31 July 2018

Rambles

Sometimes I just have to get out for a country walk. Even if I am only planning a mile or two, it's often as if my body and mind combined crave some walking. 

On Sunday evening, as the sun was descending to the western horizon I completed a nearby circuit that I worked out years ago and have plodded many times.  I blogged about it here (2015) and here (just last month). I took yet another picture of "The Cricket Inn" at Totley Bents and here it is:-
The same urge to walk happened yesterday afternoon so Clint and I nipped out of the city - up to The Dale road south of Stanage Edge. Blustery but with sunshine flooding the landscape between scudding clouds, I walked a mile along the rocky escarpment before descending to the ocean of green bracken below. Then I headed back under the edge observing rock climbers negotiating various crags.
"Where the hell have you been?" said Clint when I got back to the parking strip alongside The Dale. All other vehicles had left but as I was taking off my boots a minibus pulled up in front of Clint and a dozen Chinese people of various ages clambered out.

Each one of them held a camera, i-phone or tablet and they all proceeded to snap pictures of their surroundings. What a mad world.

An attractive female member of the party asked me, "Wha-this-place-ca?"

I pointed at the nearby rocks, "That's Stanage Edge and over there that's the village of Hathersage."

"Ha-tha-say."

"No. Hathersage," I repeated - this time more slowly.

Inside Clint, I pressed the "Home" button and came back to make a nice stir fry using leftover chicken from our Sunday dinner - with wholewheat noodles, chopped onion, sweet red pepper and a courgette that Frances and Stew grew down in London. It was a gift.

30 July 2018

Hindsight

"Swinside Inn" courtesy of Google Streetview
With a dreaded "For Sale/To Let" sign attached
Over at "Kitchen Connection", Lee has composed many nostalgic blogposts that take readers right back - allowing us to share vividly some of her remembered times. Lee is very good at conjuring up the past. This morning, partly inspired by Lee, I have set myself the task of delving into my own library of memories in order to come up with a fresh blogpost.

Now where shall we go? Back to the East Yorkshire village where I grew up? Holidaying with my family? University days? The island of Rotuma? Marriage? Early years as a teacher? Fatherhood? Thailand? Ohio? Even though this blog is in its thirteenth year, there are still so many avenues to travel along. Let's go to Braithwaite...
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As my father was a village headmaster, his holidays corresponded exactly with his four sons' school holidays. Every Whitsuntide for ten years we would hitch up our old caravan and travel to the other side of the country - to a beautiful, mountainous area known as The Lake District. And every year our exact destination was Scott's Farm in the village of Braithwaite just north of Keswick.

Getting to The Lake District in those days wasn't particularly easy. There weren't many dual carriageways in the entire country and the motorway network was in its infancy. It was always a relief when we reached Scotch Corner on the Great North Road. We knew we were halfway to Braithwaite but with the legendary A66 still to travel - over the top of England via Bowes, Brough and Appleby to Penrith.

Dad's old car would strain to pull our fully-laden Lynton Triumph caravan over those bleak hills with four sons squabbling in the back and Mum sometimes yelling over her shoulder, "Stop it right now or we'll stop the car so I can smack you all!" We soon settled down as the palm of her right hand was capable of delivering cruel blows that left your backside or bare legs stinging for ages.

Then the familiar mountains of The Lake District would appear in the front windscreen - mountains with evocative names like Skiddaw, Scafell Pike, Great Gable, Helvellyn and Catbells. It was a landscape so raw and different from our starting point - the tamed green fields of The Plain of Holderness on Yorkshire's east coast.
Entering Braithwaite - courtesy of Google Streetview
With Scott's Farm (now Scotgate) caravan site on the left
The jacks would be lowered and Mum would get on with preparing our tea while my brothers and I reacquainted ourselves with the Scott's Farm caravan site and its surrounds. One of our favourite places was a nearby hollow oak tree that must have died years before. You could get right inside it or climb above on still sturdy branches.

Then Mum would call us back for the first evening meal that she had magically conjured up on the caravan's Calor Gas stove. All six of us squeezed around the table and cleared our plates - never complaining about anything that was placed in front of us. Whining and being picky about food is characteristic of many modern day families but back then it was unthinkable. You ate what you were given and you said "thank you" too. Then you said, "Please may I leave the table?" before going back outside to play football or cricket on the big green space in the middle of the caravan site.

Beyond the hollow tree there was a mountain stream. You can imagine how cold that water would have been at the end of May in north west England and yet every year my brothers and I would swim in it at a point where a rocky dam had been built to deepen the pool behind it.

During those Lake District holidays we would always climb a mountain or two. During the second world war my father had climbed in The Himalayas and he loved the sense of space and freedom that mountain walking can give you. There was one smaller mountain that we climbed every year and you could easily reach it from the caravan. It was and is called Barrow - a great lump of a hill with many false summits but when you finally reached the top and saw the view you felt a real sense of achievement.
Rowing boats by Derwentwater
© Copyright Chris Allen (geograph.org.uk) 2017
On Derwentwater it was a pleasure to hire an old rowing boat and travel out to an island in the middle of the lake - just like being in Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons". And in the quaint town of Keswick itself there was a wonderful sweet shop that sold woody sticks of  liquorice and sugary treats in the shape of babies' dummies or bananas or pebbles. In my mind's eye I can still see the tempting jars of barley sugar sticks, aniseed balls, pineapple chunks and spearmint chews sparkling in the window.

On these caravan holidays we never once went out to eat in a pub or restaurant but sometimes on nice evenings we walked down a nearby lane to "The Swinside Inn". I remember shiny black slugs on the tarmac, sliding to the opposite grassy verge. I never saw slugs like that in East Yorkshire.

At the isolated "Swinside Inn", my brothers and I would sit on the pub wall because children were not allowed inside. Dad would bring out potato crisps and bottles of pop in different shades. My preference was always black dandelion and burdock. Then we would pass a pleasant hour or so waiting for our parents to re-emerge. There would be other children to play with - also excluded from the pub itself.

Mum and Dad were never great drinkers or frequenters of pubs but they enjoyed those walks to "The Swinside Inn" with their boys and always came out a little merrier than when they went in. We would all walk back to the caravan in the gathering gloom of night-time, trying to avoid stepping on black slugs. The beds would be made up with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows and we would sleep soundly till  morning light seeped through the floral curtains.

It was a time of innocence and magic. Our little family all together. Days that we thought might never end but all too soon the A66 would be calling us back over The Pennine Chain till the next Whitsuntide came around and we would once more chime in unison, "Are we nearly there yet?"

29 July 2018

Selection

Shirley has a smartphone. She often uses its camera facility. Perhaps accidentally, the resulting pictures will frequently finish up on the hard drive of this computer. How that happens I do not know but what I have discovered is that she never edits these pictures or deletes any of them. In fact, I don't think she realises that they are there - building up like logs in a Canadian river..

Perhaps I should explain to her how to review these pictures and sort them out. Sometimes there will be twenty pictures of the same scene - taken in such rapid succession that they appear like a moving film. I think her finger sometimes sits on the camera button when it should be removed and the result is these multiples of roughly the same image.

Anyway, this Sunday morning I woke up far too early and came downstairs to kill time on the laptop. I found myself looking through some of Shirley's accidental smartphone files and picked out three of her photographs to accompany this post.

At the top you can see Stanedge Lodge - the highest residential property within Sheffield's city boundaries. I rather like that picture. It might as well be Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, located similarly on a moortop. Stanedge Lodge was built in the nineteenth century as a base for upper class grouse shooters.

Below - back in 2014 - there's our old friend Fred Fox brazenly sitting on one of our privet hedges in the middle of the day. Though Fred is now in fox heaven, he is not forgotten. Little did he know that I would spend countless hours painting his image. You can see paintings of him in Florence (South Carolina), Coussa (France), Wood Green (London), Ludwigsburg (Germany), a little town in southern Sweden  whose name I forget and a couple of other American towns whose names also escape me. 
 You don't see many pictures of me in this blog. That's usually because I am behind the camera. Customarily I avoid being the subject of photography but I like the picture below that Shirley snapped in Gran Canaria back in September 2014. Clearly, I am relating an amusing tale and our Ian's body language suggests that he is gripped by my lively narration There is obviously nowhere else he would rather be than in  that family restaurant in Maspalomas... In truth, he really enjoyed that late summer break and didn't at that moment foresee that his exciting "Bosh!" ride was about to begin.

28 July 2018

Cloudy

Back on August 11th 1999 a total eclipse of the sun should have been visible from the south west of England. I was all set to drive down there with my son and daughter but the weather forecast was unpromising and indeed on the day in question the country was pretty much shrouded by thick cloud. I was glad I cancelled the plan

Fast forward to yesterday night. Astronomers told us that an impressive blood moon would rise in the south east at around 9.20pm and not only that, there would also be  a lunar eclipse - lasting some forty five minutes.

Shirley and I drove out of the city up onto the moors from where we hoped we might get a good view of the heavenly event. We were not alone. There were dozens of other motor vehicles out on the moorland roads - people parked up also hoping to see the magic in the sky.

But as on August 11th 1999, clouds got in the way. We saw nothing, nada, zilch but at least we were not seven hours away - down in Cornwall. We stopped off at "The Norfolk Arms" for a couple of beers before heading home.

I guess life itself can sometimes mirror these astronomical disappointments. You look forward to something with eager anticipation and then clouds appear. As Joni Mitchell sang:-
So many things I would have done 
But clouds got in my way.

27 July 2018

Dressings

Over the border in north Derbyshire, several villages still practise the ancient tradition of "well dressing". This tends to be a summertime activity.

Please don't think of a well as being a hole in the ground down which buckets are lowered on ropes. In Derbyshire a "well" is simply a water source like a spring and of course going way back in time it was very common for our ancestors to treat such sites with reverence and gratitude. Wells were holy locations. They are places where water magically "wells" up from the ground.

To dress a well you need clay, a large frame and an idea. The pictures are made up using natural ingredients such as petals, nutshells, grasses, pine cones and so forth. They are pressed into the damp clay - creating a kind of natural but temporary mosaic.

Yesterday, Shirley and I dropped into The Peak District village of Stoney Middleton where we visited two well dressings. The main one was in The Nook near to the village church and the second one was close to the Roman Bath House.

The first one depicted a local industrial strike that lasted for two years (1918-1920). It concerned boot and shoe makers from both Stoney Middleton and the neighbouring village of Eyam. Their brave battle against obstinate and scornful employers was a milestone in  trade union history.

The second well dressing marked a hundred years of women's suffrage. The central image is of the Irish suffragette Lillian Margaret Metge (1871-1954).

Long may the Derbyshire well-dressing tradition continue! To find out more please go here.

26 July 2018

Maserati

My Maserati GranCabrio MC was delivered yesterday while I was working at Oxfam. You may remember that I was desperate for a banana-coloured car. Maserati UK pulled out all the stops for me.

As I walked up the street, the Italian beast was waiting for me - the keys being dangled by a smarmy fellow called Justin who introduced himself as Maserati's special projects officer - whatever that might mean. He smelt of an expensive man's fragrance - "Bozo" or "Plonker" - something like that.

He talked me though the car's controls and we took it for a spin with me at the wheel. Oh my God! The acceleration is incredible. You feel the power in your skeleton. The Maserati is like a rampant lion whereas Clint seems more like a timid guinea pig.

We roared up Ringinglow Road to The Norfolk Arms and roared back twice as quickly. Justin was clinging to his seat like a wimp but I was chuckling like Dick Dastardly as we rode the tarmac like robbers in a getaway car. Is that too many likes?
The new car
Back home, I signed some papers and the banana-coloured car is now officially mine! All mine!

Justin climbed into the cab of the low loader that had brought the car up to Sheffield and was off. In the house, Shirley asked me if I liked my new car and I said it would take some getting used to.

"What about Clint?" she asked. "What are you going to do with him?"

"What do you mean?" I snapped. "If you think I am getting rid of Clint, you are sorely mistaken. He has been like a brother to me. The Maserati will never replace Clint!"

"What are you going to call the new car?"

"I don't know. I will ask my blog visitors."

And then we went out on the decking at the back of our house for our tea - a nice cheese and red onion quiche with salad and something very weird called quinoa! When you are a lottery jackpot winner I guess you have to get used to living the high life! But bloody quinoa! I ask you!

25 July 2018

Detail

Yesterday, I drove out to the village of Marsh Lane for another constitutional walk. Please do not be alarmed - for this time I am not going to explain my plodding itinerary. Instead, I just want to share with you a little detail - something I spotted along the way - and something I had never encountered before.

Not far from Shady Hall Farm, I arrived at a wooden stile. Next to it there was an old post. Perhaps it had once been part of a telegraph pole. As I clambered over the stile, something about that post caught my eye. The interior of it was hollow apart from a strange star shape within.

I thought it might be some sort of fungus but when I inspected the post further I deduced that this radiating structure was in fact the legacy left behind in the heartwood  by old offshoots and branches. For every one of those little arms there was a corresponding knot on the outside of the wooden post. The softer heartwood had rotted away over the years, leaving these more resilient structures behind.

They say that we learn something new every day and that detail was yesterday's big learning moment for me. Magic.
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And here's a Nature note from last week - just in case I forget. As I was walking down to the Oxfam shop, I spotted something moving along the pavement near the Chinese fish and chip shop. Initially I thought it was a baby rat but when it scaled the little brick wall - just two yards from me - it stopped to take a look at the passing giant. It was a weasel! A weasel in a busy suburb. In spite of all my countryside rambles and country childhood, that was the closest I have ever been to a wild weasel in my life! Magic.

24 July 2018

Tit

Earlier this month, when we were at The Mull of Galloway, we went into the RSPB centre (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). There I bought some tombola tickets and won the bird glider shown above. It's a great tit! Okay it wasn't like winning The National Lottery jackpot but I was still happy.

Yesterday, I put the glider together. It took two minutes. Here it is. Looks just like a great tit don't you think? I bet that Red Deer City's leading birder Mr Red at Hiawatha House will be impressed:-
Next it was time to try out the glider in our garden. I found it difficult to control but sometimes it did glide successfully like a bird on the wing. However, it kept landing in awkward places

Here the great tit has landed on our blue hydrangea bush:-
Oh dear! Now the great tit has landed close to The Lord Buddha and one of our hosta plants:-
Now the great tit is trying to mix with living birds by landing on one of our bird tables:-
And now the great tit has landed on Peep the Lamb's head! Peep was confused and said, "maaay! maaay!"
An hour of glider flying was enough for me. After all, it's possible to have too much of a good time. You have to draw the line somewhere.

23 July 2018

Salad

In this long hot Yorkshire summer, many salads are being eaten. On Saturday, before I learnt about my massive lottery win, I made simple plates of salad for lunch. The salad looked so nice that I decided to photograph it. 

As well as enjoying preparing meals, I also like to plate them up nicely. In my view, thoughtful presentation is an important part of any good dining experience. Making good-looking plates of food is a kind of art form that is often taken to ridiculous extremes in five-star restaurants. However, even here in suburbia, it costs nothing to take just a little trouble over the appearance of meals we prepare.
Above you can see the salad containing:-

Chunks of blue stilton cheese
Iceberg lettuce
Rocket
A spoonful of tuna with mayo (leftover from Thursday)
A boiled egg
Spoonfuls of Moroccan cous-cous and coleslaw
Slices of cucumber and vine tomatoes
Penne with homemade pesto*
French dressing and mayonnaise
Basil leaves

*On Friday I made my first ever batches of pesto using basil I had grown in an old washing up bowl. I blended it with a handful of parmesan cheese, salt, some toasted pine nuts and a small cup of good quality Greek olive oil. The end result was as delightful as I had hoped. I stirred one portion into a pan of fresh penne. Delicious and so much nicer than pesto from a jar. As you can see I used the leftover penne in Saturday's salad.

22 July 2018

Yippee!

We were out last night - attending a blues venue - part of the Sheffield Tramlines annual music festival. Consequently, I did not get to check my National Lottery numbers until this morning.

You may recall that when I met God at Bleaklow Stones, I asked him to arrange it so that my lottery numbers would come up on Saturday night. With ecstatic happiness and a massive degree of incredulity, I am delighted to inform you that God did not let me down!

My numbers have come up! All six of them. I have been waiting since November 19th 1994 for this to happen. I checked and re-checked my pink lottery slip and there was no doubt, no doubt at all.

Ten minutes ago, I phoned National Lottery HQ on their hotline number and a representative at the other end of the line soon confirmed that I am the sole jackpot winner for July 21st 2018. How much? A cool £7.7 million or in American dollars -  $10.1 million.

Thanks be to God!

Mrs Putin is out, weekend visiting Frances has gone to Tideswell and I am in the house all on my own. I haven't shared my big news with anybody else yet - just you lovely people out their in Blogworld. I know that you will all be filled with joy as news of my good fortune reaches you.

£7,700,000 is a lot of money but stupidly, as I sit here in my dressing gown, I have absolutely no idea how I am going to spend it. Perhaps I will buy a banana-coloured Maserati GranCabrio MC - a snip at only £114,000. And I am already planning to fly first class to Acapulco, Mexico - away from those annoying poor people who are herded onto aeroplanes like cattle. I shall drink champagne at 30,000 feet while chatting with other first class passengers - like Lewis Hamilton, Lady GaGa or Damien Hirst. It will be brilliant. So so brilliant.

But all this money is not going to change me. I shall make a generous donation to The Archer Project for the homeless in Sheffield - at least five hundred pounds and perhaps another five hundred to Oxfam. But I must warn any needy, greedy or destitute bloggers out there that I will not be responding to any "heartfelt" or desperate begging letters. If you want loads of money - like me - you will just have to work for it or buy your own damned lottery tickets. 

It is going to be so difficult getting used to the reality that I am now a very wealthy man. Of course, I have never seen myself that way. I am just an ordinary guy who happened to bump into God on a moortop. I wonder what a £7.7 million pile of pound coins might look like? Praise the Lord! Praise Him!

21 July 2018

Stirred

Mistress Putin rose early but this Yorkshire Putin rolled over and went back to sleep. Soon I entered a bad dream. I was in a school that was composed of elements of all the schools I have ever been in. I needed to get to the other side of the sprawling institution for my first lesson of the afternoon.

But people kept distracting me. I was very aware of the time ticking away yet try as I might I never got there. I thought of the little sixth form group I was meant to have been teaching and what they might have done in my absence. Feeling downhearted and almost ashamed of myself, I made it back to the school hall and for some reason I do not quite understand I prepared to settle down on a camp bed.

Keys jangled in the dark corridors as two caretakers entered the hall. They were of similar appearance. Stocky fellows with shaven heads and gold rimmed spectacles. They didn't seem too concerned that a member of the teaching staff was planning to stay the night on a camp bed...

And that's when the telephone rang. Brrr-brrr...Brrr-brrr...Brr-brr. Clearly Mistress Putin was not going to pick up downstairs so like a sea-lion easing itself from a Hebridean shore, I rolled out of our prince-size bed and grabbed the phone.

It was our Ian in London. He was riding home on a Boris bike having just spent two hours at the gym. The lad was buzzing with things he wanted to share with his old man. My bad dream started to dissolve like an alka seltzer tablet in a glass. In its place there was Hurricane Ian.
There have been preliminary meetings about a TV show and it really could happen. In fact, it sounds as though - in the course of time - it will happen. They have something that is a little bit different to present to the world.

Meantime he has had a second date with a vegan lady who can speak six languages. Meantime there's the second leg of an old friend's stag do to contend with - the first leg having been in Ibiza. Meantime he and Henry have agreed a second "Bosh!" book with their publisher and they have been working up potential recipes while planning the work process. Meantime he's planning to go wild swimming in the River Thames. Meantime, maybe he will try writing a children's book just like David Walliams.

Phew! That's quite a lot of stuff to digest after being stirred from a bad education-based dream. I didn't even get to ask about the old photographs I scanned for him. He plans to use a couple in the Bosh! Instagram page. It's so good to hear him buzzing with life and the pleasures of living. Examples of those scanned pictures accompany this post.

To visit the Bosh! Instagram site go here.

20 July 2018

Encounter

In yesterday's blogpost, I neglected to tell you that while I was at Bleaklow Stones I met God. It was just like the dream of my childhood. He had long flowing grey hair and a long grey beard and the expression upon his timeless face was serious - as if he was carrying all the troubles of the world upon his shoulders. Upon refection, I guess he was and always has done.

In my childhood dream, God was wearing a long, flowing white robe - like an oversized Victorian nightdress. However, when I met him at Bleaklow Stones he was wearing hiking boots rather like mine, dark grey shorts and a light grey T-shirt on which these words were boldly printed in black - "I AM GOD".

At first I didn't see him. The greyness was like a camouflage. He was sitting against a weathered rock munching on a manna sandwich.

I was going to simply ignore him, respecting his personal space but he raised a bony grey hand to wave at me so I went over and spoke with him. I tell you it was a real surprise when I discovered that he was God as I have spent all of my thinking life disbelieving.

"Sit down and join me my son," he whispered. His echoey voice seemed to curl around the stone outcrops like smoke.

Time seemed to stand still while I talked with God. We spoke about many things and God was kind enough to bless this blog which it turned out he has visited many times. 

"There are many advantages to being omniscient," he winked.

We covered global warming, the dinosaurs, Christianity, The Black Death, who wrote The Bible, Hull City A.F.C., Brexit and Donald Trump. God insisted that he hadn't engineered the presidency for Brer Trump - it was Satan in league with the Russian president whose name he could not remember, excusing himself with the reminder that he has been around billions of years. "I can't remember everything Mr Pudding!"

I asked him if he could arrange it so that I will win the National Lottery jackpot this coming Saturday and he pledged that, if he remembered to do it,  my numbers would indeed come up. In exchange I gave him the other half of my water. He glugged it down and wiped his beard saying, "That was lovely my son! Thank you."

It was time to go our separate ways. God slung his rucksack over his shoulders. I noticed that two angel wings had been embroidered on the rear pocket. They were golden. We shook hands and he whispered, "Go in peace!" He refused point blank to have his photograph taken. Silly old God!

Was it mist or low cloud that descended upon the stones? He was heading for Bleaklow Head. I watched him fading away into the landscape and began to quietly sing a hymn I remembered from the years when  I was a choirboy in Holy Trinity Church...
Ye holy angels bright, 
Who wait at God's right hand, 
Or through the realms of light 
Fly at your Lord's command, 
Assist our song, 
Or else the theme 
Too high doth seem 
For mortal tongue.
And when I looked again he had gone beyond those voiceless stones and tussocks of moorland grasses and spindly heather. I don't suppose I shall ever meet God again. He smelt of candlewax and sandalwood joss sticks and it looked as though his nose had been broken at some time in the past. I hope he remembers those lottery numbers!

18 July 2018

Stones

Bleaklow Stones
Six miles up The Derwent Valley, passing Ladvbower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. Finally you arrive at the oak tree that King George VI planted in 1945 to mark the completion of the Upper Derwent reservoirs project. 

That is where I left Clint before tying my bootlaces. It was 8.45 yesterday morning. With my knapsack on my back I set off, striding northwards, following the course of the infant River Derwent. It is a river that leads you to the high, treeless moors where the river begins in peaty hags and groughs. No one could possibly say for sure where to find the river's source because it has many sources.

Before you can ascend to those wild uplands there are four miles of river valley to negotiate. Fortunately, there's an old grouse shooters track you can walk along - at least for part of the way.

The weather in northern England has been exceptionally dry this summer with virtually no rain falling for two months. Two results of this - the water level in The River Derwent was very low and later I found that the peaty landscape of the moorland tops was very dry - not like the black boot-sucking porridge you will encounter in wet winters.
I jumped over the infant river and started to ascend the great hump of bracken and heather that leads up to the Barrow Stones. At times I was on all fours as startled moorland sheep looked up from their grazing to wonder what manner of beast was now in their midst. 

One of the best things about solo walking is that you travel at your own pace and make your own choices. There is no discussion or negotiation. No need to alter your pace. Finally, I reached the top.

Barrow Stones occupy a couple of acres of that exposed moorland summit. So many interesting stone shapes - carved by wind, rain and frost over thousands of years. It's like a sculpture park created by Mother Nature. 
Another five hundred yards brought me to Grinah Stones with its great rocky buttress. And then I looked up to even higher land - a mile away. There on the horizon I made out my ultimate target - Bleaklow Stones. Using my camera's zoom facility to its fullest extent I was able to confirm that this was indeed my destination.
What about my dodgy right knee? What about the stabbing pain in my right calf muscle? This might be my last ever chance to make it to Bleaklow Stones. I had to carry on.

When I got there it was two o'clock in the afternoon. I took some pictures - especially of the most famous outcrop - The Anvil Stone. Then I lay down on a cushion of moorland vegetation close to the sky, amidst those timeless stones, ate my apple and drank half of my water before beginning the arduous trek back to Clint.
Leaving Bleaklow Stones at 2.20pm I reached Clint at 6pm. Fortunately, I had remembered to put an extra bottle of water in Clint's boot (American: trunk)  and this was finally consumed with much relief. Exhausted but elated, I travelled homeward with images of the amazing stones still flickering on my mind-screen
The Anvil Stone

16 July 2018

Outcrops

I love to visit stone outcrops on my rambles. The one above lies to the west of Sheffield, overlooking the A57 road near Hollow Meadows. It is called The Head Stone. Often I wonder what ancient inhabitants of this land would have made of  such an outcrop. I can't help imagining that it if not somehow revered, it must have been a focal point for them. Below you can see The Head Stone from a different angle. The pictures were taken yesterday afternoon.
Before I reached The Head Stone I had climbed up from Wyming Brook Drive and along Reddicar Clough through swathes of bracken, noticing that there were  thousands of bilberries waiting to be picked. I ate a handful and wished I had brought a container to fill.  They would be very nice scattered on one's morning bowl of muesli.

On the slope to my right I noticed a small unnamed stone outcrop and as I scrambled through the bracken I guessed that it would have been good a place for ancient hunters to rest or base themselves in distant times gone by. They would have had a good view of the valley below and the area around the stone would be dry and solid. They could have left or stored things here and might have even made temporary camps.

See the big millstone slab to the left...
I looked underneath it and what I saw was a crude collection of rocks above a secret hollow. The rocks appear to be holding that two ton slab in place. As I say, I have investigated many stone outcrops but have never noticed such an undercarriage before. It crossed my mind that what you see under that great slab is not natural. The rocks may well have been placed there by human beings. Had I stumbled across a burial place? 

It is very possible that this place has never been subject to archaeological investigation. It is a good distance from any passing public footpaths and though I am sure that grouse shooters and other walkers have been there perhaps none of them considered why that slab of stone has a bunch of rocks beneath it.  I am going to refer my questions to The University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology.

15 July 2018

Carvings

One day, when we were in south west Scotland, we took a detour to Dumtroddan Farm. We left Clint near the farmhouse and walked through a couple of gateways into a  cow field. Near the centre of the field there were two fenced off areas and within them there were low-lying rocky outcrops. There was another fenced off area on the edge of adjacent woodland and within this there was a similar outcrop.

Why the iron fencing? Well it was a means of protecting some very special rock carvings. Though four thousand years may have passed by, you could still make out the patterns left by Bronze Age people. They are known as "cup and ring" carvings and similar patterned stonework can be seen in numerous locations in Scotland, northern England, Wales, Ireland, northern Spain, Brittany in France and indeed much further afield.
 Just wo of the cup and ring carvings at Dumtroddan
Nobody knows why the carvings were made. Did they have some religious significance? Were they about marking territory? Were they connected with rituals or arithmetic? We can only guess though various theories abound.

Back home in Sheffield, I learnt that some very old stone carving has been found on a rock in Ecclesall Woods - about a mile from our house. Archaeological experts have concluded that this rock was also carved during The Bronze Age - perhaps 3500 years ago. Yesterday I went looking for it. 

I knew roughly where to find it though it isn't close to any of the woodland paths. With a bit of guesswork and scrabbling through undergrowth I finally located the little clearing in which this historic rock sits. It was carved long before Jesus Christ, The Lord Buddha or Muhammad were even dreamed of. 

I ran my fingers gently along the lines in the rock and wondered about the men who carved it. They would have had no idea that their handiwork would last so long - nor would they have ever imagined that a 21st century schizoid man would one day pause amidst the trees to think of them.
 In Ecclesall Woods yesterday

14 July 2018

Homeless

Yesterday the centre for the homeless based behind Sheffield Cathedral  were happy to accept my donations. Some day soon a bunch of lucky homeless fellows will be strolling around our city's streets wearing a selection of Yorkshire Pudding underpants. though I expect that these will be hidden from view. At least, I hope so.

Homelessness is not a massive problem in Sheffield but underthe last two Conservative governments headed by David Cameron and Theresa May, we have certainly seen a significant growth in the numbers of rough sleepers. I take my hat off to all the good citizens who give up their time to help the homeless. It can't be easy - what with associated issues such as mental ill-health, drug taking, alcoholism and violence. But there is a crying need out there.

And there but for the grace of God go any of us. It would be very easy to find oneself being thrown from the carousel of life - unable to get back on again. Mental breakdown, a broken relationship, losing one's job, drinking too much, personal financial crisis - these are just five reasons why homelessness might happen.

Of course Sheffield's homeless people all know about the support they can receive at the cathedral so in the daytime a good number of them are magnetised to the area. After I had dropped off my donation I had a bit of a wander and spotted a "down and out" fellow sitting on the doorstep of a Georgian building along an alleyway known as Wheats Lane.

Secretly, I took a couple of pictures of him then slightly nervously I approached him and asked him if he minded. He really appeared "out of it" - on a distant planet and didn't seem to get the gist of what I was saying. Thin-faced and glassy-eyed, he gave me the impression that he had been out on the streets for years. I gave him a couple of pound coins then went on my way, leaving him sitting there with the rest of his life ahead of him.

The western world is wealthy enough to make sure that all of our people have somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night. There really shouldn't be any homelessness. Who is to blame? Personally, I wouldn't say it was the homeless themselves. You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one...

13 July 2018

Drizzle

Millstone boulder on Higger Tor
I was about to drive Clint down to Sheffield Cathedral to donate some shoes, underpants and shirts to the homeless charity that is based there. However, by the time I was ready to go something weird started to happen outside. It began to rain!

We haven't seen any rain since May and at first I was confused. Mind you this wasn't proper English rain. Not teaspoon sized raindrops filling ankle-deep puddles. This rain was so fine it felt like a gossamer spray - so fine it hardly wetted the pavement before evaporating.

Why am I talking in past tenses when the almost invisible rain shower is happening right now? As I look out of our window, I can see it settling on Clint's bonnet (American - hood) and Clint is breathing  huge sighs of relief having endured so many hot days, standing out in the open. The thin rain is bringing him some welcome relief.

As well as visiting the homeless charity, I was planning to go rambling on the moors west of The Derwent Valley today but that expedition has now been postponed. Perhaps I will go tomorrow.  My walks are always photograph opportunities and for that hobby I prefer the illumination that direct sunshine brings. What would have been dull, grey scenes are almost always enlivened by sunlight.

Earlier this week I did manage a little constitutional walk up on Higger Tor which is a millstone plateau three miles from here, close to Stanage Edge. There were several school parties out and about. Some were scrambling up the rocks and all seemed to be wearing helmets. Teachers and outdoor leaders were shepherding them like flocks of sheep. After all, you never know what dangers you might encounter in the countryside!

And still the fine rain drifts down from on high. Clint even looks as though he has broken into a sweat. Perhaps he spotted one of those sexy little Fiats driving up the hill! South Korean cars are so hot-blooded.
On Higger Tor looking to Stanage Edge