29 September 2016

Updates

The beloved daughter got an emergency locksmith in to fit a new Yale lock (£115). The designer bag with the designer purse (circa £250) contained a ring from a friend in Leeds (£200). It was going to have a new ruby fitted. She cancelled all her cards straight away and her boss was able to loan her his last i-phone for free. So apart from the bitter memory of this robbery and the sick feeling of violation, she's moving on.

Financially, her boyfriend's loss was bigger - a brand new i-pad costing about £600.

Did you know that if you lose an i-phone, it is possible to track it down on a map? The beloved daughter did this and located her phone in a  block of flats two streets away but apparently the police were not interested. I guess the location was too imprecise. They could hardly go ransacking twenty apartments to find her phone.
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Meanwhile in Bolton, Lancashire a greedy beast called Sam Allardyce crept out of his luxury home complaining of entrapment and that he was only "helping out a friend". He was ensnared by "The Daily Telegraph", his greed exposed for all to see. He was the manager of England's national football team for just two months, on a reported £3 million a year salary and yet old habits die hard. He wanted more and he still couldn't find it in himself to deliver a true, heartfelt apology to this football loving country. This will live with him till he is shovelled into his grave. It is obvious that "The Daily Telegraph" didn't target him randomly. They knew what this big-headed man was about. Not so big now are you Big Sam? More like Pig Sam...
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Here in Blogworld, some of us bees are making honey. Regular bloggers like Earl Gray, Steve J. Reed MP, Meike, Tamborine Lee and Red Deer Red leave offerings for their fans quite frequently. But some bloggers have completely dried up or gone away. They may be under the illusion that this is a free world and they can do what they want. They can't. I still miss Daphne Franks, and Friday's Web, Brad the Gorilla and now Tom at "A Hippo on the Lawn". Even garrulous Helen from Brisbane is unproductive these days and old timer Adrian still hasn't sorted out his connectivity. Over in the leafy suburbs of Manchester-on-Irwell, Ian has returned from extinction to resurrect his "Shooting Parrots" blog. I love his witty and thoughtfully constructed "Sunday Round-Up" every week. Please check the last one out here. How come I am the only idiot who has so far left a comment? All that great work deserves many more visitors. STP! Save The Parrot!
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In eastern Aleppo, a four year old child is trapped in the bombsite  rubble. Russian MIGs swoop overhead dropping their costly payloads. "It wasn't us! It wasn't us!" turnip-faced Russian spokesmen declare on behalf of Donald J. Putin. The four year old child's dusty right  arm reaches up through a little hole in the mess of concrete. For a moment, it stretches for the sun or perhaps for help but no one comes. Not even Bashar Hafez al-Assad to save his people so of course he doesn't see that thin arm fall in slow motion as the small child's subterranean heart stops beating. He never learnt the words to "All You Need Is Love".

28 September 2016

Robbery

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Our lovely daughter Frances was twenty eight on Monday after a happy birthday weekend down in London. But last night (Tuesday) she phoned up in distress to say that she and her boyfriend had been robbed.

Some sneaky, lowlife scumbag got into her boyfriend's Bethnal Green apartment and grabbed his laptop from the bed plus Frances's handbag before scuttling away like a rat in a dank cellar.
The handbag contained her purse - including bank cards, driving licence and the £50 that her boss had kindly given her as a birthday bonus. Amongst other things, the cherished designer bag also contained a doctor's prescription note with her address upon it  and the keys to her own flat in Camberwell,

Of course she was worried about the possibility of a second robbery with the rat making his way to South London to do the dirty deed. 

In ten days time she is scheduled to move out of the Camberwell flat and her flatmate has already departed. To borrow that friend's keys, Frances needed her i-phone but guess where that was? Yes. In the bag and worse than that - uninsured.

When she phoned at nine thirty last night, they were waiting for the police to arrive and the situation with her Camberwell flat hadn't been resolved. We contacted our son Ian who lives in north London and he was planning to come to his sister's assistance.  

Sheffield is four hours north of the capital and besides, if I had jumped in the car, what could I have done? All I could say to her was, "I know it's not much comfort but in a week's time this horrible business won't seem so bad. Just a nasty historical event."

I don't know if sneak thieves come into Blogworld but if you are reading this Ratty, I challenge you to a bare-knuckle fight. I'm going to make mincemeat of you young man and teach you a lesson you will never forget. When you look in your bathroom mirror you will see something resembling a squashed helping of  lasagne. Shame on you you selfish nobody!

27 September 2016

Corbyn

Earlier this summer, an unlikely song in support of our Labour Party's veteran leader emerged from a Lincolnshire bedroom - penned by songwriter and versatile musician Sam Harrison, aged twenty six. When quizzed about "I Feel Like Jeremy Corbyn", Sam said, "I don't very often write political songs but I'm very excited for the Labour Party's new leader, who shares a lot of the same beliefs as me. Seeing the right wing fuelled press slander this progressive movement made me want to create something in solidarity with Mr Corbyn and his movement!"

Why not have a listen? I apologise if one of those annoying ads comes up first...

25 September 2016

Rainbow

When the chicken was in our oven, I drove up nearby Ringinglow Road, out into the countryside. Five minutes by car. No long country walk was planned. Just ten minutes of fresh air in the afternoon sunshine before returning home to get on with our Sunday dinner.

There's an orientation table at the junction of Fulwood Lane and Greenhouse Lane. From there you can see for miles. On a really clear day you can see Lincoln Cathedral which is forty three miles away and The Humber Bridge which is sixty miles away. Though pretty clear today, the visibility was insufficient to make out those distant landmarks - even with the binoculars I had brought along.

A woman in red came jogging up the lane just after a brief rain shower had passed over. I recognised her from the Oxfam shop where I work on Wednesdays. She arrived at the orientation table just as a rainbow formed magically to the north east of us, framing the natural  bowl in which Sheffield is situated.

I grabbed my camera from the car seat and tried to capture the moment but the rainbow was too big to fit inside a normal camera shot so I switched to the panoramic function and snapped the picture you see at the top of this post. Rainbows don't last for long. You have to get them while you can.

The woman from the shop asked if I had any water in my car. I gave her a fresh bottle and refused the coins she tried to press into my hand before she carried on with her run.

I crossed the road to watch some cows grazing in a field. Two middle aged women in walking boots appeared, strolling along from Ringinglow. They were planning to follow the public footpath through the cow field but when they spotted the beasts within they were unusually apprehensive.

The smaller woman asked me if they were dangerous.

I replied, "Well, you haven't got a dog with you so you'll have no trouble. Just keep away from the calves".

My reassurance appeared to fall on deaf ears because after mounting the stile they attempted to take a ridiculously circuitous route past the cows which meant they ended up in a very boggy area down by the stream. The cows seemed bemused, watching the antics of these two over-anxious women in dumbfounded bovine silence.

For all I know the two walkers are still in that field because I didn't see them leave it. Behind me he rainbow had already dissolved completely and I had potatoes to peel and cauliflower cheese to prepare.

24 September 2016

Willowgarth

Entrance to Willowgarth on Thursday
Willowgarth is a lovely name. It makes one think of Mother Nature - perhaps a stroll by a leafy riverside or through a sunlit bower in a verdant wood. But Willowgarth was in fact the name given to a secondary school on the edge of Grimethorpe - a collection of functional concrete blocks that for fifty years served children of secondary school age from the pit villages of Brierley and Grimethorpe itself. The name was misleading.

Of course lots of things happen within the precincts of any secondary school. There are tears and laughter, comings and goings, sports days and concerts. Examinations to sit and lesson changeover bells that ring endlessly - defining the passing days. Children grow up in their secondary schools. They make friends and enemies as well as memories as their teachers grow old or depart via the promotional ladder.

The two secondary schools that I attended in East Yorkshire are still standing. I could easily go back there to stroll around the corridors of my youth but for former Willowgarth High School students that would now be impossible. The entire school was razed to the ground in 2012. All that's left is a driveway, a pile of rubble and a pair of rusting goalposts.

I felt rather sad to observe the desolate scene through security fencing on Thursday afternoon. I thought of all the interactions that must have happened at Willowgarth through the years. It must have been a tough place to teach in. All those children from mining families. All that poverty. But I think there would have been a lot of fun too.

Back home scouring the internet, I found the following Willowgarth pictures that speak evocatively of a lost school and perhaps of a lost world too...

My own picture - at the top of this post was taken from this
entrance to the school premises,  I was standing next to that
old blue pit wheel - now partly  hidden behind a security fence.

23 September 2016

Grimethorpe

Backs of houses. High Street, Grimethorpe
When international visitors to Great Britain flick through their glossy brochures and travel guides they will not find Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire. Oh yes, Stratford-upon-Avon, York, London, chocolate box lid villages and maybe even Blackpool but not Grimethorpe.

The village has an unfortunate name that speaks of grimy industry but in fact its roots are in Norse settlement of the eighth and ninth centuries. It was a farming settlement (thorpe) under the rule of Grim, Grimer or Grimey. And it remained a small agricultural hamlet through the centuries until vast reserves of coal were discovered underground in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Dilapidated Grimethorpe Hall - built in 1670
Soon Grimethorpe grew. It had not one but two collieries and before  very long workers flooded in to occupy rows of tiny miners' cottages that had been thrown up by landowners and coal magnates.Britain's appetite for coal was voracious and Grimethorpe was at the front line of the coal industry's effort to satisfy that hunger. It was, after all, on the back of coal that our Industrial Revolution and The British Empire were built.

Following Thatcher's spiteful war upon the coal industry in the nineteen eighties, coal mining in Grimethorpe ceased in 1993. The village became a neglected, decaying and rather pointless place. Its heart had been ripped out.

Officially, it became the most long-term deprived community in Great Britain. In 1994, the European Union's study of deprivation named Grimethorpe as the poorest village in the country and amongst the poorest in Europe. Levels of crime and drug abuse were chronically high. Unemployment was above 50% for much of the 1990s and a large proportion of the older male population were disabled, having suffered injuries in the coal mines.
Memorial to Grimethorpe coal miners killed in colliery accidents
Nowadays, the place is changing. Many of the old mining cottages have gone and there are modern estates where affordable new houses have been built. Road access to the village is much better than it was through the twentieth century and there are new businesses nearby. In fact, if a passing visitor didn't know what had happened in the past, he or she could be forgiven for not recognising that this was once the epicentre of the Yorkshire coalfield. There is little evidence left behind -  of what once was.

"Yorkshire Pudding" sent its star reporter to Grimethorpe yesterday to bring you the photographs that accompany this post. But some photo opportunities were missed. The queue at the "White City" fish and chip shop. Albanian car washers where the petrol station used to be, a tattooed man walking a muscular pit bull terrier, obese middle aged women stopping to chat in their mobility scooters, empty cans of "Carling" lager scattered around a park bench. The poverty has not gone.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that in spite of the heavy knocks the village has received, Grimethorpe is still home to the finest brass band in the world - The Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Listen to them here and visit their website here. In all that ugliness beauty blossomed.
Grimethorpe Working Men's Club
The semi-derelict sports ground
Millennium Obelisk in Grimethorpe Park

22 September 2016

Adrian

Adrian is safe and sound. He is the wily fellow who manages a blog called "Adrian's Images". One or two of us were getting worried about him because he hasn't blogged since August 15th and normally he posts something of interest every day or two..

However, it appears that the reason for his absence is mundane. Staying on a farm near Auchtermuchty in Fife, he had been reliant upon his hosts' broadband supplier in order to connect  to the worldwide web. This summer they changed providers and in the process Adrian has temporarily lost his connection. Thanks to Detective G. Edwards of Eagleton Notes Constabulary for unearthing this information. Fife police have now called off their manhunt, including the dive team who had been meticulously dredging The Firth of Tay.

A former skjpper aboard merchant ships, Adrian lives in a camper van with his two West Highland terriers - Molly and Alf. He is passionate about nature and photography. Many of his posts demonstrate these twin passions in which he has developed  a great deal of technical expertise. Though he is approaching the age of seventy, he maintains a refreshing inquisitiveness about the world around him. 

I am confident that Adrian will be blogging again  before too long. There are many more mushrooms, flies, beetles and butterflies left  to capture with his various cameras and many more muddy puddles for Molly and Alf to splash through. If you have never visited Adrian's blog before, please go here and have a good root round.

21 September 2016

Dream

Good art makes my heart skip a beat. It reminds me of what is best in humanity and lifts my spirits. I guess that the majority of people reading this post will feel exactly the same.

Last week, I shared some  pictures from our little trip to Lancashire. One of them was of an amazing sculpture near St Helens. It is called "Dream" and it was created by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

It sits on top of a wooded hill that was once the site of Lancashire's most productive coal mine - Sutton Manor. When the colliery closed and land reclamation was advancing, former miners and the local council decided they would like to sponsor a significant art installation. They gained support from The Arts Council and Channel 4 and before too long they hooked up with Plensa whose work is known around the world. 

Often such sites will attract predictable  memorials to coal mining but at Sutton Manor the sponsors wanted something different - a symbol of hope perhaps, something beautiful that would send out a positive message to all who came to see it. Plensa was inspired by the project and later said, ""When I first came to the site I immediately thought something coming out of the earth was needed. I decided to do a head of a nine-year-old girl which is representing this idea of the future."

Completed in 2009, the elongated head stands sixty six feet (20 metres) tall and is estimated to weigh over five hundred tons. Its construction cost £1,9 million but personally I think it was worth every penny.

When we got up there, there was at first nobody else around. Just the serene dolomite and concrete head gazing hopefully southwards over the M62 motorway towards the Cheshire plains and the hills of Wales. As we left a family appeared from a different path, as you can see in the picture below. They are standing on the plinth.

Perhaps "Dream" says what you want her to say. But to me she says there's hope, something beyond the everyday if we only dare to dream. Hamlet's words come to mind:-
"To die, to sleep - 
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come..."

20 September 2016

Singalong

Let's have a song. Dogwood Rose performed it last weekend. Turn up your sound. It's by Stephin Merritt of American indie band Magnetic Fields but here it is performed by the old Genesis frontman -  Peter Gabriel:-

The book of love is long and boring 
No one can lift the damn thing 
It's full of charts and facts and figures 
And instructions for dancing 
But I, I love it when you read to me 
And you, you can read me anything 

The book of love has music in it 
In fact that's where music comes from 
Some of it is just transcendental 
Some of it is just really dumb 
But I, I love it when you sing to me 
And you, you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring 
And written very long ago 
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes 
And things we're all too young to know 
But I, I love it when you give me things 
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings 
I, I love it when you give me things 
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings.

19 September 2016

Intolerance

Picture this. August in France, 1998,  and we are basking on a quiet beach on the Atlantic coastal island of Noirmoutier. Behind the beach there's a rambling walled property. We can see turrets and chimney stacks.

In the middle of that hot afternoon, the gate to the old seaside property opens and out comes a giggling gaggle of Catholic nuns. There are seven or eight of them all dressed in their black religious garb complete with white coifs and black veils to cover their heads. 

Still giggling girlishly they proceed to the water's edge, raising their dark robes to paddle in the sea. They are having fun which is a little surprising as being a nun or a monk usually smacks of seriousness, self-sacrifice and large dollops of misery. Such is the power of religion.

But the thing is this. Gendarmes did not appear on the beach to arrest these nuns. After all, their beach attire was little different from the prudish Muslim "burkini" that has proven to be a source of  great controversy on French beaches this summer.

Just the other day a young Australian Muslim called Zeynab Alshelh was driven off from a beach on The French Riviera for wearing a burkini. Apparently, other beachgoers, probably dressed in pornographic thongs and skimpy bikinis, had vehemently objected to her chosen beachwear.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if Zeynab had been dressed as a Catholic nun - like those giggling young women on the Noirmoutier beach - her presence would have raised no objections at all. Ironically, the selective  intolerance being shown in France can only fuel Muslim extremism. Besides, to avoid the possibility of skin cancer, it is surely wise to cover both head and body on a sunny beach.

18 September 2016

Squirrels

Damned Thing!
America gave us chewing gum, nylon stockings, Heinz 57 varieties and The Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen. They also arranged a plague of American grey squirrels, These arboreal rodents have spread throughout the island of Britain, driving away our unfortunate native red squirrels.

It is estimated that there are now over 2.5 million grey squirrels and perhaps only 140,000 red squirrels that manage to survive in just a few strongholds. In 1875 there were no grey squirrels at all but then the owner of a Cheshire country estate introduced a pair of greys as exotic curiosities.

The rest is history as they say. Growing up in East Yorkshire, I do not remember ever seeing a grey squirrel in our village.  Nowadays they are more or less everywhere. We see grey squirrels in our parks and gardens, squashed in our roads or raiding our bird tables. Thanks America!

A week ago, Shirley and I visited the coastal pine forest at Formby on the Lancashire coast. I knew there was a red squirrel sanctuary there so we visited it, hardly expecting to see any native squirrels but to our surprise and delight there were plenty.
This greedy squirrel was called Steve
They were scurrying hither and thither, leaping between trees and generally doing all that they could to avoid being successfully photographed. If I had had more time to spare, I would have simply focused on an old log or something and waited patiently for a squirrel to appear. Following the little blighters around with my lens was like playing some kind of crazy video game - "Hunt The Squirrel".

An occasional visitor to this humble blog is Ian from "Shooting Parrots". He is a huge fan of the red squirrel. During his grammar school days, in the forbidding  suburbs of Manchester, he was even nicknamed "Tufty" by the other boys and his favourite Beatrix Potter book was of course "Squirrel Nutkin". Specially for Ian, and for Red Squirrel in Red Deer - Alberta, this post is accompanied by the best red squirrel pictures I managed to snap at Formby - but as my old Mathematics teacher used to say on school reports - "Could do better".
Gotcha! But not sharp enough

17 September 2016

Music

My quizzing friend Mike is the leader of a folk trio called Dogwood Rose. The other members are Judy and Kiri. They had a gig last night in the function room of my local pub so Shirley and I went along to see them. In the past few years I have watched them perform several times.

Their repertoire has emerged  from an area of folk music that Mike likes to call "Americana". For example, they do a version of Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" and that's probably my favourite number from their playlist. However, I couldn't find a good video version of it on the internet so instead I have chosen to share their version of "Emmylou" by a Swedish band called First Aid Kit. Last year Dogwood Rose were performing it at a cafe in Nether Edge - one of Sheffield's leafy suburbs.
Mike is an accomplished guitarist, arranger and singer and I admire him for his continuing passion for the music he loves. It takes guts and resilience to stick with it through the years. Believing in the music when there's so much unpleasantness in human society. In the band's last number last night, not one but two of his guitar strings broke but he soldiered on cheerfully, supported by Kiri and Judy's beautiful vocal harmonies and Kiri's awesome fiddle playing.

Everyone who was in attendance enjoyed the two part concert tremendously and afterwards it was nice to chat with Mike over a pint as he "wound down" before going home. Bravo Dogwood Rose! Bravo!

15 September 2016

Poem

The Furthest Man

It is quiet here
Out on the edge
Waiting for the tide to turn
Waiting for the sea
To envelop me.

Why do these sand flats ripple?
Why does the sinking sun
Glisten like that?
I cannot turn my head away
But I have no answer.

Like the other ninety nine
The ones who stand behind
I'm iron-hearted
Thus when the sea returns
I do not tremble.

You might say I am brave
Resolute in fact
Looking ever westwards
Trying to see
Another place
Where truth resides.

But I am just
The furthest man
Waiting for the tide to turn
Waiting for the sea
That's all folks
That's all.

14 September 2016

Ainsdale

We were supposed to be on our way to Southport but at Ainsdale-on-Sea we followed a signpost that led us down on to the beach. 

Here, on the Lancashire coast, the sea goes out for miles and the beach is endless. The sand is not soft and  golden - a place for bare feet to sink into. No, here the beach is so hard-packed that vehicles can drive upon it. Some visitors see it as a natural race track and it would be a great place to learn to drive because there are no walls or trees, kerbs or road signs to run into. Mind you, it would be wise to watch out for the incoming tide.

Above you can see a red Land Rover pulling a fellow along. He is sitting in an old canoe. They seemed to be having a splendid time. It is not a sport I have ever encountered before and have no idea what it is called. Dry Canoeing? Beach Slalom? Bumpety-Bump? Anyway, it is clearly something Lankies enjoy. Perhaps Lancastrian Graham, The Laird of Eagleton, participated in this daredevil motor sport during his salad days. Hence the knee replacement.
It was about half an hour before sunset so we decided to wait. Above, a dog walker has parked his estate car by a sign that advises beach drivers not to proceed further along the sands. The next place you reach is Formby where an amazing discovery was made by retired schoolteacher Gordon Roberts back in the late nineteen eighties.

In hard mudflats exposed by the outgoing tide, he noticed some odd footprints. How had they got there? There were animal footprints and human footprints too. It turns out that these footprints were made approximately 7500 years ago and they are still being exposed. Sadly Gordon Roberts died on August 23rd of this year but you can read all about the Formby Footprints here.
A big white van appeared on the beach and two women got out. They opened the back of it and released a pack of excited dogs, ready for their evening walk.

You never know for sure how a sunset will turn out even minutes before the golden orb disappears in the west. Will it be fiery red or subtle - as it painted by a watercolourist? I took about twenty photos at the water's edge and this was one of the best:-

13 September 2016

Weekend

Lioness at  Knowsley Safari Park
Boo!

It is unlike me to let three days pass by without blogging. I imagine that a few regular visitors will have been wondering where I had gone. But fret not cuddlebugs, I am not lying on a mortuary slab or languishing in a hospital bed with my limbs in traction. Nor was I arrested for singing "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" at the top of my voice when swaying home from the pub last Friday night.

No my friends. The truth of the matter is that I have been somewhere with Mistress Pudding. Though somewhat ashamed and embarrassed,  I shall admit that we have been over to... Lancashire. An involuntary shudder has just rippled down my spine but there - I have said it. Lancashire. The red rose county of George Formby, of Uncle Joe's mintballs, Eccles cakes, wooden clogs and second rate cricket. We were there principally to attend an evening wedding "do" at Aughton just north of Liverpool.

Throughout the weekend, the weather was very kind. We visited beaches at Formby, Crosby and Ainsdale plus the "Dream" sculpture at Sutton Manor near St Helens and the animals at Knowsley Safari Park. We packed a lot in, staying at the Liverpool North  Premier Inn but didn't venture into the centre of Liverpool itself. Been there done that.

We are now back in Yorkshire breathing fresh Yorkshire air. I am happy to report that we have not contracted Lancoitis. This is down to good fortune as well as meticulous personal hygiene throughout our sixty hours in Lancashire. Now, how about some more photographs?
Ainsdale Beach near Southport
"Another Place" -  Crosby Beach
"Dream" at Sutton Manor
Man and dog at Crosby Beach

9 September 2016

Revisitation

When one has been blogging for over eleven years, it can be interesting to look back in time in order to read posts that one created long ago. The experience can feel peculiar - as if one is reading someone else's blog. Did I really write that? Was that really me?

Obviously, the people who visit this blog nowadays are not the same people as those who came to this corner of the blogosphere in 2005 and 2006. Time marches on and the scenery changes. People come and people go.

With those thoughts in mind, this post is a little window on the past - an act of revisitation that I wish to share with current visitors. Rather randomly, I am about to share five blogposts from past years with little contextual introductions. I hope you find this historical excursion interesting. You will need to click on the links.

October 7th 2005. It was the day before my fifty second birthday and I had been blogging for just over three months. I thought it was about time that I told international visitors about my adopted city - Sheffield in the far south of Yorkshire. Unsurprisingly, I called that post Sheffield.

September 13th 2007. It was the day of my mother's death at the age of eighty six. Her passing was not unexpected as she had been deteriorating rapidly in the old folks' home where she lived for the last two years of her life. She was a powerful influence in my life - a strong, independent and emotional woman who possessed many talents and loved life to the full. There is a sense in which she has not "gone" at all but the post I wrote that day was titled Gone.

November 15th 2009. A lot happened in 2009. That was the year I decided to jump off the top diving board and take early retirement from teaching. It was also the year that I fulfilled an ambition I had harboured for many years - to visit Rapa Nui, otherwise known as Easter Island. To me it is an amazing place. I made a couple of blogposts while I was on the island and this was one of them - I called it Mecca.

March 25th 2011. That was the year I visited Thailand for the first time. I spent six months teaching at St Stephen's International School in northern Bangkok. It was a wonderful, healing experience. I also got to travel around to northern Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. Shirley came over at Eastertime and we went to Koh Chang and one of the old capitals of Siam - Ayutthaya. The post I have chosen to share describes Buddhist new year celebrations in the school.  It's titled Songkran.

August 4th 2013. One of the nicest things about managing your own blog is that you can make posts about anything that catches your fancy, There's no editor or governing body vetoing the content. On this day back in 2013, I decided to write about what was once the most remote inhabited island in the British Isles - the main island in the St Kilda archipelago - Hirta.

Those five randomly chosen posts from the past give just a glimpse into the history of this blog. There's so much I have left out. No poems. No long country walks. No rants or recipes. In these past eleven years I have made 2125 blogposts. It has been a long journey. Perhaps I shall repeat this exercise in looking back another day.

7 September 2016

Encounter

There is a garden centre near Doncaster. It is close to the village of Blaxton. Just to the west of it there was once a gravel pit complex covering about five acres. When this closed, the garden centre people took over the property and lovingly landscaped it so that now visitors would never even guess its ugly history.

I had wandered over this territory with its hillocks, stone follies and imaginative plantings and was returning to my car along a little woodland path when I met somebody. A middle-aged woman carrying a huge picture of a Bengal tiger on canvas. Not something you see every day.

She spotted my camera and invited me to take a picture of her picture. Of course I support a football team nicknamed The Tigers and I told her so as I snapped a photo of her tiger.

It turns out that she had painted the tiger herself. It is one that resides in the nearby Yorkshire Wildlife Park. The canvas she was carrying around was a print of the original. She was in the garden centre's woods seeking photo locations for her artwork. You see she was planning to sell "outdoor art" through the garden centre and art websites to which she subscribes. 

She is a professional artist, normally specialising in horses and family pets. She took to me like a duck to water and very soon we were wandering around the woodland as I took pictures of her tiger in several "natural" situations. She seemed somewhat eccentric and fuelled by high energy tablets or something similar. Dressed in a red vest and blue jeans, she had wild red-brown hair.At one point she grabbed my camera and swiftly adjusted its settings. Not an advisable move.

Anyway, we agreed that I would e-mail the pictures on to her. She had a pen in her car. But when we got to her big black BMW 4x4 she discovered she had lost her car keys. We returned to the woods, retracing our steps but nowhere were the keys to be seen. I asked if they had been handed in at the garden centre reception desk but no.

Back by the BMW, the eccentric artist was phoning the Automobile Association for assistance - at least she hadn't lost her smartphone.  Caroline - that was her name - tapped my number into her phone and said she'd contact me for the pictures. As I left, I said, "Losing your car keys isn't quite  the same as creating art is it?"

6 September 2016

Tea

Tonight's tea - lasagna
In Yorkshire, we do not call our main evening meal dinner, we call it tea. So, for example, I will often say to Mrs Pudding, "What do you fancy for tea love?" The question has nothing to do with the hot drink that is also called tea.

Now you might imagine that given my pen name - Yorkshire Pudding - the only dish that I am capable of making for our tea is err...Yorkshire pudding but you would be wrong my friend. In the kitchen, I am like an amalgam of TV chefs Gordon Ramsay, James Martin and Rick Stein though of course I don't have my own TV show or a pile of fancy recipe books with my grinning visage on the cover - "Yorkshire Pudding by Yorkshire Pudding" etc..

For tea tonight I made a lasagna using some leftover bolognese sauce that I prepared last Friday along with ;layers of sliced mushrooms, courgette, white sauce, tomatoes and lasagna pasta sheets. I also had some of yesterday's cauliflower cheese left to serve with the lasagna.

When the main course was in the oven I went to the bottom of the garden and picked a pound of brambles ready to make a bramble pie. Last time I made one, it kind of erupted towards the end of the baking time and purple bramble juice trickled across the pastry lid. It was as if my beautiful golden pie had been attacked by a pie vandal with a purple pen. This time I made a little pastry dam around the air holes before brushing egg yolk over the pie, just in case there was another eruption of bramble juice.

Nurse Pudding works late on Mondays but when she arrived home at 6.45pm, there was another nice tea waiting for her courtesy of her own personal chef:-
Bramble pie - with juice dam

5 September 2016

Breath


Three men I see regularly have bad breath. They are not close friends and so I don't think it is my place to let them know. It's hard to describe the aromas they breathe out and as far as I know "Smell-a-Blog" has not yet been invented. Let me just say that what they exhale reminds me of the gaseous odours that escape from my compost bin when I remove the lid. Think rotten vegetables and squiggly worms.

It is often hard to concentrate on what these three fellows are saying when their expressions are accompanied by oral flatulence. What is even more surprising is that two of them  have wives  and the third has a male "partner". Why aren't these people whispering in their ears?

I guess that everybody suffers from temporary bad breath once in a while. Garlic and cigarettes are common culprits but the three gentlemen I am talking about have permanent bad breath. It is most disconcerting.

I recall the early eighties when I was a member of staff in a big secondary school on the southern edge of Sheffield. I had to register a teenage tutor group in one of the Religious Education classrooms. Normally this room was the teaching space of the head of R.E., an older fellow called Alan. Attached to the room was a little office containing a telephone that I occasionally had to use.  This was something I never looked forward to simply because the mouthpiece of the phone was polluted with the foul odour of Alan's breath. Sometimes it made me retch.

Fortunately, most people I associate with exhale sweet or neutral smelling air but what about you dear visitor? What is your breath like? May I suggest  that you breathe out in the presence of a trusted friend or family member and ask for a truthful verdict. It might be best to brush your teeth beforehand but if there is an underlying issue with your breath, the odour will certainly overwhelm any lingering minty toothpaste smell. Perhaps you have been walking around with bad breath for years and nobody found the courage to tell you.