31 January 2023

Ambit

Door to a subterranean reservoir 
by Ringinglow Road

Frequently, my walks involve jumping into Clint's cockpit and driving north, south, east or west before the walk can commence. I am always seeking the thrill of new territory and new photo opportunities. However, today was different.

I left Clint in his resting place by our front bay window and set off from home. Along Gisborne Road to Dobbin Hill and then along Greystones Drive to Greystones Road before dropping down into The Porter Valley.

Previously unnoticed house
on Greystones Road

Sheffield has five rivers which in past centuries were all important to the development of metal-related industries. They provided water power. The River Porter is really just a stream and it runs for little more than five miles into the city centre.

Walking by The Porter up to the cafe at Forge Dam has become a required route for ramblers, families, cyclists and dog walkers. Everyone who lives in the S11 postal district is familiar with the route and during the worst times of COVID it was like a superhighway.

Whiteley Wood Road Bridge
over The River Porter

Waterfall in the upper reaches of The River Porter

I didn't stop at  Forge Dam. Instead, I kept ascending the valley as the river became even narrower and more of a "V" shape close to the source of The Porter. Up to Fulwood Lane - thankfully on level ground and along to the tiny village of Ringinglow where I had already decided to treat myself to lunch and a couple of beers in "The Norfolk Arms".

As it was a very windy day, smoke from the pub's  log fire was refusing to be drawn up through the chimney and some of it was hanging about in the bar room. I rather liked that old-fashioned aroma.

After lunch, I had a mile and half more to walk down to Bents Green and by that time internal alarm signals were telling me I needed to visit a toilet. I planned to nip into "The Hammer and Pincers" but it was closed for the afternoon. As luck would have it a No.88 Stagecoach bus appeared so I jumped on it and arrived home ten minutes later before experiencing that private magical relief that is familiar to all human beings. I won't go into details.

View over Sheffield's south western suburbs from Fulwood Lane
Bar at "The Norfolk Arms"

30 January 2023

Green

A number of years ago I had to select a new template for this humble Yorkshire blog. I was drawn to a green format - the colour of nature and environmental campaigning. Though I have only ever voted for The Labour Party (red), it pleases me that green pressure groups have gained more traction over the years - not just on this island but around the world.

In the chart above, there are twenty greens each with their own names though some greens are very similar. If I went for a walk in woodland or across meadows and then by a river, I might observe all of these greens...

GREEN

Deep in an army green forest
The undergrowth had an asparagus hue
Turning to emerald in shafts of sunlight
Or fern and forest green by my leafy path.
Up ahead, a clearing appeared harlequin
Against hunter green shadows.

Departing from those verdant woods, jade
Turned to kelly green then lime
And mint as sunlit meadows came into view
Reaching to a moss coloured river
That oozed between olive banks
And over  pine green river weed
Dancing in shamrock shallows.

All along that sea green way I rambled -
Spring green grasses swaying 
Against teal coloured hillocks rolling
Under an almost turquoise sky -
Leaving the viridian forest far behind.

I was just playing around with those colour chart names. It was merely a poetic exercise to see what happened. Sage, khaki and bottle-green are examples of green words that were not included in the chart.

29 January 2023

Remnants

I always go for the domed ones (American: thumbtacks)

Some readers may recall  that last August Shirley and I spent an inordinate amount of time clearing out my late brother Simon's rental cottage. We tried to be ruthless but even so a few boxes of his rescued stuff were brought back to our home in Sheffield.

Largely those boxes have remained untouched as I wait to see Simon's financial affairs brought to closure. The process has been incredibly slow and frustrating. Amongst the rescued items were things that belonged to my mother, father and the rest of our family.

Anyway, today I addressed two of those boxes and managed to reduce them to one. It was a success measured against the past five months of my procrastination. Something of a psychological nature has been going on here though I can't quite explain it.

Here are some of the items that surfaced today. Remnants of the departed...

A commemorative tin from 1981. Charles and Diana were married in the same year as us.

My old school badge - I hated that institution with a vengeance. The three crowns 
echo the city's coat of arms - Kingston-upon-Hull

My father was a proud trade unionist within the teaching profession and 
these badges acknowledge his terms of office as President of The National 
Union of Teachers in East Yorkshire

In this old pill jar I discovered a full set of brass RAF 
buttons from World War II - in desperate need of polishing. 
I believe my mother cut them from her old WAAF  uniform.

A box that in truth contains a stop watch though it was clearly meant to 
contain studs for old shirt collars that must have often got lost. I hope you 
didn't think that the term "stud" referenced  sexually proficient gentlemen. You 
can see a fellow under a bed searching for lost shirt studs.

My father was a pretty good cricketer and I suspect that this was his post-war cricket cap 
when he must have represented The Old Maltonians Association. Malton is a little 
Yorkshire market town east of York. and that is where Dad went to school - Malton
Grammar School in fact. Should I just throw it away?

28 January 2023

Mausoleum

Hull City were playing the London club Queens Park Rangers today. I set off far too early in my silver chariot, Sir Clint, because I wanted to make a short detour in order to undertake a walk north of the village of Welton. It is situated at the southern end of The Yorkshire Wolds.

I especially wanted to snap a neo-classical mausoleum  that is partly hidden by the woods that surround it. It was erected by an early nineteenth century banker called Sir Robert Raikes. Why he and his family couldn't be buried in the village churchyard like everybody else is beyond me. Perhaps he had more money than sense. Alternatively, he thought he was more important than he really was. Another possibility is that he wished to outdo his father who had established a much smaller family mausoleum in a churchyard in Woodford, London three decades earlier.

Anyway I found the mausoleum and soon afterwards carried on with my journey to the "Park and Ride" facility at Hessle on the west side of East Yorkshire's only city.

I bought a coffee,  a ham and cheese sandwich and a curd tart from a branch of Cooplands on Anlaby Road. It is  near our football ground. which was recently renamed The MKM Stadium. I consumed this lunch on a bench next to the skateboarding corner  of  West Park. I would like to say that there were some talented skateboarders in view but they were mediocre.

Once again my friend Tony sat with me to watch the match as he has often done. It was an enjoyable game. Our lads played with more self-belief, urgency and togetherness than usual They deserved their three-nil victory and each time The Tigers scored Tony and I were up out of our seats, lost in the moment. After all these years, the thrill has never gone away. 

In a corner of the stadium there was a contingent of about a thousand QPR fans who had travelled up from London. As the full time whistle got close, some of our supporters sang rather tauntingly, "Back to your shithole! You're going back to your shithole!" English football is not like cricket or The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race you know!

Raikes Mausoleum erected in 1818

27 January 2023

Sounds

The hollow cooing of pigeons on a chimney pot. In the middle of the school week, the animated conjoined noise of  children's voices in a  playground half a mile away drifts up the hill. On a still night down in the valley, the clackety drumming of occasional trains heading north or south - muted by a mile of  distance.

The humming of bathroom fans before their timers call time - abruptly. Similarly, the churning and spinning of our washing machine and the gurgling of the dishwasher before it bleeps three times like a heart monitor by a hospital bed.

Occasionally when Atlantic winds surge over this island, you hear slates straining on our roof and the creaking of rafters, whistling windows and a kinetic roaring that falls and rises in gusts. Best heard at night.

These are our familiar sounds but sometimes I miss the sound of the sea. Waves grumbling on a barrier reef or bursting on sands . Chattering over pebbles, sucking at rocky promontories. And when swimming I hear the water's mellifluous lapping  as I push it away - rhythmically moving  over the deep.

And perchance in my dreams I hear familiar human voices from the past in the echo chamber of my skull.  Never to be heard with my ears again. And I hear curlews and sheep and tropical birds and the acclamation of football supporters in a stadium - rumbling.

Music to lift you, reflect your experience, entertain you so that sometimes you lost yourself in it.

And in silence I hear my own pulse, insistent, beating. The internal sound of blood and indeed life itself. How many beats in a day? How many beats in a lifetime? Duh-duh, duh-duh. duh-duh, duh-duh but not forever. Only for a while.

26 January 2023

Film

 "All Quiet On The Western Front" (2022)


This excellent anti-war film based on the 1929 novel "Im Westen nichts Neues" by Erich Maria Remarque is currently available on Netflix. At two hours twenty eight minutes in length, it is an epic watch yet I must admit that I was gripped throughout it.

Unusually, it considers World War One from a German viewpoint and from there it looks just as ugly, just as pointless and just as inhuman as it has variously been seen from the opposite angle.

It mostly revolves around the last weeks of the war and focuses upon a group of school friends who have joined up with boyish notions of what being a soldier will be like. Their fantasies are quickly dashed as they enter a living hell of mud, blood, noise and confusion. What is it all for? Nobody seems to know.

One of the school chums almost makes it to The Armistice  at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of 1918.  He is Paul Bäumer played by Felix Kammerer and as witnesses we have watched  him all the way, through the trenches, the killing  and the camaraderie. Dialogue is sparse and Bäumer seems to be in a permanent state of terror.

As I say, words are few. This film relies heavily on imagery. It's hard to talk when you are surrounded by brutality and the obvious futility of war. There's a starkness about it all - little colour in an endless winter. It could so easily have been filmed in black and white were it not for the orange flame throwers and the scarlet puddles of blood.

You may prefer films that you can skip away from having been lightly entertained - an "ooo!" here and a chuckle or a tear  there but conversely, "All Quiet On The Western Front" grabs you by the throat and tells you that it is something more than mere entertainment. 

Looking at what is currently happening in Ukraine, we may reflect upon why  humanity has still not learnt vital lessons about the absurdity of war.  We carry on as though there was no yesterday.

25 January 2023

Alcohol

ALCOHOL - THREE
New micropub round the corner from our house

My drink of preference is beer. I might have a glass of wine with Sunday dinner but mostly it's beer. In our drinks cabinet I have six bottles of whisky (Scottish) and whiskey (Irish). Four of them have never been opened. Months will pass by before I have another shot of that fiery liquid. Though I like it, I can live without it.

Nowadays I have at least three alcohol-free days in a normal week. During national  pub closures in the time of  COVID, there was a period of three months when I didn't have a single drop of alcohol. It just didn't appeal to me  any more and I didn't miss it either.

I am glad that I  have a more healthy relationship with alcohol than I did in my student days. This is partly down to my wife Shirley who arguably reined me in like a cowgirl training a wild bronco. Decades have passed since I last lost it under the influence of the demon drink. I hardly ever drink in the daytime and if I visit a pub at night, I will usually only go for the last hour knowing that if I went any earlier I would be tempted to exceed the three or four pints I usually guzzle.

Here's another alcohol story I want to share - about a woman of our acquaintance who was a senior academic nurse - working with nursing students in a university. She had done so well to get there. 

Two years ago she attended a posh dinner dance in a pretty exclusive venue. She had donned her best gown and put on her new high heels. Like many people there, she had taken full advantage of the free bar and was more than a little tiddly. Holding a glass of fizzy wine, she began to descend  a wide stone staircase but tripped on her heels and tumbled down those unforgiving steps, fracturing her skull and causing herself a serious  brain injury.

At the age of sixty she now lives in a dementia unit, her personality disordered and it seems certain that she will never get back to being the successful professional woman that she once was. You might say that it was the high heels that did it but I have a feeling that if she had avoided alcoholic drinks that fateful night she would have coped with those heels just fine. It was the drink that did it.

This afternoon I went out to a pub with my old friend Bert. I hadn't seen him since before Christmas and as prearranged I drove him to "The Rising Sun" at Nether Green. A dozen draught beers were available at the bar - nearly all of them expertly brewed in Sheffield. Bert had three pints of "Daily Bread" but because I was driving I only had one pint and a coffee. We also had fish and chips with mushy peas for our lunch.

Bert is 87 and he's been drinking beer since he was a boy. It doesn't seem to have done him any harm. It was good to enjoy each other's company - helped by the ambience of a nice pub that has plentiful stocks of well-kept local  beers. Happy afternoons like that are also part of the tale of alcohol consumption.  It's not all  about danger signs and watching the number of "units" you pour down your neck. It's also about companionship, community  and relaxation.

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