23 January 2017


Earlier today, while walking in the post-industrial environs of Staveley, North East Derbyshire, I spotted this graffiti on a gateway:-
"I Will Always Love You" is not just the title of  Dolly Parton's great song, it is also a line that is communicated by many people at some stage in their life. The words might be written or spoken but in this instance they appear in silver-white writing on a gate that leads to a land reclamation project at Staveley Town Basin - once an important staging post on the old Chesterfield Canal.

Having closely witnessed the handwriting habits and styles of thousands of teenagers, I would say that this particular declaration was made by a teenage girl aged between thirteen and sixteen. Was she with the object of her affections when she scrawled the message or did she expect him/her to see it when walking along that same path?

In Dolly Parton's case, the sentiments contained in "I Will Always Love You" related to her breaking up with her lover and professional partner Porter Wagoner. Singing those five words back in 1973 was a way of saying goodbye. And I think that is rather sad. "I will always love you" should not be goodbye words  but an affirmative declaration filled with hope for the future.

22 January 2017


Sunlight on Agden Reservoir
A lazy Sunday morning and a lazy blogpost. All I'm going to do is is share some more pictures from my Friday walk in the parish of Bradfield. It was a brief interlude in the greyness which is back again this morning even though the pesky weather forecasters predicted sunshine.
On the edge of Low Bradfield I came across this disused building. I thought it was an old barn but then I spotted an early nineteenth century plaque above one of the doors. It reads like this "1826/ Rebuilt at the Curate's sole cost./Nemo soli sibi natus". Translated, the Latin phrase means "Nobody is born alone". Why would such a plaque appear on a barn? I have been unable to solve this riddle. (Later - see update below)
 Below, a bridge takes Smallfield Lane over the point where Rocher End Brook  meets the reservoir.
 Above, a bright contrail is reflected on the surface of the reservoir which, because of the wooded hillside to the west is now shrouded in shadow.
 Above, another view of Boot's Folly which dates from 1927. It was built under the instructions of the landowner to keep his men in gainful employment during The Great Depression. Below, a ruined farm building near Low Bradfield - especially for Meike in Ludwigsburg, Germany. In fact, I hereby name it The Meike Building...
UPDATE re. the plaque at Bradfield
I wrote to the secretary of The Bradfield Historical Society and he kindly e-mailed me back...
"The inscription in Latin and it is my understanding that it goes back to the time before there was a Rector at Bradfield St. Nicholas and a Curate would come either from Hathersage or Ecclesfield and was put up for the night or couple of days at Fair House Farm and in recompense for his stay/keep at the farm gave money for the building of the barn at his own expense"

21 January 2017


Up here in Yorkshire, the weather has been pretty dismal most of the week. Occasionally, we get winter weeks like this when our world is blanketed by  a thick, unbroken layer of cloud. Above it aeroplanes will no doubt be flying in bright sunshine but down below we exist in a murky half'-light.

When I pulled back the curtains yesterday morning, it was another grey day. That is what the weather forecasters had predicted so the gloominess was no surprise. I had an idea for a poem and once downstairs with this laptop switched on, I began to compose it. Here it is:-
Have you ever heard of  Sod's Law? As I was honing these lines, an unfamiliar  brightness appeared in the January sky and through our bay window I even spotted a small patch of blue. The meteorological people had got it wrong! The grey days were at last giving way to light.and colour.

Standing in the shower, I contemplated a country walk - not too far away from home. Ten minutes later I was on my way to the parish of Bradfield for a sunny walk round Agden Reservoir and it was quite delightful to be out and about once more... walking in the light.
A view of Boot's Folly
St Nicholas's Church, High Bradfield

20 January 2017


An old wooden clock and a red mug. This was the challenge I faced at my second evening class on Thursday night. It wasn't easy. I had to keep looking. The tutor, John, kept floating around the room distributing positive remarks. In the end, I was fairly happy with the final product but these classes are not about the production of masterpieces, they are about learning, honing techniques and simply getting better.

Before next week's class, I plan to do a little homework - using a photograph I have taken as the basis for a new watercolour. A good way to use a spare couple of hours.

19 January 2017


One of the downsides of internet surfing is advertising. Some legitimate sites are framed in advertisements and it is easy to click on them accidentally. They crowd around some pages like traps for the unwary.

Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a cunning new phenomenon. You are tempted to click by a small photo with an enticing invitation or question such as "World's Best Beach" or "Which Hollywood star lost fifty pounds in six months?" Then you find yourself having to click again and again in order to get to the information you were promised. There's always a "Next" button.

You might have to plough through twenty build-up pages to reach what you were after, wasting five or ten minutes of your life. As you move through the pages you notice that there are plenty of ads. on view. This method of drawing internet users in and getting them to tarry, moving through the linked pages, is surely just a cunning means of securing advertising revenue.
For innocent visitors, it is very frustrating. We don't want to tarry. We want to get to the world's best beach or that Hollywood star straight away.  We don't want to be played like gullible fools.

Another thing we notice is the tracking that occurs through hidden "cookies". For example, a couple of nights ago I was looking at accommodation in Southend-on-Sea. Then when I went into my hotmail account I was confronted with holiday apartment and hotel ads for yes, you guessed it, Southend-on-Sea. Clearly, this was not a coincidence.

The internet is a magical phenomenon. Blogging with people from around the world is part of that magic. But where there is ying there is also yang and increasingly cunning methods of advertising are, in my view, a big downside of internet use. These intrusive ads irritate, annoy and threaten to spoil our experience of the worldwide web showing blatant disrespect for internet users. In an ideal world, methods of internet advertising would be monitored and controlled by independent authorities. Instead, the advertisers seem to have free rein to employ whatever methods they wish.

18 January 2017


After leaving university, I started teaching English in South Yorkshire. Thirty two years later I was an assistant headteacher but still head of the  English department. It was at this stage that I opted for early retirement. After all, almost without me noticing, I had become the oldest teacher in the school.

As what they called a "middle manager", there were always so many things to remember. At first, I used a desk diary as an aide memoire. That was okay when I was at my desk but I often found  there were things to jot down when I was away from my classroom. Consequently, for the last nineteen years of my illustrious teaching career I opted for pocket diaries instead. Where ever I was, the diary would be in the inner pocket of my jacket.

Each summer these pocket diaries were filed away in our old bureau desk at home. And there they sat - all in a line and never reopened. I wish that the entries within had been journalistic, recording what had happened each day with associated reflections but they were not that kind of diary.

Instead they contained swiftly written notes and reminders connected with teaching and department management. Dates of meetings - pastoral, department, heads of department, whole school staff meetings and appointments with parents, advisers, book sales people, the police, educational psychologists and social workers. Names of pupils caught fighting behind the tennis courts. Internal exam dates. External exam dates. Phone numbers. Library visits and planned staff absences. Deadline dates for assessments and work experience visits. And there were notes connected with my own teaching groups - homework issues, absences, merit awards etc..
From April 1991
I guess that someone somewhere, perhaps in an ivory tower, might have valued these diaries as historical evidence of a secondary school teacher's lot in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries but when I spotted them earlier this week I just thought it was time they went. Sometimes you need to be ruthless. You can't hang on to everything so  at last  I have consigned them to the recycling bin.

But before ditching them I took the accompanying photographs to remind me of that other life I lived. At the time, it frequently seemed that there was nothing more important in the world than that last school with its 900 pupils and the things that happened in it but really we were like little fish in a small aquarium. There was of course an infinitely bigger and more significant world beyond that glass tank.

17 January 2017


"La La Land"
directed by Damien Chazelle

You know how it is. You go to watch a film with someone and afterwards when you have negotiated your way past the other cinemagoers, one of you says, "What did you think?" Well I went to see the much-acclaimed "La La Land" on Sunday with Mrs Pudding and it turns out she had been surprisingly underwhelmed by  the spectacle while I thought it was delightful with beautiful imagery and a fluidity both in the storyline and the camera work.

"La La Land" sounds like it might be the place where we are all currently living but up there on the screen it was a beautiful, light-hearted place of song and dance, a place where dreams can come true and where there are many subtle nods to the history of Hollywood and its musicals.

At its centre there's Mia played by Emma Stone and Sebastian played by Ryan Gosling. She is a wannabe film actress and screenwriter while he is a frustrated jazz pianist. Their lives collide and they find love. It's a familiar story.

The Los Angeles background to events is a clean and underpopulated place of happiness and hope. No down and outs pushing trolleys, no smog hanging over the city like  a quilt - but you wouldn't want that. It's not that kind of film. This is a joyous fantasy.

A  musical thread runs through the show, "City of stars, are you shining just for me?". It kept echoing, linking the developing plot as Mia and Sebastian find themselves in a dramatic battle between ambition and the heart.

There were so many lovely images. Our two stars dance amidst the stars and upon stars reflected in water. They visit the famous Griffith Observatory which featured in, amongst other films, "Rebel Without A Cause". They see live jazz and the lights of Los Angeles twinkling in the valley below. Yes, it's quite, quite lovely. A beautiful escape from this other "la la land" of Trump and Brexit and drowning refugees. At least that is what I thought.