next up was a visit to The Barbican and The British Library before rounding our day off with a bite to eat in O’Neills down between Euston and St Pancrass – then a late train home and in bed by midnight.

All in all another decent day out.



down to the woods …

down to the woods …

Daniel, Emma and I made an early start yesterday morning to wander down to the woods, we ended up walking the best part of three and a half miles which was more than enough for the pair of them.

Whilst we off doing that Pat took Harry for a wander as well and then later and after lunch we ‘painted’ a few hard boiled eggs, which stretched my creativity to breaking point.

Daniel insisted on bringing along a whistle … to warn us when we were being chased by wolves … which seemed to be most of the time.

In addition to escaping from wolves we checked under the small bridges for Trolls, ran from Crocodiles (who swim in the River Tame of all places) and generally were on our guard for all sorts of threats from the wildlife. When I decided to up the game and suggested we might have to watch out for Lions, Daniel put in me in my place by telling me they were only in the grasslands and not here!

Only one of us slipped, cut their hand, and bruised their knee and went tumbling back down the muddy hill (mountain) that we had clambered up and it wasn’t Daniel or Emma!

All in all we had a fine walk

The egg painting was basic but fun …

local museum visit …

local museum visit …

Yesterday we nipped down to the Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI) in central Manchester.

Although we have been to the museum a few times before, it’s always worth a visit, the prompt for yesterdays trip was the temporary display of the Soyuz capsule that Major Tim Peake returned to earth in, on the 18 June 2016 following his six months in the International Space Station.

In addition to the capsule the emergency space suit that he wore was also on display.

Although there isn’t a great deal to the actual Soysuz capsule display and related bits and pieces, it is worth seeing in my opinion. I was struck by just how small it was – and even though the whole event was well documented on television and there are hours of footage available on the web, there’s nothing quite like seeing something for real to get an appreciation of it.  There’s a video guide to the capsule at this link

After seeing the capsule we made our way across to the permanent displays in the  Power Hall and wandered around looking at the various engines,  ranging from those that were powered by water and steam to some of the huge railway locomotives on display that were made in Manchester and that were used in Pakistan and South Africa.

Of course with the age of the children then the time we spent and the level at which we looked at things was appropriate to them, but if you’re there as an adult it would be easy to while away a good half day.

After the Power Hall we wandered across the road to the Air & Space Hall, stopped for a bite to eat, before visiting the hands on Experiment section and then finally finsihing off with a drink in the cafe/bistro.

All in all another decent visit – although there was plenty more to see that we didn’t get round to and that will wait for another time.






a few days in belgium …

a few days in belgium …

A brief write up and a bucket load of pictures from when Pat and I took a short break the week before last in Belgium. We went via the very decent and very easy eurotunnel crossing, which always make for a rapid and straightforward transit to mainland Europe, and if you’re only headed for northern France or Belgium it’s maybe the most hassle free way to go.

Our early start for Folkestone meant we missed the mind numbing traffic delays that the route south is often prone to when you either get the timing wrong or you just get unlucky.

Our crossing was routine and we were headed for Ypres pretty much on schedule.

We drove straight to our apartment checked in and were out for a wander pretty much within 20 minutes of getting there. We stayed just a two minute walk from the Menin Gate – which has its own special place in wartime history.

Ypres itself seemed to be a fairly small and compact place, and a very pretty one as well, with a decent selection of bars and enough variety of places to eat that probably cater for most tastes.

If visiting,  I would say its well worth spending some time to take in the terrific In Flanders Fields museum which is dedicated to the study of the First World War.

The museum itself is in  Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) on the market square in the city centre.  It really is first class and it’s also worth going to top if the belfry whilst your there.

We also took in the moving Last Post ceremony on both nights we were there (it takes place at 8pm, and has done every night since 1928). It’s a quite fitting tribute to the carnage and lives lost all those years ago.

We also took in a trip to the Paschendale Memorial Museum which is only a short drive from Ypres and another place that is more than worth a visit and recounts the sobering tragedy of the First World War battles that took place in that area of Flanders.

After that we made the short journey to the Tyne Cott memorial, the largest of the British War Commission memorials (in the world).

After our enjoyable and educational time in Ypres we headed for Bruges and an overnight there. We had stayed in Bruges a few years ago, and even though our stay this time was just for the one night we had a great time wandering around and ended up walking a little over 12 miles.

All in all a very decent trip and to places that I’m sure we will return to at some point.

And a few more random snaps below from our all too short break: