13 November 2018


Situated halfway up our garden there is now a new art installation. I know that its title is rather wacky but we call it "Apples in a Wheelbarrow". It partly represents the fruitfulness of the earth. I collected all the the apples myself . They had fallen from our trees. In fact, I collected three full wheelbarrows.

After filling several jars with apple sauce, giving bags of apples away to neighbours and baking apple pies and apple crumble, we still had a mountain of apples to deal with. What was to  be done with them?

Then one day - as I was sitting on the toilet contemplating the meaning of life - I had a sudden flash of inspiration. Art! I visualised a wheelbarrow with apples piled up within it and that very afternoon I set about my task like Damien Hirst creating "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" back in 1991. But instead of a tiger shark, an aquarium and a vat of formaldehyde I had a wheelbarrow and a glut of apples. Small difference. Artists have to work with what they have got.

Though the new installation pays homage to autumn's fruitfulness, it also suggests decay. Within the pile, I deliberately included a number of very bruised apples that are already deteriorating - going mushy and brown like the soil from whence they came. 

12 November 2018


O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Thousands of citizens descended on Barker's Pool in Sheffield city centre yesterday morning. We were there to commemorate the fallen heroes of World War One - a hundred years after that terrible conflict ended.

The sombre service proceeded and we reached a point where everyone was meant to sing the eighteenth century hymn by Isaac Watts - "O God Our Help in Ages Past...". The brass band played the intro and then bam - it was time to raise our voices and so I did. The only trouble was that nobody else in my section of the crowd was singing. Unexpectedly and slightly embarrassingly I was in effect singing a solo!
The woman next to me had a programme and it was open to show the nine verses of the hymn. I had begun so I couldn't just finish. I had to keep going and so I sang those nine verses at full volume thinking only of those who died in World War One. I was singing in their honour. At times my voice was tremulous with emotion.

When the service was over and the marchers had gone from the square, I felt a hand on my shoulder. A man who was a stranger to me said, "I just want to say thank you for singing that hymn so beautifully. I was really moved. I was standing just behind you. Thank you."

And I said, "I thought everyone was going to join in. Thank you for your kind words..."
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

11 November 2018


"There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance..."

- William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

- Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

10 November 2018


I considered a different illustration for this little blogpost but remembered that some visitors like to eat while they are wandering through the blogosphere. Because of the presence of electricity, barfing on one's keyboard can be injurious to health.

For the past three years, British newspapers have been filled with Brexshit tales. Brexshit this and Brexshit that. Most of us are heartily sick of it.

Half the British public were led up the garden path by those who advocated Brexshit. Increasingly, the pledges and promises that were made appear to be nothing more than fool's gold. Of course many people voted for Brexshit simply to cock a snook at David Cameron and the British establishment and undeniably - just as in the last American presidential race - there was shady Russian involvement

Some Brexshit voters were amazingly naive - such as one of Shirley's uncles who has since passed away. Back in 2016 I asked him why he had voted for Brexshit and he spoke of our country's independent spirit and how we had "won two world wars", claiming that we "don't need anybody else". As I say, he has since died - along with a million other retired Brexshit voters. In the meantime ,a million young people have now reached voting age.

Our beloved prime minister The Right Honourable Theresa May voted to remain in the European Union back in 2016. Her heart isn't really in it and the kind of Brexshit she plans to serve up is nothing more than a dog's breakfast of compromise, delay, tariffs and half-promises. It is an utter and complete mess and like many other British patriots I am very worried about what this will all mean for our nation's economic future. It appears like self-harming on a giant scale. 

It's time to take stock - a reality check - but May and her mob seem determined to leap off the cliff - arguing that this is what the British people voted for. That is a patent lie. We need to stop the crazy Brekxshit before it's too late. We are part of Europe and we can never completely sever our ties with the European Union.

I am reminded of the last lines of "Hotel California" by The Eagles:-

"Relax," said the night man 
"We are programmed to receive 
You can check-out any time you like
But you can never leave!"

Ahh! Saturday morning rant over. That feels better.

9 November 2018


"Drat!" is a very mild expletive that I sometimes use when things go wrong. I guess it's better than using more earthy Anglo Saxon expletives that could easily cause offence to those of a sensitive or prudish disposition.

There were a few "drats" yesterday when I went out for another circular ramble in the nearby Peak District. 

As some of you will have deduced from the many photographs I have taken on my multitudinous country walks, I am very much a fair weather plodder. I don't mind snow or ice but I need to see blue sky and sunshine to illuminate my pictures. This is why I keep a close eye on the local weather forecast.

However, yesterday the weather people got it wrong. Instead of sunshine broken by occasional clouds, there was a grey blanket overhead - like a big grey quilt smothering the earth and sucking colour and shadow from the world around me.

I abandoned Clint by the roadside in the village of Calver. He was not too unhappy as there was a foxy yellow Mini in front of him. "Haven't you gone yet?" he hissed as I slammed his tailgate shut and set off with left boot following right boot over and over again like a drumbeat.

I had taken the precaution of bringing  my oversized blue cagoule with me - the perfect item of outdoor clothing for making a memorable fashion statement.. However, in spite of occasional bouts of thin drizzle, I managed to avoid taking said item from my "Converse" rucksack.

Through woods and across fields, over stiles and along narrow Bramley Lane with not a single vehicle passing by. Then over the Bakewell road and up an ancient track to the moors above Calver and Stoney Middleton where hummocks and holes and random historical clues speak of the days when this plateau was exploited by lead miners and quarrymen.

It was pretty frustrating to be out in that grey day knowing that beams of sunshine would have created so many photogenic scenes for me to capture with my Sony bridge camera.
By an old gateway I noticed a squared block of limestone sitting on a rough plinth and  embedded in its top surface there was an old iron plaque with two words engraved - "Ruby's Chair". Who Ruby was and why she needed a "chair" like this I have no idea. Internet research has proved fruitless. I guess that on a sunny day the views from Ruby's Chair would be most splendid but as I say, yesterday was not a sunny day.

From Black Harry Gate, I marched two miles down the valley of Rough Side that merges with Coombs Dale and before too long I was crossing the A623 road and plodding back to Sir Clint of Calver. 

Near the traffic lights there is a coffee shop called "Insomnia" and after stepping inside,  I treated myself to a large latte and a ploughman's sandwich which I enjoyed while seated at a corner table. Simultaneously, I  consumed another chapter of the book I am currently reading before heading home once again. This is life on the wild side - close to the edge. Well, Longstone Edge maybe.
Another horny sheep baring her teeth at me

8 November 2018


Samuel Baker (15) stabbed to death in the Low Edges 
area  of Sheffield on May 24th this year. His 
killer was another fifteen year old boy.
Sheffield is famous for knives. Even today, some of the best knives in the world are made here 

However, in recent months, knives have been hitting the local headlines for a very different reason. Knife crime is on the rise in some neighbourhoods and this has resulted in several deaths and stabbing injuries. It is very concerning.

It's the same in London - but on a bigger scale. This year 115 people have been stabbed to death in the capital. The victims are nearly all young men of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Frequently, gang issues related to territory, drugs and/or grudges are at the heart of these horrible attacks but sometimes innocent passers-by  have been targeted and there have been several cases of mistaken identity.

Thank God it's very hard for people to get hold of guns in this country. There seems to  be a lot of anger out there - amongst young men with little status and limited prospect of making something of their lives through honest endeavour. They often come from broken, chaotic homes and no doubt enjoy films that include violence and killing. The same with computer games.

Something is amiss. It is too easy to focus in on the perpetrators of knife crime. Society and government should be looking closely at how our young people are schooled. We should be looking at youth services and pathways to work and we should be looking at policing and the alleviation of poverty. Several factors underlie the rise in knife crime and if they are not addressed as a matter of urgency  the problem will only grow bigger and many more young men will die.

What can be done? What do you think? ...Rest in peace Samuel Baker.

7 November 2018


This is a beech leaf that I picked from an overhanging branch in The Derwent Valley just yesterday. I was walking with my lady to the ruins of Derwent village which normally sits below the surface of Ladybower Reservoir. She hadn't been there before.

There were many leaves like that one - mostly scattered beneath the trees that bore them. Every autumn leaf is slightly different from the next one and I don't know about you but to me each leaf is rather like a mini work of art - kindly created for us  by Mother Nature.