21 October 2020

Bins

They stand like sentries on our front paving. Bins. The blue one is for paper and cardboard. The brown one is for glass, cans and plastic bottles. The charcoal grey bin is for general household waste.

The charcoal grey bin is collected by the local council every two weeks. The blue bin is emptied every four weeks and so is the brown bin. A few people in our street have large green bins too. These are for garden waste. You have to pay an annual fee for the green bins and they are emptied six times outside winter months.

I don't know how it is in other countries but in England household waste and recycling collections vary from city to city and from region to region. It is very frustrating. There should be commonality driven by government.

As well as the three "official" bins we have two more bins at the front of our house. Here they are:-
We have been using them for more than a decade now. I bought them myself. You are probably intrigued. What on earth do The Puddings put in those bins? Well let me take one of the lids off and show you:-
It's all the plastic waste that we are not allowed to put in the brown bin. Instead of chucking this in the general household waste bin, we collect it and then when the two bins are full I take them to one of our large local supermarkets where there are skips into which you can toss such waste. Most homeowners don't bother. They dispose of it in their charcoal-grey bins.

When Clint and I take our round bins, I make sure that it is as part of a shopping expedition. Just a short diversion. After all, it wouldn't make sense to use precious petrol just for a recycling trip. That would be something of an ironic contradiction.

There are a four rambling points I would like to make about those excess plastic bins:-

1) Local councils should be collecting all plastics - not just plastic bottles. I should not have to be going to all this trouble - month in, month out.
2) It's not clear what happens to waste plastic. Where does it end up? I don't want it to travel to Indonesia or Sri Lanka or China on ships. There should be full-scale recycling facilities closer to home. Has all our effort been in vain?
3) Local councils and their profiteering waste sub-contractors should be transparent about their procedures. They should be clarifying what can and can't be collected and explaining, for example, what is meant by "contamination".
4) Supermarkets and the businesses that supply supermarkets with products should be making a much bigger effort to reduce the enormous amounts of waste plastic that they are effectively responsible for creating.  It should not all be about making profit - there should be environmental  responsibility and action too - and definitely not just a bunch of empty words - paying lipservice to recycling.

Recently, the great David Attenborough was asked by a child if he would like to give people a message about the perilous state of our planet and his response was simply this: "Don't waste anything...Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food. Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste".

It's a good message but we all need help to make it happen. We cannot do it on our own.

20 October 2020

Autumn

The winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature was the American poetess, Louise Glück (b. 1943). In the awarding committee's citation, they said this: "Louise Glück is not only engaged by the errancies and shifting conditions of life, she is also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss". 

The Irish writer and critic Colm Tóibín said of her, "It is difficult to think of another living poet whose voice contains so much electrifying undercurrent, whose rhythms are under such control, but whose work is also so exposed and urgent".

Here's a typical example of Louise Glück's work:-

🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂

Autumn

by Louise Glück


The part of life
devoted to contemplation
was at odds with the part
committed to action.

       *

Fall was approaching.
But I remember
it was always approaching
once school ended.

                            *

Life, my sister said,
is like a torch passed now
from the body to the mind.
Sadly, she went on, the mind is not
there to receive it.


The sun was setting.
Ah, the torch, she said.
It has gone out, I believe.
Our best hope is that it’s flickering,
fort/da, fort/da, like little Ernst
throwing his toy over the side of his crib
and then pulling it back. It’s too bad,
she said, there are no children here.
We could learn from them, as Freud did.

                         *

We would sometimes sit
on benches outside the dining room.
The smell of leaves burning.

Old people and fire, she said.
Not a good thing. They burn their houses down.

       *

How heavy my mind is,
filled with the past.
Is there enough room
for the world to penetrate?
It must go somewhere,
it cannot simply sit on the surface—

       *

Stars gleaming over the water.
The leaves piled, waiting to be lit.

       *

Insight, my sister said.
Now it is here.
But hard to see in the darkness.

You must find your footing
before you put your weight on it.

🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂

If you have got this far, what is your response to Louise Glück's poem?

19 October 2020

Mundanity

Monday October 19th. Another day in this magnificent year - 2020AD. COVID-19 control measures have placed the city of Sheffield in the "high" tier. There are three tiers - medium, high and very high. To me this seems like a manipulative misuse of language. Surely the three tiers should be low, medium and high. Playing language tricks like that contributes to feelings of mistrust that may lead to further non-compliance.

Rules connected with "high" zones are manifold. Some of those rules are clearcut but others are vague and open to interpretation. What I do know is that we are not meant to visit other people's homes. We must stay in our household bubbles. This means that Shirley and I cannot visit our lovely daughter and her equally lovely husband and they cannot come here. Who knows for how long? Perhaps a month, maybe longer. Ideally, pregnant women enjoy family support as the birth day approaches.

Over in Wales, their devolved government have decided to enforce a two week shutdown. I just heard the First Minister of Wales on the radio. He declared that people - with few exceptions - must stay in their own homes and only venture out to buy food or to visit a medical facility. As an aside I should say that the infection rate in South Yorkshire is significantly higher than in Wales. Maybe we are heading for a similar "fire break" period.

It's a bit glum outside. Not raining but overcast. I went to the big Sainsburys at Millhouses earlier on to buy some supplies - including "Red Label" tea bags and my first ever jar of "Marmite" flavoured peanut butter. As Frances is a fan of both, I bought her a jar too. Well, you have to have something to look forward to when you are in the "High" tier. I wish that being in the "High" tier meant that that we received free bags of marijuana from our beloved government so that we could get "High" and forget about The Plague till tomorrow.

18 October 2020

Samuel

You must have heard about the killing of Samuel Paty on Friday in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. Aged 47 he was a teacher of history, geography and personal and social education. He was beheaded by a wicked  eighteen year old nutcase who probably saw himself as an Islamic soldier fighting the good fight on behalf of his religion.

It seems that Monsieur Paty had very legitimately devoted some teaching time to considering cartoon depictions of Mohammad and Allah. They were creatively  slid into a citizenship module for pupils to consider and debate.

An ignorant Muslim parent, whose daughter was not even present when this lesson happened, launched a social media campaign against Monsieur Paty - even naming him and the school's location. The killer must have encountered this toxic stuff and headed to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine to mete out what he misguidedly saw as revenge.

In my way of looking at things, Samuel Paty represented  light, freedom and truth but his cruel killer belonged to darkness, ignorance and misunderstanding. 

You might quietly be thinking that Samuel Paty was partly the architect of his own death. Perhaps he should not have brought attention to the cartoons. Perhaps he should have avoided any reference to Islamic fundamentalism and the arrogant bigotry that clings to it like an infected rash. But keeping quiet and saying nothing is surely a form of submission. - giving in to the forces of darkness. That cannot be right in free societies.

In memory of Samuel Paty with love. Liberté, égalité, fraternité! May he rest in peace and may his legacy be one of courage, togetherness and illumination. 

17 October 2020

Once


As regular visitors to this humble Yorkshire blog will recall, I am going to be a grandfather for the first time very early in the new year. I have already bought a couple of granddad outfits including a beige cardigan with leather elbow pads, braces, a flat cap, brogues and gold-rimmed  John Lennon glasses. I am also growing a paintbrush moustache which I plan to dye silvery white.

There are lots of things one needs to do before a new arrival in the family. Another thing I have done is to write a story for the baby. Let me share it with you:-

⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳⺳

Once upon a time there was a lovely world. It looked rather like our world but it was different in lots of ways.

In that lovely world nobody needed to wear horrid face masks because the air was not filled with the scent of death. In supermarkets, people would mingle happily, gaily filling their trolleys with all manner of nice things to eat - pineapples, sausages, cans of soup, chocolate ice cream and kale. There was no tension amongst customers and no big stickers on the floor reminding shoppers to keep two metres apart.

Out in the streets, the jolly townsfolk would hug, kiss or shake hands when they met and you knew when people were smiling because as I said before - nobody wore masks.

In the lovely world of which I speak, there were buildings called theatres where people would go to watch plays enacted on stages by actors and actresses. The actors were men and the actresses were women. There were also other nice buildings called cinemas where people went to sit quietly in darkness watching films shown on big screens. They ate popcorn in silence, not wishing to spoil the enjoyment of other cinemagoers.

People did not have to wash their hands all the time - nor did they have to see graphs about infection and death on their TV screens every night. Instead, there were stories about rescuing cats from trees and men and women reaching the ripe old age of a hundred. They smiled into the camera before blowing out candles on their big iced cakes. They looked so happy.

In that lovely, lovely world, everybody had a job and a home to live in. There was no starvation, no murder and no suicide. Leaders were universally respected and countries helped each other out as much as they could. Rich people did not evade tax. The seas were filled with cod fish and the air was graced with all manner of birds. Elvis Presley still lived. In the jungles of South America, members of indigenous tribes trod silently along ancient forest pathways, never seen by outsiders and like the rest  of humanity, they were so happy to live upon this Earth that their hearts might have burst with joy.

Yes. That is how it was. Once upon a time before...

The End

16 October 2020

West

Washgate Bridge over the infant River Dove - an old packhorse bridge

With my South Korean friend Clint, I travelled west yesterday morning. We went through Bakewell, Monyash and Longnor before coming to rest in the scattered hamlet of  Dove Head which straddles the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border just south of Buxton. It is  half a mile east of Britain's highest village that is named - and I kid you not - Flash.

As I donned my trusty walking boots, Clint again asked how long I would be.

"At least three hours," I responded. "It's hard to say."

A small but culturally diverse herd of cattle had come to take a look at us. They peered over a drystone wall.

"What the **** are you looking at?" said Clint as I strolled away.

Hello!

Though I had my A4 hand map, my circular walk was not made any easier by poor signage and by the obvious fact that some of the paths I walked upon were rarely trodden. At Booth Farm, a stocky young farmer questioned me.

"Are you lost mate?"

Helpfully, he directed me to remote Laycote Farm. Again there were no signposts. What I find is that some county authorities have better signposting than others. For example, paths are usually well-indicated in Cheshire and Derbyshire but in comparison Staffordshire's signage is poor. It's the same in Nottinghamshire. All over England's vast network of paths  there are small guidance discs with yellow arrows upon them. They are very helpful to walkers but many that I saw yesterday were so weathered that you could not even make out the arrows. Come on Staffordshire! Get your act together!

In Derbyshire but with Staffordshire's hills beyond

I made the young farmer laugh when I retorted, "I am a bit lost but it's not the Amazon jungle is it?"

The weather played ball. There was no rain but there were intermittent spells of sunshine as the BBC online weather forecast had promised. I was back in Sheffield by five o'clock ready to prepare a quick and simple midweek meal for Nurse Pudding and her house husband: baked potatoes, baked beans and Cornish pasties.

As Wallace might have said in the "Wallace and Gromit" animated films, it was another "grand day out".

Trying to get airborne near Thirkelow
Distant view of Chrome Hill
Upland pond near Booth Farm

15 October 2020

Tiger


Above - the overall winning photograph in The Wildlife Photographer of The Year awards. It is a female Siberian tiger somewhere deep in the forests of eastern Russia. The picture was taken remotely by an extremely patient and resourceful cameraman called Sergey Gorshkov.

The tiger appears to be hugging the old tree - possibly leaving her scent on the bark. Perhaps she is marking her territory or signalling her availability to any fertile male tigers in the region.

Of course we are all painfully aware that in ten or twenty years time it may prove impossible to record a similar image as the Siberian tiger is a severely endangered species. There are perhaps only five hundred Siberian tigers left in the wild and with each passing year their territory is reduced. Like polar bears, rhinos, blue whales, river dolphins, eagles, hedgehogs, koalas, pandas, pangolins, harvest mice and elephants the odds are stacked against the Siberian tiger.

Sergey Gorshkov's wonderful image looks rather like an oil painting. Perhaps in the future that is the only way we will get to see new pictures of Siberian tigers in the wild - as oil paintings, displayed on walls alongside pictures of unicorns, dragons and griffins.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
                                                          - William Blake

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