Thursday, 18 October 2018

Montgomery, Rolexes and Mystery Cages

The next installment of my uncle Dick's RAF memoirs.

Autumn / Winter 1949

And so the inevitable that was bound to happen did happen, a few months later. A Dakota went down with an engine change at Gatow and within a few hours a replacement- another KN 111 was in position at Gatow. The Schedule went through.

The amusing incident which happened a week or so later was that when the 'unserviceable' aircraft was returning to Northholt on Tuesday, at the same time as the schedule UWD (no definition found) was leaving for Gatow and both aircraft were using the same call sign. Air Traffic was confused by 2 aircraft in the circuit with the same call sign, one asking for clearance and the other for landing instructions.

It was soon afterwards that we began to see Dakota KJ 628 appear on the tarmac. (No results for this exact aircraft on Google) This was Field Marshal Montgomery's aircraft, a VIP Dakota, given to him by General Eisenhower following the defeat of Germany. It used to arrive at weekends for desnagging and disappeared again on Monday to Boscombe Down to pick up the Field Marshall and ferry him wherever. The pilot was Flight Lt. Houghton, an ex Halton apprentice.

One day in the crew room, whilst waiting for his aircraft, in conversation he told us how he became an airman sergeant pilot. As a fitter he was working on a Hurricane and he left a screwdriver in the cockpit, which either the pilot found naturally, or hit him on the head when doing acrobatics. As a result he did 28 days 'over the wall.' He decided that he would go for Airman Pilot, and here he was, Monty's personal pilot.

The Squadron then moved to Abingdon still operating Dakotas. Shortly, another VIP Dakota appeared: KJ994, belonging to Admiral Brind, NATO, based in Norway. The 2 extra Dakotas caused us a lot of extra work at weekends, even to the extent of polishing the aircraft with about 20 chaps. We also never got on very well with the AQM based in Norway who every time on returning to the UK always gave us the Form 700 with an entry Leak in the Kitchen Water System. Frozen burst pipes hidden under soundproofing. He didn't seem to remember that one could drain the system. We had told him enough times.

One day when we were expecting Field Marshal Montgomery's aircraft we were told that on its arrival nobody would be allowed to touch it. Keep away. It taxied into the lane by the Control Tower and was checked and locked. The following morning it was towed into the hangar and we were then told to thoroughly search the aircraft. Every panel off, cowlings off, bare arms even in the fuel tanks, suspected soundproofing removed. But no electrics were to be touched or operated on. We were told that there was a possibility of a frequency bomb or explosives having been planted in the aircraft.

The story is that following Monty's success after the war, he had become quite political and was not too bothered about what he said concerning the state of Europe and which politicians he annoyed. Whilst visiting Prague for a conference, the aircrew, on arrival at the aircraft in the morning, found that the padlock had been forced on the entrance door and there was evidence of entry into the aircraft.

The aircraft was flown home after a brief local search with complete radio silence in case some explosive device or frequency bomb had been planted. Therefore the reason for the thorough search.

The following day the aircraft was towed across to the other side of the 'drome to a secluded pan, a trolley accumulator plugged in and following the Sqdn. Cdr, Wing Co Flying and Sigs Officer tossing the coin, one of them went aboard and operated everything he could. Peace and quiet still reigned.

Normally our aircraft used to get Customs at Lyneham before returning from the Continent but now and again Customs travelled to us and cleared the aircraft at Abingdon. In such cases we were not allowed near the aircraft until the passengers had deplaned and escorted into the Air Traffic building for clearance. We had to be given the 'go ahead' by the Air Movements Officer.

One particular day we were waiting with the tractor and towing arm about every 10 yards from the aircraft ready to drag it away to prepare it for the following day when the passengers started to disembark.

A Flt Sgt appeared at the top of the aircraft steps and shouted across to me, “Hello, Bill, I didn't know you were here.” He descended the steps, shook hands with me and said out of the corner of his mouth, with the Customs Officer and Air Movements Officer watching, “Get rid of that,” and loudly, “See you in a minute, Bill.” He then disappeared into the building.

My name, incidentally, is not Bill.

When they had gone, I looked down into my hand and there was the most beautiful Rolex Oyster you had ever seen. Panicking, I drove back to the hanger and climbed up the hangar doors and stuck it behind a girder. The aircraft was later cleared of Customs and we towed it away. The Flt. Sgt. Soon appeared to claim his watch. It's not often a Sgt can rollock a Flt Sgt and get away with it, but this time he didn't seem to mind.

Whilst at Abingdon we gradually got equipped with Valettas CMK1s. The VIP Dakotas still came to us for weekend servicing. We were also allotted 3 VIP Valettas MK2, VX 576, VX 577, WJ504. More polishing. We managed to get a few extra tradesmen on strength to cater for all this extra work.

Then one day a number of civilians walked through the hangar accompanied by some officers from Command. We were told to supply them with an aircraft with a trolley accumulator plugged in and don't interfere. A couple of hours later they disappeared.

A few weeks later a lorry arrived with a large cage in sections, its walls 2” steel wire mesh. It was assembled in the rear of the aircraft, after the main spar, on the starboard side. It had a normal entrance door with lock. Nobody on the ground side could find any reason for it. Nor were we told anything.

Then we were allotted VW190, an extra aircraft for the cage. Every week, early in the morning about 6am it would leave us, fly to Boscombe Down, Pick up a professor and fly him up to Stornaway, together with his packages. There he left the island by Royal Naval pinnace and was taken to a ship anchored off Stornaway. Very hush hush.

Many years later we were told that the professor was working on germ warfare, his packages contained guinea pigs and the cage in the aircraft was a secondary precaution during transit to prevent any livestock escaping.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Jim'll Fix It, Contractors'll Demolish It

I filed for Baker Tilly, and through them, for Jimmy Saville, through an agency in 2007. Details here. I understand the accountancy now has offices in Spinningfields. The M.E.N says the whole street is being refurbished.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Who's doing the Santa Dash?

Remember, I just got back from Amsterdam.
-Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Pulp Fiction

More on my weekend to the Dutch capital later. First, I wanted to point out that, a month ago, I planned to detox by cooking and eating clean until I could beat a PB at the gym. I have a few more cooking posts in the pipeline, but obviously, having just been to 'Dam I've broken that vow. I managed to get under 80kg before flying, but only just. Bench press, horizontal dumbbell fly and running at 14km/ph were steadily improving, but not to PB level. So: the purpose of this blog post it to say I'm having a break from clean eating and will try this project again soon.

I also said I wouldn't shave until this point.

In late December I'll be taking part in the annual Saddleworth Santa Dash, a 5k run through Oldham's countryside dressed, along with 500 others, as Father Christmas. Although not a serious race, I'd still like to be half-decent at running, and as it stands, I'm far from it. So as well as beating some old gym records, I've got a local route that's currently taking me about 45 mins to complete, about the same length of time I expect the Santa Dash to take. It's equally hilly, too, so should set me in good stead if I make it a regular thing. I'm running with family but I've managed to convice a few others from various meetup groups to take part.

No meetups in the pipeline at the moment. It's Halloween the weekend after, though, so keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Manahatta Launch

New Deansgate bar Manahatta opened to the public on Saturday. I managed to bring together people from a few different groups to try out the New York-themed venue just off Peter Street. Members of Manchester Cool Bars, Talk About it Mate, Andy's Man Club's Oldham branch and Manchester Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Meetup met, drank, danced and celeb-spotted.

Here's Kelvin Fletcher, Andy Sugden in Emmerdale. A decent guy. 

Good atmos. I'd tell the Ashton Kutcher-lookalike DJ that I would have liked the music to be a bit more varied, though.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Meeting Tim Peake

European Space Agency's Tim Peake dropped into Waterstones Deansgate on Friday. The West-Sussex-born astronaut was signing copies of his new book, The Astronaut Selection Test Book.

Cool guy.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Cups

Cooking is something that requires a little more effort than I'm usually willing to put in: an hour spent preparing something that I'm going to eat in 10 minutes flat seems a pretty unfair trade. But when you're bored of the same food, it's a necessity.

On the 20th I tried out Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Cups from Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients book. The principle of this book is that you can create a full, tasty, healthy meal with only 5 ingredients. Nice and simple, how I like it. Only I still managed to do it wrong, and cut the chicken before I'd marinated it. FFS.

I found the most difficult part of cooking it was making myself go into the kitchen and laying out the ingredients: the thought of cooking it was more painful than the process itself. I always expect things to be more difficult than they actually are. Overthinking is a problem that transcends many areas of my life: even my kitchen, it seems. For example, including the spices, there were definitely more than 5 ingredients, and this irritates me more than the process of cooking. It makes me wonder if I'm doing it right.

The hoisin and mango sauce was delicious. Everything else was a bit bland and separated, though.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Cold War... Hot Coffee

Warsaw, 1949

The next installment of my Uncle Dick's RAF Memoirs.

Now onto 1949, when the Squadron in July, following the end of the Berlin Airlift, returned and reformed at RAF Oakington. Under the command of Squadron Leader R. Reece. This time I was posted to the Squadron, in 1st Line, the start of my 6 years actually with the Squadron during which time I saw 6 commanding officers come and go.

The Squadron resumed normal operations to Europe and the Near East. One of the weekly schedules undertaken was the UWD, the United Kingdom, Warsaw, Dakota. Each week, without fail, an aircraft left us at 11am Monday morning to position at RAF Northholt. On Tuesday it left with the Queen's Messenger, night stopping again at Gatow, returning to Northholt on the Thursday and arriving back at base on Friday. This schedule went on week in, week out, month by month and it was imperative that it went regularly, without fail. Remember that the aircraft was flying down 2 corridors, 1 to Berlin and 1 to Warsaw. In fact it was only the military aircraft at the time allowed behind the Iron Curtain. Obviously the crews were briefed on their return. It had to go, it was still 1949, and the Cold War at its height. Crews often reported that they had been buzzed by Russian Aircraft.

If an aircraft suffered an unserviceability en route, which could not be immediately rectified, a reserve aircraft was on its way within a few hours. The crews names had also to be notified in advance to the Russian / Polish authorities. They did all they could to ensure the schedule did not go. It was said that once it failed to go then the Queen's messenger an Diplomatic Mail could go weekly by civilian aircraft. The Spying aspect of the aircraft would have been lost.

A rather humorous incident occurred on one of the schedules to Warsaw. The moment the aircraft landed it was placed under armed guard. The Crew were marched to the Control Tower and locked in a room. A little later they were thoroughly searched; even the loose change in their pockets was examined. Their packed lunches were manhandled and then the sadistic Customs officer rolled up his sleeve and thrust his hand into the bottom of the gallon lukewarm coffee flask. Of course, the coffee was ruined.

They accused the crew of crossing the border at the wrong place, outside of the corridor. The crew denied it vehemently. Maps were brought out. The Polish Customs brought out their map, stating that 1 of their agents on the border had phoned though with a map reference which, after a long argument, realised was incorrect, that his 0s were in the wrong place.

The map the Customs were using was so old that in the bottom corner it had Neptune and his Trident in full flow coming out of the sea.

Finally, hours later, they were released and took off for Berlin.

M'Sig Jock Hodginson, who told me the story, got his own back a few weeks later by instructing the cook house at Gatow to absolutely ensure that the coffee was boiling hot, even to the extent of heating the whole vacuum flask in the oven before being filled. He protected it from the cold by keeping it warm in the aircraft with blankets during the flight to Warsaw.

The same Customs Officer tried it again later, but only the once.

With the Squadron commitments it always seemed to happen that 5 or 6 aircraft returned to base on a Friday afternoon and had to be 'desnagged,' wheel changes, recrystallisations, role changes and prepared again for Monday morning. The Squadron ground crew had to be split into 2 and 1 shift work right through the weekend. If we worked hard we could perhaps manage to get the Sunday afternoon off.

And then it happened. One Sunday afternoon at RAF Oakington. We were all ready for the Monday programme and I was relaxing on my bed with the Sunday papers, about 2 in the afternoon, when there was a knock at the door.

I said, “Come in.”

The door opened and in came the Squadron Commander, Squadron leader R Reece. I jumped up, to which he told me to relax and sat on the other bed. I would add that though he was my Squadron commander, I was a lot closer to him, though only a Sergeant Airframe Fitter, than perhaps one would expect 2 such people to be. I admired him as a CO, and above all he was a hockey player, as myself.

Flight Sergeant Jack Pearson and myself, both played or Transport Command and ran RAF Oakington's hockey. Squadron Leader Reece, when not picked for the Station first 11, would be there on the line, even in pouring rain, cheering us on. We thought a lot of him, and even after he had long retired, both of us, with our wives, journeyed up to North Wales to spend a few hours with him and his wife Toni.

Now the real reason for his visit: he informed me that the Poles were now insisting that we notify them, not only of the crew's names on the UWD but now also the serial number of the aircraft that would be undertaking the schedule. Anyone knows that any aircraft can suffer major unserviceability, i.e. metal in filter, engine change, taxiing accident...

The Squadron Leader's next remarks amazed me. He suddenly said, “How long will it take you to paint 3 Dakotas with the same number? Pick the easiest number you like.”

I nearly fell out of bed. What a task for a small half shift of First Line various tasks to undertake.

After collecting my thoughts, we then both decided that the best number would be treble 1 (KN111) the easiest and quickest. And it had to be done right away. He told me to get the shift out of the barrack block and I gave him a list.

As many 2” brushes as you can get
Aluminium dope rolls of 2”
Mashing tape (masking tape?)

He moved off to raise the Duty Equipment Officer from the Mess.

On the way to the barrack block I was worried how many of the chaps would still be around. Cambridge was only about 8 miles away. There were only 8 or so still in the block and whilst explaining what had to be done, other airmen who had gathered around such SHQ accounts, storeman, etc. offered to help. About 15 of us moved off to the Squadron.

So we set to, masking out the rather large numbers, such as 656, on the undersurfaces of the mainplanes and by about 7pm the job was done. 3 Dakotas, KN111.

The small numbers on the rear fuselage were covered by a removable tear-off fabric patch doped over them, also with KN 111 stencilled on it. This had to be done so that on return to base with the patch torn off we knew which aircraft we were working on.

A week later I was asked by Squadron Leader Reece to contact all the airmen of Admin Wing who had volunteered that Sunday afternoon to assist in the 'paint job' to come to the Squadron and they were treated to an hour's flight in a Dakota around the Cambridge area. An experience that quite a number had never had before and really enjoyed.

Once again we had thwarted the Poles and the Russians.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Excess Month 2018: Research

Last year I devised a 2-month project with the intention of upping the quantity of my blogging and finding information to rival the local news. I was hoping to get my blog a huge wad of exposure by writing something that would actually help people.

Excess Month Research was a month of reading books and watching movies involving parties, drugs, pressure, deadlines and chaos. Wolf of Wall St was one of the films; Neil Strauss' The Dirt- a biography of chaotic rock group The Motley Crue- was one of the books. I did this project throughout October.

Excess Month Practical coincided with National Blog Posting Month, a month-long challenge in which participants attempt to write and upload a blog post every day for the month of November. My intention was to keep myself as busy as possible and to go out and find content that would later lead to interesting blog posts. I don't know how you define 'interesting,' but I managed 30 in 30.

I'm going to have another go this year. We're 3 days into October already, but to my credit I have already rewatched Visitor Q, one of the most excessively weird films ever made.

I have loads of ideas. Here we go...

Monday, 1 October 2018

Another Packed Weekend

Books, parties and fights- no, not the title of my autobiography, but a summary of the upcoming weekend.

Thursday night: Manchester Cool Bars are checking out Impossible's new Thursday night, 'And What.'

Impossible's social media isn't talking about this night for some reason, but tickets are still on sale on Skiddle

I have no idea what it will be like. Come and find out.

I booked Friday off as I'm going to meet astronaut Tim Peake in Waterstones on Deansgate. The European Space Agency starman is dropping in to sign copies of his book, 'The Astronaut Selection Test Book.' There are still tickets available

Saturday at 2pm sees Made in Chelsea's pocket-sized blonde posh bird Georgia Toffolo dropping into WHSmith in the Arndale. She's signing her autobiography 'Always Smiling.'

Saturday night / Sunday morning: Irish headliner Conor McGregor makes his long-awaited return to the octagon to face Turkish sensation Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.  I'll be in Genting on Portland St for this. Main card is 3am onwards!

Sunday: Nothing on until 7pm when TV chat show host / comedian Graham Norton drops into the Royal Northern College of Music as part of the Manchester Literature Festival. More info: He's a really funny bloke and it would be great to meet him, but... £25? I'll think about it.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Toybox was a Letdown

Dropped into new club Toybox on Deansgate last night, the latest competitor in the 'upmarket' Manchester nightlife scene. Manchester Cool Bars met in Australasia, over the road from the club, and headed to the door before midnight.

The club lets people in 2 at a time, presumably to keep a queue outside, making it look popular. I'd got guestlist for my group, but they still charged me £15 on the door. 2 of my female friends were charged £10, though. Whether those are the official prices for men and women respectively or whether the people on the door just didn't know what they were doing wasn't clear. It's a lot considering what their competitors charge: Panacea is free in on guestlist and LIV is £10 regardless of gender. The girl on the door was making a big deal of the ratio of guys to girls in my group. It all felt a bit pretentious and unnecessary.

Inside, the club wasn't particularly smart, especially seeing as the club only opened a few weeks ago. None of the staff knew the WiFi password, there was no-one manning the cloakroom meaning we had to get the doorman (twice) to find someone to take our coats, which cost £2 each, and the service on the bar was slow as shit.

It's touted as the new celeb club, but the only person I recognised was Adam J from Love Island Season 2.

Also, I apparently gave my number to someone called Lily (this rings no bells at all) who just called me from a withheld number saying I'd met her in Toy Box and I told her I'd take her to Nandos (I would never say this).

A lot of us in the group are turning our backs on the clubs in Manchester, in favour of smaller bars in the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields and First Street.Join the group if this sounds more your thing.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Psychology Month is Complete

I've spent the last month working on psychology- looking into confidence building, combatting memory difficulties, and challenging myself to difficult processes.

During the month I've bought a new car, cooked a few recipes and rolled into a few social events on my own, pushing myself to talk to strangers. I've spent time in NHS therapy looking at ways of relaxing in social situations, learning to stop worrying about what other people think, and making better decisions. The therapist says there's not much more she can do, I've overcome that much. I have one more session to attend.

I've made the decision to switch meds- Sertraline wasn't doing much for me, so I started on Citalopram this week. It's too early to say how it's affecting me.

I've spent a long time at the gym but have beaten no personal bests. My weight has stayed largely the same, too.

That said, I have made suggestions in some social groups for confidence-building challenges, and at least one organiser is planning to put together an event for this. I might be writing about it next Saturday. Plus I have one other #psychologysaturday blog post to upload.

I would have liked to have achieved a lot more in this month, perhaps talking to people with psychology backgrounds and performing a few group experiments maybe. But the ideas are being thrown around between Andy's Man Club, Manchester Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Group,  and Talk About it Mate.

I'm hoping that these Saturday posts will help others in some way- either with depression, memory or confidence issues. With certain plans in place, there'll be content to offer, so hopefully they will over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

1940's RAF Coffee Smuggling Racket Exposed

 The next installment of my Uncle Dick's memoirs.

The 4 Squadrons out on the line were routing to Germany, Malta, Egypt and the Near East until the Berlin Airlift started in July 1948. Obviously, First Line personnel went immediately with their Squadrons to RAF Lubeck and because it was thought that the 'Blockade' would be over within a few weeks it resulted in 2 Flight Sargent's wives, after 3 weeks of their husbands being away, marching into the Station Commander's office demanding to know when their husbands were coming home. A Corporal Policeman escorted them back to their married quarters promptly.

Finally, in February '49, though in 2nd Line, it was my turn to go. Arriving at RAF Lubeck I was posted into Technical Control. 3 8-hour shifts, 3 SNCOs a shift, 8-5pm, 5-midnight, Midnight-8, day in, day out. In front of us was the Serviceability Board covering the whole wall with all the data of 52 Dakotas. Each week 3 or 4 aircraft returned to the UK for inspections with replacements coming out with another batch of 'hours to go.'

They also brought back dozens of completely made-up wheels at reduced pressure, a source of smuggling coffee which was so lucrative to those working the black market, between the inner tubes and the outer cover.

We liaised with Operations next door in the number of beacon times available every hour and informed the Line flights of their aircraft, already declared serviceable, that were on the next wave. We never had more than 5 aircraft and always at the end of the hour. The big aircraft were obviously being used first with their greater load-carrying capacity. Still, we did our bit.

We also had our own small telephone exchange which had direct access to the four flights A, B, C and D, Bowsers, Deicer Trolleys, Tyre Bay, Stores, Movements etc., (for priority such as acid). There was also a Daily Engineering Officer who had a sleeping duty at night in the room next door.

Whilst I was there an Operation order was issued to change the resident Berlin Garrison. The replacement unit was the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

During the morning, prior to my commencing my shift at midday, I wandered over to the Flights to watch the Welsh Guards emplane for Gatow. 4 aircraft were ready, starboard engines running, entrance doors open awaiting the passengers.

Crew coaches arrived and the passengers lined up: troops, families and the Regimental Mascot, the Goat. The Air Movements Officer read out the passenger manifest.

Regimental Sergeant Major and Mrs Taff? Get aboard Quickly please.”

The Sergeant Major responded with “Come on dear, quickly does it.”

She moved towards the small Dakota steps and stopped with one foot on the bottom step. The fuselage was vibrating with the starboard engine running so close to her, and she was obviously scared. Exhaust all around. “I can't, I can't.”

“Come on dear, quickly.”

“I can't, I can't.”

“Corporal, Corporal, put her in.”

2 big corporals with hands on her broad backside pushed her with some force up the steps into the aircraft. They had to overcome her strong arms braced against the fuselage, either side of the aircraft door. And she was certainly a big strong woman. Finally, she was in, together with the goat and the embarrassed Sergeant Major plus others.

The 4 aircraft taxied away. The whole operation covered quite a number of days moving the Regiment and families.

Another day I enquired of the loaders what they had on board.


The whole aircraft was filled with condoms. What a state some of the aircraft were in underneath the actual floor, though carrying coal.

One night shift, about 2 in the morning, suddenly our small telephone exchange direct to the flights went 'dead.' Rushing into Ops next door I found that they were also 'out.' Main phones too. I quickly awoke the Eng. Officer next door and we both jumped into one of the very first VW and charged off through the trees to the telephone exchange a few hundred yards away. It was not far from the Russian border, and partly semi-underground. We walked quickly and quietly around the building which was in darkness except for the room which contained the switchboard. Through the window we saw the young operator asleep in front of the board, which now looked like Blackpool illuminations. He was asleep in a lovely big armchair. Traversing the building we found a window open in another room and the Eng. Off. Pushed it open and jumped down into the darkness. He landed on the stomach of the Duty German Technician who jumped up out of bed shouting, “Kamarad Kamarad” hands in the air. (Could mean 'friend' or 'comrade' in Czech and 'fellow combatant' in German.) He was signalled to be quiet and we crept quietly around the corridor to enter the exchange. The Eng. Officer picked up a broom handle and smashed it down on the table top 4 or 5 times in the same number of seconds. What a din!

The lad woke up in a fright.

“You are asleep, you're asleep.”

No I'm not, sir, no I'm not!” said the airman, his hands moving like lightning across the board, pulling plugs, pushing plugs, until things were back to normal.

He was charged, but from then on I understand the exchange was manned by 2 operators an the big armchair removed. This sort of incident could have resulted in a very serious incident. Even Air Traffic was temporarily out.

Whilst at Lubeck a young WAAF was awoken one night by someone trying to get into her bed. A young German chap. She screamed and he was arrested. When the whole story was known it turned out that the WAAF, who previously owned the bed and was having an affair with the young German, on reporting sick she was found to be pregnant and within a day or so was on her way home. She hadn't got time to tell her lover. He turned up, the usual way, through the roof and ceiling trap door, but had a shock to find a different girl.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Nadia Essex, Striptease and Toybox

Last week: Nadia Essex liked my tweet correcting her grammar. 

I finished reading Striptease by Carl Hiaasen last week. I picked it up in Oxfam years ago, and dived into it recently mainly because it was the smallest book in my to-read pile. I remember the movie being terrible, but the studios must have had some faith in it originally, so I gave it a shot.

Erin Grant, fired from her legal secretarial job, is working as a stripper to make ends meet, all the while locked in a bitter custody battle with her daughter's wheelchair-stealing hick father (her connection to him the reason for her firing). During a particularly violent night at her workplace (charmingly called The Eager Beaver), local congressman and drunken liability David Dilbeck rolls in and makes an embarrassment out of himself. Infatuated with Erin, he seeks her out, but as he knows the judge in her case, she strings him along.

It's a well written book with convincing characters, although the cliché of the antagonist being a drug addict and the implausibility of the judge granting him custody didn't sit right with me. A lot of what kept my attention was the author's observations of the characters, their little nuances and backstories that made characters likeable and three-dimensional- pretty much of which couldn't be transferred to the screen.

I bought the 1996 Demi Moore adaptation while I was in 5th form (garnering somewhat of a reputation having spent 15 bastard quid on it, which was a lot back then). I returned to it having finished the book, to see what went wrong- every cliché was slapped over the screen, every joke fell flat, and the clunkiness of the source story stood out like a bikini-clad mother in a courtroom. What a waste of fine actors like Ving Rhames, Armand Assante and the late Burt Reynolds.

This coming weekend has two events.

Manchester Depression and Bipolar Group meet for drinks and talking on Friday night in Albert Square Chop House. This is looking like being a weekly event for the group, where we can meet like-minded people, swap advice and get something to eat.

Saturday night is a treat that I've organised. Manchester Cool Bars are heading to Toybox, one of the newest clubs in the city centre. Made to rival the likes of Panacea and LIV,  Toybox is already popular with the Love Island crowd and the like. We're starting in Australasia.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Soigne Launch in Neighbourhood

Wednesday night saw the launch of Soigne Cosmetics, a range of 'vegan makeup and cruelty-free brushes designed to help each individual release their inner artist.' Held in Neighbourhood and organised by Go: PR and Events, the afternoon bash was attended by Tina O'Brien (Sarah Platt in Coronation Street; Bex Fisher in Waterloo Road) Lucy Fallon (Bethany Platt in Coronation Street) Dan Westwood (Ralph in Coronation Street) and Nikki Sanderson (Candice Stowe in Coronation Street, Dawn Bellamy in Heartbeat and Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks.)

I was somewhat outnumbered by the ladies, as you could imagine given the product, but I wasn't complaining... and they were a friendly crowd. I met some really nice people.

See the M.E.N writeup here.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Sticky Kicking Chicken

I've finally made myself cook a recipe, something I usually put off due to hassle. On 3rd September, though, I decided to act on this.

Memory difficulties make recipe cooking a bit of a challenge. First, I read through the instructions to check I had all the necessary utensils. Then I compiled a list on Omninotes of everything I'd need to buy. The small Asda near me only had half the ingredients I needed, so this took another trip to the big Tesco later on. For recipe cooking, you're best off doing the whole shop in one trip by going to as large a supermarket as possible.

I find no matter how organised I try to be, I'll still make mistakes. A store worker helped me find sesame seeds in Tesco, but when I started cooking I for some reason believed I hadn't been able to find them, so I didn't include them at all. I'm currently looking at an unopened pack of sesame seeds.

I tend to use dried spices from the small pots rather than fresh, as I'll never use all the fresh produce before the sell-by date. This might have affected the taste. And by that, I mean the chicken didn't particularly taste of anything.

I particularly like watermelon, so when I saw it was included in the salad I had something to look forward to. The dressing included in the salad, though, was so gross that even the watermelon tasted shit. A recipe HAS to be bad to achieve that.

Side issue here but I really need to brush up on shorthand. I made these notes yesterday and already I have no idea what I was trying to say. I use it because there are always more notes to be written than time allows- I'm trying to watch boiling pans and cut several foods at the same time, whilst making notes.

Not particularly sticky, not particularly kicking. Took about an hour to cook. I might try one of the other books next.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

What happens if you leave the brakes off a military transport jet?

My Grand-uncle Dick found out...

In September 1947, on returning from 3 years in Egypt, I found myself posted to RAF Manston in Kent, a home posting for me as I lived in Deal about 15 miles away. My joy was soon dashed to find that within a few months of serving Echelon No. 4077, to which I was posted and catered for the 2nd Line Servicings of 4 Dakota Squadrons, one of which was 30 Squadron, was soon to move to RAF Waterbeach.

My stay at Waterbeach was reasonably uneventful, working every other weekend in 2nd line, right through, desnagging the Base Inspections being passed out from the hangar and delivering them to the Squadrons during the weekend.

One unusual occurrence happened on a Saturday morning when the Warrant Officer Gobbels, I/c the hangar, said, “Your hockey is cancelled this afternoon, Buck. Get your lunch quickly. You are flying to RAF Aldregrove to change an elevator. Be back by 12 o'clock. I'll put an elevator in the back of the aircraft you are going in.”

Later, climbing into the Dakota, I saw the dirtiest elevator I'd ever seen. It looked as if it had come off the dump. Half a dozen tears in the fabric, but the Warrant had catered for my needs by supplying red dope, fabric, brushes, needles and thread. Instead of enjoying the trip over I sat on the floor, stitching the damage for 2 and a half hours or so to save time. What happened at Aldergrove was that the damaged Dakota was there to bring back food, hooch and goodies, still in short supply in England, for a big Officers' Mess Party. It was loaded up and somebody had left the brakes off, on the grass, and it had run backwards into the air traffic control wagon positioned at the end of the runway and smashed into the port elevator trailing edge.

We taxied up to the Dakota, transferred the load and off it went. The damaged aircraft was towed into dirty old black hangar across the other side of the aerodrome. I was given a young airframe mechanic to help and starting at 6 o'clock, we worked all night fitting the elevator and carrying out fabric repairs. About 10 o'clock in the morning after a short test flight we flew back to RAF Waterbeach. The only things we saw in that hangar were about 500 crows sitting on the girders of the roof, bombarding us all night. What a din, too!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Going Off The Rails in Ramsbottom

Thursday night saw the launch of Off The Rails, a new ladies' fashion boutique in the heart of Ramsbottom, Bury. Organised by Go:PR, the evening saw a range of celebs drop in to celebrate. The small but cosy Bolton St shop is the brainchild of Sally Lee.

On the night her store filled quickly with invitees, including Hollyoaks' Jazz Franks (Esther Bloom) and Magali Gorre from Real Housewives of Cheshire.

Also in attendance:

Hollyoaks' Kieran Richardson (Ste Hay)

Nikki Sanderson, Candice Stowe in Corrie, Dawn Bellamy in Heartbeat and Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks.

Jess Cunningham, The Apprentice and Celebrity Big Brother contestant.

A fun night. Hope the store does well!