Monday, 31 October 2011

Published in 'Cross Keys' - SPC Oxford University

Well I've not quite made the 'famous alumni' page on the St Peter's College, Oxford University
web site just yet, but it's a start! 

Following an almighty thud on the front door mat, I've just ripped into the packaging of 'Cross Keys', 'St Peter's College 50th Anniversary Special Edition' Alumni Magazine.

While I am always keen to see what's happening at my old college, this time there was a reason for my hasty impression of Edward Scissorhands - I knew that there was something very special lurking on page 37 - me!

I'm one of three people featured in the 'Where are they now?' section.

It's 24 years to the month since I arrived as a fresh faced undergraduate - where does the time go?

Shrinking violet!
I did have the most amazing time at St Peters and Oxford holds a very special place in my heart. 

I went back there this summer and had a full on nostalgia trip (click here to read Oxford Blues).

Here is the magazine:

St Peter's Alumni Magazine.

Page 37.
About me.
Alison Staples
1987, Zoology

“In October 1987,” recalls Alison, ‘Pump Up the Volume’ by M/A/R/R/S was at No 1 in the charts. When I arrived for my first week as a student in Oxford, I had taken their advice quite literally and arrived with enormous hair.” 

After a brief flirtation with academia Alison was sufficiently inspired by her earlier experience manning the phones for the College’s first ever fundraising telethon to embark on a career in fundraising.

“I tried,” she says, “through Keep Britain Tidy, The National Library for the Blind and The Christie (cancer) Charity to make the world a better place.” She has had a hand in raising around £25 million over the years. “Even better,” through her work for Keep Britain Tidy, “I’ve been a Womble!”

They say that life begins at 40, but for Alison it very nearly stopped when she was diagnosed with a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. After two very challenging years, things are now definitely on the up again. “I’m well (though reluctant to use the term ‘all clear’),” and this summer Alison celebrated her wedding to Tristan Pocock, a lecturer at The University of Manchester. They married at Chester Zoo – as befits a zoology graduate.

“Having been given a second chance,” says Alison, “I’m trying to put my life back together and make this extra time I’ve been given count. I’m taking on new challenges and doing my best to have a wonderful life. I don’t think I’ve done too badly so far.”

She now writes a highly-subscribed blog, which you can visit at www.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sale Moor Massive

It's Halloween weekend and it's time for another silly treat. 

It's me and my massive.

Not my massive bum - just my massive!

I give you - the Halloween Rap - by the Sale Moor Massive (click on the link)

Me and my b*tches!!
DJ - me
Dracula -Tris
Witch - Cat
Mummy - Martyn
'Ten Foot Tall Walking Avacado' - Baz

Enjoy x

Friday, 28 October 2011

USA Today (7) Acadia National Park, ME, Bikes, Beer & Bublé.

Continuing our exploits on our New England roadtrip / honeymoon last month ...........

After proper American breakfast of Brooklyn Bridge bagels and last night’s left over sausage burger, 


.....we set off to Bar Harbor for a day of mountain biking. Cycling in either my fit flops or my hiking boots seemed like a bad idea, which gave me an excellent excuse to indulge in one of my favourite things – shoe shopping! 

Ten minutes and $100 later I was fully tooled up and the proud owner of a new pair of Merrell Avian Light Ventilator  high performance trail shoes – and they matched my top. Result!

After picking up our bikes and then waiting in the wrong place for the shuttle bus, 45 minutes later we were at the start point for the island’s system of traffic free carriage roads. These were un-made roads used through time by horse and carts. 

Acadia & carriage roads.
They were – we were told “Not very steep / really quite flat.”

This however, was a lie. 

We’d planned to do a loop around three lakes and after tanking along for the first couple of miles, we hit our first hill. This posed no problem for Tris who cycles to work every day, takes part in triathlons and who completed the coast to coast en vélo over the summer. Whereas I’d not done nothing more than tootle down the road to the pub in the last few months and nothing at all for a long time before that. 

Look at those little legs go.

It wasn’t long before I had to get off and push. As other cyclists rode up the hill past me, I felt pretty useless and not at all optimistic about how the day was going to pan out. Still, I wasn’t the only one struggling and unlike one woman, at least I didn’t have a massive strop. She stopped and sat by the side of the road with her back turned towards her husband. He in turn didn’t really know what to do – so just hovered. We didn’t see them again that day.

It's steeper than it looks!
As we cycled on, the downhill bits were great, bombing along - mountains, lakes, trees and blue sky. With the wind in my face, I bent down low over my handle bars for improved aerodynamics. But the down hills were never long enough and seemed scant compensation for the ascents. 

Before long my knee was hurting and I was sweating like a fat lass – but at least my new shoes were comfy, which was just as well as I seemed to be doing much more walking than I’d originally anticipated.

We skirted past Eagle Lake before stopping at the top end of Jordan Pond for a picnic. It was absolutely beautiful. We walked out on the large pink boulders into the shallows where grass shoots broke the surface and sat and reflected on life and nothing in particular.

Jordan Pond.
Back in the saddle again we cycled past ‘The Bubbles’ and ‘Bubble Pond’. What a great place for a children’s book – Mr & Mrs Bubble and all the little Bubbles who all live in Bubble Pond .....

We’d only managed a further three miles after our lunch time stop, and I was off and pushing my bike yet again. Grandparents out cycling with their grandchildren overtook me. A group of small Japanese girls cycling in Ugg boots overtook me. A horse pulling a carriage full of elderly tourists overtook me. Why was I so rubbish? Why couldn’t I cycle up hills? A carriage at that point looked like a much more sensible option.

I considered my excuses and contemplated which card to play. The K, C or F card? I chose the C (cancer) card as a reason to stop beating myself up as the K (knee) card seemed a bit wet and the F (fat) card is one I like to ignore!

We had a few tears along the way, but I made it in the end. A whole 11 miles – which seemed more like 111 miles. 

Back at the top end of Eagle Lake, where we started.

It was a bit pathetic for someone who managed to cycle 75 miles in one day three years earlier, but considerably better than anything I managed to do since and it did give me a real sense of achievement. On this occasion, I really did need the restroom for a rest!

Back in Bar Harbor we went beer tasting at the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. We were really pleasantly surprised. New England has lots of small breweries and their beer is great. 

Not only was the beer a real surprise (I’d been expecting Budweiser and Coors and that to be about it), football / soccer seemed to be really popular too. When I went travelling around the world, I was so pleased to come from Manchester. People would ask where I came from, I’d say “Manchester”, at which point they’d burst into a big smile and say “Ahh – Manchester United”! On that basis, I got a warm welcome everywhere – that is apart from America – until this trip. Soccer seemed to be really catching on and the people we met seemed to be really knowledgeable about the premiership.

Our bar tender was a Liverpool fan! Primarily as a result of their link with The Boston Red Sox (they share the same owner). As we worked our way through a free tasting of his entire range of beers we discussed real ales and football. Tris was in his element and I was holding my own, though I didn’t feel the need to prove myself by explaining the off side rule.

We got chatting to a couple from Mojave Texas who were also working their way through the ‘the flavour gamut from light and fruity to dark and rich': 

My favourite.

Tris' favourite.

Very nice also.


We were having a lovely time talking to them about ‘Dallas’ and it was all going very well until Mojave woman started talking about how much all Texans loved Newcastle Brown Ale and how they’d get it in their ‘growlers’! Apparently there is a place in Mojave where you can go and fill up your ‘growler’ – and where everyone hangs their ‘growler’ up around the bar.

Like a dirty school boy, I started to snigger.

“Shall I tell her?” I said to Tris.

“What, that Newcastle Brown is rubbish and only people from Newcastle drink it?” he replied.
“No – about the ‘growler’. I’m going to tell her.”

So I told her – I filed it under ‘cultural sharing and education of Americans’.

“If you go to England” I ventured, “don’t go into a pub and ask for a ‘growler’ because it means something very different back home.”

“Does it really?” replied ‘Sue Ellen’.

I had the room’s attention, but I hadn’t thought things through. Normally I’d say it’s another word for a fanny. But in America, that doesn’t work because a fanny is your bum – complicated by the fact that a bum is a homeless person. I was starting to struggle.

“A ‘growler’ is another word for your downstairs lady bits” I said finally. 

There, that would do it.

Apparently not!

“Excuse me?” said Texas woman looking confused.

“You know ..... down there,” I said nodding and gesturing southwards with eyes.

But she still didn’t know and I was stumped. To be fair, most of the rest of the room had got it by now, but it took Tris and a well timed “vagina” intervention to put the matter beyond reasonable doubt. 

“Oh!” she said.

My ‘growler’ had fallen flat!

We went back to Southwest Harbor that evening for dinner. Baked Camembert with blueberries, crab cakes, scallops, local wine from the Bar Harbor cellars and interesting conversation with a family from Tennessee who referenced Manchester as “just south of Scotland” and loved the British Rail system, because you can go anywhere!

Driving back to our cabin that night, we listened to the soothing, easy listening tunes of Delilah on 92.9 WEZQ. Delilah’s nightly show is syndicated right across the US – playing a musical soundtrack to personal stories phoned in by her listeners. 

We wondered what she would choose for us and decided as a homage to our cycling trip around ‘The Bubbles’ and our general optimism regarding our future, we should plump for Micky Bubbles, aka Michael Bublé and ‘The best is yet to come’!

Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum
You came along and everything started to hum
Still its a real good bet, the best is yet to come

The best is yet to come, and baby wont it be fine
You think you've seen the sun, but you aint seen it shine

Wait till the warm-up's underway
Wait till our lips have met
Wait till you see that sunshine day
You aint seen nothin yet

The best is yet to come, and baby wont it be fine
The best is yet to come, come the day your mine

The best is yet to come
Come the day your mine
Oh come the day your mine
I'm gonna teach you to fly
We've only tasted the wine
We're gonna drain that cup dry

Wait till your charms are right, for the arms to surround
You think you've flown before, but you aint left the ground

Wait till you're locked in my embrace
Wait till I hold you near
Wait till you see that sunshine place
There ain't nothin like it here

The best is yet to come, and baby wont it be fine
The best is yet to come, come the day your mine
Come the day your mine
I've got plans for you baby
And baby you're gonna fly

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Battle scars and trophies

I look like a victim of domestic violence! 

I'm not winking at you - left eye won't open!

While I’m trying hard to turn it into a positive, having shingles isn’t a lot of fun.

Shingles is a re-activation of the chicken-pox virus and its cluckin’ rubbish. Tris says it's not one of my better looks!

As a notorious picker and fiddler, one of the hardest thing I’ve found is to leave the scabs alone. One friend kindly said it looked like I’d been shot in the head. This is quite possibly the biggest scab I’ve had since I was seven. It’s so frustrating!

I am doing my best to leave it alone – there is only so much permanent disfigurement that a fringe can hide. So I’m sitting here typing away manically to give my fingers something to do and generate some digit distraction.

Earlier today, whilst dabbing my forehead with calamine lotion, I started to think about the other scars I’ve collected over the years and I’ve decided that actually I’m quite proud of them all. My battle scars are a bit like my trophies, reminders from 42 years of stories. Behind the scar tissue of each and every one there lies a tale.


Cheeky monkey.

In 1974 I was five. We were all staying at my Grandparents in Kettering and Uncle Stuart was teaching me and my sister how to play golf. We were practicing our putting on Granddads perfectly manicured lawn, but when it came to my sister’s turn, instead of gently putting the ball like the rest of us, she decided she was Seve Ballesteros and took a massive swing. 

Unfortunately, her little sister (me) was standing right behind her and got a six iron squarely in the face. To this day I have a small scar on my nose – it’s my golfing trophy!

Left Knee

Me, my guinea pig Polly, in our garden in Mexborough.
In 1979 I was 10 and I was learning to ride a bike. We were lucky enough to live in a house with a massive drive, so I was doing circuits on my mum’s bright orange fold up bike. The drive had a slope which meant I was able to pick up a bit of speed before doing a dramatic u-turn at the bottom. There’s no other way to describe it – I got cocky! But as I zoomed down the hill that last time, my fold up bike started to ...... fold up! By the time I got to the bottom and tried to turn, my handle bars were practically in my lap. As I fell off, I caught my knee on the pin in the middle of the bike which locked the frame into place. 

I was devastated – I’d ripped my jeans. It was only when my mum gingerly peeled back the flap of frayed denim that I realised that I’d also ripped open my knee. To this day I have a thick scar on my left knee which really should have had a stitch – it’s my cycling trophy!

Right Knee

16th birthday photo.
In 1985 I was 16 and I was skint! I’d worn my pixie boots right through and not only did I not have sufficient funds for new ones, I couldn’t even afford to have them mended. Instead, I went to Woolworths and bought stick-on soles and heels. 

Unfortunately they weren’t quite the right size – they needed a bit of a trim. So I sat on my bed with the scalpel from my new biology dissecting kit and did a bit of customising. From this picture, it’s not hard to imagine how I managed to get a gash so clean and deep in my knee that the blood flowed reluctantly and blue. I knew I’d been an idiot and as a result was too embarrassed to tell anyone. Instead I wrapped a wad of cotton wool with half a roll of toilet paper around my knee and pretended that everything was fine. On the positive side, by pixie boots lasted for another year, however I was left with a small scar on my right knee – it’s my fashion trophy!

Left Shin

New Zealand 2007.

In 2007, when I was 38 and old enough to know better, I packed a bag and headed off by myself to travel the world. My friends and family were understandably worried about all the potential death traps I’d face on a daily basis. I left with a long list of scenarios and activities to avoid – and many promises to be careful. However, my view was that a life lived in fear was a life un-lived. While I was always careful not to put myself in unnecessary danger, I travelled through the crazy streets of Bangkok in a tuk-tuk, I hiked through the Thai jungle and slept under the stars with a Hmong tribe. I travelled down the Mekong River into Laos. I trekked through the Malaysian jungle to see the world’s largest flower. I dodged jumping crocs in Darwin, I hired a car and drove the Great Ocean Road from Adelaide to Melbourne and I hiked down the side of the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. 

It was all going very well. I’d been away for 3 ½ months and I’d done all manner of dangerous stuff without a hitch. That was until I pitched up in Christchurch, New Zealand – home of dangerous and extreme sports. So how do you think I managed to slice a large chunk out of the front of my left shin? Jet boating? White water rafting? Swimming with dolphins? No, I managed all the above without mishap. 

No, I managed to slice a large chunk out of the front of my left shin, because I slipped over in the shower in ‘The Old Christchurch Jail House' which is now a trendy backpackers. If anyone is planning a new bathroom, stainless steel and pressed concrete is a lethal slippery combination. As I went to step out of the shower, my right foot went one way on the stainless steel shower tray, while my left foot went the other way on the pressed concrete floor of the cubicle. By the time I came to stop, my leg was wedged in the gap between the cubicle wall and the floor, shaving a large lump out of my shin in the process.

There was a lot of blood and I was in shock, so promptly passed out – naked on the floor of a jail. It wasn’t how I’d envisaged my first day in New Zealand. It was nearly 30 minutes before someone found me – said person’s first words were ‘What are you doing down there?’ Duh!

Again, I should have got it stitched, but I was on a schedule and had a whole lot of New Zealand to see. So true to form, I got my first aid kit out, bandaged myself up and hiked up a mountain! As testament to my ruggedness I now have a big dent in my left shin – it’s my trophy to extreme New Zealand showering!

The afternoon of the accident.

The moral of the story is that I need an interesting story to accompany my current collection of scabs and potential scar tissue. 

I know, I’ll go and see my heavily pregnant neighbour and see if the shock of seeing me will bring on labour. She’s due any day and I know she’s fed up of eating pineapple. It would be doing her a kindness!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Strictly Come Dancing - Punditry and predictions!

It's been confirmed, I am officially diseased with 'Shingle Bells' and I must admit to feeling a bit rubbish.

I desperately needed something to cheer me up this afternoon, so I've combined my two favourite things. Strictly Come Dancing (or Dancing with the Stars if you're from across the pond) and spreadsheets.

Stay with me.

I recently revealed my past as a disco dancing champion and semi professional modern jiver.

Ashton-Under-Lyne shopping centre 1997.

So when it comes to X-Factor vs Strictly for Saturday evening viewing, the winner should be no surprise. The tango and the samba win every time. 

Tris & I even went to see the live show a few years ago!

Rachel Stevens & Vincent.


We were treated to the legendary Jill Halfpenny jive (sorry, the video cuts off a bit soon, before they get the chance to get going).

Tris voted for Julian Clary. He loves Strictly nearly as much as I do and pretends to be Bruno Tonioli when it comes to awarding the marks.

Bruno Tonioli and Tristan Pocock - separated at birth!


Grand finale
Every year I sit and I watch the opening credits of the latest series of Strictly and as contestants start to be eliminated, it always seems to happen in clusters according to what order people appear in the opening credits.

So with a bit of time on my hands, and delirious with a shingles induced temperature, I decided to investigate once and for all, to see if I can predict what the elimination / winning order is going to be this year.

I've looked back over the last five years and compared the opening sequence with the order in which the contestants finished in the competition - I've ranked them and put them in a spreadsheet (adjusting for the fact that 2008 and 2009 there were 16 rather than 14 couples). 

Yes, I really do have that much time on my hands.

Some positions do seem to be a bit luckier than others, but the patterns are more to do with where the competitors are in relation to each other.

Spreadsheet analysis of Strictly Come Dancing 2006 - 2010

I've already predicted the elimination of the first three correctly, so I've decided to put my neck on the line and make a further prediction. I've checked it against Ladbrooks betting odds, and while  there is some similarity, it's not identical.

So here you go, based on my system (opening credits ), my predictions for Strictly Come Dancing 2011 are:

1st Jason Donovan
2nd Harry Judd
3rd Chelsee Healey
4th Alex Jones
5th Robbie Savage
6th Holly Valance
7th Russell Grant
8th Anita Dobson
9th Lulu
10th Audley Harrison 
11th Nancy Dell' Olio
12th Rory Bremner (gone)
13th Dan Lobb (gone)
14th Edwina Currie (gone)

Right, I think I'll tweet Zoe Ball and see what she's got to say about my system!


PS. My apologies to anyone from outside the UK reading this - you probably neither know, nor care about any of these people.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Caption the Action - Shingle Bells!

Well, I've had a bit of a set back today. 

It seems I have shingles. I thought I was turning into a unicorn with massive (and highly unattractive) lesions on my forehead, but apparently not. 

So that's a bit rubbish. The only thing it has going for it is that it rhymes with Pringles - and even that's a bit tenuous.

When I was little, I used to think that shingles made your skin look like fish scales (as in a shingle beach). In the same way that I used to think that when a criminal was held in custody, they were actually restrained in a room full of custard, on the basis that it's quite thick and difficult to swim in.

With all this unanticipated drama, I've not had chance to produce a witty or poignant piece of literary genius for you today. Instead I'm reverting to my back up plan, with another 'Caption the Action' competition.

Under the circumstances, there was really only one picture to choose. 

Impression of Ned Kelly in Ballarat.
Do your worst. The winner will be announced on Monday 31st October - the prize will be something fabulous (TBC).

Friday, 21 October 2011

Published in 'Brides Up North'? I'm famous!

I've waited a long time for this moment.

I've had something published!

Today Brides Up North  are featuring our wedding on their web site (click on the link).

 It's a really lovely piece, including my week running up to the wedding in Facebook status updates!

There are lots of photos from our wonderful photographer Jon at FourT4. See if you can spot yourselves?

So - I've now had something published. Yippee!

I've also got a piece coming shortly in my College (University) alumni magazine, I've entered The Guardian Travel Writers competition and The Manchester Evening News 'Write a Story from your Life' competition.

To top that off, I went 'running' again yesterday and lopped another four minutes off my PB (I think not photographing or videoing myself this time probably helped) and I've made the princely sum of £6.88 from advertising on my blog.

Hurrah me!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Advertising? Not so good at that!

I mentioned in a recent blog that so far, I'd made a grand total of 26p in advertising!

I have adverts at the bottom of each post and in the side bar. I think I get a kick back if people click on them.

Husband sent shopping - seduced by advertising

I find it funny more than anything. I never started blogging to make money (although every little helps). I was more interested to see what adverts Google AdSense thought appropriate to my articles. I write about all manner of rubbish, so it was bound to be a challenge.

My favourite top 10 so far are:

10. Electrical Services in Yorkshire.
9.  Cheap minibus insurance.
8.  Over 50's singles trips.
7.  Child abuse solicitors.
6.  Small platform lift.
5.  Change your name.
4.  Adult photographer.
3.  Synchronised swim club.
2.  Kayak by Alaska's whales.

And my number one is - Septic tank pumping in Avon!!

No wonder I've yet to become an Internet millionaire.

It'll be interesting to see what adverts the great Google brain thinks appropriate to this post. I have visions of making the whole system implode in on itself - a bit like when you hold up a mirror in front of a mirror and achieve infinity.

Anyway you'll be delighted to know that I'm up to £1.51 now. Thank you to the three people who clicked on an ad link. I'll spend it on something interesting and report back - watch this space!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What the .............

When trying to leave a comment yesterday, one of my friends was shocked to see what Blogger was asking him to type before publishing.