20 June 2018

Sometimes

Sometimes I  switch this laptop on ready to make a blogpost and then I realise that I haven't mentally earmarked a subject to blog about. I have nothing to say.

On Saturday of this week, it will be thirteen years since the birth of "Yorkshire Pudding". Over the years I have covered a lot of ground. Country walks and holidays, film and book reviews, flights of fancy and world events, memories and family matters, poetry and paintings... etcetera... etcetera.

This blog has echoed my life. Like a best friend it has held my hand as we have stepped forward together through the passing years.

This particular post is blogpost number 2753. I hate to calculate the number of hours I have devoted to this pastime. Sometimes I think I should have used all that time and energy on something else such as the writing of fiction with a view to publication. Instead, I just kept tapping away. Blogging.

It has been a pleasurable and helpful outlet and it still delights me enormously that I have made so many contacts with visitors from around the world. This wasn't something I anticipated when I wrote my very first sentence on June 25th 2005 -  "So this is England in mid-summer."

So this is England in mid-summer. Sometimes I switch this laptop on ready to make a blogpost. In these early hours of another June morning I think I may have succeeded. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being part of this blogging journey.

19 June 2018

Pub

In the limestone country of the High Peak, the main road from Stoney Middleton soon brings you to the hamlet of Wardlow Mires. There is a very old pub there. It is called "The Three Stags' Heads Inn".

Nowadays it is only open to customers at weekends. I have driven or walked past it a hundred times or more but I had never been inside it until Sunday afternoon.

I pushed open the old wooden door to find a roaring log fire burning in an old-fashioned kitchen range. Seven people were sitting in the small room on  a variety of seats and ahead of me was a small wooden bar with  three beer pumps on the counter. Two bright-eyed whippets and a wire-haired Jack Russell  were also present.

I ordered half a pint of "Daily Bread" and turned to observe my fellow customers more closely.  They clearly knew each other and seemed a little surprised that a stranger had entered their midst.

An old man with long white hair and an unkempt white beard had a copy of "The Sunday Times" open on his lap. He was siting in an ancient Windsor chair with spindles. Across from him was another bearded man in a black T-shirt. These words were printed on the front of it - "Not Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting". Sitting next to him was his missus in a red anorak. 

A ruddy-faced local man was  comfortably settled into  his corner seat and on the window seat was the owner of the Jack Russell. His thin-haired companion tried to convince me that the dog owner was Ronan Keating of Boyzone fame but it was just a joke. 

There was a second room on the other side of the fire, A few more customers were drinking in there and there were two stuffed foxes. This was the very opposite of a designer pub. The yard thick walls were painted dark green and there were old pictures of peakland scenes upon the walls.
Returning to the first room, there was a curious stuffed hare in the window. He was on his hind legs and holding a small rifle. Behind the ruddy-faced man in that dark corner there was a glass case containing a mummified cat. I was informed that it had been discovered in a wall cavity during  repair work in Victorian times. It is believed that the cat had been placed in the wall to ward off evil spirits when the pub was built at the start of the seventeenth century.

I was only inside "The Three Stags' Heads Inn" for ten minutes but in that short time I had spoken to everyone in the bar room and learnt a good deal about the history of the  pub. It would have been nice to buy another beer and blend in with the locals, whiling away the rest of the afternoon but I had to get back to the wedding venue search party.
The mummified cat

18 June 2018

Venues

Hargate Hall - just one of the wedding venues we visited. There's Clint on the left.
This weekend we were looking at possible wedding venues foe Frances and Stew. We visited ten locations and connected with every one there were both pluses and minuses.

At one end of the spectrum there was a luxurious country hotel with magnificent views. The "package" on offer was complete so that the happy couple would have been relieved of all wedding reception planning concerns. It would have all been done for them.

At the other end of the spectrum there was a rather dog-eared community work centre. It looked pretty good on the website with a silver Rolls Royce motor car parked outside the Georgian building but the reality was rather different.

Seeing the different venues with their pros and cons and costings helped Frances and Stew visualise the kind of wedding celebrations they would really like.

They plan to get married in a church - partly out of respect for Stew's father who is a vicar in The Church of England. Then they want the reception to have a personalised, laid back quality with accommodation on site. We were worried about the prospect of renting a marquee, given both the cost of  it and anxiety about the vagaries of our weather.

We have a coarse expression in the north of England  - "taking the piss". It is often applied in situations where companies or individuals seek to exploit or "rip off" their prey. In the world of wedding venues it appears that "taking the piss" is widespread.

For example, at one venue they said they charged £16 per bottle "corkage" if the happy couple wished to provide their own wine! At other venues the "corkage" ranged from £6 per bottle to £12. What an unmitigated rip off! Clearly a device designed to discourage families from providing their own wine and instead pay over the odds for the venue's own wine bottles.

At one of the venues they talked about evening food provision long after the wedding breakfast. The cost of one roast pork sandwich would have been £21 ($28 US). With a hundred wedding guests the roast pork sandwich bill alone would have been £2100. Now that really is "taking the piss".

Anyway, I learnt many things I did not know about wedding venues - a whole new world to me. When Shirley and I got married in 1981 it was all so much more simple. There were hardly any decisions to be made. Here's the church. Here's the pub. Here's the buffet menu. Here's the bill. It was just like that. Now it's very different.

Thankfully, in the end, the happy couple returned to London having reserved a place in The Peak District. Hopefully, all will be well at this chosen venue in late August of next year and hopefully the father of the bride will still be around to make a coherent, funny and heartfelt speech.

17 June 2018

Running

When I was a lad nobody went running or jogging. There were no training shoes and no one had ever heard of  sports brands like "Adidas", "Nike" or "Reebok". If such companies did exist we had never heard of them and nobody sprinted past in day-glo coloured lycra.

However, most secondary schools organised cross country runs that took place on bitterly cold mornings in late autumn. On our feet we wore football boots or canvas shoes that were known as plimsolls or sandshoes. They were especially water absorbent.

I detested cross country runs even though I was a keen rugby player. As  a rugby wing forward or hooker, the running was all about short bursts followed by little rests - not arduous and continuous forays through mud past leafless hawthorn hedgerows up around The Black Mill on Beverley Westwood. My lungs threatened to  burst through my rib cage. It was torture.

As a teenage schoolboy I had to travel by bus into Hull or Beverley every morning. Many of those mornings saw me sprinting two hundred yards down to the village  bus stop. There was never any time to spare. Nowadays I would never run for a bus. Apart from anything else I would be anxious about damaging my troublesome right knee and returning to square one in The Game of Pain.

No. I don't run anywhere these days. I just plod around like an Asian elephant upon a jungle track. But I notice so many runners around me - flashing by in the park or overtaking me on country lanes. There are runners everywhere. It's like an epidemic of running. Tight outfits, ear phones, plastic water bottles, face-hugging sun glasses and electronic wrist monitors that they stop to check out every mile or so.

Somewhat grudgingly, I guess I should say it's a very good thing. More people keeping their bodies in shape, keeping their hearts pounding, burning off extra calories. It's surely better than watching "Love Island" on the television while munching slices of pizza. However, if the running fashion had been around in my younger days, I very much doubt that I would have subscribed. Orange lycra simply does not suit me.

16 June 2018

Heroes

There's too much hero worshipping in this world. Often I have eschewed the very idea of heroes. It's the man or the woman in the street that I admire the most - decent people who forge decent lives in obscurity - pay bills, put food on the table, get up and go to work day after day after day. They are the real heroes, fighting the good fight.

Nonetheless, there are a few well-known people that I genuinely admire for different reasons. Dead heroes of mine include Captain James Cook, the Yorkshire mariner and explorer and Emily Bronte the Yorkshire writer who died far too young in 1848 at the tender age of thirty. Who knows what she would have achieved if she had lived a ,long and healthy life?

My living heroes include Bob Dylan, David Hockney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Amy Goodman  and Chris Packham.
Top - Chris Packham, Bob Dylan, Amy Goodman
Middle - Cristiano Ronaldo, Emily Bronte
Bottom - James Cook, David Hockney
I once saw the words "Dylan is God" written on a lavatory wall and I am inclined to agree with that summary. As an artist Yorkshire-born Hockney has never stopped growing, innovating, experimenting  and he doesn't give a fig about what critics might say for he is true to his Art.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal is simply the greatest ever footballer and I thought this long before he scored his hat trick against Spain in The World Cup yesterday evening. He is blessed with natural talent and the kind of self-belief that borders on pure arrogance.

Amy Goodman is the heart and soul of "Democracy Now" an American  news organisation that  illuminates social and political issues which other news organisations tend to blot out for all manner of reasons. She is dignified and persistent in her mission - pushing for justice and better understanding day after day.

Finally, there's Chris Packham - an English writer and TV broadcaster who specialises in programmes about wildlife - especially birds. His passion is infectious and he has fought many battles against the forces that threaten wildlife. He was even arrested in Malta for protesting about men who shoot precious migrating birds for no good reason in the name of sport.

Who are your well-known heroes and why?

15 June 2018

Victory

Letter to Haringey Council in London
May 2nd 2018

Re, PCN Number HP85049555
Dear Sir/Madam,
On Thursday April 19th, my wife and I drove down to Wood Green and parked close to our daughter’s flat. She moved into Disraeli Avenue just last month. A few days before our visit she had posted us a parking permit.
She was at work when we arrived and the idea was that we would park our car and then travel into the centre of London by tube in order to attend a family event in Borough  Market
Believing that the permit she had sent us would cover our parking right up to 6.30pm I was startled to note that it was in fact a two hour permit and not an all day permit. Exasperated, my wife and I were talking about the matter when another motorist appeared having overheard some of our conversation.
Very kindly – or so we thought – he offered us his own all day permit which I think he must have used earlier that day. It was such a relief and we left this permit on our dashboard before heading to Wood Green underground station.
We were astonished when, that night,  we discovered a parking ticket on our windscreen. Straight away I deduced that I should not have accepted the other motorist’s kind offer
I am enclosing a letter written by my daughter confirming that we were visiting her – a resident of  Disraeli Avenue.
I hope you will be able to show some compassion and in this instance, having heard about the circumstances consider waiving the parking fine. Up here in Sheffield all parking permits for visitors are for a full day and never just an hour or two hours. That factor also partly explains our mistake.
Yours sincerely,

Yorkshire Pudding
_________________________________________________

Letter from Haringey Council received yesterday morning

Consequently I do not have to pay the threatened £110 pound fine. Hurrah! And I can place Haringey Council's response in my "V for Victory" files - alongside successes achieved in battles with Georgia State Police (Monroe County), Florida State Police (Franklin County), New Zealand Police (Greymouth) and the  Xercise-4-Less gym in Sheffield. I put all of these victories down to the power of the written word. A well-composed letter can still speak powerfully in one's defence.

14 June 2018

Sleepless

Unusually,  I could not sleep so I crept downstairs to make a mug of tea. A couple of McVities ginger nut biscuits would have been a welcome accompaniment but there were none in the cupboard so I made do with a bag of Smith's plain crisps instead.

For the past forty minutes I was looking for suitable holiday accommodation for Baroness Pudding and I. We hope to go away at the start of next month - somewhere on this island - but why is everything so expensive? Hell, for less than the price of most of these places we flew to Corfu last month and had breakfasts and evening meals too. Living inland we would naturally like to be beside the sea.

It's what they call a first world problem.

Yesterday afternoon, my manager at Oxfam - Catherine - shared a heart-warming tale. Her son came over from Manchester last weekend and he spotted her "Bosh!" book on the coffee table. He recognised our Ian's name from primary school and he told his mother that once he was playing in the corner of the playground when some other boys of his age were giving him a hard time - teasing and bullying as little boys will sometimes do. 

Some older boys were playing football but when he saw what was happening in the corner, one of the footballers came over and intervened - telling the little bullies to behave themselves and to treat Catherine's son with kindness. That boy was our Ian. Catherine's son said that that simple act of kindness had been imprinted her son's mind forever. This incident must have happened almost twenty five years ago. 

The story was so precious and I am very happy that Catherine shared it with me. When Ian next picks up his dumb smartphone I will of course relate the story to him too.

Sleepless in Seattle Sheffield... It's moving on to 3 a.m.. I wonder if I will be able to sleep now. What do you do if you cannot sleep?

13 June 2018

Virgin

"Virgin territory" - that's how I describe areas where I have not walked or taken pictures for the "Geograph" photo mapping project. These days to reach virgin territory I need to travel far from Sheffield.

And that's how it was on Monday morning. There was a strong possibility of rain showers east, south and north of the city so I headed west. Out across The Peak District towards the High Peak town of Buxton. I aimed to park in the village of Harpur Hill which came into being because of limestone quarrying in the surrounding hills. This utilitarian place sits just north of the national park boundary. Beyond that line almost all quarrying activity is prohibited.

At 11 am my boots were tied and I was off on an eight mile ramble. Up to Countess Cliff Farm and then along a track where I met two men - a father and son who were in the process of shearing a section of their flock. I stopped for a while to talk and they were happy to let me snap a few pictures.

"What's it like in that theer Sheffield then?" asked the younger man as he yanked an uncomplaining ewe into the shearing position. 
They had lived their entire lives up there surrounded by sheep pastures and limestone workings. While I was mustering awkward adolescents in classrooms they were repairing drystone walls and watching the weather - assisting the lambing process while I marked exercise books at two in the morning. Different lives.
Onwards to the now disused Stanley Moor Reservoir and then on to Turncliff and Thirkelow. It seems that I was in fact circling a big government installation - The Health and Safety Executive Campus where there are laboratories and testing sites for all manner of things and events such as train crashes and explosions. 

Then I turned up to the lane that leads to Earl Sterndale. I passed Buxton Raceway - located on the bleak limestone plateau. It's here that speedway meets happen throughout the summer. The stadium is home to The Buxton Hitmen. Their next home fixture is versus Birmingham Brummies on July 8th.
Ticket booth at Buxton Speedway Track
I plodded on towards Hillhead Quarry. There were two parked cars  on the grassy slopes above. Wives of retirement age were sitting in deck chairs chatting while their boyish husbands flew whining model aeroplanes over the landscape.

Then on to Stalker Hill and under a disused railway track on the way back down to Harpur Hill where I stopped at the "News Food and Wine" village store for a pint of milk and a cheese and onion sandwich - all quickly consumed while sitting on a wooden bench outside "Harpur Plaice" fish and chip shop. Clint was waiting patiently for my return.
On our way home I stopped on the outskirts of the delightful peakland village of Chelmorton to take a picture of Chelmorton Low where an England football supporter has arranged the  name of our country in limestone rocks upon the green sward. England play their first game against Tunisia next Monday evening at The Volograd Arena. Come on England! Come on!

12 June 2018

History

TRUMP So Kimmy, how come you're not wearing a nice tie and a white shirt like me?
KIM In Korea, black suits like this are all the rage Don.
TRUMP Well there's no way I would wear a suit like that dude!  It sucks!
KIM Shall we have a drink before we get started?
TRUMP Sure. I'll have a Dr Pepper.
KIM Let's see. Okay. They got me apple tea as I  commanded.
TRUMP Is there a bag of cheesy pretzels?
KIM Here Don. Catch!
TRUMP Oops! Hey don't laugh Kim! It was your throw.
KIM Butterfingers! Ha-ha!
TRUMP Screw you!
Pause
KIM I hear you like golf.
TRUMP Sure do Kim. I've got  four top, top quality courses. And some people say that if I wasn't the President of The Greatest Country on Earth  I'd be a shoo-in for the US Ryder cup team.
KIM I also like golf. I like to play "Golf Star" on my cell phone.
TRUMP Have you got any courses in Pong...Peong...your capital city?
KIM Only crazy-golf in my garden. I  have a windmill and a see-saw at hole number seven.
TRUMP Maybe I could build you a  fantastic, fabulous course in Pong... Peegone...
KIM Pynongyang.
TRUMP Yeah that.
KIM A proper golf course? You could do that for me...I mean... for the Korean people?
TRUMP No problemo Mr Kim. We'll call it  The Trump Pong Course.
KIM  What have I got to do?
TRUMP Just sign here on the dotard line.
KIM What's it say?
TRUMP It says, "I promise to get rid of  all  of our nasty nuclear weapons and I sincerely apologise for calling The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth a "dotard" "
KIM You're so sensitive! Will there be a club house with a nineteenth hole?
TRUMP Sure. Sure Kim. And it will be beautiful, so so beautiful and there'll be an amazing  fountain in the driveway and a historic statue of you and me shaking hands on this momentous day. It will be made from genuine American fibreglass but we'll have it sprayed gold.
KIM There. It's signed. Now that we have got the boring stuff done, how about an arm wrestling match Don? After all we have got three hours to kill.
TRUMP No problemo. I'll beat the shit out of you Little Rocket Man!
KIM Best of three!

 (They remove their jackets)

11 June 2018

McKee

Pete McKee is a Sheffield artist. Born in 1966, his unfussy artwork is characterised by humour and nostalgia as he explores imagery from his life in this northern city. It is a city that he loves and hailing from a working class community he is out to create affectionate paintings of that world. He is not an outsider looking in. He is an insider looking out.

Pete McKee sometimes visits my local pub with two or three of his mates. Last year he survived a life-saving liver transplant. Next month his new exhibition "This Class Works" will open in a former school building on Burton Road. I am very much looking forward to visiting it. If you would like to learn more about Pete McKee, please go here. In the meantime, here are some examples of his work:
"Old Cobble Nose"
"The Snog" - mural on the wall of Fagan's pub

10 June 2018

Grave

The Harrison family grave last Thursday evening
At Beeston, Leeds - close to those back-to-back terraces I photographed - there's a graveyard called Holbeck Cemetery. 

I have know about this burial place for years because it was the inspiration for a very controversial poem by the Leeds poet Tony Harrison (born 1937). That poem is entitled "V". It focuses upon the Harrison family grave but it is not a poem of sweet reverence

The poet notices that the graveyard is "now littered with beer cans and vandalised by obscene graffiti". It is an angry, reflective and rambling poem delivered in over a hundred rhyming four line verses. He says:-
When I first came here 40 years ago
With my dad to 'see my grandma' I was seven.
I helped dad with the flowers. He let me know
She'd gone to join my granddad up in Heaven.

But as the poem advances there's a growing sense of frustration and anger. Harrison observes the cemetery's neglect and he reflects upon the way that life is changing and the mentality of those who would vandalise a graveyard. He turns some of that anger upon himself .. 

As "The Guardian" once described it, "V" is indeed  "a timeless portrayal of working class aspiration". There are echoes of the past, the present and the future. Harrison has moved away from Leeds but this place is in his blood and he even contemplates being laid to rest here. What might be inscribed in his memory?

For readers of a prudish nature, I should warn you that if  you wish to investigate this poem, it contains numerous profane words that in my view, help to nail the anger and capture the linguistic poverty of frustrated working class youth - people without hope or route maps to the future.

But why inscribe these graves with CUNT and SHIT? 
Why choose neglected tombstones to disfigure? 
This pitman's of last century daubed PAKI GIT, 
This grocer Broadbent's aerosolled with NIGGER?

The poem was famously and controversially  aired on Channel 4 in 1986. Written during the coal miners' strike of 1984/85, it is a poem for our times. Not safe and saccharine but bitter, confused and questioning, pushing boundaries, getting to the nub of things. It is a poetic tour de force and if you are interested, open-minded and have half an hour to spare, here it is.
The same grave seen from a different angle

9 June 2018

Housing

There is another England. Not the England of pomp and ceremony, of Downton Abbey and swans  gliding under overhanging willows, not the England of hedgerows and haystacks or even the England of pop stars and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. This is the secret England. The oft-forgotten England of hardship and debt, takeaway meals and poor housing, soap operas on the television and banging on the walls to  tell your neighbours to quieten down.

On Beeston Hill in Leeds, overlooking the Elland Road football stadium that I visited on Thursday evening, there are several rows of Victorian back-to-back housing. Streets such as Noster Place and Marley View. You could visit them on Google Streetview if you were so inclined.
Let me explain back-to-back housing. The houses stand in terraces with neighbours' homes connected  to the left and right. However, behind each terrace there is another row of houses and these are also connected so that means that as well as having neighbours to the left and right you are connected to the neighbours behind you as well.

What the back-to-back phenomenon also means is that you have no rear windows and no yard or small garden at the back. Nowadays these houses have internal bathrooms with flushing toilets but when they were first built residents had communal privies that served the entire street.
As there are no back yards, drying washing has always been a challenge. Inventively, many housewives learnt to string washing lines across their streets and even now, in 2018 some people still follow this practice. As I walked around Beeston before the England match, I also saw residents sitting outside their front doors enjoying the evening sunshine because of course they couldn't sit outside their non-existent back doors.

Sheffield's back-to-back streets were razed many years ago but Leeds still has plenty of them. They were initially seen as a cheap and profitable way of housing the poor with rents going to either the local council or to private landlords. Even today there are few owner occupiers.

Perhaps next time you think of England with our lambs grazing on hillsides, our biscuit tin lid cottages and our ancient castles, you might also spare a thought for the residents of Leeds's back-to-back streets - both past and present - for this is also England.

8 June 2018

Report

Flame burst and fans when the players came out at the start
As expected there was a dirty great pole in front of me at last night's match. No, I don't mean a fat plumber from Gdansk or a builder called Wojciech from Wroklaw but an actual constructional pole that supported the stadium roof. I had to keep moving my head like a wary meerkat in order to see the goalmouth action at the far end of the ground.

To my disgust every supporter received a free England flag on a white plastic pole. That's almost forty thousand flags! What a waste of the Earth's resources. One day things like that will no longer happen. There's no need for it. At least it was nice to see that the matchday programme had been  printed on recycled paper.
Billy Bremner statue outside Leeds United's ground
England were all over Costa Rica from the start and we won by two goals to nil. I had a perfect view of Marcus Rashford's opening goal as the ball looped over the flailing hands of Keylor Navas - who by the way also keeps goal for Real Madrid.

Before the game, I stood proudly to sing our national anthem and during the match I joined in with the chant "England! England!" several times but my most raucous participation occurred when a chant of "Yorkshire! Yorkshire!" echoed around - for most supporters present were Yorkshire folk and there were seven Yorkshire players on the pitch including Harry Maguire who left Hull City last summer.

Long before kick-off I also noticed a Hull City banner in the far corner of the ground where the official England supporters band were assembling. My "Sony" bridge camera has an excellent zoom facility.
Silver Clint was left in a terraced street on Beeston Hill, close to Holbeck Cemetery. After the game I unlocked him, put the key in the ignition and was back home in Sheffield before the local pub closed. And yes - I did think of Richard. I am sure he would also have joined in with the defiant, "Yorkshire! Yorkshire!" chant.

7 June 2018

Ticket

I have been a football supporter since 1962. Nearly all of that support has been focused upon Hull City A.F.C. - the only professional club in The East Riding of Yorkshire. However, I have also always been a keen follower of the English national team and can remember very clearly watching The World Cup final of 1966 on television when our lads beat West Germany by four goals to two to become World Champions.

Though I have attended hundreds of Hull City matches and have spent hundreds, nay thousands of pounds on match tickets, related travel and programmes, I have never attended a full England international match. All that is going to change today because this evening I am going to watch the national team play Costa Rica at Elland Road in Leeds. 

Upon a sudden whim, I ordered the ticket on Sunday night and it arrived in the post on Tuesday morning. All tickets for this game have now been sold. I was one of the very last purchasers. My seat will have a "restricted view" so no doubt there will be a whacking great pillar in my line of sight but I don't care. I am 64 years old and I am going to see England play live for the first time in my life! The game will be the very last "friendly" match before The 2018 World Cup commences in Russia.
_________________________________________________________

This post is dedicated to my friend and neighbour Richard who died in hospital 
yesterday morning. All that cigarette smoke finally caught up with him. Sweet 
dreams Richard! It was good to know you and I'll think of you at Elland Road.

6 June 2018

Encore

Leaving Clint on Shorts Lane
I went for a very familiar walk yesterday afternoon. It involves a short drive out of the city. Once again I parked by the stables at the end of Shorts Lane, donned my boots and set off on my circular route. It takes exactly an hour to do if I keep walking but of course stopping to take pictures lengthens the time involved. See a previous post from March 2015.

It was a lovely, summery afternoon as I set off on the path that leads to Blacka Moor.  Over Blacka Dyke then up Lenny Hill and before too long I am out of the trees and marching in sunshine along Strawberry Lee Lane towards Totley Bents.

I passed two houses at the tiny hamlet of Old Hay that are currently up for sale. I noticed them on "Right Move" last night and the asking price for each of them is £1million (US $1,338,000). Then through the gates to Avenue Farm and along through the meadows to Redcar Brook.

I have never encountered another walker by this stream. There was a sudden flash as a nervous grey heron flapped away. I didn't have my camera out but two minutes later with camera in hand I noticed what at first I thought was a cow on the opposite bank. Biut it wasn't a cow, it was a stag! He was grazing and he hadn't heard me coming. I guess the sound of the babbling water must have  smothered the sound of my footsteps. 


With foliage overhanging it was hard to get a decent picture of this wild beast. I had heard that there were a few red deer up on Blacka Moor but this stag was very close to houses on the edge of Dore village. It was a rare privilege to see him. When he finally noticed me, he ran up the slope and for a brief moment stood at the top like The Monarch of the Glen before darting into the trees.

Soon I am back on Shorts Lane, strolling back to Silver Clint who has been dozing in the shadows having consumed far too much petroleum on his last visit  to the Sainsburys service station. I wish he'd switch to soda water.
Returning to Clint eighty minutes later

5 June 2018

Yorkshire


Recently, the BBC News website has been exploring the notion of Englishness. It has also focused upon county loyalties, comparing how the residents of different counties feel about where they live. This was the main conclusion:-

Yorkshire, with its Viking origins and Norman design, inspires the deepest passions of all. 
Three quarters of people from York and the Ridings feel a strong allegiance to their county. Only
 one other county comes close to such levels of belonging - Yorkshire's great rival, Lancashire.

As the title of this blog suggests, I am a Yorkshireman. My father was born in the old North Riding of Yorkshire. my mother was born in the old West Riding and I myself was born in The East Riding of this ancient county. More than this, all of my grandparents and all of my great grandparents  were born in Yorkshire. They all lived here all their lives and they all died here.

When it comes to Yorkshire credentials, I am therefore more  thoroughbred than the cricketer Freddie Trueman, former prime minister Harold Wilson or actress Maureen Lipman. You simply cannot get more Yorkshire than me. Even my Viking surname was once unique to Yorkshire and was originally the name of a small agricultural settlement in Wensleydale.

Like most Yorkshiremen I am proud of my county for several different reasons:-

1) The varied beauty of our natural landscape. From the limestone pavements of Malham in the west to the chalk cliffs of Flamborough in the east. From the boggy uplands of The Dark Peak in the south to the famous  green Yorkshire Dales in the north.

2) History of hard work. When I think of Yorkshire folk I think of workers with their noses to the grindstone - farmers, fishermen, steel workers, engineers, textile workers. Much of Britain's nineteenth century economic power was forged here in Yorkshire though our people didn't always get the credit and financial benefits they deserved.

3) The Yorkshire character. We value common sense and plain speaking. We don't like snobs or pomposity. We say hello to strangers and we don't waste our hard-earned money. We can be blunt but we are loyal and true. We tend not to be loud and self-advertising and our sense of humour is often dry and understated.

4) The Arts. Yorkshire has produced countless renowned painters, writers, actors and musicians. From Emily Bronte to The Arctic Monkeys. From The Kaiser Chiefs to Ted Hughes and Damien Hirst, Andrew Marvell and John Atkinson Grimshaw, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Patrick Stewart, Roger Hargreaves and Joe Cocker, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney. The list goes on and on.

5) Exploration and invention. In my mind the greatest Yorkshireman of all was the explorer Captain James Cook. He epitomised this Yorkshire characteristic seen also in the lives of the inventor of stainless steel - Harry Brearley, aviator Amy Johnson, horologist John Harrison and scientist Joseph Priestley but there are many others whose names and achievements might be cited here.

6) The Yorkshire pudding. Light and golden. Rising in the oven like Jesus after the crucifixion.

Yes it is nice to be a Yorkshireman and to inhabit a county that fills one's heart with pride. I have travelled the world seeking a better place than Yorkshire but I can confirm that no such place exists. For any readers who do not live here, please accept my sincere sympathies.

4 June 2018

Poem

"A study has found that France has lost a third of its songbirds over the past fifteen years..."
- BBC News  18/5/18
To A Woodlark

The last birdsong I ever heard
Was that of a woodlark
Half-hidden by foliage
When I stopped for a tinkle
At a lay-by on the A165
Tremulous and plaintive
Like a cry for help
He sang in solitary shade
Taking me back
To those days of yore
When summer walks
We'll take mo more
Were orchestral with
Incantations intertwining
Mellifluous and sweet
A twittering of tweets
That echoed around
The ancient forests
Of our ancestry
When there were skylarks and robins
Mistle thrush and cawing rook
Warbler and wren
Their melodies mingling
In timeless refrains...
On yes I shall remember that woodlark's song
In this aching quietness that remains
Never to hear another one
Now that the singing is all done.

3 June 2018

Ozymandias


Ozymandias


I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.


by Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792 - 1822)