28 February 2009

Chapter

You were probably intrigued to find out more about the novel "The Flying Yorkshireman" referred to in my last blogpost. So here's a sample:-

Chapter Three

Yorkshire Pudding had pinched himself several times but there was no escaping from the conclusion that he really was flying. No aeroplane, no glider, no hot air balloon, just our hero himself - occasionally flapping his arms - like a lazy albatross riding on coastal thermals.

He soared above the sky - looking down on the broad acres that constitute Yorkshire - more acres than there are letters -yes letters - in The Bible. It was all familiar to him for he had visited every corner of the county but never before from this privileged vantage point.

Below, the magnificent chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head soared out of the grey North Sea and in its nooks and crannies he observed hundreds of nesting seabirds - guillemots and puffins, black-headed gulls and terns. Sweeping down the coast over the cheerful fishing harbour at Bridlington and the crumbling boulder clay cliffs of Bridlington Bay, he hovered momentarily above the long tongue of Spurn Head with its ancient lighthouse sites and delicate dunes protruding improbably into the Humber estuary.

Over the port city of Hull, Yorkshire Pudding spotted the magnificent K.C. Stadium - home to the mighty Tigers - with the wondrous span of the Humber Bridge in the distance and zooming north, he viewed the magisterial medieval masterpiece that is Beverley Minster and spotted his old grammar school on the edge of the rolling green common land that is The Westwood.

View of fields near Howden, East Yorkshire.

Inland, over the Wolds he flew, following the veins of the county's river system, over the sprawling industrial ugliness of Leeds and Bradford and up to the Dales where the Wharfe and the Swale tumble from the Pennine Chain. Returning south, he smiled at the overhead view of Haworth Parsonage where his heroine, Emily Bronte, once played with toy soldiers and invented an inner world of the imagination.

South towards his adopted city - Sheffield - with its green suburbs - more designated parkland here than in any other British city apart from London. And there below, he at last saw his own house with its long garden. He could see his wife on the lawn hanging out a basket of washing. By now, his flapping arms were tiring so he decided to touch down for a break. She wasn't looking when he made a slight crash landing in the vegetable patch. "Ouch!"
Limping ever so slightly, he wandered down the garden path.
"Oh! So there you are!" she said. "Where have you been?"
"I've been flying like a bird... All over Yorkshire... It was brilliant!" beamed Yorkshire Pudding.
"You great daft sod!" snarled Mrs Pudding. "I need some things from the supermarket. Will you go down in the car or walk?"
"I think I'd rather fly," grinned Yorkshire Pudding, flexing his elbows like a wannabe chicken.
"And try not to forget the self-raising flour this time!"

Conisborough Castle in South Yorkshire, below Beverley Minster.


Exclusive copies of "The Flying Yorkshireman" are available to visitors to this blog for only £5.00 per book. Send cheques to me at Pudding Towers made out to "Yorkshire Pudding Holiday Fund" - oh and please include £14.35 for postage.

24 February 2009

Authenticity

There are numerous recipes on the internet for Yorkshire Pudding, but what about a recipe for a Yorkshireman aiming to have a great night out? Well first of all he will need some loose change. On his head he will need his trusty flat cap. On his feet he will need his faithful hob-nailed boots.

By his side he will need his pet whippet.And on his face he will need a suitably dour expression, a bit like Richard Nixon before his chickens came home to roost.
But when he returns from his night out he will be, as the title of the book says:-

20 February 2009

Boasting

Boasting? Well they say that bloggers are all a bunch of ego trippers anyway so who cares? In for a penny, in for a pound. And what is to be the focus of this boastful post? Why...famous people I have met... . Of course, I am sure that all readers of this post will have met at least one famous person at some time or another in their lives so I am hoping that fellow citizens of Blogland will leave comments about famous folk they have met or engaged with, however fleetingly.

Here's my list....
HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (deceased) Jimmy Savile (DJ, broadcaster and charity champion) Lulu (twice) Chris Simpkin (Former Hull City player) John Hawley (Former Hull City and Arsenal player) Neil Franklin (Former Hull City and England footballer) Ian McMillan (poet) Iain McEwan (novelist) Norman McCaig (poet) Stuart Hall (broadcaster) Sir John Hunt (Leader of The Everest Expedition 1953) John Reid (Former Home Secretary) David Blunkett (Former Home Secretary) Paul Foot (Journalist - deceased) Sebastian Coe (Athlete & politician) Ted Dexter (Cricketer) Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd) Tom Bailey (The Thompson Twins) Mick Ronson (David Bowie's guitar man) Robin Williamson (The Incredible String Band)

Well I have racked my brains and I can't think of any others though I once saw cricketer Ian Botham behind the wheel of a 4X4 vehicle at the traffic lights in Epworth near Doncaster and I once saw Antonio Banderas pushing through a cinema crowd in New York City. A couple of women were screaming but I didn't think he was that ugly! Oh and when we went to California, who was on the Virgin Atlantic flight home? None other than Ringo Starr! He was walking two feet in front of me as we made our way to the luggage carousels.

Looking at my list, it's interesting to see that there are only two women on it. What does that say about famous people and what does it say about me I wonder? To tell you the truth I don't really give a fig about famous people. The only one that had me starstruck and tongue-tied was Robin Williamson - harpist, poet and troubadour who contributed several lovely songs to the soundtrack of my late teenage years. I met him around fifteen years ago in a badly attended folk evening at The George IV pub on Infirmary Road. We chatted for a good five minutes. He was rounder and had less hair than he had at Woodstock in 1969(see right). Of course, I felt I knew him - I knew his songs by heart - but to him I was probably a non-entity who had just stepped out of the shadows - just another fan.

So come on dear visitor. Spill the beans. Who have you met?

17 February 2009

Telly

In the first three or four years of my life, my family didn't own a television and when we finally got one, it would show only one channel - BBC - which in those days was only in black and white and came on around teatime, finishing just before midnight with the national anthem. It was all rather primitive and a poor subsitute for the full colour real life adventures I could have as I grew up in and around my East Yorkshire village.

In the summertime, I would sometimes be away all day on my bike with my mates. We'd build dens by tunnelling into haystacks, swim in the local canal or liberate rowing boats. We found clay in the banking of a drainage dyke and then made pottery that we baked in the sun. We watched piglets being born and a farmer shoeing the village's last working shire horse. We played football till it was dark and scrumped apples. In lots of ways it was a truly idyllic childhood when the world around me felt both safe and interesting. There was absolutely nothing to worry about and plenty to laugh about. At night I read voraciously then slept solidly till morning.

Returning to television, between the ages of five and seven there were three children's programmes I grew to love. "Andy Pandy":-
"Bill and Ben", the Flowerpot Men with the surreal Little Weed:-
And my all time favourite - "The Woodentops", the forerunner of all those soap opera families that inhabit our screens nowadays but secure, warm and innocent like the family which I was lucky enough to to be born into:-
Somehow you could forgive the black and white and the strings, the jerky movements, the predictable plots and the posh voice of the narrator. It was all as comforting as my mother's mashed potato on Sundays, in which we made gravy lakes and imagined little climbers scaling those snowy peaks - like Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tensing. It seems - it seems... like yesterday and yet so long ago...

15 February 2009

Home

Being a Hull City fan is not easy when you live sixty miles from the KC Stadium but yesterday we had a home match in Sheffield - a fifth round FA Cup tie against Sheffield United at the famous Bramall Lane Stadium. Question: What is the only sports stadium in England that has hosted both an FA Cup Final and an international cricket test match? Answer: Bramall Lane.

Tony and Fiona, our friends from Hull came over and after a winter warming lunch of homemade cottage pie and broccoli we drove for five minutes towards the match and parked up on South View Road. Our seats were in the upper tier of the steeply angled Halliwells Stand - previously always known as the Bramall Lane Stand. You get a brilliant view from up there.
This was a really end to end humdinger of a cup tie with no quarter asked or given. They scored early on though Halford had clearly impeded our defender by climbing on his back before nodding the ball in past a flailing Boaz Myhill. Bring back Matt Duke!

After thirty four minutes, we won a corner at the Kop End and our elegant and athletic central defender Kamil Zayette from Guinea in Africa rose above his marker to repeat Greg Halford's feat. Halftime and it was 1-1 but we were clearly on top and The Blades looked blunted.

After the break we had two stonewall penalty shouts but the referee must have been looking elsewhere. The second one - a blatant trip on Richard Garcia was as clear a penalty as you could wish to see. The game trundled on - end to end action - yellow cards being held up but only for offences by Tigers players - two United players going off with injuries - including the brutish Chris Morgan. The whistle went to signal a replay in a fortnight's time.

After the game we dutifully visited the home of two United fans - one of whom works at the health centre with Shirley. I had never met her or her husband or twelve year old daughter before. We drank tea and ate some delicious "lardy cake" from Oxfordshire. Rather like firm bread pudding but in cake form.

Later on, we returned to Spital Hill near Burngreave to visit one of Sheffield's best kept secrets - The Kashmir Curry Centre. For under ten pounds each, we enjoyed a simple but authentic Kashmiri curry meal with delicious Peshwari Nan bread and pea and potato rice. Because it is unlicensed, as I think I have said before in this blog, you have to nip across the road to The East House pub for pints of real ale which rather gingerly you carry back seeking not to spill a single drop. It should become a new Olympic sport!

10 February 2009

Films

Films seem to be a necessary adjunct to modern life. Some people are obsessional about films. If they're not at the cinema, they are adding to their DVD collections. The popular press hype up film stars and make movie awards ceremonies seem almost as important as political elections.

In my life, I have seen lots of great films - though months can pass between them. Great films I recall include "Schindler's List", "Once Upon a Time in America", "Toy Story", "Raging Bull", "Boesman and Lena", "Born of the Fourth of July" and a hundred others. Frequently, I read reviews of films and promise myself I will see them some time but then the weeks go by and I forget.

However, very recently I got round to seeing two films that were on my list - the much vaunted "Slumdog Millionaire" at Sheffield's "Odeon" and a DVD I had bought of "Brokeback Mountain". Of the two, the latter certainly gave me the most pleasure. It would have been good to see those big Wyoming landscapes on a big screen. I enjoyed the rhythm of this well-crafted film - the passing of time, the paucity of the dialogue and the emptiness of the spaces it contained. Heath Ledger was quite outstanding. At its heart were, of course, two gay cowboys but really this was a universal tale about emotional struggle and lost opportunity. It had depth and resonance.

"Slumdog" was a different kettle of fish. I enjoyed the fact that its background was Bombay - a place that rarely figures in popular English-speaking films. And it certainly had its "moments" - such as when the protagonist as a little boy chose to drop from his locked wooden cubicle into the cesspit in order to claim his film star-hero's autograph. This was as funny as it was disgusting.

But why was the "Millionaire" contestant being tortured by the police? I didn't get it. Okay so there was the suspicion that he had cheated but so what? This wouldn't attract vile treatment in a police station. Was I supposed to suspend my disbelief at this point? I found "Slumdog" too light, too silly. I didn't understand what it was trying to achieve. Perhaps my favourite part was during the credits when the entire cast dance on the central platform in Bombay Station . This was fun and energetic - a real slice of "Bollywood". I'm sorry but I don't view it as a genuine "best film" contender even if it was successful at the recent BAFTAS in London.

Must get round to seeing "The Reader" and "Benjamin Button"...

6 February 2009

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is a balance disorder. It is an inflammatory process affecting the labyrinths that house the vestibular system (which sense changes in head position) of the inner ear.
In addition to balance control problems, a person suffering labyrinthitis may encounter hearing loss and tinnitus. Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a virus, but it can also arise from bacterial infection, head injury, extreme stress, an allergy or as a reaction to a particular medicine. Both bacterial and viral labyrinthitis can cause permanent hearing loss, although this is rare. And my wife, Shirley, occasionally has to wrestle with this nasty condition.

This morning, as I awoke, she told me that she would not be going into work at the health centre because her old enemy had come to call again. I knew that meant she would have to spend the better part of the day lying absolutely still, perhaps listening to the radio and occasionally sipping some water. I had to get off to work myself. I gave her the things she needed - mobile phone, bottles of water, house phone and zoomed out of our house to the car parked up the hill as it has been all week.

It was sad that the labyrithitis had paid another visit because we had tickets to see Keane in concert once again at the Sheffield Arena. Of course, Shirley couldn't go so instead I picked up our son from his workplace in town.

As usual, Keane were quite brilliant. The concert was well stitched together around the latest album - "Perfect Symmetry"with some great background visuals but of course the highlight was again Tom Chaplin's amazing voice - pitch perfect and rich in emotion, soaring high into the metal rafters of the vast arena. One of the best moments was their rendition of a Sheffield band's most triumphant hit - "Disco 2000" by Pulp:-

Oh Deborah, do you recall?
Your house was very small, with wood chip on the wall.
When I came around to call,
you didn't notice me at all.

I said let's all meet up in the year 2000.
Won't it be strange when we're all fully grown.
Be there at 2 o'clock by the fountain down the road.
I never knew that you'd get married.
I would be living down here on my own
on that damp and lonely Thursday years ago.

3 February 2009

More

A good five inches fell late yesterday afternoon and into the evening. They say it has been the biggest snowfall in England for twenty years but that is probably because the national news emerges from London and they very rarely experience proper snow down there. It has reminded me of a time some sixteen years ago when the kids and I sledged all the way down our long sloping road. How we laughed.
I love the quietness of snow. Not just the absence of traffic on the roads but the deadening of noise. It muffles everything so that when a sound does appear you notice it all the more. It is distinct.

Suffice to say, the phone rang at 6.45am. It was the Wicked Witch of the North - our esteemed headteacher. Time to put the bad weather phone cascade into operation. I stirred all my English teachers from their slumbers to bring them the bad news - school closure today. How will we ever complete our schemes of work now? Fretting about this, I lumbered down to Johanna's little sandwich shop cafe for a full English breakfast before snapping the extra wintry scenes above for your interest and appreciation.

2 February 2009

Snow

They closed my workplace at lunchtime today. I was back home by 2.15. The main roads of Sheffield were clear and tarmac grey and the pavements only had a thin coating of the white stuff as I drove home in near record time. On a good day it takes 21 minutes. Today I made it in 19 mins 45 seconds. A great run! No other commuters around and no doubt plenty of scaredycats at home watching "The Jeremy Kyle Show" or some other such nonsense, instead of clogging up the roads.

Now it's 3.30pm. Thick flakes are falling and in the last hour I guess an inch has come down. We live on a hill and the road outside our house is treacherous so I left the car on the top flat road ready for tomorrow morning.... but you never know your luck! With all this legendary global warming around, it could be the return of the Ice Age and another day off work.

Before plonking myself down at this keyboard, I nipped oiutside to take a few snaps specially for this post - just to make visitors from The Antipodes envious of our weather as they suffer in their uncomfortable heatwaves! "Hay Shoila! Chack annava burger on the barbie!"

Above:- Pudding Towers Tradesmen's Entrance/ The little stone girl under the cherry tree/ hedge sparrows on the bird table. See how THICK the snow was at 2.30! Like Canada or Lapland. How did I make it home?