30 June 2012



Our lives were built like these limestone walls
Stone by stone
Hewn from the earth.
Fiddlers in “The Bull’s Head”
Bowed for lead man and shepherd alike
Jigs reeling across
Our sweet green  pastures
Where  lambs grew fat
And other places
Seemed so

But now
Our lives are like the vehicles on the turnpike road
Flashing by
To satnav destinations.
Strangers in barn conversions
Chase magazine dreams and eat
Fajita ready meals.
Even “The Bull” has gone -
Like the school -
And what we had
Seems so very

29 June 2012


Finally, we have arrived in Sri Lanka. I didn't realise what a huge island it is.  It took us the best part of two days to hug the southern coastline until finally, finally we arrived at Colombo's stinky fishing harbour, close to De La Salle College. Nalin and his crew were of course intent on selling their fish for the best possible price so I had to kick my heels for a while. 

The weather is what you might properly describe as sultry. Yes, sultry. I wandered along the wharfs exchanging pleasantries with the native fishermen. Of course, I was the only white man around so small children followed me as if I might be the Pied Piper. But I like these Sri Lankans. They have happy smiles and open hearts.
Nalin and "Mickey" at the fish market in Colombo
Later, Nalin led me to his humble home in a labyrinth of side streets. It's made of corrugated iron sheets and sits next to what I can only describe as an open sewer. His wife, Vinoba, is devoted to her children. They have at least four - possibly five. She is presently breastfeeding the youngest. They invited me to stay in their shack but I declined. All those days at sea had left me tired and dirty and desperate for cleanliness and a soothing long sleep in a quiet room that didn't rock with the waves.

So I took a motorcycle taxi to  the Blue Gum Hotel off the Negombo Road. Only £29 a night. Last evening I slept like a log - dead to the world - before showering and heading out for breakfast in a little roadside cafe close to Mary Immaculate Convent.

Senator Brague from Georgia urged me to travel overland to Yorkshire and the idea was sorely tempting but I have decided to take the easier option and have booked a flight with Sri Lankan Air back to Merry Olde England. It leaves on Sunday morning.

Oh no, the hotel's lights have gone off just as I was about to upload this blogpost. Such is life. I will try again in another few minutes... Bingo! It's published!

28 June 2012


Over in Europe,  the 2012 international football tournament is reaching its climax. Before each game, the players walk out holding hands with their "escorts" - no not the sort they see secretly in hotels but young kids - boys and girls dressed in red and yellow kits. These escorts are kindly sponsored by McDonalds whose corporate colours just happen to be red and yellow too! What a remarkable co-incidence!
England with player escorts before the clash with France.
Do international cricketers or rugby players walk out on to the pitch holding hands with young children? No they don't! So what is the point of these player escorts? When did the ritual begin - because in days gone by there were no player escorts at all. What is the presence of escorts meant to convey? What sort of message? Paedophilia?

The kids have been flown in to Poland and Ukraine from all over Europe which in my view is a waste of aviation fuel. Why are McDonalds sponsoring them anyway since that company's main mission seems to be to promote obesity when football is about fitness and agility. I think it's to do with the red and yellow kits - subtly reinforcing McDonalds advertising and thereby encouraging sales.

It would make better TV viewing if the players walked out with lady escorts from an escort agency - dressed in fishnet stockings and revealing lacy tops. Instead of being sponsored by McDonalds they could be sponsored by Barclays Bank - subtly conveying that discredited organisation's main raison d'etre.

And now, onwards to Sri Lanka...

27 June 2012


For three days and three nights I drifted westwards on this placid ocean. The days were searingly hot and the nights were full of phosphorescent stars. Though I rationed myself, I soon  ran out of water and had to resort to coconut juice. Lying there in that flabby orange vessel, I thought that my number was up - especially when I noticed I was being circled by a ten foot pelagic thresher shark. But sometimes miracles happen.

Early on the fourth morning I was woken by the phut-phut sound of a fishing boat and beyond it I could make out the misty faraway peaks of some islands - perhaps the Andamans or the Nicobars. Weak and thirsty as a plughole I nonetheless stood up in my craft and waved my Hull City first team shirt above my head shouting "Help! Help!"

It would have been so easy for the fishermen to miss me but magically they turned in my direction and soon I was rescued.

The dilapidated boat is from Colombo, Sri Lanka and there are five sun-baked fellows on board including the skipper Nalin who speaks passable English having once worked in the engine room of  a cruise ship. They were very kind and soon watered and fed me before continuing on their voyage. They had planned to anchor off the island of Bompoka in the Nicobar group - exchanging baskets of deep water fish for fruit and fresh water. I snapped this picture of Nalin with a sailfish. What an amazing creature:-
I managed to recharge my laptop on Bompoka. The jolly chief of the island started up his kerosene generator specially which was very kind and I was able to show him pictures of the new Hull City first team shirt modelled by the celebrity glamour model Jordan who is revered in Bompoka as a goddess.

Just before nightfall we upped anchor and continued our journey westwards to Sri Lanka. I have been teaching the crew Rod Stewart's song "Sailing" but they're almost as bad as the Burmese servants were in Blogland when I tried to teach them the national anthem - "Island of Dreams" - though it was far from a dream for Thuza and Arun.

25 June 2012


Richard has gone. I knew him for forty years and only learnt of his death by accident today while checking out Linkedin. It was a real shock I can tell you.

He was the first American I had ever met and we lived together as the only white people on a remote Fijian island - both teaching in the island's only secondary school. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and I was sponsored by the British equivalent - Voluntary Service Overseas. Previously, I blogged about him here.

A few years later, when I was a student,  I visited him in his family home in Minneapolis. We drove up to the family's self-built cabin on the Canadian border and then later still his company sent him over to England for three years. He came up to Sheffield to see us and we visited him in Datchet near Windsor a couple of times. He married a lovely Korean lady called Yong Sun and they had a son called Adrian. Like Shirley, Yong Sun then suffered a traumatic ectopic pregnancy so there were to be no more children.

We always exchanged Christmas cards and it pleases me greatly that though he never left comments, in the last three years of his life  he followed this blog quite religiously. It amused him and besides he was an engineer and a scientist - he found himself fascinated by people who displayed more literary or artistic energy.

He was very kind and had a dry sense of humour. He attended the universities of North Dakota and Minnesota and in his youth played American college football to a high standard. I don't know why he died. He was only sixty five. He had a twin brother called Roger and a sister called Mary. I shall always remember him fondly and feel very sad that we shan't meet again. Sweet dreams Richard - a true friend of mine... 

Richard J. Mehus
May 19th 1947 - June 13th 2012

24 June 2012


I just received one of those "round robin" emails. Many of them are irritating and deserve immediate deletion but this one tickled me. The connecting notion is - "The Very Last Picture in The Camera":-
I just hope that this isn't my last picture as I float 
aimlessly in the doldrums of the Indian Ocean:-

23 June 2012


Hi folks! It's not YP, it's me Sticky Toffee Pudding or STP for short. I finally figured out how to access his Blogger account. I told that dimwit brother of mine that he should never have deserted these fair isles for Blogland. Like I said to him the day he left, "Reality's gonna catch up with you one day bro!" But would he listen? Would he hell! He's always been headstrong that way and now see where the idiot is! Floating round the Indian Ocean in a cast off inflatable lifeboat. I've phoned the Foreign Office in London but they couldn't give a monkey's. Well in my view, he's got himself into this life or death quandary and he has only himself to blame.

Meanwhile, whenever the English summer weather has allowed me to, I have been following in YP's size eleven footsteps and enjoying a few country walks. It's something I was never allowed to do when I was in the unit. My every move was monitored. Now nothing pleases me better than to be out there tramping the hills and dales of The Peak District. I feel free. And here's a bunch of pictures from a couple of walks I took earlier this week:-
Natural sculpture - Margery Stones
Margery Hill summit - highest point in South Yorkshire
Picknickers in the ruins of North America Farm, Langsett
Meadows near the village of Flagg
Cottages in Taddington, Derbyshire
Unusual phonebox in Chelmorton

Click on pictures to see enlarged versions.

22 June 2012


The outboard motor packed up an hour out of Blogland. I checked the fuel level - zilch! So I unbolted the old "Johnson" and despatched it to the deep. I feel so relieved to be away from those bad men. Poor Arun! What had  he done to deserve such a brutal ending? Man's inhumanity to man. And Thuza, my lovely Thuza - a P.A. whose service went way beyond her duty. Way beyond. They swung her severed head around like a hammer in that Olympics field event and tossed it  on to the lawn - less than five metres from where I was hiding. I shall never forget, never.

So I look around me. The sea is like a millpond. Not a breath of wind. I look to every direction on the compass and there is nothing - just an horizon - a line that quivers in the afternoon heat. I could row but in which direction? No fishing boats, no buoys, no signal of land anywhere.

I chopped one of my coconuts in half with the machete and ate the white meat inside before drinking a little of my precious water. Flying fishes skim the surface of the ocean. I have heard that they are good to eat. but the only way I will catch one is if it flies into this fragile, orange inflatable.

Have you ever been somewhere where the air looked like jelly - colourless jelly wobbling slightly in a heat haze? Well that's how it is for me now. The sea swells so gently that when you close your eyes you might swear that you are on solid ground. So still it is almost unbelievable.

All that I can do is to drift and hope for the best. Perhaps I'll be swept to some jungled Burmese beach or maybe I'll be blown westwards across the Andaman to the Nicobars, India or Sri Lanka. Who knows? All that I want to do is to survive. Seeing the bloody assassinations of Thuza and Arun makes me realise how very precious my life is. There will be no second chances.  And only f I am lucky will this old inflatable  become my salvation rather than my plastic, floating coffin.

21 June 2012


Sneaking along jungle tracks in the dead of night. The killers still boozing in the social club with lights blazing and Cheryl Col's latest album blasting out of the speakers. Passing the empty wooden houses that were meant to be homes for our blogging community. The Bragues' electric golf buggy overturned. Nightbirds singing from the hibiscus groves. Orange blossom scent hanging heavy in the air. 

Finally, I came to the island's only wharf. Thankfully, nobody was around. I jumped down to the beach and with dawn gloaming vaguely in the eastern skies, I found the old Rhyl lifeboat under the wooden pier:-
It was still under the dirty tarpaulin, hidden from view. But horror of horrors, it was deflated! Someone had slashed it with a knife or something. Fortunately, I remembered that all RNLI lifeboats are supplied with emergency kits that include repair patches and adhesive so patiently, I set about the work and after an hour, with the dawn now fully broken, the inflatable was fixed. All I had to do now was re-inflate it. Not easy! Not easy at all! It's one thing blowing up an airbed but a lifeboat! Oh my Lord, I thought my lungs would burst but finally, finally I was able to replace the plug as a little air rushed back out.
I checked the fuel level in the outboard motor. Fine. Two oars. Check. Then I sneaked to the rain-tank adjacent to the wharf and re-filled my water bottle before gathering a sack of fallen coconuts. Miraculously, a machete had been left near the water tank so I  shoved it inside the coconut sack. That's when I heard voices from the jungle path so quick as you like I slithered back under the pier and with heart thumping listened to the voices of the bad men above me. Of course, I don't speak Burmese but the word "pudding" was used several times and once it was followed by a gob of phlegm which landed on the sand close to my hiding place.

They went away and after waiting a few minutes, quietly and very cautiously I hauled the lifeboat down towards the incoming tide. How can an inflatable boat be so heavy? I guess the outboard motor didn't help! But eventually, it was in the water.

I pulled the starter cord on the motor. It spluttered to life and then coughed, dead. I tried again and that's when I heard the murderous voices of the Burmese lynchmob rushing back from the forest. One more pull. I adjusted the choke and the motor surged into life.

I sped away from the pier with the Burmese killing crew yelling and leaping up and down in frustration. I couldn't resist slowing down for a moment  so that I could turn back and goad them to distraction. Standing in the craft I gave them the two fingered salute with both hands as I ad-libbed a football chant - "One Yorkshire Pudding! There's only one Yorkshire Pudding!". Then I was off, speeding cross the gentle Andaman to the wide blue yonder...

20 June 2012


Robert I or Robert the Bruce was the leader of the Scots nation between 1306 till his death from an "unclean ailment" in 1329. A legend has evolved around him concerning the time he was on the run from English forces in the winter of 1306/7. Allegedly, he hid in a dank cave feeling utterly defeated until he noticed the endeavours of a fellow cave dweller - a determined spider that stuck to its task until its web was spun.The story goes that this lifted Robert's spirits and made him determined to work harder to defeat the English imperialists. In 1314, he led his kilted haggis munchers to a famous victory at Bannockburn near Stirling which even today figures large in the psyche of Scotland.

I mention this because I of course have also been hiding in a cave - feeling not just dejected but terrified. Shocking visions of what happened to Thuza and Arun remain all too vivid and I can't dismiss them from my mind. From the cave entrance, just before sunset,  I could see a single bottlenosed dolphin. It came leaping into the bay, reared its head and seemed to look in my direction before heading back out to sea. This was my spider moment. I realised that I must also head out to sea - escape before they find me.

And then I remembered - the old inflatable lifeboat from Rhyl - the one we used to search for Katherine de Chevalle. It was left under the wooden jetty at the Robert Brague Memorial Wharf to the north of Blogland. Perhaps the murderous newcomers don't even know it's there. It had an old brown tarpaulin over it. It's probably my only chance. I mean the British government sent a task force to the Falklands in 1982 but they're hardly likely to do the same for a single former British citizen are they? Besides, the longer I sit here, the riskier it becomes. I've got to go and go tonight, before it's too late... 

19 June 2012


Oh Jesus, won't somebody help me? I'm so scared, I'm not just shaking, I'm literally shitting myself.. I'm in a little cave I discovered a few weeks ago - beneath the rocky headland, just round from the main beach. You have to really crouch down to get in. I've got a bag with a few possessions in, my passports, money, a two litre bottle of water and this laptop - which thank God is fully charged.

Earlier, I was down at the social club watching England beat Ukraine in the European Nations tournament. There was a bunch of the new immigrants in the bar - a dozen or so of the nasty bastards. As they constantly raided the bar,  I wanted to yell at them that the Tetley's was just for me, the "Wild Tiurkey" was reserved for Mr Brague and the "Babycham" had been bought in specially for Arctic Fox and Shooting Parrots. But my instincts told me to say nothing and just smile. They kept patting me heartily on the back as if I was their best buddy or something. They were getting louder and nastier and their eyes were bloodshot. When Wayne Rooney scored the victorious tap in header, their cheers were clearly ironic. They were laughing at me, not with me.

It was a relief when the match finished and I could get home to Thuza and Arun - The Coconut Boy. But when I got home, Arun wasn't there. Thuza said he'd probably been secretly watching the football match from the  social club's shrubbery with some of the other Burmese kids.

Ten minutes later, we heard him running on to the veranda. He was all hot and bothered and out of breath. He garbled something in Burmese, gesticulating like a mad man. Thuza's customary inscrutable smile turned to  terror as her face went a whiter shade of pale. She translated:-

"Those bad men - they coming for you Mr Pudding. They wanna kill you! You gotta go! Go now! Grab bag. Take few things. Go! Go! Quickly!"

I sprinted to the bedroom, grabbed my Royal Stewart tartan holdall and stuffed it with a few necessities before hurdling over the veranda's wooden handrail into the pitch black garden where I crouched down in the shadows of my banana grove. Not a moment too soon. I heard the gang coming down the path. Fired up on alcohol and full of bloodlust. It was obvious that they were after me.
What happened next will remain with me for the rest of my life. It was so terrible it still seems surreal. I keep shaking my head, hoping to wake up, hoping it was all just a horrible nightmare. But I know it wasn't. It was as real as the tears that are dripping on to my laptop's keyboard as I write this account.

They were yelling gruffly at Thuza and Arun. Pushing them around. Arun was screaming and  one of the rigngleaders  grabbed Thuza's hair then slung her roughly to the hardwood floor of my living room. I could see it all through the french windows - like a late night horror film on a big screen.

I wanted to rush in like Superman - to fight off the forces of darkness but in real life, as we all know, goodness rarely triumphs over evil. If I'd gone back in, I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever that they would have brutally assassinated me. My survival  instinct was utterly backed up by what happened in the next five or six minutes while I looked on frozen with terror.

The shouting increased along with the slapping and then the punching. Two of the drunken thugs held Thuza's arms back while another pummelled her with bare fisted punches to the torso and head. She was screaming hysterically in Burmese but they were just laughing like mad men. And the same was happening with Arun, even though he was just a kid. There was genuine agony in his protestations. A couple of times I had to avert my eyes.

And then one of them found Arun's machete. There was no warning, no teasing. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. I saw the blade flash above the man's head and I watched it come down. In one fell swoop he sliced off the top of Arun's head like a coconut.  Blood and other stuff spurted out. Arun had stopped screaming. I retched, afraid that they'd hear me but their attentions were now fully turned to gentle, beautiful Thuza. She was on her knees, pleading for her life but they weren't listening. One of the ringleaders grabbed the machete and hacked at her neck three or four times until she was decapitated in a gory mess of hot, crimson blood. Awful. Awful, Awful!

I grabbed my bag and rushed away, feeling like a fox about to be pursued by huntsmen on horseback. And as I sit here quaking, I ask myself not only: Why? But also: How? How could they do that to two such lovely and innocent people? I can't get the images out my head and I fear what tomorrow might bring. I'm going to have to save the laptop battery. I'll  try to blog again tomorrow - if I'm still alive. Night night Thuza! Night night Arun!

18 June 2012


Since secret Burmese immigrants started appearing in Blogland in the dead of night and taking over designer beach properties intended for absent westerners, I have found myself driven back more and more to the confines of my compound. Occasionally, I still walk up to the social club but even that is now being taken over by Burmese peasants. Sitting cross-legged in the shadows, they mutter about me and occasionally chortle with malevolent laughter.

Arun - The Coconut Boy
I still share my home with my personal assistant  Miss Thuza who is not only a most obedient servant but also  a skilled masseuse who employs a range of aromatic oils during our nightly therapy sessions. I have acquired an extra servant whose real name is Arun but I call him "The Coconut Boy". Whenever I fancy a fresh young drinking nut, he shins up the nearest coconut palm like a monkey, clenching a small machete knife between his teeth like a pirate. His speed and bravery are both quite remarkable.

Then he brings me my drinking nut with a big wide grin saying "Dis for you Master". He's about eleven years old and as thin as a rake. He calls Thuza "Auntie" but I have a strong suspicion that he is in fact her son as the physical resemblance is quite striking.

Anyway, last evening he came running home from the social club where he'd overheard a group of the new immigrants gossiping on the bay terrace. Thuza had to translate his breathless report.

"He say they no likey you. Want take back Blogland make it back to Lampi Island gain.. No wanty white man here. Say dey gonna murder you. Come with torches. Burn dis house down. Feed your body to dem fish!"

She became increasingly tearful - almost hysterical. "Oh Mr Pud, Mr Pud! I really scared. They bad men! You gotta escape or dey kill you!"

"No way am I running away Thuza. For Christ's sake, I am a Yorkshireman. We aren't scared of anything! Tell The Coconut Boy I am grateful for the information but I'm staying put!" I said.

Even so, as Thuza skilfully oiled my aching shoulders before bedtime, I couldn't help feeling a degree of nervousness. I mean - this isn't why I came to Blogland. To be butchered by a bunch of illiterate thugs in the dead of night. I came here for peace and freedom and to build a new, alternative society with my blogging buddies. If only they were here. This invasion would never have happened. We'd be arm wrestling, dancing in the moonlight, sipping pina coladas and guffawing at each other's humorous tales till the wee small hours. The dream was so close I could almost touch it but they never came and now the jungle drums are beating.
The machete knife - not just for cutting open coconuts

17 June 2012


All through that night
And into the following day
It rained.
We tried to shelter 
In the lee of trees
By the crossroads
Where we used to play -
Fine at first
The droplets grew,
Plothering from oak leaves
Under that leaden sky
Till sodden the verges
And the old road
Muttering rivulets
Flowed down Harrison's Hill
Gurgling to gutters
Replete with water
While wet as fish
We splashed home
In the endless rain,
The endless 

15 June 2012


Barnburgh is a charming village that sits in a sort of post-industrial no-man's land between Barnsley and Doncaster. Between 1911 and 1989, like many villages in the Dearne Valley, it boasted a productive coal mine - that was until Maggie Thatcher wielded her axe and "took on" the nation's miners, later spitefully and stupidly shutting down nearly all that remained of South Yorkshire's coal industry.

However, long before deep mining was dreamt of a village existed at Barnburgh  and the surrounding area hides tantalising glimpses of a history that reaches way back to the Romans and beyond. Geographically, the settlement is situated beneath a dry magnesian limestone ridge and must have once looked down on marshy uninhabitable "ings" or water meadows where the Dearne river meandered its way to the River Don.

A great medieval house once stood in the village. It was bought by the Coal Board and was called Barnburgh Hall. They demolished it in 1969, claiming that the main building was suffering from mining subsidence. Perhaps it was. Now all that remains is a listed sixteenth century dovecote that may have accommodated up to two thousand birds. Its honey-coloured stone was undoubtedly quarried from Banburgh Cliffs, hidden in woods half a mile to the north.

Copse hiding the remains of St Helen's Chapel
Stone in the undergrowth - St Helen's Chapel
The old dovecote - gardens of Barnburgh Hall
Barnburgh "pinfold" where stray animals were once gathered for collection
The ordnance survey map of the area shows a track called St Helen's Lane which leads past the remains of St Helen's Chapel. This is situated in a small copse but there's very little to see - just a few stones in the undergrowth. I suspect that the small religious building that stood in that place was put there because the site had older pre-Christian significance and was probably dedicated to Ellen - a pagan goddess often associated with water sources. During the establishment of Christianity in Yorkshire, the church would frequently latch on to special pagan sites no doubt finding such connections useful when trying to win over wavering peasants whose ancestors had been pagan for millennia. Those old beliefs were part of their DNA.

In the British Isles, evidence of what once was is everywhere -  though many people fail to notice it or just don't care. But me - I cherish physical echoes of the past and feel a warm glow whenever I strengthen recognition that the life I am living is just a small jigsaw piece in the broad sweep of history. Even a forgotten place like Barnburgh and its surrounds can give you that feeling.

14 June 2012


It's twenty one years since I visited Iceland - and I'm not talking about the frozen food store of that name! I took a flight from Glasgow to Kevlavik and then travelled by airport shuttle into Reykjavik where I headed to the youth hostel near the big open air public swimming pool to the north of the capital. It was a Saturday afternoon and as I walked through the little city with its wide open spaces and Arctic wind, I noticed homeowners in one suburban garden tending their rocks - yes - rocks - not plants because so little grows successfully there and even trees are a rarity.

That evening at the steaming thermal pool, staff insisted that visitors stripped naked and showered properly before entering the water. There was a blonde female attendant on duty to enforce this regulation in the men's changing area Naturally, her Icelandic jaw dropped when she observed my manly Yorkshire physique.

The next morning I set off on a round-Iceland bus journey using public bus services. I hoped to get to the country's second largest town - Akureyri by nightfall. However, halfway there the bus driver informed us that  the road ahead had been swept away by a glacial river and we would probably have to return to the capital. Instead, I chose to get off the bus and headed for an isolated country youth hostel just off the main road. I was the only guest that night and I remember sitting in the outdoor "pottar" - a thermal pool - drinking a mug of tea while watching a skein of geese advancing up the adjacent fjord.

The next morning I hitched a lift to Akureyri. Soldiers had fixed a temporary bridge over the angry river during the night. An old couple picked me up after half an hour though I had hardly seen any other vehicles. Although it was mid-June, I remember the chill of the wind blowing down from the Arctic Circle as I waited on that exposed roadside. Stupidly, I left my Hull City ski-hat in the old couple's car as I sought the Akureyri youth hostel but - revealing admirable kindness - that evening the old couple came to find me in order to return said hat. 

Scans of a few of my snaps:-
Typical view from the bus across a volcanic plain
The glacial lake where ice from the glacier was trapped
Old Icelandic cottage - turf is used for insulation
Bubbling sulphur pool near "Viti" (Hell)
I visited a volcanic crater called "Viti" which means "Hell". A blizzard was blowing and on the geothermal plain close by sulphurous mud pools bubbled in the horizontal blizzard. Iceland is often referred to as "The Land of Ice and Fire". It's a tourism strapline but I doubt that there's anywhere else on Earth that is more worthy of such a label.

When I was there it was mid-summer and there was twenty four hour daylight though at two or three in the morning the light was murky. Even so seabirds continued to fly, to feed and to nest all through the "night". In some dunes near Hofn some nesting gulls tried to attack me.

I must have travelled three or four hundred miles that week, across bleak moonscapes on black lava roads. Occasionally I was the only passenger on the bus - sometimes just a minibus. I recall that on the south of the island near Europe's biggest glacier - Vattnajokull, the bus suffered a puncture and as the driver waited for assistance I was able to wander round a glacial overflow lake where huge chunks of ice floated - sculpted by wind, time and sunshine.

Raging waterfalls, boiling lakes in glacial faults, geysirs, vast plains and mountain ranges, lichens, dark clouds and isolated settlements. Iceland seemed like a place that was still being born. Elemental and raw. I loved it and I am pleased that it's there in the section of my memory bank marked "places I have seen". 

Iceland - population 320,000 of which 200,000 live in Reykjavik. The island was first settled in the ninth century.

11 June 2012


 Oh it's so easily done. You know, you've had a hard week prime-ministering or suffering the stressful life of a prime minister's spouse so you go down to the pub in Cadsden, Buckinghamshire on a Sunday lunchtime. You guzzle a few beers and glasses of white plonk before tucking into plates of best top rump with roasted vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy. You guffaw with your chums and exchange pleasantries with the bar staff.

Then it's time to go, so hiccuping and loosening one's belt one jumps in one's car and heads home.Later one discovers one has left one's eight year old daughter back at the pub. Below you can see Nancy Cameron - now aged eight - whose privileged parents left her in "The Plough Inn" for half an hour. They had forgotten about the poor little mite.
"Mummy! Daddy! Where are you?"
Hand on heart, I can honestly say that as we were raising our two children we never once left either of them in a pub, a restaurant, a public convenience, an airport, a factory, a supermarket, a church, a department store or any other such place. As responsible parents, we had this weird old-fashioned idea that it was our duty to ensure that our kids were safe at all times.

It's easy to see why Cameron and his aristocratic wife tried to keep this news secret. It happened two months ago. This is a politician who purportedly places great store on family values and yet he leaves his kid in a pub! I wonder if the social services in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire have been informed. I think poor little Nancy needs to go on the "at risk" register.

10 June 2012


Sticky Toffee has found the last few days in northern England rather frustrating because of the inclement weather and he has struggled to get out in the countryside - to indulge in his current favourite hobbies - map reading, walking and photography. However, on Sunday afternoon he spotted a window of opportunity and drove to the hamlet of Sugworth, a few miles west of Sheffield for a nice long ramble.

In 1927, during The Great Depression, wealthy civil engineer and road builder Charles Boot had this tower constructed just to keep a gang of his men occupied. It is known as Boot's Folly and popular with sheltering sheep. The wooden staircase inside is ruined and you'd need a helicopter or extremely long stilts to get to the viewing platform on the top:-
Like me, Sticky Toffee is also drawn to ruins. There something melancholic about a lonely ruin and if you stop to listen carefully you can hear the echoes of long deceased occupants. This is on Ughill Moors above the hamlet of Moscar:-

And here's another ruin - in Bradfield Dale. The neglected house plant inside has evidently burst through the slate roof:-
Sugworth Hall is a very old manor house on the edge of the moors and round about it there are lots of rhododendron bushes. In fact, at one point the public footpath goes through what you might call a rhododendron tunnel and when you emerge you see this:-
Here in Blogland I sometimes dream of country walks I went on in the past. England offers an infinite number of wonderful, varied paths and if you study maps you can often devise circular routes that are rarely trodden. In Blogland it's hot and when I do walk, it's mostly to the social club or down to the beach. Sticky Toffee's pictures make me feel nostalgic and not a little envious. What I'd give to pull on a pair of walking boots, grab a map and simply stroll along singing:- 
I love to go a-wandering, 
Along the mountain track, 
And as I go, I love to sing, 
My knapsack on my back.

My knapsack on my back.

9 June 2012


As regular visors to this blog may recall, I am an unashamed  Americophile and I share the following YouTube clip with some regret as I know that not all Americans are as ill-informed as the interviewees it contains. You may need to click off the irritating advertising bar at the bottom.
Of course, at least five of our American cousins are regular visitors to this humble blog and I know that all of them are well-informed and highly intellectual, having a keen grasp of current world affairs and world geography. They would certainly not have fallen into the traps that were prepared for the dumbasses in the video. For example, my friend Chris in Ohio is well aware that they speak French in France and Richard in Minneapolis knows for sure that America's northern border is with a vast nature reserve known as Canada

Mind you, if I was stopped in the street and asked a bunch of random mathematical  or numbers-related questions, I too would appear like an absolute dunce. I guess that different people know different things and place high value on different pots of knowledge. The stuff we retain is linked with perceived "need". If you're working and happily raising a family in the heartlands of America - still the wealthiest and most powerful country on the planet - why would you need to know who Tony Blair was or the location of North Korea? Better to know the current price of pork loins at the Piggly Wiggly.

8 June 2012


Today was the day when my beloved Hull City A.F.C. revealed their new team manager. He's the vastly experienced Steve Bruce who has flitted around from club to club like a gipsy selling clothes pegs. There he is above. His dashing good looks have won him several lucrative modelling contracts in the past.

I know that regular readers of this humble blog are equally passionate about football. For example, Jenny is fanatical about Wrexham F.C. and Arctic Fox sports Huddersfield Town pyjamas in the wintertime. Jan Blawat in California is a closet Rotherham United fan while Mr Brague prefers Bradford City. I can testify that New Zealander Katherine flies a Newcastle United flag above her historic Tauranga home while Daphne of Leeds was once arrested for fighting outside the Elland Road Stadium. When Helen and Tony visit England from Oz their main objective is always to take in a few Derby County matches. Naturally, Earl John Gray favours both Brighton and Shrewsbury Town. Only Mr Parrots-Rhodes from Manchester's dark underbelly seems anti-football - as he follows Manchester United.

We finished a creditable eighth in The Championship last season, so Bruce has a genuine chance to bring The Tigers up to The Premiership again in his first season. That is what the Egyptian owners of the club will expect and no doubt they are giving their new man substantial funds to help him to achieve that goal. Appointing him is a statement of real intent and shows genuine ambition. I just hope that Bruce is up to the job and won't let our long-suffering fans down by jumping ship when a better job offer appears.

His daughter, Amy, aged twenty five, has been the subject of several nasty paparazzi hunts in the past. For a while, there was speculation about her physical appearance and these were two cruel mock-ups:-

Actually, I think these photo-shopped beauties resemble typical female bloggers. I mean, looking like that it's surely safer to stay indoors tapping away at a computer keyboard than to risk the testosterone-fuelled attentions of anonymous mail suitors.

So next season it will be Steve Bruce's Black and Amber Army - as we do battle with the likes of Bangkok Booth's Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton Wanderers and Middlesborough. Up The Tigers!

7 June 2012


The Blogland Procurement Council purchased a Club Car golf buggy, anticipating that it would be useful to more senior bloggers. As you will appreciate, there are no cars here and the council recognised that older bloggers - not used to walking - could potentially become prisoners in their own homes. The council was especially concerned about the impending arrival of Mr and Mrs Brague from The Peach State and had planned to park the aforementioned vehicle under their Balinese-style beach property.
It's less than a quarter of a mile from the Bragues' residence to our social club and though it's not marked on the map, a wide paved path was constructed specially to allow the Bragues to travel in the electric golf buggy between their residence and the social club - where several bottles of "Wild Turkey" bourbon remain behind the bar earmarked exclusively for Mr Brague.
Since Katherine deChevalle left to pursue her artistic career back in New Zealand, I have come to accept that I may always be alone here - the only Blogland passport holder in the world. Though I have dismissed several slaves members of the Burmese support staff, the population still seems to be enlarging and I have been powerless to prevent poor Burmese families arriving from the mainland to occupy several of the designer homes intended for western immigrants.

The golf buggy is redundant so it is available for sale while still in A1 condition. Shipping will be included in the successful bid price. I decided to sell it through this blog rather than resort to e-bay. Please place your bids in the "Comments" section and explain how you wish to use the buggy should your bid be successful.

6 June 2012


So far from home, I find myself developing research obsessions. Following my post about the Sheffield mail order millionaire and philanthropist, J.G. Graves, I was able to pinpoint the grand house he lived in for over forty years. "Riverdale"  used to be surrounded by extensive grounds and there was a lawn that ran down to the babbling River Porter - but in the sixties most of this surrounding land was sold off for the construction of little boxes made of ticky tacky - and they still all look just the same. So now "Riverdale" is like a heart without a body, a jewel without a crown. To add insult to injury, the grand house has now been split into offices where commercial dwarves quest the filthy lucre that, in his best years, Graves gathered in figurative barrowloads.

So I sent Sticky Toffee to sneak around "Riverdale" during the long Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend. I knew the place would be empty. Taking pictures wasn't easy because the old house is now surrounded by those flat-roofed sixties' apartments that crowd around the grand old house like horse flies. He has mailed me these pictures:-
Grade II listed gatehouse
"Riverdale" from Graham Road
The initials CHF above the window refer to
Charles Henry  Firth  -  Victorian steel maufacturer.
The front of "Riverdale"
Carving of Earl John Gray beneath a window.