24 September 2023


On Schoch Street in Mbabane, the de facto capital of Eswatini, a schoolgirl walks home. She is walking in a westerly direction so I know that it is the afternoon or early evening. Eswatini used to be known as Swaziland but in 2018 King Mswati III decided to change the name - partly to mark fifty years of independence from Britain and also because the old name sounded too much like Switzerland! Eswatini simply means "Land of the Swazis" - by far the little country's largest ethnic group.

Located in south eastern Africa, Eswatini has a population of 1,236,000. Life expectancy is low at just 58 years and this is partly because the country continues to suffer an HIV/AIDS epidemic with 28% of the population being HIV positive. The country's median age is 22 years compared with say  Japan where the median age is 49 years.
Above - the amusingly named End Street is in the spacious low rise suburbs of  Mbabane. Looking around the city via Google Streetview you do not see obvious signs of dire poverty. On the surface at least, it seems like a reasonably prosperous place where citizens take pride in their homes and surroundings.

This is the flag of Eswatini. It was designed by King Sobhuza II and has been the country's flag since full independence was achieved in 1968. The spears and shield remind the Swazi people of their military history. The hide shield is black and white to suggest that black and white people can live in harmony together.
Though I have never been to Eswatini, back in 1973 an old school friend flew out there for a year to teach in a high school under the auspices of Voluntary Service Overseas. He had a great year and coincidentally in 1974 joined me at The University of Stirling where he also pursued the joint honours course in English Studies and Education.

His name was Andy Monkman and he always seemed like a happy, solid kind of bloke but a few years ago I was horrified to learn that he had killed himself. Try as I might I failed to unearth any details - like why, when and where. He is one person I wish I had stayed in touch with. It is possible that somebody else who knew Andy might stumble across this blogpost and be able to fill in some details. I would be most grateful.

23 September 2023


Last night was awful. I am sure I was experiencing side-effects from the antibiotics. I don't believe I have ever been given nitroturantoin before. Because of the unpleasant reaction, it is hard to tell if my urine infection is being effectively targeted. I just feel rotten. I will spare you the gruesome details of what transpired last night but it involved several visits to the bathroom

Again I did not feel like eating anything but this morning I had a small bowl of porridge - simply so that I could take the first capsule of the day with food. It was the same in the evening when I had a cheese sandwich. That's all I have had to eat today.

I spent the entire day on our sofa watching, "Hey Duggee" and two World Cup rugby union matches plus other bits and bobs. I didn't have the energy to do much else. "Hey Duggee" was to please Little Phoebe as she is staying with us again this weekend. Her parents are attending a wedding down in Oxfordshire. I think this is the last one in their  2023 diary.

I am afraid that my granddaughter caring skills have been on ice this weekend but fortunately Shirley  has been in top form.

A little googling suggests that there can sometimes be a correlation between COVID booster vaccinations  and urinary tract infections. I had my last booster on Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday evening I was starting to feel  somewhat queasy - and not in my usual robust health so there may be something in this idea.

And now I am off up the stairs to bed. I hope I have a better night than last night.

22 September 2023


 I don't have much to say today as for the past thirty six hours I have been suffering from a urine infection. This happens to me perhaps once every two years or so and the symptoms are unpleasantly familiar.

You feel washed out and feverish. It's a bit like being poisoned from within. My urine is cloudy and as instructed  I took a sample of it to our medical centre in the early afternoon. I have hardly had anything to eat today for my appetite vanished entirely  yesterday evening.

Fortunately, I now have a course of antibiotics that I picked up free of charge from our local pharmacy later this afternoon. No sign of any improvement yet but fingers crossed I will turn a corner tomorrow morning.

I must share this with you. At the pharmacy there was a smiley receptionist in her late fifties. When I rocked up she said, "You used to be my English teacher!"  She had left the school in question in 1982. We both bewailed the fact that it is now the location of a retail park. Such a shame. It was a great school and I had five happy years there.

21 September 2023



Above - that's Raynor Winn and her husband Moth. Back in 2020, she  had great success with her book, "The Salt Path"   . I reviewed it in November of that year. It told the true story of a long distance walk that she and Moth took along England's South West Coast Path. Having been evicted from their Welsh farmhouse and with little money, the walk was an act of self-affirmation.

Her second book is titled "The Wild Silence" and it covers the months after her initial literary success. They move into a dilapidated farm in Cornwall which they have to bring back to life with the encouragement of an understanding and supportive landlord.

In the last third of the book they venture to Iceland and undertake a challenging trek with two friends in the wild southwestern landscape of that raw island.

Claims on the book cover include: "A thrill to read!", "Extraordinary!" and "Spellbinding!" But these judgements did not match my own. In my opinion, "The Wild Silence" lacked the purpose and page turning readability of the first book.

It was certainly okay with some great passages - often concerning nature - but on the whole I felt it was probably written with the encouragement of a literary agent in cahoots with Penguin Books - to capitalise upon the success of "The Salt Path".

She has published a third book now called "Landlines" about a long distance walk down the west of Britain from the top of Scotland but I wouldn't be in a hurry to buy it. There are so many other books out there  to read aren't there?

20 September 2023


Blogging can take up quite a lot of one's time. There are blogposts to compose day after day and there are visits to make to favoured blogs, frequently leaving comments behind.

Though I am quite reliable with regard to visiting certain blogs, I can't help feeling guilty about my general failings as a blog visitor. For whatever reason I like to visit "Magnon's Meanderings" and "Shadows and Light" every morning and I am also pretty good at keeping up with "Nobody's Diary", "Going Gently" and "Northsider"but there are many great, well-maintained blogs that I only tend to visit intermittently.

There are some blogs that I hardly ever visit even though I know they are eminently readable and worthy of regular attention. To these bloggers I want to send a heartfelt "sorry". In my defence I can only say that I want to limit my blogging time and argue  that it is possible to sign up for too many blogs. 

Before you know it, the daily hours you spend on blogging could easily be doubled. You have to draw the line somewhere.

I am very grateful to the people who regularly visit "Yorkshire Pudding" even though I may not do them the honour of courtesy return visits.

Here in the blogosphere, I have encountered many wonderful people who pump out great blog content. From Mary Moon in Lloyd Florida to Andrew in Melbourne Australia and from Meike in Ludwigsburg, Germany to Bob in Camden, South Carolina. The ride so far has been marvellous but to repeat, I am sorry that I cannot spare more time to pay intimate attention to even more blogs.

19 September 2023


Have you ever ridden on a long distance bus? Where were you travelling to?

On Saturday morning, Shirley and I travelled by "National Express" coach right into the heart of London and returned on Monday afternoon via the same mode of transport. Sheffield is 170 miles from our nation's capital city. For the two of us the cost of the return fare was only £42.00 (That's US$52 or AUS$80).

The buses were pretty new and clean with plenty of legroom and it was nice to let someone else do the driving as we read our books or, in Shirley's case, knitted little hats for babies. We had made sandwiches to consume halfway down the motorway and the same on the way back. We were not irritated by other passengers for there was a quiet, respectful atmosphere on board our two coaches.

When I was in my early twenties, I climbed aboard a few Greyhound buses in The States. I guess the longest journey I took was from Bloomington, Indiana - changing in Chicago before carrying on to Minneapolis. I also journeyed between New York City and Cleveland.

However such bus travel pales into insignificance when I recall the return coach journey I took in the summer of 1980 from London to Athens, Greece aboard The Magic Bus. I dimly recall that the journey took over 24 hours - so long that it seemed it would never end.

In northern Yugoslavia in the middle of the night, I opened my eyes to witness the horror of our two drivers swapping over at the wheel while travelling at seventy miles an hour along an arrow-straight road. I am sure I did not dream this.

I also took a long distance bus from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina in 2009 - right through The Andes passing close to Aconcagua  - the tallest mountain in South America. Long distance bus travel appeared to be a vital means of connection in South America where the rail "network" is patchy or non-existent.

Earlier today I was asked to complete a customer survey by National Express and I found it rather nice to score ten of ten for just about everything. We had no complaints but I guess we were also quite lucky that there were no hold-ups on the M1 motorway because of accidents, congestion or roadworks. That is pretty unusual.

18 September 2023


I have lost count of the number of times I have been to London over the years. Concerts, exhibitions, football matches, museums, art galleries, protest marches, family visits, shopping exhibitions - I have pretty much done it all. So when our Ian pipes up with, "What would you like to do while you're down here?" it's hard to think of something new.

Nonetheless, this time round I had the idea that we could drive over to Richmond Park in Ian and Sarah's brand new electric Volvo car. It's sleek and black and goes like a rocket. To be honest, they don't actually own it - they have leased it for three years. Their neighbourhood in Fulham is well-supplied with public electric charging points and of course Greater London is now an ultra low emissions zone so an electric vehicle makes sense.

The top picture was taken in Two Storm Wood in the heart of Richmond Park. This area is fenced off to prevent grazing by deer and below you can see Ian, Sarah and Shirley walking through it. Like Saturday, Sunday was a mild and pretty nice day down in our metropolis.

Here's a fallow stag I spotted in another part of Richmond Park. I guess he wanted to lock horns with me as the rutting season is just starting. By the way, at 2360 acres, Richmond Park is the biggest of London's royal parks and when you are there you may easily feel that you are in open countryside.
After our time in Richmond Park we drove on to "The Orange" in Pimlico for Sunday dinner. There was a statue of Mozart in adjacent Orange Square for he lived close by during his summer in London in 1764. He was a child at the time. 

This morning (Monday) we visited the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square before walking to Victoria where London's main bus station is located. On the way, I paused in Hobart Place to snap this photograph of a larger than life statue funded by The Duke of Westminster and sited here in 2000. It is called: "The Lioness and Lesser Kudu" and was created by Jonathan Kenworthy. It is a powerful piece .
Ian and Sarah were in good health and good spirits as they wait to meet their first child. He's due in six weeks and we wonder if he will arrive before or after Frances and Stewart's second child - also due in six weeks. The race is on.

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