Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Third worst, different from the first.  No it wasn't, only joking to keep the Ramones theme going.  It was just the same as Monday and Tuesday and not a lot different to every day for the last 9 months.  Then again, three quarters of the working week down is never a bad thing.  

Have got to finish early tomorrow night to take Shamila's dad for his Covid jab.  Probably shouldn't really be doing it but what the hell are we supposed to do, the fellar's 90 years old.  Hopefully the police aren't reading my pronouncement otherwise there might be a bit of brouhaha.

Eh, you never know?  I remember about 10 years ago I was getting about 50 views a day and sudden it went up to 5000. mostly in L.A.  It spooked me a bit actually especially when the views went back down again.  It was a bit suspicious you've got to admit?

We'll just have to see what tomorrow brings.


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Day 2

Second day, same as the first (to the tune of Beat on a Brat), sadly no deliveries today though. I'm only joking - of course I had a delivery.  It was a flyer for a new mobile phone contract from Virgin.  Duly noted and memorised.  

Anything of note happen?  Nope.  Genuinely can't remember if we've gone into lockdown yet.  It feels like I've been in lockdown sine last March to me.

Eez a little number.  

Monday, 4 January 2021

Scrooge - Reflections of Christmas past

Reflecting quite a lot at the moment and expect to continue for some time.   


First day of 2021 at work went as well as could be expected.  Got up as normal at Shamila's in Billingham. Sham prepared my breakfast cereal and toast.  Took my morning tablets, sat down and flicked through the news on my phone before driving to my house in Acklam where I work for HMRC.  I sit there on my own all day.  I send and receive a few emails/messages from colleagues and my manager and attend the occasional team meeting.  Obviously, what I do is of national importance and top secret so I can't divulge in such a public arena but ring HMRC with a tricky tax problem tomorrow and you never know.


Today was a bit more exciting than normal because I had a wardrobe delivered.  Juggling my work around the odd delivery is just one of the perks of working from home during a pandemic.  Actually call it singular perk that I've enjoyed loads of times.  I've had a lot of workmen in since the beginning of September, so I've saved a stash of leave (that's what us posh Labour lot call holidays don't you know).  Anyway there's a big unsightly scratch on the front of one of the doors so I guess they'll be back to sort it.


I digress.  So today was my 42nd new year return to work since I started my first (and only) job in 1978.  

And what are my recollections of that time? 


I was 17, a bit shy, very awkward socially, very immature.  I used to blush all the time, still do actually. I was so self-conscious.    I felt pressure to get a girlfriend but hadn't the faintest idea how to get one.  And of course I thought it was just me.  I almost certainly wasn't.  I'd left all my school/college friends behind and was like a fish out of water in the 9 to 5 environment of 'real work' with adults.  


It doesn't sound long now but I'd been working 3 1/2 months up to Christmas, it seemed like an eternity.  I was losing my confidence, not that I had that much to start with.  I remember being conscious that I had to make friends and it felt like I was running out of time. God knows what I thought was going to happen.


The Christmas holiday with my brothers and mam and dad must have been great, they always were.   Obviously presents and that and the New Year’s party round our house and the Freeman's 2 doors away.  Our mam and dad loved New Year’s Eve and they let me play a couple of my records. I remember playing First Time by The Boys (terrible song) and our mam and her best friend, Edie Freeman trying to dance to it.  A great memory,  probably my last memory of being a kid at Christmas.  

I have strong memories of resenting going back to work after Christmas,  jeez, I'd only had a week off.   That's all wrong, I don't think I ever properly got over to having long school holidays off. Then again I was loaded, picking up about £30 a week.  After giving our mam £10 I still had £20 to spend on records. It was more cash than I needed.  Lots of regrets about the holidays not unpaid college mind.


Our parents were what now seems to me relatively youthful. Our mam was 41 and Dad 46 and although our grandads and nana/grandma were no longer around most of our blood uncles and aunties were.  Uncles Joe, Jack and Alec and aunties Madge and Pauline.  


Sadly that was as good and serene as it was going to get because our mam's younger sister Pauline died of a heart attack in January aged 40.  Little did we know at the time but the heart thing had already become a family thing and still is.  I remember us being notified by phone and Kenny next door driving me and our mam 'round to our uncle Alec's in Thorntree to let him know.  I thought my head was going to explode.  Jeez.


And I just went to work the next day.  I was shell-shocked but I didn't know how or what to tell my work colleagues, so I didn't tell anybody.  

Not sure where all that came from or where it's going so I think I'll leave it there for now.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

We move on.

I'm back at work tomorrow so it's officially the last day of my Christmas holiday and I have butterflies in my stomach which is just normal.  I've always felt like this after Christmas, even when school was work.  I thought it was just me being soft and sentimental but it turns out SAD Syndrome is a real thing and lots of other people are prone to it as well.  I do feel vindicated mind but it's more consolation than actually making me feel better.

My usual approach nowadays isn't rocket science either.  I hammer the gym, I socialise as much as I can.  I go to the pub with friends, go to gigs even if I’m not that interested in the artist or band.  I make a few New Year resolutions knowing full well I’m not going stick to them for very long.  Anything to focus my mind really until I wake up one day and the blues have gone.


Without question most of my usual tools are not there for me this year.  I’m far from convinced  some of the simple socialising we took for granted will ever be available again. I’ve thought about doing the couch to 5k but I’m wary about the weather not to mention my terrible balance and general clumsiness.  Even the simplest things like reading and listening to music have become problematic for me, I find it increasingly hard to concentrate  – a quick Google of course shows it’s not just me.  At least some consolation.


So …………  


1 Gym - No

2 Couch to 5k? – Will start tomorrow, weather permitting

3 Pub – No

4 I drink too much at home.  I don’t even like it (that much) so less drinking at home 

5 Gigs – Obviously not 

6 Listen to more music.  For some bizarre reason I lost interest in music last year.

7 Less aimless browsing on social media and on-line news

8 Less aimless watching tv

9 More listening to music, more reading/learning

10 Continue with my blog for now


So I guess my resolutions are 2, 4, 6, 9 and 10.


Okay pop music, let’s go!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Reflections and Happy Birthday

On 2 January 2006 Boro played Newcastle away in the Premier League in front of 52302 spectators.  Hasselbaink came off the bench to score in the 87th minute to put Boro in the lead 2-1.  Alas Lee Clark went on to equalise in the final minute and the match ended 2-2.  

Imagine that? In 2006 Boro were so good that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink couldn't get into our starting line-up.  Since that day our then manager Steve McLaren, the most successful manger in our history left Boro to manage England to disastrous effect.  Our captain that day also went on to manage Boro before getting the sack after we got relegated to the Championship.  Since the he's been manager of England since September 2016.   They say football is a funny old game.  More funny peculiar than funny ha ha I guess.

Today, 2 January 2021, Chuka Akpon scored the final goal in the 81st minute to make it 3-1 to Boro away to Wycombe Wanderers in front of 0 spectators.  We now play in the second tier of English Football and today's win moves us just outside the play-off positions and that's pretty good.  

Could we get promoted this season?  I personally doubt it and if we do we'll almost certainly come straight back down.  We're just too poor to compete.  Our chairman, Steve Gibson whilst obviously still a very rich man is no longer the financial big hitter he was way back when. Those heady days of big money signings under Bryan Robson and Steve McLaren (1994 to 2006) are history. 15 to 27 years ago doesn't seem that long ago to me but maybe it all happened in the 'olden days' we used to talk about when we were kids.

Anyway lets not be downbeat. So in other news on 2 January 2006 I started my blog on Livejournal so this cakes for me.

It's ok, I'll save you a piece.  

I know my posts have been sparse over recent and not so recent years but I still tell people I've been doing a blog for 15 years and in the words of Gary McCabe aged 10 at Ladgate Juniors if you don't believe me you can go and fart.  Alternatively you could have a flick through the archives on Blogger and Livejournal 

On that bombshell in a new regular feature on Goffafromtheblock on Saturday night here's my song for Saturday night - Friday I'm in Love - Kate Rusby


Sleep tight.

Friday, 1 January 2021

New Year - old/new start

 It all feels rubbish to be honest.  No point trying to kid myself.  

As I said last night a lots happened in the last 9 months.  From a practical point of view selling the family home was a no brainer really.  It was a window of opportunity to move. I'm not getting any younger and it was probably a case of it now or never.  The area is currently very quiet and nice but it's full of rental properties and it would only take one bad household to totally destroy the tranquility/ambience of the neighbourhood.  That looks awful reading it back but please don't judge me too harshly for saying that. Think I've done my time.

So me and Ian decided to sell up at the beginning of April. Me and Shamila (mainly me) did some minor repairs and decoration work and we put it up for sale in the middle of June.  We agreed a sale 5 weeks later and completed the sale in the middle of September.  All done in 3 months. Bop, bop, bop.

So after nearly 60 years the Spences no longer have a base in East Middlesbrough.  There were lots of tears from me and my close neighbours (think they were probably more worried about who they might get as their new neighbour) at the end and I still miss them all terribly 3 months on.  I guess I could go back and see them from time to time and in truth I had to just before Christmas but I simply don't like seeing somebody else living in our house.  Hail the Spences, 25 Kirkstone Road, Berwick Hills.

A very proud man. 

So I'm back in my 'Acklam house' which it's become known over the last 10 years.  You know with me being such a property tycoon and all that.  

Ha ha, don't think so, I just fell into being a landlord.  I never planned it at all.  It just came about because of the financial crash in 2008.  My mam was going to come and live with me but due to the property crash she couldn't sell her house so on a whim I decided to rent my house out and move back in Chateau 25.  It was ok. Actually it was brill while my mam was still alive and it brought me a few bob which meant I could go part-time at work.  That said the cash I received didn't really compensate me enough for the dreaded phone calls from the tenants or even the fear of receiving them. I hated ringing round for tradesmen to do repairs and doing my Tax returns was a drag. It was all terrible, I mean apart from the rent obviously.  Does that make me a bad person?  

I don't think so and my tenants loved me.  Shamila said I was too soft and I can now admit I was.  I only put the rent up once and I pretty much let them do what they wanted with the house.  To say it looked a bit tired when they moved out was an understatement.   

Hey ho, it all worked out. Me and Sham have totally renovated it (in fairness think Shamila did more work than me) and its now looking the best it's ever looked. It's all worked out.  Anyway here you go, here are a few photos think Shamila took.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Day - Whatever New Years Eve

 Howdy doody!  So here we are, watching on again as another new year hurtles towards us.  Efforts to slow things down, in my mind at least, have , as ever proven fruitless/pointless.  My thinking was that if I paid ultra attention to everything  going on around me time would appear to slow down. Think I read it somewhere.  Anyway it hasn’t worked for me but I’m not that bothered.  


I have a strong memory of watching the news New Years Eve 2019 about the outbreak in Wuhan and musing to Shamila that this could turn out really bad.  Not pretending I had any particular insight but it sounded serious.  Still didn’t think it would come to this. 


In fairness I have no right to complain.  My life has been fairly solitary but that’s no difference to many other people.  But on the positive side I’ve managed to take care of some serious personal business.  My tenant in Acklam gave me notice to quit my let property and with a heavy heart decided to sell the Spence family in Kirkstone Road and move back to Acklam.  


Getting ready to go again.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Day 3 Lockdown awaits

Worked from home today - the new normal.  I'm not keen to be honest.  My set-up's reasonable enough.  A room set aside, a big desk and a nice chair so it's comfortable enough but home's home and good and work's work and tolerable.

I try to work hard at home but it would be silly to deny that I'm a bit pre-occupied at the moment.  Anyway, as it's the new normal I decided that listening to music is going to be part of the new normal and that this week I'd concentrate on listening to The Kinks.  Why the hell not? 

I know little about The Kinks.  Obviously Ray Davies and his brother Dave was in them and in the sixties they had loads of great singles, they played a memorable (in my opinion anyway) concert on Christmas Eve 1977 that was televised live on the BBC and they brough out a great Christmas single that bombed.  They had a long list of great songs that were covered by other artis.  David Watts (The Jam), Stop Your Sobbing (Pretenders), Days (Kirsty McCall) and Victoria (The Fall) immediately spring to mind and I'll argue all day long that in the sixties, songs wise (everything in my world) they were only bettered by The Beatles.

So I listened to the The Kinks Pye Album Collection which I'd ripped to my iTunes comprising of the 10 albums they recorded for the Pye label and although a little patchy there were enough great songs to get me through the day.  Especially enjoyed The Kink Controversy, We Are The Village Green Preservation Society (originally panned but latterly revered) and Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire.  Think I'll listen to them again tomorrow.

I went to Shamila's after work to set up her new TV (I wonder how much longer I'm going to be able to travel between our houses?) and watch the nightly government address. And Ian was right we're going to be in (our version of) lockdown from tomorrow. Pretty much the same restrictions as in Italy and Spain (can go out to work if you have to or go to the shops or for medical treatment or to visit a sick relative) but we're also going to be allowed to go out to exercise once a day.  It doesn't sound like it's all been ironed out yet (nothing does) and I can't imagine how they're going to police it.

I guess that's it for now then.  What the hell.  I can't work from Shamila's so I guess I'll be locked down in TS3.  Jeez, how did it come to this?  It's mad, it even seems a good option.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Day 2 - Last day in the countryside?

Hardly the countryside but the Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park was beautiful today.  It's just on the edge of Billingham, semi industrial and a quite smelly in parts but we like it. From what Johnson said tonight it might have been our last trip out for some time.  Not as many people out as yesterday.  Lots of talk on the news about people being irresponsible.  In fairness not us, we managed to get out twice this weekend and our social distancing was text book if I say so myself.

Had a chat with my brother in Spain.  He said we're going to be locked down tomorrow.  I didn't think so at the time but when I saw Johnson on the news I can see what he's saying.

Spoke to my ex-wife about Michael in Lowestoft. She assured me he'll be ok so I'll stop fretting for now.

That's enough  for tonight.  Working from tomorrow in solitary confinement.  Here's a few snaps from today.  As I used to say more filler than thriller.

 This lake might have it's own name a name but I'm buggered if I know but it's in Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

Village Hall in Greatham oldy worldy stylee. 

Distancing with Shamila in Greatham

Some random pylons in a farmer's field near  Greatham.  Looks a bit blurry?  Hey ho, looked ok on the phone.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Day 1 part 2

Definitely felt a bit weird today.  There were about 10 people stood outside the pharmacy as I parked up to pick up my 4 weeks supply of tablets.  When I got closer I read the sign in the window "3 customers only at any one time".  Fortunately only 2 of the 10 were waiting in the queue.

As I entered the shop I got a view of the pharmacist with a mask over his mouth.  For some reason his assistant didn’t.  I really hope it wasn’t because of a shortage of masks.  I received my tablets and exited and sighed with relief. 

Quite rightly lots of talk about heroic staff in NHS but lots of heroes also elsewhere.  I’ll start with shout for chemist staff, shop workers generally, post workers, carers, bus drivers, logistic staff, (all) cleaners.  Lots there and sure will be more.

After that we drove over to Coulby Newham Farm (of course closed) for an 8 mile walk through Fairy Dell, along Marton West Beck through Marton to Nunthorpe Village and back over the fields via Brass Castle Lane.

We loved it, it’s a great walk we’ve done many times but it felt very different today.  There were lots of people out, unusually so but it felt like everybody knew the score keeping a fair distance apart when we crossed. Lots of smiles and a few hello’s but no stopping to chat.

I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to do this for?


My Corona - Setting the Scene

So I haven’t posted for a while (again) but all good things must come to an end. 

I’d never even heard of social distancing a week ago but the government has advised anybody over the age of 70 or under 70 with an underlying health condition (defined as anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds) has to be “particularly stringent in following socially distancing measures”.  Count me in (under 70 and a flu jab).

I treated today as the official day one of my social-distancing but it turns out it doesn’t start until Monday (I must have missed something).  In any case I’ve actually been socially-distancing since last Tuesday when my employer offered me the chance to work from home.  I’ve done home working before and I’m not keen but I’ve been told by BJ that it’s my duty to try not to catch the virus so I felt it was the right thing to do.   

I don’t feel particularly vulnerable but I had a mild heart attack nearly 6 years ago.  They patched me up and put me on tablets for life with an annual flu jab thrown in for free.    I was devastated and it took me a long time to come to terms with it psychologically but I no longer feel any stigma.  I’m pretty fit and healthy, I go to the gym, I’m not particularly overweight, I eat pretty well, blah blah blah and in the interests of full disclosure my heart wasn’t even damaged by the heart attack.  But if the government considers me vulnerable that’s fine by me.  I’m determined to not to catch the virus easily.    

My social distancing is not going to be without complications but then again is anybody’s?   I manage my life between me and Shamila’s homes.  I’m planning on working from my home and Shamila will work from hers.  She is well aware of the issues and is also taking the SD seriously so for now I’m going to continue to travel between our houses.  Shamila also has her elderly parents (who live locally) to consider and staying fit and keeping my weight down may become an issue if any restrictions are made on leaving our homes (like in Spain and Italy).  I also have to shop and get my drugs from the chemist. 

I also have my 2 adult sons to think about.  I don’t see them much but they are never far from my thoughts.  My youngest son, Chris lives locally with his girlfriend and is supposed to be getting married on 10 April followed by a honeymoon to the USA.  I think he’s resigned to the honeymoon being cancelled off but the wedding?  Mmmm. I’m not so sure what he thinks but If I was a betting man (which I am) I’d wager it’s just going to happen either.  Thankfully he’s a level-headed and philosophical, I’m sure he’ll be ok.

My other son, Michael lives in Lowestoft in the East of England.  It’s fairly close to Norwich but it like the back of beyond. It’s a pain in the arse for me to get to either by road or public transport.  He’s lived there coming up 3 years and to my shame I’ve only been to see him once (actually it’s not true – I took him down to try and find him accommodation before he moved there.  In my defence I managed to find him a house though).  I’ll put it on my post retirement to-do list but in the mean time I’d rest a lot easier in my bed if he came home but he’s having not of it.

So that’s the scene and off we go.


Thursday, 2 January 2020

First work day of the year

2020's going well so far. 1 day at work and now 3 days off.  Yay!

Met up with my mate Andy for a pint (3 pints of Worthington Ale to be precise) at the Wellington in Wolviston, a very nice pub just outside Billingham. I hope you're enjoying the single spaces after the full stops by the way. I think they look good but it's taking quite a lot of discipline. Hopefully it'll get easier.

Not missing Facebook or Twitter and I haven't bought anything off Amazon.  Creativity wise, not so good although I'm writing this and listening to my top 50 from 1979.  It actually sounds much better than it looks.  Well I would say that wouldn't I?

Wednesday, 1 January 2020


Fuck me, the twenties. Bring on the Charleston.

So here's how I intend to go.

1.  Try to show at least one defined show of kindness (however small) per day.
2.  Fuck off Amazon, we're done. You can do all you want but I'm not.
3.  I'm also done Facebook until further notice. It could be challenging, amongst all the unadulterated       shit it is has become a hub for my social life. That said, it does feel good.
4.  Ditto Twitter as well, an utter waste of my time.
5.  No more double space after full stops. Long overdue.
6.  More blogging, I'll have more time and I need to practice my writing. A nod and a wink.
7.  More creative stuff.

Hey ho, let's go!

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

New Years Eve 2019

Oh well, at least one more post.

Has it come to this?  2020 beckons, it goes without saying I should be out pogoing and dancing and fings but I'm at Shamila's.  We had a nice takeaway pizza for tea.  I've had 2/3 of a bottle of nice French wine and 2 large gin and tonic's.  She's asleep, James Bond's on TV and I'm pretty drunk.  It's 22.19 and the (my) plan is to see the New Year in with a (large - actually make mine a v large) malt whiskey and piece of Christmas cake  (not bad).  Going to have to think of something good to do after midnight.  Certainly better than this.

Plans?  Always on New Years Eve. Got a text off Don earlier this evening ".... people have stopped caring for each other. The love and humanity have left the building", maybe it was a coincidence but I bought the book "Altruism, The Science and Psychology of Kindness" today. 

New years resolutions tomorrow.

PS How come Daniel Craig looks younger now than he did when he played Geordie in Our Friends in the North 23 years ago?

Top 10 Albums of 2019

In any normal year I'd probably have been shouting out for Undress by The Felice Brothers an album of rip roaring Americana tunes or alt folk Big Thief 's first album of the year U.F.O.F. or even In The Morse Code of Brake Light by Canadian Indie Folk band The New Pornographers. I'd be bigging up Irish folk band Lankum's, The Livelong Day, 2020 by Richard Dawson and The Avett Brothers, Closer Than Together but ultimately none of them were good enough to make the final cut.

So as follows,

Best album of 2019- Big Thief's second album of the year - Two Hands (Indie folk - USA)

Two Hands [VINYL]

Joint 2nd

Tallest Man on Earth – I Love You, It’s A Fever Dream (alt folk Sweden)
BCUC – The Healing (African rhythms - Soweto South Africa)
The Good Ones -  Rwanda, You Should Be Loved (African folk - Rwanda)
The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears (Indie Punk - Ireland)
Wilco – Ode to Joy (Americana - USA)
Bryce Dessner, Eighth Blackbird Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – When We Are Inhuman (alt folk - USA)
Better Oblivion Community Center -Better Oblivion Community Center (Indie - USA)
Fontaines DC - Dogrel (Indie Punk - Ireland)
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Americana - USA)

So in summary 5 for USA, 2 for Ireland and 1 each for Sweden, South Africa and Rwanda. O for UK.

Categories?  Well as the ultimate arbitrator for my list I'll say 3 Folk (of sorts), 2 Indie Punk, 2 African, 2 Americana and 1 Indie.  Which probably sums up my musical taste quite nicely as we are about to enter the '20's.  Let's hope they roar..

I'd say that is pretty much my taste in music as we are about to enter the '20's.  Let's hope they roar. So all in all 2019 has been a great year and if the pattern continues bring on 2059.

PS - Reissues/re-releases - I loved the A Certain Ratio 4 cd box set of remixes, ACR:Box.  I also bought a couple of Chess/Stax soul and quite a few rare Ska compilations.