Review of the last year

Add comment August 11th, 2014 10:56pm billmarshall

I started writing this in Amsterdam (sweltering in mid-summer heat) and just returned from 12 days in Slovenia before heading home. Having a chance to look at my various sites fro the first time for ages I see I’ve been neglecting this blog badly – the last year has been a constant round of major changes and only work and finance/property has had a look-in. So let’s catch up.

The continued resolving of my aunt’s estate

I spoke in my last post about tying up loose ends of my auntie Jean’s house in March 2013 – that proved to be far too optimistic. Legal and estate agent matters do not resolve themselves as easily as we simple souls would like and it would be a few months more and a lot of correspondence before we got the will dealt with and the house put on the market. I should say that this was no fault of the lawyers, Cartmell and Shepherd of Carlisle, who were excellent throughout and did everything they could to help us. The various monetary legacies of the will were eventually distributed and the house became mine; it was then a case of putting it on the market, dealing with the estate agent and awaiting viewings.

Letting Dad’s house

We successfully let dad’s house in Chesser with the assistance of Help for Letting, a local agency run by Lucy Petrie who has proved true to her ethical intentions. The first tenants have been excellent and at time of writing are just about to move out to their first house of their own having seen an offer they couldn’t refuse. We wish them well – especially as they plan to get married soon.

Back to Slovenia – and with a mission!

In the meantime dad and I made plans for another trip to Slovenia in the Autumn, and this time we wanted to look at houses there – the Carlisle house would provide enough to finance a reasonable place there if we could find the right one – houses tend to take a long time to sell in Slovenia so turnover is fairly low, particularly in the recent EU economic difficulties.

I had for many months (indeed years) been poring over online estate agency listings – seeing many that were too expensive and many that looked too far gone to consider restoring. I got down to a shortlist of about 15, although one that I liked the look of sold just before we set off.

The agency we used, Think Slovenia, proved very accommodating in organising our viewings. First from the Bohinj area where we stayed the first week at the Hotel Krystal (the first time we’d stayed there and a very friendly family run hotel), and then from the Kobarid area where we as usual stayed at the excellent Hotel Hvala. I must say thank you to them again for the lovely birthday present they gave dad, who had just celebrated his 90th birthday. They gave us the new luxury suite for the same price as a normal room. This included a jacuzzi bath which dad had never experienced before and it proved to have a very beneficial effect on the shoulder he’d injured some months before as well as being very relaxing. I half expected him to have one put into his new house in Lanark!

Think Slovenia took us round all the houses by car, despite it being a couple of hours drive from Ljubljana. Some were immediately rejected when we saw how much work they would need or were not in places that made the best of the scenery. We boiled it down to three or four. One was a spacious house in a suburb area a few miles from Bled, but it was probably too big. Another was a wooden chalet-style house in a picturesque valley just north of the main motorway. It even had a sauna and was looking a good bet until we realised that there was no immediate chance of getting an internet line put in. It also appears that it is often snowed in in the winter. A third came in for serious consideration – high in the hills above Tolmin with views down to the Italian plains. But the last house was in a special place that dad and I had discovered on an earlier trip. Dreznica sits high in a valley above Kobarid and is one of the most beautiful places in the Soca area. Behind it towers Mount Krn and the bright white village church against the backdrop of the mountain makes it magnet for landscape photographers like me. The house we were to see was situated in a hamlet just beyond the main village and was a little above my intended price range, but in that glorious setting we had to see it. The view from outside the house was enough to convince us – though perhaps in retrospect we were a little over-hasty. I’ll go into that more in the next post but I think that it’s ok despite needing a lot of work.

While we were over there we heard that the payment had come through on the Carlisle house so we put in an offer and it was accepted.

Two more trips

A couple of months later in November I had to fly back over to Ljubljana for the signing of the various legal papers. The city had changed quite a bit since I was last there – more pedestrian areas in the centre and delightful to walk along by the river. Then in February this year I got the keys and the final handover – this time flying to Venice and hiring a car from there. I was surprised how mild it was and how lovely the carpets of wild crocuses were.

Dad continues in good form approaching 91

Dad has had a second cataract operation and can now see clearly with both eyes, which means he can drive again. He was over at Normandy again for the D-Day celebrations in June. This was the 70th and final official gathering – the Normandy Veterans Association is being wound up this year while there are still a few veterans left. But maybe, if he’s still fit enough, he might still make a private visit next year. Although most of the French Resistance members who used to welcome him are now gone he still gets a warm welcome from their families and indeed all the local people. It’s gratifying to see that their children are all taught about the sacrifices made to ensure they would be able to grow up free from tyranny, and that they are genuinely interested in the remaining veterans when they visit.

He’ll be 91 in August, and the last few years have been very precious. Let’s hope for a few more yet!

Family Moves – and new visions

Add comment March 17th, 2013 12:35am billmarshall

It’s been a rather busy week – the culmination of a busy few months. After two days in Carlisle tidying up the loose ends of my aunt Jean’s estate, we got back in time to send dad up to the hospital to have his cataract operation which we hope will restore clear sight in at least one eye and allow him to read and drive again in safety. At the same time he completed his move to Lanark where he’ll be staying from now on, and we cleared the last of his stuff from his old house prior to it being rented out.

His house now looks infinitely more inviting than it did prior to the extensive improvements we’ve been making to it over the last few months. The new kitchen is brighter and far more modern, the lowered ceiling giving it better proportions and the new units producing a much more pleasing effect. White walls and new lighting in a number of the rooms give them a much more spacious feel and the new carpets finish off the effect. I could almost imagine living there – something I could never have considered previously. It must feel strange for dad – leaving after supervising all the improvements to a home he’s lived in for over 25 years, but his new home is very comfortable and I’m certain he’ll be happy there.

The contrast with auntie Jean’s old house was interesting; while a nice enough house, though the rooms are on the small side, it didn’t really feel like a home to me and being empty now didn’t change that feeling. I could never imagine living there and will be glad when it’s sold.

All being well dad’s vision should be good in 4 weeks and stable in 6. He’s already planning his next trip to London for a Normandy Veteran’s council meeting in 5 weeks. If I have half his energy at 89 I’ll be happy. They don’t make them like that anymore!


National No Pulling Week

Add comment September 19th, 2012 10:05am billmarshall

I don’t normally promote the work of my professional clients on this blog but I’m going to make an exception today because I believe it’s a good cause. Working with Lucinda Ellery I’ve read a lot of very moving stories about women who’ve lost their hair for a variety of reasons, whether it be through illness, the effects of chemotherapy or a variety of other causes. While most of us men have to learn to live with hair loss, for a woman it’s much harder, because it strikes at their basic identity as a woman, and it can blight their lives.

The most difficult hair issue to understand is Trichotillomania – pulling out your own hair. Often triggered by trauma, it has similarities to OCD and self-harming conditions. The women who suffer from it are often misunderstood and treated with little sympathy by the medical profession simply because so little is known about the condition and its causes. They often hide the problem from their families and loved ones and feel dreadfully guilty and depressed about it, yet are unable to stop doing it without help.

In a attempt to raise awareness Lucinda has come up with National No Pulling Week (Twitter hashtag #NoPullingWeek) and is working with a number of magazines and media organisations to increase the visibility of the issue and encourage sufferers who feel isolated to seek help. Today is the second day and there have so far been articles in the following places.

If you think that a loved one may have Trichotillomania, or if you have it yourself, then read some of these articles, visit Lucinda’s pages on the subject, or visit one of the charities such as and find out all you can so that you can get help for the person suffering from it.

Winners and losers

Add comment May 23rd, 2012 12:11am billmarshall

The last couple of weeks has been pretty interesting in the football world. Manchester City beat Manchester United to the English Premier title by goal difference. Chelsea won the misnamed European Champions League in a year they were least expected to. The two Edinburgh clubs contested the Scottish Cup final, while Rangers stagger from crisis to crisis. And Liverpool sacked Kenny Dalglish.

While most people seem to think the most important of these for football is Manchester City, and it could be argued that the eventual fate of Rangers could have major repercussions for the Scottish game, I feel the most significant change lies at Liverpool.

Dalglish has been a legend there for longer than most of their supporters have been alive, not only for his exceptional contributions as a player and manager on the field, and not only for his loyalty when he could have gone to any club in Europe, but even more so because he has earned the respect and love of everyone in the city for his exceptional conduct through the most traumatic and tragic times. Attending countless funerals and being the personal face of the club to bereaved families. It was a task that eventually took a great toll on him and caused him to leave football for a while.

But it’s not just that the American owners have sacked a legend – they’ve also severed the old “bootroom” connection, probably forever. It was from Shankly’s time and through Bob Paisley’s golden period the embodiment of the continuity and support that created stability and an orderly transition through managers and eras . It was that loss during the Gillett and Hicks era that many believe caused Liverpool’s decline and it seemed that Dalglish, with his old school sense of values and tradition might be able to bring it back.

Without it, and without the sense of connection to the fans that Dalglish also embodied, it seems likely that Liverpool will join the trend towards football as simply a TV commodity and business opportunity, with no loyalties amongst either players, managers or owners, and the fans taken for granted or for a financial ride. For a club and a community like Liverpool that would be a tragedy.

End of an Awful Season – and Goodbye to a Legend

Add comment March 17th, 2012 03:19pm billmarshall

Scotland’s rugby season has just ended with an appallingly inept performance against Italy which consigned us to a whitewash and left the overall structure of the team even less certain than it was at the beginning. The lineout, which had been a strength even in defeat earlier in the season, was a shambles with Ford overthrowing horribly and the preparation seemingly confused and giving Italy easy targets. Generally there was a lack of urgency and a lack of leadership and awareness – in the second half with an Italian down injured why was Denton not told to spread the ball from his mark rather than passing it back for a kick?

Yet we’ve had two of the standout forwards of the season in Ritchie Gray and David Denton, the back-row in general has been a good-looking unit, Mike Blair has looked much more like his old self and we have an exciting new full-back in Hogg. So what has gone wrong? Admittedly the match against England was a horror story for Dan Parks and caused his retirement – we should have won that easily but couldn’t cross the line. With Jackson still recovering his form after injury that pitched in Laidlaw, who has done quite well but his small stature has been occasionally exposed in tackle situations. The bad injury to Rory Lamont both removed a strong player and disrupted the momentum in the game it occurred and evoked bad memories of the injury which finished Thom Evan’s career – we do seem to have been unlucky with injury in this way.

Given the platform that the forwards produced early in the season we should have had a better functioning back division. There seems to be a lack of direction and pace about the backs in set-piece attacks which suggests lack of belief – the defence always seems to have the command of the situation and is never under pressure, while the attackers always seem to be looking to see what to do instead of running fast first and then reacting to the gaps that open because of it. There also seems to be a reluctance to engage in broken play attacks which we used to be so good at exploiting. To me the responsibility for this has to rest with the backs coach Gregor Townsend – never a favourite of mine during his playing career – though Andy Robinson will undoubtedly come under pressure too given his 3/11 record. If the rumours of Townsend going to Glasgow to replace Sean Lineen are true then we may see some difference there next year depending on who is appointed.

Mervyn Davies

Sad to see the death from cancer of Mervyn Davies. Watching rugby as a youngster he was one of those player you couldn’t help but admire even when he was hammering your own country. A big man for his time he was a fine link between forwards and backs, and his ability to poach ball from the back of the lineout with a seemingly telescopic reach remains in the mind’s eye. But not just as a wonderful player but as a leader, who led by example and a quiet word here and there, is how he will be remembered. His presence had much to do with the two most successful Lions tours ever. In an era of incomparable stars – Barry John, Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR, Phil Bennett, JJ Williams, most of them glamorous backs, he was a forward who everyone knew and everyone respected. He will be much missed.

Chris Paterson MBE

Add comment December 31st, 2011 11:04pm billmarshall

One of Scotland’s longest serving and best rugby stars announced his retirement from international play a few days ago and in today’s New Year Honours list was awarded a much deserved MBE.

After the World Cup I said I hoped that he would carry on playing for another year but it seems he’s decided that he wants to go out at the top, and maybe the current hip injury that is preventing him from performing his usual kicking duties for Edinburgh has been a contributory factor.

Always an exciting runner in whatever position he appeared, he also became probably the best kicker in the world for a substantial part of his career. The big question has always been what his best position was. His early career seemed to suggest he would be a natural running stand-off of a type that we haven’t had since John Rutherford, but a number of coaches seemed to disagree and since he wasn’t being played there regularly it was always going to be difficult to capture that spot in the national side. As a result he mostly appeared at either full back or wing and while he was often deadly in broken play there are many who will always wonder if he could have controlled games from the number 10 shirt and encouraged the sort of running rugby that we aspire to.

He’ll be missed, both for his jinking running and his faultless kicking; particularly as Rory Lamont seems to keep getting injured. Thanks for some great memories Chris  – enjoy your remaining time club career.

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