27 June 2017


Long time visitors to this blog may recall that one of my hobbies is submitting photographs to the geograph project. This hobby pleases me because it involves mapping, history, curiosity, walking and of course photography. It's all about seeing the British Isles through pictures.

Every week around fifty photos from the previous week's submissions are selected for the "picture of the week" shortlist. Then the last winner picks his or her favourite image as the new winner. In a normal week between three and five thousand pictures are uploaded onto geograph so to bag a winner is a great achievement.

Of course all of that was a virtual drumroll leading to the proud announcement that I am the Week 24 winner! And here is the picture that did it:-
It's the Brent Delta oil rig - now moved from The North Sea to the coast of County Durham where it will be dismantled. Shirley and I spotted it as we were driving from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool a fortnight ago. When I saw it looming from the landscape I just had to pull over. It was a grey afternoon and perhaps that greyness added to the drama of the scene. The oil rig may have looked less significant or threatening on a sunny blue sky day.

Now I wait for the Week 25 shortlist and the opportunity to wield some power. I shall be the Simon Cowell of the geograph community.

26 June 2017


Heading to Over Owler Tor
Twas Saturday night and Shirley was off to a salmon and strawberry "do" for practice nurses. I jumped in the car and headed west for an hour long  ramble up to the rocks of Over Owler Tor from where there are good views down The Hope Valley. There was nobody else around.

A bank of dramatic grey clouds were threatening from beyond Mam Tor. I sensed the possibility of rain so headed back to the car through budding heather and down to a track that would have once been trodden by stone workers. In the event, the rain stayed away.
Over Owler Tor
Back in Sheffield there was no salmon and no strawberries for me. Instead, I pulled up outside Neptune's for mini fish and chips with a carton of mushy peas. Not bad value at only £2.50 (US $3.20). Then I watched some of the BBC's superb live coverage from Glastonbury before heading to the pub for another infusion of Tetley's bitter.

Oh, it's a hard life. And okay I admit that this blogpost is just an excuse for sharing some more photographs.
View to Hope Cement Works
Millstone outcrop near Over Owler Tor

25 June 2017


A few weeks ago I bought a very big sheet of drawing paper. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it and on Friday morning I got started after putting "Unhalfbricking" by Fairport Convention on the CD player.

Most of my life I have been doodling little cartoons of people's faces. As a schoolboy, when I was bored in lessons - which was pretty often - I would be drawing little faces in my rough book. It was the same at university in lectures and the same in teachers' meetings over thirty five years.

Very often the doodling has helped me to concentrate more intensely. Part of my brain  works almost unconsciously on the doodling, allowing a different part of the brain to focus more fully on the main subject matter of the hour. Doodling may give the appearance of  disengagement but for some people it can be a creative tool which aids concentration. Different minds approach things in different ways.
Anyway, I have the big sheet of paper. It is going to consist of many different faces. In fact, it is going to be a football crowd. Every figure will be wearing a football scarf. Later I shall colour in the football scarves. All will be black and amber. I haven't decided if there will be any more colour washed into the figures yet. We'll see.

It is going to take a long time to do. An hour here and an hour there when I am in the mood - slowly adding to the crowd till they are all done.

I would like to send thanks to my friend Mick. I shared this idea with him three or four years back and frequently he has nudged me, asking, "Have you got started yet?" Without that nudging it might have just remained as a crazy idea, never fulfilled. I know he sometimes drops by this blog without leaving any comments so once again - if you are reading this -  thanks Mick!

There's a long way to go but finally I have got started. Roll on 2018!

24 June 2017


My late brother's daughter Katie still resides on the west coast of Ireland. Like  her father, Katie loves to make music. As well as possessing a fine singing voice, she plays whistles, flutes and pipes with skill and feeling.

Recently, she made a studio recording of a song by Finbar Furey. He is well-known in traditional Irish music circles. The song is called "I Remember You Singing This Song" and when I first heard it I was blown away. Katie sings it so perfectly in my view. She is now entering middle-age and so brings her experience of life to this song. It's there in every phrase and every note. Please see what you think:-
The song is available on Apple i-tunes. Go here.

23 June 2017


I know that several old codgers visit this blog. Not all of them are as adept at computer usage as young whippersnappers like me. In an effort to boost computer literacy in the blogosphere, I am considering producing a series of instructional articles. This post is designed to simply test the market as it were. A feasibility study.

Okay. Now my computer platform was kindly designed by dwarves and nerds under the kindly guidance of billionaire William Gates in Seattle USA. Currently, I use Windows 10 but what I am about to tell you is also relevant to earlier versions of Windows. My apologies to members of the mysterious Apple Clan who may wish to exit this post immediately. Perhaps go and cut your toenails instead or bake an apple pie. It's likely that Apple have a similar facility.

Look to the top righthand corner of your Windows page. Go to the end of the top bar just below the little cross. You should see this or something like it:-
Now those three dots are not decorative. Click on them and a dropdown menu will appear. It should look like this:-
Halfway down  the list you will see the word "Find..". Click on it and a little search box should appear. It's like this:-
I typed in the word "banana". Afterwards, quite faintly you can see this written - "0 of 0". That means that on the page of writing I had open at the time, the word "banana" was not present.

Then I accessed a BBC News article about the Duke of Edinburgh's most recent hospital visit. This time I put the word "hospital" in the search box:-

Now in the bat of an eyelid, the search box is telling me  that the word "hospital" is used seven times in the article. Here's the beginning of the news item. Helpfully, the computer has highlighted all occurrences of the word "hospital":-
Do you get it?

This "Find" facility can be very useful in lots of situations. An example might be when you have accessed a long page of writing on the internet and you are looking for someone's name in the text. Another example might be that you yourself have produced a lengthy document and you are looking for a reference to say "2014" or "accident". You don't have to plough through the whole document as "Find" will do that for you.

Here endeth the lesson. You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher... err, something like that anyway. 

22 June 2017


In times when the news is bad, it's nice to think of nice things. Be it the bonfire of a block of flats, the suicide of a sixteen year old girl, the stupidity of a hapless prime minister or the cowardice of urban terrorists - it's easy to get sick and tired of all the bad stuff. Better to think of nice things.

So I am going back to the many photographs I snapped last week up there on the North Yorkshire coast in order to find a bunch of random pictures to share with you. Nice pictures of nice things untainted by the bad stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I keep on tuning into the news. Invariably, it just fills us with despair.
Me with my family
Seagull at Redcar
England Coastal Path
On Saltburn Pier
Purple orchids on Easby Moor
Saltburn Pier

21 June 2017


Shirley has lots of cousins. They mostly reside in north Lincolnshire and north Nottinghamshire, staying close to their agricultural origins. One of her cousins had four children but in the early hours of yesterday morning that number was reduced to three. Her sixteen year old daughter had disappeared into nearby woods where she hanged herself from a tree.

She was found at daybreak. Some people from the village had been combing the area with several police officers right through the night but it was all to little avail. Maisie was dead. On the Nottinghamshire Police Facebook page, a school friend wrote this:-

You left us far too early Maisie, you had so much more to give and you will 
be so sorely missed. What is our loss is God's gain. Fly high sweetheart, 
I hope you are now at peace.

To die like that at the age of sixteen - it is of course so very tragic. Those left behind will be torturing themselves with thoughts about what they might have done and why they didn't notice the signs that were flashing - pointing to suicide.

She was in the middle of important exams and rumour has it that she was sometimes the victim of bullies but who knows what was going on her head as she tied that rope to the overhanging branch and slid the noose over her head? What a terrible, terrible waste.

I believe that everybody contemplates suicide at some point in their lives. I know that I did when I was a teenager but thankfully most of us successfully banish those terminal thoughts from our minds, climb out of the darkness of our self-pity and seek happiness once more. It's like a learning phase. You weigh things up. You realise that life is a much better option than death. 

But now it's too late for Maisie. She's lying in a mortuary awaiting her funeral and the tears that will fall in puddles and the flowers and the failure to understand. Kisses and embraces. "Sorry for your loss". A wreath from the school. Biblical verses from the vicar. "The Lord's My Shepherd". Shiny black cars. Grim faces. A buffet in the village hall. Tea cups and sausage rolls.

She squandered the precious gift of life but I guess that it was her right to do so. It's only three weeks since we saw her at an afternoon family birthday party in Pudsey near Leeds. She was holding her big sister's new baby lovingly and swaying to the music.

Such tragic news to wake up to this morning. My heart is broken for her family 
and friends. Such a lovely young girl. Rest in peace sweetheart -
you will be greatly missed by many xxx