31 October 2012

Wrath

"The Eruption of Vesuvius" by Joseph Turner (1775-1851)
Wrath

Sometimes it rises like lava
Molten fury glowing scarlet
Surging down through the woods.
Sometimes it infiltrates like dry rot
Creeping mutely under the floorboards
Of our compulsion to remain
Calm and sane.

Sometimes you look back
Thinking, “Was that really me?”
As red transmutes to charcoal grey.
Oft-times it seems like the real life
To fight and to feel come what may.
Yes, let others live like zombies
To plod a rose-strewn way

- For we shall wait at the seashore
Where whitecaps harass the wind
- Confessing our anger together,
Proud to admit we have sinned.

30 October 2012

Blackness

Recently, some rich "black" English footballers have been contemplating setting up their own "black" players' union to fight more effectively against the evil monster known as Racism. What I am about to say may be construed by the ultra-politically correct as insidious racism but to me my questions seem valid and worth posing. What exactly do we mean by "black"?  And how "black" would a player have to be to be accepted into such a union?

The man below is a goat farmer from Mali in Africa. He can trace his family back through several generations and it is extremely unlikely that he carries any DNA from Caucasian or Asian ancestors. He is genuinely "black":-
Here is Michael Manley, the fourth prime minister of Jamaica who died in 1997. He is often described as a white man and yet his ancestry certainly included black Afro-Caribbean slaves. If he had been a footballer would he have qualified to join a union of black players?
This is Sheffield's Kyle Walker who now plays for Tottenham and England. His mother is a white health worker in our city and his father claims a mainly black Caribbean heritage. Would Kyle be admitted to the black players' union?
The gorgeous Halle Berry is also of "mixed race". Her mother was a white English nurse from Derbyshire. If she played for Tottenham Hotspur would she be accepted into the black players' union? Would she even be accepted into the shower after hard fought matches?
And here's the admirable Barack Obama - supposedly America's first "black" president. And yet how "black" is he? His mother - Ann Dunham from Kansas - was essentially of white English stock. So is he after all really a "black" president? Couldn't he just as legitimately be called another white president? And to what extent is President Obama more "black" than Abraham Lincoln was?
It's all very puzzling. Any advice on this matter would be gratefully received - even from caped and ardent members of the Racist Inquisition. And finally, what about albino Africans? Are they black?

29 October 2012

Requiems

A recent survey has sought to identify the "top ten" funeral songs played at crematoria in Yorkshire. This is what they discovered, in order of popularity:-

1. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Eric Idle.
2. Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen.
3. Let It Be – The Beatles.
4. I've Had The Time Of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
5. You'll Never Walk Alone – Gerry and the Pacemakers.
6. Imagine – John Lennon.
7. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler.
8. Jerusalem – William Blake.
9. Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf.
10. Morning Has Broken – Eleanor Farjeon/Cat Stevens

Would you pick any of the above for your funeral or have you got some other ideas? At my mother's funeral in September 2007, "Jerusalem" and "The Lord's My Shepherd" were sung at the packed remembrance service in the village church and then later, at The East Riding crematorium high on the Yorkshire Wolds, we listened to Vera Lynn singing "The White Cliffs of Dover" in recognition of Mum's wartime service with the WAAF. If I close my eyes, I can still hear her singing that song now. She had a lovely singing voice.

For my own funeral, I have requested "The Birdie Song". The clapping at the end represents the number of people I expect to attend...

28 October 2012

Prescription

The summit of Lose Hill
There's no better medicine for lethargy, depression, worries or stress than a vigorous walk in the English countryside. Forget all these pills produced by profit-hungry drug companies and forget costly counselling sessions with reticent counsellors who nod their heads wisely but say little except "That'll be £50, Can I book you in for your next session?". No - just get your boots on and get marching. Walk your cares away.

Hull City were on live television yesterday evening and I was filled with anxiety that we might not beat Bristol  City. The installation of our new "Neff" dishwasher has also been a source of much unwelcome stress. Above all, in writing my sin poems, my mind has been filled with sinful thoughts - lust and envy, wrath and gluttony have been warring in my cranium like brawling delegates at a Conservative conference late bar.

There's a valley that's a fifteen minute drive away from our house and, surreal as it might seem, it is called Hope - The Hope Valley. It was known to Bronze Age people, the Normans and the Romans and you might say that it is a little microworld with its farms and various little settlements - Castleton, Thornhill, Hathersage, Aston, Shatton, Bamford and of course the village of Hope itself. 

So around two o' clock yesterday I parked north of Hope and hiked in a long loop over the fields to Castleton and then up to the Hollins Cross ridge and along the high paths to Lose Hill. How bitter was the wind as it lashed my tender cheeks. I managed to get back to the car by 4.45 and then whizzed back to Sheffield so I could mosey down to "The Banner" to watch the match. Shirley joined me at halftime to witness another thumping victory by The mighty Tigers. Then we treated ourselves to a meal in "La Luna" - the little Italian restaurant next to "The Banner". Especially nice as it's a "bring your own wine" establishment.

Here's more evidence that my Lose Hill walk actually happened...
Peveril Castle, Castleton in the sunshiny murk
Ramblers descend Back Tor
Black headed sheep above the Hope Valley
View north from Lose Hill to Edale
Holiday cottage at Townhead, Hope

26 October 2012

Lust

"Grass on the way of love" by Keisai Eisen (1790 -1848)
Lust

Shh!
Don’t speak of subterranean streams
Primeval lifeblood of our dreams
Of cravings hot and melded skin
Burying consciousness deep within.
In shadowy bowers
Entwined for hours
Panting frantically for breath
The “petit mort” or little death.
She looked at me and I was lost
For paradise our hearts are crossed.

Shh!
Don’t speak of hands with blood red nails
Or love when  longing still prevails
Of cavern deep and turret high
We plunge to earth to grasp the sky.
But in the halls of fantasy
I looked at her and she saw me
Logic, common sense and guile
We’ll leave them gasping for a while.
In boiling artery and vein
Immortal urges pulse again.

25 October 2012

Updating

In creating my "seven deadly sins" poems, it has occurred to me that in the modern world there are extra sins that hadn't even been imagined in medieval times. Perhaps you can identify some other modern day deadly sins but here are mine. They are not in any order of significance...

SIN 1 Talking on a mobile phone whilst driving - When ever I see this sin happening, my blood boils and in summertime, when car windows are open, I may be heard yelling "Get off the phone!" to startled drivers at traffic lights. Talking on a mobile phone whilst driving is just as bad as driving after over-consumption of alcohol because the sinner is not in proper control of his/her vehicle and is putting other people's lives in peril.
SIN 2 Unsolicited phone calls - They tend to come from Indian call centres and are all about hoodwinking innocent phone users into parting with their hard-earned money. Often you'll know when its one of these b******s phoning because their number will be withheld and after you have picked up the receiver there'll be a significant pause before the caller speaks. My advice is simply to yell down the phone either "NEVER PHONE THIS NUMBER AGAIN!" or "I AM PUTTING A CURSE ON YOU!" before swiftly ending the call.

SIN 3 Being a Conservative - Political conservatism in England is but a thinly disguised campaign to drive our great country back to the social stratification of Victorian times - the rich man in his castle - the poor man at his gate. David Cameron and his privileged chums have never really worked or lived like ordinary citizens. They are out of touch and their policies and political language are all about boosting the rich and suppressing the poor. Their attitude towards the unemployed is especially peevish. The Conservatives have always been a huge hindrance to genuine equality.

SIN 4 Smoking cigarettes - What a disgusting habit! Smokers not only stink of stale tobacco smoke, they also have a draining effect upon the National Health Service. We non-smokers have to suffer the stench while the government rakes in huge tobacco taxes. Any smokers who huddle outside public buildings or workplaces should be fair game for marksmen.

SIN 5 Dropping litter - In past times, people were much more environmentally responsible without even thinking about it. Theirs was a "make and mend" lifestyle and hardly anything would be thrown away. But today city streets and beautiful countryside can be blighted by litter, carelessly dropped by unthinking citizens. Litter may be small in size - a cigarette butt or a piece of chewing gum for example - or it may be large - an old mattress or a a pile of discarded tyres. Big or small, litter is hateful and the same marksmen hired to eliminate huddles of smokers should also take out litter bugs.
An inactive  Canadian blogger tarred and feathered in 1826
SIN 6 Blogstipation You know how it is. You follow a blog for weeks, months, perhaps even years and then it suddenly dries up. You keep returning to the same old blogpost as it gathers dust and cobwebs but activity has come to a grinding  halt. It should be the law that if you decide to "freeze" a blog for ages you must put up an explanatory note - rather like the ones you used to see in shop doors - "Back in five minutes" or "Closed for family holiday - back on October 31st". But just leaving a blog unattended is the height of bad manners and guilty bloggers should be tarred and feathered.

SIN 7 Slagging off "EastEnders" Since it began in February 1985, "EastEnders" has travelled a remarkable journey and I have been with this "soap" all the way. Sometimes the writing and the acting have been of a supreme quality but like any play by Shakespeare all soaps necessarily have troughs as well as their peaks. Many intellectual snobs have dismissed "EastEnders" as "morbid" or "miserable" without really watching the show week in and week out as I do. There has always been humour and I applaud the teams of people who have crafted this remarkable continuing drama through the years. Anyone heard slagging the show off in my hearing will be subject to a bare-knuckle fight behind the Queen Vic!

Envy, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, pride, wrath? Such sins are mild compared with the above. What would you add?

24 October 2012

Dishwasher

Nothing lasts forever and after fourteen years of excellent service, our Neff dishwasher, like its owners, has finally started to show the signs of creaking old age. Time for a new one.

We like to buy electrical things from John Lewis who are "never knowingly undersold", give automatic two year guarantees and have reasonably priced disposal and installation services. However, they won't take out old dishwashers. Before taking them away, old appliances must be disconnected and pulled out of their kitchen spaces. Ours was jammed in tightly - like an elephant in a phonebox - and it was a miracle that yesterday afternoon I managed to pull the damned thing out.

Only then could we begin thinking about ordering a new dishwasher. So many to choose from but so many variables to keep in mind - precise dimensions, cost to buy, cost to run, noise level, integrated or not, range of programmes and length of the "quick wash" which is what we use 99% of the time. Shirley is always dilatory about such matters, reluctant to pick so in the end I'm usually obliged to take the bull or perhaps the elephant by the horns.

Because the online information is not fully comprehensive regarding adjustable height dimensions, I shall shortly need to get off my ass and venture into the city centre to quiz kitchen department  staff at the John Lewis store in Barker's Pool - still known to most Sheffielders as "Cole Brothers".

How did we manage without dishwashers? My mother never had one and Shirley and I didn't get our first one till 1998 when we had the kitchen revamped. I have noticed that our friends - Tony and Fiona always rinse their crockery and pans  in the sink before slotting into their dishwasher. To me this almost defeats the object of a dishwasher but we ourselves seem to spend an inordinate amount of time just carefully stacking dishwasher loads and removing clean items. Do we really "need" them?

In the middle of writing this post, Lady Pudding phoned from work instructing me to take one of our giant dinner plates with me so that I can check it "fits" into the lower dishwasher rack without catching on the spinning propeller thing under the top rack. Nothing's ever easy.

*SPECIAL BLOGGER AWARD - Most fascinating post of the day October 24th 2012 
(Our thirty first wedding anniversary! And what better gift than a new dishwasher?)

23 October 2012

Greed

"Ladies Doing Lunch"  by Beryl Cook (1926-2008)
Greed

When they found him
They could hardly get in the door
The detritus of a thousand pizza deliveries
Stacked to the ceiling
And about his inflated porcine corpse
A thousand magazines and papers
Left open at sleek car ads
“For the good times” and
“Vorsprung durch technik”.
A commercial for sofas
And dining room suites
Blared on his Panasonic plasma TV
As Penny the paramedical trainee
Hastened to Gordon’s  kitchen
Retching in a sink
Already heaped with
Small black plastic
Troughs
And cardboard sleeves
From a thousand ready meals.
Not from enemies or frost
No noble cause or battle lost
For his was a modern way to die
- Just have your fill and say goodbye.

22 October 2012

Sloth

"La Paresse" by Félix Vallotton (1865 – 1925)
Sloth 

Quiet in the canopy
I move in slow-mo.
After rain, I notice the jungle
Steaming.
After dark, I notice the jaguar
Breathing.
I eat leaves and shoots
And once a week 
I shit.

Quiet beneath the duvet
I listen to traffic.
After ten, I stumble to the bathroom
Dreaming.
Afternoon, I fumble in the kitchen
Yawning.
I eat toast and fruits
And once a day 
I shit.

21 October 2012

Obsession

No seven deadly sin poems today - the other six will be added intermittently in the future.  No - today I have to confess that I have become addicted to photographing ordnance survey 1x1 kilometre squares for the Geograph project. Above you can see a small section of my photographic mosaic (5x5 km) which has covered Sheffield entirely and is now reaching out like a puddle of pictures into the surrounding countryside.

Sometimes - for whatever reason, you miss squares and they appear in your mosaic as empty green spaces (see above top left) so yesterday afternoon I went out with the sole intention of "capturing" four previously "unbagged" squares. Yes - I know what you're thinking - I must be bloody mad but I guess that this addiction is preferable to crack cocaine, tobacco or pornography. I am not hurting anybody am I?

Here are the pictures I chose for the four newly "bagged" squares yesterday. They were all in the vicinity of Great Hucklow...
View from Nether Bretton Lane
View to Abney Grange and Abney Moor
Glider above Abney Moor
The track from Berrystall Lodge
This wonderful countryside is on Sheffield's doorstep. We are so lucky to live so close to it. As William Wordsworth knew so well, close communion with Nature is good for the soul. When he wrote "and then my heart with pleasure fills/ And dances with the daffodils",  those Buttermere daffodils were merely Nature's representatives. His heart had been filled with pleasure because he had refreshed his relationship with Nature and been uplifted. See? More evidence of my lunacy!

20 October 2012

Sins

We have been reminded of the  so-called "seven deadly sins" since Early Christian times. Used as a vehicle for religious flagellation, and suppression of sinful congregations, they are of course: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Oh Lord, please forgive me for all of these sins have tormented my mortal soul - churning in my head like a lethal broth - weak and unworthy sinner that I am!

Anyway, just as a variant on my normal blogging activity, I have decided to set myself a little challenge - to write a poem for each of the seven deadly sins - not all at once. Just one at a time. Today I start with envy. And for each poem there will naturally be a picture:-
"Envy Plucking the Wings of Fame" by François-Guillaume Menageot (1744- 1816)
Envy

Magazine lives
Celebrity restaurants
And filmstar wives
Automatic gates
Gliding over gravel
Horses in paddocks
Business class travel
Or
Maybe
That pauper
With heaven in his eyes
Looking through the bullshit
Immune from all these lies.

19 October 2012

Sylvie

My last little post bemoaned the passing of Sylvie Kristel. It reminded me of another Sylvie I once knew and I'd like to tell you the story...

In the early summer of 1972, I had to spend a week at Southlands College in Wimbledon, London - learning how to teach before jetting off to be a V.S.O. volunteer teacher in the Fiji Islands. At Southlands, we had small classes of international guinea pig students upon whom we could test out our little lesson plans. One of these students was a young French woman called Sylvie from Paris. On a couple of evenings, she was in the college group that descended on a local pub to drink and chat. She asked if she could write to me while I was away and I agreed. She could be my French penfriend.

I hadn't touched her, kissed her or shown any love interest. She was just a French girl who wanted to write to me. As far as I was concerned, that was all. Besides, I already had a girlfriend back in Yorkshire. After a couple of months in my island paradise an aerogramme letter arived from France. It was from Sylvie. She was asking me how I was doing and I replied - all very polite and matter-of-fact.

A couple of months after that,  she wrote back. Again the communication was just about the factual details of her life in France so again I told her about Fiji - the wild pigs and snorkelling out beyond the reef and the tradfitional dancing and drinking muddy "grog" with the old guys from my village.

In late August 1973 I returned from Fiji. This was in an era when young people didn't travel abroad as they do now. My experience was quite novel. My parents met me at Heathrow Airport and we travelled back to the heartland - to my beloved Yorkshire.

Two days later, there was a knocking at our door. My father told me that there were two French girls outside and they had come to see  me. It was Sylvie and her friend, Chantelle. I was flabbergasted. They had reserved a room in our village's "New Inn". That evening, Sylvie told me she loved me. I was horrified. "But I don't love you!" and "What are you doing here?" and  "The letters meant nothing - just chitchat!" were just a few of the remarks I made.

The two girls hung about in my East Yorkshire village. Then a  few days later my father drove me up to Scotland where I was to begin my university studies in Stirling. Two days after that - guess what - Sylvie arrived in Scotland! For two weeks, she stalked me. By now I was almost yelling at her. "Get lost! I am just not interested in you! Please go away!" I recall a particular lecture - "An Introduction to Shakespeare". I was scribbling down notes in my A4 pad while behind me sat Sylvie, staring at me for the full hour like a puppy dog waiting for its master to offer a biscuit. "GO AWAY!"

Finally, I thought I had got her to understand. There were tears of realisation and she agreed to return to Paris. "Just one kiss! Please!" she pleaded but I wouldn't even giver her that. "No, I don't want you Sylvie! Just leave! You'll find somebody else who really wants you but that isn't me!"

The relief I experienced after she had gone was palpable. No longer would I find her sitting cross-legged outside the door of my hall of residence study bedroom. No longer would she be hovering around as I tried to converse with new acquaintances, no longer would I have to suffer this weird French stalker.

A month later she was back. And more insistent than before. She got into the kitchen area  at the end of my corridor and made me meals - including prime rump steaks seasoned with salt and pepper and parsley. The way to a man's heart may truly be through his stomach but it was with reluctance that I sank my gnashers into that lovely meat. She brought me a copy of "Germinal" by Emile Zola with a hessian cover that she had embroidered herself. She was there. There all the time and there was nothing I could do to drive her away.

One night I had been at "The Allengrange" - the student pub, getting sloshed and when I got back to my room at two in the morning - who should be there again but Sylvie. She barged her way in  and proceeded to undress. "I want you! I'm going to sleep with you! I love you!" she announced.

I guess I just flipped. I had had more than enough of all this and I was as drunk as a Tory MP after an equestrian event. She was stark naked when I forcibly bundled her back out into the corridor - throwing her clothes after her. Almost hysterically, I yelled at her that I hated her and wished I had never met her. I slammed and locked my door, trying to ignore her wailing and hammering and the next morning she was, miraculously, gone!

But not gone! She came back again the following April when I was at a low ebb and I felt like an animal that had become tired of the chase so finally I gave in and for a couple of weeks we played the parts of lovers but it was mechanical and meaningless and I think she finally realised that I could never love her with my heart. It just wasn't in me. So finally, finally, Sylvie went away for good and I never saw or heard from her again.

There are several other things I could say about Sylvie but in this brief account I think I have given you the gist of what occurred. Even today there are times when I wonder if she will come knocking again or when the phone rings and there's an empty void she will announce herself and I won't have to hear a voice from an Indian call centre - trying to squeeze money out of me.

18 October 2012

Departed

Sylvie Kristel 
Sept 28th 1952 - Oct 17th 2012
Gentlemen of a certain  age will recall with fondness her rich contribution to the world of cinema while ladies will admire her hairstyle and make-up. She was certainly what Ms Katherine de Chevalle of Tauranga, New Zealand would  refer to as "eye candy" but youth fades and many, like Ms Kristel, have to pay the ultimate price for the excesses of their salad days. Farewell to Sylvie who, in various ways,  frequently invaded my most private dreams. There - I have confessed!

17 October 2012

October

Hedgerow and field - Brecks Lane near Barrow Hill, Derbyshire
Poem in October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

16 October 2012

Buildings

Your intrepid explorer, Captain Hercules Pudding has been out and about again braving the dangers of modern day exploration just to bring you this post. "What dangers?" I hear you chortle. How about two rabid Staffordshire bull terriers sprinting from  remote White Lodge Farm or a Heavy Goods Vehicle with driver on a mobile phone swishing past you so close that your shoulder polishes the wheel arches? Oh yes - my friends - a simple country ramble is fraught with hazards.

Yesterday (Monday) I parked in the tiny north Derbyshire village of Hundall, just next to this attractive stone cottage:-
A mile across the fields and I was in the hamlet of West Handley where I "bagged" this lovely thatched farmhouse  at Ash Lane Farm:-
With a detour to Marsh Lane, I finally arrived in Middle Handley where I snapped this eye-catching pub - yet another Derbyshire inn that's  called "The Devonshire Arms":-
This is Southgate Lodge to the east of Middle Handley. It commands magnificent views:-
And then I came to the grim post-industrial village of Barrow Hill with its rows of former pit cottages. You can still make out the shape of the old slag heap and trace disused railways tracks. Life must have been so hard for the community that lived and worked here and even today I noticed that very few houses had cars parked outside them. On cue the sky became iron grey and drizzle began to fall. I snapped this picture of Barrow Hill Methodist Church built in 1872. Superficially, it could easily be confused with a shed for pit ponies or engine parts:-
Onwards to New Whittington our brave Hercules progressed. Now that Barrow Hill was behind us the sun came out again and I snapped this picture of Highland Road with it's modern "ticky tacky" cloned houses cramped together like fish in a shoal. Behind them, the shape of another former slag heap rolls like a mammoth whale:-
Back at Hundall, I decided to pop into "The Miners Arms" for a pint of Tetley's elixir of life and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. It was only four in the afternoon but inside there were sixteen people from the local community - chatting, drinking, reading newspapers, doing crosswords, ignoring "Deal or No Deal" on the TV. I played them sea shanties on my concertina and we roasted a suckling pig in the beer garden. (I made the last bit up!):-

14 October 2012

Savile

Savile's grave - now broken up and sent to landfill
Almost a year ago, I posted positively about the death of British TV's eccentric Sir Jimmy Savile. Now I feel that I must apologise about that post because last November his many skeletons had not emerged from  the stinking cupboard of his private life. But now they are well and truly out and the whole country has had to radically revise its view of this "roguish and flamboyant" celebrity.

Overseas visitors to this blog may now be flummoxed, so let me explain. Conservative supporter Jimmy Savile was eighty four when he died. He was the first presenter of BBC's seminal weekly contemporary music show - "Top of the Pops". He was the face behind Britain's national safety campaign for car seatbelts - "Clunk! Click! Every Trip!" and he fronted popular family programmes such as "Jim'll Fix It" in which viewers' dreams came true. He was a member of MENSA. He ran marathons for charity and was an enduring supporter of Leeds General Infirmary and the National Spinal Injuries Unit at Stoke Mandeville, But something else was happening in the murky shadows of his life over a period of perhaps six decades.

He was a serial abuser of teenage girls - some of them as young as thirteen. He took advantage of his fame as if he were bulletproof and used his cunning to make many of these girls think that they themselves were to blame for his cynical predation. So many stories have emerged and if Savile were alive today. it wouldn't be Guy Fawkes dummies we'd be burning on Bonfire Night, it would be the Savile Monster himself. He has blighted many lives. Some victims of sexual abuse are able to put the horror behind them and lead pretty normal lives but the majority will carry that weight to eternity.

I am lucky. When I was a child, I was loved but never abused. However, during my career as a teacher  I encountered several children who were badly damaged by abuse.One of them killed herself - plunging from a block of Sheffield flats at the age of thirteen. What a waste.

Last week, Savile's family had his elaborate marble gravestone dug up and destroyed. It had occupied a commanding position in Woodlands Cemetery, Scarborough. A cliffside path previously labelled Savile View had its sign removed and even the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust will be closing down or changing its name out of respect for the predator's victims. They suffered in silence and solitude, fearing that they would never be believed and realising they had no physical evidence to prove Savile's wrongdoing but since the ITV documentary "Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile" was screened on October 3rd more and more victims have bravely stepped forward from the shadows.

Society is wiser about abuse these days. There are more safety nets and much more awareness than there used to be. That's one of the shocking side issues about Savile's gross litany of abuse. Even in this more open climate, he had to die before the truth would out. For the dead, we often say R.I.P. but for Savile the blessing should instead be W.I.T. - Writhe in Torment.

13 October 2012

Overstones

Yesterday afternoon. Driving home from a ramble near Tideswell. I decided to take the back road from Hathersage which would lead me past Stanage Edge and across Burbage Moor. Weatherwise, it had been an odd afternoon with a mixture of scudding clouds and crystal clear October sunshine. At one point, my face had even been lashed by very fine hailstones as I followed the path to Pittlesmere Lane from the Bronze Age burial site on Tideslow.

I have photographed Overstones Farm before - like many Peak District visitors- for it is located in a popular walking area just three miles west of Sheffield.. It sits beneath the exposed millstone grit escarpment of Stanage Edge which nowadays is much frequented by rock climbers in Ford Fiestas. In the past, it was used as a quarry for millstones and you can still find many discarded or broken millstones beneath the two mile long edge.

I pulled in to a passing place, watching the angry raincloud swirling eastwards like smoke from a forest fire. Waiting by the drystone wall with camera at the ready, I hoped there'd be a moment when sunlight would  theatrically illuminate the farm buildings against a shadowy background of cloud and jagged millstone and then it happened... I am rather pleased with the result. What do you think? There was also this "landscape" version which you can enlarge by clicking on it:-

11 October 2012

Poemoholic

Plaque on a railway bridge - The Monsal Trail, Derbyshire
After all these years, I have finally come to admit that I have an addiction. Yes folks, I’m Mr Pudding and I am… I am a poemoholic. Been writing poems since I was six years old and I’m still writing them now as I approach sixty. Okay, I don’t write poems every day but the addiction is always lurking in the background – like a skeleton in the secret cupboard of my mind. They surface from time to time and I’m sorry, okay? Sorry that some of them have forced their way into this humble, everyday Yorkshire blog. I just can’t help myself – I’m an addict.

I realise that some regular visitors to this blog are almost anti-poetry and if they had a poet living next door they’d probably laugh and point at him/her as he/she walked by. It would be more embarrassing than living next door to a pervert like Jimmy Savile. Your house value would surely plunge.

On a few occasions, comments on my poems have revealed this antipathy towards poetry with some correspondents suggesting I should lighten up or as Neil from “The Young Ones” might have muttered, “Heavy man!” But we poemoholics will protest that one of the main purposes of poetry is to peel away the skin of human life and go for the jugular, to root around in the attic until you find what has been hidden. The oft-times superficial and jolly poetry of Edward Lear or Pam Ayres should not be dismissed – it has its place - but to me that’s not real poetry, it’s more wordplay… entertainment. Real poetry should connect with the reader and make you think and the words it employs should sometimes sing to you like music. I’m not saying I always reach that goal but like other poemoholics, I try.

As an English teacher, I frequently encountered youngsters who automatically moaned when poetry was on the day’s menu: “I hate poetry” etc.. I would often point out that they liked songs which are simply poems set to music and when loved ones die we will invariably fall back on poetry – at the funeral service or in newspaper announcements. Poetry is in nursery rhymes and football chants, advertising copy and greetings cards and it’s in the rhythm of everyday conversation – the language we choose, our turns of phrase, how we try to describe our experiences.

I turn the clock back over fifty years. I’m up in my bedroom writing a rhyming poem about an imagined hero who presses on through the mountains, crosses gushing rivers, slays dragons and battles through snowstorms to reach his goal… There, it’s done. Excited, I thunder downstairs. My family are about to settle down for their Sunday tea and I’m seven or eight years old and I say, “Listen! Listen! I’ve been writing a poem!” They go quiet and they listen as, pleased as punch, I recite the juvenile poem to my loved ones. I finish, close the little blue exercise book and wait for their reaction. They burst out laughing – it’s infectious. My mother has tears of laughter in her eyes and I redden with a mixture of puzzlement and anger before storming back upstairs where I stay, refusing to come back down for my tea. I bet Walt Whitman never got that reaction – nor Alexander Pope nor e.e.cummings. But as you know, it didn’t put me off. I’m still a poemoholic and I’ll most likely die one:-
Here lie the bones of Yorkshire Pud 
Who often erred 
But tried to be good 
Afflicted by the poetry disease 
He could never find a life of ease
Long Dale, Derbyshire - the inscription reads
"The road up and the road down are one and the same"

10 October 2012

Etonians

The  end of the 2012 Old Etonian  Tory conference in Birmingham
At the age of thirteen, our pompous beloved prime minister went to Eton College in Berkshire following his "father" and elder brother Allan Alexander Cameron the barrister and QC. Eton, a cradle of wealth and  privilege, is possibly the most posh famous independent school in the world and "the chief nurse of England's statesmen". Six weeks before taking his O level exams, Cameron was discovered smoking crack cocaine cannabis He admitted the offence but because he had not (allegedly) been involved in selling drugs, he avoided automatic expulsion, and was instead fined, prevented from leaving school grounds, and given a flogging by the school matron "Georgic" (a punishment which involved copying 500 lines of Latin text).

The Conservatives now boast nineteen out of touch twits Old Etonians on their benches in Parliament. An astonishing 100% 54% of Tory MPs attended fee-paying schools. In the general British populace, just under 7% of any one generation attend private, fee-paying schools.
Scene from "The Omen" Cameron when an eleven year old prep school pupil
What was he saying or about to sing?A free pack of Real 
Yorkshire Puddings for the funniest response.

9 October 2012

Brian

Brian Cutts is a Yorkshire comrade - currently in hiding in Catalonia. MI5 have a hefty dossier on him and it is said that he was the mastermind behind a plot to blow up Lancashire in the nineteen nineties. Evidence suggests he was betrayed by the now disgraced Sir Jimmy Savile. Disguised as a French onion seller, Brian cycled down to Dover and made his way across to Boulogne before proceeding to Barcelona where he fell into the arms of a Catalonian freedom fighter called Sofia. 

Anyway, enough of that. Recently, Brian blogged about his dimly remembered favourite walk in South Yorkshire and, largely for his benefit, I followed in his footsteps yesterday afternoon. After all, it can't be much fun - so far away from his beloved South Yorkshire. I thought I would give him a pleasant taste of "home".

As instructed by Comrade Cutts, I parked at the Elsecar Heritage Centre before hiking in lovely October sunshine to The Needle's Eye, Hoober Stand, The Mausoleum and Wentworth Woodhouse. These places have a special resonance for me because my mother knew them when she was a girl - growing up in Rawmarsh. She enjoyed picnics and rambles in the area in the early nineteen thirties.

In their day, the Fitwilliam family must have been so darned rich that the modern equivalent would  be the Bransons of Virgin Britain or the Gateses of Microsoft California. They had such wealth they could build the widest stately home in England along with a number of largely pointless follies - just to stave off the frustration of having such a vast reservoir of money in the bank. So here's my walking album - specially for Brian but of course, everybody else is welcome:- 
Elsecar Heritage Centre - thronged with visitors
The Needle's Eye
Horses grazing with Hoober Stand in the background
The Mausoleum for Charles - the second Marquis of Rockingham
View over Morley Pond to Peacock Lodge
Wentworth Woodhouse - the widest stately home in England
Windmill turned into a home in Wentworth
Brian's favourite pub - "The Market" in Elsecar where the
plot to blow up Lancashire  was allegedly hatched