19 August 2019


Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar
   © Warren Photographic

Last week I saw a creature I had never seen before. It was an elephant hawk moth caterpillar. It was in the palm of our neighbours' ten year old grandson's hand. I didn't have my camera with me so I have included a picture of such a caterpillar that I found in Google Images. See above.

With its bulbous snake-like head and its little feet , it looked as if it had crept out of a Disney cartoon... Ellie the Caterpillar voiced by Lady Gaga or some such celebrity. Co-incidentally, I think the caterpillar's face is very similar to Lady Gaga's.

Of course if that three inch caterpillar makes it, she will pupate - becoming a chrysalis for the wintertime and then next spring she will emerge as a beautiful elephant hawk moth. See below
© Warren Photographic
Despite its name the adult moth itself is not especially large. It has a wingspan of around two inches and is excellent at hovering in the air above blooming flowers at night. The name of the moth chiefly derives from the caterpillar which from the front appears to have some sort of proboscis like an elephant:-
© Warren Photographic

18 August 2019


While I was happily screwing away yesterday afternoon, I hurt myself. Perhaps I should have been wearing gloves. I was screwing for an hour or so.

I was building a strong wooden structure on which to attach a 40cm convex mirror. I plan to put it on the verge opposite the wedding venue driveway. That driveway meets the main road at a dangerous bend where visibility is limited. The thought of one of the wedding guests having a road traffic accident gives me the willies. The "hurt" referred to was the popped blisters on the palm of my right hand.

Other practical jobs I have recently undertaken include painting two old wooden stepladders that will be used to display flowers - I understand. I have also painted a heavy wooden pallet on which the "Order of Day" will appear outside the wedding barn.

In addition, I have created three signs to go by the main road - directing guests to the wedding venue entrance. And I have created a simple welcome sign that will be hammered into the ground in front of the wedding barn: "Welcome to Frances and Stewart's Wedding". Stemming from all of this, I suspect that I missed my vocation as a sign writer.

I keep calling next weekend's event a "D.I.Y. Wedding". It is by no means all about turning up on the day, enjoying the celebrations and giving the wedding venue proprietor a big fat cheque (American: check). No way. Almost every element of this wedding has involved thinking through, phone calls, text messages and practical activity - just like my signs and the structure for the convex mirror.

Now I am thinking about my "Father of the Bride Speech". It may go something like this..."Hello. I am the father of the bride. Please raise your glasses to toast the happy couple...Thank you!"  I am kidding of course. In fact I plan to bore the assembled multitude to death by explaining my screwing techniques and regaling them with amusing tales from Frances's childhood. 

On Wednesday, I will be picking up a hire van and then driving over to Sheffield's flower market to collect many more flowers than you would find in a bunch. These will be used to decorate the church, the wedding venue, people's lapels and so forth. Rest assured that selecting the flowers is not my zone of responsibility. The only flower I want is a small white Yorkshire rose for my own lapel.

At the moment, in this unsettled month, the weather forecast for next weekend is looking surprisingly clement. God must be watching... maybe it's the fact that Stewart's father, a recently retired vicar, will be conducting the church service. Yet another D.I.Y. element.

17 August 2019


Recycle! Reuse! Here are three poems that I dashed off recently for Jenny-O's blog "Procrastinating Donkey". She has a regular feature called "Poetry Monday" and each week there is a particular theme. I used the themes as titles too.


Dad was wise and Dad was strong
In my eyes he could do no wrong
He didn't wear a magic cape
Or take on a different shape
No he wasn't a hero quite like that
With comic expressions like "Yikes!" and "Splat!"
For Dad was human like you and me
Being the best that he could be
He taught me the difference between right and wrong
And proved that the wise may also be strong.


When God created everything
Lightning sparked from his fingers 
And the skies were filled with terrible thunder
It was elemental
A celestial alchemy
Like the night that Frankenstein’s monster
Rose from the dead
And said
And on that day
The Day of Creation
God’s own God
Made even brighter forks of lightning
That cracked the skies
As even louder thunder
Boomed like wildebeest
Migrating through the Serengeti
And the God of God’s own God
Slept on
As the endless rain teemed down.


The day my mother died
A violin cried
Wailing A minor up in the air
Its plaintive sound was everywhere
But looking back it was just in my head
A note to self
That Mum was dead.

16 August 2019


"We've got to get ourselves back to the garden..."

The famous Woodstock Festival of August 15th - 18th happened exactly fifty years ago. Some might say that it crowned the nineteen sixties. Three days of love and music. So much changed in that decade.
Like me, Joni Mitchell didn't make it to Woodstock but the festival touched her as it did me in my obscure village somewhere in  northern England. I learnt to sing and play her song and performed it on several stages in my late teens and later played it weekly at a bar in Chagrin Falls, Ohio when I was summer camp counselling nearby.

For some of us the hippy dreams of Woodstock never died. Dreams of peace and love, brotherhood and sisterhood, kindness to our planet, humanity towards others, delight in simple things like flowers and rainbows and poetry. 

Lord knows that the world could do with more of what Woodstock represented right now.

The magical weekend began with Richie Havens up on the stage singing "Freedom" and finished with Jimi Hendrix playing "Hey Joe". In between Joan Baez sang Pete Seeger's stirring anthem for the people - "We Shall Overcome":-
Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day

15 August 2019


"The Wedding of the Year" is fast approaching. I don't know how it is in America or Australia or elsewhere, but in this country it has become the fashion for brides and grooms to be to have lavish hen or stag dos ahead of their wedding days. Often these typically boozy trips will happen abroad, involving flights, hotel rooms etcetera.

Last weekend our darling Frances travelled up to Edinburgh in Scotland for her hen weekend. She was accompanied by ten of her best girl friends. By all accounts they had a super time, drank plenty of wine and prosecco and attended three comedy shows at The Edinburgh Festival. I snipped the picture below from her Instagram page - partly so that I can find it again when looking back through this blog in the future. It's a piece of our family history now - or to use a daft modern term - our journey!

Doesn't she look so happy?
Meantime the husband to be is going to have his stag celebrations somewhere in eastern Europe this coming weekend. I know exactly where he is going because I have been there myself - but I can't spell it out as Stew sometimes browses this blog and he will have no idea where he is bound until he reaches the airport tomorrow morning. Our son Ian is going too. Let's hope that the stag party doesn't finish in  post-Soviet police cells.

Back in my day - when the world was in black and white and Queen Victoria was possibly still on the throne - I had my stag do in our local pub with a small group of male friends. This was the night before my wedding. There was no food, not even a stripogram girl called Tallulah. The only difference between that night and any other Friday night was that I had an extra pint of beer. I was back home and in my bed by midnight, having hardly added anything to my tiny carbon footprint. We really knew how to party!

14 August 2019


More walking yesterday afternoon. How many miles have I left to tread? If I were a car I think I would need a new engine by now. "But you're not a car!" snapped Clint as I left him to snooze by the bus shelter in Litton.

Through the cattle pastures and along the path that clings to the rim of Cressbrookdale. To my left, the slope was precipitous - rolling down through the trees to the valley bottom far below. 

Just before I reached Cressbrook I spotted an American woman having a pee with her ten or eleven year old daughter keeping guard.. As I approached the Yank yanked up her khaki shorts. A bit further along, I met her baseball-capped husband and another blue-eyed daughter They were heading for Monsal Dale and they all had walking poles.
But I was heading for Ravensdale Cottages in the green heart of the valley. It had been seven years since I last passed by them. They were built in 1823 and housed lead miners and their families. It would have been a very peaceful place to live but the steep valley sides mean that the spot where they were built enjoys only limited direct sunlight each day.
The lead mines are all gone like the lead miners. Today half of Ravensdale Cottages are holiday rentals. I could hear some holidaymakers making conversation as I stopped to take pictures. Their front door was open for this was a time of day when the cottages were not in shadow. I didn't listen to what they were saying. It was just like bees humming.

When I got back to Litton I treated myself to a pint of bitter shandy in "The Red Lion" and it was as welcome as the potato crisps (American: potato chips) that I ordered with my drink. Twenty five minutes later I was back home. Another five miles plodded en route to oblivion.

13 August 2019


Above our front door there's a glass panel. Americans call it a transom window but here - where the English language was successfully concocted from a diverse range of ingredients - we call it a fanlight.

When we had our new door installed a couple of years ago, we asked the door company to include our house number in the translucent glass. I remember being quite specific about the size and font required as I didn't want large, rather vulgar numbers that would be almost as tall as the fanlight itself.

Having your house number in the fanlight is helpful to postal workers and the army of people now employed in delivering parcels from waiting vans.
This morning when I got up, I noticed something on the carpet in our hallway. It was the image of our house number painted in sunlight that was beaming all over the front of our house. It has gone now as the sun arcs over the house but for a little while there was magic. Of course we have seen this phenomenon before but this was the first time I have bothered to capture it with my trusty camera.

In other news from Pudding Towers, I was feeling very restless late yesterday afternoon - like a young colt in a stableyard or a Welsh terrier in a corner country cottage or a Staffie in a swish West Hampstead apartment or a tousled hound in a Lincolnshire mansion.  I drove two miles out of the city to tramp a familiar circular route from Shorts Lane on the edge of the city.
Stepping stones over Blacka Brook
The walk takes exactly an hour and I have plodded the selfsame route at least three or four  times a year for the last thirty years so I know I have completed it well over a hundred times. It's a good way of burning off energy in the country but only five minutes away from our house. And every time I walk that route there's something slightly different to see. Besides I can walk it in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

By five o'clock I was back home to make our evening meal. I had only been out for an hour and a quarter.

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