20 October 2019

Politics

Johnson portrayed as a glove puppet on this amazing float
On Saturday, I caught the 7.37am train down to London. In my backpack I had a large poster that I had made on Friday evening. It read "44 MILLION PEOPLE DID NOT VOTE TO LEAVE".

Sitting across the aisle from me there was someone I recognised. It was our local Member of Parliament, a ginger fellow called Jared O'Mara. By the time our train reached Chesterfield, I had plucked up enough courage to talk to  him.

Mr O'Mara has been a controversial and rather hopeless M.P.. As a traditional Labour supporter, I feel quite angry that Labour's National Executive put him forward as the party's candidate for Sheffield Hallam back in 2017. I understand that they never imagined that he would actually win the seat - ousting Nick Clegg, the national leader of The Liberal Democrats.
I thought that this fellow might be Steve Reed
Last year, O'Mara was outed for historical and unsavoury abuse through social media. He brought shame upon the local Labour party and then he left Labour to continue in parliament as an independent M.P.. His ability to properly represent his constituents and deal effectively with their issues deserves a mark of zero.

However, I am an open-minded bloke and I know that what you hear about people through media channels will often be at odds with reality. O'Mara told me that he was heading for The House of Commons to play his part in defeating the prime minister's recently achieved "deal" with The European Union. I told him that I would be joining The People's March for a second referendum and that I had voted for him in the last election.

I told him bluntly that he had let people like me down and that in my opinion he should have done the right thing and resigned his seat by now. I said that I did not vote for an "Independent". O'Mara became defensive but he had turned red and there were tears in his eyes. He said that he had never intended to let anybody down and asked me if I knew that he had been suffering from mental health issues? 
Senior Labour MP Emily Thornberry on big screen in Parliament Square
Though the train was not full at this point, I noticed that some other passengers were listening in so I decided to cut the discussion short and returned to my current novel. I helped him from the train when we reached St Pancras Station and said, "Make sure you vote against Johnson and his cronies!" Wittily, O'Mara retorted, "Don't worry pal! We'll get Boris done! Enjoy your march!"

I headed for Marble Arch where I joined a million others as we marched along to parliament. seeking a second referendum to bring an end to this Brexit nightmare.  Decades had passed by since I last joined a political demonstration. I held my poster up high and added my voice to the chants and spent four hours standing in Parliament Square  as Boris Johnson was again defeated inside The House of Commons.

18 October 2019

Nine

Cottam Power Station looms in the distance
Nine miles of tramping along through Nottinghamshire countryside. That was how I spent a good deal of yesterday. Some of the fields were soggy but I have known much worse. No muddy quagmires to contend with.

Clint decided to come to rest in the village of East Drayton, next to the now deceased "Bluebell Inn". It is so sad to witness the death of any village pub. Once "The Bluebell" would have been a home from home - a place to meet friends or to seek refreshment after a hard day at work. A place of darts and dominoes, pub quizzes and laughter - the secular heart of any sizable village. Far too many village pubs have died in recent years. It is a quiet national tragedy.
Unnamed fungi in the hollow of a tree near Hawksley Farm
From East Drayton I headed for Askham. My path was neither well-trodden nor well-signposted and at one key point there was no sign whatever of a path that was clearly marked on my map. It caused an irritating detour but at least I found an old wooden footbridge over the stream I needed to cross.
St Nicholas's Church, Askham
From Askham to Upton and thence to Headon. All four of the villages on my walk were peaceful and seemingly quite affluent. I entered three medieval churches and in one of them found a little kitchen in which I was able to quench my thirst with a drink of apple and blackcurrant cordial.
Medieval carving in St Peter's Church, Headon
The walk began in glorious sunshine under a sky that was bluer than a robin's egg. I didn't bother with my fleece jacket. However, after two hours had passed, grey cumulo-nimbus clouds appeared in the heavens and I feared a soaking but fortunately the rain never transpired.

"You took yer bloody time!" said Clint when my circle was complete. "I have been bored stiff just sitting here!"

"Never mind old boy - we are homeward bound now," I sniggered, turning the ignition key.
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P.S. I am heading down to London tomorrow to join The People's March for a second referendum to end Britain's Brexit nightmare. Back Sunday evening if the cops don't apprehend me.

Cottage in East Drayton

16 October 2019

Abstraction

Tuesday was almost as grey and uninviting as Monday. I didn't want a second housebound day so I caught a bus into the city centre to visit The Graves Gallery on top of The Central Library.

Apart from checking out current exhibits, I knew there was going to be a free talk at 1pm - all about the abstract artist John Hoyland who was born and raised in Sheffield.

I have always been drawn to art - if you will pardon that expression - and I consider myself to be quite open-minded about artistic fayre. However, I must admit that I have often been totally unimpressed by abstract canvases. Sometimes I think this is a failing in me. Perhaps I am blinkered or unenlightened but I simply cannot help what I feel.
Before the talk, I saw a wonderful, quirky tapestry created by Grayson Perry in 2014. In a light-hearted manner, it seeks to capture what it means to be British. It is titled "Comfort Blanket" and I was of course pleased to find "Yorkshire Pudding" woven in there though I could not find "The Beatles".

The talk was by a bearded academic in a stripey woollen sweater. He mainly spoke about the differences between a canvas that Hoyland created in 1969 and another that he finished before his death in 2011. I could see depth and interest in the newer picture but the earlier one left me stone cold - just big blocks of colour. What possible merit could there be in that? It reminded me of similar canvases by the American abstract painter - Mark Rothko.

It was all two hours well spent and afterwards I went to the indoor Moor Market for a sausage and tomato sandwich and a mug of tea before visiting the T.J.Hughes department store to buy a new shirt. Then I rode back home on the Number 82 bus. Living on the edge.
Memories of Rain by John Hoyland (14.4.09)

15 October 2019

Hags

Recently, I showed visitors some holey stones that I had found on the North Yorkshire coast between Whitby and Sandsend. Helpfully, Lily Cedar from Canada informed us that such stones are sometimes called hags or hag stones. She herself had gathered a few when visiting Winchelsea on England's south coast. I must admit that I was previously unaware of  the term.
Further research told me that they may also be called adder stones. It seems that stones with holes in were much prized by ancient cultures and were often endowed with mystical qualities. For example, they might be used to ward off evil spirits.

The "Magick" website says this: "Hag Stones can be any type of stone as long as they possess a natural hole through it and if in your possession, should be considered a sacred object."

The website goes on to claim: "Hag stones are said to have many uses. They have been used by witches worldwide for centuries in both rituals and spell work. They also have been used, ironically, as a toll to counteract a witch’s magic. Legend has it that they can be used to ward off the dead, curses, sickness and nightmares."

The hag stones shown in the photographs that accompany this blogpost were found on Orford Ness in Suffolk last year as Shirley and I walked south of the old lighthouse.

As I recall it was a very happy day. The sun shone and the brambles we picked while walking  on the ness were ripe and sweet. I even wrote a song that was inspired by that strange place and the nearby village of Orford. Some of you may remember it but if not, here's a link back.

I don't believe in ghosts or evil spirits or magic spells or curses so the hag stones I collected on Orford Ness  are just souvenirs of that place  and they remind me that one stormy day in the not too distant future Orford Lighthouse will collapse into The North Sea  and will then enter the realm of memory.

14 October 2019

Novel

This is Gillian Flynn from Kansas City, Missouri. She is forty eight years old . She isn't a prolific writer but her three novels thus far have been bestsellers . She takes her time and is naturally drawn to the thriller genre.

Her writing is accessible and contemporary. Her themes are conscientiously researched in order to inform the authenticity of her fiction. Gillian Flynn studied journalism at university and indeed her working career began in that field - with a focus on police reporting.

I read "Gone Girl" some time ago and yesterday I finished "Dark Places".

It's about the disturbing murder of a farming family.  We see much of  what happened through the eyes of a child who survived - Libby Day. But she is as unclear about the circumstances of the deaths as the reader is. Only as the novel nears its conclusion are we certain about who was responsible and why.

This isn't brain food or meritorious Literature with a big "L" but it is delightfully readable. In fact, on Friday, I carried the novel in my pocket up the track to Stanage Pole where I sat and read a couple of chapters and on Saturday evening I read another couple of chapters riding on  a public bus into the city centre. It's that kind of book.

12 October 2019

Video

Someone sent us a video clip. The short film was taken in Tideswell, Derbyshire on August 24th as Frances and Stew emerged from the church. I look at it now and it seems quite far away - like a piece of  history - though it was only seven weeks ago. That day - it was magical - like a fairytale. The sun shone and all was well with the world. It was one of the best and proudest days of my life. If you click in the bottom right hand corner you can make the video "full screen".

Tommy

Once upon a time there was a tomato called Tommy. He grew up on a tomato vine. in a little greenhouse in Sheffield and he had a nose.

None of the other tomatoes had noses. Because of this they sneered at Tommy and called him cruel names like Pinocchio and Gerard Depardieu. Mostly they just called him Mr Nosey after the green Mister Man character created by Roger Hargreaves. 

Not being accepted by the other tomatoes made Tommy very sad. He needed to get away from the torment and besides he did not wish to end up in a salad or sliced and roasted upon a sizzling pizza. 

One evening in early autumn, when all the other tomatoes were sleeping, Tommy detached himself from the vine that had sustained him and crept out of the little greenhouse. He had no idea where he was going.

As Tommy did not have legs, he simply bounced along like a rubber ball. He bounced up the steps into the nearby house. Fortunately, the kitchen door  had been left slightly ajar. 

There was a big man in there. Tommy had previously spotted him mowing the lawn and grumbling to himself. The big man was making tomato soup. Couldn't he hear the screams of the tomatoes as he sliced them?  Tommy was horrified.

Fearing that he might end up in the saucepan with the other tomatoes, he ran for his life.

Just at that moment, the front door of the house opened and the big man's wife stepped over the threshold crying, "Honey! I'm home!"

Tommy grabbed his chance and bounced outside. It was dark but Tommy was not afraid. After all, he was free! Good God Almighty, free at last! He smiled to himself as he bounced along, past the parked cars and the wheelie bins and a prowling ginger cat called Arthur and a scraggy fox called Ferdinand.

No more the hot greenhouse and the bullying peer group! Tommy was free at last and he could make of his life whatever he wanted to in spite of his bulbous nose. And as he bounced down to Endcliffe Park he sang "Tommy Can You Hear Me?" " -  from the rock opera by The Who. It felt so good to be alive and free.

11 October 2019

Stones

In our house there are plenty of stones. They are souvenirs of places I or we have been and they were all free. Most of the stones were picked up on beaches but I also have stones from the summits of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - the tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales.

There's a stone from Maine and another from California, a stone from Iceland and another from Easter Island. Another from New Zealand. However, I am sorry to say that I cannot remember where many of the stones came from. Perhaps I should have labelled them as soon as I brought them home.

I don't just pick up any old stone and I never really plan to collect one. It just happens.

Stones are not made from plastic. They are perfectly natural. They have mostly been around since long before the time of the dinosaurs. Some of them came from the bottoms of primordial seas, some spurted from ancient volcanoes, some were carried by ice and some have been rubbed or shaped by the ocean over several millennia. These are invariably the sort of stones you will find on beaches all over the planet.































Last week, as I walked by The North Sea - along the beach from Whitby to Sandsend, I picked up the four stones that illustrate this post. I imagine that the holes were caused by pieces of grit that ground out tiny hollows before equally tiny pebbles continued that grinding process. The exact circularity of one or two of the holes is, I think, quite amazing.

Do you also have some souvenir stones?

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