19 December 2014

Pain

Don't tell me about pain. I have known that beast. He has gnawed at me so that nothing else was left in my head but the howling of pain.

Was it sixteen years ago? Lying on a cold hospital trolley at 2am, moaning with the agony when nobody came to mop my fevered bow or to even say "There! There!" I was waiting for daybreak when a surgeon would appear to drive the dragon back into his lair. I had a urethral stricture close by the sphincter that leads to my bladder and to put it simply, I couldn't piss. The pressure was building and I thought that I would burst. It was awful.

If someone had arrived at my cruelly designed  high-sided hospital trolley bed  with a revolver and had said "Would you like to extinguish your pain with this little baby?" I would have yelled "Yes! Yes! Give it here!" and I would have pressed the trigger close by my temple. Such was the pain.

Compared with that, the successive  pains I have felt this calendar year have been insignificant. And yet they have still gnawed at me, threatening to hi-jack my senses, though I have strived to simply carry on.

It was back in August that I knelt awkwardly while doing a little painting job and that led to six weeks of limping like Hopalong Cassidy. And then a month ago I reached from  one of our sofas to another to grab the laptop. My chest was pressed into the arm of the sofa and something went in my torso - a sudden knife in my ribs - broken or dislocatecd or maybe an injury to my right lung. It hurt like hell. I could only sleep on my back and every morning the pain gripped my chest like an invisible fist. Cue Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. 

Then on Sunday, pain crept into my left foot. I think it is gout but it isn't in my big toe. Like the knee it has obliged me to limp. I just want it to go away. Tomorrow will be a lovely winter's day with bright sunshine illuminating the countryside for a few hours and I would love to be rambling in the Lincolnshire Wolds near to Market Rasen. Ten miles or more of vigorous plodding but at this juncture in time that seems like pure fantasy.

If you are currently pain-free dear blog visitor, be grateful and enjoy that sensation I am envious but hope that one day soon I will also know that lovely feeling  again. I  have had almost six months of it and I am getting fed up. One thing after another. Pain pain go away - come again  some other day!

17 December 2014

Pie

While Peshwara was bleeding, while Australia was weeping, while Russia was watching its roubles disappear down the economic plughole, I was making a fish pie. And here it is fresh from the oven:-
A pity you cannot see what is under that cheesy mashed potato topping. But let me enlighten you as we embark on yet another episode of:-
"Cooking With Pudding"
(Cue theme music - brass band plays "On Ilkley Moor")

Hi Folks! It's me Yorkshire Pudding and today I am making Yorkshire Fish Pie.

Turn on your favourite radio station and grab a couple of medium-sized leeks. Top and tail and inspect for soil residue. Coarsely chop up the leeks and chuck in a deep frying pan where a big knob of salted butter had already been melting. Season with a little salt and a little more black pepper. Just soften the chopped leeks.

Grab some milk from the fridge and pour a pint or so in a saucepan. If you prefer you can instead warm the milk in a jug in your microwave. Get a handful of plain flour and toss it over the leeks, stirring in. Then add the hot milk and stir until you have achieved a smooth creamy consistency surrounding the leeks.

From the supermarket or fishmonger you bought two lumps of filleted haddock. One was plain and the other was smoked. You cut them into little chunks and squirted some lemon juice over them. Now is the time to add these fish chunks to the leeky sauce you have prepared. Blend in evenly and allow to simmer for two or three minutes. At this point you might like to add a herb such as dill or parsley - fresh is best but dried will do.

Pour into a ceramic cooking dish a-la photo above. Allow to cool and then cover with cling film or aluminium foil. Whack it in the fridge for an hour or two.

If you need the toilet, now is a good time to go. Remember to wash your hands.

Make a medium pan of  mashed potato. I shall not insult your intelligence by explaining how to prepare mashed potato but for this particular dish I will ask you to throw in a handful of grated cheddar cheese during the mashing process - maybe a little cream if you have any spare.

Get the cooled ceramic cooking dish from the fridge and carefully layer mashed potato over the fishy leek mixture. Try to cover the fish. Then sprinkle a layer of grated cheddar cheese over the mashed potato topping.

Pop it in a hot oven for forty minutes.

You will need some green vegetable to go with your fish pie. Last night we had garden peas from the freezer but green beans or broccoli would also be good. I always steam such vegetables in te microwave.

Turn the radio off and go and watch The News on television while you wait for the pie to warm through. More images from Peshwara. To assassinate schoolchildren like that - if there were a God watching over us - which of course there isn't - there is surely no way he could approve of such heartless slaughter in his holy name. The world is going mad, completely mad. Like John Lennon, all that we are saying is - Give peace a chance! But we are waiting for the next atrocity. We know it will happen - somewhere, some time, somehow. 
"..We should be together/Come on all you people standing around"  (Jefferson Airplane)

Time for fish pie methinks. Back to the kitchen. Never eat good food from your knees or lap  while watching television. Eat it at a table without distraction. The best drink to accompany my Yorkshire Fish Pie is a mug of tea with milk added and sugar if you like it. Enjoy!

16 December 2014

Marmalade

Yesterday, rufty-tufty itinerant photo-blogger, Cap'n Adrian finally came out. Yes folks, in a kind of blogging whisper Adrian admitted that he has a favourite word and it is (drum roll)...marmalade. He likes the word - not because it is something sweet and orangey that he smears on his toast but because he likes the sound of the word. He likes the way it rolls off his tongue. If any of the no-nonsense seamen who served under Adrian (aka William Bligh) had heard about this affection for words, his ironman reputation would have plummeted like a hungry gannet descending upon a shoal of mackerel.

So anyway, if Adrian can come out then so can I. (Nervous cough). If I am honest I like the sound of lots of words - from mellifluous to nincompoop and from pamplemousse (French for grapefruit) to scythe. The English language is awash with great sounding words and we all have our favourites. It is difficult for me to pick out one single "favourite word" but if pressed I would have to plump for Yorkshire, a beautiful proper noun that cascades from the mouth like the heavenly sound of angels singing in paradise.

So what about you, esteemed visitor from the mysterious blogosphere? Are you also ready to come out? Don't be reticent now. Follow Cap'n Adrian's example. It is time to share. Pray tell us all your favourite words...

15 December 2014

49

On "geograph", the British Isles photographic mapping site, over 5000 new pictures were received in Week 49. A selector called Hayley then picked fifty of those pictures for the weekly photo competition shortlist. Then the previous week's winner deliberated over the fifty entries before picking the week's winner.

I was surprised to discover that I had four photos in the shortlist-
And yesterday I wasn't just surprised but delighted to discover that one of my pictures had been selected as the winning photo of the week. And it was this one:-
I took the picture on Hornsea beach the week before last. Several fishermen were fishing from the beach but this fellow was resting by one of the wooden groynes that attempt to delay the constant southwards drift of the sand and shingle beach. As you can see, he was well wrapped up to cope with the bitter North Sea wind. He glanced my way when he saw me lining up my camera but didn't appear to mind too much.It's an okay picture I guess but in my view it cannot hold a candle to one I took later that same day and this one wasn't even shortlisted:-

13 December 2014

Clumber

Clumber House to the south of Worksop in Nottinghamshire was the country residence of the Dukes of Newcastle. In their heyday, like other English aristocratic families, this particular family lived a life of privilege and ease with so much wealth that there was little they could not do. They hired the top landscape gardeners and brought in craftsmen from France and Italy as they dined on fine foods prepared by minions of servants. To some extent the obscene luxuriousness of their lifestyle was part of  a nationwide competition between aristocratic families. A snobbish game of one-upmanship.

In 1938, Clumber House was demolished. A website called "Lost Houses of England" cites the reason for demolition as "insufficient wealth". Many other grand houses were knocked down in those days. Time was running out for any aristocrats who were ill-prepared for the modern world where social and political pressure for greater fairness and equality had become unstoppable.

Eventually, the extensive parkland that surrounded Clumber House came under the control of The National Trust and today anybody can visit a place which would have once been out of bounds for ordinary folk. Even though the grand house has gone, the Grade One listed church remains and the stables and the ornamental lake and the estate village of Hardwick and the grand stone gates and so on.

I drove over there yesterday morning and hired a bicycle which I rode for two hours through the southern section of Clumber Park - stopping occasionally to get my usual fix of photo opportunities. It was bitterly cold and I was glad I had wrapped up well for the outing - Hull City ski cap, fingerless thermal gloves, Hull City manager's jacket and lined walking trousers. I was making a significant fashion statement!
You can see the same church in the black and white photo at the top of this post
The River Poulter runs through Clumber Park. Here there's a ford.
View from Clumber Bridge along the lake
"Shadow of The Beast" starring Yorkshire Pudding.

11 December 2014

Used

Out there on the internet, thousands of my photographs are available for random strangers to view. Hosted in "geograph" and "Panoramio", these strangers are allowed to use my photos as long as they acknowledge me and my copyright.

So what I am finding is that my photos will crop up in quite surprising places. "The Morning Star" is Great Britain's leading communist newspaper so as Mr R.Brague of George W. Bush Boulevard, Canton, Georgia, USA will appreciate, I was immensely proud to see my photo of a red grouse alongside a news item about grouse shooting even though I would have preferred the headline to read "Tweeded Toffs blasted to bits by Red Grouse Rebels".

I found my photo of looming electricity pylons used in the website of a Spanish environmental pressure group. I snapped it near Drax in April of this year:-

And I found another photo - taken on Derwent Edge in The Peak District - in a a website aimed at outdoor enthusiasts - "The Mountain Guide":-

So far I haven't minded. I have even made unexpected money from a few of my photos. But what bothers me is how I might feel if any of my photos are used by the websites of organisations or businesses that have earned my disapproval over the years. Such as "The Conservative  Party", "UKIP", "The Liberal Democrats", "The Sun", "The Daily Mail, "The National Rifle Association", "Arsenal FC", "Lancashire Pride", "London - Centre of The Universe", "Maggie Thatcher Appreciation Society", "European Mathematical Society", "Institute of Mathematics and its Applications", "Muslim Association of Britain", "Let's Visit Canton Georgia", "Abba.com", "One Direction.com", "Michael Jackson.com", "Spearmint Rhino" etc. etc. - the list is almost endless...

10 December 2014

Thoughts

Thoughts crowd in. It's as if we can never escape from them. They are our constant companions, oftentimes our inescapable tormentors. Even as we sleep we are thinking for the brain has its processing work to do - work that will sometimes linger as half-remembered dreams that slip away as each new day begins. If  all of the thoughts you have ever had were linked together like a Christmas paper chain, it would reach beyond the furthest edge of our universe.

Sometimes our private thoughts appear to retreat. When we are totally immersed in an entertainment. When were are enjoying a good book. When we are blind drunk or under the influence of recreational drugs. When we are playing sport with enthusiasm. When we are in the throes of passion - what the French call "le petit mort". The little death when thoughts disappear as in "le grand mort" - the big death that lasts forever.

But most of the time our thoughts are like the parrot that sits permanently on the pirate's shoulder, squawking away incessantly. "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" Sometimes I'd like to grab that damned parrot and throttle it - "Leave me be! Give me some space you overgrown budgie!"

Our thoughts seem to switch fluidly from remembering distant events to very recent events. We speculate about the future. We make plans. We review what we have said or done. We review what other human beings have said or done. We consider world events. We worry about friends and families. Random images and scenes flash upon the screens in our minds and snatches of conversations seem to echo in the hallways. We fantasise. We laugh inwardly at absurdities and smile in recollection of the good things that have happened. On and on. So much thinking.

Yes. Thoughts crowd in upon us. Perhaps true Buddhist monks have got it right. In quiet meditation, washing away all private thought. Finding serenity. Seeking oneness with Nature. No longer beholden to these endless thoughts. Now excuse me while I go out to find some saffron robes and get my head shaved. But I won't be able to sit cross legged for hours like this fellow...