3 August 2020

Distancing

There's Dr Anthony Fauci on our television screen. It's just before five in the morning and he's talking to the BBC about the wisdom of wearing masks. He is one of the good guys, caught between a rock and a hard place . He declares in no uncertain terms that there is no evidence whatsoever that hydroxychloroquine has any impact at all on COVID19.

Last night I moseyed on down to the local pub - expecting to spend a safe ninety minutes supping ale and chewing the cud with my old mates Steve and Bert - keeping six feet away from each other. To my dismay I noticed that they were sitting with two other regulars - a middle aged married couple who had been in the establishment for hours and were filled to the brim with bonhomie.

Anyway, one thing leads to another, The couple call a black dog over from the front lobby. He's a happy Staffordshire crossbreed with a calm temperament and a tail that wags like a crazed pendulum. Then the dog's owner comes into the tap room. He had been on the doorstep smoking a cigarette.

He's a big, red-haired guy with a belly like a pillow. He's standing too close to me talking to the married couple about his dog. All very friendly. But he's too close to me. He is in my space. I move my chair away from him - a foot or so. The friendly banter continues. My radar continues to bleep - "Get out of my space!"

Then damn me, though I have not engaged with the dog owner, he bends down, puts his arm on my shoulder and shares a light-hearted confidence right in my face. I  want to scream, "Keep your distance!" but it's too late, the deed is done - albeit it unconsciously, innocently with no ill intent.

But it could have been in that moment that the virus was passed to me. It could have been the initial signal of my eventual demise. I didn't even know the guy's name. To me he was a complete stranger.

What is it with other people? There are so many out there who still don't seem to grasp the importance of social distancing. Many times during this pandemic  my invisible bubble has been invaded - in supermarkets etcetera - but never as blatantly as last night. All I can do is hope that that fellow is "clean". 

Dr Anthony Fauci has gone now but his messages remain clear and consistent - including, keep your distance and wear masks.  This health crisis isn't over by a long way. We need to remain on guard at all times and keep our fingers crossed that our fellow citizens have the same understanding.

2 August 2020

Blessed

Ram at Wickinford Farm
On Friday, Clint and I drove over to Cheshire again - beyond Buxton but still in The Peak District. It was the hottest day of the year so far and all over England high temperatures were recorded - making it the third hottest day on record.
I drove through the hamlet of Bottom-of-the-Oven - yes you heard me right - and then turned up a narrow lane before parking in another tiny village called Forest Chapel. I was in shorts with my muscular weightlifter legs revealed for all and sundry to see. I slapped sun lotion on them - and on my face and arms too. Then I swigged a pint of water before beginning my trek - sensibly wearing my faded cotton beanie hat from Malta.
Five hours later - returning to Forest Chapel - I was as weary as a Chinese patriot at the end of The Long March. Positively mule-like, I trudged up the lane and was finally reunited with my silver machine - Lord Clint of Clintshire. I had finished the water in my rucksack four miles beforehand while looking over Lamaload Reservoir and so I was pleased that I had left another flask in Clint's boot. I drank it down like air.
Lamaload Reservoir
Then it was back over the hills, through Buxton, Doveholes, Castleton and Hathersage. Still as thirsty as a Saharan camel, I pulled in to the car park of "The Norfolk Arms" at Ringinglow and ordered not one but two pints of bitter shandy. I guess I was in recovery mode after the hot miles I had plodded. These pints were guzzled quite rapidly and I was back home by six thirty.

It was a delicious kind of fatigue and after eating a hasty chicken salad with buttered potatoes I was soon snoozing on the couch, remembering the things I had seen in that lovely corner of  Cheshire on such a wonderful summer's day. Sometimes I feel truly grateful to be alive, to be able to walk so many miles and to live in such an amazing country. Blessed, really blessed. 
Hardingland Farm

1 August 2020

Yorkshire

August 1st! It's Yorkshire Day! A day for celebration, wild dancing, Yorkshire pudding consumption and the quaffing of Yorkshire ales.

In terms of population, Yorkshire is bigger than Scotland and bigger than Wales and Northern Ireland put together. Yet, when it comes to  funding, devolution and media recognition - Yorkshire is severely neglected. Yorkshire Day is an opportunity to bang the drum for our amazing county - this heaven on earth, this Eden, this place of dreams, history, industry, invention, reticence and (normally) quiet pride.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank visitors to this blog for all the cards and gifts they have sent me in recognition of Yorkshire Day. It is impossible to mention everybody but here are a few...

Thanks to JayCee for The Isle of Man kippers and thanks to Northsider in West Cork for the cotoneaster cuttings. Thanks to Graham on The Isle of Lewis for the original Stornoway black pudding from MacLeod & MacLeod Butchers. Thanks to Meike from South West Germany for the jar of sauerkraut. Thanks to Ursula for the scented candle and to John Haggerty for "The Broons" Annual. Thanks to Lily for the bottle of maple syrup and to Mary in Lloyd FL for the jar of pickled beans. Thanks to Sue in mid-Lincolnshire for the sausages.
Thanks to ADDY for the writing paper and to Jennifer for the framed Marco clawprint. Thanks to John in Trelawnyd for the male voice choir CD and to Steve in West London for the random found objects. Thanks to Kylie for the stuffed koala and to Jenny for the stuffed donkey. Thanks to Red for the binoculars and to Briony for the stylish crocheted toilet roll cover. Thanks to Thelma for the spicy piccalilli and to Tasker Dunham for the baby hedgehog.  I would also like to thank the uncommonly generous Robert H. Brague in Georgia USA for a pair of his old spectacles - broken.

Sorry to those I forgot to mention. 

These cards and gifts are bound to make this one of the best Yorkshire Days ever! What do we sing? "White Rose"! When do we sing it? Now! Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!

31 July 2020

Imagery

Fishermen on Wharncliffe Reservoir on Sunday
It is the very early morning of a wonderful summer's day. July waited till the very end of her spell on the stage to share her best beaming smile. From dawn till dusk. Summer sweeping up from The Mediterranean.

Lord knows why I woke up at 4am. It's annoying because, just for a change, I plan to go off walking today. I am going to drive west - beyond Buxton again - to a remote and tiny settlement called Macclesfield Forest. Before that happens I will need more sleep.
The oddly named Chemistry Lane above Wharncliffe Crags on Sunday
I have a mug of tea and two ginger biscuits - my usual companions in the early hours when sleep has capriciously lifted her blinds. Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often. Sleep and I normally get along just fine.
Lone sheep above Deepcar and Stocksbridge last Sunday
This blogpost is hopefully a vehicle for finding may way back into sleep's kind embrace.

Rather than overtaxing my brain, all I have for you this very early morning is a small bunch of my most recent images. If I don't do this now, they will slip away into history for I anticipate there will be a whole lot more pictures from my ramble out of Macclesfield Forest.
The nave of Goxhill Church -  Grade I listed
Brick ruin by The Humber (dedicated to Meike) - connected with former clay workings
Ferry Road, Goxhill -  walking to Goxhill Haven

30 July 2020

Fussiness

Fussiness? In particular, I am thinking about food. Many people are fussy eaters. Perhaps you are one yourself.

When our children were young, they would often  bring friends home -  and frequently a meal would be served. It never ceased to amaze me how picky some of these children would be. "I don't like potatoes", "I don't like salad", "I don't like water", "I don't like spaghetti bolognese", and so on. Clearly, these children's eating preferences  had been pandered to with parents listening overmuch to small children's declared likes and dislikes. That is what I thought anyway.

Shirley and I were more of the "Shut up and eat what you are given" brigade. Our kids ate the same meals that we ate and the possibility of complaint or rejection was just not on the agenda.

Until he turned to veganism five years ago, our son Ian would eat and enjoy everything. I cannot think of a single food item he would turn his nose up at. On the other hand, our daughter stopped liking mushrooms somewhere along the line. I cannot pinpoint the moment when this dislike for mushrooms began. Perhaps she learnt it at someone else's house when she was little. 

Shirley can be a bit funny about food. For example, on the rare occasions we order Chinese takeaways I know that I cannot order any other meat dishes apart from chicken - so it's always chicken chop suey, chicken chow mein, chicken foo yung, sweet and sour chicken. Pork and beef are definitely off the menu.

Over the years, I notice that I have developed my own kind of fussiness when it comes to food. I will happily eat anything - a complete omnivore but I have an issue with the presentation of food. Quite simply, I like plates of food to look nice.

Even if I am preparing a sandwich or baked beans on toast, I will make it look nice. A full Sunday dinner  means that each item must be arranged carefully with a degree of visual separation. Not for me the sloppy habit of  just chucking everything together in a carefree manner. In my opinion. the experience of pleasurable eating is about all the senses - including sight.

How about you and your family? Are there common food items you just cannot stand? Or are you, like me, fussy about food in other ways?

28 July 2020

Goxhill

Path  on the south bank of The Humber
I know that this will come as a huge surprise to regular visitors but I have been out walking again.

This morning, just after ten thirty, I met up with my friend Tony near All Saints Church in Goxhill, North Lincolnshire. Clint is quite fond of Tony's car - a shapely Ford Focus called Nelly. She's a few years older than Clint. He normally goes for younger models.

"Don't get up to any funny stuff!" I warned Clint before setting off.

Peacefully located, south of The River Humber, Goxhill is a large, sprawling village that was once home to an American airbase. The land is as flat as a pancake, traversed by farm lanes and field drains. We walked two miles to Goxhill Haven and looked across the great river of my childhood to the city of my childhood - Kingston-upon-Hull. I had never seen it from such a viewpoint before. Down river was the mighty Humber Bridge - once the longest suspension bridge in the world.
The Deep & Holy Trinity Chutrch, Hull - zoom shot across the river
We walked upon the flood defences for three miles, down past Skitter Ness, all the way to East Halton Skitter and then inland to East Halton. We didn't pass one walker until we were through east Halton heading for Littleworth Farm - an old woman with a walking stick and an old dog.

Walking with Tony is good. We walk at the same pace. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don't. And he is patient about my persistent photo taking. I have known him so long and it's wonderful to have a friend like him. Someone with whom I feel entirely comfortable. No point scoring. No bombast. Just two blokes moving happily across the landscape.

Back at Grade I listed All Saints Church, four hours after setting off,  we sat on a bench in the porch and ate the sandwiches he had prepared using wholemeal bread he had baked. We washed it down with flasks of water. Tony's "fit-bit" device indicated that we had walked twelve miles.

We said goodbye and now we are both thinking about where our next walk will be. Goxhill is an hour and fifteen minutes  east of Sheffield. Maybe there will be a hill or two next time!
At East Halton Skitter

27 July 2020

Words

Common Hogweed (I believe)
I love words. I love the sound of them and where they came from. I love the way that you can use them like steel nails that drive messages home or tenderly, lightly - like goose feathers.

If you are receptive to language, you never stop learning about words. 

In the past few days I have learnt two new words. The first one is "umbelliferous". Say it again: um-be-llif- er-ous. Yes, umbelliferous. It is normally used to refer to plants that have an umbrella-like head - such as cow parsley, hemlock or common hogweed (see above). I suppose you could also say that most palm trees are umbelliferous. It is a lovely sounding word - regardless of what it means.

Roughout of a quernstone at Wharncliffe.
There are hundreds there - above the crags.
Another word I learnt arrived in my brain just yesterday when I was reading an archaeological survey report from 1999 called "Quern manufacturing at Wharncliffe Rocks, Sheffield". The word in question is "roughout" and it describes a roughly shaped piece of material - in this case hard sandstone - that.awaits finishing. Over hundreds of years, thousands of "roughouts" of querns were created at Wharncliffe before being finished - often elsewhere.

Querns were an early kind of grindstone for crushing cereal grains. The stone at Wharncliffe was perfect for the job - whereas in many other regions of northern England the underlying rock was unsuitable. For instance, you cannot grind corn with chalk, limestone or boulder clay. Consequently, quern "roughouts"  from Wharncliffe were transported widely.

Have you come across any appealing new words recently?

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