29 September 2016


The beloved daughter got an emergency locksmith in to fit a new Yale lock (£115). The designer bag with the designer purse (circa £250) contained a ring from a friend in Leeds (£200). It was going to have a new ruby fitted. She cancelled all her cards straight away and her boss was able to loan her his last i-phone for free. So apart from the bitter memory of this robbery and the sick feeling of violation, she's moving on.

Financially, her boyfriend's loss was bigger - a brand new i-pad costing about £600.

Did you know that if you lose an i-phone, it is possible to track it down on a map? The beloved daughter did this and located her phone in a  block of flats two streets away but apparently the police were not interested. I guess the location was too imprecise. They could hardly go ransacking twenty apartments to find her phone.

Meanwhile in Bolton, Lancashire a greedy beast called Sam Allardyce crept out of his luxury home complaining of entrapment and that he was only "helping out a friend". He was ensnared by "The Daily Telegraph", his greed exposed for all to see. He was the manager of England's national football team for just two months, on a reported £3 million a year salary and yet old habits die hard. He wanted more and he still couldn't find it in himself to deliver a true, heartfelt apology to this football loving country. This will live with him till he is shovelled into his grave. It is obvious that "The Daily Telegraph" didn't target him randomly. They knew what this big-headed man was about. Not so big now are you Big Sam? More like Pig Sam...

Here in Blogworld, some of us bees are making honey. Regular bloggers like Earl Gray, Steve J. Reed MP, Meike, Tamborine Lee and Red Deer Red leave offerings for their fans quite frequently. But some bloggers have completely dried up or gone away. They may be under the illusion that this is a free world and they can do what they want. They can't. I still miss Daphne Franks, and Friday's Web, Brad the Gorilla and now Tom at "A Hippo on the Lawn". Even garrulous Helen from Brisbane is unproductive these days and old timer Adrian still hasn't sorted out his connectivity. Over in the leafy suburbs of Manchester-on-Irwell, Ian has returned from extinction to resurrect his "Shooting Parrots" blog. I love his witty and thoughtfully constructed "Sunday Round-Up" every week. Please check the last one out here. How come I am the only idiot who has so far left a comment? All that great work deserves many more visitors. STP! Save The Parrot!

In eastern Aleppo, a four year old child is trapped in the bombsite  rubble. Russian MIGs swoop overhead dropping their costly payloads. "It wasn't us! It wasn't us!" turnip-faced Russian spokesmen declare on behalf of Donald J. Putin. The four year old child's dusty right  arm reaches up through a little hole in the mess of concrete. For a moment, it stretches for the sun or perhaps for help but no one comes. Not even Bashar Hafez al-Assad to save his people so of course he doesn't see that thin arm fall in slow motion as the small child's subterranean heart stops beating. He never learnt the words to "All You Need Is Love".

28 September 2016


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Our lovely daughter Frances was twenty eight on Monday after a happy birthday weekend down in London. But last night (Tuesday) she phoned up in distress to say that she and her boyfriend had been robbed.

Some sneaky, lowlife scumbag got into her boyfriend's Bethnal Green apartment and grabbed his laptop from the bed plus Frances's handbag before scuttling away like a rat in a dank cellar.
The handbag contained her purse - including bank cards, driving licence and the £50 that her boss had kindly given her as a birthday bonus. Amongst other things, the cherished designer bag also contained a doctor's prescription note with her address upon it  and the keys to her own flat in Camberwell,

Of course she was worried about the possibility of a second robbery with the rat making his way to South London to do the dirty deed. 

In ten days time she is scheduled to move out of the Camberwell flat and her flatmate has already departed. To borrow that friend's keys, Frances needed her i-phone but guess where that was? Yes. In the bag and worse than that - uninsured.

When she phoned at nine thirty last night, they were waiting for the police to arrive and the situation with her Camberwell flat hadn't been resolved. We contacted our son Ian who lives in north London and he was planning to come to his sister's assistance.  

Sheffield is four hours north of the capital and besides, if I had jumped in the car, what could I have done? All I could say to her was, "I know it's not much comfort but in a week's time this horrible business won't seem so bad. Just a nasty historical event."

I don't know if sneak thieves come into Blogworld but if you are reading this Ratty, I challenge you to a bare-knuckle fight. I'm going to make mincemeat of you young man and teach you a lesson you will never forget. When you look in your bathroom mirror you will see something resembling a squashed helping of  lasagne. Shame on you you selfish nobody!

27 September 2016


Earlier this summer, an unlikely song in support of our Labour Party's veteran leader emerged from a Lincolnshire bedroom - penned by songwriter and versatile musician Sam Harrison, aged twenty six. When quizzed about "I Feel Like Jeremy Corbyn", Sam said, "I don't very often write political songs but I'm very excited for the Labour Party's new leader, who shares a lot of the same beliefs as me. Seeing the right wing fuelled press slander this progressive movement made me want to create something in solidarity with Mr Corbyn and his movement!"

Why not have a listen? I apologise if one of those annoying ads comes up first...

25 September 2016


When the chicken was in our oven, I drove up nearby Ringinglow Road, out into the countryside. Five minutes by car. No long country walk was planned. Just ten minutes of fresh air in the afternoon sunshine before returning home to get on with our Sunday dinner.

There's an orientation table at the junction of Fulwood Lane and Greenhouse Lane. From there you can see for miles. On a really clear day you can see Lincoln Cathedral which is forty three miles away and The Humber Bridge which is sixty miles away. Though pretty clear today, the visibility was insufficient to make out those distant landmarks - even with the binoculars I had brought along.

A woman in red came jogging up the lane just after a brief rain shower had passed over. I recognised her from the Oxfam shop where I work on Wednesdays. She arrived at the orientation table just as a rainbow formed magically to the north east of us, framing the natural  bowl in which Sheffield is situated.

I grabbed my camera from the car seat and tried to capture the moment but the rainbow was too big to fit inside a normal camera shot so I switched to the panoramic function and snapped the picture you see at the top of this post. Rainbows don't last for long. You have to get them while you can.

The woman from the shop asked if I had any water in my car. I gave her a fresh bottle and refused the coins she tried to press into my hand before she carried on with her run.

I crossed the road to watch some cows grazing in a field. Two middle aged women in walking boots appeared, strolling along from Ringinglow. They were planning to follow the public footpath through the cow field but when they spotted the beasts within they were unusually apprehensive.

The smaller woman asked me if they were dangerous.

I replied, "Well, you haven't got a dog with you so you'll have no trouble. Just keep away from the calves".

My reassurance appeared to fall on deaf ears because after mounting the stile they attempted to take a ridiculously circuitous route past the cows which meant they ended up in a very boggy area down by the stream. The cows seemed bemused, watching the antics of these two over-anxious women in dumbfounded bovine silence.

For all I know the two walkers are still in that field because I didn't see them leave it. Behind me he rainbow had already dissolved completely and I had potatoes to peel and cauliflower cheese to prepare.

24 September 2016


Entrance to Willowgarth on Thursday
Willowgarth is a lovely name. It makes one think of Mother Nature - perhaps a stroll by a leafy riverside or through a sunlit bower in a verdant wood. But Willowgarth was in fact the name given to a secondary school on the edge of Grimethorpe - a collection of functional concrete blocks that for fifty years served children of secondary school age from the pit villages of Brierley and Grimethorpe itself. The name was misleading.

Of course lots of things happen within the precincts of any secondary school. There are tears and laughter, comings and goings, sports days and concerts. Examinations to sit and lesson changeover bells that ring endlessly - defining the passing days. Children grow up in their secondary schools. They make friends and enemies as well as memories as their teachers grow old or depart via the promotional ladder.

The two secondary schools that I attended in East Yorkshire are still standing. I could easily go back there to stroll around the corridors of my youth but for former Willowgarth High School students that would now be impossible. The entire school was razed to the ground in 2012. All that's left is a driveway, a pile of rubble and a pair of rusting goalposts.

I felt rather sad to observe the desolate scene through security fencing on Thursday afternoon. I thought of all the interactions that must have happened at Willowgarth through the years. It must have been a tough place to teach in. All those children from mining families. All that poverty. But I think there would have been a lot of fun too.

Back home scouring the internet, I found the following Willowgarth pictures that speak evocatively of a lost school and perhaps of a lost world too...

My own picture - at the top of this post was taken from this
entrance to the school premises,  I was standing next to that
old blue pit wheel - now partly  hidden behind a security fence.

23 September 2016


Backs of houses. High Street, Grimethorpe
When international visitors to Great Britain flick through their glossy brochures and travel guides they will not find Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire. Oh yes, Stratford-upon-Avon, York, London, chocolate box lid villages and maybe even Blackpool but not Grimethorpe.

The village has an unfortunate name that speaks of grimy industry but in fact its roots are in Norse settlement of the eighth and ninth centuries. It was a farming settlement (thorpe) under the rule of Grim, Grimer or Grimey. And it remained a small agricultural hamlet through the centuries until vast reserves of coal were discovered underground in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Dilapidated Grimethorpe Hall - built in 1670
Soon Grimethorpe grew. It had not one but two collieries and before  very long workers flooded in to occupy rows of tiny miners' cottages that had been thrown up by landowners and coal magnates.Britain's appetite for coal was voracious and Grimethorpe was at the front line of the coal industry's effort to satisfy that hunger. It was, after all, on the back of coal that our Industrial Revolution and The British Empire were built.

Following Thatcher's spiteful war upon the coal industry in the nineteen eighties, coal mining in Grimethorpe ceased in 1993. The village became a neglected, decaying and rather pointless place. Its heart had been ripped out.

Officially, it became the most long-term deprived community in Great Britain. In 1994, the European Union's study of deprivation named Grimethorpe as the poorest village in the country and amongst the poorest in Europe. Levels of crime and drug abuse were chronically high. Unemployment was above 50% for much of the 1990s and a large proportion of the older male population were disabled, having suffered injuries in the coal mines.
Memorial to Grimethorpe coal miners killed in colliery accidents
Nowadays, the place is changing. Many of the old mining cottages have gone and there are modern estates where affordable new houses have been built. Road access to the village is much better than it was through the twentieth century and there are new businesses nearby. In fact, if a passing visitor didn't know what had happened in the past, he or she could be forgiven for not recognising that this was once the epicentre of the Yorkshire coalfield. There is little evidence left behind -  of what once was.

"Yorkshire Pudding" sent its star reporter to Grimethorpe yesterday to bring you the photographs that accompany this post. But some photo opportunities were missed. The queue at the "White City" fish and chip shop. Albanian car washers where the petrol station used to be, a tattooed man walking a muscular pit bull terrier, obese middle aged women stopping to chat in their mobility scooters, empty cans of "Carling" lager scattered around a park bench. The poverty has not gone.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that in spite of the heavy knocks the village has received, Grimethorpe is still home to the finest brass band in the world - The Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Listen to them here and visit their website here. In all that ugliness beauty blossomed.
Grimethorpe Working Men's Club
The semi-derelict sports ground
Millennium Obelisk in Grimethorpe Park

22 September 2016


Adrian is safe and sound. He is the wily fellow who manages a blog called "Adrian's Images". One or two of us were getting worried about him because he hasn't blogged since August 15th and normally he posts something of interest every day or two..

However, it appears that the reason for his absence is mundane. Staying on a farm near Auchtermuchty in Fife, he had been reliant upon his hosts' broadband supplier in order to connect  to the worldwide web. This summer they changed providers and in the process Adrian has temporarily lost his connection. Thanks to Detective G. Edwards of Eagleton Notes Constabulary for unearthing this information. Fife police have now called off their manhunt, including the dive team who had been meticulously dredging The Firth of Tay.

A former skjpper aboard merchant ships, Adrian lives in a camper van with his two West Highland terriers - Molly and Alf. He is passionate about nature and photography. Many of his posts demonstrate these twin passions in which he has developed  a great deal of technical expertise. Though he is approaching the age of seventy, he maintains a refreshing inquisitiveness about the world around him. 

I am confident that Adrian will be blogging again  before too long. There are many more mushrooms, flies, beetles and butterflies left  to capture with his various cameras and many more muddy puddles for Molly and Alf to splash through. If you have never visited Adrian's blog before, please go here and have a good root round.