30 October 2014

Films

People can be amazing. Take any film for example - even if it's a film that doesn't rock your boat. The coming together of a team. Networking. Phone calls. Emails. Months of planning. Arranging locations and costumes and film crews, make up artists. Discussions with scriptwriters. Selecting the actors. Picking the music. The money side of things. It is an enormously complicated process - like spinning a massive spider's web. And when the credits roll at the end of the film, it is as if you are seeing the mere tip of that iceberg of endeavour and communication which produced the preceding film.

I have two films to report. The one I saw last week was "71" and this morning it was "Jimi: All Is By My Side".
"71"
"71" is set in Belfast at the height of the so-called "Troubles". A young soldier from Derbyshire finds himself thrown into a cauldron of internecine hatred, fear and blood-letting. He may only be a hundred and fifty miles from home but it feels like a million. Injured and lost on patrol off The Falls Road he has to find his way back to the barracks and it turns out to be the most awful journey of his life.

Directed by Yann Demange and starring Jack O'Connel as Private Gary Hook  "71" is a low budget film sponsored by British Film Institute, Film4, Creative Scotland and Screen Yorkshire. It is tense, earthy and convincing as it exposes what it was sometimes like on the raw streets of Belfast back in the early seventies. It makes you think about man's inhumanity to man and where religious tribalism can lead.

Jimi Hendrix is one of my musical heroes. It often seemed as if his guitar was part of his body and he could play it with such natural dexterity that it might seem he was communing with the stars. In the second film -  a "biopic" which focuses on 1966-67 - just before his legendary breakthrough show at the Monterey Pop Festival. Jimi is played by AndrĂ© Benjamin who is physically remarkably  similar to the maestro guitarist and certainly showed some of Jimi's dreamy, vulnerable character.

Apparently the making of this film was subject to certain  legal complaints which resulted in a ban on any original Hendrix tracks. Imagine that - a film about Jimi Hendrix without the music he made - just cover versions. And there were other disappointments.
"All Is By My Side"
At one point, Jimi is in London walking down the street with his girlfriend Kathy played by Hayley Atwell and wearing one of his trademark military tunics. He is suddenly accosted by four policemen in ill-fitting helmets who intimidate him and demand that he removes his tunic. This scene was so unauthentic as to be cringeworthy.

I wanted "All Is By My Side" to be a moving portrait of Hendrix's journey to musical fame but I am afraid it doesn't do him justice. It has a shallow, cartoonish quality about it in my view and fails to capture a believable sense of the London music scene into which Hendrix arrived in the middle of the sixties. I wouldn't recommend it.

29 October 2014

Cleethorpes

Malibu? The Australian Gold Coast? Juan les Pins? Marbella? No my friends, if you want the real seaside you must travel to the jewel of the Lincolnshire coast, to the very mouth of the River Humber, to Cleethorpes. This is what South Yorkshire coal miners and Sheffield steelworkers did with their wives and families from the back end of the nineteenth century and that's what I did yesterday.

I caught a train from Sheffield - all the way to the seafront at Cleethorpes - one hour and forty minutes. I had never been there before though once long ago I was nearby when I watched Hull City beat Grimsby Town at Blundell Park. Grimsby and Cleethorpes are twin towns rather like Minneapolis and St Paul but at the edge of England. They are the sort of northern places that suffer unmerited jibes from ill-informed southerners. The same prejudicial humour that might surround Barnsley or Wigan, Darlington or Accrington.

I emerged from the railway station into bright sunshine. The tide was out and when the tide is out at Cleethorpes it goes out so far you would think that the oceans were running dry. A huge expanse of beach stretching out towards the lighthouse at Spurn which is on the East Yorkshire side of the entrance to the Humber Estuary.
View to Halle Sand Fort - erected during World War One
My planned walk took me down the coast to Humberston and then inland along Buck Beck where I turned north to Old Clee - the Saxon settlement that predated Victorian urban expansion and the growth of Grimsby's industrial fishing industry  by several centuries.

At the coast it was clear that we are in the schools half term holiday period as there were quite a lot of children around. I saw the Cleethorpes Light railway in operation, and families rowing on the boating lake but The Pleasure Island amusement park was already shut up for the winter. After eight miles of plodding, I got back to the seafront where I sat in Browns' Cafe with the seaside meal I had promised myself on the formica table in front of me - a jumbo haddock in golden batter with chips, mushy peas, a big mug of tea and a slice of bread and butter. A meal too good for a king.

And then I tried my hand in the "King Pin" amusement arcade, feeding 2p coins into one of those tipping point machines where coins push others from shelves but most seem to end up in the bowels of the machine for the owners' to later take to their bank in countless wheelbarrows.

By five fifteen it was already dark and I mounted the train back to Sheffield. At Grimsby Town station two men from East Timor sat close to me and I talked to one of them. As a refugee he had arrived in Portugal where after a few years he became a Portugese citizen and was issued with a Portugese passport. Of course this now entitled him to live and work in England. Humph! No comment on that but now some more coastal pictures from Cleethorpes where all your holiday dreams can come true...

27 October 2014

Wrongfulness

Every summer an interschool sports day was held in the grounds of Hornsea Primary Schoool. We got to see children from neighbouring villages - Long Riston, Brandesburton, Wawne, Beeford and Sigglesthorne for example. Many parents attended and the sun always shone. We rode the six miles to Hornsea on the same grey hired coach that would take us weekly to the swimming baths in Beverley.

We all wanted to do well for our school and dreamed of winning the great wooden shield with its engraved silver mini-shields around the edge. It was The Holderness Annual Schools Sports Day Trophy. More prized to us than The F.A. Cup, The Ashes or The Open's claret jug

The athletes gathered in their school pens with strict instructions to remain there until called to our events. Of course there were running races and relays, the long jump and the high jump but no pole vaulting or discus for example. Instead we had the three legged race, the egg and spoon race, bean bag throwing and my own specialism - the sack race.

This involved stepping into an old hessian potato sack and either jumping like a kangaroo or wiggling towards the finishing tape with toes pressed into the sack corners. That was my preferred method. I was a wiggler.

One warm evening in early July 1965. It was to be my primary school swansong. I was eleven years old and in September I would be off to the posh secondary school in Hull. The crowd were hushed. We waited in our sacks for the starter's pistol to fire - all East Riding boys - desperate to win for our schools and our villages.

We were off, proceeding between carefully whitewashed lines towards the finish. The key thing was not to fall over as that would result in a disastrous loss of time. The crowd was cheering and I knew that Jennifer Stevenson and Karen Fawcett were watching. Faint heart never won fair maiden. My wiggling run technique was working a treat. I was ahead by a couple of yards. In the next lane, the Brandesburton lad had just fallen over almost taking me out too but I dodged him and seconds later I was bursting through the tape well ahead of the field.

At this point, teachers with clipboards would descend on the finishing line to identify and record the winners. A white-haired didact from Hornsea School was responsible for recording our race. I recall he was wearing a charcoal pin-striped suit in  late Victorian style and had silver rimmed spectacles - like a snivelling clerk from a story by Charles Dickens.

As he began to fill in the sheet on his clipboard, I felt so proud to have been the winner of the sack race and must have been grinning like a lunatic but it was a joy that was very short lived because - in spite of my eleven year old kid protests - the stupid old fool placed the boy from Sigglesthorne in first place and put me down in  third place. "Shut up!" he snarled as I made my last, futile protest. The victory had been clear for all but the line judge to see. To him, eleven year old boys probably all looked the same.

Already the girls' sack race was underway and we had to return to our school pens. Amidst all the cheering and the excitement I tried to tell Miss Ford and Miss Readhead what had happened but they were now focussed on  hopping and wiggling girls and the moment of opportunity passed. 

I felt as miserable as sin as we mounted the coach to come home. Other boys were sympathetic and almost equally miffed by what had happened. It wasn't fair - it simply wasn't fair - though by then we had already discovered that there was much injustice in this world. It is strange that these are the sort of things I tend to remember - not so much the happiness of crossing the line first but the wrongfulness of what happened later.

25 October 2014

Nobby

Nobby

We’ve got a cat called Nobby
And he loves to roam around
With whiskers preened
And tail curled up
He hardly makes a sound

Sniffing at the dahlias
Or peering in the pond
Escaping through our
Privet hedge
To the perilous world beyond

In summer he likes sleeping
Stretched out in dappled shade
With dreams of mice
And tadpoles
And the birds on which he’s preyed

His instincts are deep seated
So killing's like a hobby
With claws unsheathed
And murderous teeth
That’s our darling Nobby.
____________________________________________

To be truthful, Nobby isn't actually our cat. He just comes in our garden from time to time and often wanders into the house. We have even found him sleeping in Shirley's wardrobe. And to be yet more truthful - Nobby isn't even his name - I just gave him that. I like cats to have unusual names. Our last cat - a black and white stray - was called Boris and the previous one was called Blizzard because we collected him from a cat shelter during a wintry blizzard in 1981. Other good names for cats are Brian, Adrian, Helen, Carol and Jenny...and how about Rufus, Betty, Walter, Margaret or Steve? Much better than Tiddles, Ginger, Albert, Sooty or God forbid - Wesley!

24 October 2014

Councillors

Our district has three city councillors. I decided to send them an email...
Dear Councillors,

I am writing to you as my council representatives in relation to a letter I received from Nobby Nobody on Sunday October 19th. As you very probably know, Mr Nobody is a council officer and an engineer who deals with Highway Regulations etc.. His letter was headed "Sticks Placed in The Highway Verge Outside Pudding Towers Mansion". (Ref HR/DW/Yellow Brick Road/JS)

In the letter, I was told to remove some little white sticks that I have been putting in the verge outside our house for twenty five years without any previous complaint. The reason I have always placed sticks there is to discourage drivers from parking on the verge and thereby ruining its appearance. It has been a constant battle for a quarter of a century. As well as making the sticks, painting them and hammering them into the verge I have also regularly cut the grass outside our house, removed litter and dog faeces and generally tried hard to maintain it. All that I believe I have done is to take pride in my neighbourhood and make it look a bit nicer.

I am attaching two photos to this email. Please look at them. One is of the scene outside my house and the other is from lower down the top section of Yellow Brick Road - showing the mess that results when vehicles are regularly parked on our grass verges.

I know that in a seemingly haphazard fashion, ugly squat wooden bollards have been placed by Sheffield City Council on some other verges in the area - presumably to discourage parking on those verges. I sincerely hope that as a result of the issues I am raising, we do not find a couple of these things outside our house in the coming months. They are themselves an eyesore and a mistaken experiment in my estimation.

Shouldn't Mr Nobody be applying his energy to tackling drivers who park on verges rather than to residents who are trying their best to maintain their environments? Threatening me with stick removal costs seems to represent a cockeyed outlook on the state of our grass verges. Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 was surely never intended to penalise decent citizens like myself and my next door neighbours who have been similarly threatened by Mr Nobody.

Yours truly,
Sir Yorkshire Pudding
(Lord of the Manor)

STOP PRESS - I have already received an email response from Penny Baker - the middle one of the three councillors. She wants to talk to me about this matter.

23 October 2014

Sticks

Damaged verge on our street
The verge in front of our house
For twenty five years I have tried to maintain the little grass verge outside our house. Elsewhere on our section of road thoughtlessly parked vehicles have more or less  destroyed the verges. So imagine my consternation when I received a letter from the local council last week - threatening me with legal action if I don't move the little white sticks I have placed in our verge. Our next door neighbours received an identical letter and so did Janet and Phil across the road. Apparently, we are in "contravention of Section 149 of The Highways Act 1980 and once reported the Council has an obligation to ensure that the sticks are removed". Later the jobsworthy official writes "if we do have to remove the sticks then we can charge our costs for doing this".

Clearly some miserable, cowardly and petty-minded nobody has reported our sticks to the council. All we are trying to do is preserve the nice appearance of our local environment. It makes my blood boil but it doesn't surprise me. What would you do?

22 October 2014

Ranting

Both of my grandfathers fought in World War One. My parents were in the forces in World War Two. My extended family have paid their full dues to Great Britain in terms of taxation and labour. We paid for the NHS and the roads and the sea defences and the transport infrastructure and so on and so on. It is our country and we know its rituals, its history, its cultural and linguistic nuances, the subtleties of its class system. Yes its our country. Or at least I thought it was.

I don't recall ever being asked to give carte blanche to economic migrants from across the European Union and yet they have arrived in their thousands. They call it "free movement of labour". And any of us who question this phenomenon or raise objections are frequently dismissed as latent racists. If we were far-seeing and modern enough - like the chattering classes in London - we would be dancing in the streets, delighting in our beautiful multi-culturalism. Whoopie-doo!

All this free movement of labour is starting to impact on British identity and to dilute our shared sense of culture. Of course there has always been immigration but it has tended to be of a manageable slowly infused nature - drip by drip. In the last ten years those drips have turned into a mighty torrent which resists control or even calculation.

We now have thousands of eastern European criminals here, Roma gipsies begging or pick-pocketing on the London underground, NHS facilities being utilised by people who haven't paid for the service, urban schools being swamped by children who arrive with virtually no English, translators earning a mint from official coffers, young men seeking their fortunes while often abnegating family responsibilities back home in Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania.
"Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world
are very often wrong"
- Jose Manuel Barroso (Outgoing EU President)
And the traffic in this "free movement" seems pretty much one way. Where are the British emigrants off to work in those eastern European countries? You could fit them all in a couple of minibuses.

Okay we have a good number of British ex-pats living in France, Spain, Germany and Portugal. As you may recall one of my own brothers has lived in southern France for several years but regarding other member states of our so-called "European Union", it's the rarity of  British incomers that is noteworthy.

I have visited some eastern European countries - all very interesting trips but I feel a much stronger kinship with English speaking countries and countries that were once part of the British Empire. They are like our blood relations - Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, India, Kenya, Fiji, Sri Lanka and South Africa for example. Yet workers from these countries are being held back or demoted in favour of Europeans who dwell in lands with which our bonds are entirely new and purely economic - not rooted in culture or history.

I don't like what has been going on. I don't like it all and when I talk to my fellow host citizens, I find it virtually impossible to meet anyone who will speak up in favour of free movement of labour. It feels like something that has been imposed upon us by Eurocrats living the high life in Brussels and Strasbourg. And one sad and tragic thing about it all is that we cannot turn back the clock or shut the stable door for the European horse has already bolted.

Ahhhh! (sigh of relief) Rant over.

21 October 2014

Bravo!

Bravo! To Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck the stars of "Gone Girl" directed by David Fincher and based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. I saw the film last week and enjoyed it immensely. It is a kind of psycho-drama with a few unexpected twists and turns and an ending that is left hanging like a motor vehicle balanced on the edge of some Alpine precipice.

The visual construction of the film was splendid in its careful detail and this added to the development of dramatic tension. Though I had previously appreciated Ben Affleck's acting in "Pearl Harbor" and "Argo", cinematically-speaking I had never knowingly encountered Rosamund Pike before. I guess she has tended to figure in films that don't really appeal to me like "Jack Reacher" and "Die Another Day". Here in "Gone Girl" she was perfectly cast - expertly displaying her character's seesaw personality - half controlling and half insane. Surely she'll receive an oscar nomination for this excellent and most convincing performance.

To find out more go to "Gone Girl" in Wikipedia.

20 October 2014

Handsworth

Saturday night in Birmingham with beloved daughter. Wonderful authentic curry at "The Viceroy" in Brookfields on the edge of The Jewellery Quarter. How white and sweet the basmati rice, how tender the fillet beef in the nawabi bhuna gosht, how tasty the Indian pickles that accompanied our poppadoms. Then back to beloved daughter's flat for TV torture - "Celebrity Come Dancing", "The X Factor" - mind-numbing pap. I would much rather watch a documentary about the paper clip or ferret breeding but both Frances and Shirley are like pigs in muck when the glitter ball turns or when Cheryl Cole displays her manicured ignorance.

Sunday to Handsworth Park. I wanted to get inside St Mary's Church which houses memorials to three industrial giants - James Watt of steam engine fame, Matthew Boulton the eighteenth century industrial trailblazer and William Murdoch - who cleverly brought gas lighting to dark city streets across the world. Sadly the church door was locked. Sitting by the gate was a group of furtive looking fellows in day-glo jerkins. I realised later that they were guilty men doing their "community service" - clearing vegetation from the Victorian graveyard. On their battered white minibus the legend  - "Community Payback".
St Mary's Church, Handsworth
It was a lovely autumnal afternoon. Sunshine pierced the lime trees and parchment dry leaves tumbled across the paths. We walked into Handsworth Park - a pleasant Victorian gem - once a beautiful pleasure ground for the wealthy founders of Birmingham's industry to stroll through but now at the heart of a multi-ethnic suburb with saris, turbans and woolly Jamaican hats in view.

We saw an odd white stone pillar in a little valley garden. Later research told me that it was once the focal point of the Birmingham Civic Society's "Sunk Garden" that had been officially opened in 1937. It was merely the base for a statue of a boy with a lamb but sadly this was stolen in 1988 and has not been rediscovered or replaced. The statue harked back to pastoral times, long before the industrial revolution took hold or anti-social yobs and crooks perfected their miserable habits.





The bandstand in Handsworth Park - yesterday afternoon

18 October 2014

Contrast

Maybe it's just me but this year it feels as if the world has become a more agitated and more desperate place. Perhaps I should blank out the news - live in a bubble of ignorance just as our ancestors would have done in the days before mass communication swamped us with information from faraway places and brought the world with all of its troubles into our living rooms.

Recently two particular groups of people have been leaving the British Isles for very contrasting reasons. On the hand you have a bunch of disenchanted young Muslims who have wormed their way into Asia Minor in order to pursue some kind of harebrained religious crusade, banding together under the black banner of the Islamic State, intoxicated by adventure and by a warped and ignorant re-interpretation of Islam. Ironically, they embrace cruelty and killing in the name of Allah.

And on the other hand you have volunteer health workers - prepared to leave our shores in order to do battle with ebola in West Africa. These brave people are prepared to risk their own lives in order help others as they struggle in challenging circumstances to turn back ebola's cruel tide of death. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes or in their protective suits and currently the very last countries on my travel plan bucket list would be Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal. In my book these people are quite simply heroes.

The first group go to kill and the second group go to save life. The contrast is stark.

15 October 2014

Poem

Ebola

From shadowy bowers
Where beasts dwell
In tropical viridescence
Eyes are watching, ears are listening
As, swollen by recent rains,
She swirls to the meeting place
Where like a lover
She will melt into the Mongala
Again and again.

She is the bright heart of Africa
Arterial pulse from
Haemorrhagic hinterland
Where fisherfolk
Still reap her silver bounty
Wriggling death throes in dugout canoes
As children laugh
In humming heat haze
Splashing in her shallows.

In Kinshasa and Businga
They sing of Mami Wata
And of her nativity
And of how she would stare
From overhanging limbs
Into the brown river below
Admiring a fevered beauty
That no one shall resist
Once our lips are kissed.

No one.

14 October 2014

Forwarded

Brother Robin in France frequently forwards me "funnies" from his email inbox. You know the kind of thing. They do the rounds. You've probably received some yourself. Here's one he sent me the other day:-
New Species Discovered
They are referred to as homo slackass-erectus created by natural genetic downward evolution through constant spineless posturing, and spasmatic upper limb gestures, which new research has shown to cause shorter legs and an inability to ambulate other than in an awkward shuffling gait. The "drag-crotch" shape also seems to adversely affect brain function.

Verbal communication is generally crude and monosyllabic with indecipherable utterances such as "no-wa-ah-mean", "wicked man"and "innit" thrown in for good measure.

Expect no eye contact. Studies reveal that this emerging species attracts full government financial support. Unfortunately, most are highly fertile.
___________________________________________________________

And sometimes the emails contain marvellous pictures like this one:-

Or this:-

12 October 2014

Ambulation

Thurgoland is a funny name for a village. It has evolved through the centuries. About 1200 years ago it was simply the land cultivated by Thorgeirr who we might well presume was a Viking settler. I parked there yesterday and set off on a long walk I had planned taking me from Thurgoland via Wortley Top Forge to Green Moor where I snapped this picture of the old village stocks:-
A little further along the moorland route that once carried drovers and jaggers in days before railways, canals or metalled roads, I passed by Hunshelf Hall which was mentioned in The Domesday Book though the current main house was obviously built much later:-
From Hunshelf Hall I headed down into the valley of the Little Don and in Sheephouse Woods near Stocksbridge I endured a heavy rain shower. Almost futilely, I sheltered under an old pine tree but it wasn't long before the rain found its way through the canopy giving me a right good soaking. I must have looked like a drowned rat as I plodded up to Cranberry Farm, taking this photograph of the signpost by the nearby crossroads:-
Onwards to Snowden Hill and Little Black Moor thence to Huthwaite Hall. Checking my map, I couldn't find the Transpennine Trail at this point which was puzzling and I only later realised that the disused railway track passed through a tunnel at this point. Silly me! So instead I walked along Huthwaite Lane where I spotted this memorial bench, erected in memory of a young commando called David Marsh who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. He was only twenty three and his baby daughter, now growing up,  will of course never see him again.
Today, Shirley wanted a walk in our  autumnal sunshine so we headed off to Chesterfield and parked by Brimington Road to take a stroll by the Chesterfield Canal. Now it accommodates a few narrowboat enthusiasts but it was constructed in the late eighteenth century for the purposes of trade - taking manufactured goods and stone products thirty miles eastwards to the River Trent at West Stockwith. The audacity and "can do" attitude of our Victorian forbears really makes you think sometimes. Here a narrowboat is being guided through the lock at Bluebank:-
Here's Madam Pudding posing by the canal this afternoon:-
And here's the view from Bilby Lane Bridge back along the old canal towards Chesterfield:-
Afterwards we had Sunday lunch in "The Mill" on Old Station Road. Delightful, good value  home-cooking in an independent community pub. Bizarrely our waitress was from Gold Coast, Australia. I guess it's rather different from Chesterfield where surfers and bronzed beach babes are always in short supply.

10 October 2014

UKIP

All my adult life I have voted Labour. It's as if my hand is controlled by unseen forces whenever I enter a polling booth. Even if the Labour candidate was called Mickey Mouse or Atilla the Hun, they would still get my vote. Well it had to be that way didn't it? Historically, Labour is the only party that ever did anything of note for ordinary working people and going back two generations I come from a family of coal miners and rabbit catchers, railway men and farm labourers. How could I forsake them by voting anything but Labour?

Last night there was a bit of a sea change in British politics when UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) gained their first ever seat in parliament by winning the Clacton by-election and at Heywood and Middleton in deepest Lancashire, Labour's victory over UKIP was by a worryingly slender margin. That constituency has always been staunchly Labour and the victory should have been a thumping good one as Labour are currently the main opposition party in our island nation.

What should we make of UKIP? Well to me they are a party with hardly any policies. They have a novelty value and their leader, Nigel Farage, has charisma and common appeal. He wants better immigration controls and he wants us out of the European Union so he's appealing to nostalgic and rather basic instincts. Frankly, it appals me that so many of my compatriots are being hoodwinked by this UKIP charabanc, embracing their newness instead of scrutinising their unwritten manifesto which has an insubstantial chameleon-like quality about it.

In my view, UKIP would have far less appeal for ordinary voters if Labour's leader was not called Ed Miliband. This awkward, nasally fellow has about as much charisma as a lump of lard. He is intelligent and he is caring but he simply doesn't have what it takes to lead the Labour Party effectively and demonstrate to disillusioned voters that it's time to return to Labour. He's like a rabbit caught in the headlights. 

I wish the trade unions and Labour Party grandees had had the sense to see this reality before now. Miliband should have never been given  the nod and I fear that the party is sleepwalking into disaster in next year's General Election. Only when that happens will they ditch "Red Ed". Harriet Harman would have been better or Yvette Cooper, maybe even Andy Burnham or Chuka Umunna. We will be waiting a long time before Labour sweeps back into office with a clear mandate from the British people and that makes me sad for in the meantime we will have to suffer division and the crowing of media-inflated UKIP as it consolidates its undeserved and often offensive foothold in British politics.

9 October 2014

Bible

I became an atheist when I was about ten years old. God, Jesus, Creation, angels, Satan, wise men from the east, miracles etcetera - it just didn't add up. And now over fifty years later, I am more secure than ever in my godlessness. Strange then that last weekend I acquired a whacking great Bible.

It's more than a hundred years old and if I had a thousand of them I could build a solid house - The Bible House. It's sitting on our living room carpet as I write this blogpost - "The National Comprehenive Family Bible" edited by The Reverend John Eadie, a Scottish theologian who died in 1876. It's like a lump of concrete and about as much use to me.

So why have I acquired it? It belonged to my great grandfather John Thomas White and his wife Annie Holt. They were married on August 22nd 1898 and lived in a humble miner's cottage in Rawmarsh, close to the coal mine where my great grandfather and later my grandfather Wilfred Henry Jackson both worked.

I imagine a Bible salesman knocking on miners' doors, peddling these family bibles - a penny a week perhaps and many homes would have succumbed to his sales techniques even though his customers were generally very poor, living from wage packet to wage packet and from rent collection to rent collection. But never mind they could now find solace within the pages of their comprehensive family bibles, couldn't they?

It is a shame that my great grandparents and later my grandmother didn't keep up the family section at the beginning of this old bible. There's very little to see but what I did discover is that John Thomas died a mile from this house - in Fulwood, Sheffield, a year after my birth. He would have been eighty two. I guess I will never know if my mother attended his funeral nor why he was residing so far from his previous home.

The Bible is filled with fanciful pictures which are more meaningful to me than all that tired verbiage, for I reside like Cain in the land of Nod:-
Family page giving some useful information
One of many illustrations
Entry re, my grandmother Phyliss

8 October 2014

Googled

How did Miss Google know it was my birthday today? See above. That's how Miss Google appeared to me this morning and when I rolled my cursor over her graphics, a little box magically popped up saying "Happy Birthday Yorkshire Pudding".

So my dear Miss Google I would like to say thanks to you my secret darling. Others have completely forgotten my birthday - from my forgetful son in London and my brother in France to former school and university friends. Even Sheffield City Council has forgotten the great day in spite of the fact that I worked for them for nigh on thirty years. It's true that Shirley and Frances didn't forget nor Jill from next door - whose seventy first birthday is co-incidentally also on this auspicious day. And when I checked my email I found that the kind and very thoughtful people at "Go Compare" had not forgotten either:-
To any bloggers out there, rather than hearty birthday greetings, I would prefer money instead. This can be sent to me via snail mail or through my PayPal account. May I thank you in advance for your generous monetary gifts. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to have a birthday shower before I treat myself to a birthday breakfast at the local "Toby Carvery" where I shall read my birthday newspaper and sing "Happy birthday to me - you old git!"

7 October 2014

Excursion

Beverley Beck and the twin towers of Beverley Minster
At the weekend, I drove over to Hull to see my beloved Tigers beat Crystal Palace 2-0. I stayed with my old mate Tony in Beverley - sleeping on his living room floor on an airbed. We had been out to the best pub in the world - "The White Horse" on Hengate - better known as Nelly's before enjoying a nice curry meal in "Dine Bangla" at Wednesday Market.

On Sunday morning, we went for a walk along Beverley Beck to the point where it meets The River Hull. This beck was important with regard to Beverley's development during the middle ages when the town became one of the most prosperous in England with a population to match. It attracted Flemish traders and wool merchants and saw the construction of one of England's finest churches - the truly awesome Beverley Minster which still towers above the rooftops.

Then it was on to my birthplace - Leven in the very heart of East Yorkshire. I was there to see my younger brother Simon who still lives in my mother's old house. We chatted for a while before I set off homewards - deliberately taking an unusual route after Beverley. 
Anti-fracking protest camp at Crawberry Hill
Along Walkington Heads where there's an anti-fracking protest encampment, then down the chalk  wolds to charming North Newbald and Hotham. Onwards to the hamlets of North and South Cliffe then over farmland to Holme upon Spalding Moor. From this large and sprawling village I turned into a country lane that takes you, after a couple of miles, to a small settlement called Land of Nod.

There's not much to see in Land of Nod - just a couple of farms that seem to have re-invented themselves as producers of high quality turf. In The Bible, The Land of Nod was where Cain was exiled after murdering his brother Abel. It lay east of Eden. As I drove away, now heading back to Sheffield via Howden and the M62, three young pheasants sprinted ahead of me - as daft as brushes:- 
Leaving Land of Nod
St Oswald's. Parish church in Hotham
Village hall and church in North Cliffe
Church Hill in Holme on Spalding Moor

6 October 2014

F1

Do you recognise this young man? It is Jules Bianchi, a racing car driver. Yesterday, his car smashed into a big yellow tractor at the side of the Suzuka track in Japan. The tractor was clearing up debris from an earlier crash. In appalling wet conditions, Bianchi careered into the salvage vehicle at high speed and after being prised from his cockpit he was rushed to hospital where he received emergency brain surgery.

For those of us looking in who are not Formula One followers, it seems startlingly obvious that the race in Suzuka should never have taken place. The conditions were dreadful with spray on the track and the constant prospect of skidding  incidents or collisions between cars. But the racing authorities went ahead with it anyway. Why? Because of the money, because of the TV coverage, because fans had paid a king's ransom for their tickets and because the various populous F1 teams had travelled to Japan at great expense over several days. Imagine the cost of transporting all those cars and the spare tyres etc..

You may already be getting the impression that I am not a big fan of Formula One - well you would be perfectly right. In an age when we are meant to be conserving fossil fuels, we allow young men in fast cars to circumnavigate Grand Prix tracks at high speed wasting endless gallons of top quality petrol. And what for? Just so that one of them can cross the winning line first. Whoopee-doo!

We are also meant to be living in a motoring climate where we should be careful about our speeds but Formula One sends out an invigorating counter-message that speed is exciting. I don't think that this is a good message for young viewers who will later become new drivers.

Another reason I don't like F1 is the unevenness of it all. This isn't a sport like sprinting where each man or woman is equal to the runner in the next lane. In F1 the drivers' prospects of success depend very much on the particular racing team they are in. Stick Vettel or Hamilton in different cars and they would probably come last. Perhaps F1 would be fairer and more of a sporting competition if the drivers raced in identical cars - preferably Ford Anglias!

And another thing - there's so much advertising tied up with F1. It's on the cars, it's on the drivers' suits and it's on their ridiculous post-race baseball caps. Some might think that the whole show is largely about promoting products and making money. They would probably be right.

They go round and round a race track over and over - their cars whining, their tyres breaking up. To me it isn't really a sport at all and if there was a referendum, I would vote to consign F1 to history. Having said that, I hope that Jules Bianchi comes out of hospital without the kind of life-changing effects that can accompany any brain injury.