31 March 2015


A surprise visit from my brother Robin yesterday. He lives in southern France and was mainly back to replace his car. Now he's got a big black and shiny Audi 4x4 vehicle. The previous one was silver coloured. We went out for a spin. Where Ringinglow Road leaves the city the speed limit is 50mph but he was doing almost ninety. Quietly I mentioned that this was where the boxer Naseem Hamid nearly killed a local man, speeding along the same road. Robin slowed to seventy. But once through the tiny village of Ringinglow he applied the rocket boosters again and instead of slowing round the moorland bends he was accelerating so that you felt the centrifugal forces would turn the car over.

Once in the Pyrenees, Shirley and I were in the back of his car and we were thrown about like teenagers on a fairground ride. No chance to admire the view on a white knuckle ride. At least yesterday I was in a front seat - like a co-pilot with the crazed maniac beside me. Eat your heart out Jeremy Clarkson!
From left to right - The Pudding brothers in 1958 - Robin,
Yorkshire, Paul and Simon
Robin has always liked machinery and speed. He has twelve motorbikes and a pilot's licence. He has owned many different cars. His very first one was a souped up Mini Cooper that he maintained with the kind of engagement that I reserved for reading, writing or music. We are very different that way. To me a car is something to get me from A to B within speed limits and without any kind of collision. I drive a bit like Reginald Molehusband while he's more like Dick Dastardly.

It's the same with money. I have no real interest in it. Never have. It is something to buy the groceries with. Something you need for holidays and when the washing machine breaks down. Something you dig into to help out your kids. But Robin knows about money. He knows where to invest it and how to squeeze deals to get the best possible value. You squeeze till the pips squeak. Unlike the rest of us, he has often sold his cars at a profit. They increase in value as mine depreciate.

For all of that, he's a good guy. Hard-working and ambitious in spite or perhaps because  of his dyslexia, he achieved a lot in his working life that saw him flying to the Arab world and South America as an export manager where he pulled off various profitable deals - mostly with bonuses attached. But he cares deeply about other people. He remembers acts of kindness, experiences nostalgia keenly and sees the funny side of things perhaps more readily than I do. He has lived with relish - a zest for life - just like my oldest and late brother Paul. Often in frenzied overdrive while I tend to be in cruise control - just motoring along.

I might go and stay at the French house in May. Robin and his girlfriend Suzie are going sailing around Corfu - and he is of course a qualified sailing instructor - but they will need someone to care for their cats back home. I think they have eight now or is it ten? Anyway, we'll see....It was nice to catch up with him yesterday. Friends may come and go but siblings are forever.

29 March 2015


St Stephen's Church, East Hardwick
After investigating Pontefract with its castle, its marketplace and its "Liquorice Bush" public house, I drove a couple of miles south of the town and parked my car in the village of East Hardwick. After taking a couple of photos of St Stephen's Church, I set off westwards towards High Ackworth.

By now the clouds had almost cleared and intermittent sunshine illuminated the countryside though the wind was chilly. High Ackworth seemed a most pleasant, salubrious village with some large, luxurious houses behind security gates and high hedges. "The Brown Cow" pub appeared to be thriving. The old village church is called St Cuthbert's in memory of the time during the ninth century that the bones of the saint of that name rested in the village for a while. Pillaging Danes had invaded Northumbria and on the holy isle of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert's blessed remains were consequently disinterred to save them. He had died in 687AD and today rests in his shrine at Durham Cathedral. That shrine was an important place of pilgrimage throughout the middle ages.
Ackworth Old Hall
On the edge of High Ackworth, I snapped a picture of a fine Elizabethan mansion called Ackworth Old Hall before heading south to Low Ackworth. There I walked by the River Went which passes under a fine railway viaduct built in 1874 on a line that still connects Sheffield and York.
Low Ackworth Railway Viaduct
Jogging to a storm over East Hardwick
Onwards along the Ackworth Bridle Road and Rigg Lane and back to East Hardwick. Before leaving the area, I drove back to High Ackworth specially to photograph the village's "Plague Stone" by Pontefract Road. This old stone has a hollowed basin atop. During the plague of 1645, the basin was filled with vinegar to disinfect coins when goods were bought by the unfortunate villagers. Another deadly plague had touched the village three hundred years earlier. That one was known as The Black Death and it killed some 40% of the population of Europe.
Ackworth Plague Stone

27 March 2015


Pontefract Castle in its heyday.
On Thursday an English king was re-buried - but in the wrong city. His remains were found two years ago beneath a car park in Leicester. He had been killed in battle not far from Leicester at Bosworth Field in the summer of 1485 but Richard III is mostly associated with Yorkshire and should have been buried in York Minster. He was the last Yorkist king and Lord of the North. He spent much of his life in and around two Yorkshire castles - at Middleham and Pontefract.

Yesterday I visited Pontefract for the first time before another long countryside ramble. There was a windy chill in the air as I walked up to the castle - where I was the only visitor. It had stood for seven hundred years, playing a key role in the defence and development of the north of England. Battles and executions, love affairs and feasts, political discussions and imprisonments. Pontefract Castle saw it all. And when its time had passed, it was reduced to ruins. Local people came to take away stones for their own building projects and today what remains is but a tantalising shadow of the castle's glorious and formidable past.
Left - Richard II 1377 to 1399. Right - Richard III 1452 to 1485
A previous Richard, King Richard II died within the precincts of Pontefract Castle in 1399 or possibly 1400 having been ousted from the nation's throne by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV). It is believed that Richard II was starved to death - not hacked - and his tragic passing is referred to by Shakespeare in his play "Richard III":-
O Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison!
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the Second here was hack'd to death.
Pomfret is simply another name for Pontefract.

The castle was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War of the mid-seventeeth century and it was during this period that the castle was finally disabled forever. As a building complex it saw many changes during its seven centuries as a working castle and today just enough of it remains to absorb a sense of how it must have been.

As I wandered about the ruins with my fleece jacket zipped up to my chin, I noticed that high on the keep, the flag of Richard III had been attached to the flagpole where it was flying at half mast in his memory. He was the very last English king to die in battle.
Richard III's flag flying over the ruins of Pontefract Castle.
In the distance - Ferrybridge power station.

25 March 2015


I discovered this walk twenty years ago and have plodded it many times. When I was teaching, it was good to jump in the car and travel five minutes out of the city for a good vigorous hike that always seemed to take exactly one hour. It cleared my head and showed me other things, better things than piles of exercise books to be marked or minutes of meetings to type up or the latest official A4 ring binder to rifle through - containing yet more changes to the way we worked. It seemed to be what my Sundays were all about.

Shorts Lane stables are the buildings just east of Quarry (dis). I always park there and set off westwards to the big green area which is Blacka Moor. You have to cross the stepping stones over Blacka Dike thaen it's a long climb up to Lenny Hill. Turn eastwards over FB (Foot bridge) till you look down on to Hallfield Farm. Then along the beautifully named Strawberry Lee Lane to Totley Bents.

That is where you will find "The Cricket Inn". Then north to Avenue Farm and the path soon takes you by a delightful little stream called Redcar Brook where in the early springtime there are great swathes of snowdrops. When I got there yesterday, it had started to rain and the snowdrops were past their best so I didn't bother to get my camera out again.

There is much more I could say about this walk. I have witnessed it in different seasons and different weather conditions and with different people too but here are some pictures of it from yesterday. The sequence begins with my Seat Ibiza parked by the stables and ends back at the stables with a view to Dore which is a well-heeled suburban village on the south western edge of Sheffield. As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them.
All political leaders need time out to gather their thoughts and the charismatic leader of The People's Popular Pudding Party is no different...

24 March 2015


Britain's General Election is getting closer. It will be held on May 7th. Though I am happy to see that The Labour Party's star is rising, it may be time for a new contender - The Pudding Party. Here's my rough draft manifesto. In the "Comments" section please suggest another possible Pudding Party commitment.

1. Every worker will be entitled to a paid day off on his/her birthday. Schoolchildren will also be entitled to a day off.
2. Grouse shooting will be banned.
3. Cigarette smoking will become illegal on the day that the Pudding Party sweeps into office.
4. All rail fares will be halved and frozen for five years.
5. Bankers will not be allowed to receive any bonuses. Like most other workers, they will have to be satisfied with their regular salaries.
6. A committee will be set up to assess the feasibility of banning all religious garb.
7. The building of new mosques, temples or churches will not be permitted.
8. In schools, creative subjects will be central to the Pudding School Curriculum - including art, music, writing and design.
9. There will be far less Maths taught in our schools. Instead, every child will be issued with a free calculator. One hour of Maths a week will be enough for everyone.
10. Children aged ten to thirteen will be entitled to free swimming sessions each week of the school year.
11. The NHS will be one of the Pudding Party's priority zones but there will be some significant changes. Non-UK citizens will have to pay the market price for any treatment - either through medical insurance or from their own pockets. Drug companies' charges will be determined by the Pudding Party itself ensuring that gross profiteering is reined in. A fee will be introduced for any appointment with a doctor at a health centre. This fee will be linked to the patient's income so that unemployed patients pay £5 per appointment whereas the wealthiest patients will pay approximately £250 per visit to their doctor.
12. Any non-Yorkshire people who plan to make Yorkshire puddings must first pass a competency test overseen by a team of Yorkshire-born assessors led by former England and Yorkshire cricket captain Geoffrey Boycott.
13. The following people will be executed without trial - Jeremy Clarkson, Jeremy Kyle, all  members of Take That, David Cameron, John Terry, Noel Edmonds and Jordan (aka Katie Price).
14. Lancashire will be encircled with barbed wire along with guards preventing exit and entry.
15. Any new bikini or brassiere designs will need to be personally approved by the leader of The Pudding Party.
16. Tetley's bitter will be reduced in price to £1 a pint.
17.  All parking fees on public streets and in public car parks will be abolished and all parking enforcement officers will be sacked without compensation.
18. Tattoo parlours will not be permitted and anyone who is unfortunate enough to have any tattoos must keep them covered at all times when out and about in public.
19. There will be no more daytime television. TV channels will only be allowed to operate between the hours of 5pm and 1am.
20. Personalised number plates on cars will no longer be allowed.
21. Premiership footballers' wages will be limited to a maximum of £100,000 per annum.
22. Anyone found using mobile phones while driving will have their driving licences permanently revoked.
23. The BBC Radio 2 Sunday Morning "Love Songs" programme with DJ Steve Wright will be permanently abolished.   
24. Anybody found guilty of child sex abuse will be dumped on the uninhabited Atlantic  island of St Kilda and left to fend for themselves with no possibility of return to the British mainland. 
25. Bloggers who don't post for months on end will be hauled before The Bloggers Tribunal to explain  their laxity and if found wanting will be excommunicated from the blogosphere.

Any other ideas?

23 March 2015


In an idle moment, I typed "funny blogging cartoon" into Google Images and this was the best one that emerged:-

22 March 2015


Medieval stump cross on the edge of Stannington
Sheffield is a hilly city.We are on the eastern edge of the Pennine Chain which is the spine of northern England. It is sometimes said of Sheffield that, like Rome, it has seven hills. Having visited Rome a few years back, I can say without question that our hills are not only  bigger but have exerted a greater influence on our urban development.

Between the valleys of the Loxley and Rivelin rivers, upon one of the seven hills you will find the suburb of Stannington. Once a small farming community on the edge of town, it was finally absorbed by the city's tentacles in the mid-twentieth century. When you go up to Stannington, the air temperature drops a degree or two and it is invariably windy up there even when the air down in the valleys is still. 

Close to each other there were once five pubs at Stannington - "The Crown and Glove", "The Rose and Crown", "The Peacock", "The Hare and Hounds" and "The Sportsman". It was sad to see that the last two have closed their doors forever and "The Crown and Glove" now has an ominous estate agent's sign on its gable end world - "For Sale or To Lease". The kiss of death.

Not long after Friday's eclipse, the skies cleared and sunshine broke through to illuminate the seven hills. I had a wander around Stannington. Typically, there was a stiff breeze. People who choose to live up there must be hardy folk. It wouldn't be for me. Gimme shelter.

Stannington pictures -  "The Rose and Crown", Knowle Top Chapel, "The Crown and Glove", Christ Church, war memorial, VW camper van on Highfield Rise.
Click photos to enlarge

20 March 2015


A partial eclipse of the sun was predicted for today and indeed it happened. Here in Sheffield we had 90% coverage - with just a thin smiley sliver of the sun left behind as the moon moved across the great fiery orb on which our lives depend.

The weather forecast had been promising but as it turned out, our city languished under a blanket of cloud with only occasional breaks in that greyness. On the television, we had tantalising wobbly live coverage of the eclipse as an aeroplane chartered by the BBC flew over the Faroe Islands.

Back in 1999 when we experienced a total eclipse of the sun in south western England, I was all set to drive Ian and Frances down to St Michael's Mount in Cornwall to witness it but cancelled the crazy mission at the last minute because of an unpromising weather forecast. 
This morning, as optimum coverage approached, I went out into our garden and hoped for the best. If the sky had been clear and blue there is no way I would have been able to take any photos of the moon crossing the sun but as the cloud blanket thinned a little I was able to snap the shots that accompany this post. 

It will be eleven years till we next experience any kind of eclipse in Great Britain and I may well not be here then. Astronomers calculate that there'll be one in America in 2017 but of course our ancestors of long ago  never had any idea when they would happen or what if anything they might mean:
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in
palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son
and father. 
William Shakesperare - "King Lear" (1606)

18 March 2015


Before the internet and the National Lottery, in those far off black and white days of yore, five o' clock on a Saturday evening was significant in most ordinary British homes. This was the time the football results were read out on the television:  "Blackburn Rovers 0 Bolton Wanderers 2, Leyton Orient 1 Crewe Alexandra 1, Manchester United 1 Hull City 7..."  James Alexander Gordon's intonation went up or down according to the scores.

And from Exeter to Edinburgh, people - mostly men - checked their pools coupons. The Football Pools represented the slim possibility of escape.from the humdrum world of work and bills and financial worries. With eight score draws you could join the world of the rich and  famous. Those people who lived in big houses and drove shiny new cars. Those people with intercoms at their gates and kids in private schools. Those people who were not like us. People we never met for they occupied a different world. Like Martians.

The football pools are far less popular than they used to be. Nowadays we have the National Lottery with coloured balls rolling tantalisingly  across our screens every Wednesday and Saturday night  - promising that other life in the magical land of The Rich. But the football pools never disappeared. Some people continued to do them.

Like me. I have been entering the pools for forty one years, never missing a week - even in football's off season when the pools companies utilise Australian rules football results. Long ago I occasionally won money through forecasting ten home wins but with regard to drawn matches I had never won a penny...until a week ago.

A letter arrived from The Football Pools and there was a little window in it. I noticed the colour of the document within - a certain off-white and I recognised that colour. It promised a cheque... and here it is:- 

£1043.70 is not a life-changing amount of money but it was enough to put a smile on my face. For all my blog visitors there will be drinks all round at "The Banner Cross Hotel" this evening. Hope you can make it!

17 March 2015


Higger Tor viewed from Carl Wark
It was a grey* day yesterday with a blanket of cloud obscuring the sun over northern England. Increasingly, I have tended to avoid rambling on such days as the light is not conducive to good photography. Everything appears washed out and dull. (*American "gray")

However, I was keen to get some exercise so I drove up to the moors about  three miles from here  to Upper Burbage Bridge. There I parked up and donned my walking boots before setting off down the valley. 

There are millstone grit edges on both sides of the Burbage Valley and many rocks are strewn around - some placed there by nature and some discarded by quarrymen who once worked the edges - producing building blocks, kerbstones and grindstones. 

A mile down the valley, at the little stone bridge that crosses the stream I talked to two women who were walking their border collie. The bridge was once on a packhorse route that crossed the spine of England long before paved roads and motor vehicles came along. How delightful that it remains.

At the old packhorse bridge
Up to Carl Wark which I have mentioned previously in this blog. It is a rocky moorland plateau that once functioned as an Iron Age hillfort - 2500 years ago. Nature provided it with three rocky sides and at the exposed western side they built a wall and ditches. It is believed that the hillfort was also used by Romans though archaeological evidence to support this theory is very thin.

The western defensive wall - Carl Wark
There were some schoolchildren around. Some were holding clipboards and others were in helmets and red overalls learning rock climbing techniques. I heard the instructor saying,  "Listen will you!" with a touch of annoyance in her voice. Naturally I put my camera back in its case while the kids were nearby as I had no intention of being accused of  vicarious paedophilia. "Miss! Miss! That man took a photo of us!"

Up on to Higger Tor. Similar to Carl Wark but larger. If I had been an Iron Age chieftain I would have picked Higger Tor for my hillfort instead  - but maybe he had two fortified places. They are quite close to each other. 

Back along the path that skirts the valley and there ahead was the little car park. I sat in the car for a while reading my book. I am up to page 265 now. A thin rain was squeezed from the cloud blanket and soon I travelled home to prepare the evening meal. Roasted onions, peppers and tomatoes. Steamed salmon and fresh tagliatelle in a green pesto sauce. Parmesan grated over and a few sprigs of rocket then a wedge of lemon for the salmon. Traditional wholesome Yorkshire food.
Carl Wark's rocky edge  under a grey sky

16 March 2015


 Ten days ago, Alison Wilson was assaulted in Widnes, Cheshire. Last Friday, as a direct result of her injuries, she died in a hospital bed. She was just thirty six years old. 

Returning home with a male friend after a Sunday night visit to a local pub, she came across a man and woman arguing angrily in the street. A baby was present too. Rather than walking on by,  Alison's "Good Samaritan" instinct surfaced and - probably without thinking -  she intervened in an attempt to break up the unknown couple's violent row. It was a fatal mistake.

Twenty seven year old Stephen Duggan now turned his anger on Alison and her male friend. She was beaten to the ground, sustaining a serious head injury which was the direct  cause of her  death.

It reminded me of something that happened when I was eighteen. It was a Saturday night and I was in the little Yorkshire coastal town of Hornsea. I had said good night to my girlfriend and  I was making my way homewards through Marketplace. There were few pedestrians around but on the other side of the street an almighty row was in full swing between a man and a woman. They were twenty-somethings.

I wanted to walk on by but then he started punching her around the head and she fell to her knees. I rushed over and grabbed his arm to prevent more blows raining in and then I became part of the altercation. Not only was he yelling at me but bizarrely the woman on the ground also started on me. I was pushed into the street and stumbled down as a taxi approached.

I remember rolling into the gutter as the taxi's wheels raced past me - a foot away from my head. By now two or three other passers by were involved and the rowing couple slunk away - their fire already turning to embers.

But I have always remembered those ten seconds very clearly. My life could easily have ended that Saturday night because I chose to do the right thing - instead of walking by like the priest and the Levite in that famous parable. That incident from long ago has always made me very cautious about intervening whenever strangers are involved. Doing the right thing can sometimes be the wrong thing. And it makes me feel especially sorry for  poor Alison Wilson and the loved ones who grieve her passing.

A family statement read: "We are truly devastated. Alison was a beautiful, caring, loving, mother, daughter, partner, sister, sister-in-law and aunty. She was taken away from us too early for trying to help another person in distress."

15 March 2015


Maika Monroe as Jay in "It Follows"
The Yorkshire Pudding blog admin team frequently report that my devoted worldwide audience greatly appreciate my erudite film reviews. It is a huge weight of responsibility that I bear - knowing that what I say about a new film can make it or break it.

This evening as Shirley watches the new "Poldark" period drama on the BBC, I have two recent film expeditions to report upon. The first concerns a horror film called "It Follows" and the second which we saw together just this afternoon  is "Still Alice" in  which Julianne Moore plays a middle-aged academic with early onset Alzheimer's disease. As you will recall, for this performance Ms Moore won the best actress award at this year's Oscars.

Let's get back to "It Follows". I had read or heard several positive reviews about it and that is what led me to view it. Directed by David Mitchell it is an American suburban tale of an evil spiritual relay. The only way you can pass on the awful baton is through sexual congress.

The cinematography was excellent and there was a tense, nervous  trepidation throughout. However, it occurred to me as I was watching the tale unfold that for fantasy horror films to ring true, the onlooker must admit some susceptibility to ideas of haunting, zombies and the after life. From my perspective such things are pure nonsense so I find it impossible to accept the underlying premises of the majority of horror films. And that is how it was with "It Follows". I just couldn't believe it.

Apart from anything else it is essentially a film about teenagers in which the adult world is noteworthy because of its absence. I had the impression that the teenage focus was probably deliberate in order to rather cynically encourage youthful audiences - surely the main consumers of the horror genre. Though the BBC's Claudia Winkleman had, in all seriousness, warned filmgoers not to see "It Follows" alone, I came out of the cinema whistling like a sandboy.
Alex Baldwin and Julianne Moore in "Still Alice"
It is easy to see why Julianne Moore won this year's best actress Oscar. She demonstrated Alice Howland's gradual decline very sensitively and convincingly. However, there was something unbearably sugar-sweet about the context of her descent into the darkness that Alzheimer's brings. The Howland family was abnormally all-American - glittering with talent and white Anglo Saxon promise. I felt that there was another "Still Alice" story to told - more edgy, more ordinary, more tearful.

Alzheimer's is a cruel affliction that blights memory and communication and turns sufferers into utter shadows of themselves. The condition deserved a more powerful, more earthy exposition  but as I say I take my hat off to Julianne Moore who singlehandedly lifted "Still Alice" from the unmemorable mire of Hollywood pap.

14 March 2015


Lizzie Velasquez is a twenty six years old Texan. She was born with a rare congenital condition that amongst other symptoms severely restricts her ability to acquire body fat. She currently weighs about sixty pounds and you can imagine that her life thus far has been filled with struggle and never-ending hospital visits. Intellectually she is not impaired and has become quite a feisty young woman in spite of  everything.

This weekend the BBC news website has highlighted Lizzie's story. And what really caught my attention was the torment that she suffered a few years back while surfing the net. Within YouTube she discovered an eight second video clip that had received four million hits. It was titled "The World's Ugliest Woman". Out of curiosity she clicked on further and was horrified to discover that she herself was subject of this gratuitous amateur film clip.

That would have been bad enough but then she went on to read the the thousands of comments that had attached themselves to the clip like barnacles around a sewage pipe. Most of them were horrible - suggesting that someone should put Lizzie down, "kill it with fire" and "Why did her parents keep her?" Terrible, heartless words when what Lizzie genuinely deserved was praise and admiration. It beggars belief.

Fortunately, with the passage of time those cruel, inhuman comments appear to have spurred Lizzie on instead of defeating her. She was always secure about the love of her family and friends - people who actually knew her. Now she has become a motivational speaker and a campaigner for the rights of the disabled and those who suffer from congenital diseases. You might say that she speaks for beauty while those who took pleasure in mocking her represent the real ugliness in our midst.

She said this:-
"I've learned that there's one very simple thing that every single person can do, and all it is is looking someone in the eye, acknowledging that they're a human being just like you and me, smiling and saying hi. It opens up a world of doors that people don't realize."

13 March 2015


Several years ago, a teenage boy I used to teach had an unfortunate accident. One weekend evening, along with some other lads, he had climbed up on the roof of a local sports centre. I guess they were "having fun" as mischievous teenage boys are wont to do. But this time he didn't get away with it because when trying to get back down to earth, he slipped and broke an arm as well as injuring his back. Oh dear!

But who was to blame? Incredibly, appallingly and ultimately successfully his family sued the local council - arguing that the security of the sports centre was lax and their darling son shouldn't have been able to get up on that roof.. A significant financial settlement was agreed out of court.

Recently,  three stupid  Muslim schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in London travelled surreptitiously to Syria to link up with the Islamic State circus. Almost immediately, blame filled the airwaves. The families blamed the police while the government blamed the Turkish authorities who had allowed these three naive girls to pass through their country unchallenged. In  my view, it was the girls themselves who were to blame and the families are almost as bad - trying to pass the buck to the police about their own teenagers - girls who slept under their own roofs.

A couple of weeks ago as the evil "Jihadi John" was revealed to be the son of an immigrant family from Kuwait, you had a representative of an organisation called "Cage" appearing on British television blaming the security services for radicalising the monster. How dare they question him? I was appalled that "Cage" got so much airtime to spout this nonsense. According to their slick website, "CAGE is an independent advocacy organisation working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror. The organisation highlights and campaigns against state policies, striving for a world free from oppression and injustice."  Yeah, right!

Through a lifetime of teaching, I noticed that many teenage children seemed incapable of accepting blame for things they had done. When caught or questioned their habitual reaction was to point fingers elsewhere or simply to deny. Many times I found myself responding with "But I saw you" or "I heard you". It was always heartening when a child accepted responsibility and said "I'm sorry" or "Yes it was me". That always had the effect of deflating my annoyance. They were taking personal responsibility for their actions.

I don't know if it is the same in other countries but I think that social workers in Britain often have a raw deal. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Their workloads are invariably far too big as they operate in a "Catch 22" world. If a baby is harmed or there's some of this awful child sex abuse in the home or out on the streets, social workers will often find themselves in the spotlight - pilloried like medieval thieves in the village stocks. 

Proverbially, t's not right to always go beating up external scapegoats. People who were on the sidelines. We should be looking more closely at perpetrators, for by rights that is where the lion's share of the blame deserves to lie. 

11 March 2015


"The Golden Cock" in Farnley Tyas
The district of Kirklees in West Yorkshire is only thirty miles north of our house but it is an area I don't know very well at all. As yesterday's weather forecast was filled with promise, I set off before ten o'clock intending to park in a village I had never even heard of - Farnley Tyas which is three miles south of Huddersfield.

And what a lovely ramble I enjoyed in the blue sky weather. In Farnley Tyas I snapped a pub with a great name - "The Golden Cock" which has nothing to do with Donald Trump or David Beckham! St Lucius's Church - which isn't very old - was  given to the village by the Earl of Dartmouth in 1840. There must have been a much older church somewhere but I didn't have time to look as I was heading for Castle Hill which overlooks Huddersfield and has much ancient history - far older than The Victoria Tower which was erected up there in the eighteen nineties in celebration of Queen Victoria's long reign.
Victoria Tower on Castle Hill
This fine tower dominates the local landscape and seemed to be forever present like beacon during my six mile hike. I descended Castle Hill to Hall Bower then on to Stirley Community Farm and down to Honley Station. Up Hall Ing Road then up on to Lud Hill -  there wasn't much flat walking on this energetic scenic ramble. It was all up and down with the Yorkshire Pudding often puffing like a rickety old steam train. They say that when the going gets tough the tough get going but my solution is to plod a bit more slowly - pacing yourself so that you don''t need to keep stopping for a rest.

When I got home Shirley asked, "How was your walk?" and I said "Marvellous!" Before too long I will return to that area and maybe take in Brockhooles, Upper Thong and Netherthong. Great Yorkshire names round there.
View of Huddersfield from Castle Hill
Roadside shrine near Honley High School
Castle Hill viewed from Lud Hill
Back to St Lucius's Church in Farnley Tyas

8 March 2015


The Ordnance Survey Geograph project is ten years old. I have been contributing to it since September 2009. And yet, until yesterday, I had only met two other people who are involved in this online "community" - Mr Walter Baxter (Laird of Galashiels) and Steve from my local pub who joined up with my encouragement just last year.

On its site "Geograph" had announced some tenth birthday events around the country. With a little trepidation, I decided to travel eastwards to Lincoln and beyond to meet up with some other Geograph contributors at "The Sebastopol Inn" in the village of Minting. There would be lunch and a country walk in an area I hadn't visited since May 1972 when I attended a big pop festival at nearby Bardney - "The Great Western Express".
"The Sebastopol Inn" in Minting, Lincolnshire
The pub was more like a posh restaurant and I squirmed at the drinks prices and the food menu. No sandwiches or burgers with fries here. The names of the other Geograph-ers were all familiar but not their faces. Like me they were all "mature". Though the food was expensive it was good and we had a pleasant time chattering away before sharing a two mile ramble through the quiet countryside nearby.

Jonathan from Scunthorpe had his little Jack Russell with him and at one point the mischievous little hound ran off madly into a beet field. Lord knows what he was smelling out there but that dog became a little spot on the horizon with Jonathan yelling "Come here !" and whistling to no avail. After several minutes the crazy dog came back only to be greeted with a lead and muzzle. "I need to show him who's boss!" said the bachelor church curate.

There was a woman in the little group - Chris - who has a pilot's licence and flies a Cessna on pleasure trips around the east of England. That is the viewpoint for many of her photographs. But back in the pub-restaurant she told a disturbing story of persecution by "bad" neighbours who had been instrumental in getting her arrested on three occasions. It seemed like something out of a television drama - especially the bit about being threatened with a gun - when she recorded the whole incident on a mobile phone to play back to the police as evidence of her tormentors' malice. Ah well, I guess we all have problems!

People who are part of the Geograph project like the thrill of photography, enjoy looking at maps and are interested in geographical and historical matters. It is what we have in common and in that sense it was good to meet up with the others. I also got to wander in different territory and snap photographs of unfamiliar scenes before the long drive back to Sheffield. The organiser, Richard, was a very nice man. I am glad I went.

Here's Bob's picture of the group in Minting. I am of course the younger looking fellow in the middle, feeling like a carer in an old folks' home:-