Wentworth Woodhouse What a Striking Place!!

So last Wednesday we had the day off and decided to go to a stately home, and what a stately home we went to!!!

Wentworth Woodhouse has been called many things, the largest privately owned house in the UK, 3 houses in one, one of the most neglected stately homes in the UK and many more but, to me I would simply call it spectacular even in its current state.

The house itself is positioned on the outskirts of Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The first Jacobean house on the sight was built by Thomas Watson – Wentworth 1st Marquess of of Rockingham, and vastly expanded by his son the 2nd Marquess who I believe was twice UK Prime Minister.

It had been a college Lady Mabel College and was once next to a large mine which I think may have been owned by the family who owned the house. The last private owner was a retired architect and property developer called Mr Newbold who one guide told me they think spent around £10 million of his own money on the house during his ownership. However given the sheer size of the place I can understand how even such a vast sum of money barely made a dent on the maintenence needs of this magnificent structure. Since 2017 the house has been owned by the Wenworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust who stated this would be at least a 25 year inital project of restoration (although I suspect like they used to say about the Firth of Forth railway bridge maintenence is never over).

When you enter the driveway of the house after travelling through the beautiful village of Wentworth first, the first buildings you see are weirdly a set of derelict buildings that look like they were built in the 60’s or 70’s and I suspect had something to do with the college years of the house. Then we see on the right a magnificant facade that most people think is the house and indeed is stately home size in of itself however, is in fact the stable block!! My words cannot do justice to the sheer scale of even this building that I was told once had nearly 100 horses within it and accommodation above for staff. The trus is hoping to convert this space into an events space and maybe tea rooms as well and there is certainly enough space for it.

Then after marvelling the deer skipping about in the fields next to this seemingly never ending driveway you finally turn and she the palladean style facade for the first time and WOW simply does not do it justice as to me it looked like 3 houses in one the main central house and 1 added on either end just for good measure.

Now currently there is only around an eighth of house open to view yet it still took over an hour to see thus very small proportion. The rooms we got to see were the state rooms that were apparently never lived in as the various families who called the house home tended to have rooms in the Georgian wing that is currently closed to the public although I do believe the trust runs tours of this. Of particular note is the marble ball room (that was featured in the Downton Abbey Film) and this is simply stunning. We also went in the chapel where you could see where members of the house and their staff attended church on a Sunday (and when I looked up to the balcony could have sworn I saw someone looking down on me and even though the door is open you cannot actually enter the balcony area).

Now I was told that even though Mr Newbold had spent so much trying to maintain the building during his tenure he sadly neglected repairs to the roof that when the trust took over the ownership confirmed it was in a really poor state and water had ingressed into many areas of the house. In fact a guide who had been a student there when it was a college confirmed the room that had been her dormitory during her time there was no longer accessible because of water damage and the dreaded asbestos!!

We were told the trust had had to spend over £1.3 million on scaffolding alone since taking over and many millions more on the roof that now thankfully is repaired and reroofed from the same quarry as the original tiles hundreds of years before.

There is also a cafe that does great coffee and a nice sandwich and a dissapointing gift shop (although like most amenities at Wentworth it is a work in progress).

We intended to view the gardens at the baroc side of te mansion however the heavens had very much opened again when we were inside and we had no waterproof gear so our visit had to end here I am afraid.

Now we spent a good couple of hours here but in truth if the weather was good we could have been here from opening to closing as there is so much to see and the grounds are amazing. This place is still very much in its infancy as a tourist attraction and the potential is simply staggering as to how brilliant a public attraction this place can be. I am already planning our next visit and this time I will bring more family!!!!!

As always my opinions are my own and thank you as ever for taking to time to read my meagre little blog.

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European Super League The Latest Cash Grab of the Elites (Are We Really Surprised)?

There was a time when I was obsessed with sport and could hold a decent conversation with anyone about most sports.

Football has always been my favourite but I always had interests in Rugby League, Snooker, Darts, Golf, Tennis, Basketball, Ice Hockey and a whole host of others but I am sad to say as I have gotten older my interest in most sports have unfortunately wained. I do still like playing the video games for most sports especially football manager games and basketball sims but watching the actual sports at a professional level is rare nowadays. Pre Pandemic I did still go and watch my local non league football team but have steadfastly refused to give my money to sport at a higher level.

So imagine my mock surprise when I see on a news feed for a well respected outlet that 12 football teams have annouced the formation of the ‘European Super League’ to start as a midweek competition and be a rival to the Champions League. This will be a closed league except for 5 teams each season with the ‘founding 12’ teams never being removed from the competition.

So my first thought on this one was cash grab or alternatively power grab. The teams who see themselves as the ‘elite’ of Europe football trying to manipulate for their own ends.

Then when I thought about it a little bit my memory thought back to the early 90’s and the formation of the Premier League. This was the ‘breakaway’ elites of English football and essentially SKY (part of Rupert Murdochs media empire) bringing football into a ‘brave new world.’ There was admittedly less constanation than with the latest attempt but then again I was not yet a teenager when it happened so there could have been more backlash than I remember. This essentially moved football from free to air T.V. to pay per view and SKY Sports (sound familiar), and ultimately moved revenue away from the run of the mill fan either paying at the turnstiles or through season tickets and towards T.V. revenue. This has lead to the giant companies we see today (as football is an afterthought at this point).

This model was copied throughout European Football and into the European competitions with the European Cup becoming the Champions League, and the UEFA Cup becoming the Europa League each competition offering progressively more money to clubs for being in the competitio and has made it where if a large club fails to qualify for the competition it can put that club into financial hardship (see the previous fall of Leeds United as a case in point).

This has also lead to the ridiculous increases in both transfer fees and player salaries, and to a lesser extent the rise in agents and their unbeliveable fees. All of this shows that power grabs and greed in football is nothing new and who knows had they gone about this in a different way the backlash may not have been so severe?

So how did we get here? First thing to mention is that the mention of an ESL is nothing new and has been floated around for many years. It is also true to say most ‘elite’ football clubs are in eye watering amounts of debt that some are now struggling to service. These clubs then rely on European football competitions (particulary the Champions League) in order to try and make payments on this debt.

We then have to mention the elephant in the room COVID – 19 and the ongoing Pandemic. This has taken the fans away from football grounds and even though they are no longer the major revenue stream it is still a significant loss of revenue for every football club around the world right now (and sports in general for that matter).

It is at this point the ‘elite’ teams of European Football make there move and announce the ESL and there ‘attempt’ to raise interest once again in the game due to a number of poor games.

Now lets start with the obvious this IS money grab plain and simple, greed plays a large part in this no doubt however, it is not the only reason. All owners seem to see only money Dollar, Euro, or Pound signs. Lets have a look though at what are in my opinion other reasons for this move.

Firstly when looking at the English teams involed the ‘big six’ (although checking the Premier League I wouldn’t call all of these clubs the big six, and historically speaking where are Everton in all of this, seriously check the history of English football for proof of this), 3 of them are American owned. Now in the USA a system like the ESL is the way major sport works and so it would be reasonble to assume the owners of these clubs have not adequately reasearched the differences between the two systems and the attachments fans have to their clubs.

Next we have the extreme level of debt some clubs have and the problems servicing this debt. Now I blame the owners of clubs past and present for this issue as the major debt seems to be player transfers and wages. Had more clubs refused to meet these demands then the wages and transfer fees wouldn’t have gotten so high.

We also have the fact some of these ‘elite’ clubs have struggled domestically recently and wished to have the guarantee of European Football money ever year due to the struggle to pay the debts they have.

In the end football as we knew it died when clubs were run almost entirely for profit rather than for the communities that created them in the first place. Had the money in football remained reasonable and the connection between club and fan not been broken it would have deterred these owners from entering football in the first place.

As always my opinions are my own and thanks for reading.

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April Already!!!

So it seems only two minutes ago that I was writing a blog post about ‘ the year of COVID.’

Well we now have just finished the first quarter of the year and on the surface at least nothing much seems to have changed!! At the beginning of January we entered yet another period of lockdown in the UK (with various regional variations), schools were once closed and myself and my wife became makeshift teachers once again (alongsde full time jobs I might add). This was by far the worse of the 3 total lockdowns we have had so far and I have pesonally struggled to cope at times with everything that has been going on.

Now I want to state first and foremost there are many things I am so greatful for during this time. Firstly I have been able to work remotely for the entirity of lockdown so far and have not been furloughed at any point during the pandemic and neither has my partner. I consider myself extremely lucky to still currently have a job. My children have been amazing and taken everything in their stride, I am a very proud father who feels incredibly lucky to have really well behaved and understanding children.

I have however really struggled with being isolated within our home during the dead of winter. Now I do not consider myself either a sporty or particularly adventurous person and I have always enjoyed the comfort of home but by the same token I have always enjoyed being able to simply jump into the car as and when I choose and take off somewhere for the day, whether that is to a small town and plodding through the centre’s or some stately home or ruined castle. I even like the odd trip to IKEA to buy some flat pack every now and then.

You never realise how much you miss the simple freedoms of life until you no longer have them. Now I realise this is not a world war and I have not experienced anything like the hardships of a world war with the blitz, rationing etc but, I do feel we have taken the freedoms we have for granted and naturally feel they would last without consequence.

I hope whoever reads this whoever you are you are coping and with the vaccine rollout things look like in the UK at least they are getting better.

As always my opinions are my own and thank you for reading.

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2020 a Year in Review COVID and Crises!!

Well I think it would be safe to say no normal person saw this year coming!!!
This time last year we had only just begun to hear about ‘Coronavirus’ hitting Wuhan province in China and were beginning to get the smallest of glimpses into the havoc it would bring around the world.

I distinctly remember talk of a new decade and a fresh start, looking with optimism at what we hoped would be a change from the austerity dominated 2010’s. Oh how wrong we were!!!
Well that is not to say that 2020 started out in anyway different to 2019 with the usual work optimism for the year, the usual broken New Years resolutions, and thinking I had to make sure I had saved enough money to get the car through it’s MOT in March (I don’t believe in buying brand new cars nowadays).
I had my birthday as usual with the mandatory fish and chips (this year at Atkinson’s in Morecambe a place I ate at when I was young and still amazing to this day), and myself and the wife had our usual night away from the kids enjoying a Valentine’s Day meal.

The first red flag of the year to come happened just after our romantic meal for 2 when we went to pick the kids up from my parents. My youngest daughter had a seizure and was rushed to hospital, I had to pull over into a bus stop and call an ambulance as she had the seizure in the back of the car. Now we unfortunately lost our twin baby girls back in 2007 (for regular readers of my blog you will be aware Bryonie was a still birth and Lucy passed after just 1 month of life) the fear that gripped me was almost paralyzing however I have always managed to keep a level head in serious situations and thankfully that instinct kicked in here.
Thankfully my daughter is now fine and the seizure has been put down to quite a severe iron deficiency that is currently being treated (I am happy we know what is wrong and can adjust accordingly there is nothing worse than not knowing when it comes to your children).

Around this time we also began hearing news that the now officially named COVID – 19 virus had been diagnosed in 2 people in a hotel in York and talk of rapid spread in this country was mentioned for the first time. Still life continued more or less as normal even with the official exit of the UK from the European Union happening at the end of January (a 1 year transition phase came into effect meaning most people noticed very little if any change to their daily lives).

So fast forward to March and the beginning of the panic over COVID begins!! I distinctly remember my place of work running a work from home day to see how our readiness for potential home working would fare (and to the credit of my employer it has worked pretty well overall), and I have been back to office once since we had that day!!
Then in the middle of March the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a full national lockdown for at least a month to help stop the spread of this deadly killer. People were to stay in their homes and only leave for food shopping or 1 hours exercise per day. School’s would be closed and all non essential services such as hospitality and retail would have to close. For those who could not work a furlough scheme would be introduced paying up to 80% of a workers salary during the lockdown period, and something similar was ultimately offered for those who are self employed as well (this aspect hitting home particularly hard as my brother is self employed and forced to stay at home during this period).
I will note at this point how lucky (so far) me and my wife have been as we were able to become home workers doing our jobs at our normal hours and so did not feel the hardship of furlough (only 80% of people’s salaries remember)
This meant holidays had to be cancelled (including our normal family holiday) and people were stuck in their homes. This measure although absolutely required for the sake of saving lives has had an untold and disastrous effect of economies around the world.

Gradually lockdown was eased and the economy aloud to open up again but with new restrictions and precautions in place to help limit the spread of the virus. Lockdown had succeeded in ‘flattening the curve’ and reducing infection rates but the virus had unfortunately not gone away as we found out as the year progressed in the second half.
As a family even though we had lost our main family holiday earlier in the year we still managed a few days away in the picturesque seaside town of Scarborough digging on the beach and spending far too much in the towns many arcades (although when restrictions allow I would highly recommend a visit to Scarborough where there is always something to do).

In the UK we now had a tiered system in place ranging from 1 to 3 and with various tighter restrictions introduced depending on the level of tier you were in. There even optimism of a return to the office in some sort of semi permanent state by early 2021 (now dashed I am afraid).
However the tier system by the end of the summer was proving to in effective in tackling the resurging virus and by November lockdown take 2 was announced in various forms across the whole UK to attempt to get the infection rates back under control so that restrictions could be eased somewhat over Christmas and give the general population some much needed relief to be with loved ones over the festive period.
By the time Christmas came around a new variant of COVID-19 had been found in the UK (apparently from South Africa originally or so the press have reported) and borders were closed to try and prevent the spread of this far more infectious strain of the virus. However this at the time of writing has proven to be too little too late as people who had already been to the UK and gone abroad had spread the virus to other parts of the world. So the UK announced the new Tier 4 restrictions mainly for the south of England around the nations capital and so Christmas was cancelled or at least put on hold for many this year a fitting example of just how badly this virus has ravaged the world in 2020. As I sit here thinking about the year about to end and the one around the corner there are a few thoughts that come to mind:

– I cannot believe how much I miss the freedom to simply visit relatives and drive around the country as I wish, I also am surprised at the amount of UK travel I actually do (comparing 2020 to 2019) both for pleasure and business.

– I am more than proud of how my immediate family have coped with the restrictions we have all had this year, even though they have had to sacrifice time with friends for exercise sessions with Joe Wicks (UK readers will definitely get that one).

– Feel the government has absolutely made mistakes in the handling of this pandemic but also acknowledge how difficult this must have been to judge for the good of the country.

– I have sympathy for everyone who has been either made redundant or lost there business or livelihood this year. As I stated before I am really lucky to have been able to work full time through all of this due to the industry I am in.

– I worry for the safety and security of mine and my wife’s jobs going forward hoping we can weather the inevitable storm to come.

– Thankful we at least have a Brexit deal and various continuity agreements in place for trade for 2021 so that when the economy does finally fully reopen for business there is someone to trade with.

– Fully aware given the spread of the virus currently even with various vaccines being approved for use this will more than likely get worse before it gets better.

Finally from what has been one of the strangest years I have ever lived through I want to end by saying I hope you and yours are all safe and I wish you happiness and health going forward not just for 2021 but for life in general. Happy New Year for 2021 as muted as the celebrations may be this year we all hope the usual blow outs we have to bring in the new year traditionally across the world can be rekindled by the end of 2021!!!

As always my opinions are my own and thank you all for reading.

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Family Secret Unravels

So since the 1920’s there has been a rumour on my fathers side of the family that my grandfather had a Chinese father. Now I first found out about this about 10 years ago just after my grandad had passed away when my cousin bought my uncle a DNA test for his 60th birthday, as he had been hearing the stories for years and wanted to bring the whole thing to a conclusion.

Now just to give this a bit of context my grandad was teased as a child for looking Chinese and he was always apparently very touchy about the subject.
Then I was told that my dad and his siblings were also teased in the same way as children and when they approached my grandad he said quite abruptly that it was none of there business.
So as the rumour goes my grandad’s mum worked in a laundry in the early 1920’s in Bradford and had an affair with the owner who was Chinese. I believe this was always denied by my great grandma and so the rumour has persisted I guess for around 90 years now from my grandad’s birth until the aforementioned DNA test for my uncle’s 60th birthday.

So onto the results then, firstly what was expected. Well turns out we have a lot of Irish in our family on my dads side above 30% as it happens, we also have English, and Scottish in our family also not massively surprising. Then to the surprising part which was that over 30% of the our genetic make up was from South Asia especially northern China (Ghangzhou I believe and realise it has not been spelt correctly). So the long standing rumour has been proven to be true.
This has led to a rush from the other siblings over the years including my own dad where it was found that south Asian DNA accounts for 31.8% of my dads make up and would mean that one of his parents would need to be of 50% Chinese decent or higher.

Now I did find it surprising to say the least but when we looked into this further it became obvious really. Looking at old pictures of my grandfather, my dad and his siblings especially when they were kids and myself we all have very distinctive eyes that are a dead giveaway really. I have them, my sister has them and I am proud to say I have passed them onto one of my daughters. I have had conversations with my daughter about this and all the DNA testing going on and she told me that at her school when she put her mask on after a class (COVID world I am afraid) and someone said to her in attempt to try and bully her ‘you look Chinese when you put your mask on.’ My daughter said she was really happy to turn around and say to the prospective bully that she does have Chinese ancestry and shut them down immediately (this is a student has attempted to point out differences in others as a basis to start bullying).

For my dad and his siblings they went through a period of shock not because they have foreign ancestry away from the British isles and Europe but because the family surname we have and still use to this day is actual not in fact our family heritage and we actually don’t know what our real heritage is on my dads side with relation to my grandfather and we only have in fact half a story. There was also the realisation that there had been some dishonesty in the family and deception that persisted for going on 100 years.

For me I am intrigued and happy to have such a diverse make up that I have now passed on to the next generation, and who knows one day I may be able to find out more. Also for the record I have been told I have very nice eyes. I am chuffed I have a heritage to be proud of.

Thanks for reading.

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The Grand Hotel Scarborough

So due to the current COVID – 19 crises we were unable to go on our usual holiday away earlier in the year.
As lockdown measures have been eased somewhat (or for our area of the UK it would now be more appropriate to say had been eased somewhat) we decided we would take advantage of the reopening of hotels by having a few days in Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast.
Now for anyone not familiar with this North Yorkshire spa town towering over the south bay dominating the skyline is the Grand Hotel once Europe’s largest hotel. Since I was a child the hotel has fascinated me looking as it still does from afar resplendent cut into the side of the cliff, and I have always wanted to stay there.  So when looking for a place to stay I  happened to take a look at the Grand and found a deal for 2 nights bed and breakfast for a family of 4 for only £183!!! My wife having known for some time that I had always wanted to stay there agreed and so in the immortal words of Peter Kay we ‘booked it, packed it, and fu*£ed off!!’

However was it worth it?

So how about a bit of a history lesson to begin with? The Grand Hotel was first opened in 1867 and at the time was not only the largest hotel in Europe, but also the largest brick built structure as well. The hotel has been owned by Britannia Hotels since 2004 and is aimed at the budget end of the market. The theme of the hotel was time and was built in the following way:
–  12 Floors Representing the months of the year
–  52 Chimneys for the weeks of the year
–  365 bedrooms originally representing the days of a non leap year

There is also a blue plaque on the side of the building that states that legendary author Anne Bronte died in lodgings where the hotel now stands (and is the only Bronte sister buried in the town).
The hotel was badly damaged in the first world war and subsequently repaired.

Well first impressions when you walk up to the hotel are that it remains a dramatic looking building that still dominates the skyline of the south bay over 150 years after it was first built.
The second thing you notice is the unbelievable din of the hundreds of seagulls nesting within the various crevices of the Grand and some surrounding buildings. The pavements  around the area are caked in seagull poop by the buildings where they nest as well as all over the buildings themselves. Now this is not something unique to the Grand at all as it happens but does have the potential to ruin the building and  I feel more should be done to move the seagulls on and I do not remember this being the case on previous visits to the town, although granted this is something I could simply have forgotten about. Also worth pointing out the council are clearly well aware of the problem judging by the amount of signs around encouraging us all not to feed the seagulls or we may get attacked. I did however find this rather disappointing that more is not being done to contain the problem and felt the closer you got to hotel the more it ruined the view. The sound of all these gulls together was also quite unbelievable.
Other external observations I made as well was to notice when you look a little closer how run down the hotel actually is. Next to the Grand is the funicular railway down to the beach and traditional seaside entertainments and I could not help but notice that some of the windows of this side were smashed and left unrepaired. I did wonder what it must have looked like 100 years earlier when maintenance was kept up with, now it wouldn’t look out of place in some sort of dystopian future Scarborough.

When entering the hotel the main lobby at first sight has lost none of its grandeur and Wow factor. Sympathetically lit up in soft lights it has a wonderful grand staircase, balconies where you can look down into the lobby and I have to say this part of the hotel looked at first sight to have been maintained well. It took a long time to check in given the current social distancing protocols at the hotel that I had no problems with, but sadly it did give me the opportunity to take a closer look at the lobby and there are quite a few cracks in the masonry, and a grand piano that has seen better days. Nevertheless it still had the feel that it could feature well in some Agatha Christie novel and this was one aspect I really liked.

We paid for a sea view room for the 4 of us and the view from the window to the sea and across the Scarborough ‘strip’ was very impressive. Less impressive was the bird poo all over the window and more poo as well as disregarded feathers on the window ledge.
A common theme as you walk through the corridors and up and down the staircases is how run down the hotel now is, even a good clean and coat of paint would make a major difference but there are scuff marks, cracks in masonry, cracked paint everywhere, and peeling wallpaper. As we approached the door to our room the red door had clearly seen better days. Wallpaper within the room looked as though it came from the 1990’s (as Britannia Hotels have owned this hotel since 2004 I question if they have ever redecorated this room). There were too loft hatches within the room and one that didn’t look as though it really fit the hatch. We also observed a crack developing into a hole in the ceiling where it looked as though pipes had been fed and not sealed properly. The furniture within the bedroom looked period and I didn’t dislike it with two more modern chairs next to the table by the window. The beds were okay although I would question the double bed actually being a double, felt more like a 3/4 to me (although I do look a bit like tweedle dum or dee so this may be a little harsh), I didn’t sleep well but then again I don’t often sleep well in a strange bed.
The room was a large one and more than adequate for our sized family. The bathroom was modern and actually very nice except for a rocky toilet and a shower far too powerful for the bath it occupies. A final point I will add here to illustrate how run down this hotel is now is when we looked down from our window we could a badly overgrown former sun terrace below us. I can once again only imagine what this terrace would once of looked like in the hotels heyday, and it also makes me think that the hotel could potentially be missing an area where they could earn additional revenue by spending a little to earn a lot (a bar or additional terrace for guests perhaps).

I now come to our breakfast. The room itself was light and airy with spectacular views of the south bay (something I now realise is the hotels single biggest  selling point other than price). Once again the theme here is past its best and even some of the machines struggle to maintain their frontage.  The most common features of bird poo all over the windows and general decay permeated this room very much like the rest of hotel sadly.
The breakfast itself was awful!!! Sausages that looked like they were a few years out of date, bacon that had more fat than meat, and no hash browns at all. The coffee wasn’t bad though, come to think of it so was the orange juice. It is legitimately one of the worse breakfasts I had ever had at a hotel, and I have stayed at some stinkers in the past.  I am also someone who more than likely will eat themselves to death one day so I know my food (least I know what I like). Even my human dustbin of an eldest living child didn’t was a cooked breakfast on the second morning and was happy to stick to just cereal and toast, and this is unheard of in our household (incidentally they are not big and fat like their father and just very tall for their age).

In conclusion I wanted to just start by stating I am fully aware that the leisure and hospitality sectors and hanging off a cliff at the moment and hoping not to end up like the Holbeck Hotel in Scarborough in 1993 but refer to their financial state rather than actually falling into the sea like the Holbeck did.
That being said Britannia Hotels have owned the Grand for 16 years now and the room we stayed in didn’t look as though it had been decorated since the 1990’s (bathroom aside). It just doesn’t feel as though Britannia take any pride in a hotel with such history that has dominated the landscape of Scarborough south bay for over 150 years (castle aside of course). I know they state that this is now a budget hotel and I accept this but it could be so much more that what it currently is being a mere shadow of its former self.
The staff were actually really nice and helpful except for one staff member at breakfast (although to be fair they looked overworked). I would also say that the quality of the breakfast could be so much better than what it was, claiming budget is one thing but this is no excuse for the quality of food on offer.
Obviously given I cannot foresee any hotel chain making a profit this year or maybe next so I cannot see the situation improving anytime soon, but there is potential for this hotel to once again be the hotel jewel in Scarborough’s crown. It would take a heck of an outlay to make this happen but is not beyond the realms of possibility in the future if the higher up’s at Britannia Hotels realise what they actually have with this historic hotel. I for one would be more than willing to pay more for a better experience here  in the future, however at this time I would only recommend the hotel as a base to enjoy Scarborough itself and would recommend the Weatherspoon’s 5 minutes away from the hotel for meals as they are both cheap and of quality.

As always my opinions are my own and I thank you for reading.

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No Strong Leaders!!

We are currently living in an interesting time aren’t we?

The COVID – 19 pandemic, black lives matter protests, and just recently the # speaking out trending on Twitter as allegations of various abuse within wrestling starting in the British Isles and rapidly spreading to other areas. This comes hot on the heels of the Epstein scandal and the #me too movement in recent years, and I feel that one thing is has been lacking from various politicians around the world particularly in the western world.
Now I would really like to take this opportunity to add my voice praising those who have so far come forward and shared their stories, or attended a protest. This is an amazingly brave thing to have done and I wish I had half the bravery in my life that you have exhibited during this time. I do not pretend to know what any of you have gone through or suffered as I am not a member of an ethnic minority group, and I am not a woman, I would also not presume that I know what is best in this situation, but please know I support the fight for equality on all  levels of society whether this is  for  the colour of  someone’s skin or their gender.

Now during such troubled times it has always been the case that we look to our political leaders for guidance and their ability to unite nations and bring people together. A well placed  appearance standing in solidarity with others, or perhaps an inspirational speech intended to have the same purpose?
However in the USA we seem to  have a President obsessed with self interest, and in the UK we seem to have the classical one rule  for the plebs and another entirely if you have  either a position of power, or have some sort of fame. Where as the vast majority have listened to scientific advice stayed at home, socially distanced where possible, and done their bit.  We have had politicians travelling large distances for childcare (including a 30 mile jaunt to test eyesight???? My opinion if there was ever any doubt then just DON’T drive), famous people self isolating in second homes (when told not to)  and travelling large distances when told not to. We have also had some celebrities moaning about how tough it is to self isolate in their multi million mansions with great chunks of land and stables, while everyday normal people have had to  be locked in 1 bedroom flats with no gardens looking forward to the time they can take their 1 hour exercise round the block!!
All we seem to get is infighting and self interest from today’s politicians not a single one is inspiring or seeking to unite and it has been left to others to try and inspire and make sense of it all.
Countless medical professionals across the world have worked tirelessly to treat to unwell while putting themselves at risk of infection. These selfless acts are inspiration in of themselves and I salute every single one of them.
After the circumstances that took place in Minneapolis people looked to their leaders to acknowledge the problems inherent in many societies but the supposed leader of the free world has shown how clueless he is when it comes to a crises and those around the ‘supposed leader of the free world’ have proven how inept they are to deal.

In the UK we have a Prime Minister who believed from a very young age he was destined to hold the top job in the country despite his perceived bumbling nature. I have not disagreed with every move Johnson has made as Prime Minister so far and I am genuinely glad he pulled through and recovered from COVID -19 particularly with a new born baby, however inspired I am afraid not.
The world is looking for the next great leader to emerge from somewhere and it hasn’t happened yet. As much as Obama had good intentions and broke a lot of barriers down I do not believe history will rank him amongst the greatest US Presidents of all time.

Well the hour is late and my energy is almost gone so I will sign off.
As  always my opinions are my own and thanks for taking the time to read.

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Life in Lockdown

I have not posted in quite a while! In fact I believe it may have been something very short just after the UK lockdown had started.

I tend to go through cycles with my blog, sometimes I will write relatively frequently and other times I can go many months without posting anything. If inconsistency could me money I would surely be a millionaire by now!!

So to give an idea of our lockdown situation then, both myself and my wife have managed to work from home during this period. Myself as all employees were already laptop enabled from last year therefore our transition to home working has been fairly simple.
For my wife she had to fight for an outdated laptop and the IT staff where she works did an amazing job to create a cloud system in just 4 days to enable staff to work from home. Sure there has been complaints that the system is clunky and slow but the mere fact they managed it in such a short space of time to me was impressive.
We absolutely feel ourselves fortunate that we have been put in a position where we can still earn in a period where so many people worldwide face hardship from being furloughed or made redundant. At least the UK government has put something in place to help some of these people, but the fact that this has not effected us so far has definitely not been lost on either of us.
We also have our 2 living children at home during this period and so have had to become teachers as well as working my full time job. While school has been helpful in the work from home suggestions they have offered I have enjoyed setting projects for the kids to work through from book reviews to geography.
My current state of work during lockdown is currently very close to business as usual due to the industry I work in so at times busy has not been the word!!

So in terms of how we have coped I feel my family has on the whole done very well. We have all been effected by the lack of ability to travel during this period. My youngest living child is always happiest when out and about however due to a seizure they had back in February we have wrapped them in cotton wool and so they have been cooped up in either house or garden for almost the entire time except our inconsistent daily exercise.
This has in turn had a bit of a detrimental effect on their behaviour during this time being a little disruptive at times mainly due to frustration at the lack of travel and freedom.
My eldest living child has missed interaction with their friends and has felt cheated as they are in their last year of primary school and this is the point where pupils head off to different high schools so there is a feeling that they will be unable to say a proper goodbye. That being said as they have a mobile phone and access to Roblox they have at the very least been able to keep in contact with their best friends during this time and that is definitely something.
They have also had the opportunity to accompany me on the weekly shop and this has helped to get them out of the house somewhat.
My wife has I feel coped really well with all this. Very much like my youngest living child my wife can get a serious does of cabin fever if they are permanently cooped up at home instead of going somewhere (especially on weekends), but I feel she has definitely done well even though she falls in a vulnerable category being an asthmatic.
As for myself well this has been a very trying period. I started this time at my kitchen table on a very inadequate chair and this has damaged my back. As I also have a very large stomach due to being a fatty and leaning forward to type for the first month or so I feel as I have also damaged my ribs at the front and on the side. My work has helped by putting the money up to buy me a better chair and a laptop riser. This has in turn allowed my to use one of children’s desks to work which has eased the pressure on my torso somewhat (although this has not gone away). Also due to I feel stress my stomach and bowel have been really off during this time, I have also developed an annoying cough (not COVID – 19 I might add), and I have been dealing with an increase in headaches as a result of a head injury suffered on a bus last year.
This has in turn led to me becoming very paranoid about my health during this time and I have thought a lot about dying young (I am not yet 40 so would consider death now to be young), and this has not been helpful and has caused a lot of chaos in my mind.
Our doctors do offer phone appointments but I have been very reluctant to talk to any medical professional partially due to my irrational fear of hospitals, a little bit the old fashion bravado of carry on regardless, but mainly due to the fact I am scare of what they might say, or that they will force me to go through a series of undignified tests.
I realise I am a father and bread winner and it is selfish for me not to go, and some would also tell me to man up or suck it up but to me it is not that simple and I genuinely have a real fear of what might happen next. I really feel that at this time ignorance is bliss and I can cope with the discomfort, I realise this may be very difficult for someone to understand and I am clever enough to realise the stupidity of what I am (or rather what I am not) doing, but fear is a powerful ruler and currently rules the roost.
I have enjoyed the use of various meeting tools to keep in contact with colleagues and clients, and apart from the occasional internet connection problems this has proven an effective tool to work.
I always wanted to be a teacher and so the chance to teach my own kids is one I have relished. I do not pretend to be in any way as effective as a trained teacher but at the same time I do think I have done an adequate job in helping my kids learn during this time.
I have been the one doing our weekly shop and have been very disappointed with other members of the public and their lack of adherence to basic social distancing measures! Just very simple things like following the arrows on the floor in supermarkets, and keeping 2 metres apart instead of pushing in to get what they want with very little regard to other members of the public.
Now I understand there will always be those who could care a less about social distancing and do not feel that this virus will ever impact either them or the people they care about. It is also sad to say that the only thing that would persuade these people otherwise is contracting the virus or passing it on to someone they love.
However this is not a bunch of teens who feel they are immortal, or the ignorant random who feels the government have no right to take away their freedom under any circumstances. These are people who should really know better from those in vulnerable groups to those clearly in the medical profession who on the one hand have been heroes for helping to combat this virus, but on the other hand are putting others at risk with there ‘off the clock’ ignorance.
I have recently taken up tarot just reading for myself and have found it useful in calming my chaotic mind. I have also found them to be incredibly accurate when asking questions to the point I asked a similar question twice in a row shuffled the cards thoroughly and got the exact same three cards drawn in same position both times.
I do come from a family with a lot of spirituality within it and I do not believe in organised religion so maybe some of that spiritual intuition has passed through to myself. That being said it is far too early to tell.

So it is almost 1 in the morning where I am so I need to finish and go to bed. One thing I missed is my weight is really getting worse as I go along and I am literally eating myself into an early grave. I have a smartwatch and before lockdown I did do the equivalent of around 4 miles walking a day and this has reduced to next to nothing!

What I will say to you all is please be safe, be sensible, and listen to the medical professionals who know so much more than we do about this virus than we ever will. From whatever perspective you look at this Gary from work unless he happens to be a doctor or bio chemist, or something like that is not going to offer you the accurate advice of someone who is a paid medical professional.

My opinions are as always my own and thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
Stay safe and until we meet again take care!!

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Lockdown Continued!!

So here we are Friday afternoon, day 9 of our respective  lockdown.

Firstly I have to admit I have very well behaved kids for the most part. They have been really receptive to home schooling and cabin fever has definitely not hit (yet).
We have attempted to go for our once a day exercise everyday and the kids have been taking advantage of the large garden we have (an advantage of living in a former industrial northern town and having cheaper house prices than the south). Many bounces have been had on the trampoline, and the scooters have had an outing as well.

For my part as I think I previously mentioned I am able to work from home and have generally been adjusting to this new reality. I have taken full use of TEAMS (just like SKYPE if you have never used it) and had daily video calls with various colleagues. This has really helped in relation to keeping us all feeling as part of a team, and connected in some small way to the outside world.
My partner as well has managed to adapt to working from home well and hopefully this bodes well going forward.
I must confess it feels really strange not having a daily commute but this has certainly diminished my daily stress levels (have a look at the rail problems we have had in the north of England if you want to know why), although I do still think my desk at work is more comfortable than my kitchen table. Nevertheless I do think my little family has adapted well to the first week of our new situation.
A side note I will mention is that the family cat is actually more trouble  than the kids at the moment!!! It demands attention far more and is far more needy than the kids are. Now I am not a fan of cat flaps as I really do not trust them security wise (either from potential burglars or other felines making their way into our home), the downside to this decision is that it seems every 5 minutes the cat either wants in or wants out!! It isn’t as though I can ignore it either as it has a very loud meow that  half the neighbourhood can here and you need to do something!!

I have only ventured out to the shops once so far since the new restrictions were put in place. This was to our local Co -op and they had placed some yellow tape on the floor by the tills in order to keep below the recommended distance apart. I hear people have been having to queue for hours just to get into the supermarkets due to social distancing, and is something I am going to have to experience this evening as I need to pick up a prescription from the supermarket pharmacy.
We have put through an online order with Asda click and collect but it took hours (literally) to complete this and I am not 100% sure how it will play out come Saturday when I need to pick it up.
Now I know the government here in the UK has stated for people to go out only for essential supplies, but what are you supposed to do when you cannot order online first? I absolutely agree that vulnerable people and frontline services need to be prioritised but it does leave the rest of us having little choice but to brave the supermarkets in order to stay stocked up going forward.
It is a very surreal thing however going in to a shop and seeing the measures people are having to take in order to stop the spread of this potentially deadly virus. Now I am often a person who will accuse politicians and commentators of scare mongering however in this instance my attitude is very much that you really need to listen to the experts and take the required measures needed to combat this.
Yesterday the UK recorded it most number of deaths in a single day since the outbreak began at now over 500 people. Worldwide I believe the death told has now reached above 25,000 with over 500,000 infected. Statistics don’t lie and the figures are a stark reminder of why we have to listen to the advice being provided.
I cannot believe the nerve of some people who are either ignoring the advice or worse intentionally sneezing on food products so that they have to be destroyed as a ‘prank’!!! What is it going to take to make people listen and heed the advice being given? In the UK the police now have powers to fine individuals and disperse large gatherings and this is a positive step, but it should never have gotten to the state having to intervene like this when the facts are staring people in the face!! I can only hope that those who are doing this don’t have to suffer the tragedy of loosing someone to the outbreak due to the careless actions they are taking. We are not invincible as much as we might believe we are and this goes double for those who are young and believe they are too healthy for COVID – 19 to effect them. I believe there was a report in the last couple of days of a 21 year old passing away from the virus and whether or not they had underlying health concerns or not this should serve as a reminder that the virus can strike anybody.
In the UK we have been informed that both Prince Charles the heir to the throne and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson have tested positive for this virus and are now in isolation although I believe both bare suffering from mild symptoms and I would like to take this opportunity to wish them both a speedy recovery.
Just an observation as well to those desperate to get various world economies kick started rather than dealing with the health emergency first. This virus does not care what your creed, colour, race, or religion is. It could also care a less if you are loaded or do not have 2 pennies to rub together you can be infected regardless. Now an abundance of finance may well give you access to the best but very much like cancer, or heart disease these conditions do not recognise money or privilege when selecting a victim and Donald Trump who is in his mid 70’s is in the same risk group as my own father in his early 70’s.
I am worried and scare for the economy and what this all may mean long term for jobs and security, just as I am worried for the smaller sports clubs who are currently receiving no finance from things such as gate receipts or venue hire. I have work so hard over the last few years to build up a degree of financial security for my myself and my family and it scares me rigid this could be in jeopardy due to COVID – 19. However overriding this is a fear I could loose a member of my family to this virus and never be able to see them again, and remember when your dead you cannot take the money with you.

I would also like to point out how disgusted I am that some politicians seek to make political gains off the back of this pandemic!! I saw an article where Jeremy Corbyn said he was right all along about his funding plans for the NHS as this what the government is now doing??? Firstly Corbyn this is happening because of an exceptional situation that at the end of last year nobody could have predicted would happen!! When this type of thing happens of course the government is going to spend more on the health service as a result!! This goes hand in hand with the territory!! Also worth pointing out look around the world there are shortages everywhere, and almost every health service is being tested like never before in peace time. Here is a man so desperate to secure his diminished legacy he will seek to politicise this situation rather than focusing on the job at hand.
Now I must confess I cannot stand Johnson or Dominic Cummings for that matter. I think Johnson is only good when in a comedic buffoon role and has no place running a country. I also think he will never run the country transparently or honestly and will seek to prioritise big business over people. I think Cummins will be the evil puppet master in the back pulling the strings where the top 10% get richer and the rest of us may as well live in the ocean for all the good they will do for the common working man.
That being said I do believe he has led the country well during this crises so far listening to the science as it is provided, and deferring to a medical professional when questions are asked rather than bumbling his way through press briefings as has been his style in the past. To me he has appeared humble and concerned for the welfare of the country first and foremost unlike others we could mention.
I definitely question if he will be the right person to lead us in the aftermath of this pandemic given the inevitable recession we may well suffer as a result. I also question if he will help the common person in the street or just his rich and wealthy buddies who lets face it will suffer no financial hardship due to the funds they will no doubt have in reserve.
However I do not think he has performed terribly so far in the way he has tackled this and most importantly the way he has listened and taken on board the science as he has received.

A huge shout out to all those who paid tribute to our NHS last night with 2 minutes applause. I know this has already happened in other countries as people have shown appreciation to the difficult jobs health professionals have and the bravery they have shown in trying to control this pandemic.

Finally just to say as always my opinions are my own and I would just like to say to you all keep your families safe, listen to the experts, and I will look to post again soon. Thanks for reading.

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Lockdown!!!!!!

Well that title pretty much sums up where billions of people are right now (as I type this India has announced it will place 1.4 billion people in lockdown!

I must say from a personal perspective I cannot quite believe what has happened or the speed at which we have gone from normal everyday life to complete lockdown. Lives are almost unrecognisable now from even the beginning of last week and it would appear this will be our new reality for at least the next 3 weeks.

So for anyone who may read this blog from countries outside the UK here is a brief update of  where we currently are as a nation:

  •  8,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus 422 dead across the nation
  • Closure of all non essential services in the country for at least 3 weeks
  • Everyone to remain in their homes except for essential journeys, and people can now be dispersed or fined if this is ignored
  • All UK schools closed to all but the children of key workers
  • Restrictions to be reviewed in 3 weeks

So in terms of my personal circumstances I am now a homeworker for the foreseeable future along with  my wife, and my children are now being home schooled. My parents are locked in as are in the high risk category of  people who can catch this virus.

This is something that has not happened in most people’s living memory I even asked my 71 year old father if he had had any experience of something like this, and all he remembered was a smallpox outbreak in the 1950’s where everyone needed to be vaccinated. The only one I can think of that didn’t involved some sort of war was perhaps the Spanish flu in the early 20th Century where millions of people died.

I don’t have a whole lot of time to write this initial lockdown blog but I did want to say something about the disgusting way some people have completely ignored the advice of central government!
I realise people may not like to be told they can’t do something, or to be restricted in any way in the modern era, however this is being done for OUR OWN GOOD!
At the weekend I observed a large family get together for mothers day and the mother was clearly over 70. My wife observed maybe they really dislike their mother/grandmother if they are willing to flaunt advice and potentially expose one of the highest risks groups to this virus?
Also seeing large numbers of people treat this as a chance to get away in large numbers and ignore social distancing advice because for some reason they don’t think it applies to them is almost beyond belief.
Both my sister and brother in law are nurses on the front line fighting this virus  and witnessing first hand the effect it has on the vulnerable, and the infection rates.
Its time to listen and face the fact that this is being done for our own good, in order to minimise the impact of this deadly virus.

So to close please do yourselves a favour stay at home, wash your hands, and listen to the advice intended to save lives!!
Take care of yourselves and your families at this very trying time. I will post more blogs as lockdown continues.

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