Weekly Pic: w/c 21st November

30 years ago  |  The Sugarhouse, Lancaster, UK  |  25th November 1992

Not a picture from the night itself (it’s ”borrowed’ from the Sugarhouse twitter timeline) but this is exactly how I remember nights in the Student Union-owned nightspot – although slightly more out of focus, perhaps. I don’t know what was playing when this was taken but in my head, all I can hear is ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain, ‘People Everyday’ by Arrested Development and perhaps a little smattering of ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba.

So how is it I knew I was definitely in “The Shagga” this random midweek night in 1992, you may well ask. A diligently-kept diary? The law of averages? Not quite. Some internet research tells me that the following day (the 26th) was the date that Eric Cantona officially signed for Manchester United and I distinctly remember hearing “on good authority” from a fellow-reveller that the rumoured deal was done, while we were in the queue to get in.

Was this just a bit of alcohol-fuelled optimism that got lucky or was there really a direct line from Old Trafford to fist-year undergraduates in Lancaster? We’ll never know. All I can say is that the rumours were right and the next day, it happened and… …well you probably know the rest.

Anyway, let’s raise a 70p shot of vodka to the good old Sugarhouse: the site of many a top night out and perfectly situated for the kebab shop and bus stop afterwards. Cheers!

Weekly Pic: w/c 14th November

10 years ago | Orrell St. James RLFC, Wigan, UK | 18th November 2012

This is a post to mark the dedication of junior sports team families. For nearly five years, our Sunday mornings were mostly dominated by junior rugby. To the uninitiated, that may sound like an hour or so on the touchline but the reality is more like a lifestyle choice.

Two-hour training sessions, twice a week, travel to away games across the North West, pre-match team breakfasts, social occasions, fundraising activities, club outings and parents’ nights out. Then there’s all the stuff you need: the kit, training kit, footwear, safety wear, kit bags, a first aid kit, balls, kicking tees, raffle tickets, club merchandise. And then all the constant, incessant washing, It quickly takes over a large part of your life.

But then you wouldn’t have it any other way. The opportunity to reinforce the importance of achievement, of belonging to a team, the life-lessons of sacrifice and effort, the irregular moments of pure joy when everything goes well and the value of forbearance when things get tough.

It doesn’t end there. There’s a camaraderie amongst parents, a pooling of resources to keep the club functioning well and stories of club events that will only ever resonate quite as strongly to those who were there. What often starts with an invitation to ‘join in’ can become a defining part of family life.

And then one day, with almost no notice, it can all come to an end. You can’t force kids to carry on in a team just because you’ve moulded your life around it. You have to respect that and mould your life around something else. In many ways, it can be like a bereavement. As such, the best advice is not to mourn the loss of what was there but to be thankful that it was ever so special.

Photo of the Week: w/c 7th November 2022

20 years ago: Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – c.11th November 2002

Part II of our honeymoon was spent in Las Vegas, five weeks after we got married. Things immediately got interesting when we landed in Philadelphia and went to check in to our connecting flight, to be told that “the airline went out of business yesterday”.

Fortunately, for $100 each, we could transfer to an outgoing US Air flight – if we were quick. We weren’t quick because US Airport Security was still painfully slow, over a year after 9/11, and the queues stretched back almost to the main entrance. Even more fortunately, we got through it all in time to take the last two seats on the replacement flight.

Here we are in front of the Bellagio’s lake, the home of their famous fountain display and a location in the recently-released ‘Ocean’s Eleven’. The even more recogniseable Caesar’s Palace is visible behind my right shoulder.

It had been an expensive year so we couldn’t afford to stay on the Strip itself. We stayed just off the Strip at the Gold Coast Resort, on West Flamingo, just the other side of Interstate 15.

We had a week of touring the casinos and various attractions, with a very moderate amount of gambling that reflected our we’ve-just-funded-a-wedding budget. We rode the rollercoaster at New York, New York and the Big Shot atop the Stratosphere Tower, we visited the car museum in the Flamingo, an Elvis museum…somewhere – and we didn’t bother with the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. I was also gutted tho learn that a bit of pre-trip internet research (it was only just becoming a ‘thing’) would have told me that Aerosmith were playing the MGM Grand…

One morning, I was. a bit too keen to hit the breakfast buffet at [name withheld] and I think I might have had something that had been there a few hours because by that afternoon, I was being violently ill – a lot – with suspected food poisoning. To make it more interesting, we’d booked on a flight over the Grand Canyon the next day.

Consequently, I’m now one of a select group of people to have been spectacularly sick in at least three bags in a small plane over the place consistently named as the Worlds Number One ‘Place To See Before You Die’…

Photo of the Week: w/c 31st October 2022

45 years ago: Wigan Infirmary, Wigan, UK – c.5th November 1977

That Time I Nearly Died. It’s not the sort of story you’d commemorate with a photo in the 70s, so this library image will have to suffice.

When I was 4, I used to have a Tonka truck just like this. One day, while running and pushing it around, bent over it, I ran into a real truck and fractured my skull, badly. My memory of the whole thing ends with me thinking to myself ‘it’s a bit uncomfortable to run around and keep looking up – so I’ll just run without looking’. It wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

Unconscious, I was rushed to Wigan Infirmary for emergency surgery. I’m told that when a nurse was asked what else anyone could do, she replied “well, you can pray”. Under the care of our wonderful NHS, I eventually regained consciousness, with a significantly dented head – and was kept in for several days.

I’m not sure of the dates but I do remember being in hospital on Bonfire Night and seeing fireworks through the tall Edwardian windows. The scenes in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ where Harry is hospitalised, in an old iron bed in a high-ceilinged ward following a quidditch injury, strongly remind me of those days and nights.

When I finally came home, I’d been given a cool sand-pit play area and, strangely, the Tonka truck was never seen again.

I still have the dented head..

Photo of the Week | w/c 24th October 2022

5 years ago: Houses of Parliament, London, UK – 25th October 2017
Take a close look at this photo: the location of the camera, relative to the Thames. It’s Parliament but not from an angle you’re used to seeing. That’s because this is the Members’ Terrace: to be here, you have to be either an MP or their guest. A trip to Prime Minister’s Questions and some good contacts (Helen’s Mum) resulted in us being invited into the inner sanctum by the then Member for West Derby, Stephen Twigg. I’d encourage everyone to visit the Palace of Westminster and attend a PMQs to get a glimpse of how this country is run (especially at a time like this). And if you ‘know people’, you might even get a picture like this…

Photo of the Week | w/c 17th October 2022

30 years ago: Bowland Tower, Lancaster University, UK – ??th October 1992
I’ll be honest, I have no idea on what date this photo was taken – do I look like I would? From the locked kitchen cupboards, the décor and, yes, the hair, I *can* tell you this was from my first year at university. I’d begun my degree course this month, celebrated my 19th birthday during Freshers’ Week and was firmly on the voyage of discovery that constituted that particular, mostly memorable, year. One port of call in that voyage was ‘Tizer’, the rudimentary home cocktail made from lots of rum, lots of vodka and a small amount of random red-coloured non-alcoholic drink. This, I believe, was an early foray into the world of ‘Tizer’ parties that would punctuate my three years there. Therefore, mid-October 1992 is as good an estimate of the date of this photo as any.

Photo of the Week | w/c 10th October 2022

20 years ago: NEC Arena, Birmingham, UK – 11th October 2002
For two years, we were the main sponsor of the Prince Phillip Cup, the most prestigious competition in the sport of Mounted Games, with the final held at the Horse of the Year Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Helen and I were asked to present the prizes at one of the evening performances, hence the formal attire. I was due to do the same thing a year later but circumstances intervened and I had to decline the invitation – which effectively meant that I ‘stood up’ Princess Anne. Not many people can claim to have done that!

Photo of the Week | w/c 3rd October 2022

35 years ago: Central Park, Wigan, UK – 7th October 1987
I’m almost certainly on this picture. I was one of the 36,895 who packed into Wigan’s old Central Park ground to watch the cherry-and-whites become World Club Champions. That we were packed tightly at the very back of the corner terrace, far behind the floodlight pylon, suggests, as many believed, that there were well over 40,000 present – today, pretty much anyone in Wigan over 40 now claims to have been there! Wigan won a tense, physical, try-less affair 8-2 and history was made. Thanks in part to this game, 30 years later, I took the Manly ferry from Sydney and spent the day there.

Photo of the Week | w/c 26th September 2022

20 years ago: Statham Lodge, Lymm, UK – 29th September 2002
We got married twenty years ago, this week. I’ve previously shared more obvious pictures from that day but this shot is one of my favourites. We’re gazing longingly into each other’s eyes, for a cameraman trying to create an image. We’d argued in that Bentley going from the church to the reception venue and, during the meal, the hotel told us the cream in our profiterole wedding cake had gone off, leaving 150-odd people with tinned fruit and ice cream for dessert. Life is imperfect, often false and, occasionally, gloriously good, especially when surrounded by friends. Our wedding day wasn’t entirely the ‘fairytale’ people tend to want – but the perfect preparation for a strong, loving marriage, which is precisely as it should be.

Photo of the Week | w/c 19th September 2022

20 years ago: Robinsons Superstore, Ashton-in-Makerfield, UK – 19th September 2002
It was just a regular Thursday evening in September and we’d just got back from Sainsbury’s when the ‘phone rang. “The shop’s on fire”. We jumped in the car and drove to Ashton. There were police cordons on the A49 at Haydock Racecourse. We told them who we were and they waved us through. We then spent most of the rest of the evening stood across the road, watching it burn down. Thankfully, no-one was killed or injured but this single event would dominate our lives for the next fourteen months.

Photo of the Week | w/c 12th September 2022

25 years ago: Robinsons Superstore, Ashton-in-Makerfield, UK – 13th September 1997
If you were re-opening a feedstore for horse feed and bedding in the 1990s, there was no bigger equine celebrity to perform the grand opening than Milton, one of the most famous and successful horses in British showjumping. Having obligingly ‘cut’ the ribbon (actually two ribbons tied to a tempting carrot), we posed with the VIH himself. We’d planned the day meticulously and then were suddenly aghast that if Diana’s funeral was to be scheduled a week later, it would eclipse this in-store event. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Thanks also to Adrian (left) for sending me this photo, earlier this year.

Photo of the Week | w/c 5th September 2022

10 years ago: Salford Quays, Manchester, UK – 11th September 2012
I took this photo as we climbed out of Manchester Airport on a flight to Gothenburg. You can see the Manchester Ship Canal winding its way past the Trafford Centre to Salford Quays, Media City, the Lowry and then Old Trafford football ground. Behind the plane’s engine is the centre of Manchester. Even though I’ve flown over Manchester more times than I can remember, it’s rarely this clear.

Photo of the Week | w/c 29th August 2022

10 years ago: Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany – 31st August 2012
A 2012 business trip to Germany just happened to be on the doorstep of Germany’s famous racing circuit. When it was time for lunch, our hosts had booked us in “a local restaurant”. We didn’t know any more than that until we arrived at the circuit itself. Between courses, there was the opportunity to watch a succession of race-specification Porsches whizzing past as part of their testing day. Sadly, financial uncertainties have meant that there have only been four German Grands Prix held since I took this picture – with only three of them held at Hockenheim.

Photo of the Week | w/c 22nd August 2022

30 years ago: Monsters of Rock, Castle Donington, UK – 22nd August 1992
I’m almost certainly on this picture.  Two days before, I’d got my A-Level results and learned my offer to go to Lancaster University had been confirmed. I celebrated by standing up all day with 70-odd thousand rock fans at a race circuit in Leicestershire. The bill included The Almighty, W.A.S.P., Slayer, Thunder, Skid Row and the mighty Iron Maiden. During Freshers’ Week at Lancaster, I managed to get hold of a bootleg cassette of this concert, although it’s since been released as an official Maiden live album. Whenever one of the tracks comes up on rotation, I always remark “Oh, I’m on this album”…

Photo of the Week | w/c 15th August 2022

10 years ago: Orléans Cathedral, Orléans, France – 17th August 2012
It’s exactly 10 years since we decided to drive into Europe for our main holiday and Orléans was the stopping point at the end of our first day on the road, en route to Bourg-sur-Gironde, north of Bordeaux. We went inside and viewed the tapestry of Joan of Arc, forever linked with the city. In the decade since then, we’ve ventured further: to Avignon, to Catalunya and, one year, into Italy. We’ve seen so much of these countries that we would otherwise have just flown over. Driving to holiday locations is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Photo of the Week | w/c 8th August 2022

5 years ago: Mas Bernad, Vilademuls, Spain – 14th August 2017
Five years ago, we discovered this haven in Catalunya, northern Spain. Owned by the charming Ignacio (we get to call him “Iggy”), it has become our home from home. We’ve been back there twice since 2017 and we were particularly sad not to be able to visit in 2020, due to Spanish quarantine laws. This picture was taken during our first visit: with Ursa Major shining brightly in the pitch-black night sky.

Photo of the Week | w/c 1st August 2022

10 years ago: Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, UK – 2nd August 2012
A summer holiday grand day out, to watch England v South Africa from the legendary Western Terrace at Headingley. This was only my second time at the Yorkshire Test venue, having watched an Ashes Test during the one-sided 1993 series – that heralded the rise of some strutting spinner called Shane Warne. We had a great day at the Test and even nipped next door to the rugby ground during a rain delay.

Photo of the Week | w/c 25th July 2022

10 years ago: Chamberlains Farm, Shevington Moor, UK – 27th July 2012
In a ‘scene change’ of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, I made a brew and allowed myself to be caught up in the national-image-reaffirming positivity of the evening. The Queen had just ‘parachuted’ into the stadium and we’d shown the world all that’s great about Britain, from Shakespeare to Mr. Bean, via the NHS. What could be more appropriate than a cup of tea in a Union Flag mug? Can it be just ten short years ago that we had a country we were so proud of – and a flag that we could so unselfconsciously wave? And now? Well you know what they say about pride – and what comes next…

Photo of the Week | w/c 18th July 2022

30 years ago: Frog Lane Guitars, Wigan, UK – July 1992
Not the date of the photo but the purchase of my beloved Cherry Sunburst Epiphone Les Paul from a much-missed back-street music store that also sold prams and cots. I’d mortgaged all my 1992 Christmas present allocation to get a loan to secure this beauty. When I got it home. I instantly took off the scratch plate and de-tuned it a semitone to get the full Slash (Guns-‘N-Roses) effect. It got me through University and has continued to preserve my sanity every year since. I upgraded the humbuckers about ten years ago and still play it to this day. And, yes, it’s still de-tuned a semitone…

Photo of the Week | w/c 11th July 2022

40 years ago: Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, UK – 11th July 1982
This was my view of the 1982 World Cup Final, from a grainy black-and-white portable TV in a caravan on a showground in Harrogate. I was there (aged eight) as we exhibited at the Great Yorkshire Show. I don’t remember much about the game but I do recall that that was the show that I discovered Britvic 55 orange drink, ‘The White Helmets’ motorcycle display team and Jemima Parry-Jones’ falconry display.

Photo of the Week | w/c 4th July 2022

15 years ago: Chamberlains Farm, Shevington Moor, UK – 7th July 2007
Not the date of the photo but the closest estimate I have for the day Marley was born. He came to us the following Easter and this picture was taken later that summer, when he was just over a year old. Simultaneously the softest-natured dog I’ve ever encountered with the hardest skull you’ve ever been run into by. He was a wonderfully faithful companion and we were privileged to be able to give him three years of extra life when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2016.

Photo of the Week | w/c 27th June 2022

30 years ago: Old Trafford, Manchester, UK – July 1992
In the close season before the first Premier League season, I made my regular summer trip to Old Trafford to purchase the new home shirt on the day of its release from the Club ‘Superstore’ (the small rectangular building in the bottom-right corner). I remember walking around the ground to see the demolished Stratford End and peering over the construction site wall, to see the interior of the ground. Incidentally, the beige bit of land across the Quays is now the Lowry and the green bit behind that is now the BBC.

Photo of the Week | w/c 20th June 2022

15 years ago: Skipton Horse Trials, Carleton-in-Craven, UK – 25th June 2017
Helen and Nigel take on a cross-country fence at the top of the hill, before turning for home. Of all the events that Helen has ridden at, Skipton was always one of my favourites; the dramatic Yorkshire Dales backdrop added great scenery to whatever level of action photography I’ve been able to conjour. This one isn’t your classic ‘front-on’ jumping pose but the hills in the background and the valley below seem to suit the unusual angle.

Photo of the Week | w/c 13th June 2022

35 years ago: Standish High School, Standish, UK – 12th June 1987
Something I never thought I’d see again until an old friend kindly put it on Facebook (and tagged me), a while back. 35 years ago, I stood as the SDP/Liberal candidate in the school version of the 1987 General Election. I came third. Labour won (obviously) but I think I out-performed the Liberal/SDP candidate’s 14% share of the vote for the Wigan seat that year. I wasn’t that bothered. By Election Day, I’d flown out of the country and was on holiday in Corfu…

Photo of the Week | w/c 6th June 2022

45 years ago: Bentham Road, Standish, UK – 7th June 1977
One of my earliest memories: the 1977 Silver Jubilee. Here I am with my cousin Adam, both of us aged 3½, at a street party, in front of his house. I don’t remember much else of the day – it was 45 years ago! 2022 marks the fourth Jubilee of my lifetime, which is about as many as any British subject has ever lived through – apart from anyone now aged 87 or above. They have lived through a record-breaking fifth Jubilee: 1935 was the year of George VI’s Silver Jubilee.

Photo of the Week | w/c 30th May 2022

15 years ago: Wembley Stadium, London, UK – June 1st 2007
I was lucky enough to be in the crowd the night that the “new” Wembley Stadium hosted its first international match: England v Brazil. I’ve been back a few times since then but it was wonderful to be part of such a historic night. Even though it’s now 15 years ago, it’s also notable that such memories are more often accompanied by a photo. The advent of camera phones and the perspective of parenthood meant that, by 2007, I was much keener to record a scene for posterity.

Photo of the Week | w/c 23rd May 2022

20 years ago: Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain – May 19th 2002

I can’t believe it’s now 20 years since a bunch of mates from University all met up in Barcelona for a stag party. In the days before camera phones, very little photographic evidence exists of such events (thank Heavens!) – the photo doesn’t even include the Stag of that particular Do. We had a wild weekend, partying until daylight and becoming acquainted with one of my favourite cities on Earth. Shockingly, I didn’t visit Barcelona again until August last year. I won’t leave it so long next time…