31 October 2014


Dear Council Officer,

With enormous reluctance, I duly removed the little white sticks from the grass verge outside our house as requested. Today, exactly what I had anticipated would happen happened. A silver Vauxhall car was parked right up on the verge and damage to our neatly kept grass was caused. At this time of year grass verges can become especially soft and are therefore liable to be badly spoilt. I speak of course from bitter personal experience. I know for sure that if my white sticks had been in situ the damage would not have occurred. And once there is verge damage many other drivers think they have carte blanche to park on the grass so the damage quickly worsens.

I am attaching photos of the scene which you may like to compare with the last photo of the verge which I sent to you on October 23rd . Will you be pursuing the owner of the offending vehicle (registration DU06 GVE) and will someone come to repair the verge? It is heartbreaking to see the mess . I shall forward a copy of this correspondence to local councillor Penny Baker for her information. She seems to be very interested in this topsy turvy nonsense in which environmentally active residents like myself are threatened with financial penalties while drivers who damage verges get away scot free.
Yours truly,
Yorkshire Pudding

Dear Yorkshire Pudding,

Thank you for your email the contents of which are noted.

I have forwarded your email to Streets Ahead (tel 2734567) to investigate the matter of verge damage. They should shortly be in contact with you.

Finally, As we have previously discussed we do not want to have to take action to remove stakes like those you placed within the street.

However the action we have taken requesting you remove them is due to a report being made and advice given by Sheffield City Council’s Legal Department.

I trust you can appreciate, if the owner of the car had damaged their car on your stakes you may now be liable for damages as may the tax payer.

We understand your grief concerning the damage and we are just as aggrieved unfortunately we cannot assist in allowing for them to remain at this time due to the legal system of this country.

Yours Sincerely

Council Officer

Dear Council Officer,

There is no way that my little white sticks could ever have damaged a car. Several times previously I have suffered cars simply driving over the sticks. They are not solid like the horrible wooden pillars placed on streets like Huntley Road. My sticks were an effective visual deterrent. By the way, as I travel around Sheffield I see lots of sticks on people's verges and rocks too. I could easily list a hundred locations in S10 and S11 so why am I - along with my next door neighbour being singled out? To use a technical term, this is all a load of bollocks.

Yours truly,
Yorkshire Pudding

30 October 2014


People can be amazing. Take any film for example - even if it's a film that doesn't rock your boat. The coming together of a team. Networking. Phone calls. Emails. Months of planning. Arranging locations and costumes and film crews, make up artists. Discussions with scriptwriters. Selecting the actors. Picking the music. The money side of things. It is an enormously complicated process - like spinning a massive spider's web. And when the credits roll at the end of the film, it is as if you are seeing the mere tip of that iceberg of endeavour and communication which produced the preceding film.

I have two films to report. The one I saw last week was "71" and this morning it was "Jimi: All Is By My Side".
"71" is set in Belfast at the height of the so-called "Troubles". A young soldier from Derbyshire finds himself thrown into a cauldron of internecine hatred, fear and blood-letting. He may only be a hundred and fifty miles from home but it feels like a million. Injured and lost on patrol off The Falls Road he has to find his way back to the barracks and it turns out to be the most awful journey of his life.

Directed by Yann Demange and starring Jack O'Connel as Private Gary Hook  "71" is a low budget film sponsored by British Film Institute, Film4, Creative Scotland and Screen Yorkshire. It is tense, earthy and convincing as it exposes what it was sometimes like on the raw streets of Belfast back in the early seventies. It makes you think about man's inhumanity to man and where religious tribalism can lead.

Jimi Hendrix is one of my musical heroes. It often seemed as if his guitar was part of his body and he could play it with such natural dexterity that it might seem he was communing with the stars. In the second film -  a "biopic" which focuses on 1966-67 - just before his legendary breakthrough show at the Monterey Pop Festival. Jimi is played by AndrĂ© Benjamin who is physically remarkably  similar to the maestro guitarist and certainly showed some of Jimi's dreamy, vulnerable character.

Apparently the making of this film was subject to certain  legal complaints which resulted in a ban on any original Hendrix tracks. Imagine that - a film about Jimi Hendrix without the music he made - just cover versions. And there were other disappointments.
"All Is By My Side"
At one point, Jimi is in London walking down the street with his girlfriend Kathy played by Hayley Atwell and wearing one of his trademark military tunics. He is suddenly accosted by four policemen in ill-fitting helmets who intimidate him and demand that he removes his tunic. This scene was so unauthentic as to be cringeworthy.

I wanted "All Is By My Side" to be a moving portrait of Hendrix's journey to musical fame but I am afraid it doesn't do him justice. It has a shallow, cartoonish quality about it in my view and fails to capture a believable sense of the London music scene into which Hendrix arrived in the middle of the sixties. I wouldn't recommend it.

29 October 2014


Malibu? The Australian Gold Coast? Juan les Pins? Marbella? No my friends, if you want the real seaside you must travel to the jewel of the Lincolnshire coast, to the very mouth of the River Humber, to Cleethorpes. This is what South Yorkshire coal miners and Sheffield steelworkers did with their wives and families from the back end of the nineteenth century and that's what I did yesterday.

I caught a train from Sheffield - all the way to the seafront at Cleethorpes - one hour and forty minutes. I had never been there before though once long ago I was nearby when I watched Hull City beat Grimsby Town at Blundell Park. Grimsby and Cleethorpes are twin towns rather like Minneapolis and St Paul but at the edge of England. They are the sort of northern places that suffer unmerited jibes from ill-informed southerners. The same prejudicial humour that might surround Barnsley or Wigan, Darlington or Accrington.

I emerged from the railway station into bright sunshine. The tide was out and when the tide is out at Cleethorpes it goes out so far you would think that the oceans were running dry. A huge expanse of beach stretching out towards the lighthouse at Spurn which is on the East Yorkshire side of the entrance to the Humber Estuary.
View to Halle Sand Fort - erected during World War One
My planned walk took me down the coast to Humberston and then inland along Buck Beck where I turned north to Old Clee - the Saxon settlement that predated Victorian urban expansion and the growth of Grimsby's industrial fishing industry  by several centuries.

At the coast it was clear that we are in the schools half term holiday period as there were quite a lot of children around. I saw the Cleethorpes Light railway in operation, and families rowing on the boating lake but The Pleasure Island amusement park was already shut up for the winter. After eight miles of plodding, I got back to the seafront where I sat in Browns' Cafe with the seaside meal I had promised myself on the formica table in front of me - a jumbo haddock in golden batter with chips, mushy peas, a big mug of tea and a slice of bread and butter. A meal too good for a king.

And then I tried my hand in the "King Pin" amusement arcade, feeding 2p coins into one of those tipping point machines where coins push others from shelves but most seem to end up in the bowels of the machine for the owners' to later take to their bank in countless wheelbarrows.

By five fifteen it was already dark and I mounted the train back to Sheffield. At Grimsby Town station two men from East Timor sat close to me and I talked to one of them. As a refugee he had arrived in Portugal where after a few years he became a Portugese citizen and was issued with a Portugese passport. Of course this now entitled him to live and work in England. Humph! No comment on that but now some more coastal pictures from Cleethorpes where all your holiday dreams can come true...

27 October 2014


Every summer an interschool sports day was held in the grounds of Hornsea Primary Schoool. We got to see children from neighbouring villages - Long Riston, Brandesburton, Wawne, Beeford and Sigglesthorne for example. Many parents attended and the sun always shone. We rode the six miles to Hornsea on the same grey hired coach that would take us weekly to the swimming baths in Beverley.

We all wanted to do well for our school and dreamed of winning the great wooden shield with its engraved silver mini-shields around the edge. It was The Holderness Annual Schools Sports Day Trophy. More prized to us than The F.A. Cup, The Ashes or The Open's claret jug

The athletes gathered in their school pens with strict instructions to remain there until called to our events. Of course there were running races and relays, the long jump and the high jump but no pole vaulting or discus for example. Instead we had the three legged race, the egg and spoon race, bean bag throwing and my own specialism - the sack race.

This involved stepping into an old hessian potato sack and either jumping like a kangaroo or wiggling towards the finishing tape with toes pressed into the sack corners. That was my preferred method. I was a wiggler.

One warm evening in early July 1965. It was to be my primary school swansong. I was eleven years old and in September I would be off to the posh secondary school in Hull. The crowd were hushed. We waited in our sacks for the starter's pistol to fire - all East Riding boys - desperate to win for our schools and our villages.

We were off, proceeding between carefully whitewashed lines towards the finish. The key thing was not to fall over as that would result in a disastrous loss of time. The crowd was cheering and I knew that Jennifer Stevenson and Karen Fawcett were watching. Faint heart never won fair maiden. My wiggling run technique was working a treat. I was ahead by a couple of yards. In the next lane, the Brandesburton lad had just fallen over almost taking me out too but I dodged him and seconds later I was bursting through the tape well ahead of the field.

At this point, teachers with clipboards would descend on the finishing line to identify and record the winners. A white-haired didact from Hornsea School was responsible for recording our race. I recall he was wearing a charcoal pin-striped suit in  late Victorian style and had silver rimmed spectacles - like a snivelling clerk from a story by Charles Dickens.

As he began to fill in the sheet on his clipboard, I felt so proud to have been the winner of the sack race and must have been grinning like a lunatic but it was a joy that was very short lived because - in spite of my eleven year old kid protests - the stupid old fool placed the boy from Sigglesthorne in first place and put me down in  third place. "Shut up!" he snarled as I made my last, futile protest. The victory had been clear for all but the line judge to see. To him, eleven year old boys probably all looked the same.

Already the girls' sack race was underway and we had to return to our school pens. Amidst all the cheering and the excitement I tried to tell Miss Ford and Miss Readhead what had happened but they were now focussed on  hopping and wiggling girls and the moment of opportunity passed. 

I felt as miserable as sin as we mounted the coach to come home. Other boys were sympathetic and almost equally miffed by what had happened. It wasn't fair - it simply wasn't fair - though by then we had already discovered that there was much injustice in this world. It is strange that these are the sort of things I tend to remember - not so much the happiness of crossing the line first but the wrongfulness of what happened later.

25 October 2014



We’ve got a cat called Nobby
And he loves to roam around
With whiskers preened
And tail curled up
He hardly makes a sound

Sniffing at the dahlias
Or peering in the pond
Escaping through our
Privet hedge
To the perilous world beyond

In summer he likes sleeping
Stretched out in dappled shade
With dreams of mice
And tadpoles
And the birds on which he’s preyed

His instincts are deep seated
So killing's like a hobby
With claws unsheathed
And murderous teeth
That’s our darling Nobby.

To be truthful, Nobby isn't actually our cat. He just comes in our garden from time to time and often wanders into the house. We have even found him sleeping in Shirley's wardrobe. And to be yet more truthful - Nobby isn't even his name - I just gave him that. I like cats to have unusual names. Our last cat - a black and white stray - was called Boris and the previous one was called Blizzard because we collected him from a cat shelter during a wintry blizzard in 1981. Other good names for cats are Brian, Adrian, Helen, Carol and Jenny...and how about Rufus, Betty, Walter, Margaret or Steve? Much better than Tiddles, Ginger, Albert, Sooty or God forbid - Wesley!

24 October 2014


Our district has three city councillors. I decided to send them an email...
Dear Councillors,

I am writing to you as my council representatives in relation to a letter I received from Nobby Nobody on Sunday October 19th. As you very probably know, Mr Nobody is a council officer and an engineer who deals with Highway Regulations etc.. His letter was headed "Sticks Placed in The Highway Verge Outside Pudding Towers Mansion". (Ref HR/DW/Yellow Brick Road/JS)

In the letter, I was told to remove some little white sticks that I have been putting in the verge outside our house for twenty five years without any previous complaint. The reason I have always placed sticks there is to discourage drivers from parking on the verge and thereby ruining its appearance. It has been a constant battle for a quarter of a century. As well as making the sticks, painting them and hammering them into the verge I have also regularly cut the grass outside our house, removed litter and dog faeces and generally tried hard to maintain it. All that I believe I have done is to take pride in my neighbourhood and make it look a bit nicer.

I am attaching two photos to this email. Please look at them. One is of the scene outside my house and the other is from lower down the top section of Yellow Brick Road - showing the mess that results when vehicles are regularly parked on our grass verges.

I know that in a seemingly haphazard fashion, ugly squat wooden bollards have been placed by Sheffield City Council on some other verges in the area - presumably to discourage parking on those verges. I sincerely hope that as a result of the issues I am raising, we do not find a couple of these things outside our house in the coming months. They are themselves an eyesore and a mistaken experiment in my estimation.

Shouldn't Mr Nobody be applying his energy to tackling drivers who park on verges rather than to residents who are trying their best to maintain their environments? Threatening me with stick removal costs seems to represent a cockeyed outlook on the state of our grass verges. Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 was surely never intended to penalise decent citizens like myself and my next door neighbours who have been similarly threatened by Mr Nobody.

Yours truly,
Sir Yorkshire Pudding
(Lord of the Manor)

STOP PRESS - I have already received an email response from Penny Baker - the middle one of the three councillors. She wants to talk to me about this matter.

23 October 2014


Damaged verge on our street
The verge in front of our house
For twenty five years I have tried to maintain the little grass verge outside our house. Elsewhere on our section of road thoughtlessly parked vehicles have more or less  destroyed the verges. So imagine my consternation when I received a letter from the local council last week - threatening me with legal action if I don't move the little white sticks I have placed in our verge. Our next door neighbours received an identical letter and so did Janet and Phil across the road. Apparently, we are in "contravention of Section 149 of The Highways Act 1980 and once reported the Council has an obligation to ensure that the sticks are removed". Later the jobsworthy official writes "if we do have to remove the sticks then we can charge our costs for doing this".

Clearly some miserable, cowardly and petty-minded nobody has reported our sticks to the council. All we are trying to do is preserve the nice appearance of our local environment. It makes my blood boil but it doesn't surprise me. What would you do?