I see I wrote our last blog post no less than 20 months ago! And I started it with the admission that it was TWELVE WHOLE MONTHS since the previous one! Clearly not a pulse I have my finger on! I am not cut out to be a regular contributor, it would seem! I believe the one before that was bemoaning the end of ‘flower power’!
So . . . I rashly promised on our Facebook page that I would write a review of our year!! So here it is . . .
2016 – that year of infamy – started off quite normally. You were trying to avoid the attentions of your paramour, Norman (I really don’t know what’s going on there, dear, so do tell!) while doing your fabric and textile ‘thang’! And I was pursuing my seemingly disparate interests of basket weaving, whittling, Lancaster bombers and Premiership football.
And so the year began . . .
Those lovely people at Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough requested us to make a ‘cameo’ appearance at their awards ceremony which, by an extraordinary and fortunate coincidence, was to take place in Middlesbrough. We ‘warmed up’ by dispensing tea and coffee as the worthy recipients assembled, confusion etched upon their bemused faces. (It seems our advance publicity did not arrive until the following day!) Then we gently tottered from table to table, smiling and congratulating as we went, before gently exiting stage left!
A smooth start but the month took a frantic turn a few days later when we we received an emergency call from Team Wiggins. Sir Brad, it appears, had pulled a muscle – and a sickie! Would we take his place on the third leg of the Tour de Yorkshire? Naturally we were overjoyed to jump into his lycra but the crowds that appeared at the news of our surprise appearance prevented us from pulling ahead of the peloton! Drat!
We did, however, win the tricycle category as the sole entrant! (Where is the trophy, dear? Is it that silver thing you are keeping the doggie treats in on the kitchen window sill?)
We had a quiet month, mercifully! The medical treatment made necessary by our exertions on the Tour de Yorkshire was lengthy and painful – for you anyway. My body, as you know, is a temple, and my vigorous physical regimen renders me immune to anything harmful that may come my way. As to you, however, one of your hips had ‘popped’ again on the ‘King of the Mountains’ stage which saw you in traction for three weeks.
Thankfully, you were match fit quite soon, thanks in no small part to the restorative powers of tea and the odd sponge finger. Consequently, we were ready to take part in the inaugural Orange Pip market in Middlesbrough a few weeks later. There, we vied for attention with a giant walking white horse puppet and two young ladies with lickable tattoos! Not to be outdone, I had smeared a lovely pâté de saumon on my thighs but had no takers apart from a couple of stray cats who wouldn’t leave me alone!! You did somewhat better with the packet of macaroons that you strapped to your person – although I am convinced you ate them all yourself, dear!!
The season started to hot up as we pedalled south to Harrogate at the beginning of the month for the Victoria Kitchen – a street food event organized by our good friend, Lulabelle! Or, as I prefer to call her, ‘The Lady In The Van’. After bonding with all of the foodie people and ‘pigging out’ – your phrase not mine! – we burnt off the excess calories, you may remember, by pedalling as fast as we could up and down one of the adjoining streets, in order to inform shoppers of the vast array of wonderful food available just around the corner! Oh . . . and joining our new Mexican friend in the singing of various ditties to the same shell-shocked shoppers. (Try saying that after a tequila or three!)
The approach of a community policeman brought an early end to this burgeoning reincarnation of the Three Amigos so we returned to the food stalls. Well, it was tea-time by then!
Oh . . . looking back at our busy 2016 schedule, I almost forgot that we were on national television on 9th June. The BBC no less. The reason for it almost slipping my mind – a regular occurrence these days, sadly! – is, of course, that it wasn’t really us but, rather, our alter egos! It was those two people, Jane and Terry, who occasionally double for us when we need stand-ins through general tour fatigue. (To be frank, Morag, I do despair of their refusal to ‘get into character’ but I guess they are just enthusiastic amateurs. More am-dram than glam-dram, I fear!
Mind you, Jane proved herself to be eminently skilled and adept at the making of lampshades. (Had you been giving her private lessons, I wonder?) It was just a shame that Terry spent most of his time playing to camera and making a right arse of both himself . . . AND his lampshade.
A busy weekend followed this foray into the televisual world, with Hull being the first port of call. T’was our third annual visit where we are now de rigueur for any Lord Mayor’s event. Extensive roadworks prevented the usual parade this year but a happy time was had by all, especially during the mini-parade in the Castle Gardens. So tortuous and snake-like was the procession that I swear we passed ourselves at least three times!
Strangely enough, even as I write these words, there is another ‘tortuous and snake-like’ procession winding its way through the city centre! They are erecting a 250ft wind turbine blade slap-bang in the middle as an artistic installation, part of the City of Hull’s elevation to City of Culture 2017. Lampposts, traffic lights and all manner of ‘street furniture’ have had to be taken down to facilitate its insertion and erection! (Oo, er!)
I do hope it is high enough for us to pass beneath it on the tricycle! You know how I have a tendency to snap things off on street furniture! (See South Shields Parade in July) I would hate us to be responsible for demolishing the centrepiece and focus of Hull’s cultural year! I can see the headlines now . . .
‘BLADE LAID LOW IN TEA LADIES RAM RAID’
Police take down their particulars.
(“It had no right being there!”, exclaimed frail, 89 year old ringleader, Morag)
Re The Blade! Given that it is one of a set of three, I now have this mental image of a wind turbine somewhere atop the remote North Yorkshire Moors, struggling to maintain equilibrium with one of its limbs having been cruelly amputated. Some day soon, it will falter, fall from its perch and the remaining two blades will career down the hillside, decapitating a herd of Wensleydales in its path! The unseen cost of culture!!
Incidentally, I firmly believe that the elevation of Hull to the status of UK City of Culture 2017 is due, in no small part, to our cultural contribution over the years. Clearly, they have forgotten your sudden and unfortunate attack of incontinence in 2015. The problem that year was water-works rather than road-works! It now means, of course, that we have to include a possible re-occurrence of this on our Risk Assessment. And those spare Tena Pants take up so much room on the tricycle, next to the fire blanket! (Maybe we could do without them both ie you could put any fire out yourself!! Just a thought!
The following day, back to back with Hull, was Her Madge’s 90th birthday celebrations on Stockton High Street. And, you will remember dear, there was cake, cake and more cake!!
Once again, we relented to numerous requests by the celebrities present to have selfies taken with us! And we got to meet the lovely Pam Royle. As you know, Pam and I go back a long way. I remember her coming to me for advice and support when she was just a simple newsreader on Tyne Tees Television and now look at her – Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, no less.
‘Pammie’, I used to say, ‘Pammie. Be your own woman! Don’t try to be a copy-cat of me. I’m willing to be your role model, naturally, but there’s only room in this world for one Jean McPherson!’ She took heed of my advice and sends me a signed photograph every year on my birthday as a wee memento of our time together. I only need three more and I can finish wallpapering the wall of my study!
Just a few days later, our good friend and style guru, Mr Wayne Hemingway, asked us to assist him with the official opening of a ‘village wot he designed’ on the banks of the Tyne at Dunston Staiths. I understand he took some his inspiration from Jane’s lampshade for the vibrant colours he used. (Copy-catting again, my dear, we just don’t seem able to avoid it!)
Next on our frantic itinerary was South Shields. The town is almost our spiritual home, I sometimes think! It’s always good to meet up with the indefatigable team there, led by the indomitable Karri! Security is tight there though!
This was to be our first visit of the year where we joined in the festivities and merriment at their Summer Fayre. All went well until, having consumed too much tea, I needed to visit the loo. A perennial problem!
And back to South Shields early in July, this time for the Parade – with a nautical theme! The parade has always been a bone of contention, you will remember, as I always interpret the word ‘parade’ as meaning ‘race’. An assertion hotly contested by , despite the fact that we managed to get from a grid position of 16th, right up to a podium finish for Bronze Medal the year before.
Obersturmbannführer Prinn gave way this year by, counter-intuitively, placing us in pole position on the starting line outside the Town Hall. Clever! It took the wind right out of our sails, as you know, which is probably just as well as by then I had snapped our mast off by trying to manoeuvre beneath some street furniture! So sails we had none!!
So we led the parade from the off. Only constant weaving and retreating and watching and waiting, prevented us from entering the Stadium (or Bents Park as it is locally known) a good hour ahead of the ‘peloton’!
Because of our ‘good behaviour’ on the Parade, we were invited back just two weeks later for one of their concerts in the park. Our role here is to entertain ie warm up, the crowd before the concert, share their picnics, pose for photographs and – though not written into the contract – pose for selfies with whatever musical celebs are headlining that particular concert.
Do you remember our joy to discover that the top act that day was our nephews, Charlie and Craig Reid aka The Proclaimers. Why, didn’t we help them with the lyrics for that ‘500 Miles’ song of theirs? Bad news though, dear – we are not credited with any contribution at all!! I know they changed the opening line from ‘When I wake up, well I know I want some tea’ but all the same! (Did you notice how they avoided us throughout the concert? In fact, we had to share our green room with two seagulls and some dancing sailors!)
The end of the month saw us in the wee town of Saltburn by the Sea for yet another Food Festival! There is something strange about Saltburn! Something other-worldly’, evidenced, almost, by the alacrity with which they regard us as ‘normal’! I believe that, for once, we were entertained more by them, than t’other way round! Nice food though and nice people!
Morag ‘pulled’ . . .
. . . but Jean spent a lot of time in the shop window!
The month did not start for us until the bank holiday weekend. Friday and Saturday saw us at the StrEat Food Festival in the Valley Gardens in Harrogate – arranged, as was our last appearance in this beautiful city, by Lulabelle, our Lady In The Van. There, we enjoyed all that was going on, working alongside a man in a red box, two people pretending to be a privet hedge and some lovely Dutchmen who gave children rides in a water-filled bathtub towed by a tractor! (See earlier section on incontinence!) I think all of this happened. Either that or my mind was altered by the mushrooms I had with breakfast!
The following two days saw us once again in our ‘sailor suits’ for the Tall Ships event in Blyth. It was there that we finally embraced the belief that the Great British Public will stand and watch absolutely anything. At this point, it may help, dear reader, if I explain our firmly held conviction that we do not have an act, in the conventional meaning of the word. The GBP is perfectly willing to watch us do all that we laughingly call our ‘repertoire’, which comprises of singing (with gusto), dancing (with abandon), and tricycling around (without due care and attention) and haranguing everyone we pass.
(Pic: Kay Coverdale)
On this occasion, we were laying out a table for afternoon tea on a traffic roundabout. (Fret not, traffic had been already stopped!) We do it to music à la Morecambe and Wise breakfast sketch but there then comes that point where one of us has to say ‘That’s it, folks! Nothing to see!’, followed closely by ‘Have you no homes to go to?’ But nothing happens, nobody moves, tumbleweed skitters across the scene. They don’t believe us; they want more; they are greedy for our gifts, hahaha!!
(Pic: Angie Jackson)
September means our annual trip to Vintage by the Sea at Morecambe. A lovely place with lovely people, with the iconic art deco Midland Hotel the jewel in its crown. The weather did not play ball this year with a torrential downpour on the Saturday but we made the best of that, with a picture of us huddling under an umbrella and wearing rain hats making it to the Daily Telegraph ‘Picture of the Day’ on September 4th.
Apart from all our ‘vintage’ friends, we met up again with fellow entertainer Viv the Spiv (not ‘arf) . . .
(Pic: Ray Doull)
. . . and the lovely Mr Hemingway (see June at Dunston Staiths). He even cadged a lift to a business meeting on our trike. And, as luck would have it, we have footage of the ride on our GoPro camera.
I have always wanted to ask Mr Hemingway if his book A Farewell To Arms is in praise of sleeveless dresses. Maybe next year, I will. Although we may be in his bad books after gate-crashing, nay flash-mobbing, his fashion show. We had to come in out of the rain so, like kids who can’t ‘play out’, we got bored and made our own entertainment.
Thankfully, the weather perked up on Sunday and the event resumed its usual magic.
Early in October, we ditched the tricycle and did the Alzheimers Society Memory Walk in South Shields. We took our wee pooch, Teabag, with us and she thoroughly enjoyed the outing, albeit being slightly stressed that there were no lampposts on the coastal paths that we trod. We are very pleased to report that we raised about £1100 for this worthy cause – one that is very close to our hearts! So thanks again to all who contributed to that total!
(Pic: Alzheimers Society)
October means Halloween and, looking wickedly witchy, we descended on Preston Park Museum where mayhem reigned. A return invitation next year will largely depend on whether or not the parents of the children who were traumatised by Jean cackling at them and making them cry, decide to sue. There were 16 in total and several of them are still under counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!
It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas – at least as far as Middlesbrough Council were concerned. The Reindeer Parade at the end of the month provided Morag an ideal opportunity to glam up the tricycle with baubles, bells and a light display that could be seen from outer space. To be honest, she needs only the flimsiest of pretexts!
We bonded and bothered the Middlesbrough crowd all morning and then took part in the parade itself which wended its merry way through the town centre for about two hours. Everyone who is anybody was in the parade including, of the course, the Man in the Red Suit with six of his reindeer team– Happy, Grumpy, Dozey, Beaky, Mick and Tich. (The first team squad was in winter training so Santa was giving some of his up and coming youngsters a run out. Rudolf was at a Red Nose event that day)
And now it really is, nearly, Christmas with two back to back events at Kirkleatham Hall, Redcar and, once again, Preston Park. On the opening weekend of the month (We quivered that they would recall the pending Halloween PTSD law suit hanging over our heads but all was well!) Although there did seem to be a heavy police presence . . .
There was much festivity at both events – we carol sang, we mulled wine, we wassailed and we yuled logs to our hearts’ content.
And then it was back to Middlesbrough the weekend before Christmas for their Christmas Market. More of the above Christmas carousing and the last gig of the season.
It was during this month that we were asked by the Britain’s Got Talent to audition for the show. To strut our stuff, in due course, in front of Cowell, Holden, Dixon, Walliams and a theatre audience. We felt that discretion was the better part of valour and declined. Street acts do not work on the stage. There’s a clue in the title – street act! Our act – if indeed we have one, and we would argue with anyone who thinks we do have one! – is NOTHING without the aforementioned Great British Public and the craic, banter and badinage that ensues. It’s big, peripatetic, mobile but, in a strange way, intimate! Exactly, in fact, what we could not replicate on the stage! So . . . nice to be asked but it would have been ‘car crash television’ and no insurer would cover us for that kind of collision! And we have seen it happen to street acts we have worked with, on BGT. It was excruciatingly painful viewing, especially as these were acts who we know are very good ‘on da street’!
December also brings our calendar. It is a Herculean effort to trawl through the thousands of images that we seem to accumulate throughout the season which, in 2016 at least, was nine months long. We do it for two main reasons – a) we want to share with you the fun that we have had the previous year and b) to market our ‘act’ to those who kindly book us to turn up and do silly things. What meagre profit we make will be donated to the Alzheimers Society for whom we did the Memory Walk (see October)
It would be remiss of me not to point out that we still have a few left if anyone would like one. Full of jolly japes, wizard wheezes and guffaws galore! It’s a real treat and equally full of necessary important, yet boring, stuff like dates, bank holidays etc. A snip at £7.25 – and you won’t want to throw it away when it’s finished!
So, 2016 is done – a great sigh of relief form all of us, I’m sure! – and 2017 is already toddling around the room with faltering steps
As for us, you, Morag, will be falling back (not literally!) on resting your hips and weaving your magic with fabric and textiles while I will be enjoying my new hobby of basket weaving and trying to differentiate plaiting from coiling, wicker from splint . . . it’s a quagmire! But expect my new range of basketware very soon!
Ah, but Morag! ‘We Need To Talk About Norman!’ (There may be a book in that! A tense psychological thriller drama, perhaps? Hmmm!)
In closing, dear reader, we have big things planned for the early part of this year but I am not allowed to divulge any details at this precise moment. Let me just say that negotiations are in progress!
And on that bombshell . . . . .