15 December 2017


Do you remember a post I wrote in July titled "Norma"? It concerned an elderly neighbour who had lived on our street since the early nineteen thirties. She's now over in Lancashire living in a residential care home for the elderly not far from her only son's home. This morning I received a surprise Christmas card from her:-

Dear Master Pudding,

It was so kind of you to send me the card of Winnat's Pass and your good wishes hoping I would settle okay at Longridge.

It has taken a long time getting used to being cared for. It will never be home to me but am looked after well although now I have begun to walk again with two sticks. I insist on looking after myself - i.e. washing, dressing, toilet etc.. It has been hard work with the help of the physios but I was determined to walk again and have managed it!

I see my son every day so that is nice and he has been a wonderful help. Had a time in Preston Hospital but now apart from having to run to the loo a lot I am much better. Of course at 92 body parts start wearing out.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and hope that 2018 will be a happy year for you all.

Again thanking you for the card and good wishes.

Fondest regards,

In the unlikely event that I ever reach the ripe old age of 92, I hope that my mind functions as clearly as Norma's still does. I plan to send her some questions that will tease out her earliest memories of this Sheffield suburb. I know that when she moved here at the age of just four, nobody on our road owned a car and milk and coal were delivered by horse and cart. She has seen a hell of a lot of changes in her long life and I think she will enjoy my planned task.

14 December 2017


He shuffled into the Oxfam shop. Lean, with bloodshot eyes and a salt and pepper beard, he was well wrapped up but I recognised him as the homeless man who is often seen sitting on his haunches outside the bank at Hunter's Bar roundabout. Before the Conservative Party took a hold of  this great nation's government we never saw any homeless people in south west Sheffield which has always been a pretty affluent area.

I was adding more books to the shelves. He came into the heart of the shop and asked me a question. "Av ye gorreny ******?" The last word was lost on me. I thought he was saying "clothes".

"Yes sir. Over here. We've got shirts, jumpers, trousers, jackets. What are you looking for?"
I could smell stale alcohol on his breath.

"No, not ******, I want ******!"

And then I thought he was saying "cloves", imagining that he was planning to make mulled wine. It seemed unlikely but I said "I think you'll be able to get some cloves in Sainsburys - just up the road!"

"No, not ******, I want ******! Dunt anybody speak Inglish in ere?" he slurred. "Spect  you can all talk African. I want ******!"

And then a female customer piped up with, "I think he's saying gloves!"

The homeless man was relieved. "Yeah! Yeah! ****** (gloves). That's what I want but they av to be real cheap. Bout a quid. Me 'ands are that cold and I brock this 'un in the summer. I can't feel it."

I looked in the basket where gloves are normally displayed but there weren't any. I apologised and he went on his way probably thinking he'd just been talking to a moron. Perhaps I should get my hearing checked. In the meantime I am going to see if I can find him some old gloves and take them down to Hunters Bar as an early Christmas gift. He'll probably say "No! Not ******! I wanted ******!"

13 December 2017


Here's a story for you to continue...

Once upon a time a beautiful couple were married in a beautiful church. After their beautiful honeymoon in a beautiful country faraway, they moved into a beautiful house on the edge of beautiful countryside.

They lived a beautiful life. He had a fantastic job - often jetting first class around the world and she was a beautician with her own thriving business. They made lots of friends and were very popular in the local community.

With the passage of time they had two beautiful children. The baby boy was called Adonis and the little girl was called Bella. They were both healthy, happy and clever – just like their beautiful parents.

The years continued to hurry by and the beautiful couple’s love for each other matured like a good French wine. They never argued and they were besotted by their beautiful offspring. Adonis achieved four A starred grades in his A levels and won a place at Cambridge. Bella was already studying medicine at University College London.

The beautiful couple felt truly blessed. Life could not have been better. All was so wonderful until….

You can either write the next paragraph or provide a thumbnail sketch of where you see the story going.

12 December 2017


Less than two miles from this house there's an area of ancient woodland known as Ecclesall Woods. It covers 350 acres. Nothing has ever been built here apart from a couple of charcoal burners' huts but the woods have been "managed" since the middle ages.

I have walked there many times. It's very nice to see those woods in bluebell time which is usually in early May, But yesterday it was equally lovely to walk there as snow had turned the entire area into a winter wonderland.

Some people were out and about exercising their dogs. I said hello to one woman who had no less than seven dogs in tow and for some reason she replied with "Hello my love" but I couldn't remember any previous encounters with her so I was a little puzzled. Perhaps she says "Hello my love" to everyone she meets.

I snapped twenty photographs or more - trying to capture the essence of  such a beautiful winter's day. The picture at the top of this post was the best I could come up with. Those two faraway figures really make the composition in my view. Without them there would be no focus and no hint of a story. They also provide a sense of scale. Yes - I am pretty happy with that image.

11 December 2017


Beau and Peep
Last evening in "Blue Planet II", David Attenborough told us about the effects of global warming upon our oceans. However, here in South Yorkshire we appear to be suffering from global freezing. 

There's snow on the ground and the weather people have painted their map icy blue. Brrrrr! Last night I almost slipped on my arse as I walked down to the pub for a drink and a chat with Old Bert. He's eighty one and has a cheerful, upbeat attitude to life. He can remember wartime London quite vividly and also his two years of National Service in the mid-fifties. They sent him to a godforsaken army base at Warcup in Westmorland but he remembers that time with his usual cheeriness.
Apple hollowed out by blackbirds
This morning, the tarmacadam on our north-facing  road looks surprisingly clear and I can see that a gritting lorry must have spread salt on it in the middle of the night. In our back garden, blackbirds peck at the apples we have cut open for them. Meanwhile our pet sheep - Beau and Peep continue to shiver in the snow.

Yes folks. It's wintertime.  The sun is meant to burst forth in an hour or two to illuminate the whitened suburbs of this city so later on I might clear the snow from Clint's windows and drive over to Ecclesall Woods for a slippery walk and some wintry  photo snapping. We'll see.
Our house from the back garden

10 December 2017


Dear Charlotte,

I am writing with regard to an unpleasant discovery I made after returning from shopping at Waitrose last night. Namely - I had lost my wallet for the first time in my life. Panic stations set in. 

As my wife phoned Waitrose, I sped back to the store which had just closed. I searched the car park and trolley area to no avail and then a night worker at the staff door said he would ask inside the shop about the wallet. Two female workers came out to speak to me saying they had had a good look round but hadn't found it.

I went back home most anxious about the whereabouts of the wallet and associated inconvenience. Half an hour later, my wife's mobile phone rang. It was your night shift manager - Andy Beaver. He had found the wallet and if I returned to the shop he would hand it over. Apparently, he had spotted it on a side bench near the checkout area.

When I got back to the store, I attempted to give Andy a £10 note as a reward but he would not take it in spite of my insistence. I told him that I would be writing to you to sing his praises and to thank him for his honesty, kindness and prompt customer service.

Sometimes people might imagine that the world is filled with dishonest, self-seeking folk but it isn't. Most people are like Andy Beaver - decent, hard-working, kind and very willing to help others. Please pass on my sincere thanks to him.

Yours sincerely,
Yorkshire Pudding (Esquire)
Hi Mr Pudding,

I just wanted to let you know that I have passed on these comments to Andy, his line manager and our branch manager.

Thank you again for your kind words, Andy was very touched.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Warm Regards,
Charlotte Sidebottom
(Deputy Branch Manager)

9 December 2017


Yesterday morning I tied Clint up outside "The Bull's Head" in Monyash. Snow had fallen over night and the Derbyshire landscape had a wintry Christmas card look about it.

As I donned my trusty walking boots, it crossed my mind that later on I might treat myself to a drink and a bite to eat in "The Bull's Head" when I got back. I zipped up my Hull City manager's coat and rooted around in Clint's bottom for my thermal hat and fingerless gloves.

First of all I had a bit of a wander around the Peakland village after realising that I had never seen its old church. Unfortunately the building was locked but I took this picture of St Leonard's from its snowy churchyard:-
 And then as I headed for Fere Mere - the village pond, I came across this little track. Conveniently, sunlight was spotlighting the rather unique wooden street sign:-
It was time to set off out of the village, across snowy fields and over ancient limestone walls - up to a long moorland track called Hutmoor Butts that used to connect the long abandoned Hutmoor Butts lead mine to the old Roman Road that links Buxton with Ashbbourne.

It was a mile to the main road and the going was hard with small snowdrifts amassing in the lee of the limestone walls. In one field a bewildered herd of young bullocks stood shivering, wondering where their grass had gone.
Twenty minutes later I approached an old farm hidden in a hollow. Its name was quite magical - The Whim. And close to The Whim a small flock of sheep thought that I was a farmer bringing them a welcome bag of food supplement. Instead of running away from me they ran towards me till I felt like the pied piper of sheep, leading them across their snowy pasture. The bolder ewes attempted to nuzzle my thighs and I had the feeling that if I fell over in the snow I myself would become sheep food.
Two and a half hours after setting off I was back in Monyash. My boots were rejected in favour of shoes and I entered "The Bull's Head" where a log fire was roaring. Though it was now well past the end of food serving time, the landlady agreed to make me a sandwich and I also ordered a coffee. The sandwich seemed rather pricey at £6.75 but when it arrived I was delighted because it was accompanied by a substantial and tasty salad with potato crisps. 

I fell into conversation with a lone woman who had walked six miles from Bakewell and would be walking back as soon as she had finished her leisurely lunch. Co-incidentally, she told me that her grandparents had lived at The Whim and she remembered the harshness of their simple farming life there. No electricity. An open fire with a kitchen range. No running water and an outside toilet with a cesspit. She was grateful to have witnessed the tail end of that basic yet very contented lifestyle.
"The Bull's Head" in Monyash