30 November 2016

Hope

Tuesday was a diamond day. Though our night starts to fall at around three thirty in the afternoon at this time of year, the short day we enjoyed was bathed in sharp winter sunlight as anticyclonic conditions settled over northern England. This is the kind of wintry weather we like - not the grey-damp wintry weather that eats into your bones on days when the golden orb fails to seep through thick layers of dismal cloud.

I didn't want to drive very far - just out to Hathersage, and under the railway bridge on the Grindleford road. I parked near Leadmill Bridge, laced up my trusty walking boots and set off along a public right of way that follows the course of The River Derwent all the way to Castleton.

I was in The Hope Valley. I always think that is a perfect name for a lovely green English valley. A valley filled with hope, perhaps the hope of better things to come. Maybe somewhere there are other valleys - The Hopeless Valley, The Valley of Lost Souls, Despair Valley - I can't say but The Hope Valley suits me fine. I have walked along every one of its ancient paths, filled with Hope.

Here are some of the photographs I snapped along my seven mile walk as November drew closer  to its photogenic ending...
Unclothed tree near Upper Hurst
Two pictures of Kentney Barn
Another barn - on the frosty slopes of The Hope Valley
Riverside path that follows the course of The River Derwent

29 November 2016

Strictly

Like 99% of the adult female population of Great Britain, Mrs Pudding is a big fan of the BBC weekend entertainment  phenomenon, "Strictly Come Dancing". It has been running since 2004 and has been a glamorous if fleeting "feel-good" escape from the troubles of the world - both macro and micro. In "Strictly", there are sequins and smiles as each week celebrity contestants battle it out on the dance floor before an enchanted studio audience and a panel of eagle-eyed judges.

This year's contest is coming to a head and the final will happen on December 17th with a new champion dancer crowned.

TV viewers are given the opportunity to apply for tickets so that they can join the studio audience. Every week for the last three years, Mrs Pudding, along with two million others, has applied for a pair of these golden tickets but to no avail. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Until yesterday that is.

She received her dream message from the BBC. She had been allocated two precious tickets for the final show! But how quickly joy can turn to exasperation. Horror upon horror - we discovered that for each show the BBC gives out eight hundred tickets when only four hundred seats are available! What the...?

On the morning of the show, she will need to join the ticket validation queue at Elstree studios very early in the morning if she is to be one of the lucky four hundred. What an absolute pain and to wit a bloody disgrace! The result of this absurd arrangement is that we will have to stay in a hotel down in Borehamwood on Friday night. All rooms in the nearby "Ibis" had already gone last night so I booked the very last room at the 5.8 rated Elstree Inn so that Mrs Pudding can scoot out at 6am to wait in the queue before the validation office opens at 9am. Even Charlie Bucket didn't have this nonsense.

In the end, it is possible that Mrs Pudding won't even get her pair of tickets but assuming she does, please don't think that I will be sitting beside her in the studio. No. That honour will fall upon our lovely daughter Frances who will take the short train journey north from London later that day.

What a cack-handed way to handle the tickets! I mean, why couldn't they just sort out the validation online instead of treating licence payers and fans like this? Making them get up before dawn, possibly in freezing conditions with rain pelting down on what should be a truly joyous day. One thing's for sure - celebrity members of the "Strictly" audience won't have to do this and they will have the prime seats. If not fuming, I am at least simmering.
😠

27 November 2016

Humber

At the chalk quarry in South Ferriby
On the Yorkshire bank of the mighty River Humber there is a village called North Ferriby. I know it quite well. Far across the muddy waters, on the Lincolnshire side, there's a village called South Ferriby. Until yesterday I had never been there though I had seen it from the north bank.

I was on my way to watch Hull City draw with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League but I had factored in a midday diversion to have a stroll around South Ferriby. When I got there it was very misty. I couldn't even see The Humber.

I strolled around, up to St Nicholas's church and then along a chalk track that overlooks a massive chalk quarry which was almost invisible to me in the mist. Back in the village, I was hoping to have a drink and a sandwich in "The Nelthorpe Arms" before crossing The Humber Bridge for the match but the pub wouldn't open until 4pm. Instead, I bought a haslet and salad sandwich from the village post office along with a pint of milk. Hull City supporters require plenty of sustenance.

Near the village pond there's an information board which on clear days would look out on the wide expanse of The Humber but yesterday it looked out on a milky-white mistiness. There was a poem included on the information board. I hadn't seen it before so I took a photo of it and have now transcribed it below:-

HUMBER SONNET
(From South Ferriby Hill)

O Humber! I have seen thy might deep
In opalescent beauty tinged with gold,
Thy waters glimmered in a dreamless sleep
By pebbled shore and gently dipping wold
Where little ships to happy haven glide
In some sequestered, half-forgotten creek
While cargoed fleets sail out in buoyant pride
The commerce of a vaster world to seek.
Yet I have seen thy wild tumultuous rage
A million mariners have bravely fought,
Battled the waves and storms of every age
To bring their homebound treasure to port.
Withal proud mother of a myriad of streams,
I hail thee Humber! River of my dreams

By Edith Spilman Dudley
(from "Lyrics of Lovely Lincolnshire")
Two views of  the war memorial at South Ferriby

26 November 2016

Trumpton

Even before his inauguration, Trump said he was a brutal dictator.
_________________________________________________

Meanwhile, on the official Donald Trump website, they are promoting sales of a souvenir Christmas tree ornament - a bargain at only $149. How can any Christmas be complete without one of them dangling from one's tree? You might think I am kidding you but this is not a joke!

This is the advertising copy straight from Trump's website:-

Get in the Christmas spirit with your very own Make America Great Again Red Cap Collectible Ornament. Made of brass and finished in 24 karat gold, this ornament is sure to make any tree stand out.
You really could not make this stuff up. Imagine a political leader who happily uses "Twitter" to communicate with the world. Even if it had been available in his heyday, it is unthinkable that Fidel Castro would  have ever used it. Some philosophies need more than one hundred and forty characters. 

Here's Trump's compassionate and diplomatically sensitive tweet for today:-

25 November 2016

Quarrying

Sheep on the grassy western slopes of Highlow
The Peak District is England's oldest national park. Within its boundaries there are sheep farms but no wind farms. Planning legislation is pretty tough. If you own a house or cottage within the national park, you must seek special approval for any significant changes you hope to make to your home. 

The southern half of The Peak District is limestone country. In fact, it is often referred to as The White Peak. The village I visited yesterday, Earl Sterndale, is right on the edge of  The White Peak and if you look eastwards from the door of "The Quiet Wonan" you see a  typical grassy limestone hill rising above the village.

However, things are not quite as they seem because at the top of this great hill, called Highlow, there is a track that marks the boundary of the national park. To the eastern side of this track there's a mile long security fence and beyond  that there are three huge limestone quarries. Effectively, you find yourself looking over a high cliff into massive holes in the ground from which millions of tons of limestone have been extracted.

The limestone is mainly used for road building and the manufacture of cement. It is a vital resource but thank heavens The Peak Planning Authority have severely limited quarrying activity with the park's boundaries. There's a big quarry at Hope but that existed before The Peak District came into being

When I took the steep path up Highlow from Earl Sterndale I was rewarded with wonderful illumination from the west. It shone down on the quarries and I was able to snap several pictures of the surreal and slightly disturbing scenes I saw before me. Here's a sample:-

24 November 2016

Sign

While out and about in north Derbyshire today, I stopped in the village of Earl Sterndale. It still has a village pub. Can you guess what it is called? Perhaps "The Red Lion" or "The King's Head"? No. In fact this is the pub sign:-
I am sure that all female bloggers will applaud this unusual pub name, complete with a headless and therefore silent serving woman and the wise strapline - "Soft words turneth away wrath".And here's the pub in the heart of Earl Sterndale just across from the old red telephone kiosk that quite surprisingly still works. I guess that mobile phone reception in this area can be quite problematic - like serving girls with heads....

23 November 2016

Florence

We have all heard of Florence - that Renaissance jewel of a city by The River Arno in  Italy's Tuscany region. Its streets and alleyways were well-known to Leonardo from the village of Vinci which is just a few miles away. There are many sights to enjoy in Florence, including the Uffizi Galleria, the Duomo and The Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge which straddles the Arno at its narrowest point. The city has a population of 340,000 and is home to Fiorentina - one of the country's top football teams. Here's my Google Streetview snip of Florence where tourists are milling close to The Ponte Vecchio which in English means simply, the old bridge:-
But did you know that there is another Florence in South Carolina, USA? 

This second Florence has a population of around 35,000 and is home to blogging companion Mistress Jennifer ("Sparrow Tree Journal") and her devoted husband Gregg who by the way has no connection with the Greggs sandwich shop chain here in Great Britain. Florence, South Carolina is not named after Florence in Italy. No, it is named after Florence Harllee who was the daughter of General W.W.Harllee, president of the Wilmington and Manchester railroad company in the late nineteenth century.

Like God, I used Google Streetview to search for human life in Florence, South Carolina. The main roads were wide and everything seemed modern. There were very few people about. But I eventually found this lady outside a house on Gregg Avenue which must be named after Jennifer's husband:-
Near the big shopping mall where I believe Jennifer works, I spotted this human being with her long shadow, close to The Cold Store Creamery.
In the nearby community of Poston, I came across a track called Sparrow Tree Road and as I was fiddling about with Streetview along came two bikers on their Harley Davidsons. That could easily be Gregg on the first bike with Jennifer behind. After all, they were "born to be wild" as Steppenwolf once sang.
And finally here's another Florence who will be familiar to my fellow Britons. She was the star of the BBC's  "The Magic Roundabout" (1964-1971) She is with her friends Zebedee and Dougal the dog-

22 November 2016

People

Last night I went for a ramble courtesy of Google Streetview. I was looking for people out and about in the world's streets. Many of the places I searched were like ghost towns. However, in the infamous North Welsh village of Trelawyd, there was just this woman trudging along the pavement by London Road, exhausted after yet another long session cleaning the little cottage by the church...
Trelawnyd, Wales
In exclusive Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia, this little girl came skipping out to buy an ice cream but it was only The Google Streetview Car. No ice cream cornets little girl. Best to dash back inside and play with your yo-yo...
Tamborine Mountain, Australia
On a corner in Red Deer, Canada two young people were passing the time of day but there was nobody else around. Not even Red from "Hiawatha House":-
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
In Bellerby, North Yorkshire this well-dressed fellow with a strangely blurred face looked as if he was going off to work -  in a hotel perhaps. I hope he looks left and right or he might be flattened by the Google vehicle.
Bellerby, North Yorkshire
In Canton, Georgia I searched everywhere for blogging stalwart Bob Brague but he was nowhere to be found. Of course, I checked every bar in the place. However, there were a couple of people in the town's bandstand including the fellow in the white T-shirt who yelled at the passing photo-shooting car to "get the hell outta town!"
Canton, Georgia, USA
Ludwigsburg, Germany boasts some fine Baroque architecture and as you can see one of the town's main squares is bursting with Baroque enthusiasts:-
Ludwigsburg, Germany
Next I went to Stornoway on The Isle of Lewis where two people were approaching The Clydesdale Bank which kindly looks after the vast fortunes of The Laird of Eagleton. An earlier visit to Eagleton itself was fruitless. There was nobody to be seen...
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Finally I arrived at Kell's Cafe in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Two thuggish young men fired insults at the Streetview car's driver, questioning his sexual orienation and the legitimacy of his birth. The driver bravely asked if they knew Terry Stynes - Hinckley's most famous celebrity - but surprisingly they said they had never heard of him:-
Hinckley, Leicestershire
Yes. Not many people out and about in Googleworld. 

I was inspired to create this admittedly strange post by "Travelogue of an Armchair Traveller", which is managed by a very clever and inquisitive gentleman who resides in Lucknow, India.

21 November 2016

Foreman

At the start of the second week of my jury service, I called in at a cafe near The Castle Market for a mug of tea and a bacon sandwich before ambling down to The Crown Court, hoping that I would be selected to serve once again. 

And indeed that is what happened. Once again, I was ushered into the jury room with eleven other people, six of whom had been on my first jury the week before.

There was some discussion about who should be the foreman. Nobody was volunteering. Then one of the other jurors I had previously served with suggested me saying, "You're level-headed and you weighed thing up carefully last week. I think you'd make a good foreman." The others agreed and I was duly selected. To tell you the truth I was pretty proud about this - to be nominated by complete strangers, fellow Sheffielders who judged that I would be a good arbitrator and leader. It was a great moment.

We trooped into the court, the other eleven swearing to do their duty while holding "The Bible". The barristers in their black capes looked at me a little quizzically as I made my atheist pledge once more. Then the new defendants were led into court - a young man of nineteen and his eighteen year old girlfriend.

This is what they were accused of doing. A few months before, in the middle of the day, they had broken into a house at Walkley. The residents were out at work. Instead of burgling the house, Bonnie and Clyde had raided the drinks cabinet in the basement room with its fine views over The Rivelin Valley.

In fact, they drank so much that they both fell asleep lounging on the owners' comfy sofas. Just after five o'clock, the lady of the house and her grown-up daughter returned home to find Bonnie and Clyde fast asleep with empty spirits bottles strewn across the floor. The young couple were still fast asleep when the police arrived.

These facts were not disputed by the teenage lovers. They had been dealt with in a previous court hearing. So what was the purpose of the trial to which my jury had been allocated?

Well, it seems that when the couple were woken up and taken down to Hammerton Road Police Station, the police searched them and found something of great significance in the young man's coat pocket. It was a starting pistol, loaded with blanks. The possession of this pistol meant that the crime committed was not just a burglary, it was an aggravated burglary which is much more serious in British law.

As a jury we had to decide two simple things. On the balance of probability, did the young  man know that he had the starting pistol in his possession and did his female companion also know that he had it. 

There were several photos, cross examination of witnesses including the homeowner, a police statement with cross-examination, character witness statements on behalf of the teenagers and so on. The trial lasted almost two full days and then we had to decide.

In the jury room, I kept my cards very close to my chest. I felt it was my job to facilitate discussion in a neutral manner - especially as it was soon quite clear that there were two factions in the jury. I am not a huge lover of the police myself but there were two or three people in that jury who had probably seen far too many films or TV shows about corrupt police officers. These jurors seemed to start from the crazy position that the police are  just the enemy of the downtrodden people. Ridiculous.

In the end, under my careful chairmanship, we managed to see common sense after a full afternoon of deliberation in which the conspiracy theorists were defeated by incontrovertible evidence. I mean, when all is said and done, most of us know what we have in our pockets. It is very likely that that young couple had committed previous burglaries and that this was not the first time they had entered private property whilst in possession of that starting pistol.

American visitors may wish to note that in Great Britain it is not easy for robbers to get hold of proper guns that carry real bullets so frequently these criminals will use fake guns or, as in this case, a sports starting pistol. Thank God for our tough gun laws! I don't know a single person in my country who owns a real gun though I myself once owned a green plastic water pistol.

We went back into court and as the foreman of the jury I was asked to stand. "How do you find the defendants?". "Guilty", I announced. 

We listened to the sentencing. These youngsters had not been before a court in relation to any previous crimes. They had clean records. Consequently, the entire jury was startled when  it was announced that the young man would spend two years in a young offenders prison while his girlfriend would spend one year. These sentences were not suspended. 

As they were taken from the court, the young man's emotionally-charged father fired an angry blast at me from the public gallery for arriving at the guilty verdict. I mean, how could we do that to his darling little boy? The starting pistol was little more than a stage prop. The judge ordered him to be quiet and court officials led him away. He yelled, "I know where you live!" at me as he was taken out. Now where had I heard that before?

My jury service was over.

20 November 2016

Jury

Fourteen years ago, an official-looking brown envelope landed on our doormat. I had been selected for jury service.

It would involve two weeks off work just before Eastertime. To tell you the truth, I was delighted. It meant I would miss a particularly hectic period in the school year. It would be like a little holiday. Hurrah!

On the Monday morning, I turned up at Sheffield Crown Court ready to do my duty. I was led to a spacious waiting room with easy chairs, coffee tables, televisions and a kitchen area. There were twenty other jurors there - a random cross-section of Sheffield's citizenship. Soon, a grey-haired court official arrived to explain to us how the next two weeks might unfold and how some jurors might not be needed at all. My heart sank.

However, later that morning, my name was called and with eleven others I was led to the jury room connected to Court Number One.  A foreman was appointed and we trooped into court. The others swore on The Bible that  they would fulfil their duties honestly and to the best of their ability but I read out the alternative atheist pledge. 

Then the lone defendant was led into the court. He was a muscular mixed race fellow aged thirty two with mean black eyes. He gave we twelve jurors several cold stares before the case commenced. The allegation was that he had assaulted a police officer while he was being checked in at a police station following his arrest for other crimes.

Two key pieces of evidence I remember were (a) a photograph of the police officer's swollen mouth and broken front teeth and (b) a photo of the defendant's right fist with red teeth marks upon the knuckles, Still he pleaded not guilty, claiming he had been set upon by policemen at the station and he was just an innocent victim of police brutality. His victim's testimony painted a very different picture. The case unfolded over two and a half days.

Back in the jury room we started to weigh things up but very soon one of the jurors announced that in his view it was all very clear - the police wre to blame and not the defendant. Everybody else protested and then we hunkered down to consider the evidence.

The next morning we reached a majority decision of eleven to one that the defendant was indeed guilty. We returned to the court and informed the judge of our verdict.

It was only then that we discoverd the defendant was already in prison at Leeds for previous violent crimes and that he had a criminal record as long as your arm. The judge added another two years to his sentence.

As the defendant left the court, his mad black eyes scoured the jurors as he yelled that he knew where we lived and warned us to watch our backs - with a few unsavoury expletives thrown in for good measure. I felt like yelling back, "And I know where you live ! In a stinking prison cell. Enjoy it sucker!"

Five years ago, this same unpleasant young man's name appeared in "The Sheffield Star". He had been killed in an underworld revenge shooting. Apparently, drugs and drug money were involved. Unsympathetically, I concluded that the world was probably better off without him. He would be no great loss

And that was the first case of my jury service. It took up most of the first week. Tomorrow - the second week and the second case...

19 November 2016

Yesterday

Hope Cement Works
Yesterday rain teemed down in the morning but at midday the grey clouds drifted off to reveal what they had been hiding. A quick check of the local forecast and I was off to the hills again. I decided to do a three mile circular walk mostly on quiet metalled lanes, knowing that several of my usual paths would be sodden and slippery with muddy quagmires in certain familiar places. I am still anxious about my left knee - realising that a fall could set me back.
On the walk I saw five people. First, a mature couple in full hiking gear. As they approached I smiled and delivered a hearty "Hello!" but they looked through me and didn't say a word. Perhaps they thought I was an escaped lunatic. I also saw a tall man with a small dog on a lead and he returned my cheery greeting. Then there was an escaped lunatic in a black bobble hat and a green coat plodding on The Long Causeway. I included him in the photograph below as sinking November sunshine expertly illuminated the slopes of Stanage Edge.
I also encountered a barrel-shaped man with a bushy white beard. In fact, I passed him twice as he was on a clockwise route while I was naturally walking anti-clockwise. The second meeting was on the long ascending driveway that leads to North Lees Hall. I was going up and he was coming down. We exchanged pleasantries but I couldn't pluck up the courage to ask him where he'd parked his sleigh.
Looking to The Buck Stone and Stanage Edge
Talking about vehicles, I would say that as I plodded those three miles only half a dozen cars passed me by.

The rain held off as promised and I was home by four thirty in the fading light. There had been a dusting of whiteness on the higher moors - the first real snow of the winter. For our evening meal, I prepared a bolognese sauce from scratch - following instructions given to me by my old university chum Paul Palompo over forty years ago. It was a method he himself had been taught by his Italian mother. Regarding the process and recipe, he made me swear an oath of secrecy which I have ne'er broken to this day.
My shadow but my legs aren't really that long

18 November 2016

Poem


Poetic Justice

Evidence sifted,
Witnesses interviewed,
Transcripts filed,
No need for cross examination...
We poets
We can handle it all -
Judge, jury, executioner.

Please stand.
I sentence you to sentences
To tired  old words in chains,
Mixed metaphors
Similes like serpents.

Your past offences
Have been taken into account
How you were lost for words
How you mangled them...
How you cast them on the wind
Like dandelion seeds.

How do you plead?
Your guilt.
It is written in your face
Like cracks
In window glass.

No place to hide.
No place to run.
What’s done is done.

Court adjourned.

17 November 2016

Soup

Today began brightly. I pulled back the curtains and looked out on a beautifully illuminated autumnal morning. A couple of magpies and a crow were competing for the stale bread I scattered on the lawn last evening. Perhaps a sunny country walk was in order or more leaf raking.

Marmalade on toast and a big mug of tea. Familiar circle of  internet visits - BBC News, Hull City News, favourite blogs, emails. Hillary Clinton seems to have aged ten years in a week now her stylists have disappeared. In my email "inbox" it comes as no surprise to discover that Premier Park Ltd have rejected my parking appeal and now I must strengthen my evidence to make my next appeal to an independent body called POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals).

By the time I get back upstairs for morning ablutions, the early brightness has submitted to clouds filled with Atlantic Ocean water. It is just a matter of time before the rain comes down.

A few minutes ago, sitting at the dining room table, I drew a detailed map of the "Xercise4Less" property on which the evil, law-breaking Yorkshire Pudding dared to leave "Clint" for half an hour. And as I drew and annotated, the heavens opened and gallons of rain tumbled from the November sky.

It looks horrible out there right now. No chance of a walk or any leaf raking. I need to do some shopping and I need to measure the distance between my parking space and the distant Premier Park warning sign. Perhaps a bowl of pea and ham soup is now in order with a slice of toast. Who knows? It might brighten up in half an hour.

England's weather is so fickle. You never know what you are going to get. Sometimes we talk about "four seasons in one day" and maybe this is one of those. Even as I finish this blogpost the rain is easing off and the sky is brightening once more. Soup and then "Lidl" methinks.

16 November 2016

Panic

On mornings when Shirley is on earlies at work, my slumbering is disturbed. I reach out to press the "on" button of our ancient radio alarm clock to listen to "Today" on  Radio 4. A few minutes later, she  comes back upstairs to kiss me goodbye.

Even with the radio on, I soon drift back to sleep and that's when the dreaming starts. Usually these dreams evaporate before I can catch them but this morning I was in panic mode.

My Year Ten class had  completed rough drafts of long written assignments. It had been a struggle to get all the work in but finally I had managed it. They were all in my school bag. Christ! It was now Monday morning. I was supposed to have read and marked them all over the weekend. About five hours work. How come I have forgotten to do it? Perhaps I'm losing it. Panic! Very soon I'll be jumping in the car. What will I say to them? Oh dear.

And then as I emerge from the hollow of sleep, panic is replaced by relief. I am not an English teacher any more. I have been free of that kind of stuff for years now. Free.

But it was an unpleasant reminder of how things used to be. After exhausting fifty hour weeks, you got to the weekend needing rest and relaxation, time with family and friends but there was always that black bag sitting near the front door, filled with yet more things to do. You knew you had to dive into it before Monday morning came round again.

Many's the time I tackled school work in the early hours of a Sunday morning or after Sunday dinner and the Monday morning drive to work was frequently coloured with thoughts about things not yet done. It was like being a hamster on a treadmill. You never got to the end.

Teaching English generates a lot of pupil writing and every piece of writing has its own unique strengths and flaws. It is your job to help each pupil to advance his or her writing skills and red ticks in the margin simply will not cut it. But there's no time built in to the school day to get those piles of marking done. It has to be done after school, in holiday-time or at the weekends, unseen by pupils, parents, inspectors or teachers of other subjects whose marking tended to breeze over the intricacies of written expression.

Not so much a dream, more of a nightmare. That's what I woke to this morning. Yes - panic over or almost over but thankfully I can forget about it over the next hour as I rake up autumn leaves. Surely more real and spiritually satisfying than wading through reams of careless adolescent writing. The leaves will go into a big orange jumbo bag that I bought from "Pagets" builder's yard yesterday. There they will rot down over the next year. If only I could have done that with the mountains of writing.

14 November 2016

Happiness

Isn't that what we all want? Happiness. It is a very precious commodity. Perhaps, more precious than gold.

Whose life is better? Someone with a sunny disposition who lives in poverty and blissful contentment or someone who is always miserable and restless in spite of material wealth? I would go for happiness every time.

When it comes to happiness, it is likely that you are similar to me. Life has its ups and downs. It would be great to be happy all the time but even though you want to hang on to it, happiness can so easily slip away - like a fish that escapes from your hook.

It comes in different forms. Bursts of happiness might happen at particular events - a family wedding, a party, a theatre trip or a simple act of kindness. Or it might be more long-lasting, more fundamental  - a swathe of your life in which each day you wake feeling good about things with a lightness in your step and a twinkle in your  eye. In times like those the little muscles in your cheeks are always eager to forge smiles.

We can't help who we are. Regarding happiness, I am in between kind of fellow. I have had my share of sadness, dark moods when sleep seems infinitely better than consciousness but I have also enjoyed much happiness in my life, much sunshine. Unlike so many westerners, I never needed to visit a doctor for happy pills.  

Perhaps we can only know happiness when we have something to compare it with. Ying and yang. Light following darkness as laughter follows tears. 

Should we strive for happiness or simply wait patiently for it to come back just as we might stand upon a shore waiting for the tide to return? 

Outside the super moon is presently hiding shyly behind a veil of clouds. Perhaps she knows the happiness secret. Do you?
Super Moon over Sheffield tonight.
The Sea of Tranquillity is the dark area right of centre

13 November 2016

Stones

Above you can see a British Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar. They are dotted around our countryside - often occupying high points in the landscape. There are over five thousand of them and they once played a key role in the accurate mapping of these islands. Nowadays, with modern surveying methods, the triangulation pillars are largely redundant. However, people still like them and there even folk whose hobby is to "bag" them. This one is on Burbage Moor close to The Ox Stones.

I was up there this morning with Mrs Pudding. She had never been to The Ox Stones before but I have visited this place several times. By car, they are only ten minutes or so from our house.

They are outcrops of hard millstone grit, exposed by countless centuries of erosion. Can you see the layers? Long ago those layers were laid down by a mighty river, millions of years before human beings evolved from apes. I imagine that our ancestors venerated these stones for upon this moorland they made stone circles and cairns and no doubt communed with the stars above. How could they have ignored these artworks created by Nature?
A hundred yards away, there's another millstone outcrop. A young man was on top of it, looking off into the distance. Beyond him, to the left, you can see the shape of Stanage Edge which I have often referred to in this humble Yorkshire blog. 
So that's all for today folks. I hope I didn't send you to sleep.

12 November 2016

Walks

Returning to Ughill
On Thursday I parked in the hamlet of Ughill. The forecast was promising - I checked before I drove out there but almost as soon as I set off the rain came. Fortunately, I had my big blue cagoule with me so I donned it and carried on, hoping that those grey clouds would clear. 

Water drained from my famous blue raincoat right onto my trews - soaking them as much as if I had dived into a swimming pool. Familiar vistas of Boot's Folly, High Bradfield and Dale Dyke Reservoir came into view through the murk but there was little point in getting my camera out and besides it would have got soaked.

A flock of sheep scampered towards me, wondering what I was doing in their sodden field. Perhaps they thought I had brought them some sheep treats - souvenir packages of pampas grass, silk ribbons or vials of parasite shampoo. 

You had to walk gingerly along those slippery tracks. With a much improved left knee the last thing I wanted was a fall. 

By the time I got down to Low Bradfield, the lashing rain had ceased fire but there were no gaps of blue in the leaden firmament. From "The Plough Inn" I trudged up Mill Lee Road, high above the Loxley Valley and thence along the lanes back to lofty Ughill with a population of less than twenty.

Yesterday - Friday - the weather forecasters' crystal ball was accurate and sunshine bathed this great northern city. I walked in Meersbrook Park where in 1797, the great artist J.M.W.Turner set up his easel to capture what was then a little town on the edge of the Pennines. Even today Meersbrook Park enjoys marvellous views.

What a difference a day makes...
View from Meersbrook Park to The Royal Hallamshire Hospital
Bishops' House in Meersbrook Park
View from Merrsbrook Park to The University of Sheffield's Arts
Tower - the tallest university building in Great Britain
Part of a mural by "Faunagraphic" at Meersbrook