31 March 2018

Culpability

I don't know how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will ever be solved. But what I do know is that shooting unarmed protesting citizens with live bullets is against international law and is morally wrong. Sixteen people were killed on the edge of Gaza yesterday and hundreds of unarmed citizens, including many children,  were injured. They were shot by the Israeli army.

Instead of hanging their heads in shame, unapologetic Israeli spokespeople try to justify the murders and injuries by saying that the demonstrating Palestinians were preparing to attack the fence that Israel erected to turn the Gaza strip into a kind of prison camp. After the shootings, the fence remained undamaged.

There are also reports that the Israeli army used drones to drop canisters of tear gas on the protesters who were gathering within their own territory - not on the Palestinian land that Israel  purloined.

I expect that these terrible events will effectively be swept under the carpet. The United Nations will fail to step in in any meaningful manner and Israel will continue to enjoy the unqualified support of The United States now happily boosted by President  "Me-Me-Me"  Trump.

You may have guessed that my instinctive sympathies lie with embattled Palestinians. However, most certainly and quite definitely, this does not make me anti-Semitic. It is the self-righteousness and the brutality of the Israeli state that I seriously question and not the Jewish faith.

May those who were murdered yesterday rest in peace. They were people too.

30 March 2018

Revisitation

If the truth be known, we live in flux - our minds moving seamlessly between past memories, the "here and now" and future prospects. We just can't stop ourselves and why would we want to?

As I have grown older, I have become increasingly fascinated by memory. I don't think we have any control over it. What comes to the surface is dictated by inner psychology. Fundamental symbolic or psychiatric influence probably underpins these "displayed" memories while beneath them is a vast dark sea of seemingly unremembered events.

You might say that memories that pop their heads out of the water are strong indicators of who we really are.

In this blog, I have visited memory before. I just looked back at a post I made in 2012. Twelve years later the words seem like someone else's but the notions are the same. See Memories .And I also notice that in December 2012 I posted a poem I had written called "Of Memory". Again the words seem like somebody else's. Did I really write it? Back then - in December 2012, the poem only attracted one comment, from long time blogging friend Kate in Tauranga, New Zealand.

She wrote, "I liked this very much. I was glad I knew what groynes were, though, since that was a fairly central image. We don't have them in eNZed. You have a frequent (icon in the visual arts) motif? of regret and might-have-been-ness. It's interesting."

Regret and might-have-been-ness? Kate is probably right but I cannot help myself. That is part of who I really am though I am sure there are millions of  other human beings who share this characteristic and it certainly is "interesting".

Anyway, having rediscovered my poem, I must say that I am rather pleased with it, pleased enough to share it once more....
___________________________________________

Of Memory

Swirling mist 
Coiling 
Or steam rising. 
Images blinking incoherently. 
Snatches of lines once said - 
Chronological tombola - 
The fruits of growing older. 
I saw a face, 
I heard a voice... 
Once. 

Unchosen 
They well up 
From benighted depths 
Far below -
Swirling, spinning - 
People you used to know, 
Sights once seen, 
Places once been – 
Recollection, 
Reminiscence... 
Once. 

Editing 
Is all. 
What’s saved 
And what is lost - 
You never get to choose 
Or count the cost 
Of the life you’ve lived 
Defined by 
Memory’s markers - 
Like ancient groynes 
In the tide-washed sands 
Of time.

29 March 2018

Wall

I'm gonna build a wall. A big, beautiful wall. And who's gonna pay for the wall? Yeah, that's right. Mexico gonna pay for the wall.

A few years back I made a little dividing wall up our garden using old bricks I had dug out of the lawn. Lord knows what the previous occupants were thinking of when they embedded hundreds of bricks in the ground. I used only a small proportion of them when arranging my wall but no cement to join them together. I guess it was a dry brick wall.
Back in December the wall tumbled over. Perhaps it was a strong wind wind or simply the fact that I hadn't bothered much about foundations.

On Monday, I set about reconstructing the ornamental wall. It took me about four hours and when it was done I put an old slate mantelpiece on top of it, I rescued this heavy item from the council allotment I cultivated between 1982 and 1989.

Having finished my wall I think that I am now more than qualified to take up a post as Donald J. Trump's Wall Secretary. As soon as we have finished the Mexican Wall we will start on the great Canadian Wall to keep out those pesky Frenchified Canadian peasants. And who's gonna pay for the wall? Yeah, that's right. Canada gonna pay for the wall.

28 March 2018

Cricket

There's a common expression in England. It is often applied when someone has done something that is rather unacceptable. "That's not cricket!"

Cricket is supposed to be an honourable game in which  people play by the rules. Manners and good sportsmanship are meant to be at the heart of the game. It's all about doing your best and accepting with good grace that there will be winners and losers. May the best team win.

Now a cricket ball is a hard leather orb with a seam down the middle. Bowlers can bowl it at a hundred miles an hour. A new ball will be shiny and smooth on each side of the seam so it tends to fly through the air truly. However, if one side becomes scuffed up or altered then in certain conditions the ball will swing when it is bowled, giving the bowling team a slight advantage over the batting team.

It is against the rules of cricket to deliberately affect the condition of the ball by rubbing anything into its leather surface - such as dirt, saliva made sticky by a boiled sweet, sugar or anything else. This is just not cricket - it is in fact cheating.
Last weekend, a gifted Australian cricketer was seen on camera, using a piece of yellow sandpaper to alter the surface of the ball during a test match in South Africa. When challenged by reporters about this he admitted his guilt but not only that, his team captain Steve Smith - currently the best batsman in the world - admitted that the cheating had happened with his full knowledge and approval.

Boiling with rage mixed with shame, Mr Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, has weighed into the resulting debate, condemning the cheaters who have now all been sent home from the South African tour in disgrace. Not only have they let down their team and their sport, they have let down their country. He said, "This has been a shocking affront to Australia."

Sport is important in Australian society. It provides a rallying point and has become an integral feature of  the Australian national identity. In swimming, rugby league, rugby union, tennis and cricket Australia has always been a fearsome nation. They are natural winners but though they play hard, desirous of victory, they have also always had a reputation for playing fair. 

Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner have changed that perception. Their actions were pre-meditated, deliberate and most unsporting. It was just not cricket and probably for the rest of their lives they will be paying the price of this blatant wrongdoing.

27 March 2018

Perambulation

After the recent snows, Sunday was a lovely blue sky day. It really felt like the start of our springtime.

A walk was in order but I didn't wish to drive far to begin it. With Clint's agreement, I headed for the Sheffield suburb of Totley and after ten minutes parked up close to the place where Totley College once stood.
Crossing the border in Gillifield Wood
With boots on, I headed for Gillifield Wood which is one of Yorkshire's most southerly points. After crossing Totley Brook, I was in Derbyshire and headed up the grassy slope in front of me to Woodthorpe Hall.
Woodthorpe Hall
Then along Fanshaw Gate Lane to Holmesfield Park Woods. Onward through the trees to the village of Holmesfield where I snapped a picture of St Swithin's Church. Then along the B6054 to Gooseberry Farm, taking a diagonal path across the fields to Fanshawe Gate Hall.
St Swithin's Church and Holmesfield's war memorial
I took a couple of pictures of the old stone dovecote and then back down to the valley through which Totley Brook meanders. I took a few pictures of some sheep and a lamb with very distinctive facial markings (top picture). Then I was heading back through Gillifield Wood.
Out into the Yorkshire sunshine again and through green pastures to the place where Clint was waiting to whisk me home. Clint had been chatting up a pure white Toyota called Bonnie. The circle of my perambulation was complete.

26 March 2018

Surreal

"The Mail on Sunday" is not a newspaper we would ever normally purchase but we bought a copy yesterday at the behest of our son Ian. I headed straight for the "You" magazine within. Flicking through the pages, I soon found "The Mighty Bosh!" article and chuckled away as I read it. It is for example funny to see one's son described as a "hipster".

It was a long, positive article by a journalist called Judith Woods and there were also a couple of recipes from the forthcoming "Bosh!" Cookbook.

Now this is where the surreal bit comes in. As I was reading the article, I was called into our dining room by Lady P. She had the radio on and was listening to the Michael Ball Show on Radio 2. "Ian's on the radio!" she yelled.
I put down the article I had been reading about "Bosh!" to listen to Ian and his "Bosh!" colleague (American: co-worker) being interviewed at some length by Michael Ball who is a well-known English singer, recording artiste and entertainer. Ball was also a good interviewer. He showed genuine interest in veganism and his questions were open and encouraging.

Ian and Henry are getting better at dealing with this kind of situation. Shirley and I were a little taken aback when Ball asked them what they hoped the next step might be and Henry replied, "A TV show". But who knows? Perhaps it will happen. Meat and dairy-free diets are very current. People are interested. During the interview, Henry said, "Even Ian's dad is flexitarian now".

Anyway, I returned to the magazine article, resisting any temptation to turn on the television  set - just in case our son's face appeared there to give me a surreality overdose.

25 March 2018

Heartening

How utterly marvellous that so many young Americans joined the "March for our Lives" protests yesterday. Take that you NRA nitwits and bigots!

The young people who came out in their thousands are not used to socio-political demonstrations but their mass involvement has echoes of days gone by when western youth led protests against Vietnam, nuclear weapons, South African apartheid, racism and unemployment for example. 

Cynics on the sidelines might say that protests change nothing but they are wrong. Look at what the suffragettes did, look at what The Chartists did, look at all the historical improvements to workers' pay and condition, look at the downfall of apartheid. Protests are not just colourful days out with banners and megaphones. They really can turn the tide.

And with regard to guns, random killings and mass shootings, America really does need to change. It is time for politicians to stop listening to the conservative gun lobby with their specious arguments and deep pockets and instead pay attention to the people - the normally silent majority.

Yesterday they spoke and they said "No More!". Are you listening Donald Trump? Are you listening Capitol Hill? Are you listening NRA? "No More!"

24 March 2018

Guilty

Meet William Willett (1856-1915). This moustachioed fellow is largely responsible for the unnecessary hassle that befalls every British home, business, public building and church each spring and autumn when, respectively, we are required to put our clocks and watches forward by one hour and then back by one hour. It is such a waste of time and very unhelpful  to the normal functioning of society.

Willett was a successful builder in and around London. For obscure, personal reasons he got a bee in his bonnet about changing our clocks to mark a period that would be known as Daylight Saving Time or British Summer Time. As a wealthy Tory party supporter, he was able to bring pressure to bear on influential politicians to take up his hare-brained cause.

The idea was much debated and finally in 1916 his scheme was  introduced but Willett had died the previous year so he never got to endure the tiresome process of putting timepieces forwards and then back each year. 

There are those who still make convoluted arguments that support the continued existence of British Summer Time but I am with the camp who see it as an utter nuisance. Normal life simply does not need this bi-annual disruption. Apart from anything else, the world we live in now is less entrenched in its time habits than the world that Willett occupied. 

Tonight we put the clocks forward again thanks to William Willett and I will once again be cursing him. Instead of focusing on clocks his energies would have been better spent on improving working conditions in the construction industry that spawned his personal fortune.
_________________________________________

P.S. Willett is the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin who is the leader of the extraordinarily successful English rock band - Coldplay. He must be gutted.

23 March 2018

Seaside

The pier at Cleethorpes
It was Shirley's birthday today. I bought her some new walking boots, a summer dress, a nice bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, some Cadbury's mini chocolate eggs and  a colourful bunch of Gerbera daisies but still she wanted more! She had the idea of visiting the coast - seventy miles from Sheffield so at 10am we set off.

Clint was purring as we headed east along the M180. At first we decided to head south of Cleethorpes in the direction of Donna Nook which is a coastal nature reserve famed for its seal population in the autumn but by March the seals have all left along with their new pups. Here land and sea threaten to merge and at low tide you might imagine that you could walk across The North Sea to The Netherlands.
Royal Air Force  training aids at Donna Nook
After an hour we were back in Clint and made a short stop at Marshchapel on our way back up the coast  to Cleethorpes. We had a nice stroll around the town before reaching our lunch destination - Steel's fish and chip restaurant. It was an establishment that Shirley's late parents - Charlie and Winnie - would occasionally visit and a traditional eatery that has won many plaudits.
Battered haddock with chips and mushy peas, a pot of tea and some bread and butter - you can't beat it and we also had a window seat overlooking Market Street, watching all the comings and goings. A  small funeral party emerged from The Market Tavern - some holding purple balloons - as senior citizens with small cars manoeuvred with difficulty out of tight parking spaces.

Later we went in a seafront amusement arcade and frittered away a tub of two pence pieces on one of those coin drop machines - trying to push other two pence pieces over the moving ledge inside the glass. I have always enjoyed losing money in those frustrating contraptions.

By the time we had strolled a few hundred yards along the beach, it was after four o'clock and the birthday girl decided it was time to head home. It had been a nice day out in brightening weather and a pleasant sway to mark my wife's 59th year in this world.
Pew carving by Thomas Swaby
in St Mary's Church, Marshchapel

21 March 2018

Sofa

Here in Yorkshire, the BBC sponsors a regional news programme called "Look North". Mrs P and I watch it regularly and we are very familiar with the main presenters. As is the wont of regional television news shows, "Look North" occasionally organises televisual charity-related projects.

This month "Look North" sought to mark its fiftieth anniversary by arranging a week long sofa push -taking a red sofa on a trolley to fifty different locations within Yorkshire. They are raising money for the Sports Relief charity. Yesterday they came to Sheffield.

Paul Hudson and Harry Gration


I drove up to the nearby reservoirs at Redmires and sat inside Clint reading a novel. The remains of recent snows were still  on the ground, settled in hollows and drifted up against the drystone walls. I bumped into an old friend who has finally retired. He has a rescue dog now. It was sitting in the back of his car smiling back at me. My friend said that his wife had named it Deefa which sounds like a Hindu goddess but he said it was simply a shortening of "D for dog".

Soon a colourful bunch of walkers appeared on the far side of the top reservoir. It was the "Look North" team with their support staff, cameraman and an array of local followers. As luck would have it, this little caravan stopped right in front of the spot where I was standing to take stock and prepare for the arduous climb up to Stanage Pole.

Amy Garcia
You will never have heard of these people but to us they are very familiar television celebrities. There was the cheeky weather presenter - Paul Hudson whose nightly quips are legendary. And there was the lovely Amy Garcia from Wakefield looking as fit as a fiddle but surprisingly not wearing gloves and there was the genial uncle and anchorman of thirty years - Harry Gration from York. 

A young physiotherapist began to pull up Harry's right trouser leg and he spoke directly to me, "You'd best look away now!" She was checking out his bad right knee, adjusting the knee support and blasting some magic spray at the joint. 

Soon the rest stop was over and the motley crew began their ascent up the old Roman track heading towards Stanage Edge and down to Hathersage. This would be a taxing walk at the best of times but pulling a trolley along with a red sofa aboard in wintry conditions made it much more challenging. 
Harry Gration
If any of my millionaire American, Russian, Australian, Italian and German visitors would like to donate spare money to the BBC Sofa Challenge, please go here.

20 March 2018

Cuthbert

Let's all cheer and raise a glass. It's March 20th - St Cuthbert's Day!

In my humble opinion, St Cuthbert should be the patron saint of England and not the foreigner - St George who had as much to do with England as I have to do with Timbuktu. 

St Cuthbert was a holy man who helped the poor and lived a blameless life. He was probably born in 634 AD and died on March 20th 687 AD. His tomb is the centrepiece of Durham Cathedral though at first his remains rested on the holy  island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast where he was the prior of the abbey in the last three years of his life.

When Danes and Vikings attacked the east coast of England in the ninth century, the monks of Lindisfarne exhumed Cuthbert's remains and carried him to safety. He seemed to represent the very heart of northern England and his coffin went on a long journey - resting in a variety of locations around the old kingdom of Northumbria of which Yorkshire is the major part. I have been to just a handful of the churches where St Cuthbert rested and all of those churches are named after him.

There are many stories surrounding Cuthbert including tales of miracles. When the Scandinavian threat diminished his remains were brought to Durham and for centuries his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.

I am not a religious person but most countries seem to have patron saints who come to act as symbols of a nation's character. Somewhere along the line, for reasons that are lost in the mists of history, England picked the wrong patron saint in my judgement. It should have been our own homegrown saint, a man who lived amongst us, a man of peace and hope. Happy St Cuthbert's Day Everybody! Happy St Cuthbert's Day!

19 March 2018

Icicles

Snow came from the east. Then it went away. Then it came back again. This should be a time of daffodils and crocuses, a time for digging the earth ready for vegetables. Instead, there's snow on our garden once more. Silver Clint, my trusty steed, is wearing a thick white coat and our road is a treacherous ice rink. Clint is going nowhere.
Last night I noticed that icicles were forming above our back door as a wodge of snow slips slowly from our slightly angled kitchen roof. When I emerged from the snug cocoon of our winter quilt this morning I decided to photograph said icicles that have grown a little longer like super-speedy stalactites in a limestone cave.
Like a rainbow, a snowflake, a leaf, a flower-head, a seashell, a mushroom, a berry, a feather - the icicle  is a wondrous and beautiful phenomenon to behold, fashioned by Nature  for our appreciation and delight.

18 March 2018

Londongrad

In the British  population census of 2001, it was calculated that 15,000 Russian nationals were living in our country. By 2014, well-grounded estimates showed that there were now over 150,000 Russians living in London alone. Many of these Russian inhabitants are stupendously rich though the sources of their wealth are rarely crystal clear. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the growth of the Russian mafia meant that there was much graft and shady dealing in the years that followed. It was a dog eat dog world

It seems that Britain has welcomed Russian oligarchs, business magnates and billionaires with open arms, happily allowing them to buy up prime real estate, enrol their children in our best schools while even letting them donate many thousands of pounds to Theresa May's Conservative party.

We don't appear to welcome ragged babushkas in slippers from godforsaken post-industrial towns in Siberia or malnourished peasant farmers from the Ural Mountains or displaced steelworkers from Magnitogorsk but we have been happy to embrace bejewelled oligarchs in Bentleys.

Now when I last looked, Russia was not in the European Union and I do  not believe it has ever been a member of The British Commonwealth so as a fairly intelligent and reasonably liberal British citizen I am baffled about how all these rich Russians got to live here in the first place. Who let them in and furthermore why?

There is something quite sickening and perverse about giving rich Russians the red carpet treatment when traumatised Syrian families escaping from the rubble of their destroyed country \are denied entry or forced to get here on inflatable boats at the behest of gangsters. Ironically, Putin's forces continue to prop up Wicked Bashar al-Assad, perpetuating the Syrian conflict and the trauma.

They say that money talks and in the case of London's large Russian community that is clearly true. Normal immigration rules are shelved. The history of their dubious wealth is conveniently overlooked and we even allow them to buy Premier League football clubs, newspapers and publishing houses. Meanwhile, a Syrian child looks into the camera with bloodshot eyes, cement dust on her cheeks and memories of hellishness, fury and death seared in her mind forever.

17 March 2018

Pictures

In blogging today, I was going to tell you the meaning of life. Then I thought I might give you tonight's winning National Lottery numbers. I also considered sharing the secret of eternal happiness and how to live healthily to the age of one hundred. Other blogging ideas included how to bring about peace in Syria, how to stop Saudi Arabian aggression in The Yemen, how to lace Vladimir Putin's cornflakes with nerve gas and how to lose seven pounds of excess bodyfat in a week without even trying. 
In the end, I ditched all of the above ideas in favour of sharing three more photographs I snapped last week on my circular walk around Stoney Middleton and Eyam in Derbyshire. These three pictures were all nominated in the geograph website's "picture of the week" competition though in the end I didn't bag a winner. Still, I am pretty happy with these images and I know that some of you out there like to see my various pictures from this region of England.

16 March 2018

Uplands

Where did Mr Pudding go THIS time?

He went away for two nights with Mistress Pudding - to the heart of West Yorkshire.

Low mists hung over the Pennine hills and valleys. In the darkness of Wednesday night, we sped along the M62 to Junction 24. Thence to Elland, Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd before turning along a "B" road to Cragg Vale.

Then up a steep single track road intersected by drainage channels till we finally arrived at Cragg Hall. We were staying in the barn conversion next door as guests of our old friend Tony and his fairly new lady, Pauline. Tony had booked the barn for a week to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. His daughters had been there at the beginning of this week.

We were there with two other old friends - Glyn and Jackie who happen to eke out an existence in the heathen territory known as Lancashire. There be dragons!

The eco-barn was amazing. Warmed by ground-sourced heating it has a huge wall of glass that overlooks Cragg Vale. The materials and fitments used throughout are top notch and it was a delightful place to stay in spite of the low lying cloud and the hair-raising track up the hillside.
Yesterday we went into Hebden Bridge - a former milltown that is now synonymous with alternative lifestyles. Businesses here are independent - no Starbucks allowed, no Tescos etcetera but there is a small co-operative supermarket. 

We climbed higher into the mist specifically to visit Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall churchyard. It wasn't easy to find but when we did light upon it we noticed that previous visitors had plunged pens into the sod that covers her. Glyn and Jackie had never even heard of Sylvia Plath but I read "The Bell Jar" and her poetry many moons ago and this was a pilgrimage I had often thought of making. 
Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall
"Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted"
She was such a gifted writer. If she could only have suppressed her suicidal thoughts or perhaps sought professional help for possible postnatal depression, she might easily have become a modern day literary great. She was only thirty years old when she left us. I had nothing to put on her gravestone but a ten pence piece with a crowned lion on the reverse. We walked away leaving Sylvia behind us in the swirling Pennine mists. She died in 1963.

Last night we had pints of beer in "The Hinchliffe" before climbing the precipitous track for a late dinner of chilli, rice and jacket potatoes in the lovely barn. It was nice to spend time with people we care for and in whose company we feel very much at ease. The spooky weather didn't really matter.
Ruins of the old church in Heptonstall

14 March 2018

Genii

Two English geniuses have died this week. They occupied very different worlds but in their own ways they were both remarkable people.

Legendary comedian and variety entertainer Ken Dodd passed away on Sunday at the ripe old age of ninety. He died in the same house where he was born - in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash.

With his buck teeth, his wild hair and his various costumes and tickling sticks, Ken could keep a theatre audience entertained for hours. Just one man on a stage with a vast repertoire of jokes and a fine singing voice. He was a modern day court jester. Though he starred in several TV shows, his home territory was the theatre and in his seventy year career he delivered shows on virtually every stage in the land.

He once said, "Laughter is the greatest music in the world and audiences come to my shows to escape the cares of life. They don't want to be embarrassed or insulted. They want to laugh and so do I - which is probably why it works."

Professor Stephen Hawking died this morning at the age of seventy six. He was a theoretical physicist with a brilliant mind. In addition to this he had to battle with a terrible handicap most of his adult life - namely, motor neurone disease. His familiar computer-generated monotone "voice" was operated by the blinking of his eyelids.

He wrote "A Brief History of Time" and as a gifted physicist he would most certainly have won the Nobel prize were it not that his work was principally theoretical and not always proven  in practice. Apparently, the Nobel awarding committee appreciate substance as opposed to hypothesising. 

I could not begin to understand the complex solutions to the scientific puzzles that Stephen Hawking unravelled but I loved the film about his early life - "The Theory of Everything" (2015) starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. If you haven't seen it please give it a whirl some time.

Ken and Stephen will now be queuing together outside the pearly gates and Ken will be saying... "Tonight when you get home, put a handful of ice cubes down your wife's nightie and say: 'There's the chest freezer you always wanted'." And this will surely be followed by computerised guffaws of laughter.

13 March 2018

Trojans

At the weekend we worked like Trojans. Our aim was to get Frances and Stewart  happily settled in the flat that they have bought for a king's ransom. Stewart's parents were there too. His father is a vicar here in Sheffield and his mother is an occupational therapist. They are both at the very end of their working lives.

Everything went according to plan. The estate agent handed over the keys at 1pm on Friday. At 2pm we arrived from the motherland (Yorkshire). At 3pm the carpet fitters arrived. At 5pm we were putting flatpack furniture together. Stewart and his father were in the bedroom working on a massive double wardrobe while I was in the living room/second bedroom working on a designer coffee table with drawers. Frances and Mummy went back to Tooting Bec in South London to finish her packing and cleaning.

It was funny lying on the new carpet with my complicated flatpack instructions. Next door I could hear the vicar and Stewart struggling with their bigger job. I chuckled because I knew that if I had been in the next room the air would have sometimes been blue... "Jesus Christ! Where are the number eight b*****d screws?"..."Whoever made these ****ing instructions wants shooting!" etcetera.

Instead I heard calm and patient endeavour... "Oh my giddy aunt, do you remember where we put the number eight screws Stew?" and "These instructions might have been a little clearer in my view." Yes, it made me chuckle.

At 9pm we went for dinner at the nearby "Westbury" pub. It was very nice and even nicer that the vicar and his wife fielded the bill. Afterwards, I drove to Southgate which is three or four miles north of Wood Green. I was staying in a brand new Premier Inn where I slept like a log. Shirley stayed the night over at Tooting  Bec.

On Saturday, I was up at 8am and eating scrambled egg on toast in a nearby cafe by 8.30am. Then I caught the tube back to Wood Green and by 9.15 I was waiting to get in the flat to carry on working.

Frances's removals van arrived and The Queen and Princess turned up shortly afterwards. It was a day of window cleaning, unpacking, a visit to The Temple of IKEA, swilling, mopping, putting screws in walls (not screwing!), popping out to Wood Green high road for various things until night-time arrived once more.

The vicar headed back to Sheffield to prepare his Mothering Sunday sermon. Stew's mother crossed London to stay with one of her sisters and we went to an amazing Turkish restaurant called Capital. It was on three floors and buzzing like a hive. People of all nationalities were eating there - many of them Turks. We were assigned a table on the top floor and our order arrived pretty quickly considering the number of diners in the place. It was a very efficient operation and the food was deliciously simple Turkish fayre washed down with bottles of "EFES" beer. Oh my giddy aunt it was marvellous!

Is this blogpost getting boring? Sorry. It will soon be over.

Shirley and I headed back to Southgate and on Sunday morning drove back to Wood Green - no parking restrictions on a Sunday you see. 
Our Ian - Mr Bosh!
More work at the flat and a trip to Awful Homebase but not so frantic now. Everything was coming nicely together. Mr Bosh! arrived at midday and at 2pm we were back at "The Westbury" for Sunday lunch with the two mothers on Mothers' Day. Mr Bosh! revealed an exclusive  copy of the cookbook he had picked up in Italy.

Another shopping trip to bustling Wood Green's high street. More work at the flat and at 6pm Shirley and I commanded Clint to take us home. Three hours up the scenic M1 motorway to Yorkshire. Job done... and here's hoping that Frances and Stewart's current joy, love and togetherness endures. It was a privilege to help them. Renting is over. They have their own place.

12 March 2018

Graves

On a hillside east of the Derbyshire village of Eyam there is a tiny graveyard surrounded by a drystone wall. It contains the graves of seven members of the Hancock family who died in the summer of 1666. They were struck down by The Great Plague that, according to legend, had arrived from London in a bundle of cloth that happened to contain disease-carrying fleas.

Perhaps surprisingly this little graveyard is known as The Riley Graves and not The Hancock Graves, for the Hancocks were buried in Riley Field - an area of common land between two farms - Top Riley and Riley House Farm.
The story goes that the brave people of Eyam, urged by the local vicar, imposed a quarantine upon themselves in order to prevent the plague from spreading. In the event 260 villagers died from the bubonic plague but surrounding settlements were saved. Various myths have grown up over the past three hundred and fifty years about "The Plague Village".

It had been a good few years since I last visited The Riley Graves but I was there last Thursday as the recent snows were beating a gradual retreat. I parked in the valley near Stoney Middleton's squat church  and hoofed it up the valleyside, at one point tackling the remains of  a long snowdrift that was tucked up against the side of a drystone wall.
The little graveyard is an atmospheric place and as there was nobody else around  I found myself alone with the Hancockes - Alice and Ann, William and two Johns, Oner and Elizabeth. All of them were interred in August 1666 less than a month before The Great Fire of London was sparked in Pudding Lane - just north of London Bridge.