Category Archives: The Jacksons

What we’ve been up to

Dressed to Kill at The Mill

Being on my own this week, Josephine is away in Portrush with the grandchildren, I got a ticket to see the schools production of Les Miserables in the Theatre at the Mill.  It’s not a bad little theatre and according to my sources has absolutely state of the art lighting rigs and flys. We tendered for the seating but lost it to some english crowd!

It was a flawless performance and I was reminded of the Hedgy Road Plays production at St Genevieve’s back in the ’80s when their dramatic society was producing works that would have graced such a venue had there been one available.

Anyway I feel I must mention a few outstanding performances (in my opinion) as far as this musical was concerned.

Ruaidhri Maguire was magnificent as Thenardier , he  oozed sleaze and came across perfectly as the ultimate opportunist. Fantine, played by Gemma McMeel brought real pathos to the part, Megan Mooney was absolutely obnoxious as Madame Thenardier and Aidan Walsh made Gavroche, the street urchin, truly “sympatico”.

Apart from the actors there were a few eycatching costumes about the foyer. You may notice that wine seem to be a common denominator as well!


Picture of sartorial elegance - Terry and I

It is hard to make a riveting story out of a long walk along a canal unless one is Claire Balding or a waterways enthusiast. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am neither of these and, after the first six or seven miles, the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was enough to put most other considerations way down the priority ladder. Having said this I feel bound by a sense of duty to my many and very much appreciated sponsors to give some flavour of the weekend in general and the 15 mile hike from Bingley to Leeds in particular.
Saturday 19th June – Arrived at Leeds/Bradford Airport about 10am, after a pretty uneventful journey, to find the temperature around 10° and a gale blowing. This was not quite what I expected and certainly wasn’t dressed for. Rummaged in case at bus shelter and found cashemere pulli which helped a bit!

The Old Post office Leeds

Eventually reached Leeds station and discovered that the hotel did not open their check-in until 2pm. Luckily Leeds is a pleasant city with some great architecture and I was able to pass away the time visiting the central market and a couple of the malls and watching the Yorkshire world go by from one of the innumerable coffee  houses.

I eventually booked into my hotel, pottered about a bit and had just decided to have a couple of hours snooze when I had a phone call from Jim Malone, who was on the Skipton – Bingley section, asking why I hadn’t showed up. This was a strange query as I had never intended to be on the Skipton-Bingley leg.  An inexplicatble feeling of guilt overcame me so I felt duty bound to catch a train to Bingley and meet them.

I walked about  a mile or so along the canal, which included going up both the 3 and 5 rise locks.

5 rise lock, Bingley

It’s supposed to be flat!!!  I eventually joined up with the happy band and we walked back to Bingley and thence into the Foundry Hill Bar opposite the station for a (well earned??) couple of pints.  Great little pub with really pleasant staff and a great line in Saltaire Blonde Ale. Real Ale at around £2.00 a pint, “eh up” lads (and lassies)!  From there back to Leeds and a wash and brush up prior to dinner which Tom (or Julian if you prefer) organised in the bistro of the Queens Hotel; he being in residence there. (That’s an almost Caesarian Gallic Wars construction).  Dinner was excellent and made even more enjoyable by the waitress and waiter on duty in the restaurant.  Their efficiency and sense of humour are qualities that seem to be lacking in too many staff these days.  We had an extra couple of drinks in the bar to finish off the night – Well one does doesn’t one.

Start of the Final Leg - Bingley Station

A not too arduous start to the day, for me at least, meant breakfast at 7.45, and then on to Leeds station to catch the 9.00 train for the short trip back to Bingley, to start the walk back to Leeds!.  One could get dizzy with all this toing and froing . In the Bingley station car park we were joined by other members of the team who had been staying at various points West over night.  It was here I caught up with Terry Ireland whom I had not seen since ’64: might only have been yesterday, just picked up our last conversation which had involved beer and minis!

Only 38 bridges to go

We were blest with perfect weather, the sun was out but there was a gentle breeze which made it ideal for walking. Before too long the group split up into about three or four sections with the “professionals” out in front and the rest of  us in small packets chatting away about times past, or whatever! The great thing about going in the Leeds direction is that the locks are all downhill so that the only uphill bits are where the tow path goes over a bridge.  I have only admiration for those of the party who walked more than one section and am amazed at the two stalwarts, Julian and Kevin, who covered all 9 sections and 127 miles.  Of course it must be said that they practiced beforehand! But as  it was not a game it was not ruined (Apologies to Flanders & Swann).

The Ice cream barge

After about an hour or so we came upon an Ice Cream Barge, so designated because it sold the said product rather than being made of it.  Moored under a large tree it made the ideal point to take a well earned break and, we were told, there was nothing else along the path for a couple of hours at least.  Then off we set again past the factories and mills of Saltaire and Shipley.  My first wife was a Shipley girl but that is another story!

From here on it was a fairly uneventful walk until, about an hour and a half later we came across a canal side café.

Tom lays out the strategy

I had acquired a raw little toe by this time so it was a relief to stop, remove my sandle and, being much the wrong shape to do it myself, get Terry to apply a plaster.  During this break who should appear but Maxi Wilson, of 13 Sigs Fame back in the 70’s, who just happend to be out strolling along.  More reminisences!  As a hostlery this was not the the most efficient I have ever been in – It took nearly 20 minutes to get a cup of tea, by which time everybody was wanting to move on so I ended up with a scalded mouth.  Took my mind of my toe though!

We moved on towards Apperley Bridge which was our designate lunch stop and en route I was met by Lynne and Mick Shepherd, ex RAPC and 9 Sigs rugby player extraordinaire, who had driven up from Nottingham to make a donation to the cause.  We had not met for, probably, fifteen years so there was more catching up to do.  We arrived at the George and Dragon and somehow, due to excellent real ale coupled with lively conversation, I  forgot to order lunch and so it was that I left foodless for the afternoon stint.   This was probably a good thing as rumour has it that it is not good to do too much exercise on a full stomach!


Terry having teamed up with the lead group I joined Andy and Kamie Beer to form a mutual support section for this session.  This is one of the prettiest stretches of the canal, passing through Rodley, with its period terraces on the bank, and Calverley Bridge, where an old friend whom I met whilst on my Greek Interpreters course in Corfu in ’72, has a riverside cottage.  By this time we were beginning to feel the strain and we were counting down the bridges.

225G at last

But they got there first!

The start of the industrial skyscape of the Leeds suburbs were a welcome sight and when we found that bridge 225A was followed by 225D it elicited positive euphoria. Then, there it was, 225G and the end of the line. So about fifteen minutes later, and some 7 1/2 hours after leaving Bingley, we joined the first group at Wetherspoons for more excellent real ale. It is a pity that they did not run to foot baths as well!

The final resting place - Wetherspoons Leeds Station

I did it - honest!

Unfortunately a number of the party had to disperse home and Tom succumbed to an attack of terminal tiredness so it was a small party, Kamie, Helen, Maria, Andy and me that attended a final dinner an adjacent Indian Restaurant.  For the first time I can think of I cannot remember the name but I do remember the outstanding chicken liver starter and generally authentic food.  It also had a good line in Red Wine.(if anybody who was there can enlighten me as to the name please do it in the comments.) It was a pleasant way to end an exceptional weekend.

I had to be up at 4.30 am to get a taxi out the the Airport for my 7 o’clock flight.  Monday was definitely a day to be forgotten.

The most important part of all this  is the “unofficial” final tally of sponsorship which amounts to just under £5,500.  This is a really impressive total and is a credit to all those who took part, those who supported and especially to all those of you who put their hands in their pockets when asked.  On a personal note I would like to give special thanks to Julian (Tom) McMahon for involving me in this enterprise.

Also thanks to Kamie and Andy Beer, Julian, Maria. Laura and Tom for their photographic contributions

SEE THE SLIDESHOW -click on the pic to go to full size

Walking the Dogs to Music

Antrim First Old Boys Silver Band


Twice in the last seven days I have been out with the dogs to find bands playing in the open air. Reminiscent of the old days when many of the parks sported bandstands. 
Firstly, last Thursday, in Glengormley park at about 7pm, I found a silver band,  Antrim First Old Boys Silver Band, playing adjacent to the Bowls Pavilion.     

East Antrim Seniors Accordion Orchestra

   Then on Sunday afternoon, in the car-park on the Loughshore at Jordanstown, there was the East Antrim Seniors Accordion Orchestra playing their repertoire. Given that the weather was not the best, although quite warm, there was a reasonable number of people enjoying the music.
Maybe I have just not been in the right place at the right time, but the old practice of music in the parks is something that slows down the pace of life for a while.  A welcome interlude.


Friday evening, 25 June, saw our intrepid group congregate at Greeenisland Station to join the local Probus  on their annual excursion on the Jazz train un by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. Of course on a trip of this nature hampers of food and wine are de rigueur, although there is a full bar and burger menu available.  We had settled on char grilled asparagus wrappped in Parma ham, King Prawns in their shells with hollandaise sauce and optional dried chilli, seafood cocktail with Marie rose sauce  and wheaten bread. Unfortunately there was no room to paack the strawberries and cream! We had a sparkling chardonnay/sauvignon blanc + a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir as back up.  Brenda thoughtfully provided spiritual help by the way of minatures of Whisky and Cognac (plus a hip flask).

What more can one say. The train chuffed along and stopped at the various stations where the Apex Jazz band played with their usual enthusiasm and we danced the evening away.

Due to some hitch, like losing the engine, were were delayed at Carrickfergus station for a while but the band played on and we finally arrived back at Greenisland.

A great evening which we will, hopefully, repeat next year.


Birgelen Veterans Charity Walk Completion Cert.

Just a holding post to let you know we finished the walk in Leeds yesterday evening. Two people (Julian (Tom) McMahon and Kevin O’Leary) had walked the whole 127+ miles from Liverpool and a quite a number had joined for various stages. The last stage was Bingley – Leeds a total of 15 miles. I will post a fuller description and photos once they have been collated.

Would all those who have already  pledged a donation, and indeed anyone who would like to support this noble cause, please make out the cheque to: “Birgelen Veterans Charity Walk 2010”

and send to me at:

32 Farmley Crescent, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT36 7TX.

I will of course accept cash from those who I will be seeing over the next two weeks!

Thanks again to all of you who have done so and those who might still: I have been amazed by everyone’s generosity through which I personally have raised over £750.00 towards the group effort.

For previous posts on this click here

40th Birthday Party @ Carrickfergus Sailing Club

Birthday Girl

We had an invitation, along with the other members of the CSC retired dancers club, to a surprise 40th birthday party for Denise who, along with husband Chris, represented the younger element of the dancing group. 
Probably the hardest part of the evening was trying to maintain a “hush” whilst awaiting the arrival of the Birthday Girl.  You know what it is like if you sit 10 girls together with a couple of bottles of wine and ask them not to talk for ten minutes.

Let loose from Eastwick!

Luckily Chris ushered her in before anybody had pronounced withdrawl symptoms. The reaction of the principal guest,  whose opening lines are omitted for proprietry reasons, confirmed that the party was indeed a surprise !!

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

For us oldies the disco started off with music that was a little too up to date, and there was a distinct lack of dancers of any age; however, as the evening wore on the music got older and the company got mellower and the dance floor became the place to be.  It should be said that the girls led the way, and it took an extra couple of glasses before the male contingent joined in.

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It would be remiss of me not to extol the buffet.  The sandwiches and sausage rolls were great and the mini sausages and chicken rumsticks even better:

but what else would one expect from CSC!

The cake, a novel design with the caption “aged to perfection” on the embossed bottle was duly presented to chorus of Happy Birthday. Some things never change.

Click Pic to see the rest

Later in the evening, having ensured that the majority of larynges had been sufficiently lubricated there was a Karoke session.  This is definately not my forte but some brave souls tried their hand.

As is usual when our happy band get together it was an excellent evening and our thanks go to Chris for arranging it and our best wishes to Denise for lots more birthdays.


Old army colleagues have organised a Charity walk along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds, a total of just over 127 miles, from 12 – 20 June. In my wisdom, or probably lack of it, I have agreed to be one of the the official “finishers” on the Bingley to Leeds leg, about 17 miles!

Canal above Bingley locks

The proceeds of this walk are being split 50/50 between Macmillan Cancer Care and the Birgelen Veterans Association sponsored charity, Raphael Geiser.

All of the participants in this venture are meeting all travel, accommodation and subsistance costs themselves so all sponsorship money will go to the charities and not be lost in “administration” costs.

I would really appreciate if you would sponsor my small effort on behalf of these worthy causes, no matter how little, it all helps.  If you would be willing to commit to this venture please use the comments on this post or contact me via email, snail mail, or of course in person as I am sure to have a sponsor form with me!!

Cheques should be made out to “Birgelen Veterans Charity Walk 2010” and sent to me at:

32 Farmley Crescent
Co Antrim
BT36 7TX

We are unable to claim tax relief as treasury rules do not allow for the support of two charities at one time.

Once again I would ask for your support for this worthy cause.

For detail of how it went click here

My Sponsorship form

BVA Release