Friday, 29 March 2013


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Isn't it nice to have a few days off? I hope that you all have a lovely Easter!

We have had a busy few days with one sad occasion and one happy one.

The sad occasion was the funeral of Nathan's Uncle Roy - who had lived in Manchester. I was sad that I had never met him and wanted to go - luckily Tracy offered to work all day so that I could take some time off.

We went up to Manchester on Monday for the funeral at the Crematorium by the famous Southern Cemetery. We went into the cemetery when we first got there and it is huge. There are many famous Mancunians buried there including Sir Matt Busby and my mum's favourite painter, Lowry.

Tony, Auntie Jean and Leon
It was a touching ceremony and the vicar, Ken, read out a beautiful eulogy written by N's dad. Afterwards we went to a local pub and there was a buffet. It was really nice to meet some of Nathan's family that I had never seen before. Several cousins were there , I remember one called Tony who (I think) sells sausages on Bury market. He was a lot of fun - and even brought some sausages for Nathan's parents - since hey had asked! They all sounded very familiar - as they talked like my parents too! I also met Christopher, Angela and Tracy - and Leon who asked N if he'd enjoyed the Paralympics. it turned out that he had been working for the company that sent out all the tickets and he'd seen Nathan's name and address on tickets he was sorting out.

N's mum and Tony the Sausage King!

Small world!

It was good to catch up with them. It was interesting to know that Tony had been to visit another cousin who lives in Las Vegas!! I asked if he liked to have visitors :-) Seems he does! He is an electrician there - which in a place like Las Vegas - he must be in great demand!

It was Nathan's birthday recently - and I like to surprise him on his birthday by taking him somewhere he has never been before. I think the favourite one so far has been Bletchley Park a couple of years ago. (I like to make sure it is somewhat geeky :-) )

So this time we set off in the car and headed East, over towards Derby then got on the M1.

It wasn't until be got close to Leicester and N saw the signs with a rocket on them that he guessed that we were going to the National Space Centre!

I hadn't realised that we had a Space Centre in the country until I saw it on "Don't Tell the Bride" where a groom had arranged a wedding there for his unsuspecting bride! It had looked pretty impressive so I thought we should go!

National Space Centre
Awesome cake made by N's mum
It was pretty quiet when we got there and we started by going up the four floors, next to the huge rocket, that explained the Space Race between the USSR and the USA. it was brilliantly done  - I especially enjoyed going into the secret session with the Soviets who extolled their many victories over the Americans. Mainly because the voice offered us vodka when we entered and sat down at the table - although it didn't actually materialise! Tell you something though - that Yuri Gagarin was a brave man! When he put himself in that rocket to go into orbit round the earth his odds were not great. The previous two tests had worked - but before that it was 50/50 whether it actually would explode or not. He didn't even tell his wife and kids - just left home without mentioning he was off to space. No wonder he was a national hero on his safe return!

Suits you sir!

Of course that led the USA to plan the moon landings to go one better. Shame I wasn't done for the good of all mankind - not just to get one up on the rivals!

This led to the floor with many interactive displays about the moon landings and the brave astronauts who undertook them. It was fascinating! I wanted to launch Nathan into space - but there were too many school kids playing on that one. Maybe next time :-) He does look good as an astronaut though!

One of the most interesting things was the mini-cinema where we got to see the first ever science fiction film. It was made in 1902 and was a French film called "Le Voyage dans la Lune" It had English subtitles and was only 12 minutes - but as amazing! The bearded astronomers were fired to the moon in a shell that looked very much like a rocket and encountered hostile moon men. They managed to return to earth by getting back into their shell and falling off the edge of the moon. I loved it!  We also went into the Patrick Moore Planetarium to see a 360 degree film entitled "We are Aliens" narrated by Ron Weasley :-) It was all about the possibility of like on other planets. It was 3D in[places as we whizzed through the galaxies to the ends of the universe. They did warn you that you might feel a bit travel sick! It was quite thrilling. We came back later to hear a live presentation from one of the staff about what we would be able to see if we looked out at the night sky at 9pm that very night. He showed us all the constellations, planets and galaxies that may be visible - if there's no cloud.

We stayed until 5pm but we still hadn't seen everything. We had a delicious lunch in the restaurant which is directly underneath the huge rocket. In fact, every few minutes it starts to smoke then there are red flames coming out of the bottom and there is a tremendous noise and a countdown through the speakers as if it is about to launch and take us all with it. As soon as it starts up excited kids run right under it and squeal with delight! So, I guess the smoke and flames aren't too harmful :-) It is quite spectacular!
Space food!
Before we left we had to browse in the shop of course. I got some space food! Freeze dried ice cream. I'll let you know what it's like when I've tried it!

It took us about an hour and a half to get back to Staffordshire.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Work is fun :-)

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I've been having fun at work - but before I tell you about that I must tell you that Nathan has been interviewed for a MSDN website and now they have put the finished article up there - have a look here:

They think that his story will be an inspiration to other developers - I am very proud of him :-)                                                                

Starbooks anyone? :-)
We have a few new projects in the library. Our first one is The Library Café (or serving hot drinks!)

There isn't anywhere you can get a cuppa in Silverdale - and we have been asked plenty of times!

But,  unless one of the local churches happen to be having a Coffee Morning - there isn't anywhere we can direct people.

So, we decided we'd do it ourselves. So, for just 30p you can get a cup (or mug!) of tea or coffee and biscuits. We think it might take off. We started on Monday - but only had one taker! I guess word needs to get around We have made a noticeboard with pink balloons on it - we'll put it out tomorrow and see how it goes!

Sadly tomorrow is the last day of term for the Keele Poets in Silverdale. They won't be back until September. On Tuesday Roger brought in their poems about Silverdale that he had printed out, for us to put up on the wall. Some of them have relatives that lived in Silverdale, or that were miners. Others were inspired by the black and white photos that we have up on the walls and by reading the local history books.

I have put them near the old mining photos that we have on loan from the Borough Museum. The poems they have written are amazing. Very relevant and moving. They are even paying to produce booklets with them in for us to give out. Come in and have a look at them - I think you'll be very impressed.

I like so many of them - but the one called "Waiting" by Megan has reduced most people who read it to tears. They are a very talented group.

What is Coming Soon???
Talking of talent - Tracy has been busy making flowers from yarn and have a look what she has done with them! The noticeboard is looking very colourful and eye-catching. She is doing a great job of getting people to ask about it! She had even bigger plans in the pipeline as her group are working on a "secret project" Watch this space!!

In other news - as members of CAMRA we were very happy to hear in the budget that George Osbourn has abolished the tax accumulator that was making the price of beer rise above inflation every year - and has actually reduced the tax by 1p.

Watch this space...

The number of pubs that have closed is terrible and it is good to see something that might help slow this down. We tried to do our bit to support the industry by attending the Porthill Beer Festival this weekend. It was held in the Cricket Club - and we went on Friday night initially - but it was absolutely packed! I don't know how they got so many people in the room! I have to say that there was a good selection of beers and a few interesting ciders too. They were each sponsored by a local business (for Example Tooltastic sponsored "Proper Job  or some other amusingly titled beer) This meant that they were pretty cheap compared to the usual guest ales you find in a pub.

We couldn't stay long though - as there was no room to breathe!

We were chatting to the manager the next day and he said he'd served 1400 pints that one night! They'd had to get on the phone early the next morning to the brewers to frantically try to get more beer for the rest of the weekend festival!

Saturday lunchtime was a bit calmer and we could try a few different drinks while eating their excellent cheese and onion baps. I had a rum cask cider and a whisky cask one - and I have to say  the rum flavoured one was far superior! It was strong and smooth. Very easy to drink.
Sunday was St Patrick's Day and we celebrated in Stone. had a very nice lunch with Nathan's parents. His dad got a very fetching hat to commemorate the day! I think it quite suits him :-)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Back to work....

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It was nice to get back to work - and see it so busy! Seems that everyone is gradually coming out of hibernation - although we've had a couple of icy blasts at times!

It is sad that the Keele Poets have only two more weeks to go until they finish until September. The place is never the same without them! This term they have been working on (among other things) poems about Silverdale. I gave them all the local history books to look at or take away and from what Caroline showed me last week - they have come up with some astonishing and moving stuff. This week they are going to print them out and I am going to display them around the library under the photos we have of Silverdale Colliery and its workers.

The colliery closed down on Christmas Eve in 1998 and the site is now a beautiful country park with a lake and is teeming with wildlife. However it remains very much a mining village with a proud history. The photos we have are on loan from the Borough Museum in Newcastle - the poems should compliment them nicely!

Tracy is doing great with her new Knit and Natter, Crochet and Chatter group and we have been talking about finding a project for them to do together. Can't wait to tell you what it is - but I will - until we have photos and stuff. Watch this space....

Getting a bit longer...
I am still wearing my wigs - as they keep me warm. However under them - hair is growing still! I did have a lot cut off a couple of weeks ago - and now I do straighten it - so I got Nathan to take a couple of photos this morning. I think it starting to look a little more normal!

My friend Susan from South Carolina, America sent me a link to a very interesting article about Hyperthermia Therapy for the treatment of cancer. It was something I hadn't heard of before - but apparently it is showing promise as an experimental cancer therapy.

Cool spikey bits :-)
Seems they heat you up to make the cancer cells more susceptible to the usual treatments - but when they give you the radiotherapy and chemotherapy they can give you much lower doses. Sounds like a great step forward to me. They can only use it on certain types of tumours - but it sounds very promising.

Less chemo and radio have got to be much better for your quality of life after cancer. Less damage to other bits and bodily functions.

I am currently feeling great though - I don't have to go to the hospital at all this month! It is nice not to have to think about it until next month. :-)

In other news - Nathan went for his audition as the Yorkshire Ripper - he had to improvise a scene where he was questioned by police. The series is part of Crimes That Shook Britain series - and he would be in the background, but you wouldn't hear what he was saying or anything. Just a "reconstruction" Will let you know if he gets it - so you can all look out for him :-)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of the week!!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Week off

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I've had a nice week off work. Pretty chilled out and quiet really. Typical - when I get  a week off Nathan suddenly gets busy! He's spent the week going into schools to give demonstrations of his new school app with his business partner Darren. They have been very well received so far!

Tuesday evening was exciting as the courier arrived with Nathan's prizes - at last!! Three lovely boxes for him to open. One with his new Nokia Lumia 920 in sleek black inside , another with his  ASUS tablet and the biggest one containing his Toshiba Ultrabook. Needless to say he soon had them all up and running. it doesn't take long to set things up with Windows Live Accounts and Windows 8. Simples :-)

Tablet Box

Time to open the laptop

We decided to celebrate Mothers Day early - as places are rammed and rushed if you try to take them out for lunch on the actual day. So we chose to go to The Wayfarer with my parents, Nathan's parents and my brother Dom and his wife Sharon. It is such a nice gastropub and we had been there once before to celebrate a birthday.

So we all went on Thursday lunchtime. It was quiet and we could take our time and the service was wonderful. So was the food! It is a bit pricey - but worth it! We were also celebrating my mum's birthday which is on 18th March!

Quite a few of us had the half a roast chicken option - with different sauces. Mine, Dom's and Sharon's were with barbecue and the mums both had it with lemon and garlic. Beautifully presented - with chunky hand-cut chips. N's dad asked if we had time for him to choose the 8-hour slow roasted lamb shank. He was assured that it had already been cooked overnight so we wouldn't have to wait too long!

Exciting :-)
My dad tried the duck and declared it superb - as was Nathan's Beef en Croute. I did learn something too - you can get much more juice out of a hot lemon.

Most of us had dessert too - only N's dad resisted! I was intrigued by the Baked Alaska with Pistachio Ice Cream - I haven't had one in years! That was a popular choice - as was the Ginger Crème Brulee with Rosemary Biscuit. N loves the chocolate - so went for Chocolate Brownie with Chocolate Sauce and ice cream.

Happy mums on Early Mothers Day :-)
It was all delicious and everyone enjoyed it very much. We retired to N's parent's house for coffee and Thornton's Mis-shapes ( my dad was very impressed with those!). We didn't need to eat for the rest of the day!

 What else did we do this week? Well on Saturday evening we met up with Jodie and his lovely girlfriend Claire for a few drinks. They were visiting his parents in Leek and decided they'd come over to Newcastle for a catch-up with us. Jodie used to be an apprentice at the college when Nathan was Network manager there and I was Librarian. He left there to go to Liverpool University and now works in London. We don't see him very often.

It was the first time we had met Claire who comes from California - a couple of hours drive South from San Francisco. She has been working in London for four years and met Jodie through a mutual friend (I think!)

We decided to introduce them to Brad,s pub - The Lymestone Vaults.

Enjoying a pint of Foundation Stone
 It was really quiet as we walked through the wet streets of Newcastle - but as we entered the pub the noise was deafening and it was practically full! We managed to get the last table - sadly the sofas by the fire were taken - and stayed put all night. Well, the beer is great and as N said to him - I bet Jodie was delighted with how much change he got after buying drinks. London drinks are much pricier!

They all tried the locally (Stone)-brewed beer except me. I'm not fond of the bitter taste. The only one I love is Floris Honey beer - but they didn't have that!
I started with some Two Trees Perry and then went onto the Stone's Ginger Wine - which is lovely and warming when it is snowing outside.

Jodie and Claire
We couldn't believe how quickly the evening went by - in no time we were being asked to drink up and go as it was approaching midnight. Hopefully we'll see the two of them again when we go down to London in September for Eurogamer, if not before.

So I am back at work tomorrow - Tracy tells me that it has been manic while I've been away! I look forward to finding out what's been going on in my absence!

Nathan has a busy week too - as well as more demos scheduled for schools he has a special appointment on Tuesday. For ages his mum has been telling him that with his beard like it is - he looks like The Yorkshire Ripper. Then last week he had a call from Seven (we are both registered with them - they are an extras agency) who told him that some client had chosen Nathan's photo from the book because he looks perfect for something they are going to start filming soon - it is a docu-drama about The Yorkshire Ripper! It may involve some acting too. I'm sure he'll be great :-) He has to go for the casting audition in Manchester on Tuesday!

Also before I go for now - good luck to Laura who has a job interview tomorrow with Staffordshire County Council. Hope it goes well - fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Oxford Weekend (rescheduled)

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Happily it didn't snow this last weekend - so we made it to Oxford at last! We stayed with Nathan's awesome friend, Greg, who has moved there recently with his job. He has a great first floor flat in Summertown - in North Oxford. He has a huge window in his lounge that looks out onto a lovely garden and just beyond a College garden complete with deer (statues) We had a very nice stroll into Oxford - it is a city with no car parks so you can't go in the car. Could explain why there are so many bikes everywhere!

As it was lunchtime when we got there we headed straight for Mission Burrito - which is one of Nathan's favourite places. I had a delicious burrito filled with shredded pork, lettuce, rice and soured cream. They have a wide range of fillings and many sauces and salsas from mild to blazing hot. Something a bit different. While we ate we lamented the lack of one of these places anywhere near us. Do you think Stoke would be ready for something like this?? They do look a bit like  oatcakes - hehehe!

Awesome skeletons too!
Greg was keen to take us to the Pitt Rivers Museum - so that was where we headed to next. First we made a bit of a detour to the History of Science Museum - where we saw the very first penicillin culture in it's glass jar. All a bit dried up now - but still very impressive. Also many very early examples of astronomical instruments and measuring devices. The earliest examples were Islamic - as it was very important for them to know which direction Mecca lay so they invented many beautiful  mathematical instruments. Considering they were made in the 7th Century they were surprisingly small and intricate.

The first actual penicillin!
Having visited the Ashmolean Museum last time I was there with its pristine glass cases and wide open spaces with light everywhere I was quite unprepared for what we found when we entered the Pitt Rivers. The place is just rammed full of weird and wonderful things, packed into cases and cabinets all close together. There's hardly room to move! It was amazing! The cabinet full of shrunken heads was very impressive - in the section entitled "How to Humiliate Your Enemy" it explained how the skull was removed and the rest of the head boiled and dried until it shrank - then a smaller animal skull was inserted - to make the classic shrunken head which could then be displayed as a trophy - or warning! (Don't try this at home!)

I also loved the case full of jewellery made especially to "ward off the evil eye" - it was particularly sparkly and ornate - to catch the eye - so it didn't dwell on you. There was also a comprehensive set of tattooing tools and equipment and many outfits from all over the world. Pitt River was an archaeologist and anthropologist and was interested in the evolution of technology. He just collected so many random things from his explorations. A fascinating place - if you ever get chance have a look!

Astrolabes and other wonders
All this culture made us pretty thirsty - and ready for a sit down so we headed back to Summertown through one of the University parks and popped into Greg's local pub - the Rose and Crown. It is such an old-fashioned proper pub - first mentioned in 1867. It had real ales galore, wonderfully uneven floors and small rooms where you can get cosy by the fire. We intended to have an afternoon drink then move on elsewhere for food later. But we got so comfy on our corner table and the lady behind the bar remembered out round when we asked for the same again and the food smelled so good that we decided to stay put. Nathan and Greg were drinking a local Oxford breweries bitter called Scholar - and by the end of the evening they were certainly having intellectual conversations! :-)

I enjoyed the honey-glazed chicken and the chunky chips and the men had proper home-made burgers (Only fools eat horses!)

It was a lovely evening and we headed back via the local corner off-licence with more beer and chocolate. We continued the evening with a game of "Skanky Bones" - a name that Greg has given to something that he learned to play in Mongolia. Looking it up - it seems as if it is called Shagai - have a look at the link to see a photo of the bones and their positions. (I think I'd call it The Game of Bones...) :-)

Beautiful Orrery at the History of Science
Basically many games are played in Mongolia with the ankle bones of goat and sheep. These have four different positions - each of which equates to an animal. When you throw them down they can land in 4 ways - if the pointy bits are up they are goats, if down sheep, if  the side with the hollow is up - camels and if flat horses. It sounds complicated - and it does take a few minutes to get used to which is which. In the game we played, Greg tossed all the bones onto the table, Then when it was your turn you had to flick one of them and hit one in the exact same position. For example a sheep flicked at a sheep. It you managed to hit it - without touching or moving any other bone then you got to keep the one you hit - providing you remembered to pick it up with the other hand - not the one you flicked with.

It was actually quite fun - and we were getting into quite well. In fact Nathan won! It was quite hard to see which was which - but Greg had played it by candlelight with old Mongolian women who were experts! He bought a set while he was there - which came in a lovely embroidered red pouch. I think it is really ingenious to invent such a skilful game with something like animal bones. Actually there are examples of Shagai in the Pitt Rivers!

The next morning we went out for breakfast to Taylors Deli - had a very sustaining bacon and egg baguette. it was supposed to be a bap - but they'd run out! Then Greg took us on a bracing walk through the University Park - down by the River Cherwell. It's where he goes for his runs. Once we got back to the flat we had a drink and then prepared to head home. Before we left, however, Greg showed us his photos from his holiday in North Korea. He had long wanted to go there and got his visa last April. He had to go as part of a tightly controlled group. On entering the country they had their mobile phones taken off them and they didn't get them back until they left nine days later.

Mission Burrito - seems popular!
They had guides who went everywhere with them and they were only allowed to take photos when they were told it was okay to do so. He was lucky that they were there while there was some celebration to celebrate the birthday of one of the Kim family, They got to see a little of it - although most of the time they were kept well away from it. If they took a photo of a statue of Kim Il Sung they had to make sure it got all for him in - if they missed off the head or feet - or if someone was stood in front of him then the photo had to be deleted. All the time they were there their guides were making notes about what they did and said. Greg actually said that when they got back to China they all felt a sense of freedom and relief! Quite telling, I think.

Pitt Rivers Museum - full of craziness!
It did sound like a fascinating place and he thinks that he will never go to anywhere so "different" ever again. It has a completely different economic  model - they don't have shops at all. They have food and other things given to them from various distribution points. Of course he was only allowed in and around Pyongyang - the capital, where the elite live. The people he saw looked happy and well-fed and healthy. Who knows how the majority of the people live.

All very fascinating. I don't know where he will go for his next holiday!
Anyway sadly we had to leave to return to Staffordshire. Still I have the rest of the week off...

Sunday, 3 March 2013


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I haven't had my hair cut since around October last year and it has been growing and growing quietly under my wigs. It was getting a little out of hand I have been wondering what to do with it. The problem is that it is so bushy! I try to blow dry it into (some kind of) shape but it won't stay put.

Crazy curls
N took a photo of it this morning before I went off to the hairdressers. I went to the same place I used to go along the road here - but there is a different lady there now called Tania. I told her of my dilemma and she understood as her friend has gone the through the exact same treatment and hair loss two years ago. Hers came back dark and curly too. She advised me to have it trimmed, then use straighteners to encourage it to straighten out a bit and stay flat under my wig. Her friend has highlights now rather than all over colour - as that involves fewer chemicals.

So, when I got home I used my tongs gently and my hair does look a lot better now. I still need to grow it a bit before I leave off the wigs though - especially for work.

Hopefully it will improve by summer and I can go au naturel once more!

N has had news of his prizes - they should be sent out on Monday. Besides the Lumia 920 phone he will get a Toshiba Ultrabook and an ASUS Tablet. It is all vey exciting!

In the meantime he is busy with his school apps - with his partner Darren. They are off around the area giving demos to schools. He is also entered for another competition - one where he needs people to vote for him. So, if you fancy doing that - have a look here:

 Ubelly (Microsoft's unofficial official developer blog) is looking for nominations for your favourite things of the year at

 They have categories for "Indie Game of the Year", "App of the Year" and "Developer of the Year". Just saying ;-) The game/app is called Interference and his company is called Centrifuge :-)
In other news we have become pub quizzers again - we go to the Greyhound on Sundays nights to try their quiz. It is good fun - and always involves a picture round and four random catagories. We started quite badly - but are improving! Also - we get free sandwiches and pork pies :-)

I've been to see a couple of films recently at the cinema - as I read a report in Men's Health that if you go to the cinema once a month you are 62% less likely to be anxious or depressed.  So for Valentine's Day Nathan took me to see a lovely romantic  zombie film. You may not think that possible, but the RomZomCom is a recognised genre. It was called Warm Bodies and was basically Romeo and Juliet with zombies.

It features Nicholas Hoult, who has been in Skins and was the boy in the Hugh Grant film About a Boy.  It was really, really good. We both enjoyed it too in different way. Would recommend it highly.

I also went to see A Song for Marion - a real weepie. I went with my good friend Janet and we both came out with red eyes! A lovely film too in its way. All about the life-affirming qualities of music and singing. Maybe I should join a choir like Janet. :-)