30 June 2007


Hurrah! Hurrah! I am writing this just after midnight on the very day on which England finally bans smoking in all public and work places. Tonight Shirley and I went down to the local and three young people - in their twenties - sat next to us and lit up their evil little tobacco cylinders. But that's the last time! Next week they will have to breathe out their stinking smoke at home or stand out under the stars making smoke rings.

I loathe smoking. Everything about it but mostly the foul stink of it. I hate the stench of stale smoke on my clothes and I hate the way it catches the back of your throat and stings your eyes. And I hate the commercial thrust of it - the advertising, the profit hungry targeting of vulnerable people. Everything about smoking stinks.

Lungs. Guess which pair belonged to a smoker!

This is how the BBC have heralded July 1st - "Smokers across England are having their final puff at work and the pub before the ban on lighting up in enclosed public places begins at 0600 on Sunday. The move follows bans across the UK, and is intended to cut deaths from secondhand smoke. Many venues are planning farewell events for the final Saturday night, while local authorities are preparing to enforce the ban. Anyone lighting up illegally will face a fine of up to £200."

Since this ban was announced in Parliament we have had to wait a long, long time but finally the day of reckoning has arrived and at last we, the non-smoking majority have got the upperhand. I have not one iota of sympathy for hardened smokers but I hope that this ban will inspire hundreds more of them to say goodbye and good riddance to the dreaded weed.

28 June 2007


Nothing lasts forever... Take this blogging lark. In my "Planet Blog" list of blogs I like to visit (see right of this post) there are now several blogs that used to be very active but have now either been forgotten, mothballed or deliberately neglected. Perhaps the bloggers just got fed up with it all and have moved on to other diversionary hobbies. Every time I click and find nothing new, it's like I am losing an old friend or a human connection that meant something to me but has now ceased to be.... "Hanging Hope on a Heads Up 1973 Penny", "Arthur Clewley's Diary", "Brad the Gorilla" ... just examples of blogs that have been put on ice. But as each old blog fades away, along comes a gang of new vivacious bloggers such as "Muddy Boots" from my homeland and "Mutterings and Meanderings". All is not lost. As in life, we must move on. Move on.

I have been a blogger for just over two years now. Mostly, I have enjoyed this hobby. It is an outlet for my everlasting dreams about publishing and sharing words with others and it has been a useful way into connecting with different bloggers around the globe. I enjoy the fact that it is free, uncensored, uncontrolled and almost anarchic. However, I don't like the sound of the word "blogger". It's like an informal term for someone who spends too long on the lavatory reading a newspaper, groaning with the muscular exertion of it all before depositing a bricklike "blog". Ah well...

26 June 2007


The schoolboy on the right is Ryan Parry. He died yesterday afternoon at the tender age of fourteen whilst investigating flood waters surging down the River Sheaf, just one of five normally tiny streams that run through Sheffield.

He wasn't the only one to die. An unnamed pensioner got out of his waterlogged car on The Wicker - close to Lady's Bridge over the River Don and got swept away by the flood waters. Regarding this man's death, a police spokesman said "The waters rose extremely quickly- the victim was with another man and the water level rose from ankle deep to chest deep. Soon both men were paddling and trying to pull themselves along the bridge wall. The victim got into difficulty and the other man tried to assist him but was not able to pull him from the flood. He got to the side and shouted for help. A member of the public managed to pull the by-then unconscious pensioner from the water a few minutes later. Members of the public then tried to resuscitate the man until paramedics arrived and took him to Northern General Hospital where he died. "

I have lived in Sheffield for thirty years and have never known a day like yesterday. The rain was torrential. Water was surging down our street like a river but we were safe because we live on a hillside, far above Endcliffe Park which is a mini-flood plain for the River Porter. Floods will never reach us even if both polar ice-caps melt entirely.

My school closed at lunchtime yesterday and today school was cancelled - no electricity and huge puddles around the entrances with so many staff living in badly flooded outlying areas. I put in some extra work at Ian's new house and all the time there were sirens outside and snarling traffic jams. It was like World War III had arrived. Puddles were forming in his cellar as rain trickled down the old coal chute.

Of course the floods of the last thirty six hours bring echoes back of another flood that happened in the city on March 11th 1864. This is often known as "The Forgotten Flood" - probably because it happened "Up North" where life was more dispensable. It is known that over 250 people were drowned in that flood when the Dale Dyke Dam on the edge of the city burst and sent water gushing down the Loxley Valley towards Malin Bridge and Hillsborough. Destruction included 415 dwelling houses, 106 factories/shops, 64 other buildings, 20 bridges and 4478 cottage/market gardens. Despite being one of the biggest man-made disasters in British history, and now being annually recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, few people today - even in Sheffield - know a deal, if anything at all, about the flood.

An artist's impression of what happened at Dale Dyke Dam on March 11th 1864.

This blog entry is dedicated to Ryan Parry, the unnamed pensioner and the forgotten victims of the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864. May they rest in peace.

24 June 2007


Right - The Railway Hotel on Bramall Lane - literally
a stone's throw from Ian's house.
Something has been going on in the quiet background of my life. Our son, Ian is twenty three this summer. How long was he going to live with us? Till twenty five? Twenty eight? We had the wherewithal and the opportunity to say to him - look son, we will help you to buy a house - if you want it. You could buy a big rucksack and bobby off to Australia or you could begin your own business in men's fashions or you could have your own house courtesy of a bank or building society. He chose the house option.

Ian got the keys to his house on May 31st. Our bid of £130,000 was acceptable. The house is very close to Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football ground in a relatively deprived part of the city, just fifteen minutes walk from his workplace in town.

The house has three good-sized bedrooms and a little garden at the back. For the past three weeks we have been working on it, painting, repairing, furnishing, laying a laminate floor, sorting out the little garden and the outhouse that was once the only lavatory for early residents between 1905 when the house was built and the early nineteen fifties. My wallet has felt like a sieve. Today we bought him a fridge freezer and a washer and yesterday I was bombing around Sheffield in a hired Ford Transit picking up this and that and moving furniture. It was nice to look down on other road users and blast the ocean liner horn on the steering wheel - "Get out of my way you moron!"

It's all coming together now. He has one tenant already - Maso - who moved in today but Ian will also need another tenant for the attic bedroom if this home buying project is going to be viable or we will end up subbing him month by month and we want his position to be really settled before Frances, our daughter, goes to university in the autumn. What can you do eh? You never think of these things when you are in the delivery room cradling a helpless infant. We just thought - act now or it may never happen - and in spite of the worry, it feels good to express our love for Ian in this fundamental way. To get him on the housing ladder which for many British people is the stuff of wild imaginings.

20 June 2007


For your interest, here is a man with a particularly big cock.

I don't know what one would do with a cock as big as that. Average-sized cocks are much more useful. Easier to pluck as well before shoving in the pot.

18 June 2007


Friday afternoon, I rushed home, grabbed some stuff and a clean shirt and headed off for the Marriott Hotel in Sheffield's leafy Nether Edge. It is about ten minutes walk from our house. When our Ian was a waiter at The Marriott, I would often taxi him there and back but I never though for one moment I would ever sleep there. After all bed and breakfast is £120 a night and as you may have gathered already, I am so tight-fisted there are padlocks on my wallet!

But I wasn't paying. This was a "teambuilding" or hyphenated team-building exercise paid for by my school. I am being promoted to the Leadership scale ( senior management) even though I never asked for this and still harbour some suspicion about it all.

Everyone had to take an object that would say something about who they are. This was an ice-breaking session. My object was a chunk of Flamborough Head - a fist-sized rock in which flint and chalk merge. I said it represented my Yorkshire heritage and it also stands for fundamental Yorkshire values such as decency, honesty, kindness and respect. I spoke of how in my East Yorkshire childhood, the rolling wolds were always there in the distance, culminating in the chalky promontory at Flamborough which looks out to sea and the world beyond. Rather poetic I thought. The rest of my "team" applauded me.

Painting of Flamborough Head

Later in small groups - rather bizarrely - we had to use tin foil to create a metaphorical model of our school. My group made "The Balloon of Hope" - a hot air balloon chained to the earth with a figure holding a telescope and looking out from the basket. Later, I drank beer until two in the morning and woke up at seven on Saturday to eat a big fried breakfast followed by a fruit salad dessert. I was building myself!

Following our OFSTED inspection with all the associated stress the past week brought, the last thing I needed was a weekend of team building but I got through it and you know, at times I quite enjoyed it all - standing back from my usual workplace and reflecting on how we operate and the way ahead.

14 June 2007


Endcliffe Park

Green lung
Where mothers come to push Silver Crossed toddlers
As dog walkers walk their hairy dogs.
See it on a summery Sunday afternoon
Frisbees and football
Amidst picnicking people.
It’s like a Lowry print
Except the figures move.
Glad to be alive
Casting shadows on the grass.

Once, long ago
I laid in a snowfall there
And left my shape
Like a murder victim
Waiting for
Summer to return.

by Yorkshire Pudding June 14th 2007
Queen Victoria guards the Hunters Bar entrance to Endcliffe Park, Sheffield.

9 June 2007


In spite of myself, I find Channel 4's "Big Brother" both fascinating and addictive. It's like you are a fly on the wall in somebody else's house. There is no script. Watching it, you are adding to your knowledge of humanity. The concept is quite brilliant. Although the contestants are surrounded by technology, there is a sense in which their life in the house goes back years to times when people were pretty much trapped in their homes, without TV or reading material. You had to get along with others and make the most of things.

This last week nineteen year old drama student Emily Parr was officially booted out of the house for usinfg the offensive term "nigger" to Charley who is of mixed race. The word was not used in a heated row or angry outburst but in a playful dance session. Perhaps Emily thought she was somehow being cool or streetwise - using a taboo word in a rather daring but well-intentioned way.

Emily Parr (19)

This is how Channel 4 reported Emily's removal:-

"Contestant Emily Parr was removed from the Big Brother House in the early hours of this morning after using a racially offensive word to a fellow housemate. Emily was with Charley and Nicky in the garden of the Big Brother House at approximately 8.30pm last night when she was heard to say "Are you pushing it out you nigger?" to Charley.

Emily immediately made clear that she had not intended to offend and that the comment had been meant as a joke. In discussing what she had said, Charley and Nicky agreed that they were not personally offended, although both did express shock at the language she had used. In the ensuing discussion, Emily acknowledged that she should have been more careful with her words."

Charley could have said to Emily - or Emily to Charley - "You disgusting and worthless worm! I hope your reproductive organs shrivel up and that your mother gets run over by a bus while we are in this house! You whore! You bitch! You sub-human moron!" None of that would have caused removal but the word "nigger" - then the politically correct racism alarm bells start ringing like crazy and out goes Emily to live with her little mistake for the rest of her life. It will always be there.

The word "nigger" comes from the Latin word "niger" meaning "black" and its history is quite fascinating. It is a word that hasn't always had negative or insulting connotations. Personally I would never use this word mainly because I like to take people as I find them be they black, white, disabled, rich, poor, young, old or whatever. Labelling like this is usually irritating because it seeks to define and pigeonhole people before you really get to know them.

Emily's story makes us realise how much store others can place in the words that we use. Just one misplaced word can change your life... or perhaps two words if we include "I do"!

4 June 2007


Here is an extract from a very recent BBC news item:-
"Liverpool supporters have been branded the worst behaved in Europe by UEFA.
Football's European governing body is to hand a report to the British Government which has been compiled by undercover police agents from a neutral European force over the last four years.
The document reportedly catalogues 25 incidents involving Liverpool supporters attending away games since 2003.
It follows problems at the recent Champion league final in Athens where some fans with genuine tickets were locked out of the Olympic stadium and tear gassed - as those with forged or no tickets tried to force their way through barriers."

Now what I am about to say is the unspeakable in English football and it may cause Liverpool fans to hunt me down and beat me to a pulp but I don't care. Truth is precious. As regular readers will know, I live in the city of Sheffield where cup semi-finals used to be held almost on an annual basis at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium.

That all stopped on April 15th 1989 at the Notts Forest v Liverpool semi-final when there was a huge crush of spectators at the Liverpool end of the ground causing 96 poor Liverpool fans to die. South Yorkshire police service have been derided bitterly over their supervisory incompetence but who was really to blame?

I tell you it was Liverpool fans themselves! Not the people who got crushed but the ignorant, arrogant drunken men at the back - those who arrived late and pushed and pushed to get a good view of the game. They are the real culprits and I hope that there are still homes in Liverpool where there are sleepless nights filled with guilt for the tragedy that was Hillsborough. It wasn't the police that killed those fans it was their own supporters - the wide boys at the back - and if UEFA's verdict is anything to go by - they have still not learnt their lesson.

2 June 2007


Our trip to Galicia. Let me share some more of my digital photos...

Beach mosaic... NOT by Damien Hirst!
Shirley and Moira on an unspoilt Galician beach...

Me with urban sculpture ladies in Santiago...

Shirley, Steve and Moira in front of the great cathedral in Santiago.

Light fitting inside the great cathedral...