Last update 22nd July, 2010
Hi, I'm Geoff Riley.
I was born on 1st February, 1963 in Bolton, Lancashire. But I don't remember very much about that. I believe Jet Harris and Tony Meehan were at number 1 with 'Diamonds.'
I grew up and went to school, then I went to a bigger school, then I went to college. (How's that for a précis of 18 years?)
Whilst at college I went along to an outreach meeting for Warrington Community Church. At that meeting I gave my heart to the Lord and invited Jesus into my life.
I was offered a job at Northern Computers in Frodsham, and so I left college---halfway through my degree course (I have, to some extent, regretted that move). It got me into the computer industry, where I've been ever since.
I met a lady, called Fiona, who was later to become my wife. My relationship was not well received in the Community Church though, due to the fact that she was a divorcee.
They eventually gave me an ultimatum: Fiona or the Church.
I chose Fiona: which meant I had to leave the church community in which I had grown spiritually for a couple of years. But not only that, I had been living in a shared house, which I suddenly had to leave.
So I moved in with Fiona.
This was not a move I had wished to take---dating a divorcee was one thing, living 'in sin' was not my first choice.
At that time I lost faith to a certain extent, but I eventually realised that I had to find a new church to attend. I had a God shaped hole in my life... and I felt very depressed.
I did a tour of all the Lymm churches, and decided that I should attend either the Evangelical Mission or the Baptists.
I prayed about the matter but I felt the God was pushing me very heavily to St.Mary's (Church of England). "Oh no, it's so boring there---I don't understand the service, and I can never find where I'm supposed to be in the Book of Common Prayer!"
I knew that I had to follow Gods wishes, so I started attending St. Mary's. It wasn't comfortable... very sedate, I was used to dancing, clapping and 'polishing stars' (aka 'changing lightbulbs', 'painting ceilings'...)! Sitting in a pew calmly chanting Psalms didn't really suit me. But I stuck with it, and I eventually got to understand the order of services; and discovered that it wasn't purely BCP (Book of Common Prayer), there was also the ASB (Alternative Service Book) which was actually written in modern English. (No more thee's and thou's to confuse---did you know that 'meet' used to mean 'suitable' or 'proper'? I didn't, so I didn't understand the BCP phrase "..it is meet and right so to do...")
Fiona and I were married at St.Mary's on 11th October, 1986. We went to Blackpool, with her son (from her previous marriage), for our honeymoon.
I was told about something called 'The Bishop's Course in Christian Faith and Life' which intrigued me. I felt that it would be a way forward in my Christian life, so I took a place on the course. I learnt a lot through the year long course and understood the foundations of my own faith far more by the end of it. My desire for learning was rekindled, and I went on to do the second year of the Bishop's Course in the following year.
I wanted to know more about what the church was about, and so when I saw an advertisement for the Annual Church Meeting, I went along: figuring that that would be a place where I'd find something out.
I found out that if you go to the ACM, the chances are you'll end up on the Parochial Church Council (PCC)!
So as a new member of the PCC, I started to find out what makes the church tick.
Whilst I had been on the Bishop's Course, I had heard quite frequent references to something foreign sounding; the name of which I could never quite pick up. However, in August or September of 1994 (I forget exactly) I saw a short piece in the 'Chester Diocesan News' mentioning that there was to be a 'Cursillo weekend' at Foxhill in Frodsham at the end of October. The name rang a few bells in my head, and so I telephoned for some information.
A few days later I had the information leaflet in hand. I didn't understand what it was about, but it did sound very interesting. I decided to take the plunge and sent in the application form.
A few weeks passed, and I heard nothing, then it got to the Monday before the weekend, and thought I'd better telephone to check the details...
My application had not been received!!!
When I discovered that, I realised that all the things which had tried to stop me from going must have been the devil getting worried: and anything that gets him worried must be worth doing.
They managed to pull out all the stops and got me on the weekend.
I got to Foxhill, and had the most awe inspiring weekend of my life. I met loads of new friends: who have since become even better friends.
A couple of weeks after the weekend I attended a Diocesan Ultreya at which I heard that the post of Go Fourth Editor was due to be up for election at the 1995 AGM.
I ended up being elected Editor. When I got the opportunity for some web space, it seemed the perfect medium to extend the readership potential!
I held the post of Editor for three years: most of the magazines I produced are held on this site on the Cursillo page: I look back now at what I produced and cringe a little. The redevelopment of this site should tidy it up a little.
Leaping forward almost 20 years we come to the time when I was made redundant. I had only had three jobs: the first, Northern Computers, had been quite an experience dealing with manufacture of printer and video cables to laying out printed circuit board to writing programs for the BBC micro I had been there about 2 years before leaving in amongst all the rumpus of being with Fiona; I spent a couple of months out of work then before landing a job at Elcometer Instruments in Droylesden, north east Manchester, I developed my programming skills there but also discovered my limitations when it came to electrical circuit design... digital wasn't too bad, but I struggled greatly with analogue. I stayed at Elcometer for 13 years, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and I had had no thought of leaving until I saw an ad for a programming job in Warrington...
Halcyon (UK) Ltd created programs for the employment agency industry, dealing with everything from search and selection to accounts. I sent my CV along not really expecting any response, but I got a phone call... the phone call was strange because at the time I was feeling quite ill with a migraine: I told the lady who called about that and was stunned to hear that they would like me to go in that evening---complete with migraine---for an interview. So I got myself together and went along to the interview: I was given a short questionnaire to check how well I knew the Borland Delphi programming language... whilst the interviewers were looking through that they sat me out in the main office along with the existing programmers.... who were still there at 7 in the evening playing a multiuser graphic game... I joined in!
A couple of days later I got an offer for the job.
Over the 5 years that I was with Halcyon, it changed a lot: it started off in a fairly small office with about 10 employees and grew to fill a rather large warehouse type building with getting on for 40 employees. We were, at the time, on the cutting edge of web application development. On the back of that Halcyon (UK) Limited floated on the stock market and became Halcyon Internet plc... very exciting times: a large influx of capital enabled a major expansion of our infrastructure... including the setting up of a room full of computers at Telehouse in the London Docklands. Having a web server farm in the middle of a place like that it truly a geek's paradise... especially with the fabulous bacon butties served in the 'Bytes' restaurant for breakfast. Unfortunately there were take-over bids and wranglings and before even a year had gone by as a plc we were snapped up as part of a group of companies collectively under the banner 'jobs.co.uk' as a part of the Pertemps group of companies. Shortly after the take over, however, a large number of redundancies were made---myself included. At the time, the worst thought was that I no longer had access to Telehouse... or those lovely bacon butties!
To some extent I landed on my feet because I was given the opportunity of working with an old colleague on a new venture: taking over a function suite and nightclub called Philips Park Hall in Whitefield, north Manchester. That was all to short lived though for me: I was made redundant again on Valentines Day (14th February) 2003.
I hadn't realised it at the time but I had started descending into a depression at that time: I went to sign on at the Jobcentre and began searching for jobs. What a terrible thankless task that is! I lost count of how many jobs I applied for... but I could count those who replied: at the end of six months I had received just three replies. Before getting that far though, my relationship with Fiona had been stretched to its limit; in July of that year she left me and moved to Oldham. For me that hastened the oncoming depression.
After being unemployed for a year I became eligible to join a jobclub: that is a place where you can go to receive help on tweaking your CV; interview techniques; general interpersonal skills... and a large supply of jobs papers. They also provide telephones for you to call up possible jobs, stationary and stamps for writing letters and making applications and so on. Now I was still making applications, but they helped me to follow them up by phoning up and getting to speak to the right people. This turned out to be even more disheartening: time and time again I was told that my application hadn't been considered on the basis that I didn't have a degree: 20 odd years of experience didn't count.
I plummeted into a pit.
I couldn't cope with being around people... so much so that I signed off the unemployment benefit, because I couldn't bear to go into the place to sign on.
I couldn't even cope with going to church. Too many people wanting to be helpful, asking how I was: it just got too much for me and I retreated into a shell.
I had found myself with a new girlfriend just after Christmas 2003, but by April 2004 I had got so bad that she couldn't cope with my mood swings, and so she disappeared off the scene too.
I was getting into more and more problems, so managed to get myself to the Citizens Advice Bureau to ask for some help. They were extremely helpful and sorted out that I should be getting Incapacity Benefit due to being ill for so long; they also sorted out payment methods for debts I had accrued and got me into a much better financial state. I cannot recommend the CAB enough for all the help they gave me.
Friends from Cursillo were extremely supportive: without being overpowering, that was definitely one that I really needed. By the middle of 2004 I was particularly attached to one lady, Carole, with whom I fell deeply in love, we decided that we wanted to be together, and at the start of 2005 she moved in with me.
Carole's love and dedication to me has helped more than anything to bring me back up to living a life; in September 2004 she encouraged me to sign up for and Open University degree course, starting off with two first level courses. I passed both of those courses, and been awarded a "Certificate in Information Technology and Computing" for doing so. My third course is a second level course (M263: Building Blocks of Software) that started in October 2005 and my fourth course (M255: Object Oriented Programming with Java) has just started in February 2006.
On 31st August 2005 my marriage to Fiona finally came to an official end with the issue of a decree absolute. (8th Feb 2006: she remarried today, I hope she'll be happy with her new man.)
After that I felt I was then free to be able to ask Carole to marry me; she agreed and our wedding was on 13th May 2006 at St Mary's church here in Lymm. We were both totally bowled over by the number of people who attended, there were at least 150 there! The flowers were gorgeous (arranged by Emma from Down To Earth in High Lane) from the wonderful display sets and bouquet down to the buttonholes.
In a departure from the normal wedding for St Mary's, we wanted a service with communion... further to that, we are both licensed to administer the wine and so wanted to 'do' the distribution too. This seemed to fit in very well with the Cursillo ethos of the servant community: we started our wedded life by serving wine to the community.
In another departure from the norm, we held our reception in church too: not the church hall, but the church itself. We arranged a buffet from Mr Freshness (on Warrington market) to be placed at the back of church in our new kitchen area and then we were able to move straight from the service to the reception without the messing around with cars and such. The food proved to be a great hit, Mr Freshness had done us proud... Carole and I didn't really see much of the food ourselves, but everyone else raved about it!
The honeymoon started off at Rutter Falls near Abbleby in Cumbria. An absolutely gorgeous place, it's a converted watermill alongside an idillic waterfall: you can sit on the toilet and see the waterfall outside of the window; so if you didn't want to go when you went, it doesn't take long before you do!! We stayed for the first week there; trips out included visits to Keswick (and, in particular, the Pencil Museum) and Penrith. We had intended to take a trip on the Settle-Carlisle railway, but when we got there we discovered that the whole line was closed for track repairs that week!
After the first week we moved down to Chester, staying at the Crowne Plaza, for one night... so that we could attend the AGM of Chester Cursillo on the Saturday. That surprised a few people!
Straight after the AGM it was a headlong dash to the railway station. We arrived at the station with minutes to spare to get to the platform: the destination monitors were showing platform four, so we had to go up in the lift, across the bridge and down the other lift. Just in time for a breather before the train came in.... well, it should have been... however there had, unbeknown to us, been a platform change, so we watched our train sail gently out of platform one. The platform staff were not particularly sympathetic to our plight ("There are other trains." - yeah, but not with the seats that we booked on the connecting service). We had to wait for the next service (on platform one!) that got us to Crewe with a couple of minutes to get over to the plaform for the London train. Just about made it, but it was a struggle to get our luggage on. Ah well.
We arrived in London and got a Taxi over to the Flemings Mayfair Hotel off Park Lane: lovely hotel, pity the information didn't mention the huge air conditioning unit taking up half the space of the room (specially designed to make a racket), and the fact that the rooms are so small that there's no room for drawers to put things in. That aside, we only wanted somewhere to rest our heads, so it wasn't that important anyway.
On the Sunday afternoon we went to see the new Da Vinci Code film at the Leicester Square Odeon (I don't care what the critics say, we enjoyed it!), and on the Monday evening we went to see Phantom of The Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in the west end, where it has been running since 9th October 1986! What a totally glorious production, I'd been looking forward to seeing it to years, to finally get there was great. During the day on the Monday we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum where we went through (with an awful lot of other people) a special exhibition entitled Modernism, it was fascinating.
Another day, another train... Tuesday's train took us up to Oxford: a much calmer trip than the Chester to London run! A short taxi ride brought us to The Old Bank Hotel: this is a new hotel, right in the centre of Oxford on the High Street. Now this is a hotel that I'd love to return to. It may only be showing four stars, but that is definately an understatement. One thing that I've never seen in a hotel room before is the DVD player! Reception held a fine selection of DVDs to hire too.
After checking in at Oxford, we wandered down and had a tour around Christ Church college, beautiful architecture... and the bonus of getting to see the 'Hogwarts' dining room was great! In the evening reception managed to get us in at the Chiang Mai Kitchen Thai restuarant. It's a little difficult to find since it's hidden away down a very small alleyway, but actually finding this place is a dream: a most delicious meal in a very friendly atmosphere.
Wednesday had us paying a visit to the Bodleian Library. It's an amazing place, being a copyright library means that it is entitled to a copy of every book, periodical and newspaper published in Britain... it's a huge collection that is, obviously, growing constantly: imagine receiving hundreds of thousands of publications each year and having to find space for them all!!
On Thursday we took to the train again, this time going across to Stratford upon Avon. This was a special trip: booked in to see Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in the evening, we had time to have a rapid whizz around the sites on the tour bus... ending up at Curtis Brae: teddy bear shop, where we could not resist purchasing a Steiff growling polar bear and ordering a 'Pooh'. The hotel was The Alveston Manor, it's a lovely old place, but we were pleased to be only staying the one night since our room was at the end of a very long corridor. The room was very pleasant, and quite a bit bigger than many we have stopped in: we had no complaints there.
We made our final move on Friday, to Wellington in Shropshire. The Buckatree Hall Hotel was very pretty hotel: delightful gardens and a pleasant enough looking lake (fish, but no ducks!!). We were booked in for a four night stay, as a nice wind down at the end of the honeymoon. At first we were suitably impressed, although a little miffed at not being able to get lunch when we arrived... they did find something after a slight prodding though. The disappointing thing was that the restaurant menu remained exactly the same for the whole stay, some more variety would have been good; however, we dined out a few times so that was alleviated.
On Saturday we went into Ironbridge, and visited Bears On The Square: a real wow of a teddy bear shop. They have a regular bear shop, but through the doors into a separate aladins cave of a collectables bear shop; this is a real connesieurs shop, with a great Steiff selection as well as any other famous brand you care to think of... so another couple of bears hit the shopping basket... to commemorate our attendence at the Phantom of the Opera, we got a Phantom bear that has a built in music box playing a phrase from The Music of the Night. It's delightful.
A 'stroll' down the road, actually it was quite a long way when it's raining! We visited the Museum of the Gorge before moving on to the Merrythought shop (yup, more bears!), outside which stands a 6 foot high bear: on this day he was kitted out with an England football strip, but since it was raining he was wearing a clear rain coat!.
The day cleared up and the clouds gave way to the sun. So we had a very gentle day wandering around the sites immediately near to the Iron Bridge. We had spotted a Thai restaurant and intended to go there for dinner, but when it opened, to our dismay, we found that it was fully booked. In our wanderings, however, we came had spotted an Italian restaurant so we tried there... we were extremely lucky in that they had had a cancellation just before we arrived! So, dinner at the Da Vinci restaurant: very, very tasty Italian fayre, and juding by the appreciative sounds around us from other customers this was not an uncommon event to have such good food.
Sunday took us to the Blists Hill Victorian Town, where, after a quick trip to the bank, we were amoured with a handful of silver threepennys, pennies, halfpennies and farthings... ready to venture into the Victorian shops. Very little of what is there is original, most of the towns elements have been brought to the site piece by piece.
On the bank holiday Monday we went to the Jackfield Tile Museum, the Tar Tunnel and the Coalport China Museum. All these sites were fascinating, but the highlight of this day had to be the trip back to the King and Thai restaurant (which we booked in advance to avoid a second disappointment); we were made extremely welcome, and the food was glorious! (Sadly, I've been unable to find a decent web link for the restaurant, so I'll give their address instead: Upper Floor, 33A High Street, Ironbridge. Tel: 01952 433913.)
That brought us to the end of the honeymoon, and so we came home... no food in, so we went to the Trattoria Baci in Lymm village to round everything off.
There are exciting times ahead.
Ironbridge has become a firm favourite with us; our frequent visits have led to many friendships building up.
Change is something that happens all the time; and in the time that we've been going to Ironbridge we've seen a lot of changes - the closure and reprive of Merrythought being one that particularly sticks in the memory, but that has allowed Merrythought to re-assess it's place in the market and now concentrates on producing bears for collectors... further to that they have taken over the shop that used to be run by the museums and run it exclusively themselves.
We finally made it to The King and Thai restaurant on one of our visits and immediately fell in love with the place: quite small with old church pews making up some of the seating! ...and food to die for!! It's popularity, however, had it's owners seek out larger premises and they took over the Forester Arms pub in Broseley... this has led to a loss in some of the charm, but no loss in quality of food. They don't seem to have a web-site, so I cannot direct you that way: search engines get plenty of hits for them though.
Closer to home we have a meditterranian restaurant now here in Lymm that sometimes seems to be a second home for us: it is called Elmas. The warm and friendly staff are always happy to advise on any menu items that might be strange to visitors; but the chef produces spectacular meals even for someone as piccie as me. :)
Another chef who goes out of his way to present beautiful food (and even attempt to get me to eat rabbit food occasionally) is Dave who owns Greenfields Deli and Bistro on Barley Road in Thelwall: it's a somewhat hidden treasure that deserves a lot more exposure. The Thursday Steak nights are just amazing!
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Geoff Riley. If you have any comments about or suggestions for these pages, please email me at web@arcturus\.geoffandcarole.co.uk.
My personal mailbox is geoffr@arcturus\.geoffandcarole.co.uk