31 December 2018

AWARDS

Well, my friends, the time has come
Raise the roof and have some fun
Throw away the work to be done
Let the music play on
Everybody sing, everybody dance
Lose yourself in wild romance, we going to
Parti', karamu', fiesta, forever
Come on and sing along
We're going to parti', karamu', fiesta, forever
Come on and sing along

All night long (all night), all night (all night)
All night long (all night), all night (all night)
All night long (all night), all night (all night)
All night long (all night), ooh yeah (all night)

Down at our local pub, the party is indeed still going on in the upstairs room. I slipped away quietly having imbibed far too many foaming quarts of English ale. 

"The Banner Cross Hotel" was the secret location for the tenth annual Laughing Horse Blogging Awards and I must report that the place was packed. Lady bloggers and blog observers were dressed in their most sparkly gladrags, dancing in clouds of  Christmas gift perfume while the gentlemen wore sober evening suits - apart from blogging  legend John Gray who had arrived as Captain Jack Sparrow - mistakenly believing that this was a fancy dress event.

We enjoyed a fine Yorkshire buffet. Indeed the pub's trestle tables groaned under the weight of the celebratory fayre. A giant steak pie had been prepared by the "Banner Crust" bakery and there were cauldrons of minted mushy peas and rich onion gravy. Homemade scotch eggs were meticulously piled up like a pyramid and there were flaky sausage rolls, generous slices of pork pie, Whitby cod fish fingers and individual rhubarb puddings with fresh creme anglais (i.e. custard).

It was good to meet up with bloggers and blog visitors old and new. Sitting at a keyboard creating blogposts, it is sometimes easy to forget that the people we meet through blogging are real. They breathe, they walk around. They exist.

I danced with Meike Riley for ages. How that girl can shimmy! Then Jennifer Barlow tapped Meike on the shoulder and we in turn danced to "Oops!...I Did it Again" by Britney Spears before her shoulder was similarly tapped by Sue from Lincolnshire. What number did we dance to? Oh yes - it was "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie. See above. I was exhausted and when regular blog visitor Bonnie tried to pull me to my feet I was obliged to decline. 

On the little stage, Red the Canadian sound man was having trouble overcoming feedback problems but finally he got the mike working properly. Nervously, I mounted the stage and asked the disc jockey - Lee "Tamborine"George from Queensland to cut the music. "Okay Yorkie! Your wish is my command!"  It was time to announce the Laughing Horse Blog Award Winners for 2018.

"Get on with it!" yelled Steve Reed who had consumed far too many martinis and had just raced up north in a black cab from Heathrow following his recent Florida drug run.

"Yeah! Get on with it! LOL!" commanded a giggly Briony from Brighton who had a peacock feather fascinator on her bonce. Talk about dog's dinners!

I began, "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I would simply like to welcome you here this evening. The Laughing Horse Awards Committee have instructed me to thank you one and all for your services to blogging but as you know, tonight is all about winners. We have five sub-awards to announce before the name of the overall Blogger of the Year is revealed..."

A buzz of anticipation surged around the room like an electric current.
___________________________________________________
These were the five sub-awards:-
CANADIAN BLOGGER OF THE YEAR
This deserved award goes to Jenny O in Nova Scotia, Canada for "Procrastinating Donkey". Jenny's "Poetry Monday" feature is a nice post to look forward to each week. In general, her blog is upbeat and cheerful and she is also in the habit of leaving interested and supportive comments on other people's blogs. Though her style is honest and true, she prefers to retain an air of anonymity - Jenny O is not her real name. However, Canadians everywhere should rejoice! One of your own has been officially recognised. Congratulations Jenny O!



LONG SERVICE AWARD
This equally deserved award goes to Robert Brague in Canton, Georgia USA for "Rhymes With Plague". Like an old steam train, this blog has been puffing along for eleven years. Bob brings us news of his family, musical reflections and intellectual forays into the mysterious worlds of science and mathematics. He poses many questions and declares in his sidebar that he is "exceedingly handsome, intelligent and thorough".  At 77 years of age, Bob proves that it is both possible and desirable to remain inquisitive even as we enter old age.


BEST BLOG FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
Those of us who have travelled with Jennifer Barlow on her blogging journey have seen her blossom in the past year after at last securing a new job that she really enjoys and more recently a home of her own. Jennifer's blog is called "Sparrow Tree Journal" and characters that figure in it are her husband - The Fish Guy and their dogs George and Ginger. The boss of the house is a parrot called Marco. Jennifer is not a Trump supporter but she is very supportive of  other bloggers that she has attached to. Keep up the good blogging work Jennifer!



LONDON BLOGGER OF THE YEAR
Named "Blogger of the Year" in 2016, Steve Reed in West Hampstead, London continues to impress the judging panel with his erudite and well illustrated blog - "Shadows and Light". His photographs are  often quirky for Steve notices things that most of us would tend to overlook. He must consume plenty of fibre because his blogposts are very regular. It is rare for him to miss a single day. Many of his loyal visitors admire his relationship with his happy, squirrel-crazy dog - Olga. Meantime Dave, Steve's music teacher husband, lurks in the background. 
BLOGGING THROUGH ADVERSITY AWARD 
Is there a more popular blogger in the blogosphere that Mr John Gray from North Wales? He wears his heart on his sleeve and over the last twelve years  his ongoing tale of life's ups and downs has engaged hundreds, nay thousands of visitors  from across the world. However, this year we were all shocked and saddened to learn about his marriage ending and we felt some of John's pain. Yet, he kept going with "Going Gently" - publishing posts regularly and putting on a brave face even when his heart was breaking. That is why Laughing Horse have again acknowledged his services to blogging. Incidentally, he was the overall blogger of the year back in 2010.
_________________________________________________________

OVERALL BLOGGER OF 
THE YEAR FOR 2018
Unfortunately, Mary Moon - author of "Bless our Hearts" was not present in "The Banner Cross Hotel" to receive her prestigious award. She is currently on holiday in Mexico with her husband. The judging panel felt that Mary's blog represents the best in blogging. It is a platform upon which she reveals true tales from her generally happy life in Lloyd, North Florida. Mary has passions and opinions and she is not afraid to reveal them. She has a special way with words. Underpinning it all is her family life, including her grandchildren with whom she is utterly besotted. Mary is not afraid to touch upon her insecurities as well as her strengths. She is both humane and human and in the opinion of the Laughing Horse team, she is living the true American dream - warm and earthy and real - not the plastic fantasy  one that  is often fallaciously suggested in films, glossy magazines and trashy novels. Congratulations Mary Moon!
As you can see The Blogger of The Year - Ms Mary Moon
was overwhelmed with unbridled joy when she received her
award from Lionel Richie who is also currently holidaying 
in Cozumel, Mexico.

30 December 2018

Reportage

Stanedge Lodge - the highest  property within Sheffield's city boundaries
 It is easy to lose track of time during the Christmas period. A common question is - what day is it today? Yesterday was December 29th.

Amongst other things, I drove up to Redmires Reservoirs before hoofing my way up to Stanedge Pole and then onward to Stanage Edge. It was a bright, breezy day with  various other walkers around. I made a point of smiling and saying "Hello" to everybody I passed. This greeting wasn't always reciprocated. Perhaps they thought I was an escaped convict.

When I got back to Clint, I read my current book in peace and after completing another engaging chapter I turned on Radio Humberside just before Jarrod Bowen scored Hull City's opening goal against league leaders - Leeds United. In the end we won by two goals to nil away from home. Bloody marvellous!
Stanage Edge yesterday afternoon
In the early evening, I nipped into the city centre to snap some Christmassy pictures and later we took Ian to an Indian restaurant in the suburb of Woodseats. We hadn't been to the "Kasmmiri Aroma" in ages which is strange because the curry fayre was excellent. It felt as if some genuine love had been put into the cooking and the portions were generous. The service was also pleasingly polite and efficient.

So that was yesterday. Today I am feeling rather stressed out ahead of tomorrow's Laughing Horse Blogging Awards - especially as Google HQ have removed some of the anticipated funding. Still, as entertainers will often say - the show must go on!
Christmas in Sheffield city centre

29 December 2018

Flasher

I often visit the website of "The Hull Daily Mail" - mostly to get the latest news on my lifelong football team - Hull City A.F.C.. However, I will also sometimes take note of local news.

It seems that on Boxing Day night a group of young women who share a house in West Hull were traumatised by a flasher. 

One of the women said: “My housemates were walking back because we live down a terrace and as they were walking down they noticed a man stood in the corner with penis in his hands.We were walking back from the car and he was just stood in a dark corner holding his penis. I didn’t want to look because he was scaring me but I saw him in the corner of my eye.”

Later the same fellow "leered" at them through their porch window before running off.

Now I do not wish to make light of flashing. I can understand how being the target of a flasher would be extremely upsetting for anyone but please look at the e-fit at the top of this post. I kid you not - this was the genuine image put out by the police in their appeal for information about the flasher. It has clearly been created on a tablet computer.

Of this image the women say - and I quote -  "it bears an uncanny likeness to the man who exposed himself".

A police spokesman said, "“He’s been described as white, stocky, with dark brown or black, gelled hair. He was wearing a blue ‘Berghaus’ jacket, dark jeans and glasses.” 

They neglected to mention that he has the head of a cartoon character drawn by a seven year old. Thankfully, there are no e-fit pictures of the offending penis.

28 December 2018

Tenth

Is it really ten years since Blogger - an arm of the Google empire - invited me to launch the world's most prestigious blogging awards?  But the archives do not lie my friends. The Laughing Horse Blog Awards really are ten years old as this happy year draws to a close.

All sub-awards are naturally cherished by recipients but the greatest joy and pride is always experienced by the overall Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year. Just to remind visitors old and new, here's a list of past winners. Cue orchestral music:-

ROLL OF HONOUR

2008 – Arthur Clewley for “Arthur Clewley”

2009 – Daphne Franks for “My Dad’s a Communist”

2010 – John Gray for “Going Gently”

2011 – Ian Rhodes for “Shooting Parrots”

2012 – Kate Steeds for "The Last Visible Dog"

2013 – Tom Gowans for “A Hippo on the Lawn”

2014 – Meike Riley for “From My Mental Library”

2015 – Lee George for “Kitchen Connection”

2016 – Steve Reed for “Shadows and Light”

2017 - Keith Kline for "Hiawatha House"

Every year The Awards Committee commission a special Laughing Horse widget from an up and coming designer. This year that honour was embraced by none other than Rufus de Pudin who said, "I wanted to create something special to mark the tenth anniversary of these famous awards. The design idea came to me in a dream."

Revealed for the first time, here's Rufus's special widget design for 2018:-
But who will be the overall winner? You will have to wait till Monday to find out.

27 December 2018

Afterwards

We played "Articulate" in the evening of Christmas Day.
SHIRLEY Capital of Poland
ME Warsaw
SHIRLEY No. Another city.
ME Gdansk... Katowice...Krakow...Lodz...Wroclaw...
SHIRLEY No. No. Where stag parties and hen parties go.
ME Oh. You mean Prague?
SHIRLEY Yes.

"Articulate" is a pretty good board game though it could lead to family rifts. Frances and Stew bought me it for Christmas. Even when I was carefully reading the rules out before we started, Mrs Pudding was grumbling, "Come on get on with it" and she was on my team!

Having an influential vegan in the house on Christmas Day has its downsides. For example - no knobs of butter on the vegetables or in the chestnut stuffing and rather than having simple sweet brussel sprouts they had to be sliced in two and tossed in red onion and soy sauce. Mmm... sometimes it is best to keep schtum. Ian had shredded jackfruit in place of roast turkey. It certainly has the texture of  poultry.
Ian's vegan Christmas dinner with jackfruit north west
My toothache has not disappeared. It is still there but  like a whipped dog that has been sent to his kennel, it has remained still grumbling but in abeyance. My dentist does not reopen until January 2nd though I could access the NHS emergency service if the dog comes out of its kennel again. Thanks to blog visitors who showed kind concern and an upright finger to those who didn't!

Frances and Stew headed down to London on Boxing Day morning to be with Stew's extended family for the last part of the festive season. However, his brother won't be there. He lives on a little island south of New Guinea. It's called Australia. Stew had a special Skype call with his brother on Christmas Eve and learnt that his sister-in-law is at last pregnant! Whoopee!

Ian caught a very early train down to Bristol this morning to spend thirty six hours with a Bristolian woman called Jo before she heads off to South East Asia. He seems to be sweet on her. They met a month ago when her Asian trip was already planned and paid for. Ian has even bought her mother a Christmas gift. 

So that's it. Christmas is over for another year. The three wise men have headed back to the east and the devastated carcasses of  two or three million turkeys sit under aluminium foil in kitchens throughout the land. What is there left to look forward to?

THE LAUGHING HORSE BLOG AWARDS!
To be announced on New Year's Eve.

26 December 2018

Sauntering

Reflections in the old mill pond in Hood Brook valley
Christmas Eve afternoon saw me walking in the nearby countryside. It was a lovely blue sky day with cloud hanging in the valleys. At this time of year, night-time arrives far too soon upon the island of Britain. It is another reason why I would vote to scrap our bi-annual clock changing rigmarole... if we had a referendum! Mmm... maybe not.

As I have not been feeling in top form, I did not wish to drive Clint too far and I didn't want a marathon walk - just three or four country miles in familiar territory.
The tiny hamlet of Green House - just three houses
Back in November 2015, I blogged about a ruinous chapel on the North Lees estate. It sits in splendid isolation in the shadow of Stanage Edge and is rarely visited. For my own part,  it was hard to believe that over three years had passed since my last visit. See the old blogpost here.

It's funny how light and shadow can fundamentally change the appearance of subjects we choose to photograph. Characteristically, my preferred illumination is bright sunshine beaming from behind me - bringing out colour with sharp definition.

On Christmas Eve as I approached the ruin of Holy Trinity Chapel, sunshine from the south west was bathing it in light quite perfectly:-
But when I left the ruin, I looked back, noticing different layers of mist under the watchful eye of the telecommunications mast on Sir William Hill. Now the sun was in front of me but I suspect you will agree that the resultant image is much more successful than the first one:-
On I wandered, braving the stepping stones across a swollen Hood Brook. Close by, a short distance from the path I discovered the remains of an old mill that does not seem to feature in Ordnance Survey maps. In the now redundant mill pond December reflections were pin sharp.

I carried on via Green House and Outlane - two tiny hamlets that hardly merit names before heading up to Ridgeway Side. From there I gathered another image of the view across The Hope Valley to the same telecommunications mast as before. Hope Valley? I love that name. Let's hope that Britain and the world at large find more hope in the valleys of 2019 for it seems to me that for large parts of 2018 we were lost in Hopeless Valley with unqualified guides:-

25 December 2018

Felicitations

The wreath on our front door
Shirley made it from scratch
Frances and Ian are back home for Christmas along with Frances's fiancee Stew. Last evening we had a big takeaway curry meal from "Takdir" - vegetable rice, onion bhajis, chapattis, chicken dopiaza, lamb methi, vegetable balti and channa bhaji (chick peas). It was a  delicious Christmas Eve feast which we all enjoyed. For Indian takeaways you really cannot beat "Takdir".

Shirley and I did not go out afterwards. To tell you the truth I have been feeling a little unwell these past few days and amongst other things, intermittent toothache has begun. I knew I should have made a dental appointment before Christmas. Silly me! You would have thought I'd know by now that toothache doesn't just heal itself.

It's Christmas Day now. Frances, Stew and Shirley have just driven off to Tideswell for the morning service. Ian is still in bed after carousing home later than one in the morning having spent most of Christmas Eve with old Sheffield friends he rarely sees these days.

I have got to peel the potatoes and prepare the brussel sprouts but before I go, here's a short poem I posted on Jenny's "Procrastinating Donkey" blog just yesterday - for Christmas is not just a time for joy and feasting, it is also a time for remembering those no longer with us and all the other Christmases we have known through the years:-
__________________________________________________________

THAT TIME OF YEAR

Echoes backwash through the years
And soon our eyes are filled with tears
For those we won’t see any more
Who said farewell and closed the door
And we shall also up and go
Our footsteps printed in the snow
Gleaming baubles on the tree
Remind us of what used to be
Beyond the sounds of Christmas cheer
I guess it’s just that time of year.

24 December 2018

Another

Yesterday's designer Christmas card was, I hope you will agree, unique. If you haven't printed it off yet, I am pleased to tell you that it's not too late to do so. It is guaranteed to impress family members and unexpected visitors.

Ever vigilant Meike - the creator of "From My Mental Library" - advised me that I suggested similar money-saving Christmas card print offs in both 2016 and 2017. It's good that she keeps a close eye upon me and even better that she has an excellent memory. I would be lost without her. Thank you Meike!

In 2016 and 2017 I shared my Xmas e-card designs. This is  something I send to people who have not made our physical Christmas card list - distant cousins, former work colleagues, old friends from long ago.

I look through my vast library of photographs and pick one that I think the e-mail recipients might like. This year, rather than picking a traditional snowy image, I chose a picture of an arctic hare that I snapped one hot summer's day upon the moors between Sheffield and Manchester.

The hare had not noticed me. He was staring into the distance as if briefly mesmerised by the honeycomb warmth of that beautiful June day. Standing stock still I was able to capture six or seven images of him or was the hare a her? I'm not good at determining the sex of hares from a distance.

I posted about that day here. And below there's the e-card design that I sent out this Christmas. A happy summer moment in mid-winter:-

23 December 2018

Card

As I am now a state pensioner, I have to watch every penny. Consequently, I could not afford to send Christmas cards to all Yorkshire Pudding visitors. However, I had a brainwave. That idea has now come to fruition.

It occurred to me that I could design a Christmas card, present the design in a blogpost then ask visitors to copy that design, paste it on to an A4 page and then print that design via their home printers. Then voila! Visitors would have their own Yorkshire Pudding cards to place on their mantelpieces.

Hence, fair and fellow citizens of the blogosphere, you are cordially invited to print off your own Yorkshire Pudding cards - free of charge!

Front:-

Inside:- 

22 December 2018

Snowpeople

Snow-woman
Brother Robin who lives in France often forwards "funnies" to me. I am sure you know the kind of thing. They do the rounds via e-mail. 

This morning he sent me a "funny" that had a special resonance because last month a BBC Children's TV presenter sparked a minor media storm by referring to snowmen as "snow people" - as if somehow the term "snowman" was laced with historic misogyny, stinking of political incorrectness.

8:00 - I made a snowman.
8:10 - A feminist passed by and asked me why I didn't make a snow woman.
8:15 - So, I made a snow woman.
8:17 - My feminist neighbor complained about the snow woman's voluptuous chest saying it objectified snow women everywhere.
8:20 - The gay couple living nearby threw a hissy fit and moaned it could have been two snow men instead.
8:22 - The transgender man..woman...person asked why I didn't just make one snow person with detachable parts.
8:25 - The vegans at the end of the lane complained about the carrot nose, as veggies are food and not to decorate snow figures with.
8:28 - I am being called a racist because the snow couple is white.
8:31 - The Muslim gent across the road demands the snow woman wear a burqa.
8:40 - The Police arrive saying someone has been offended.
8:42 - The feminist neighbor complained again that the broomstick of the snow woman needs to be removed because it depicted women in a domestic role.
8:43 - The council equality officer arrived and threatened me with eviction.
8:45 - TV news crew from the ABC shows up. I am asked if I know the difference between snowmen and snow-women? I reply, "Snowballs" and am now called a sexist.
9:00 - I'm on the News as a suspected terrorist, racist, homophobic, sensibility offender, bent on stirring up trouble during difficult weather.
9:10 - I am asked if I have any accomplices. My children are taken by social services.
9:29 - Far left protesters offended by everything are marching down the street demanding for me to be beheaded.

21 December 2018

Shaista

I must get my skates on in a minute. However, I have still got time to send a shout out for a certain hair and beauty salon in the suburbs of Birmingham. If you were going to name a hair and beauty salon you might come up with an exotic name or a name filled with hope and promise. You know the kind of thing - "Orchid Hair and Beauty", "Hair Rooms", "The Beauty Lounge" etcetera. But the owner of the Birmingham salon chose this:-

20 December 2018

Funerals

Woodlands Crematorium, Scunthorpe
We have attended two funerals this week.

First came Auntie Joyce's funeral over at Scunthorpe - an hour's drive away. It was well-attended and the ceremony was presided over by a humanist celebrant. The only nod to religion was the inclusion of "The Lord's Prayer" which attendees could say if they wanted to but as usual I declined.

A nice thing about eulogies at funerals is that you often learn details about the departed that you never knew before. I learnt about Auntie Joyce's tough early days - growing up in a coal mining community near Doncaster. Previously, I  assumed that she had been born and raised west of the River Trent like Shirley's parents and extended family - in an agricultural landscape known as The Isle of Axholme.

The second funeral happened on Tuesday morning. It was held in the Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium in Sheffield and it's another farewell facility I have visited a dozen times or more. This time we were saying goodbye to Geoff. He had collapsed and died at home in his eighty fifth year. He was a lovely man.

He was a man who listened and he had a positive, upbeat attitude to life. His son Steve ran away from his first marriage when his three children were very small. We know Steve's first wife very well and it was a great challenge for her when unexpectedly she found herself the head of a one parent family. But though Geoff was her father-in-law and not her father he stood by them all and was very active in the lives of his grandkids - becoming the number one male role model in their lives.

It is partly testament to him that all three have grown up to be  delightful and successful adults. The lads helped to bear Geoff's coffin into the chapel while the daughter read a funeral poem very fluently until the very last line when she cracked up and blubbered to a halt. She is our daughter's best friend.

One day I guess there will be a funeral for me. There will probably only be three or four people and a stray dog there such is the impact I have made upon this world. I would like the humanist celebrant in attendance to say, "He was born, he lived and then he died. That's all folks!"

Though I am not religious, I have sometimes thought that I might like to be buried in the abandoned graveyard of St Faith's Church - a mile west of the village where I was born.  It is a quiet place so rarely visited. There I might sleep peacefully forever more - returning to the earth. Perhaps illogically, I find the prospect of being barbecued most unappealing.
St Faith's churchyard

19 December 2018

Scunthorpe

I have visited the Woodlands Crematorium on several occasions. It is in Scunthorpe - an iron and steel town in north west Lincolnshire. The town is presently home to some 83000 souls.

We were there to say farewell to one of Shirley's relations - Auntie Joyce. She had died in an old people's home in Gainsborough having attained the ripe old age of eighty seven. Sadly, her last years were tainted with dementia.

After the ceremony at Woodlands, we decided to visit Scunthorpe town centre. Neither of us had been there in many years. Thirty years ago it was a white working class town with thriving foundries. People had money in their pockets and pride in their hearts. 

Nowadays, many residents of Scunthorpe have their roots in faraway cultures from Asia to Africa and from eastern Europe to Turkey. In addition, the town seems a lot poorer than before.
You can see that poverty in the bargain shops and the boarded up store fronts. You can see it in the countless  mobility scooters and in the drawn expressions of passers by. A tall thin man with bloodshot eyes and wild hair held a tatty purple quilt around his shoulders. He lurched towards me with his hand stretched out. And this was in the middle of High Street. You would not have seen that thirty years ago. There were no beggars in Scunthorpe back then.

We entered Cafe Jazz on Cole Street but there was no jazz music. No pianist in the corner. No saxophonist connecting with the stars. This was a humble cafe with a very inexpensive menu. A fat Chinese woman was bent over her "Christmas Dinner Special" (£3.90) shovelling in the sliced carrots and the roasted potatoes as if she hadn't eaten for many days.

A terribly obese woman in a grey overcoat waddled in with her grown up daughter and grown up son. They were also very overweight and their faces were similarly the colour of uncooked pastry. They ordered their calorific food as Shirley and I tucked into ours. She had vegetable soup with a roll while I enjoyed  a bacon and egg bap with a latte. The bill was £5.80 and Shirley also had a mug of tea.
Afterwards we wandered down to the indoor market. Once bustling it is now almost empty - with just a handful of stalls holding on. Nearby - in Foundry Square - we noticed a brand new statue - unveiled as recently as this November. It is called The Scunthorpe Steelworkers Sculpture and it celebrates the town's proud steel-making heritage. Though I liked it, it appeared somehow discordant. After all, you can't heal deprivation with a statue.

England is a wealthy country. Recognising the poverty that has become a part of Scunthorpe's new character makes me sad and mad and frustrated. It doesn't have to be this way. There should be more equity and more hope and less blaming of the poor for the condition they find themselves in. Our visit provided but a snapshot on a sunny Monday afternoon in December - just a week before Christmas Eve. Lord knows what Brexit will do to the town. Nothing good - that's for sure.

Happy Christmas Scunthorpe! May Santa bring you everything you asked for!

18 December 2018

Poverty

I am thankful that I have somewhere warm to live and to sleep - somewhere I can call home. I am thankful that I have shoes upon my feet and clothes in my wardrobe and food in the pantry. And I am thankful that I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.

I am thankful that I can pay the utility bills that land on our doormat or appear in my e-mail inbox. I am grateful that I don't smoke cheap cigarettes or have a big satellite dish on the side of my house or have a mongrel dog upon a chain cowering in a broken kennel upon a neglected back garden.

I am glad that I don't have to attend food banks or make sense of labyrinthine forms related to social security or welfare payments. And I am thankful that I don't have to push an old shopping trolley around the streets - filled with all my worldly goods.

I am thankful that I don't have to move around on a mobility scooter or look in a mirror and notice that I am older than my years. And I am grateful that I don't live on some rundown estate or in some gruesome tower block surrounded by other people who are steeped in poverty.

I am glad that I knew about the importance of books before I went to school and I am grateful that my parents provided me with a secure home and a childhood that was not blemished by poverty in all its different disguises.

I am glad that I have visited wonderful places and have gathered a store of happy memories from a comfortable life. I am glad that I have not suffered from ailments associated with poverty or turned the heating off for fear of the bill that inevitably follows.

To be truthful, I don't really know what poverty is or how it feels but I can imagine it and I  have the ability to empathise. When all is said and done, I am so very thankful that I am not poor but my heart goes out to all who live in poverty.

17 December 2018

Backtracking

At an abandoned hill farm on the edge of Eyam Moor
Okay. Let's backtrack to Friday. 

With a decent weather forecast, I was determined to walk but I didn't wish to take Clint very far as he has been suffering from tummy rumbles. Beyond Grindleford, I parked him on a moorland track known as Sir William Hill Road. Clint groaned, "It's bloody freezing up here! Surely you are not leaving me here!"

I simply grinned, patted Clint's bonnet and set off towards the hamlet of Leam. Then along to Tor Farm and onward through woodland to Stoke Ford.
Ancient stone at the ring cairn on Eyam Moor
Then upwards back to Eyam Moor where I successfully located a "Ring Cairn" with a special  stone that must have been carved more than three thousand years ago. Many walkers would just ramble past it - not knowing that it is there - a tantalising window into misty times gone by.

I was walking for three hours. Good for the body and good for the soul. Afterwards,  I parked at Grindleford Station and treated myself to a mug of tea and a sausage and tomato sandwich. Clint was grumpy and looking forward to having his petrol tank replenished. "I hope we won't be stopping again!" he muttered as I pressed the "on" button of his car radio.
Old and broken wall on Eyam Moor
A view of Oaks Farm above Stoke Ford
Gnarled hawthorn tree above Bretton Clough

16 December 2018

Alive

Hello again - it's me! Death did not com to wrap her icy arms around me. The Devil was denied another disciple in those flaming halls of Hell.

At 1.30pm I got to Hull with little trouble and met up with my pal Tony and an armchair Tigers supporter called Carl at the Park and Ride facility near Hessle. We rode to the stadium by bus and had time to pop into a little Polish cafe for late lunches.

The day was freezing cold but being sensible chaps we were suitably attired with hats and gloves and extra layers of clothing. Tony and Carl had even brought flasks of tea for half time when Carl gave me a "Mars" bar.

Some goals are long range shots, others are towering headers but some are scrambled opportunist goals. It's a question of being in the right place at the right time. And that's how it was in the first half of yesterday's match. Two poached goals by Fraizer Campbell. They were enough to send Brentford back to west London with nothing to show for their pre-Christmas trip to Yorkshire.
Fraizer Campbell in action against Brentford yesterday
After the game, I set off home from the Park and Ride not knowing what I might encounter. The warnings had been quite strident - even alarmist but in the event all I met was cold rain sheeting down making visibility difficult. I drove at 50 to 60 mph all the way back until I hit a traffic jam on the M1 motorway.

Ahead there had been a pile up and the blue lights of emergency vehicles flashed in the blackness as rain continued to pelt down. I sat in that jam for almost an hour listening to the radio and pretty  happy that the promise of freezing rain and treacherous driving conditions had not come true.

There was a different tragedy when I stepped in our house. The Christmas tree that Shirley decorated this morning had fallen over. Several baubles were smashed and Lord knows what may have happened to the Christmas lights. Meantime she is at her health centre's Christmas "do" in the city centre. I hope she won't imagine that I stumbled into the tree because I hate it when she whacks me with the rolling pin.

15 December 2018

Danger

Should I risk my life for Hull City? Should I risk injury to Clint - my sleek silver Hyundai companion?

Hull is fifty two miles from here. I have a ticket for today's Championship match with Brentford. The kick off is at 3pm. Afterwards, I hope to drive home via the A63, M62, M18 and M1. It's major roads all the way. Then onto the Sheffield Parkway.

It is a journey I have successfully completed without incident on countless occasions.

However, today the weather gurus are forecasting dangerous driving conditions in the evening with an ice storm and snow as weather fronts collide producing treacherous freezing rain.

Will I survive to write another blogpost?  If you don't hear from me again, I am lying on a mortuary slab with a smile on my face - following our inevitable victory over Brentford. So long! It's been nice knowing you folks!

14 December 2018

Parliament

Parliament - Who is listening?
During Britain's escalating Brexit crisis I have been watching chunks of live television coverage on the BBC Parliament channel. You get to witness emerging debates and I must say I have been uplifted by the eloquence of several of our Members of Parliament.

However, something else emerges and it concerns the conduct of our elected representatives within The House of Commons chamber itself.

Before I reflect upon that behaviour may I first say that as a secondary school teacher I had a set of basic classroom expectations. These unwritten rules included the following:-
No mobile phones
No chewing or eating in class
No sleeping
Listen politely when someone else is speaking
Do not chat with others or make faces across the room
I will be the first to admit that my teenage scholars would occasionally break these "rules" but my expectations were clear and they were all about having the best learning atmosphere possible.

Back to our MP's in The Houses of Parliament. At least three of my five  rules are being broken all the time. Though some of our "right honourable" representatives listen attentively, many others think nothing about texting on their phones or checking their Facebook accounts or sending tweets during debates.

To my simple way of thinking, this is is just plain rude. If another MP is speaking then they should be listening - paying attention. And they should not be gesturing across the aisle or thumbing through papers or having conversations with their parliamentary chums. If they wish to do such things they should do them outside the chamber.

Apart from anything else, our leaders should be modelling good behaviour for our young people. In addition, it seems to me that it is insulting to the democratic process to brazenly display such careless inattention. People like the fellow shown below are currently paid £77, 379 per annum plus generous expenses re travel, meals, accommodation and office support.
Conservative MP asleep during a debate

13 December 2018

Drama

Just outside our back door there is a big black storage box that we call "The Coffin". In there you will find buckets, brushes, bags of glass jars that Shirley needs for jam, marmalade or chutney making. There is also a tub containing fat balls for garden birds and a grey swing bin in which I store bird seed.

Sometimes I delve into that bin every single day in order to keep providing our avian visitors  with a tasty seed supply. However, at other times I may not need to access the bin for several days when there's still plenty of seed out in the garden or when there's old bread to distribute in place of seeds.

Until yesterday I hadn't been in the bin for a while. I opened the lid and looked down. There at the bottom I noticed something dark. Momentarily I thought it might be a big garden slug but then it moved. It was a mouse!

It must have found its way into The Coffin, peeped inside the lid and plunged down to the seeds near the bottom. It would have been impossible for the mouse to climb out - two feet up a slippery grey plastic shaft.

And then I saw another mouse. It had been hiding in my little seed scoop. Not one but two mice trapped in an all-you-can-eat birdseed buffet!

A more ruthless fellow would have duly assassinated those two small rodents but that's not something that I could do. They had bright black eyes and little pink ears. I took the bin up to the top of our garden and laid it horizontally upon the ground so that the mice could escape. I watched them speed away into our dying bramble bushes.

Who knows what will happen to them? Will they survive wintertime or will they be pounced upon  by neighbourhood cats?  They are probably still snuffling around up there in the December darkness exchanging happy memories of their time in the free seed restaurant. Dry and safe until a giant peered inside.

12 December 2018

Inventions

Over the years, many inventions have come to fruition - making everyday life smoother than before. From the microwave to the trrouser press and from the electric toothbrush to the steam iron - modern inventions enhance our lives.

Now I am not an inventor myself but drawn from personal experience, I have some ideas that inventors could work upon. I invite any inventors out there to pick up one or more of my suggestions and run with them to their garden huts and attics. It would be gratifying to see my little pipe dreams turned into practical realities.

1. Silent Vacuum Cleaner  All my life I have been plagued by noisy vacuum cleaners. Usually, they are operated by cackling women with evil glints in their eyes - as if getting off on the misery that their jet engine din causes. "Lift your feet!" my mother would call as she entered the living room with her booming old Hoover. And nowadays my blood pressure rises immediately whenever Shirley plugs in our black Hitachi 1700 model. Peace is devastated. It was the same in the last school where I  worked. I always continued working for two or three hours after the children had gone but it wasn't long before the cleaner - Gwen or Elaine entered my quiet room with their cacophonous industrial machine.
2. Shirt Tucking In Device  Maybe it's to do with the shape of my body or the length of my shirts but no matter how hard I try to keep my shirts tucked into my trousers, they are always coming out. I try buckling my belt so tight that I cannot slide my palms into my trouser waist but still the shirt will manage to escape as I stand and sit and walk about or bend. How wonderful it would be to dress and feel confident that my shirt would remain neatly tucked in. 
3. Hot Drink Cooler There is nothing worse than being in a rush and having to gulp down a piping  hot mug of tea or coffee. Perhaps someone could invent an easy-to-use electrical device to pop into the hot drink and halve its temperature immediately. Alternatively, maybe someone could create instant cooling tablets that you drop in the drink and hey presto - the temperature drops.
4. Scammer Electrocution Device  In recent years I have found my life being invaded by uncaring scammers seeking to defraud me. They appear in my e-mail inbox and they bother me by calling up on our house phone. Could someone please invent an electrocution button for telephones and another for computer keyboards? My idea is that if one received a scam call or e-mail one could press the button and send an immediate bolt of electricity to the perpetrator's device. Not enough to kill them but perhaps enough to send them to hospital.
5. Flyhole Zip Alarm  I must confess that very occasionally I will forget to pull up my flyhole zip. This can be embarrassing at funerals or  job interviews and besides when one's flyhole is down flies can easily access one's southern regions. How helpful it would be if  there was a discreet vibrating buzzer in my trousers to alert me to zip neglect and avoid arrest or unsavoury accusation. I know that there are many other gentlemen who would appreciate such a personal security product.

Have you got any ideas of your own for helpful new inventions?

11 December 2018

Everywhere

Fraisthorpe
Did you ever hear the song "I've Been Everywhere"?  It was written in 1959 by an Australian country and western artist called Geoff Mack. That first version included lists of Australian place names. but perhaps the most famous version of the song was recorded by Johnny Cash. In his rendition the Australian place names were replaced with American names:-

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man,
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere
I've been to: -
Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottowa, Oklahoma, Tampa, Panama, Mattua, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo, Tocapillo,, Pocotello, Amperdllo...


Hailing from The East Riding of Yorkshire, I thought it was nigh time to create an East Yorkshire version with place names that reflect the history of that wondrous corner of England. Many of the names are rooted in our Norse or Viking heritage though others reflect pre-Christian, Saxon, Norman and even Victorian influences. Which ever way you look at it, the East Yorkshire names have a very different sound and flavour

I have been everywhere my friend
I have been everywhere my friend
Crossed The Yorkshire Wolds my friend
I have inhaled the North Sea  air my friend
Travel, I have had my share
I've been everywhere my friend
I've been to:-
Wetwang, Swine. Holme on Spalding Moor, Withernwick, Ulrome, Skidby, Thorngumbald, Land of Nod, Skerne, Aike, Brandesburton, Pocklington, Nafferton, Rise, Skeffling, Sigglesthorne, Catfoss, Meaux, Rudston, Fraisthorpe, Hull...

I could write a blogpost about each one of those East Riding places but please don't sigh. That is not going to happen. Instead let me just focus on Fraisthorpe - a small coastal settlement just south of the seaside town of Bridlington.

My father would often take me there with my brothers and we would change into our swimming trunks in the shadow of concrete World War II defences left behind on the beach before running into the cold and opaque North Sea.

"Fraisthorpe" is called "Frestintorp" in the Domesday Book of 1086. The suffix "thorpe"  indicates that it was originally an outlying farmstead. The beginning of the name indicates that that farmstead of long ago was owned by a man called Freistingr or Freysteinn. Either of these first names reveal a Norse connection. 

It is possible that there was a settlement at Fraisthorpe before Vikings arrived in the ninth century but if there was, its name is lost in the mists of history... which is everywhere, man. 

10 December 2018

East

St Winifrid's, Stainton
It has been a rather weird weekend. Shirley has been at the coast with several of her many cousins. Meantime I have been at home getting better.

Thankfully, on Sunday I felt well enough to drive out of the city. I travelled east beyond the former pit village of Maltby and did some walking and picture taking. It was a lovely December day after several grey and rainy days.

On a quiet country lane, a fellow who was out walking with his family turned back specially to speak with me. He wanted to know why I was taking photographs. I told him that my hobby was legal and that some of my pictures would be submitted to the "geograph" website. He was perfectly happy with my explanation having just spotted my bulging biceps and our height differential.
Woolthwaite Farm
I must admit that I felt a degree of sympathy for him and his family as they live in such an isolated location. Rural crime has been on the increase and the sight of a lone figure in a black Hull City manager's coat must have been slightly unnerving.

I visited nearby Stainton where the great Yorkshire fast bowler Freddie Ttueman was born. There was a massive stone cross in the churchyard - apparently it is the village's war memorial. In front of it was a grave that contained the remains of a teenage boy who was electrocuted at the nearby colliery in the 1920's.
Ivy covered tree near Sandbeck Lodge
It's always nice to visit map squares I have never entered before. I drove home feeling hungry and planned to prepare a nice rump steak with two small jacket potatoes, garden peas and fried mushrooms with onions.

After half an hour this simple culinary dream came true.

I forgot to mention than by a quiet country lane on my way to Stainton I spotted a memorial to coal miners who were lost in a methane explosion at Maltby Colliery in the 1920's. Twenty five bodies were never recovered. Followed by the names of those men, this was the inscription:-
"THIS MEMORIAL IS DEDICATED TO THE ETERNAL MEMORY
OF THE 27 MEN WHO TRAGICALLY LOST THEIR LIVES AS A RESULT
OF THE EXPLOSION THAT OCCURRED IN MALTBY COLLIERY 
ON JULY 28TH 1923

25 OF THE BODIES WERE NEVER RECOVERED AND THEY ARE
FOREVER ENTOMBED 800 YARDS DIRECTLY BELOW THIS MEMORIAL"