Whenever we go for a walk, Heather moans about having to keep stopping for me to take photographs. She’s a fine one to talk. Every motley old horse we pass (and where we live there are dozens of them) Heather has to lean over the hedge to gaze lovingly into its eyes, and engage it in a general chat. It’s not a fascination I share; I was never a child who hankered after a pony. All I ever wanted was a pair of football boots and a pen knife, both far less expensive than a horse, but I didn’t get either. It’s not that I don’t like horses, of course I do – I’m an animal lover generally, but I can’t stand for hours gawping, admiring, or riding, them, in the way that Heather does. There are several horses in the field opposite our home, and she can tell every one apart and knows their names. Our young friend Becky has a horse, Vinnie, who is stabled near to us. I never know if it’s him or not unless he’s got his tartan rug on, despite having been introduced to him numerous times. Anyway, I was reading the Chronicle on Friday, and my attention was caught by an advert for the Horse of the Year Show at the NEC in Birmingham next October. Heather’s always wanted to go to the event, but I imagined that the tickets would be as scarce as they are for an FA Cup Final. Apparently not. The offer includes coach travel (we can board in Prudhoe) bed and breakfast at a 4 star hotel, transfers to the NEC, and admission to the show. Heather is delirious with happiness. Mum is a little worried about it, specifically the coach travel part. I think she’s confusing horsey folk with some drunken football hooligans she saw alighting a coach in Gallogate a few years ago.
“What kind of people will be on the coach?” She asked. “I don’t know,” I replied. “People who like horses I suppose.” I’m going to feel a bit out of it then, because I know that horses have a head, a mane, and four legs (one on each corner) but there my expertise ends. The Horse of the Year Show would not normally be my choice of sporting entertainment, but I love it that Heather is so pleased. However since I’ve booked up and paid, she has pointed out that Clare Balding might be going too, which is a very persuasive argument for showing willing.
It’s time to get my eyes tested again. I go once every two years, always in May. This is because it’s my birthday today, and so long as I drop a couple of heavy hints Mum usually offers to pay for new bins. I’ve tried the opticians in and around Ryton and Blaydon and they’re OK. There’s nothing the matter with any of them, but they’re not good enough to make me feel disloyal by going somewhere else. My brother Roger gets his specs from Asda, and he told me that there are no hidden extras. His eyesight is so bad that he would have bottle specs if he didn’t get them paired down. Most opticians charge for this, but with Asda it’s all included. Roger goes to the branch in Doncaster, so I thought I’d give the one at the Metrocentre a bash. Asda Gateshead. The opticians are up on the second floor, and frames are displayed on stands divided by price. There are only two prices, £70 and £100, and that is for the full cost of the specs, regardless of what else you have added, and it includes rimless frames as well. The only add-on is for transitional lenses. I get these, because otherwise I would have to buy prescription sunglasses, but they Asda only charge an extra £40. In the end I chose two pairs of glasses, one set of vari-focals and a pair of reading specs, £100 all in plus £40 for the transitions and £15 for my eye test. I’m really pleased with them. The front of house service wasn’t great. When I arrived the staff were busy with other customers, but they let me (and others) just stand there unsure of what to do or who to speak to, when they could have simply acknowledged our presence and asked us to sit down until they were free. It was quite bad actually. Added to which, there was a gentleman in making a complaint. I don’t know the ins and outs of this, but he certainly wasn’t rude. When it was my turn to sit down and be seen by one of the three technicians, they were discussing him with each other. The lady dealing with me said something along the lines of; “He just expects to come in here and be seen straight away, when other people have got appointments, well he needn’t think he’s ruffled my feathers.” Not a massively serious thing to say, but the thing is, I know the bloke. Not well, and I can’t think of his name, but he lives in Ryton. I could have been his wife for all they knew. The optician who carried out my test was an older lady, and with age comes experience, because my test was thorough and accurate. I collected my glasses on Friday afternoon and they are superb.
A downside came through the week when Heather received a parking notice. “Parking notice, bloody parking notice! Where the hell have I been to get a bloody parking notice?” Her indignant eyes scanned the letter, “Here,” she said, thrusting the missive in my direction. “Yours I believe.” The £40 penalty was for parking in Asda for in excess of three hours. I’ve contested it, we were in a disabled bay with a blue badge, and I had no idea that there was a three-hour limit in that particular car park. If the ticket isn’t rescinded I think I’ll let them take me to court. This is because when I went back to Asda on Friday, there are no notices about the three-hour limit in any of the disabled parking areas, and none in between the disabled bays and the entrance to the store. There are big signs telling you that you’ll get a £70 fine for parking in a disabled bay without a badge, and quite right too, but there’s nothing to say that there’s a time limit. Those particular warnings are only in the main car park, and if you’re pushing a wheel chair or manoeuvring one on your own, you’d expect the notices to be where you’re going to pass them. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Heather bought Mum and I lunch in Fox and Hounds, Coalburns (Coalies) this afternoon, a birthday treat for me. I’ll not tell you how old I am but the figure has a lot of fives in it. Coalies serve food on Sundays only, and you can have a beef, pork, or lamb dinner, and there’s a vegetarian option. Heather had tomato soup to start, and I had pate. We all had a sweet, sticky toffee pudding for me, and apple and toffee cheesecake for Heather and Mum. The whole bill including drinks came to under £40. I can certainly recommend it, but book first as the seating areas are limited. Make sure you take some cash as well, because at the minute they’re not accepting cards.