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Monday Windows – Andalucia

Welcome to Monday Window – a weekly photographic challenge hosted by photographer/blogger, Ludwig Keck.

This week, my photographs are from Andalucía, Spain.

As we struggle with the current heatwave here in the UK, we should take a tip from the Spanish. Windows are for keeping sun and hot air out during the day, not for letting air in.


Hope you liked these. I think they are full of character and so colourful against those white walls.

Visit Ludwig’s latest Monday Window post to see his latest post and other bloggers’ wonderful windows.

Short holiday breaks – Oswestry (where Shropshire meets Wales)

My wife and I have just spent a couple of days enjoying a spa hotel break in Shropshire. We like drivable short breaks in the UK . They give you a change of scenery and culture without travelling for hours and hours, and you don’t have to cook. There is so much less stress and pre-planning involved than with a long holiday or holiday abroad. And you don’t need passports, travel insurance, loads of documents and foreign money. You don’t have to go to an airport and queue in zig-zag lines to take your shoes off and put them back on again to do an 8 mile walk to the departure gate. You’re not restricted by baggage allowances and language, you don’t have to drive on the incorrect side of the road, and from experience there is less chance of getting funny tummy or malaria.

Its not all plain sailing (or rather plain driving) however. You do need as much luggage for two days in the UK as you do for a fortnight in Spain because you will need to pack your winter coats and shoes (even in the summer) and you will take home-comforts and gadgets just because you can fit them in the car. Also, you do have to you have to be prepared for traffic delays unless you are rich enough to go by rail and there are no strikes or feathers on the tracks. In fact ‘traffic obstructions on the road’ are a big thing these days – just ask my satnav – as more and more herberts crash or breakdown for the fun of it.

Anyway, this time we went to a hotel in Oswestry. Situated in a quiet corner of Shropshire, Oswestry isn’t the prettiest, most buzzing and fashionable place but… it is a tidy, pleasant market town, has plenty of character, a good few independent shops and we found the locals to be extremely friendly. Its big plus point is the fact that it is surrounded by history (castles and heritage attractions), and attractive countryside. It is also close to, in fact half surrounded by, Wales and close to little Welsh gems like Llangollen.

During our stay, we visited the wonderful British Ironwork Centre and Sculpture Park. Here you can put your arm in the mouth of a shark, walk with elephants and meet Spiderman, Robocop and SpongeBob SquarePants, all in the same afternoon– whilst following up with a coffee and meal in the Forge cafe.  We walked the 90 acres of land, exploring the amazing sculptures, browsed the artisan workshops and the showroom filled with the most eclectic and funky collection of iron goods and home accessories The centre also has a social conscience – focussing on sculptures of endangered species and promoting awareness of national and global sustainability issues. Here are a few of the photos I took.

Other highlights of our trip was the Stonehouse Brewery on the outskirts of Oswestry where we enjoyed a great meal and some fine beers in a wonderful setting adjoining a babbling brook and an apple orchard. And believe me, we needed a drink having walked there from the town and getting lost on public footpaths on a hot day. If you are in the area and fancy a visit, go on a weekend when you can catch a train (the Cambrian Heritage Railway) from the town to the Western Wharf ‘period’ station adjoining the Brewery and join one of the brewery tours. I was so in the moment enjoying my beers and meal I forgot to take photos!

The photos below feature Cae Glas Park – one of the nicest and most pristine town park I have been to for some time.  Packed within its 7 acres there there is a bandstand, a ‘Sports Village’, a bowling green, children’s play area, areas of spring and summer bedding displays, a pavilion, greenhouses and a house which is rented out. After a good ‘pottering’ and a game of crazy golf, we crossed through the Memorial gates across the road to our hotel for a rest and spruce up before setting out for our evening meal.

On Wednesday, we sampled the busy and colourful Oswestry street and indoor Market. I had to be dragged away from the two vinyl record stalls after (according to my wife) spending too much time rummaging and talking to the Welsh stallholders.

Oswestry was never on our bucket list of places to go. My sister in law suggested it after finding a good hotel deal and we knew it was an interesting area. I’m glad we went. It just shows you how much there is out there to see and experience within 100 miles or so and without giving yourself stress and silly expense.

Here are some more images of Oswestry……

Monday Window – Shop Windows (which one do you like?)

Here is my entry to this week’s Monday Window – a photographic challenge hosted by photographer/blogger, Ludwig Keck.

This week, my photos feature more shop windows.

The first is a cute florists, cum grocers, cum wine shop. This was taken a few years ago on holiday in Cornwall and the shop is in a little sea-side village called St Agnes.

Shopfront in St Agnes, Cornwall

In contrast to the above attractive and colourful shop fascia, the photo below is a shop window on the outskirts of Oswestry town centre. It features a convenience store and the most uninspiring window display I think I have ever seen. The white sign in the window says, “Smiths sliced bread sold here”. We didn’t buy any Smith’s bread or any toilet rolls or car oil. I think they might have installed the burglar alarm in lockdown when they amassed their stockpile of toilet rolls.

Shopfront in Oswestry, Shropshire

Beautiful Beaches

Terri, from Second Wind Leisure, hosts Sunday Stills photo challenge, and the challenge this week is ‘Beautiful Beaches’.  Follow the link and join in or just enjoy looking at Terri’s and others’ photos.

My contribution this week is a mixed bag. I have loads of photos of beautiful beaches but my computer is misbehaving and my choice of picture folders is currently limited. Anyway, I hope you like them.

My first two are from Borth-y-Gest in North Wales.

The image below is a beach at Es Pujols on the wonderful island of Formentera near Ibiza. Yes, those are my legs.

The last one is a small cove in Nerja, Spain. I have no idea who, if anyone, lives there or what it is used for but doesn’t it look cool?

Monday Window – Southern France

Welcome to Monday Window – a photographic challenge hosted by photographer/blogger, Ludwig Keck.

This week my windows are from Southern France, in particular Cannes, Hyeres and Nice. I was drawn to photograph them because of the wonderful colours of the buildings and shutters. I hope you like them.



Giens Peninsula, Hyeres


This last one was taken a few years ago at the Nice Carnival just before the start of the ‘Battle of Flowers’.


Please note I own the copyright of all photos See ‘Legal Stuff’ above.

Monday Window – Lymm windows

Hi, I’m new to Monday Window – a photographic challenge hosted by photographer/blogger, Ludwig Keck.

I’ve always found doors and windows to have their own ‘beauty’ (architectural, historical or functional) and ‘mystery’ (what lies beyond?).

For my first attempt, I am including some photographs of shop front fascias and a pub fascia from my archives. These were taken in Lymm, Cheshire, England. Its a charming little place with a characterful historic centre (much of it a ‘Conservation Area’) and there are some great building frontages.

My first is the local butcher’s shop window which is of traditional design with a recessed doorway and tasteful advertising. Its so inviting (so long as you are not a vegetarian).

The second shop (adjoining the butchers) is equally pleasing aesthetically with tasteful advertising/lettering and an engaging window display.

This last one for this week is a nearby old pub with traditional Georgian style sash windows. Its interior is also ‘traditional’ and unfussy and the place just happens to serve by favourite beer – John Willie Lees bitter.

My evening with Count Arthur Strong

I am still laughing a week after my wife and I and a friend went to see ‘Count Arthur Strong, And This Is Me’ – a one man show based on the character Count Arthur Strong created and played by comedian Steve Delaney – at the Leeds City Varieties theatre. Bits of that evening of comedy keep coming back to me and as much as I try to explain to people unfamiliar with Arthur, what makes him funny, I start talking in the same confused and befuddled way as the Count himself and just end up snorting and giggling to myself.

At heart, Arthur is a forgetful showbiz veteran on a short fuse and over confident in his knowledge and talents. He appears as a befuddled old dodderer in a badly fitting suit and a Tyrolean hat staggering about the stage talking about himself, or as he says, “me and the man behind myself which is also me”, delivering rambling stories, mangled logic, and bizarre anecdotes and fantasies. He struggles with his memory and the English language, and rarely finishes a story, digressing and losing himself up the garden path in his confusion. In his frustration, he momentarily loses his cool and then finds another subject to ramble on about.

His ramblings include hundreds of hilarious malapropisms, many which are sheer genius and which the audience applaud individually if they are quick enough to get it. His doddery yet very physical movement on stage mixed with the funniest confused facial expressions are masterful – and why I think you have to see him perform and not just listen to his radio stuff.

As you can tell, I’m a fan. I’m also a fan of surreal comedy and this show delivered in that regard

His topics included considering the wives of ‘Henry VII I am’, the benefits of humans having a dislocatable jaw, and his recommendation that reading the chemical contents of Toilet Duck is as good as a Dickens novel for relaxing with a good read on the toilet.

Some ludicrous and surreal moments included a ventriloquism act where he struggles to delineate between himself and the doll, a tribute to Elvis – appearing in a white judo suit, Napoleon singing about Waterloo in the words of Abba playing a squeezebox, and French dancing. This wasn’t far away from Reeves and Mortimer territory.

At the end of this fun and uplifting performance I hovered over the merchandising stall and I wanted to buy a T shirt. I liked the one of Count Arthur’s face with the words ‘Sod It’ underneath – but my wife told me to grow up!

May be, but as Count Arthur might suggest,

“You could purchase my wonderful tee shirt on the interweb without her knowing and marvel at the wonderful photograph of me on the front …which I have to say has not been hairbrushed in any way and is head and soldiers above other tee shirts out there. It is ethicately man united in some foreign country where it is cheap as crisps to make. Mind you, have you seen the price of crisps now? They’ve gone up and I’m sure they’re putting fewer crisps in the bag. Its a diabolical liberty and I for one won’t be giving my money to Gary Lineker. Anyway, stop going on about crisps will you. So , as I was saying, use the intfinet or one of those computer pages to buy my wonderful tee shirt. Besides, why would you want to buy it from me at that price. I certainly wouldn’t. Its not rocket salad is it? Oh, I didn’t think that through did I? Anyway, neither did you because if you bought it, you could only wear it out of sight of your wife….. or she might give you a mouthful or an earful and that might break the camel mightn’t it?

In a previous post ‘Not Another Trouser Fire‘ there is a clip from his BBC TV comedy series. To go straight to the clip, click

Energy now restored thanks to Rolling Blackouts

No, I’m not talking about the power shutdowns likely to hit the country this winter in order to save electricity. I’m talking about the Australian indie rock band, ‘Rolling Blackouts’ who we saw at the O2 Ritz in Manchester on May 31st. This 5 piece wall of sound was just the tonic I needed after a recent spell of lethargy, dwelling on bad news and losing my music mojo.

Imagine 3 cool, perfectly intertwined guitars delivering lively guitar rhythms and killer chops, led by a bass player who struts up and down stage like a chicken on steroids and a tidy thumping drummer and you’ll get the picture.

The crowd were bouncing up and down from the word go and I have to say me and my mate Bill did a fair bit of bouncing ourselves for a couple of 68 year olds. Of course the energetic dancing, stranger hugging with arms/fingers pointed in the air was more for the youngsters and it was great to be there with them despite being jostled and having our feet repeatedly stepped on. .

As at the end and into the encore, girls were on boyfriends shoulders, the moshing started (right in front of us) and it was great to feel the old sprung dancefloor moving in time with the music. It was a proper rock and roll finish and we were knackered, and our voices were hoarse (despite a few beers earlier). But we were energised and we felt young again.

Rolling Blackouts have just released their their latest album, Endless Rooms. Here is a sample of what to expect titled, ‘The Way it Shatters

Rolling Blackouts (bass player out of shot)

#Sunday Stills -Feathered Friends

Today on Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills Photography Challenge, the topic is ‘Feathered Freinds’. Here are some of my snaps featuring our feathered friends.

Eagle and Trainer at National Centre for Birds of Prey, Helmlsey, Yorkshire
Fine looking Rooster

What a show-off

Crane punk rocker

Duck Family on route march

Swan-ning about, Lake Garda, Italy
Noisy Geese in Delph, Oldham
Hungry seagulls in Aldeburgh, Suffolk (they could smell our fish and chips)
Father and daughter feeding Pigeon friends in Crete

Another great gig at the Band on the Wall !

Source: Jake from Manchester, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who says ‘You Can’t Buy a Thrill’?*  For just £20.50 I was ‘Reelin’ in the Years’* singing along and dancing (well sort of dancing) at Manchester’s ‘Band on the Wall’ last Saturday – taking in the spirit and sound of Steely Dan.  

One of my all time favourite bands, Steely Dan have since the 70’s shown me just how good music can be.  For those not familiar, although I’m sure you’ve heard of them, they are a jazz rock combo formed in New York by college friends Walter Becker and Donald Fagin. (Sadly Walter Becker died in 2017.)

Why do I like them so much?  Well, their music combines jazz, pop, rock, bits of reggae, funk, blues and a lot more.  It is catchy (there’s an old man’s music term) but complex, sophisticated and rich.  They always managed to get the best musicians for every song and their recordings are so hi fidelity and so well engineered you hear the individual sound of every instrument. 

Despite the complexity of their music, their lyrics, hooks and infectious dance grooves stick in your memory.  They are of such quality, it is no wonder they have been sampled so often in pop songs right up to today.  Their lyrics are clever.  They tell a story and can be quite profound or acerbic.  Some contain hidden meanings.  Frustratingly some are a complete mystery to me but they still have appeal and make me want to sing them.

I won’t go into massive detail about Steely Dan.  You can look them up if you’re interested.  But if you’ve never given them a chance, check out some of their songs.

Before I go any further, I feel I should clarify something.  I didn’t actually see Steely Dan at the Band on the Wall last Saturday.  I saw the wonderful 10 piece tribute band ‘Nearly Dan’.  What a great name!

And what a great night it was. The place was packed. Not just with pensioners either.  I was quite amazed and encouraged to see there were 20 and 30 somethings there and who clearly knew all the songs and most of the lyrics.  There is hope for our youngsters!

I’m sure you’ve all seen a really good tribute band at some point and this was quite something.  I was gobsmacked at how close some of the versions were to the original especially given how complex many of Steely’s songs are. The vocals and instrumentals were extremely good although there were a few glitches early on. The lead vocalist closed the first set saying, “We’re going to take a 15 minute break now whilst we argue backstage about who got what wrong etc. but we will be back best of friends.”  They were and they got better and better.

Finally, after a very energetic encore with instrumental battles between the guitars and saxophones, the gig came to an end and the house lights came on. It was hilarious to hear the oldies remarking on the way out that their legs and backs were a bit sore after jostling about during the concert.

This was as special and as uplifting as any concert I’ve been to (and I’ve seen the real Steely Dan live). 

The entertainment continued though on the tram back home.  I have mentioned in other posts that when travelling on the Oldham-Didsbury Metrolink tram at the weekend, one is guaranteed to meet aliens from another Universe or parallel world.  There were teens with black and white clown painted faces, feral goblins standing on seats and smoking some substance but the star of the tram-show this time was a black guy dressed in a sequined and embroidered denim jacket and jeans, leather and bead jewellery, aviator glasses and huge expensive looking headphones. Despite his somewhat stylish look, he was I think under some influence.  I wouldn’t say it was alcohol as he was drinking what looked like an energy drink but it was the way he drank it that was somewhat unorthodox.  He produced a daffodil head from his hood and poured a few drops out of his bottle into the trumpet and drank it as if it was a cup.  Throughout the journey he struggled to hold these whilst also trying to use his mobile phone and put on some thin leather gloves which he produced from his sock. It was a ballet of totally uncoordinated actions.  I wondered where he was intending to go and hoped he would get there in one piece.  

* Cant Buy a Thrill is the debut studio album by  Steely Dan, released in November 1972. It contains their first single ‘Do it Again’ and another- ‘Reeling in the Years.

Nearly Dan (click here to go to their website) began life around 1995 as a 5-piece band called Baldwin’s Casuals (the name of Mike Baldwin’s clothes factory in Coronation Street), performing quality cover versions at venues in Stoke-on-Trent.

Nearly Dan (Source: website, see above link)

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