21 June 2018

Connection

I was touched by most of the comments upon yesterday's blogpost - "Sometimes". People can be so nice, so thoughtful.

One comment stood out for me. It came from Bonnie in Missouri, USA. She articulated one of the best and most powerful features of blogging - seeing it as a vehicle for better understanding between nations and individuals. When we communicate through blogging we by-pass official channels of international  discourse. We are ordinary citizens just getting along and learning about each other. That's surely a very good thing and a little anarchic too.

Bonnie said:-

"You find a lot in blogs today but for me I most appreciate the opportunities they give us all. There is so much in this world today to be concerned about but I feel if only we could all reach out to one another on a personal level as we see done in blogs that possibly we could cross some of the barriers that are put in front of us today. Blogs bring us together across the world and show us that no matter where we live or what we believe we are all more alike than different."

Of course there are many specific blog categories out there producing blogs that are purely informational or instructional. Blogs about cooking, cars or craftwork. Blogs about astronomy, astrology or antiques. Such blogs have their place but they are very different from the general blogs that I and no doubt Bonnie prefer - blogs in which people reveal themselves and reflect on the circumstances of their lives. 

20 June 2018

Sometimes

Sometimes I  switch this laptop on ready to make a blogpost and then I realise that I haven't mentally earmarked a subject to blog about. I have nothing to say.

Next Monday, it will be thirteen years since the birth of "Yorkshire Pudding". Over the years I have covered a lot of ground. Country walks and holidays, film and book reviews, flights of fancy and world events, memories and family matters, poetry and paintings... etcetera... etcetera.

This blog has echoed my life. Like a best friend it has held my hand as we have stepped forward together through the passing years.

This particular post is blogpost number 2753. I hate to calculate the number of hours I have devoted to this pastime. Sometimes I think I should have used all that time and energy on something else such as the writing of fiction with a view to publication. Instead, I just kept tapping away. Blogging.

It has been a pleasurable and helpful outlet and it still delights me enormously that I have made so many contacts with visitors from around the world. This wasn't something I anticipated when I wrote my very first sentence on June 25th 2005 -  "So this is England in mid-summer."

So this is England in mid-summer. Sometimes I switch this laptop on ready to make a blogpost. In these early hours of another June morning I think I may have succeeded. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being part of this blogging journey.

19 June 2018

Pub

In the limestone country of the High Peak, the main road from Stoney Middleton soon brings you to the hamlet of Wardlow Mires. There is a very old pub there. It is called "The Three Stags' Heads Inn".

Nowadays it is only open to customers at weekends. I have driven or walked past it a hundred times or more but I had never been inside it until Sunday afternoon.

I pushed open the old wooden door to find a roaring log fire burning in an old-fashioned kitchen range. Seven people were sitting in the small room on  a variety of seats and ahead of me was a small wooden bar with  three beer pumps on the counter. Two bright-eyed whippets and a wire-haired Jack Russell  were also present.

I ordered half a pint of "Daily Bread" and turned to observe my fellow customers more closely.  They clearly knew each other and seemed a little surprised that a stranger had entered their midst.

An old man with long white hair and an unkempt white beard had a copy of "The Sunday Times" open on his lap. He was siting in an ancient Windsor chair with spindles. Across from him was another bearded man in a black T-shirt. These words were printed on the front of it - "Not Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting". Sitting next to him was his missus in a red anorak. 

A ruddy-faced local man was  comfortably settled into  his corner seat and on the window seat was the owner of the Jack Russell. His thin-haired companion tried to convince me that the dog owner was Ronan Keating of Boyzone fame but it was just a joke. 

There was a second room on the other side of the fire, A few more customers were drinking in there and there were two stuffed foxes. This was the very opposite of a designer pub. The yard thick walls were painted dark green and there were old pictures of peakland scenes upon the walls.
Returning to the first room, there was a curious stuffed hare in the window. He was on his hind legs and holding a small rifle. Behind the ruddy-faced man in that dark corner there was a glass case containing a mummified cat. I was informed that it had been discovered in a wall cavity during  repair work in Victorian times. It is believed that the cat had been placed in the wall to ward off evil spirits when the pub was built at the start of the seventeenth century.

I was only inside "The Three Stags' Heads Inn" for ten minutes but in that short time I had spoken to everyone in the bar room and learnt a good deal about the history of the  pub. It would have been nice to buy another beer and blend in with the locals, whiling away the rest of the afternoon but I had to get back to the wedding venue search party.
The mummified cat

18 June 2018

Venues

Hargate Hall - just one of the wedding venues we visited. There's Clint on the left.
This weekend we were looking at possible wedding venues foe Frances and Stew. We visited ten locations and connected with every one there were both pluses and minuses.

At one end of the spectrum there was a luxurious country hotel with magnificent views. The "package" on offer was complete so that the happy couple would have been relieved of all wedding reception planning concerns. It would have all been done for them.

At the other end of the spectrum there was a rather dog-eared community work centre. It looked pretty good on the website with a silver Rolls Royce motor car parked outside the Georgian building but the reality was rather different.

Seeing the different venues with their pros and cons and costings helped Frances and Stew visualise the kind of wedding celebrations they would really like.

They plan to get married in a church - partly out of respect for Stew's father who is a vicar in The Church of England. Then they want the reception to have a personalised, laid back quality with accommodation on site. We were worried about the prospect of renting a marquee, given both the cost of  it and anxiety about the vagaries of our weather.

We have a coarse expression in the north of England  - "taking the piss". It is often applied in situations where companies or individuals seek to exploit or "rip off" their prey. In the world of wedding venues it appears that "taking the piss" is widespread.

For example, at one venue they said they charged £16 per bottle "corkage" if the happy couple wished to provide their own wine! At other venues the "corkage" ranged from £6 per bottle to £12. What an unmitigated rip off! Clearly a device designed to discourage families from providing their own wine and instead pay over the odds for the venue's own wine bottles.

At one of the venues they talked about evening food provision long after the wedding breakfast. The cost of one roast pork sandwich would have been £21 ($28 US). With a hundred wedding guests the roast pork sandwich bill alone would have been £2100. Now that really is "taking the piss".

Anyway, I learnt many things I did not know about wedding venues - a whole new world to me. When Shirley and I got married in 1981 it was all so much more simple. There were hardly any decisions to be made. Here's the church. Here's the pub. Here's the buffet menu. Here's the bill. It was just like that. Now it's very different.

Thankfully, in the end, the happy couple returned to London having reserved a place in The Peak District. Hopefully, all will be well at this chosen venue in late August of next year and hopefully the father of the bride will still be around to make a coherent, funny and heartfelt speech.

17 June 2018

Running

When I was a lad nobody went running or jogging. There were no training shoes and no one had ever heard of  sports brands like "Adidas", "Nike" or "Reebok". If such companies did exist we had never heard of them and nobody sprinted past in day-glo coloured lycra.

However, most secondary schools organised cross country runs that took place on bitterly cold mornings in late autumn. On our feet we wore football boots or canvas shoes that were known as plimsolls or sandshoes. They were especially water absorbent.

I detested cross country runs even though I was a keen rugby player. As  a rugby wing forward or hooker, the running was all about short bursts followed by little rests - not arduous and continuous forays through mud past leafless hawthorn hedgerows up around The Black Mill on Beverley Westwood. My lungs threatened to  burst through my rib cage. It was torture.

As a teenage schoolboy I had to travel by bus into Hull or Beverley every morning. Many of those mornings saw me sprinting two hundred yards down to the village  bus stop. There was never any time to spare. Nowadays I would never run for a bus. Apart from anything else I would be anxious about damaging my troublesome right knee and returning to square one in The Game of Pain.

No. I don't run anywhere these days. I just plod around like an Asian elephant upon a jungle track. But I notice so many runners around me - flashing by in the park or overtaking me on country lanes. There are runners everywhere. It's like an epidemic of running. Tight outfits, ear phones, plastic water bottles, face-hugging sun glasses and electronic wrist monitors that they stop to check out every mile or so.

Somewhat grudgingly, I guess I should say it's a very good thing. More people keeping their bodies in shape, keeping their hearts pounding, burning off extra calories. It's surely better than watching "Love Island" on the television while munching slices of pizza. However, if the running fashion had been around in my younger days, I very much doubt that I would have subscribed. Orange lycra simply does not suit me.

16 June 2018

Heroes

There's too much hero worshipping in this world. Often I have eschewed the very idea of heroes. It's the man or the woman in the street that I admire the most - decent people who forge decent lives in obscurity - pay bills, put food on the table, get up and go to work day after day after day. They are the real heroes, fighting the good fight.

Nonetheless, there are a few well-known people that I genuinely admire for different reasons. Dead heroes of mine include Captain James Cook, the Yorkshire mariner and explorer and Emily Bronte the Yorkshire writer who died far too young in 1848 at the tender age of thirty. Who knows what she would have achieved if she had lived a ,long and healthy life?

My living heroes include Bob Dylan, David Hockney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Amy Goodman  and Chris Packham.
Top - Chris Packham, Bob Dylan, Amy Goodman
Middle - Cristiano Ronaldo, Emily Bronte
Bottom - James Cook, David Hockney
I once saw the words "Dylan is God" written on a lavatory wall and I am inclined to agree with that summary. As an artist Yorkshire-born Hockney has never stopped growing, innovating, experimenting  and he doesn't give a fig about what critics might say for he is true to his Art.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal is simply the greatest ever footballer and I thought this long before he scored his hat trick against Spain in The World Cup yesterday evening. He is blessed with natural talent and the kind of self-belief that borders on pure arrogance.

Amy Goodman is the heart and soul of "Democracy Now" an American  news organisation that  illuminates social and political issues which other news organisations tend to blot out for all manner of reasons. She is dignified and persistent in her mission - pushing for justice and better understanding day after day.

Finally, there's Chris Packham - an English writer and TV broadcaster who specialises in programmes about wildlife - especially birds. His passion is infectious and he has fought many battles against the forces that threaten wildlife. He was even arrested in Malta for protesting about men who shoot precious migrating birds for no good reason in the name of sport.

Who are your well-known heroes and why?

15 June 2018

Victory

Letter to Haringey Council in London
May 2nd 2018

Re, PCN Number HP85049555
Dear Sir/Madam,
On Thursday April 19th, my wife and I drove down to Wood Green and parked close to our daughter’s flat. She moved into Disraeli Avenue just last month. A few days before our visit she had posted us a parking permit.
She was at work when we arrived and the idea was that we would park our car and then travel into the centre of London by tube in order to attend a family event in Borough  Market
Believing that the permit she had sent us would cover our parking right up to 6.30pm I was startled to note that it was in fact a two hour permit and not an all day permit. Exasperated, my wife and I were talking about the matter when another motorist appeared having overheard some of our conversation.
Very kindly – or so we thought – he offered us his own all day permit which I think he must have used earlier that day. It was such a relief and we left this permit on our dashboard before heading to Wood Green underground station.
We were astonished when, that night,  we discovered a parking ticket on our windscreen. Straight away I deduced that I should not have accepted the other motorist’s kind offer
I am enclosing a letter written by my daughter confirming that we were visiting her – a resident of  Disraeli Avenue.
I hope you will be able to show some compassion and in this instance, having heard about the circumstances consider waiving the parking fine. Up here in Sheffield all parking permits for visitors are for a full day and never just an hour or two hours. That factor also partly explains our mistake.
Yours sincerely,

Yorkshire Pudding
_________________________________________________

Letter from Haringey Council received yesterday morning

Consequently I do not have to pay the threatened £110 pound fine. Hurrah! And I can place Haringey Council's response in my "V for Victory" files - alongside successes achieved in battles with Georgia State Police (Monroe County), Florida State Police (Franklin County), New Zealand Police (Greymouth) and the  Xercise-4-Less gym in Sheffield. I put all of these victories down to the power of the written word. A well-composed letter can still speak powerfully in one's defence.