30 June 2016

Postcard

So here we are in sunny Kefalonia. So far the day went like this...Woke up early and promptly went back to sleep. Woke again around eight and showered before breakfast. Boiled eggs, ham and cheese, toast, fruit, sweet Greek cakes, orange juice and coffee. 

Then I got ready to walk up the lane to the village of Karavados where there is a little supermarket or "mini mart". It was around two miles there and back. I returned with "Mythos" beer, water, wine and snacks. Life's essentials
Above - In Karavados this morning.  Below - lunch by the sea.
Then to the hotel's pool area in the shade of a palm tree, reading our novels and swimming. I noticed the acrobatic winging of swallows.

Around two in the afternoon we got ready to walk down to a little bay nearby. We had a light lunch in a traditional taverna, overlooking The Ionian Sea and then descended to the little sandy cove where we set up beach camp till six in the evening. I swam right out into the blueness and later in the soft cliffs I found a layer of seashells that must have been deposited  at the time of the dinosaurs - anyway, long ago that's for sure.
Then up past the little pink Greek Orthodox church and back along the lane to our hotel where we washed away the saltiness of the sea and lounged again as the red hot sun disappeared over the other side of the island. Time for a beer and another chapter. Then showered once more we came down for dinner. Greek salad, kleftiko, moussaka, stuffed tomatoes and honeydew melon with a jug of local wine.
View from our room
It's getting dark now as I sit here writing this post in the hotel lobby where the wi-fi is strongest. And so that's all for now folks. Best wishes...YP x

28 June 2016

Kefalonia

Kefalonia or Cephalonia - choose your own spelling - is a pretty big island. With a land area of 302 square miles, it is twice as big as The Isle of Wight which lies off Britain's south coast. In my travels, I have visited more than twenty of Greece's many islands but never before Kefalonia. 

In recent years, one of its main claims to fame has been its association with Louis de Bernieres' brilliant  best-selling novel "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" which was turned into a mediocre film in 2001. 

I don't know how much of the island we will get to see in the week ahead. Our chosen hotel is in a remote and quiet location on the south coast. If the pound doesn't tumble any further I expect we will hire a car for three days and use it to  see more of Kefalonia than the little corner occupied by our hotel. There are beaches, mountains, farming villages, ancient archaeological sites, olive groves, old men with donkeys and old women with black shawls. Plenty of photo opportunities.

This may come as bad news to you but I shall be taking this laptop on holiday and with good wi-fi promised, I expect to compose some holiday blogposts. We will  be flying away quite early on Wednesday morning. 

27 June 2016

Climbing

Over the Rivelin Dam wall and across the A57 Manchester road. Then along a winding path that led beneath birch trees. It was fringed with new bracken, burgeoning green. After ten minutes, Rivelin Rocks began to appear through the trees. As luck would have it, my chosen track took me straight to a millstone pinnacle called The Rivelin Needle. Here you can see it towering above the trees. 
Two young men had just finished climbing it. One of them was Swedish. They had several ropes, clips and steel carabinas. I talked with them for a little while and then headed further along the rocks where I encountered two young climbers from Barnsley tackling a route called Auto da Fe. Apparently there are 242 defined climbing routes at Rivelin Rocks.
It was a challenging climb. The young man on the bottom end of the rope was struggling to find hand and footholds he could have faith in. I sensed his uncertainty though his friend at the top had already mastered this particular rock face.
It takes a particular kind of person to fall in love with rock climbing. It never appealed to me but I can appreciate why others might enjoy it. Patience and daring. Muscle and mind. Becoming one with the rock. Even so it is an inherently dangerous activity.

I carried on to a place where I could scramble up to the open fields above Rivelin Rocks. Then I walked along to Ronksley Lane, noticing a brown hare sitting still in one of those summery meadows. It raised its ears like radar receivers and then darted off. After all, not only do we human beings seek danger, we also reek of it.

25 June 2016

Love

He saw her at the fruit counter. She winked at him. The attraction was mutual. There were plenty of other bananas, curvy pears and juicy melons but as soon as he saw her he knew she was "the one". Slender and shapely beneath her tight yellow outfit that fitted her like a skin.

Swallowing hard, he plucked up a kernel of courage and sidled over to her. Coquettishly, she fluttered her eyelashes and he felt his heart racing. They exchanged names and telephone numbers and he promised to call her at the weekend. She was not averse to the idea of a date - possibly because the bananas' usual supermarket position was adjacent to a shelf bearing sweet Egyptian dates.

On Sunday afternoon they met in the park - next to the Victorian bandstand. They walked by the duck pond and were soon exchanging sweet nothings. He was enchanted by the tone of her voice and with keen admiration she noticed his designer watch by Fyffes. She thought he was very handsome.

In the days that followed they had potassium rich meals together, went to the cinema to watch Woody Allen's 1971 film - "Bananas" and to cut a long story short they found themselves growing closer. The night of the cinema trip, they cuddled in the street below her apartment. They kissed and then a little nervously, she invited him up for coffee. He sensed that she was feeling fruity.

One thing led to another and when the morning came he woke in her bed beneath a red blanket, his head resting on a soft blue pillow. She was still asleep, her left arm thrown with gay abandon across his muscular chest. Awkwardly, he reached for his Marlboros and lit one up. With his right arm tucked behind his head, he drew in the woody smoke and smiled inwardly, patiently waiting for her to stir. It was the very start of love.

The photo that appears at the top of this post was first published in a homely and little known Welsh blog entitled "Going Gently" in relation to the world famous Trelawnyd Flower Show and more specifically its novelty fruit and veg photo category.

24 June 2016

Leave

There are lots of reasons why Britain has voted to leave The European Union. It seems to me that the "Remain" campaign was smug and often condescending, The leader of The Labour Party's voice was as indistinct as that of a squeaking mouse. The Etonian prime minister's arguments appeared rehearsed and unconvincing as he deflected legitimate questions about economic migrants.

Though I voted "remain", I really did not like the way the "remain" campaign unfolded with orchestrated voices from people who should have been studiously quiet - including Tony Blair, John Major, Barack Obama, Jean Claude Junker, Mark Carney (Governor of the Bank of England) and Angela Merkel. And then we heard our odious Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne threatening an austerity budget if  "Leave" won. None of this sat well with ordinary people.

The influence of Rupert Murdoch's News International group  should also not be underestimated. His awful "Sun" newspaper has a habit of promoting winners and this was its front page yesterday as voters went to the polls:-
To be fair to the leavers, I recognise that  the performance of the European Union has raised many serious questions about continent-wide legislation, answerability, the free movement of labour and the inequitable distribution of funds. As the years have passed, the influence of Brussels and Strasbourg has increased and there seems to have been a badly hidden agenda to pull up the poorer countries at the expense of wealthier nations like Great Britain.

The fallout from Britain's "Brexit" vote has only just begun but the ripples will radiate out well into the future. In the meantime, just last night I booked a week's holiday on the Greek island of Kefalonia. We are going next Wednesday and now I am kicking myself for not buying a wad of euros earlier in the week. The pound tumbled last night but hopefully it will pick up before we fly away. We will be staying at The Karavados Beach Hotel which is pictured below. There we can relax, soak up the sun, swim, read books and hopefully forget about "Brexit" for a few days.

23 June 2016

Cross

It's a hot, overcast day and I have just come home from the local methodist church which acts as our neighbourhood polling station. You can see the ballot paper above. I put my cross in the "Remain" box.

Normally, where human beings are concerned, ballot papers list candidates in alphabetical order. However, in this instance you can see that the two simple options are not presented in alphabetical order. Surely, "Leave" should have been above "Remain" as "L" comes before "R" in the alphabet.

I don't know if any studies have been done into the psychology of voting habits vis-à-vis the order of choices on a ballot paper but I would guess that it is advantageous to be at the top of the pile. On this ballot paper, "Leave" looks like second best but if normal alphabetical ordering had been employed, "Leave" would have been imbued with primary status.

This is important as up to yesterday, many thousands of voters had not made up their minds. Some even said that they would decide at the polling station.

Another thing I am thinking about this referendum is that "Remain" appears like a vote for the status quo whereas "Leave" seems more rebellious - kicking against the system and there are many people in our society who are drawn to that kind of response. I should know because I am normally one of them.

It will  certainly be interesting to see how things pan out as the votes are counted through the night ahead and into tomorrow morning.

21 June 2016

Donald

This morning I enjoyed a long walk in The Rivelin Valley, just west of Sheffield. I followed a public footpath up to Lawns Farm where I noticed a small herd of brown cows. From a distance, one particular cow caught my eye. It appeared to have something hanging from its neck - perhaps a tracking device or a cow bell.

But as I drew closer, I realised that the appendage was part of the cow's anatomy. I took out my faithful camera and zoomed in to get these shots:-
Now in my rambles I have seen thousands of dairy cows but never before have I seen a beast with a dangly swelling as in the case of this unfortunate animal. It must be an awful hindrance to her endless grazing and perhaps there's some associated physical pain. I don't know.

I tried to use "Google" to find out what the swinging throat ball might be but failed miserably. Perhaps you might be able to help - especially if you have had some veterinary training or you know a dairy farmer. Possibly the unusual thingamabob has no name and if that is the case I hereby christen it  a "donald" in honour of the Republican presidential candidate over in America.

Oh, by the way, this is a photo I snapped later of  Lawns Farm  from high on the opposite side of The Rivelin Valley. You can just make out part of the little herd to the left of the farm:-

20 June 2016

Referendum

On Thursday, Britain's polling stations will be open. Regarding our membership of The European Union we will either put crosses in the "Remain" or "Leave" boxes or draw a cartoon... possibly of a sheep.

It is not entirely clear why we are even having this referendum. I guess it came about because of anti-European rumblings in the ranks of the Conservative Party. Having the referendum was meant to appease all those "Daily Mail" readers. I saw their leader on the television last night - David Cameron. He was fielding questions from members of the public and he appeared to be floundering. He looks older, less bullish, unconvincingly trotting out the same, tired arguments.

There are things about The European Union that baffle me and most of my fellow citizens. What began as an economic trading alliance appears to have morphed into something different. It is a political juggernaut which seems to have an uncontrollable momentum of its own, like a prehistoric brontosaurus stomping over our continent. In Brussels and Strasbourg, highly paid Eurocrats congratulate themselves about their cleverness and importance.
I am drawn to "Remain" but I wish that the champions of "Remain" would talk about the reforms they intend to press for. Many of them try to avoid the "i" word - immigration. It has become a huge concern to ordinary Britons. Many communities are utterly changed. To me, it is not just an economic matter. Not everything is about jobs and balance sheets. I used to live in a country where everybody knew what a maypole was, where everyone knew that a 99 was a vanilla ice cream  with a "Flake" pushed in it, where we all knew the most popular Christmas carols, where we knew what the years 1066 and 1666 meant to our people. It's not like that now. And if you dare to dig into immigration matters you are likely to invite accusations of racism and intolerance.

Nonetheless, it's "remain" for me. "Leave" is filled with uncertainty and its champions are dangerous dorks with whom I have no affinity - Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove for example. All odious ego trippers.

In contrast, our lovely Yorkshire rose, the murdered MP Jo Cox was strongly behind the "Remain" campaign. Only the weekend before her cruel death, she was pictured in an inflatable dingy on The Thames with her husband and small children and as it sped mischievously through the choppy waters near The House of Parliament its large flag fluttered in the wind, bearing a single word - "IN".

Nobody knows what the outcome will be or significantly what percentage of the electorate will even vote but in  memory of Jo Cox, for stability and togetherness I shall be giving "Remain" my cross. We have come so far in The European Union that "Leave" seems far too drastic and it increasingly looks like the gateway to Narnia.

19 June 2016

Singing

There she is again... my ovine friend Petunia and behind her there's her sister Linda. On Friday afternoon, to my amazement, they struck up a song. It went something like this...

SONG OF THE MOORLAND SHEEP

Up on the moors just a chewin' the grass
Watching the people as they drive past
Rushing here and rushing there
While we sit here without a care
Sheep, sheep, we're just sheep
We count people to get to sleep.

Clouds in the sky and birds on the wing
It's nice to notice everything
Folk park cars and don their boots
Check their maps for walking routes
Point their cameras to the west
While we sit here and simply rest.
Sheep, sheep, we're just sheep
We count people to get to sleep.

Sometimes we hear their radio news
World events and political views
Bullets flying and children dying
The human world  seems horrifying
It's better to sleep beneath the stars
To the sound of our flock
Singing musical baahs!
Sheep, sheep, we're just sheep
We count people to get to sleep.

17 June 2016

Sheep

Sitting on the roadside near Stanage Edge this afternoon. Though elderly and weather-beaten she looks as if she is auditioning for a role in "Yes, Minister!", playing the part of a haughty civil servant. 

16 June 2016

Remain

A bunker, deep below Downing Street in the heart of London. Dressed in his military fatigues, including an old World War II helmet, David Cameron is chairing an emergency meeting of the Brexit "Remain" steering group. He  points his swagger stick at the whiteboard.

CAMERON We need new suggestions and we need them fast. As you can see our strategy isn't working. The "Leave" camp are gathering strength.
OSBORNE Shall I tell the country that all savings accounts will be frozen by The Treasury in the event of a Brexit? We will need that money for the barbed wire and the extra CCTV cameras.
THERESA MAY No way George! You would be best keeping a low profile because whatever you say seems to push the swingometer in the "Leave" direction. Just keep schtum.
CAMERON I am at my wit's end. Every bloody day we have had influential figures lined up to support "Remain" - from Mark Carney to President Obama, from The Chairman of the CBI to The Archbishop of Canterbury. But it isn't working.
CLEGG Perhaps we should call on more populist figures.
ALAN JOHNSON David Beckham? Katie Price? Ed Sheeran? Michael McIntyre?
THERESA MAY But they are all for leaving Alan. How about Rosamunde Pilcher - she's my favourite writer you know!
ALAN JOHNSON But she's ninety four years old! And besides you could hardly call her populist!
(Doris Budd who has worked in the bowels of  Downing Street for thirty eight years comes in with the tea trolley. She is humming "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin).
DORIS Is it your usual Mr Cameron?
CAMERON Yes. Piss weak Darjeeling with a slice of lemon and a garibaldi.
THERESA MAY Have you got any ideas Doris?
DORIS What do you mean your madame? About remaining?
THERESA MAY Yes.
DORIS Well, I've thought about this and your only chance is to use your best asset.
OSBORNE You mean me?
DORIS Don't be silly. No. I'm talking about Her Majesty. The Queen. Get her to do a broadcast in the middle of every soap opera urging... no instructing her subjects to remain. 
CLEGG But The Queen is impartial.
DORIS (pouring) Jasmine green tea Mr Clegg and a bourbon?...I know she has always sat on the fence over just about everything but this is different. Besides if you don't do it Britain will be out of The European Union.
CAMERON Excellent idea Doris. But who will write the script? Put your hand down for heaven's sake George. It won't be you.
OSBORNE It's not fair!
ALAN JOHNSON Then who? I am a bit of a wordsmith. Did you read "This Boy"?
CLEGG It was too literary. I think you've lost the common touch Alan.
(All eyes turn to Doris who is now pushing the tea trolley towards the door.)
DORIS What? Don't look at me. I'm leaving.
CAMERON But I can phone Briggs, tell him you'll be staying with us for a while. He won't mind.
DORIS No. You don't get me prime minister. I mean I'll be voting to leave. I'm a Brexiter. (A hush falls over the bunker) Another biscuit before I go anyone?  How about a custard cream or a ginger nut?

15 June 2016

Reconnection

In a corner of our dining room, two old friends have been waiting for me. I have neglected them for far too long. They are classical acoustic guitars.

I bought the oldest one was I when fifteen years old - using wages I had earned on a local turkey farm. I must have bought the second one around 1990 - from a guitar specialist who had an Aladdin's cave of lovely instruments just outside Leeds.

How many hours have I spent plucking and strumming these guitars? Thousands. But since I retired from teaching, I have hardly touched them. All this extra downtime - you might have thought I would have been consolidating my musical talents, practising most days - but no, the guitars had become ornamental. It's a psychological thing. You have to be ready.

A few months ago, one of the strings on the newer guitar broke of its own accord but it was only yesterday that I got round to restringing it. I tuned it, played it and retuned it. It takes a while for new strings to settle down.

Please don't imagine that I was ever a great guitarist. For me, the guitar was always something I used to accompany songs - or better still to create songs. This was something I was pretty good at and the feeling you get when playing a guitar and singing a song that you have penned yourself is very special. You feel lifted somehow - as if the song has come to you mystically, magically, as if it is bigger than you. You can easily get lost in it.

Anyway, in my current frame of mind I am now determined to embrace my old friends again. I plan to play the newer instrument regularly - make my fingertips hard again, make my fingers re-learn old chords. And I want to make some new songs.

If it is okay with you, At the risk of making a rod for my own back, I would like to share a couple of these unborn songs with you before this year is out. That target will increase my motivation because when all is said and done what is a song without an audience? It's like a play or a painting - without witnesses it might as well not exist.

Now I am going upstairs for a shower and before walking down for my weekly shift at the Oxfam shop I shall play the guitar for half an hour. It will be a long road back to proficiency but it is a road I am ready to travel.

14 June 2016

Yamato

One of the most uplifting news stories of recent weeks came out of Japan, from the northern island of Hokkaido. A local family were having a day out on the slopes of Mount Komagatake but seven year old Yamato Tanooka was being a pain in the neck. To teach him a lesson, his parents left him on his own for a short while but the punishment went wrong and the little boy became lost in the "bear infested" forest for six days. 

Naturally, there were genuine fears for the boy's safety and the way things like this normally go, most of the world was expecting that it would all end with the discovery of a dead body. But it didn't. Instead searchers found little Yamato in an abandoned military camp. He wasn't upset and apparently he "wolfed down" rice balls and bread proffered by the soldiers who found him.

Later I read that Yamato had forgiven his father who was shown in the media spotlight, displaying his shame and stupidity like a medieval  felon with his head in the stocks. The idea of a seven year old lad forgiving his father is itself rather amusing.

I love Yamato's cheeky little face and can vaguely remember when our own kids were occasionally hyperactive pains. Parents have a limited amount of patience and tolerance  and like me, many will have some sympathy with Yamato's tearful father. What do you do when your kid is being what Americans call "a pain in the ass"? Yamato looks as if he is full of beans. It was so heartening when the news broke that he was safe and sound no doubt ready for more mischief.

12 June 2016

Stately

Off the beaten track, in the heart of East Yorkshire, there's a magnificent Elizabethan country house called Burton Constable Hall. I hadn't been there since 1969 when I attended an all night pop concert. It was held in the stable block where there is a vast covered space that once hosted a riding school. The headliners that night were The Nice with keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson. I can still picture him now and hear his renditions of "I Want To Be in America" and the Intermezzo from Sibelius's Karelia Suite. Pure brilliance! Sadly Keith Emerson died on March 10th this year, a long way from his Yorkshire birthplace.

Anyway, last Sunday I was back with the wife. It was a lovely day yet there were few visitors. We toured the main house which had many stories to tell and had not been neatly manicured like a department store window display. It was a little jaded and dusty. It smelt vaguely of old soot but contained many fine artefacts - Chippendale furniture, oil paintings, chandeliers, gilded mirrors, busts and close to a cabinet of curiosities, I noticed a complete Etruscan vase just sitting on a mahogany desk. It was made around the year 350BC. I reached out to touch it very gently and there was nobody about to shout "No!" Quite amazing.
The orangerie
In the staircase hall we chatted with one of the stately home's volunteer guides - a man of eighty five called Harry who had worked as a farm labourer at Burton Constable all his life. He had the most lovely, authentic East Yorkshire accent I have heard in years and  was a mine of information about the hall and its surrounds.
Chair used by Queen Victoria when she visited Hull
October 13th 1854
We walked in the grounds, visited the orangerie and the great lake created by the famous English landscape gardener Capability Brown. But we never reached the elusive great stag statue we had seen from the house. It was a great visit. If you would like to find out more about Burton Constable Hall and its rich history, please go to the estate's website.

10 June 2016

Dribbling

"Guardian" newspaper Interview with Bill  Bryson
Q. Is it better to give or to receive?
A. Depends on whether you are talking about Christmas or gonorrhea.
It has taken too long but today I finished "The Road to Little Dribbling" by Bill Bryson. My daughter gave me it for Christmas and I knew that I would love reading it, twenty five years after Bryson produced "Notes from a Small Island". Both books are opinionated travelogues that focus on my country from the point of view of an American  mid-westerner.

Though there's annoyance and frustration, there's also laughter and enormous affection for his adopted country where he married and with his English wife Cynthia raised four children. He travels to places that are familiar to me and observes many things that I have seen. 

Rather than banging on about the book and boring you all to death, I will just give you a few quotations from it that perhaps capture something of the spirit of his writing and of his affection for Great Britain:-

“There isn't a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world's largest park, its most perfect accidental garden.” 

“What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept fuckwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life, suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good.” 

“Britain has 450,000 listed buildings, 20,000 scheduled ancient monuments, twenty-six World Heritage Sites, 1,624 registered parks and gardens (that is, gardens and parks of historic significance), 600,000 known archaeological sites (and more being found every day; more being lost, too), 3,500 historic cemeteries, 70,000 war memorials, 4,000 sites of special scientific interest, 18,500 medieval churches, and 2,500 museums containing 170 million objects.”

“England?” she said with unreserved amazement. “Why do you live in England?” 
“Because it is nothing like Indianapolis.”

“That is the problem with Scotland, I find. You never know whether the next person you meet is going to offer you his bone marrow or nut you with his forehead.”

I am an unashamed Americophile as I have stated before in this curious blog, It's funny but the four living male Americans I admire the most all have first names that begin with B... Bob Dylan, Barack Obama, Bill Bryson and last but not least - Bob Brague. 

9 June 2016

Withernsea

Withernsea didn't seem so bad - not as bad as my memory had led me to believe it was. It is a town of some six thousand residents and it sits on the East Yorkshire coast twelve miles north of Spurn Head. It was in 1972 that my band - Village played a stupendous gig in Withernsea at the high school's end of term dance. The place was packed and I was the lead singer:-
Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild!
But as it turned out, I wasn't born to be wild at all. I was born to get married, buy a house, raise a couple of kids and graft away at the chalkface in schools that sucked the lifeblood out of me. I am still recovering.

Shirley had never been to Withernsea before. Once it had a seaside pier extending for 1196 feet into the North Sea but it didn't last for very long as ships kept crashing into it and effectively destroyed it so that it was finally dismantled in 1903. Only the crenellated stone entrance remains.
Shirley at the old pier entrance
In Withernsea we noticed a surfeit of mobility scooters. Now there's a ninety six year old lady called Norma who lives on our street in Sheffield and she uses a mobility scooter to get about. I have absolutely no problem with that as she is frail and has had a hip replacement but in Withernsea we saw several obese people and fairly young people tootling along on their mobility scooters and I just wanted to say - "Get your fat arse off that thing and walk!" Or am I being cruel? What did folk do before mobility scooters arrived on the scene?
Born to be Wild - Friends at "Sunshine Caf"
There were two mobility scooter shops in Withernsea selling all the latest models - "The Fat Arse Corsair" and "The Lazy Git Silent Speedster" with go-faster stripes. Another thing I think about these mobility scooters is why don't they figure in  Paralympics events? I am sure that a resident of Withernsea could win Britain a gold medal or two and be feted as The Mobility Scooter World Champion.

But as I say, Withernsea wasn't so bad. Unusually, the town's old lighthouse is set back from the beach and surrounded by housing. The place was nothing much until the mid-nineteenth century when a railway track began to bring in  holidaymakers - mostly from the city of Hull which is eighteen miles away. From about 1875 to the 1920's the little resort thrived but in recent times it has struggled despite the best efforts of an optimistic town council.
Moving rocks for sea defence
It doesn't help that the sea is eating away at the boulder clay coast. Houses in Withernsea tend to be very cheap. For example there's a terraced house on South Cliff Road that is currently up for sale for £65,000 ($126,567 AUS or $93,934 US) With views of crashing winter storms munching away at the coast it is a house in which you really could realise your dream of being "born to be wild" like Steppenwolf and there'd be room out back for your Ferrari mobility scooter with shiny chrome bullbars to ram unwary pedestrians.

7 June 2016

Spurn

The last time I went to Spurn Point I was eighteen years old. Having just passed my driving test I motored nervously across The Plain of Holderness through Patrington, Easington and Kilnsea until Spurn's narrow peninsula came into view.

It guards the entrance to The Humber Estuary and through the shifting of tides, the battering of storms and natural  cycles of erosion and deposition, Spurn Point has seen many changes through the centuries.

In the summer of 1972, there was a complete concrete roadway that led visitors to the very end of the peninsula where there are two lighthouses, a major  coastguard station, lifeboat men's dwelling houses and several wartime bunkers hidden in the dunes. But yesterday afternoon, there was no way that Shirley and I could have driven to the end because Spurn was breached by the sea in December 2013 and a large chunk of the old roadway was simply washed away.

Where grassy dunes once supported concrete roadway slabs there's now a shingle bank. Consequently, the way that most visitors now reach the end of Spurn Head is by walking - three miles there and three miles back. The breached section is about three hundred yards in length and when tides are particularly high, the sea washes across it. Being aware of tide information is essential.

Yesterday's afternoon was beautiful and summery with hardly a breath of wind. We had sandwiches in my rucksack, a sausage roll, an orange and a curd tart as well as bottles of water. Shirley had never been to Spurn before but she loved it - especially beach-combing. She even spotted the rotted carcass of what I believe was a dolphin but my camera  battery had run out by that point.. 

Spurn  is a very atmospheric place with unusual plants and birdlife. It has witnessed so much marine activity - from Viking longboats to modern oil tankers. The North Sea laps on one side and the muddy Humber Estuary's brown waters on the other. Interesting flotsam and jetsam washes up on both sides of the spit. Magically, we had it all to ourselves and even found a bench in the dunes at the very end of the peninsula where we enjoyed our picnic before heading back.

It was a grand excursion but without a hat or suncream protection, I was feeling very woozy when we finally got back to the car. Naturally, we had to stop off at "The White Horse" in Easington for cooling drinks before carrying on to our Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Holmpton. It had all been  so lovely, so uplifting. Yet I realise that with a forty five year gap between my two visits to Spurn I shall probably never go back there again and that makes me feel a little sad. It is a special place. A sparkling teardrop that hangs from the very end of Yorkshire - fragile, sweet and ever-changing.

4 June 2016

Baby

Charlotte Teresa Manuel-Gowans 
born May 30th in Angola, Africa
Mother, baby, brothers and father are all well.
Posted with kind permission of the proud
but elusive father Tom Gowans
(aka Hippo on the Lawn)
(aka Lord Lucan)
(aka Will O' The Wisp)
Have a long and happy 
life Little Charlie!

3 June 2016

Manchester

"The Jolly Angler"
Over the dark hills lurks another city. Brooding and mysterious. it is largely unknown to Yorkshire folk. You may have heard of it. It is called Manchester and its main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of  World Cup footballer Nobby Stiles.

Normally, the east of this large island enjoys better weather than the west but during the last few days things have been reversed as troublesome continental weather  drifted across the North Sea. Wanting a good long walk and fresh photo opportunities I decided to catch a train over to Manchester. 
Sign of the times in Salford
For four hours I plodded about the grim Mancunian streets before returning to Piccadilly Railway Station. My walk took in districts like Ancoats, Collyhurst, Salford and Strangeways where I had lunch in the visitors' centre attached to Her Majesty's Prison Manchester. There solicitors in business suits and tattooed visitors with screaming kids waited for entry passes while I chomped on my tuna and mayonnaise sandwich. Though it was a visitors' centre there were no souvenir pens or keyrings for sale and no wall displays depicting the history of Strangeways. I think they are missing a trick there.
HMP Prison Manchester from Lord Street
There's a lot of modern construction happening in Manchester and Salford right now. Numerous cranes, city centre squares being remodelled and decaying old building being extracted like bad teeth. The city has a real "buzz" about it as silent electric trams weave around it taking pofaced Mancunians to exotic suburbs with evocative place  names like Oldham Mumps, Eccles, Audenshaw and Crumpsall.

In Ancoats an ugly young man with vile tattoos and a yapping bull terrier attempted to speak to me as I crossed a footbridge over The Rochdale Canal but his nasally Manchester accent made communication very difficult indeed. " I - am - sorry - but - I  - do -  not - understand - you," I said very slowly. He spat  a gob of phlegm into the canal before carrying on with his growling hound. It was in this area that L.S. Lowry painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs and terraced streets but not tattooed thugs with bad manners.
Pedestrian underpass in Collyhurst
During the urban ramble I enjoyed a brief stop off at The People's Museum in Spinningfields. It focuses upon working class history in a city that was built on cotton and the hard labours of the downtrodden poor. I was going to buy Shirley a souvenir tea towel on which an original  "Votes for Women" poster design had been replicated but as it cost £15.99 my interest evaporated instantly.
1923 political poster in The People's Museum