29 November 2018

Chorus

Some visitors may recall that I made a song in September. It was inspired by a trip that my adoring wife and I made to Orford Ness in Suffolk.

We were strolling along by brambly briers in late summer sunshine, heading for the old lighthouse that will one day be consumed by the sea. My heart felt light and gay - if I might reclaim that word - and I started to sing.

Instead of letting it evaporate into the ether, I hung on to that tune and built a proper song around it. I wrote down the lyrics and everything and then with difficulty managed to make a YouTube presentation of it. I called the song "Orford Ness" and if you are interested you can still find it here.

Then the week before last we visited Whitby on the coast of North Yorkshire. When we returned, a poem welled up from inside me and I wrote it down, calling it at first simply "Whitby". I shared it with visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding" here.

"Whitby" was just meant to be a poem to read - nothing more but then I spotted this comment from Bonnie in Missouri, USA:-
Bonnie had thrown down a gauntlet that I was happy to pick up.

I am delighted to report that I have now turned "Whitby" into a song called "Whitby Shore". As I worked upon it I felt that it needed a chorus and here it is:-
Unfortunately, I am presently unable to share the finished song with you as my laptop microphone has decided to give me a speech impediment whereby the sibilance of my "s" sounds has become distorted. Nonetheless before too long I hope to make a blogpost featuring  "Whitby Shore" for your scrutiny and possible enjoyment.

I am trying to access a USB microphone that will bypass the built-in mike but Amazon appear to be twisting my arm to join a strange secret cult called "Amazon Prime". They even said, "Congratulations! We are giving you a free trial with Prime!" when I tried to order the new mike but  I have no intention of joining any religious movements - especially when they are run by an organisation that it is striving ominously to take over the world.

28 November 2018

Frugality

Financially, Shirley and I are quite comfortable. We are not rich by western standards but we have savings and we don't owe anybody anything. We have two cars and occasional holidays and we never blink about grocery or utility bills. Our house is paid for and we get rent from our other house - the one that we helped Ian to buy some years ago and later had to take over ourselves.

In spite of this, my default position is frugality. I  don't like to squander money but I do like a bargain. Most of our grocery shopping is done at "Lidl" - our local discount supermarket and when I need petrol for either of our cars I go to the cheapest forecourt in town.

Some of my clothes are pretty old. I have three shirts which I still wear regularly that my mother bought for me in the nineteen nineties and I have a "Kent State" sweatshirt that was a souvenir of my camp counselling summers in Ohio in the 1970's. I don't really care about clothes or fashion as long as my garb is clean and not falling apart.

I guess that I have inherited my frugal nature from previous generations. My mother grew up in a coal mining community between the wars. Her family had very little and in her early childhood life was a grinding struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table. Like many, she bathed once a week in a tin bath in the kitchen.

At the end of the second world war she became a village schoolmaster's wife but she remained money conscious and thrifty to the end of her life. All of her spending was recorded in little notebooks. At Christmastime she set targets for the purchase of Christmas presents for her four sons. It was important that she spent exactly the same on each of us.I still have those notebooks now. It is hard to throw them away.

When I was nine years old, I was desperate for a bicycle. I begged and pleaded and when Christmas Day came the bicycle duly arrived. It was a Hercules but it was second hand and around twenty years old. A handyman in the village had repaired and cleaned it. My heart sank a little but I loved that bike and it didn't bother me overmuch that my mates from the council estate had been given shiny new bikes. Looking back I can see that receiving that secondhand Hercules had much to do with my mother's thriftiness.

My grandmother, Nana Morris, was poor all of her life but she made excellent soup using bones she collected free of charge from the local butcher. Her lavatory was an outside one that you found at the bottom of treacherous stone steps that led to her backyard. Wiping one's nether regions required the use of newspaper squares that had been threaded on to a piece of washing line.

Consequently, it's probably no surprise that I am frugal by nature. We hardly ever throw any food away and vegetable peelings are all composted. Electrical items are never replaced without good reason. First they have to break down and then resist repair. However, being frugal is not the same as being mean. It's just about avoiding waste and unnecessary expense. I contend that if more of us were thrifty the world would almost incidentally reap great environmental benefits.

27 November 2018

Hannah

Hannah with Rosa
Hannah Hauxwell was an accidental media star and national treasure. She was "discovered" by a walker who strolled past her remote farm in North Yorkshire some time in the summer of 1972. Hannah happened to be out and about in one of her fields and soon found herself in friendly conversation with this passing stranger.

It was a meeting that would change Hannah's life because when that walker got back to Leeds he told a friend about the ragged woman he had met. That friend happened to work for Yorkshire Television and as they say - the rest is history.

On the day that the walker passed by, Hannah was living in dire rural poverty. She had land and she had a farm with outbuildings but she had very little else. The farm had no electricity and no water supply. She relied upon a nearby spring for water and a meagre supply of coal for her kitchen range. Her weekly income was around £5.

The rest of her family had gradually passed away years before and so she was left with Low Birk Hatt Farm in Baldersdale and all the responsibilities associated with running such a farm. She was more of a dreamer than a farmer and really struggled to make the place pay. She dressed in ragged clothes and ate frugal meals.  For a long time she couldn't even afford to own a farm dog because of the food it would need.
Though materially she had very little, she possessed a beautiful and radiant personality that for the next thirty years would disarm almost anybody who met her. She was honest, contented and not in the least bit resentful. She accepted her lot and was happy with it. She found pleasure in simple things.

A Yorkshire Television producer built two documentary films about life in the high Pennines around  Hannah Hauxwell and quite quickly she became an unlikely media star.  Viewers and readers admired her spirit and her kind heart. She seemed to represent precious and timeless values in a world that was already becoming technological, interconnected and chaotic. Modern people were already starting to lose touch with fundamental realities that were embodied in Hannah. 

I know all of the above because I have just finished reading "Hannah: The Complete Story" though I can also recall  seeing one of those black and white TV documentaries in the early seventies. The memory of it stuck with me and that's why I bought my secondhand copy of the book when I spotted it at a Sunday morning car boot sale in Suffolk in September.

Hannah died in January of this year having reached the ripe old age of 91. She sold the old farm when she was seventy two and moved to a little cottage in a nearby village. She never returned to Low Birk Hatt believing that such a return visit would "unsettle" her.

YouTube version of "Too Long A Winter"  Hannah comes into the documentary just after the 16 minute mark. This is how she was first introduced to the British public.

26 November 2018

Recollecting

The Coalman
When I was a young boy we didn't have central heating in our old Victorian school house. In wintertime, there'd often be ice on the inside of our single-glazed upstairs windows and the linoleum on the floor felt freezing cold to my naked feet when I leapt out of bed on a January morning.

Dad made the fire downstairs at the crack of dawn. I would usually wake to the sound of him raking out the fireplace below. The coal was delivered to our coal house every fortnight by Tony Chappell whose yard was situated between our East Yorkshire village and the next one - Brandesburton.

The coal was shovelled from his old lorry into thick black hemp sacks which Mr Chappell carried on his right shoulder with ease. His face and arms were always blackened with coal dust when he called round.

Back then very few villagers had their own cars. This meant that there was money to be made from door-to-door deliveries. Of course we had bottled milk delivered to our doorstep every morning but there was also a pop man who brought various varieties of fizzy drink on his lorry. You got money off if you returned bottles from the previous week. My favourite flavours were dandelion and burdock and sarsaparilla. There was no Coca Cola.

There was a butcher's van and every Friday a fish man opened the rear doors of his Morris van to reveal cod, a set of weighing scales, herring, prawns and our mother's favourite - finny haddock which she boiled in milk with a knob of butter. It was our staple meal on Friday evenings - with mashed potato and peas.

Sometimes a troupe of gipsies would pass through the village like visitors from another planet. We marvelled at their rags and exotic appearances. They had no motorised vehicles just unkempt horses to pull their covered wagons. In summertime, some of their sunbrowned and unwashed children would be barefoot. 

The gipsies didn't talk to us and we didn't talk to them. We just observed each other with curiosity but sometimes single gipsy folk would call at our house selling clothes pegs and suchlike and there'd be occasional tramps too - men of the road with boots falling apart. They looked like scarecrows. I remember that Mum was always very kind to the gipsies and the tramps too. She'd buy the clothes pegs and the wildflower posies and she'd give those ragged men mugs of tea and ginger biscuits and chat pleasantly to them before they carried on walking their roads to nowhere.

Nowadays you don't see tramps in the countryside any more and the gipsies of yore have Toyota trucks and long white caravans with calor gas canisters outside. But they are still objects of fear and curiosity to those of us who choose to live in houses. I believe that the gipsies - now often referred to as"travellers" - call the rest of us "gorgers" because we over-consume. I think they might be right about that.

25 November 2018

Sunday

It's Sunday morning and I am alone in the house. Shirley, Frances and Stew are in Tideswell attending a church service. It's another one they can tick off as they seek to fulfil attendance requirements ahead of their marriage.

Last evening we moseyed on down to the Urban Choola Indian restaurant just down the road. We tucked into splendid curry meals but avoided starters as experience has shown that in Indian restaurants, starters will often spoil consumption of main courses. So no basket of poppadoms with chutneys and no onion bhajis or samosas.

Afterwards we strolled back up the hill to our local pub. It was noisy in there - but mostly because of televisions on the walls - blasting out historical Christmas hits. We didn't want this and other customers were also struggling to converse because of the din. Stew asked the bar staff to turn the volume down which they did but later it crept up again.

Terry, a carpenter, who has been a pub regular for fifty years came across to me and said, "It's bloody awful in here nowadays. The manager is useless. No idea about hospitality and looking after his customers!" He was in despair as I sometimes find myself - longing for times before the big refurbishment that changed our comfortable local into some sort of bland sports pub with waxed floorboards where once there were homely carpets.

Anyway, we enjoyed our drinks and had a nice long chat about wedding things - including the contentious guest list.
"A man shaped like a barrel"
A man shaped like a barrel came in for pints of lager. It was Colin the bus driver. Lord knows how his chubby hands manage to reach the steering wheel. Then Sue came in with some of her family. It was her birthday and they had been out for a celebratory meal in the city centre. I noticed how her thirteen year old grand-daughter is already starting to look like Jennifer - Sue's daughter. Jennifer was with her new man - a fellow she met on the internet. She now lives with him eighty miles away  in Middlesbrough and so her two children have had their schooling disrupted. Thankfully, they seem to be settling in well in their new school.

Back home, Shirley and Frances wanted to watch "Strictly Come Dancing" on the BBCiplayer. This show has become a national obsession but I find it mind-numbingly tedious  so it wasn't long before I dozed off. I sincerely hope that I was snoring like a fat bus driver during its transmission. 

The morning is advancing. Tony Blair is talking about the stupidity of Brexit on the television but I need to make another mug of tea and head upstairs to perform my ablutions before the churchgoers return.

24 November 2018

Stuff

A kestrel hovering at Totley Bents last Sunday
This week has ended with grey days. Drizzle and rain and a chill in the air. Night-time arrives in the late afternoon. They have not been days for walking and pointing my camera at country scenes.

There was a pub quiz on Tuesday with Mick and Mike but we didn't win. I reckon we have been quizzing together for over twenty years - week after week. It's nice to have friends like that - with whom you can be yourself. No need to prove anything or try to win points. You can just be yourself.

I worked at the Oxfam shop again on Wednesday. It's amazing to think that I have been going there for four years now - pretty much the same amount of time I spent in higher education in the seventies. It's always interesting to see new donations. You never know what you are going to get. For example, on Wednesday we received an envelope stuffed with used German banknotes from the nineteen thirties. For a moment, I paused to imagine whose hands those notes might have passed through.
A horse at Totley Bents with a railway tunnel vent behind
This week I made  two visits to Sheffield's best printing and art store. I had been given permission by "The Yorkshire Post" to get a certain magazine front cover printed. It depicts our son Ian and his Bosh! colleague Henry soon after their cookbook was launched.

I am reading a book about  a Yorkshire farmer called Hannah Hauxwell. Accidentally, she became a national celebrity in the nineteen seventies. Predictably, I will blog more about her and the read when I have finished the book.
Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital and University Arts Tower
Seen over rooftops from Brincliffe Hill
Last evening Frances and her fiancee Stew came back from London - mostly to attend the church in Tideswell as they continue to fulfil the monthly attendance requirement - in order to be married there next summer. I made them a simple spaghetti for their late dinner with lardons, chopped red onions, sliced and roasted courgette, Parmesan cheese and chopped tomatoes. They seemed to enjoy it after a three and a half hour drive back to Yorkshire in a friend's car. Stew also had the last of my latest apple crumble. For some reason he dislikes custard or cream.

Weatherwise, last Sunday was a nice day. I managed to get out to tread a few miles near the pleasant Sheffield suburb of Totley but after that it all went downhill and our particular sun was unable to pierce that gloomy grey blanket. It could have been depressing but I know that one fine day the sun will smile again and when that day arrives I will appreciate it all the more. 
Farm sign on a tree last Sunday

23 November 2018

22 November 2018

Lesson

Enter! FILE IN QUIETLY! Red! Put that chewing gum in the bin! Bonnie! Tuck your school shirt in and straighten that tie! Late again Meike? Sit down quickly girl and do not glower at me like that! Steve! Put that mirror away!

Settle down now and listen up! I want you to get your exercise books out and write down this title:-
ANIMAL ADJECTIVES
Now. Does anybody know what the term "equine" means?...Yes Lee?

Very good Lee! Yes exactly. Equine means - relating to horses. What about "bovine"? Yes. Good girl Jennifer! Well done! It does indeed mean - relating to cattle or cows.

Now look at the board everybody. Yes - that does mean you too John Gray! And Kylie - please stop looking out of the window! You will see that I have made a chart. There are two columns. This column is for the animal name and this column is for the adjective that goes with that particular animal. Now copy the whole chart into your books. Yes - what is it Donna?...Okay you can visit the toilet but please be quick! Graham and Briony! Stop that and please - keep it private in future!

Okay, let's crack on everybody:-  
Thirty five minutes later... Okay. Is everybody finished? Come on Bob! You are always the last to finish.

There's only a couple of minutes to the bell. Homework everybody! Yes - it is school policy Jenny! I need you to pick two of the adjectives and make up meaningful sentences in which your chosen words are used correctly to demonstrate how such terms can be used effectively in character descriptions.

Ah! There goes the bell! Did I say you could leave yet Ms Moon? And you too Christina! SIT DOWN! The rest of you may go!

21 November 2018

Aliens

People often look up into bejewelled night-time skies and whisper, "Surely, we cannot be alone in this vast universe. There must be others out there. Somewhere..."

And science fiction is awash with tales of space aliens and UFOs and what the US government might be hiding from us in Area 51 in the state of Nevada.. 

Well, my friends, I am now in possession of incontrovertible proof that space aliens do indeed exist and what is more they have been reading this blog!

As I have said before, I will occasionally check out background statistics for "Yorkshire Pudding" compiled by those friendly folk at Blogger HQ. I can see where this blog's visitors hail from. Last month this is what I found at the bottom of my viewing chart:-
154 visits from France, 149 from Vietnam and there at the bottom - spookiest of all - 144 visits from something conveniently labelled "Unknown Region". That means outer space! What else could it possibly mean? The aliens are tuning in here and so I have a special message for them...
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Dear Friends from The Unknown Region,

I am speaking to you on behalf of all Earthlings in a spirit of friendship and intergalactic understanding. Thank you so much for visiting this humble earthly blog.

Ours is a lovely green planet with sparkling blue oceans. We have mountains and deserts and great forests. We share this wonderful place with a myriad of marvellous creatures from tiny microbes, krill and spiders to blue whales and elephants. Unfortunately, in spite of our progress, the human race seems to be spiralling out of control. The rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer.

We are doing our level best to spoil or destroy what we have got.  There are far, far too many of us. The population of Earth in 1018 was 300 million. Now a thousand years later it is well over seven billion! I am sure you will understand that this huge increase has had a massive impact upon the state of our planet. It is clear that we are losing our grip on things while our narcissistic leaders lack guts or wisdom or both.

If you decide to visit us here, please do not come with animosity or an urge to conquer. Come with goodwill and intelligence and help us to make this world a better place. Show us how we can heal the wounds that we have made and guide us so that we can truly learn the errors of our ways to make a better world for all who might follow us.

Peace and Love,
Yorkshire Pudding

20 November 2018

Poem

Whitby

We’ll sing a song of Whitby town
And the years that have flown by
Waves pounding on the harbour walls
And the guillemot’s sad cry
Of nights we supped
In the old "Board Inn"
As North Sea winds blew hard
Then rolling home in the dark midnight
To rooms up Miller’s Yard.

We’ll sing a song of Caedmon
Just a cowherd so they say
Who charmed the monks and Hilda - she
Who drove the snakes away.
Of days we mended
Broken nets
As we gossiped on the quay
And gulls flew out to fishing boats
Returning from the sea.

We’ll sing a song of poor James Cook
And his ships all Whitby-made
From oaks that grew down by the Esk
May our memories never fade
Of the bold "Endeavour"
That sailed
Oceans unexplored
Red duster flapping from her mast
And Whitby lads onboard.

Yes, we’ll sing a song of Whitby town
And the people that we knew
That plied their trades and earned a crust
Down the alleys where they grew.
Just like the mighty harbour walls
That keep the town secure
With Viking blood
From Yorkshire roots
Their spirit shall endure.

19 November 2018

18 November 2018

Whitby

Whitby Abbey
Whitby is a special place. In my estimation. there is nowhere quite like it upon this planet. Home to some 14,000 residents, Whitby sits on the North Yorkshire coast at the mouth of the River Esk. 

Standing atop the eastern headland there are the evocative ruins of Whitby Abbey. It was founded in the year 657 and became the most significant monastic centre in northern England. It accommodated both monks and nuns and the first abbess was St Hilda. She is associated with Caedmon - an illiterate cowherd - who miraculously received the gift of language and became a renowned Anglo Saxon poet. Along with Viking raids, the Synod of Whitby, Norman influence and Henry VIII's dissolution there is very much more that might be said about Whitby Abbey.
The section of coast upon  which Whitby stands is sometimes known as Yorkshire's Jurassic coast. Many large fossils of prehistoric sea creatures have been found in the cliffs along with many thousands of ammonites. In addition, it is one of the best places in the world for finding the semi-precious black gemstone known as jet. In the town there are several jet workshops and jewellers. Jet is essentially the compressed and fossilised remnant of monkey puzzle forests that thrived almost 200 million years ago. In her mourning for Prince Albert, Queen Victoria wore many items of Whitby jet jewellery.
Statue of Captain Cook in Whitby
Though Captain James Cook was not a native of Whitby, he came to the town as a boy and learnt to be a mariner - sailing on merchant ships around the British coast and across the North Sea to Germany and the Baltic. When he finally joined the Royal Navy, his career rose meteorically and he led famous eighteenth century voyages of exploration to  Canada, Tierra del Fuego, New Zealand and Australia before meeting his unhappy end in The Hawaiian Islands in 1779. Interestingly, his most famous ships - including The Endeavour were all built in Whitby..
Whitby is also associated with the Irish writer Bram Stoker who stayed in the town in 1890. Its legends and its townscape are said to have inspired the writing of his famous novel "Dracula" which in turn spawned a whole horror industry. Linked to this, Whitby now has annual "Goth" festivals when black-clad weirdos arrive from all over the country and beyond to dabble in their black arts and eat chips on the harbourside.

Each summer Whitby hosts one of England's foremost festivals of folk music. Every available room is booked, campsites are filled and the town's many pubs throb to the sounds of sea shanties, laments, songs by Bob Dylan and self-penned ditties about love and loss as guitars are strummed and Northumberland pipes are squeezed.
Cormorants
Arguably, the very best fish and chips in the land are served in Whitby. Down at the harbourside there's the famous Magpie Cafe where Shirley and I had dinner on Thursday evening. On previous visits I have never made it into The Magpie because of long queues but there are several other great fish and chip eateries in the town.

There's so much more to be said about Whitby - from its whaling history to its artists, its seabirds and its salmon, from Charles Dickens to Theresa Tomlinson, from its storms bursting upon the harbour entrance to its legendary 199 steps... but I must not go on and on.

On Thursday night we fell into conversation with a smoker outside "The Duke of York" pub. He said, "It's not a place for religious folk you know. Whitby ends with -by. That means it's Viking not Christian." On the headland just above us the ancient abbey ruins prepared to endure another winter, another millennium. I don't believe that St Hilda or Caedmon would have agreed with him but then again my surname ends with -by so I am naturally drawn to that Viking theory.

17 November 2018

Thwack!

Let us imagine this scenario. 

I am on holiday in Miami Beach. After a long flight from England, I cannot sleep so I am up early with the sunrise. Down on the beach I see a flabby lone figure jogging slowly towards me -  huffing and panting like a wildebeest after a stampede.

I notice that he is wearing an elasticated red headband and that his hair is the colour of the morning sun glistening on the waves. As he gets closer, my lower jaw sags in disbelief. It can't be can it? But it is! It's Donald J. Trump - the forty fifth president of the USA.

Without any preliminary conversation or further ado, I challenge Trump to a fist fight on behalf of righteous people everywhere. With a "Thwack!" and an "Uggh!" and a "Crrrrunch!", it isn't long before I have Trump at my mercy. Pathetically, he is whining, "Please. No. I'm sorry!" but I show no mercy. My right arm circles like a windmill sail in a gale and I make one final almighty connection with Trump's chin.

He collapses like a sack of turnips onto the Miami sand, his skull connecting sickeningly with a big beach stone. In alarm, I slap Trump's podgy cheeks. They quiver but there is no response from The Leader of the Free World. His heavy breathing has ceased and in terrible fear. I realise that I have in effect assassinated him. It was not what I was expecting from a sunshine holiday in  Florida. Hell, I suddenly realise, I will go down in history like Lee Harvey Oswald or John Wilkes Booth. I so much wanted to be a poet - not an assassin!

What can I do? The secret service guys who had been trailing Trump are already sprinting up the beach towards me. I run away and cower in a nearby parking lot. Now I am the one huffing and puffing like an exhausted wildebeest. And this is where the cops find me a few minutes later.

I raise my hands to the sky and plead "Don't Shoot!"

Months pass by as I languish in Florida State Penitentiary at Raiford near Jacksonville. Then one day the prison governor comes to my cell and tells me that I will be executed at the end of the week. President Pence has rejected all claims for clemency. "The sentence must be enacted! God's will must be done!" he announces in an interview with Fox News.

The governor, who is a kindly man,  says that I can have any meal I choose the night before my electrocution and without hesitation I say, "A large battered cod, chips, mushy peas, a pot of tea and a slice of bread and butter from The Magpie Cafe in Whitby, Yorkshire!"

"It will be arranged," smiles Governor Scott patting my shoulder.
Dinner in the legendary Magpie Cafe, Whitby on Thursday evening
___________________________________________________

What would you choose for your very last meal?

15 November 2018

Bothamsall

Shirley and I are going to Whitby today - just a one night stay. It is a special little seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast but I will probably say more about it in another post.

In the meantime, I just wanted to leave a few words about Tuesday's walking expedition south east of Worksop in Nottinghamshire. 

I parked in the village of Bothamsall and enjoyed a lovely eight mile circular walk that also took in the larger village of Walesby and involved crossing or walking beside two little rivers - the Meden and the Maun. 
Perhaps the highlight of this ramble was the detour I  made to see what remains of a remote twelfth century ecclesiastical building called Haughton Chapel. It fell into disuse long ago and was happily crumbling away into nothingness until efforts were made within the last twelve months to halt its demise and to treasure it once again.

Some stonework has been repaired and there's clear evidence of cement pointing. There's also a brand new fence. In one corner of the old churchyard there's a little monument erected by The Royal Canadian Air Force in memory of the twelve young men who died aboard two World War Two bombers that crashed nearby in 1943 and 1944 respectively. So tragic...

14 November 2018

Card

Above you can see my design for a Christmas card. Specifically it is for my daughter's company. She asked me to make it a couple of weeks ago - including cartoons of all twenty seven employees.

That was quite a challenge I can tell you! In a sketch book, I made dozens of practice pen portraits. I had the idea of presenting the twenty seven like a football squad. There's Steve in the middle. He is the entrepreneurial boss. And there's our Frances on the front row in her black and amber Hull City strip.

She joined SourceBreaker just over two years ago and at that time she was the fifth member of staff.

The business is thriving. They occupy office accommodation  halfway up The Shard in London. As I understand it their main raison-d'etre is the creation and delivery of software that assists in the processes of recruitment - making it easier to connect businesses with the right new recruits. Please don't ask me any more! All I know is that Steve's idea has gone from strength to strength.

To create the funny faces, all I had to work with was a single photo of each member of staff but I was very motivated to do a good job. After all many other people will be seeing it because four hundred copies will shortly be printed to send off to clients. Though I say it myself, I am rather pleased with how it turned out.

13 November 2018

Installation

Situated halfway up our garden there is now a new art installation. I know that its title is rather wacky but we call it "Apples in a Wheelbarrow". It partly represents the fruitfulness of the earth. I collected all the the apples myself . They had fallen from our trees. In fact, I collected three full wheelbarrows.

After filling several jars with apple sauce, giving bags of apples away to neighbours and baking apple pies and apple crumble, we still had a mountain of apples to deal with. What was to  be done with them?

Then one day - as I was sitting on the toilet contemplating the meaning of life - I had a sudden flash of inspiration. Art! I visualised a wheelbarrow with apples piled up within it and that very afternoon I set about my task like Damien Hirst creating "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" back in 1991. But instead of a tiger shark, an aquarium and a vat of formaldehyde I had a wheelbarrow and a glut of apples. Small difference. Artists have to work with what they have got.

Though the new installation pays homage to autumn's fruitfulness, it also suggests decay. Within the pile, I deliberately included a number of very bruised apples that are already deteriorating - going mushy and brown like the soil from whence they came. 

12 November 2018

Solo

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Thousands of citizens descended on Barker's Pool in Sheffield city centre yesterday morning. We were there to commemorate the fallen heroes of World War One - a hundred years after that terrible conflict ended.

The sombre service proceeded and we reached a point where everyone was meant to sing the eighteenth century hymn by Isaac Watts - "O God Our Help in Ages Past...". The brass band played the intro and then bam - it was time to raise our voices and so I did. The only trouble was that nobody else in my section of the crowd was singing. Unexpectedly and slightly embarrassingly I was in effect singing a solo!
The woman next to me had a programme and it was open to show the nine verses of the hymn. I had begun so I couldn't just finish. I had to keep going and so I sang those nine verses at full volume thinking only of those who died in World War One. I was singing in their honour. At times my voice was tremulous with emotion.

When the service was over and the marchers had gone from the square, I felt a hand on my shoulder. A man who was a stranger to me said, "I just want to say thank you for singing that hymn so beautifully. I was really moved. I was standing just behind you. Thank you."

And I said, "I thought everyone was going to join in. Thank you for your kind words..."
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

11 November 2018

Remembrance


"There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance..."

- William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
_____________________________________________________________

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

- Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

10 November 2018

Brexshit

I considered a different illustration for this little blogpost but remembered that some visitors like to eat while they are wandering through the blogosphere. Because of the presence of electricity, barfing on one's keyboard can be injurious to health.

For the past three years, British newspapers have been filled with Brexshit tales. Brexshit this and Brexshit that. Most of us are heartily sick of it.

Half the British public were led up the garden path by those who advocated Brexshit. Increasingly, the pledges and promises that were made appear to be nothing more than fool's gold. Of course many people voted for Brexshit simply to cock a snook at David Cameron and the British establishment and undeniably - just as in the last American presidential race - there was shady Russian involvement

Some Brexshit voters were amazingly naive - such as one of Shirley's uncles who has since passed away. Back in 2016 I asked him why he had voted for Brexshit and he spoke of our country's independent spirit and how we had "won two world wars", claiming that we "don't need anybody else". As I say, he has since died - along with a million other retired Brexshit voters. In the meantime ,a million young people have now reached voting age.

Our beloved prime minister The Right Honourable Theresa May voted to remain in the European Union back in 2016. Her heart isn't really in it and the kind of Brexshit she plans to serve up is nothing more than a dog's breakfast of compromise, delay, tariffs and half-promises. It is an utter and complete mess and like many other British patriots I am very worried about what this will all mean for our nation's economic future. It appears like self-harming on a giant scale. 

It's time to take stock - a reality check - but May and her mob seem determined to leap off the cliff - arguing that this is what the British people voted for. That is a patent lie. We need to stop the crazy Brekxshit before it's too late. We are part of Europe and we can never completely sever our ties with the European Union.

I am reminded of the last lines of "Hotel California" by The Eagles:-

"Relax," said the night man 
"We are programmed to receive 
You can check-out any time you like
But you can never leave!"

Ahh! Saturday morning rant over. That feels better.

9 November 2018

Drat!

"Drat!" is a very mild expletive that I sometimes use when things go wrong. I guess it's better than using more earthy Anglo Saxon expletives that could easily cause offence to those of a sensitive or prudish disposition.

There were a few "drats" yesterday when I went out for another circular ramble in the nearby Peak District. 

As some of you will have deduced from the many photographs I have taken on my multitudinous country walks, I am very much a fair weather plodder. I don't mind snow or ice but I need to see blue sky and sunshine to illuminate my pictures. This is why I keep a close eye on the local weather forecast.

However, yesterday the weather people got it wrong. Instead of sunshine broken by occasional clouds, there was a grey blanket overhead - like a big grey quilt smothering the earth and sucking colour and shadow from the world around me.

I abandoned Clint by the roadside in the village of Calver. He was not too unhappy as there was a foxy yellow Mini in front of him. "Haven't you gone yet?" he hissed as I slammed his tailgate shut and set off with left boot following right boot over and over again like a drumbeat.

I had taken the precaution of bringing  my oversized blue cagoule with me - the perfect item of outdoor clothing for making a memorable fashion statement.. However, in spite of occasional bouts of thin drizzle, I managed to avoid taking said item from my "Converse" rucksack.

Through woods and across fields, over stiles and along narrow Bramley Lane with not a single vehicle passing by. Then over the Bakewell road and up an ancient track to the moors above Calver and Stoney Middleton where hummocks and holes and random historical clues speak of the days when this plateau was exploited by lead miners and quarrymen.

It was pretty frustrating to be out in that grey day knowing that beams of sunshine would have created so many photogenic scenes for me to capture with my Sony bridge camera.
By an old gateway I noticed a squared block of limestone sitting on a rough plinth and  embedded in its top surface there was an old iron plaque with two words engraved - "Ruby's Chair". Who Ruby was and why she needed a "chair" like this I have no idea. Internet research has proved fruitless. I guess that on a sunny day the views from Ruby's Chair would be most splendid but as I say, yesterday was not a sunny day.

From Black Harry Gate, I marched two miles down the valley of Rough Side that merges with Coombs Dale and before too long I was crossing the A623 road and plodding back to Sir Clint of Calver. 

Near the traffic lights there is a coffee shop called "Insomnia" and after stepping inside,  I treated myself to a large latte and a ploughman's sandwich which I enjoyed while seated at a corner table. Simultaneously, I  consumed another chapter of the book I am currently reading before heading home once again. This is life on the wild side - close to the edge. Well, Longstone Edge maybe.
Another horny sheep baring her teeth at me

8 November 2018

Knives

Samuel Baker (15) stabbed to death in the Low Edges 
area  of Sheffield on May 24th this year. His 
killer was another fifteen year old boy.
Sheffield is famous for knives. Even today, some of the best knives in the world are made here 

However, in recent months, knives have been hitting the local headlines for a very different reason. Knife crime is on the rise in some neighbourhoods and this has resulted in several deaths and stabbing injuries. It is very concerning.

It's the same in London - but on a bigger scale. This year 115 people have been stabbed to death in the capital. The victims are nearly all young men of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Frequently, gang issues related to territory, drugs and/or grudges are at the heart of these horrible attacks but sometimes innocent passers-by  have been targeted and there have been several cases of mistaken identity.

Thank God it's very hard for people to get hold of guns in this country. There seems to  be a lot of anger out there - amongst young men with little status and limited prospect of making something of their lives through honest endeavour. They often come from broken, chaotic homes and no doubt enjoy films that include violence and killing. The same with computer games.

Something is amiss. It is too easy to focus in on the perpetrators of knife crime. Society and government should be looking closely at how our young people are schooled. We should be looking at youth services and pathways to work and we should be looking at policing and the alleviation of poverty. Several factors underlie the rise in knife crime and if they are not addressed as a matter of urgency  the problem will only grow bigger and many more young men will die.

What can be done? What do you think? ...Rest in peace Samuel Baker.