30 September 2012

Really

I'm not sure if you can read the sign on this small factory between the godforsaken townships of Thorne and Moorends east of Doncaster. It says "The Real Yorkshire Pudding Company" and below there was this sign which gay men should not misinterpret!
Please understand that I was on the premises of The Real Yorkshire Pudding Company and not the Unreal Yorkshire Pudding Company. At the Real Company, ingredients used include milk, eggs, plain flour and pinches of salt. At the Unreal Company they use magic mushrooms, French brandy, ouzo, Nescafe and other hallucinogenic substances and liquids which regularly blow people's minds.

My advice is this - if buying Yorkshire puddings - either from a supermarket or some sort of eating place - you must ask  whether or not the Yorkshire puddings in question are real as the consumption of  unreal Yorkshire puddings can be extremely injurious to one's mental health.

You may be wondering what I was doing at The Real Yorkshire Pudding Factory. Well, I have been asked to star in a sequence of TV ads for the company, extolling the virtues of the humble pudding after which I took my famous pseudonym. Ideas to date include me canoeing down the River Wharfe in a giant Yorkshire pudding, singing "On Ilkley Moor" in a suit made from small Yorkshire puddings sewn together with bacon rind and distributing thousands of Yorkshire puddings to starving children in Lancashire. Possible slogans include "Keepin' It Real!", "It's the Real Thing!" and "Real em in!". Other advertising ideas will be most welcome.

28 September 2012

Scuppered

Well, I'm writing this in our local library because for once our reasonably trusty  home broadband internet connectivity has failed us. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to connect and in my cavemanlike way I may have made matters worse than when I first started rooting through the innards of our main computer for a solution.

No doubt I'll get the problem sorted somehow next week. I wonder how long blinking modems last for? surely not forever. Ours came from TalkTalk a couple of years ago and it's been turned on ever since. Occasionally the trio of green lights needed for internet access have given way to a nasty little red light that says you can't get on but that issue has always been very temporary. Now the green lights are on but we can't connect.

Shirley has become worse than me with a severe internet habit. She's on Facebook, she's researching for her new Women's Institute group, she's hotmailing and checking out programmes on i-player. Last night she seemed lost as if she was unable to get hold of the heroin she needs to feed her habit. When I get home she will probably clout me with a frying pan for not getting her "stuff" sorted this afternoon. And then the fifteen year old dishwasher is malfunctioning but that's another story...

Here are a couple of photos from the walk I went on yesterday - from Pilsley to Hassop, Great Longstone, Bakewell and back to Pilsley. A four hour march with lots of lovely things to see:-
STOP PRESS:- It's a relief to hear that the abductor, paedophile and former teacher Jeremy Forrest has been arrested in France and that his victim - fifteen year old Megan Stammers is safe. What a relief this must be for her family and unlike some visitors to this blog I have absolutely no sympathy for Forrest. As with the unfortunate girls who were preyed upon by a gang of perverts in Rochdale, Megan is a child - yes she's fifteen years old but still a child. As far as I'm concerned, Forrest is even worse than the Rochdale vultures. He was a teacher in a position of trust and he took advantage of his position to form an illicit reationship with a minor.

26 September 2012

Forcefield

To the left is Jeremy Forrest, a married thirty year old Maths teacher from Sussex in England and to the right is Megan Stammers, a fifteen year old pupil at the same Eastbourne school where Forrest once worked. But he will never work there again.

Effectively, he has abducted vulnerable Megan - even though it seems she went willingly with the fellow who gave her extra coaching in Maths before the summer holidays. They were seen holding hands on a cross-channel ferry last Thursday night and may still be somewhere in France together. Appeals have gone out but so far nothing has been heard of the pair apart from a phone call that Megan made to a friend to say that everything was okay.

But everything is not okay is it? Megan is still a minor, a child and Forrest is an adult - actually not just a man in the street but someone who was in the responsible position of educating other people's children. It was Maths he was meant to be focussing on not the possibilty of stealing away a gullible teenage girl  from a broken home - a girl who no doubt harbours starry-eyed notions of love and romance.

I just hope that this story does not have a disastrous ending and that Forrest is duly arrested and Megan gets home safely.

As a teacher myself, there was always an invisible forcefield between me and the possibility of "special" attachments with any of my pupils. It was a line I could never cross even though through the years I taught many lovely girls - some of them eighteen year old sixth formers when I was still in my mid twenties. I knew I was at work, not at a nightclub and I also knew that some teenage girls will swoon about young men in authority - developing crushes and I wasn't about to take advantage of my position . I was there to teach them.

At one Sheffield school, the O level and CSE exams had just finished and there was a knock on the staffroom door. Muriel Stonehewer went to open it. "Two young ladies want a word Mr Pudding," said Muriel.

I went to the door to find two Year 11 girls who had been in my English class. The first girl - I can't remember her name - had brought me a small box of chocolates as a  thank you gift. She said, "Ann Marie wants a word sir but you know she's shy."  Ann Marie was a quiet dark-haired girl, quite pretty and she had always got on well with the tasks I had set. She was quite good at English.

"What is it Ann Marie?" I asked.

It was then that Ann Marie lunged at me. I was caught off guard and slightly lost my balance as she snogged my face - in that moment releasing a torrent of pent up teenage frustration. I managed to push her away, no doubt blushing like a ripe beetroot. It was hard to know what to say but Ann Marie gasped, "I love you sir! I've always loved you!"

"...But I'm a teacher Ann Marie! I - I can't have anything to do with you! Not like that!" I garbled before retreating to the staffroom where Auntie Muriel was most curious about what had just happened. Fortunately Mrs Stonehewer and I were on good terms - she was my "head of year" and she was level-headed. She knew exactly how some teenage girls can be with male teachers. and reassured me that everything would be all right. And I never saw Ann Marie again.

Of course, Forrest should have pushed Megan away too. Teaching isn't just about the delivery of information and the honing of skills. There are people in the equation and psycho-emotional human dynamics at play but the bottom line is that "we" are responsible adults, paid to do a job and "they" are just children entrusted to us by their parents - they are in our care simply to learn and ultimately to get through exams. It appears that Forrest couldn't see the wood for the trees and has taken advantage of a child who should have been able to trust him. As I say, let's hope she's okay and gets home safely.

25 September 2012

Hits

Everyone who accesses the worldwide web finds his or her own pathways through it. We all have our regular sites in addition to the blogs we visit or maintain. I contribute regularly to the photo-hosting site "Panoramio" which is the basis of all the thousands of photographs in Google Maps and Google Earth. "Panoramio" is very good at providing statistics and I can quickly see how many visitors individual pictures have received. In total, my pictures have attracted over 438,000 "hits" or "views".

Currently, my most popular photo is one I took in October 2009, not long after I had taken early retirement from secondary school teaching. It was snapped far from here on the island of Rapa Nui - better known as Easter Island. I had wanted to go there for many years and already knew a great deal about that tiny speck of land set in a vast blue ocean.

Even now, I can hardly believe that I spent six days there, walking amongst fallen moai, visiting the quarry where these mysterious statues were made, talking with present day Easter islanders, scanning those distant Pacific horizons. To be there was of course so different from all the books I'd read and the pictures I'd seen. In my imagination I could feel the presence of that isolated Polynesian community that blossomed and then almost died even before the arrival of Europeans like my fellow Yorkshireman and hero - Captain Cook.

To the east of the island there is a revered stone that legend says belonged to the old ones - the makers of the moai. Nearby, there are the neglected archaeological remains of an old village. The hard volcanic stone is called Pu O Hiro - which means The Trumpet Stone and even today it is possible to blow giant raspberries through the blow holes at the top. They say it was used to call islanders to meetings or ceremonies and I can well believe it.


This photo has on its own received 14,118 hits:-
Pu o Hiro - The Trumpet Stone
Why that should be I have no idea, especially as I took many more eye-catching pictures during my visit such as this one:-
Two visitors before the ahu at Tongariki with Poike beyond
It's the "ahu" or platform at Tongariki with the Poike peninsula beyond. This picture has only attracted 226 hits and the spectacular one below of a moai at Hanga Roa with a golden sunset beyond has only attracted 144 hits:-
Moai at sunset - in Hanga Roa
Anyway, I guess that the only "hits" the original Easter islanders were concerned about were the hits they might receive from their chiefs or those who dwelt on the other side of the island. They lived there for perhaps a thousand years in perfect isolation. They had no contact whatsoever with anybody else on the planet save for occasional driftwood. As far as they were concerned, Rapa Nui was the world and there was nothing beyond those distant horizons. When in situ, none of the famous moai statues looked out to sea. They all looked inland, back towards parochial matters, to daily living and society - not outwards to the rest of the world and the possibility of other ways of living.

24 September 2012

Chatsworth

The rain that began mid-afternoon yesterday continues to patter on the flat roof above our study. Why didn't I light the garden bonfire before this drenching, before greyness covered the city and the sodden streets  were made shiny with wetness? 

I could have struck the match on Saturday when the weather was gorgeous and the prunings and clippings and sycamore branches were almost bone dry... but instead I was out walking again having declined the opportunity to go to Leeds with Shirley for a shopping expedition with Princess Frances - our darling daughter. To me shopping expeditions are on a par with visiting the dentist and Maths lessons of yore.

When thinking of a new walk, hidden cogs whirr in my brain and soon I focus on a particular area before planning a route with the assistance of Ordnance Survey's "Get A Map". Then I'm off. Of course, I have been to the Chatsworth Estate many  times before but it is a huge area of land and it's only twenty minutes from our hovel so that's where I decided to go on Saturday.

I parked in the village of Baslow - home to England's former cricket captain Michael Vaughan - and set off southwards towards Chatsworth House. Apart from the ostentatious stately home built for the Dukes of Devonshire, the estate contains a surprising number of cottages and farms. There are streams and lakes, follies and fountains, formal and informal gardens, woods, sheep pastures and even a nine hole golf course and a cricket ground - 35,000 acres in total.

As it was a sunny Saturday, there were many cars parked up by the grand house and the huge former stable block. Parking costs £3 per vehicle and there must have been a thousand cars there Not bad work if you can get it! Of course, the majority of visitors would have been paying to go inside the stately home and its gardens or scoffing posh nosh in the stable block or wasting money in the gift shops but I was going up into the woods and out into the countryside. I climbed four hundred feet to Bess of Hardwick's sixteenth century hunting tower and then passed The Emperor Lake which feeds the famous Emperor Fountain before reaching The Swiss Lake.

Out of the woods and into the sheep country then back down to Dobb Edge and along to The Jubilee Stone and the grand gatehouses by the ornate north entrance that is closed to visitors. I followed the path back to Plantation House and the kissing gate that leads back to Baslow. Another really lovely three hour walk but now the huge bonfire pile is saturated. Shirley just phoned to say there's a power cut at her health centre and she may need me to bring her a big jumper as the heating has been off for an hour now. Such an inconvenience rarely happens these days. For your interest, snaps from Saturday's walk:-
The kissing gate - path from Baslow
Chatsworth cricket ground
Just a few of the cars parked by the big house
The hunting tower - 16th century
Swiss Cottage by The Swiss Lake 
Forgotten sheep track east of Chatsworth
Inscription on The Jubilee Rock - commemorating
Queen' Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887
Chatsworth northern gates and gatehouses

23 September 2012

Duttybreed

"Duttybreed" is a new T-shirt brand conceived and created by our beloved son Ian who is now faraway in  our nation's seething metropolis. He did lots of homework before launching the new brand, working with a couple of professional graphic designers and researching possible producers. The shirts are available exclusively via internet sales and you can click on any of the promotional pictures to access the carefully crafted website.

Okay middle-aged bloggers are not Duttybreed's  target market but you may have children or grandchildren, friends or neighbours who'd be interested in joining the Duttybreed movement. It's early days yet and to build a new brand takes time and perseverance. Many times people have good ideas and fail to follow them through - I know that I am often guilty of that - but Ian has not just had the idea, he has put it into practice and  for that I am rather proud of him. If you can, please support this enterprise.
Ian himself modelling one of the new designs

21 September 2012

Poem


Muslin

The Muslin holy book
Having been a miltant atheist since childhood, I am thinking of joining the Muslin faith. Muslin followers are guided by the good book "Muslin" written by the prophet Memshaib Sonia Ashmore. It originated in the area of eastern India now known as Bangladesh and came to Europe in the seventeeth century. Magically, Muslin takes many forms and has proved invaluable in a range of human activities - from culinary matters to dress-making and from the theatre to sailing and medicine. As Memsahib Sonia said in the holy book, "A life without muslin is a life half lived".

Marie Antoinette in muslin

Followers of the Muslin faith must of course dress in muslin clothing which can cause raised eyebrows in the commercial palaces of the infidel. It is a little known fact that our lady the pious Marie Antoinette observed the Muslin faith very keenly and in her iconic portrait by Le Brun (1783), she is of course dressed in the finest muslin. Back in the ninth century, Arab merchant Sulaiman first described the wondrous muslin he encountered in Bengal prophesying that one day the power of the Muslin would encircle the globe - "We can maketh money from this".


Recently many followers of the Muslin faith have been shocked by YouTube videos that mock believers in muslin, suggesting that it is inferior to artificial fabrics like rayon and nylon. Fabric shops around the world have been ransacked and passers by have been stripped of their non-muslin attire. That sounds like fun to me which is one of the reasons I am thinking of ditching my deeply ingrained atheism to join the Muslin Brotherhood.

19 September 2012

Edge

"...the eternal rocks beneath"Emily Bronte in "Wuthering Heights"
Looking eastwards to Seal Edge from Fairbrook Naze
I was so energised by my recent arduous ramble to the Kinder Scout plateau that I decided to go back yesterday morning. The weather forecast was promising but it was raining when I parked up close to "The Snake Pass Inn", by the two lane A57 which weaves its way over the dark Pennine uplands to Lancashire. 

After the rain shower had passed, I donned my boots and ventured down through the Snake Woodlands and into the valley of the River Ashop - which at this point is no more than a bubbling mountain stream. Onwards, over tributary streams gurgling with peaty water, trying desperately not to slip and tumble over. To my left, "The Edge" loomed - the northern fringe of the Kinder plateau - where the underlying and unclothed millstone grit is exposed to the elements. This was my objective.

After a couple of miles, another rain shower began to spit so I donned my blue cagoule and continued through bogs, clumps of saturated moorland grasses and over rust-coloured rivulets towards the path that would lead me up to The Edge. After half an hour, the rain petered out and soon I was up there in sunshine. Miles away to my left, I could see Manchester's sprawling urban jungle languishing under leaden skies and far to the east shafts of heavenly sunlight illuminated Sheffield - my home city -  in ethereal light.

And so to The Edge - that's what it's called. Not Kinder Edge or Ashop Edge, simply The Edge like that miserable millionaire guitar player in U2. All the way along The Edge the weather behaved itself and I was treated to some wonderful sights. Or maybe it's just me. Perhaps others might dismiss what I saw as "just a bunch of stones" -  and not "the eternal rocks beneath", again sculpted by wind and rain and frost and time into magnificent shapes set in dramatically wild upland scenery. In no particular order, here's a sample of images from yesterday's walk...
Pointing the way from The Edge
Seal-like outcrop on The Edge
Rocks and sky at Fairbrook Naze
Rocks on The Edge with view to Bleaklow

Iguana-like outcrop with Ashop Head beyond
"The Boxing Glove" outcrop on The Edge

*all these photos are copyrighted 

18 September 2012

Victory

The hardest £10  I ever earned
I passed my driving test in 1972 and since then I have put enough petroleum in various cars to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools. In all this time, I never once suspected that I'd been cheated by a malfunctioning petrol pump - until this April...

I had just picked our Frances up from Sheffield railway station and pulled in to the Waitrose filling station because my low fuel light was on. I put the pump nozzle in my car and pressed the hand lever as usual. It always takes three or four minutes to fill up and even though the price of unleaded was high that day - I confidently expected the charge dial would stop at no more than £58. However, it kept going up - £60, £65 £68! No way! Something was wrong. I didn't even allow the pump to shut off as my Seat Ibiza had never required this amount of fuel before. The pump indicated that I'd added 49.6 litres to my tank.

I complained at the pay desk but the air-headed girl behind the glass had clearly not been trained in how to deal with such complaints and there was a queue of people behind me. So I came home and checked my car manual which said that the tank holds a maximum of forty five litres. I emailed Waitrose immediately outlining the situation, even scanning my receipts for them and the relevant page from the car manual.

There then followed four months of email communication punctuated by large time gaps as I waited for various Waitrose "Customer Services"  responses from a range of people - never the same one. They tried various tactics to put me off but would not waver from their company position that their pumps never make mistakes and because mine was an isolated complaint, I must be either mistaken or out to make money from them.

Finally, I said to them - "Give me money back or I will walk into a Waitrose store and simply take £10 worth of goods from your shelves!" It was at that point they relented and "as a gesture of goodwill" agreed to send me a voucher for £10. 

After the incident in April, I monitored all further visits to filling stations and when filling up found that the most I was putting in was 44 litres and the most I was paying was £57.50. This convinced me that my complaint had been fully justified and I am pleased I managed to wring a victory out of the buggers in the end. Yorkshire Pudding 1 Waitrose United 0 (after extra time and several replays).

17 September 2012

Gurning

Every September, the town of Egremont in Cumberland holds its annual "Crab Fair". One of the highlights of this ancient festival - that can trace its origins back to the thirteenth century - is the annual "gurning" competition. In this event, contestants have to put their heads through a horse's collar and "gurn" - which means to pull an ugly face without assistance. This year, for the eleventh time, the winner was local man Tommy Mattinson who looks as if he often practised his winning face while sitting on the lavatory.
Below we see bloggers Shooting Parrots and kiwi Katherine de Chevalle giving gurning a go in a Manchester pub a few years ago. Of course none of the pub regulars gave them a second glance. 
This evening - before you go to bed - why not look in your bathroom mirror and gurn to your heart's content? Gurning tones up the facial muscles and who knows - if you keep practising, you could be at the Crab Fair in Egremont next September ready to depose the current champion.

16 September 2012

Broomfleet

Beeches Farm, Faxfleet
There is a forgotten land between Goole and Hull, south of the M62 motorway and north of the point where the rivers Trent and Ouse conjoin to become the muddy River Humber. In past centuries, the area was always prone to flooding - until ingenious men created dikes and embankments to ensure that the fields, farmsteads and remote hamlets remain largely dry. 

You approach the area via single track roads that weave across the rich arable landscape. In former times,  there would have been more hedgerows, more woodland and more people making a living from the land. But now it seems that only large scale farming makes profit and the fields have become like open prairies. Only the vestiges of the old days remain. Before cars, perhaps the best way to travel to and from this watery world would have been by boat - east to Hull and west to Goole though of course most inhabitants would have been so wrapped up in day to day living that they probably rarely left Yokefleet, Faxfleet, Laxton, Blacktoft or Broomfleet.

Broomfleet - when I was a young lad my parents would occasionally take us there to see Auntie Mary, Bruce and Uncle Bill Coombe who was the headmaster of the little village primary school. Like the village's  "Old Red Lion" pub it is forever closed now. I recall Sunday teatimes there. On several occasions, Uncle Bill   gave us "indoor fireworks" displays which filled my brothers and I with awe. He also tricked us with stuff he'd bought from Dinsdale's Joke Shop in Hull - plastic dog poo, whoopee cushions, fart powder and so on. He was just a big kid at heart and for that we liked him enormously. You never knew what you'd get with Uncle Bill. Until yesterday, I hadn't been by that old schoolhouse in forty five years.
The old school and schoolhouse, Broomfleet
Across the September stubble to Low Metham Grange
A channel of the River Humber at Weighton Lock
Ploughing near Broomfleet with the twin towers of the Humber Bridge in the distance.
Holy Trinity and Old St Clement's Church at Blacktoft
After this pleasant diversion, in which I walked for two hours, I travelled on to Hull to watch Hull City absolutely thrash Millwall 4-1 at the KC Stadium. A great performance and a great day, later capped in my local pub with fifty third birthday celebrations for Ian the taxman. Cheers.

14 September 2012

Star

Sheffield's evening newspaper is called "The Star". In the Letters section, they always include a "reader's photo" or "photo of the day". Remembering a conversation I had last weekend at the wedding, two days ago I decided to mail in three of my recent photographs and this afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to find they'd published a picture I took last week on the Kinder Scout plateau. Here it is. Those of you without memories like sieves may recall that I posted a different picture of this millstone outcrop last Friday.
Newsprint isn't the best medium for faithful colour reproduction. This is the original digital picture that I sent off to "The Star". It's a lot sharper.
DISCLAIMER: Regarding my photographic exploits, may I say there is no truth whatsoever in the rumour that I was in Provence, France last week scrabbling through the French undergrowth to snap saucy pictures of  the Duchess of Cambridge in a semi-naked state. I was there in search of the elusive  Pyrenean desman which is a far more interesting subject.

12 September 2012

Paedophilia

I know nothing about paedophilia and if you are expecting a blogpost all about paedophilia then you will be sorely disappointed. The only reason I have titled this post "Paedophilia" is to test the water re. my blog statistics. Up until now, and rather bizarrely, my most popular posts of all time have been one titled "Chavs" that I made in September 2009  and another called "Desman" that I wrote quite recently on the subject of a little known aquatic mammal called the Pyrenean desman.

It is my expectation that out there in the world at large there will be people - some of them sick in the head -who are curious about paedophilia and they will be sitting in their ghettoes, mud huts or penthouse suites tapping away at their computers trying to find out more. Consequently, this will become my all time most popular blogpost and I will be the envy of my middle-aged blogging peer group - from Canton,  Georgia to Darkest Angola and from Wrexham, Wales to Brisbane, Australia.

I prefer the archaic spelling of the word - "paedophilia" - rather than the sloppy Americanised version - "pedophilia" which could easily be confused with the feet - as in "pedometer". Picking out the Greek roots of the word it literally means παῖς (child) φιλία (friendly love) -i.e. friendly love of children but of course the modern definition has an entirely sexual focus and even the word "paedophilia" has become like an alarm bell ringing - so much so that I expect an angry mob with burning torches to mill around our house before this week ends, simply because I dared to utter the word - "paedophilia". By the way, the story about a paediatric doctor in South Wales being murdered by an a vengeful and linguistically challenged mob is purely an urban myth.

P.S. If any paedophiles or would-be paedophiles are reading this, my considered advice to you is to get some professional counselling. The innocence of childhood is something that deserves respect and no adult has the right to scar a child's life forever.

11 September 2012

Poem


Rooting around in our attic space this morning I came across a collection of poems published by The Co-operative Society back in 1993. The little anthology brought together all the winning entries in their Caring Poetry Festival. They received over three thousand poems - all on the theme of caring. I had forgotten my winning poem. As I sat amidst the dusty old suitcases, children's books and various other bric-a-brac, it was like reading someone else's work. I guess that nineteen years ago I had been thinking about the oft-repeated modern day tragedy of an old person dying alone and forgotten in their humble home - an indictment upon the sometimes impersonal nature of modern day urban life and a plea for people to be more neighbourly. This is what I wrote:-