Thursday, 5 March 2015

Near CATastrophe!!!

It's certainly is a challenging start to the year business wise and it's also been a sad one for us with the death of Irene's brother Anthony in January.

Anthony had two rescue cats from Doha but fortunately, the woman who had saved them was still on hand and able to take them in on a temporary basis. Despite the fact she was a little concerned that we already have a cat, it was decided to fly them to the Island.

Our first shock, when I picked up their box from the cargo terminal at the Airport was the sheer weight of them as our Percy is a very dainty lady, especially compared to these two. They are also very vocal, once again as opposed to our pet who either tends to give a quiet miaow or a little warble.

And so, Zaffi & Ginger were introduced into our home.

For the first few days, we barely saw them as they were experts at hiding in the tiniest nooks and crannies in the room that we had given them, despite their size but it soon emerged that there was no doubting that Zaffi was the boss.

They were quite nervous but gradually we were able to coax them out.

Percy had been aware that something was occurring and was regularly at their door, where she couldn't have missed the racket they would make but was definitely less curious now they were free to roam a little more.

Initially, it seemed she was going to be bullying them because they were too timid to pass her growling and hissing but this situation was quickly reversed when Zaffi stood up for herself and then, Percy became very withdrawn, confining herself to just a few places within the house, even spending long hours under our quilt which she has never done before.

About a week ago, Percy decided she needed to go outside and we also decided to let Ginger have a wander for the first time; Zaffi wasn't interested. Ginger came straight back in but we couldn't persuade Percy to come back through the door, although she had come into the porch, despite the bribes we were offering and the next thing she made a break for it and before I could prevent him, Ginger too had dashed past me.

This time neither would return and though we were used to Percy being out for an hour or so, we were becoming a little concerned about the tom.

Therefore, dressed to kill, wearing her old green dressing gown, Irene went into the freezing cold night to try and retrieve them and managed to pick Ginger up and bring him in.

He'd always been a little nervous but this time he just ran behind the sofa and stayed there and for some reason Zaffi was giving him a hard time too.

We began to fear when our Percy hadn't turned up the next morning that she had cut her losses and decided to leave home. Irene was becoming very worried that her what she had hoped was the right thing to do was just a total disaster.

I prepared a stack of 'Missing Cat' flyers and posters to hand around our neighbourhood and just as we were leaving home to start canvassing the nearby houses on our square, our feline loving chums and colleagues, Sha & Alex turned up to help us with our rain drenched search.

They weren't the only ones who turned up because there, just behind Irene, a bedraggled, soggy moggy popped out of next door's garden and we once again had our full complement of cats...............or so we thought.

Ginger had continued to act very strangely and wasn't moving from behind that couch, stalked at all times by a very suspicious and not at all friendly Zaffi which we thought was very strange as they had always been so close.

I needed something from the kitchen and walked past the front door where there was a big ginger cat. But I had only two seconds ago looked at our Ginger behind the sofa. I did a double take and thinking I was cracking up went back to the sofa where there was a big ginger cat.

The one that had just arrived was also wearing a green collar which had his name and our telephone number on it. The poor big ginger cat behind the sofa had been forcibly 'catnapped' off the street and had spent nearly 24 hours being traumatised, frightened half to death by Zaffi and his/her strange human captors, not to mentioned half starved as I don't think it had ventured anywhere near the food.

To this day, I haven't seen it again, so goodness knows how we have affected it. It's possibly been locked up by its owners whom I have been unable to trace to apologise to.

Anyway, one week on, we still have a very easy going Ginger, a very bossy Zaffi and our Percy who still hasn't come to terms with the presence of her new housemates (as we are assured by Mann Cat Sanctuary she eventually will.) Whether she will ever forgive us fully is another matter!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ninna & Gwaddad - Four Times & Counting!!!

Many apologies but I've been a little slack on the blogfront this year, so on a quiet Sunday night at the Welbeck, I'll try to make amends.

By far the best thing to happen during 2014 was undoubtedly for us the arrival of Jack James Cargill.

His mum, Elizabeth (though known to everyone else as Libby,) once worked here too but she now has a senior sales position at Cosmos in Stockport and is of course our eldest daughter.

I am not sure quite what she and her husband, Rodney are trying to tell us but they married when we were away on holiday and we were in Australia when Elizabeth gave birth just before Christmas.

Although we had a video link to the first event, I can proudly announce that Rodders isn't as stupid as Robbie Williams and we were spared a live link to the arrival of young Jack!

That having been said, things didn't go quite according to plan during labour but as you will ascertain from the photographs, the young fellow is now thriving and mother is also healing well.

In fact his progress is quite remarkable: Here's the Valentines card he bought and wrote out for Mum ;)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Busy Winter

A belated Happy New Year to all!

I suppose I should also be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas too as my last blog was in early November but that would be getting a little ridiculous ;)

Although we have had a quiet start to the year, things are picking up a little and our winter refurbishments are well under way.

Our ace decorator, Ray Corlett has finished the hallway and is now busy working on 107 which we were shocked to discover was last re-papered in 2004.

Andy of Kennish Interiors & Premier Flooring have completed the Gents loo (I'm becoming a grumpy old man but why do people increasingly ask for the bathroom? Even if we had the space, I wouldn't put a bath in it!)

207's en-suite has been gutted and it is being altered to have a walk-in shower rather than a bath and we are excited to announce that the new bespoke manufactured carpet for the bar and hall area has arrived and should be fitted next week.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Victor Meldrew Licensed to Coach

After no days off since my the beginning of the month when Irene & I were away in London, this last weekend I was able to have a couple of day's leave, so you will imagine that I took the opportunity to put my feet up and take a break?

Unfortunately, not. Some time ago, I had decided that as I am starting to suffer from the onset of late middle age, I would scale back my athletic career and move towards helping others achieve their sporting goals. 1st & 2nd of November happened to be the two days that the 'Coach's Assistant' course was to be held over Saturday & Sunday.

After some time away from the classroom, the first shock was that I had to do pre-course homework. Therefore, I tried to start Tuesday, so I wouldn't do 'The usual' and end up in a frantic rush on Friday.

The first part was to write information about myself, my athletic background and my motivations to coach, something that those who know me will appreciate that I attacked with gusto. However, the second task was to watch a video and make comments about it, so being a little short of time, having written my life story, I opted to save it and have another go later.

At least I thought I did! Next day I found that my computer had helpfully had kept the form but none of my input! Not to worry. I did it again but then I found I was unable to access video because the Isle of Man is not in the U.K! I was struggling opening other files and inadvertently through my frustration, closed down the window with my personal information and lost it a second time!

Therefore, I e-mailed both my contact over here and 'England Athletics' to explain my difficulties and finally received a reply on Friday morning, thus being placed in the very position, I'd hoped to avoid in the first place, cramming it in after work and before training, the day before the course.

As usual, my expected easy Friday threw me a few unexpected problems and turned into frantic rush Friday. I ended up starting much later than I'd anticipated and by the time I'd re-written everything, watched a 22 minute video and given my thoughts on the questions about it, I had hardly any time left before I was due to babysit, Harry.

I thought I'd just check my email before I left to train and there was one from our course co-ordinator saying that he'd heard we'd all been having problems but not to worry because the tutors would go through it with us in the morning! Aaaargghh!!!

It was a genuine 'I don't believe it!' moment and I think Victor Meldrew* (for those not familiar VM was a grumpy old TV character with said catchphrase. See link at the bottom of the page) would have been proud of me!

Anyway, it was an intensive but hugely enjoyable weekend with a variety of other attendees of all ages with very different backgrounds.

Thanks to our guests at the Welbeck Hotel and course facilitators, Jackie Newton & Bashir Hussein, both former top athletes and now great coaches for their hard work and to Trevor Christian of the Isle of Man Athletics Association for running the event.

I am now officially a licensed Assistant Coach! So watch it you slackers, I'm coming to get you! **

(Michael George would like to point out that this last sentence was not part of the lessons delivered by Jackie & Bashir*** and that the photographs featured in this blog may have been taken a little time before last weekend)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Terence Reaches a Peak, Though His Fashion Sense Goes Downhill

At the moment, the local athletics scene is enjoying a surge in popularity with large participation numbers across quite a few of the disciplines.

A couple of weeks ago there was a record of 256 for the Microgaming Cross Country first round at Ballanette and last Saturday the Aston sponsored Winter Hill League resumed with a huge line up of 114 adults and juniors. The hill races are a bit of an introduction to fell running, not being as long or tough, on courses which are marked out rather than being a test of navigational skills. Therefore, you don't require the map, compass, full body clothing and whistle etc. to be allowed to set off as you would for a full fell run.

Saturday saw our son and in all probability your waiter at some stage, Terence, running for the first time since 2010. A little time in the gym being all the preparation he'd had.

Here he is, attempting to grasp victory in the 'Worst Dressed Competition' but incredibly one or two were even worse. Pic by Steve Partington

The distance was 4km (2.5 miles) which of course with the nature and contours of the terrain is much harder than it sounds. That having been said, our local fell running superstar, Lloyd Taggart won, breaking the course record in only 15min 10secs, though the much younger and upcoming, Ben Corkill was only 15 seconds in arrears. Jackie Taggart (wife of the above) also broke the woman's record in 18:17.

LLoyd Taggart Pic by Steve Partington

Ben Corkill Pic by Steve Partington

Jackie Lee Pic by Murray Lambden

Our Terence? He's naturally pretty fit and though I harboured fears that he may fall flat on his face both figuratively and literally, as he was only wearing a pair of road running trainers, he came a highly respectable 33rd place only just over 4 minutes behind the leader.


The great thing about these events is that you get to see places that you rarely visit, in this case, Cringle Plantation and Reservoir which is yet another area which has been adapted for Mountain biking, too. In fact the following day, there was an 'Off Road Triathlon' at the same venue.

Of course I was wearing about 15 layers, armed with flasks of hot coffee, expecting to be frozen and blown off the hill, only to find it to be sheltered and almost tropical in temperature for the time of year which explains my state of half dress in the photograph.

Over the course of the year, Manx Fell runners organise a series of races, culminating with the prestigious Manx Mountain Ultra (formerly Manx Mountain Marathon, which sees the athletes climbing all the Island's major peaks from North to South.

The local club is very friendly and should you wish to participate in any of their organised running up and falling off mountains, see the link below:

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Welbeck Wally with The Welly

Now anyone with even a passing interest in the England football team will remember Steve MacLaren, the Wally with the Brolly who stood in his suit watching his team drown, with more of a parasol to shelter under. Well now he has competition, 'The Welbeck Wally with the Wellies .'

I knew the forecast was decidedly dodgy but I had to do at least 15k walking training yesterday to keep up with my schedule, so I set off at about 4:15pm luckily during a break in the weather.

However, my good fortune didn't last very long because by the time I reached the bridge at West Quay, it had already started to rain. By the time I hit the Old Castletown Road, this had developed into a cloud burst and approaching Port Soderick Village, I was wading through ankle deep water.

It would have been almost possible to surf down the hill towards the railway station!

Although it relented somewhat by the time I hit the coast, by the time I returned home, I was just a dripping mess.

I jumped in the shower because I only had about half an hour before I was due to judge the walking race at Isle of Man Veterans Athletics Club Autumn Handicap.

The one certain thing was that I was going to be dressed for the occasion, so there I was, looking like the Michelin man, wearing tights, leggings, two pairs of socks 15 jumpers and a waterproof jacket. But my Wellington boots were nowhere to be seen.

With a rare flash of inspiration, I realised they had been in Irene's car for the last six months from when she and my son Terence had borrowed them to visit my chum Richard Creer at Ballabunt Farm.

The blood had only just returned to my feet, following my earlier drenching, so there was no way I going to let them get wet again. I grabbed the spare key and drove to her gym where I located her car and quickly grabbed the footwear as I was now running in my usual edge of late zone.

After stopping in the Quarterbridge car park, I took my shoes off and slid the right foot straight into the boot but the left one wouldn't go on. Therefore, I stood and stamped before realising I had picked up one of Irene's, my poor toes were totally squashed! The twylight exposing the state of my diminishing eyesight.

And you've guessed it! The rain had ceased and didn't return until our race had long since finished and the runners were lining up!

Had we been filming our attempts to remove the offending welly, I'm sure we could have sent it into one of the TV programmes and let my stupidity finally earn us some money but in the end all we had from it were sore sides from laughing and a rather bemused cat.

The runners cop a soaking

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dine in Style with Isle of Man Railways

Irene & I were lucky enough to be invited to the Isle of Man Railways Dining Car in August and we are extremely grateful to 'Inside Track' (our longest standing tour company who have been bringing us railway enthusiasts since 1997) for enabling us to experience it.

Boarding commenced at 18:30 and we were able to relax for half an hour with a drink before the train departed whilst we perused the menu and the Beverage List.

The 'Hooded Ram' mentioned on there, I was surprised to learn was actually hand pumped real ale, brewed in Hills Meadow Industrial Estate, just a few metres from the railway line and I for one was certainly impressed. To me the dinner choices were well balanced:
Irene chose the Corned Beef Hash and the Seafood Pie, whilst I plumped for the Leek & Potato Soup and the Shoulder of Lamb.

The starters were served during the initial journey from Douglas to Port Soderick and my soup was really tasty if not quite hot and then the train pulled up before the station, so we all had a view of the coast as we ate our main course.

Irene's pie was huge and after I had demolished my lamb, I reluctantly came to her aid and enjoyed both meals.

Our trip continued down to Castletown where we were given 45 minutes or so to enjoy the surroundings. You'll be amazed and shocked to learn that Irene & I took Clive (Tour leader) to the 'Sidings,' formerly 'Ducks Nest,' to further sample some more local ale (Bushys in this instance.)

The return journey was very atmospheric although my photograph probably doesn't do it justice I'm afraid and by this time of the evening in August, we'd lost the views. We both had a lovely rhubarb crumble for our sweet.

Isle of Man National Transport has invested considerably in converting the carriage and restoring the beautiful bar area, so I hope the venture is a success and that I am able to make a small contribution by publicising it in this medium. It does have its fair share of critics, including a close chum of mine who is very financially switched on but it really is a marvellous experience, so I would urge you to give it a try whether you are a local or one of my readers from further afield.

They are also still running the 'Pie in the Sky' (astronomy nights) and sunset dinners on the Mountain which I think I have previously recommended on my blogs.

If you are a railway enthusiast and enjoy being in a tour situation, the company to come with is 'Inside Track' who whilst perhaps not being the cheapest option on the market, their Tour Leaders have a depth of knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to 'Go the extra mile,' for their clients that you won't find anywhere else.

Below is the link to their website: