6 May 2016


I love to see bluebells at this time of year. They do not last for very long but when in bloom they create surreal swathes of purpled blueness - like fairytale mists swirling in the dappled shadows of secret woods. A wondrous sight to behold.

Yesterday, as I was walking in the borderlands between north east Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, I happened to pass through Graves Wood near Whaley Thorns. Even from afar, I could see a blue haze beneath the trees and when I entered the wood the sight before me was stunning. Thousands of bluebells carpeting the woodland floor.

In the past, I have always found it difficult to capture bluebell woods effectively with my camera. They have an elusive quality so that you never quite catch the colour and the light or the visual splendour that the human eye observes. But I tried again before carrying on with my walk - to Holbeck, last resting place of The Dukes of Portland. And now I share these bluebell pictures with you free of charge.

4 May 2016


Lunchtime drinker in "The Old Red Cow", London
Observant blogfolk may have noticed that this infamous Yorkshire blog was quieter than usual over the past few days. That is because we visited a quaint country village in the south of England called London-on-Thames. You may have heard of it.

We were there to visit our beloved daughter, Princess Frances who for the past eighteen months has been "seeing" a fine young fellow called Stuart - who has a secret job in Hatton Gardens. They have known each other since they were four years old and who knows, perhaps they will remain together as we move into the unknown landscape of the future.
Princess Frances at The Barbican
We had a fairly expensive meal in "The Camberwell Arms" on Saturday night and a very cheap meal in "The Fox on the Hill" on Sunday night. In between we went out into Kent (The Garden of England) to visit Lullingstone Park in lovely spring sunshine. It is in the so-called "green belt" which is meant to inhibit London's ceaseless urban sprawl. And what a fine day out it was too, picnicking by The River Darent, walking through Beechen Wood and across rolling chalkland. Delightful - even though a few hundred yards further on and we would have been viewing London's orbital motorway.

On Monday, Lady Shirley was feeling ill with a nasty attack of Londonitis so being the thoughtful husband I am, Princess Frances and I left her to rest in the palatial apartment at Camberwell Green while we went to The Barbican Art Gallery to see a brilliant photographic exhibition called "Strangely Familiar". So many wonderful images - plenty from the middle of the last century and mostly in black and white. They recorded ordinary moments, ordinary people, ordinary scenes - making onlookers realise that the ordinary can be visually arresting if you only take the trouble to look.

Later that day, Lady Shirley felt well enough to be transported UpNorth by her trusty chauffeur. We waved farewell to Princess Frances and her lady in waiting Countess Kira who had just returned from a mini-holiday in Seville. Then silver Clint, our new horseless carriage, whisked us homewards to Yorkshire - land of my heart. It had been a most splendid weekend but you wouldn't want to stay too long in London. It would drive you mad after a while...or maybe just more mad.

2 May 2016


For several years, many British dog lovers have had yellow stickers in the back windows of their cars that read "A Dog is For Life... Not Just For Christmas". It is a slogan that has the appearance of a wise aphorism even though I have never met anybody who ever gave or received a dog at Christmastime. I guess the sticker is urging dog owners to display a lasting sense of responsibility towards their yelping pooches which is fair enough but why bring Christmas into the equation?

The wording has rattled around in my head for quite a while even though I have never owned a dog or have ever felt a desire to get one. Finally, I could not stop myself from playing around with the format of that car sticker slogan to produce a poetic, sometimes amusing and slightly provocative response to it. Here we go:-


A dog is for life... not just for Christmas
A turkey is for Christmas... not for life
A cat is for stroking... not just for chasing mice
A bird is for whistling... not just for shooting down
A hand is for shaking... not just for wiping
A bedroom is for dreaming... not just for sleep
A heart is for pumping blood... not just for love
A queen is for waving... not just for postage stamps
A planet is for preserving... not just for exploitation
A life is for living... not just for bitterness and pain
A kennel is for dogs to shelter from the rain
A dog is for walking... not just for burying bones
A Christmas is for turkey and coloured lights in homes.

Could you suggest any extra lines to add to my odd car sticker poem?

29 April 2016


Long Tailed Tit

I'm looking in your window
Tapping at your door
There are things inside your house
That I've never seen before.

Up and down the glass
You watch me as I fly
On wings that lift me upwards
To the blueness of the sky.

I live in the moment
But you are bound by time
Struggling to find a word
To end this little rhyme.

28 April 2016


The trouble with blogging for years is that you sometimes forget about blogposts you created long ago. In that regard, the"Search" box in the top lefthand corner can be very useful. It is impossible to remember everything we write and after all, this is my eleventh year as a blogger.

With a cup of Italian coffee to hand and snooker players McManus and Ding on the television, I thought I might write down some thoughts about swearing. Unsurprisingly, I discovered that I had devoted two posts to the topic back in 2007. Go here and here if you're interested.

But what I would like to comment on today is the habitual use of swear words in blogging. Most blogs I enjoy tend not to include any swear words - blogs like "Eagleton Notes", "Kitchen Connection", "Shadows and Light", "Adrian's Images", "From My Mental Library" and "Shooting Parrots". However, there are some blogs I like to visit where swear words crop up frequently - either in the posts themselves or in the comments that follow. Whenever I encounter this bad language, I just think "Why?" The swear words tend to jar and distract. They stand out like sore thumbs and as our parents may have said long ago, such words are generally unnecessary.

I know that there are lots of bloggers out there who will agree with me about this matter but others who will no doubt carry on spouting expletives like oppressed industrial workers. I guess it is their right to use foul language if they want to and of course one of the lovely things about blogging is that we can write pretty much what we want with whatever words we choose to utilise. 

With that very freedom in mind, I am now raising my head above the parapet to say to the swearers - please don't do it! Generally speaking, swearing isn't nice and if you must use a swear word please make sure that it is essential to the argument, comment or account you are in the process of expressing. I thank you in anticipation of your kind forbearance and humbly request that you do not use swear words in any comments you wish to add to this post.

27 April 2016


Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield - April 15th 1989 - 96 Liverpool supporters crushed to death in the middle pen at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Warrington, Cheshire - April 26th 2016. After the two year long inquest, in a specially constructed courthouse, the jury finally reach their verdict - the 96 were "unlawfully killed".

This is what "The Liverpool Echo" has to say about the matter today:-

"The thousands of Liverpool fans who travelled to Hillsborough on April 15, 1989 played no role in causing the disaster".

But is that entirely true? There were  essentially two Liverpool cohorts in Sheffield that fateful day and in my judgement it is wrong to bracket them all together. That's happened before and it is still happening now.
One cohort of fans got to the ground early. They were in situ long before kick-off - either in their assigned seats in the upper section of the stand or down below in the fenced terracing where in those days supporters were allowed to stand. They were excited and eager for kick off.

Little did they know that the second cohort of fans was still entering the ground. Some were ticketless and many had been drinking. They arrived at the ground far too late and after the Leppings Lane gates had been opened, far too many made their way to the central pen in the middle of the  terraced area. It was that that created the awful crush that killed so many members of the first cohort - the early arrivers.

It is true that there were very significant failings by the police and the emergency services that terrible day and with better planning they could have averted the disaster. The police were grossly negligent and later they were guilty of trying to cover up their mistakes. It is right and proper that they should take their fair share of the blame but let us not forget who did the pushing.

As I say, there were two groups of Liverpool fans that day. All the dead and injured belonged to the first cohort and they were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Their families deserve all the compensation and sympathy they receive after twenty seven years of hurt. Their fight for justice has been remarkable but I still don't think that the full truth has emerged - just a convenient form of the truth. A truth in which all Liverpool fans are exonerated - not just those who were crushed to death but also those who pushed in at the back of the central terrace,  just to get a better view of the match.

There was plenty of room available in the pens to the left and right of the goal but still they kept pushing and it seems that the police and ground stewards were powerless to do anything about it.

26 April 2016


Human brains work in different ways. For instance, I have never been very good with numbers but I have always been good with words. I can never remember phone or PIN numbers but I know how to spell "liaison", "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "psychiatrist" without even a slight pause for thought.

My late mother often related the story that when I was three years old, I came downstairs one evening in my striped pyjamas and simply announced, "I want to know how to read mummy".  Instead of smacking my bottom and sending me back to bed, mum sat me on her knee with a children's book and taught me the rudiments of reading. And that was really the only lesson in reading that I ever had. Within a few days I was reading simple books on my own and only occasionally asking, "What does this word say?". It came so easily to me.

Consequently, it is probably little wonder that later on I  became an English teacher.

As an English teacher, I worked with thousands of children - helping them to advance their literacy skills and to find pleasure in words. Many of those children really struggled with the written word and sometimes my job seemed rather like stirring thick porridge. What had come so easily to me was like climbing Mount Everest to many of my pupils.
Nobody's prefect
Twenty years ago, I remember a child saying to me, "Sir, you talk like a book!" His classmates concurred. They suggested that if my spoken English was transcribed it would sound just like the written English they found in books. This was meant partly as a simple observation and partly as a compliment but it took me aback. I had never thought of myself that way and later I considered how my articulation might impact on others - both my pupils and the folk I met in everyday life. I guessed it might not always prove to be an endearing trait. Who wants to get pally with a human dictionary?

Meaning is what matters in writing but that meaning may be thwarted or hindered by faulty expression. The purpose of accuracy in spelling, punctuation and syntax is to facilitate communication. Correctness means that your reader doesn't have to work so hard. In my opinion, this has nothing to do with supercilious pedantry even though people who champion grammatical accuracy may often endure that sort of accusation. Perhaps a few of them deserve it as some lose sight of the fact that it is meaning that matters above all.

How many miles of red ink must I have left in children's exercise books and upon written assignments through the years? So many late nights and lost weekends. Enough red words and markings to encircle the globe. Every mark I ever made was intended to help them but occasionally some of these children mistakenly saw amendments to their work as personal sleights upon them. I have come across bloggers who react in the same way. Writing, intelligence and human worth are frequently entangled in people's minds though in my book it should never be that way. As I said at the beginning, human brains work in different ways.

Being a good writer certainly does not mean that you are a better human being. Even the most literate of us will make mistakes from time to time and besides the psychology of language acquisition is very complicated. The important thing is to strive for clarity and correctness whenever we write, knowing that this habit will greatly aid our readers. At least that's what I think. What about you?