21 January 2019


Driving over to Hull earlier this month, I was accompanied by Stew - my daughter's fiancĂ©e. Being Sheffield born and bred, he supports Sheffield Wednesday - one of this city's Championship football teams

As we were motoring along, I found myself sharing a couple of stories with him about past adventures. Then he chipped in with a story of his own.

Three years ago he enjoyed a big road trip in the USA with a couple of his cousins. They found themselves in the Appalachian Mountains and though they didn't have time to tramp the 2200 mile Appalachian Trail, on one fine day they did have time to undertake a nice circular walk following a recommended national park route. Stew recalled that it should have been a relatively easy walk of some nine miles.

Unfortunately, they got lost. Perhaps the signage was poor. Perhaps the path was little trodden but whatever the reason they got lost and after a few miles they had to turn back and then they got lost again.

Stew spotted a big brown snake lying across the trail, blocking their way. He got a big branch and was able to manoeuvre the serpent into the adjacent undergrowth. He had learnt quite a bit about handling snakes while working in Australia.

It was a hot day and their water had run out but at least they were finally certain that they were closing in on the car park where their hire vehicle was parked. Then they spotted two black bears. Oh no!

It was at this point in Stew's narration that I interrupted, asking, "What state were you in?"

"Oh we were distressed, thirsty and tired," he said.

Slightly puzzled, I paused.

"No. What state were you in? Was it Tennessee? Perhaps Maryland? West Virginia?"

We had a good laugh about that misunderstanding. It turns out that they were probably in Virginia.

By the way, just in case you were planning to tackle it, here's a list of hazards walkers might encounter on The Appalachian Trail:-
Severe weather
American black bears
Tick-borne diseases
Biting flies
Steep gradients
Limited water
Forest fires
Dangerous water crossings
Diarrhoea from bad water
Falling rocks
Rednecks or hunters with guns
Drug crazed hippies
Trump supporters
Poison ivy
Venomous snakes

20 January 2019


Yesterday afternoon I finished reading "Endeavour" by Peter Moore. It is a lovingly researched tome that plots the history of a very special ship that was built in Whitby, Yorkshire in 1764

Its first name was "The Earl of Pembroke" and its initial purpose was to transport coal from The River Tyne down to London. It also was involved in trading voyages to The Baltic Sea and probably to northern Germany too.

Made from Yorkshire oak, it was a capacious and buoyant vessel, easy to navigate and it quickly gained favourable reports from experienced mariners.

In 1768, the British Navy in association with The Royal Society were on the look out for a suitable ship to undertake long distance missions to the little known South Pacific. One of those tasks was to observe the transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti.

"The Earl of Pembroke" was requisitioned and fitted out for the voyage. In the process the ship gained a new name - "The Endeavour" and a new skipper who had co-incidentally first begun his education as a seaman in Whitby. He was James Cook of The Royal Navy.

When the ship returned to England, three years had passed by but the mission had been stupendously successful. The transit of Venus had been observed successfully and  Cook had made amazingly accurate maps of  New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. On board was the botanist Joseph Banks who had gathered many specimens of previously unknown plants.

Later "Endeavour" made voyages to The Falkland Islands where Britain was establishing a colony. Later still she was renamed "The Lord Sandwich" and was involved in carrying mercenary German or "Hessian" troops to the American colonies as Britain sought to suppress rebellions that preceded the consolidation of American independence in 1776.

She was eventually scuttled near Newport, Rhode Island in an attempt to block one of the sea channels there. News had already arrived that a French fleet was on its way across the Atlantic to support the American rebels.

Peter Moore's excellent book is more than just a book about a ship. He sees the years of "Endeavour" as a time of enlightenment as the people of the world became more bonded together than ever. Humanity was making great strides in science, invention and international trade. We were striving towards the modern world we know today and "The Endeavour" was arguably the flagship of that movement.

I enjoyed it immensely.
A model of "Endeavour" in Whitby Museum

19 January 2019


Olivia Colman as Queen Anne
Yesterday lunchtime, Shirley and I travelled by bus into the city centre. We were heading for "The Showroom" cinema to see the film of the moment - "The Favourite". It stars Olivia Colman as Queen Anne who was the queen of Great Britain and Ireland in the early eighteenth century. There are two other powerful female parts in the film - Baroness Abigail Masham played by Emma Stone and Sarah Churchill - The Duchess of Marlborough - played by Rachel Weisz.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, "The Favourite" provides a memorable and often uncomfortable cinematic experience. It is about intrigue, influence, deception, rabbits and gout. In the background there's an unseen and expensive war with France going on but the action of the film occurs almost exclusively within the walls of Kensington Palace.

Queen Anne, played quite brilliantly by Olivia Colman is a sad and unpredictable character, tortured by gout and other ailments. She is used and abused by Abigail and Sarah who are both self-seeking and rather cruel. They twist the queen round their little fingers and tactically they even share her bed.

"The Favourite" is a gripping watch. It certainly held my attention throughout but ultimately the human spirit does not triumph and there's not a single character you can identify with or really root for. They are all despicable. Consequently, I left The Showroom with a slight sense of despair. I was not uplifted or happily entertained. It was almost as disturbing as an attack of gout and I speak from past experience.

18 January 2019


What's that rising above the rooftops in the Lowfield district of central Sheffield? And then another one popped up as I walked along nearby Staveley Road. Are they blunt-nosed space rockets? Perhaps they are giant pepper pots.
No my friends - it's the Madina Masjid Mosque. It was completed in 2006 at a reputed cost of £5 million. This money was raised by the local Muslim community and there is apparently no truth in the rumour that they received generous donations from Saudi Arabian benefactors.
I blogged about it previously in October 2013 when I even got to go inside.

Mosques rising above English  rooftops. It has become a familiar scene in many large northern towns and cities - from Rochdale to Rotherham and from Bradford to Blackburn. 

By the way, a mosque does not have to look like that. Islamic teachings say nothing of significance about mosque design. The Madina Masjid Mosque looks as if it has been flown over from Riyadh or Jeddah and lowered into position.

I have never seen any women entering the mosque - only men, Why should that be? After all, in our dwindling Church of England congregations women are frequently predominant. They stand and sing side by side with men - as equals.

17 January 2019


At one extreme there are people who live in uncluttered, minimalist environments. At the other extreme there are hoarders who never throw anything away and live in chaotic, jumbled circumstances. Most of us exist between those extremes.

Those who champion tidiness and have expunged "unnecessary" things from their homes will often attempt to claim the higher ground - as if to say that the minimalist way is the best way. And those who live with clutter will occasionally chastise themselves as though apologising for their muddled  and somewhat disorganised lives.

For must of us achieving a state of happy equilibrium in our homes is a constant battle. We are always putting things away, tidying up, making decisions about keeping or jettisoning things. A lot of it is deeply psychological.

Those whose lives and homes have a fastidious, spartan quality may be seeking to ditch what is past - preferring to demonstrate that they are focused on the future. Conversely, those who surround themselves with clutter may be seeking to hang on to what is gone - looking back for comfort  and understanding rather than forging forward and embracing the future.

I just snapped a couple of pictures in my own residence. We have two mantelpieces downstairs and both are adorned with things. Every item means something to us. They conjure up memories of past times, past people, past travels or discoveries. But perhaps a minimalist visitor might simply view all of this stuff as clutter to be expunged from our home environment.

We never planned that the mantelpieces would evolve like this. It just happened. I have the feeling that very often the home environments we create speak outwardly about our inner selves. 

16 January 2019


Theresa May in The House of Commons yesterday
Yesterday in Parliament
FOR Theresa May's European Withdrawal Bill: 202
AGAINST  May's Withdrawal Bill: 432

I watched the political drama unfolding on our Samsung television screen live from London. May's bill was roundly beaten and deservedly so.

She just was not listening. In addition, she used disgraceful delaying tactics to push this decisive vote into the new year, closer and closer to the March 29th EU leaving date agreed with Brussels. Diligent, dogged and hardworking she would make an excellent administrator but effective leaders need other qualities - vision, imagination, munificence, wisdom and the ability to seize the moment. In such respects she is sadly lacking.

Where does Great Britain go from here? God only knows. The Brexit referendum of June 2016 was like Pandora's box. Now all the evil spirits are out and we may never get them back in their container. The only reason for the referendum in the first place was to appease right wing Tories living in the past.

They will continue to reside in their grand country homes checking their stocks and shares, with children in private schools and two cars on the gravel. They will not personally suffer because of Brexit - which ever way it goes. To them it's just a game.

Perhaps the way forward is another referendum. I have the feeling that a second referendum would result in a "Remain" majority but that would not be an end to this chaos and uncertainty. The bitterness and rancour will remain for years to come.

Where are you now David Cameron? They say you are writing your memoirs in a shepherd's hut at the bottom of your Oxfordshire garden. May I suggest a title for your last chapter? "My Biggest Mistake - Brexit". Although I accept that this would not be in your nature - surely some sort of apology to the British people would be in order. You could donate your book royalties to food banks.

15 January 2019


Yesterday, before tootling off to the "Lidl" supermarket for supplies, I asked Clint to make a detour to an area of Sheffield known as Kelham Island. Once it was the throbbing heart of Sheffield's metal industries but now it is becoming a  hip inner city neighbourhood with new apartment blocks going up as old industrial buildings are re-calibrated as modern workplaces.

I looked through the window of a former factory where files and chisels were once manufactured. But now there are houseplants, carpets and people in casual clothes tapping away at computers.
The River Don flows through Kelham Island. Back in 2007 that river was so swollen with rainwater draining from the hills that it flooded surrounding streets. Since then significant flood defence work has happened. It is unlikely that we will see a similar flood event in my lifetime but with changing weather patterns, who knows?

I strolled around Kelham Island for an hour, gathering images with my trusty Sony bridge camera. Four of those pictures accompany this blogpost.
And then it was time to head to "Lidl" where amongst other items I purchased two punnets of black cherries. pak choi, salmon, milk, bread, carrots, bananas and three small bottles of "Chang" beer to remind me of Thailand. In the Thai language "chang" means elephant. But I didn't buy one of them as there was no room left in my trolley.

14 January 2019


Some days are unremarkable, even empty. Nothing much happens and then it's time to go to bed. Do you also have days like that?

And yet other days are filled to the brim. Perhaps we need unremarkable days to appreciate the days that are filled with happenings. The full days.

Saturday was a full day for me. Frances and her fiancee Stew were back up from London. After a shower and tea and toast, Stew and I clambered into Clint's cockpit and headed to East Yorkshire. Stew supports Sheffield Wednesday and of course I support Hull City. They were playing each other in the English Championship. Kick off was at 3pm.

Clint discharged us at the "park and ride" facility in Hessle and we headed to the KCom Stadium on a public bus. However, before walking through West Park to the football ground we popped into a little Polish cafe. There we met my old friend Tony and one of his former NHS nursing colleagues - Karl.
Jarrod Bowen scored two of Hull City's goals
Stew and I ordered the "British Breakfast" with mugs of tea. £8 in total. Then we all trooped off to see the match. I could bore you with the fine details of this game but it is sufficient to say that The Tigers whupped Sheffield's Owls by three goals to nil. Stew was close to tears but luckily I had a clean handkerchief.

Then back to Clint on a full football bus and soon we were on the A63 heading back to Sheffield.

Once home the four of us sat down to a delicious Irish stew that Shirley had prepared in my absence and when this was consumed we asked Clint to take us to the city centre. "Not more driving!" he said. "I'm not a ruddy taxi you know!"

We parked near The City Hall and headed to the rear of that magnificent public edifice where the entrance to the smaller Memorial Hall is located. We had tickets for The Last Laugh Comedy Club and before too long the rotund host - Toby Foster from Radio Sheffield was on stage.
Jonny Awsum was awesome
There were three acts - Jamie Sutherland, Craig Murray and the headliner - Jonny Awsum. Each one of them provided us with belly laughs as we sat at the front of the balcony sipping beer between bouts of mirth.

Afterwards we climbed in our reluctant taxi - Clint. We headed homeward - but only to drop Frances and Stew off. After all, the night was still young and Shirley and I had a birthday party to attend in the neighbouring suburb of Nether Edge. Our friend Moira had reached the grand old age of sixty one and it would have been a shame not to pop into her house party for an hour.

And so, that was Saturday. As I began by saying, some days are unremarkable, even empty but others are filled to the brim. By the way, the comedy show tickets were a welcome Christmas present.

13 January 2019


Drawing of William Weightman
by Charlotte Bronte
A Reminiscence
By Anne Bronte

Yes, thou art gone and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door
And pace the floor that covers thee;

May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that frozen lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.

Yet, though I cannot see thee more
'Tis still a comfort to have seen,
And though thy transient life is o'er
'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;

To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form so angel fair
United to a heart like thine
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.


Anne Bronte died in Scarborough, Yorkshire at the tender age of twenty nine. This was in 1849. She had been suffering from tuberculosis. Her sister Emily had died the previous year from the same condition.

However, "A Reminiscence" is not about Emily. It was written in 1845 and probably concerns the death of a young curate called William Weightman. He had arrived in the village of Haworth in 1839 to support the ministerial work of the Bronte sisters' father - The Reverend Patrick Bronte. Weightman died from cholera in 1842 and was remembered fondly by Emily and Anne and presumably Charlotte too

A rather lovely tale remains about Weightman's relationship with the sisters. In February 1840 when Weightman was told that none of the BrontĂ« sisters ever received Valentine cards, he sent them each one anonymously. In an attempt to disguise the fact that he was the sender, he walked  ten miles to Bradford to post them.

Anne is undoubtedly the least celebrated of the Bronte sisters but just as with Emily and Charlotte, one can only wonder with frustration what literary heights she might have reached if she had been granted four score years and ten.
Drawing of Anne Bronte
by Charlotte Bronte (circa 1834)

12 January 2019


Thai schoolgirl in glasses
From my days in Thailand, a particular observation has remained  in my mind concerning spectacles.

The international school where I taught was in northern Bangkok. Most of the children were from wealthy Thai families. In fact, most of them arrived at school each morning in taxis or chauffeur driven cars.

When I looked around my seated classes I noticed glasses. Of course not every child wore glasses but I would estimate that a third of my pupils wore them - either for continuous sight assistance or just for reading 

These children were well cared for. Materially, they had everything they needed and undoubtedly that included visits to doctors, dentists and opticians. Some of them may not have been very loved but at least if they required glasses they had them.

Then one day - during my second spell in Thailand - I travelled way out of the capital to a quiet  rural school in a rice farming district.  Accompanied by a couple of other teachers and twenty of our international school students, the trip was a planned exercise in personal and social education.

The rural school's lunchtime was approaching and I remember standing under a mango tree in the school yard as the children lined up to enter the barn-like dining hall. There must have been two hundred kids.

They were not used to seeing "farangs" (foreigners). As they filed passed me I smiled at each one of them, acknowledged them with a nod or said "Sawadee khrup/ka" (hello). When they were all seated in the dining barn, I realised that not one of the children  who had filed by had been wearing glasses. Not one.

I checked again in the dining barn and confirmed my initial observation. Not one of those rural schoolchildren was wearing glasses.

Reflecting upon this later, I knew that some of those children could have benefited from spectacles for general use or reading. However, these were kids from relatively poor rural homes. The very idea of visiting an optician and purchasing glasses would have been a notion beyond that community's  usual boundaries.

The contrast between the well-heeled school in the city and the poor school in the heart of the country was marked. I surmised that the same observation about glasses might easily be made in many other countries with wealthy children customarily enjoying optical support and poorer children missing out on it.

With regard to education, the ability to see clearly is pretty fundamental. If children cannot see properly their learning and development will quite obviously be impaired.

11 January 2019


Edward Baker-Duly and Rebecca Lock in the lead roles
Last night I went to see a production of "Kiss Me, Kate" at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield's city centre. I travelled in a taxi with four other regulars from our local pub. Another one couldn't make it because he was ill.

I hadn't seen a production of this fairly famous musical before. It was first performed at the Shubert Theatre in Philadelphia in December 1948. It was written by Samuel and Bella Spewack with original songs by the legendary Cole Porter.

The Sheffield production was excellent with faultless renditions of the songs, vibrant dance routines and imaginative stagecraft. It all blended together superbly and there was a twenty strong orchestra palely illuminated on a raised area at the back of the thrust stage.

Though there weren't any badger holes, sometimes I "got lost" in the entertainment - forgetting myself, absorbed by the theatrical chicanery in front of me. But in spite of the excellence of the production there were other phases when my mind wandered away. I guess that the silliness of the core story wasn't truly my cup of tea.

You can find out about the plot - that core story -  elsewhere if you really want to. Essentially there is a play within a play. The inner play is Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" but the audience's main focus is upon the backstage dynamics as the ups and downs of relationships between lead actors are revealed. It all ends happily when the shrew - Lily Vanessi/Katharine submits to the romantic overtures of  Fred Graham/ Petruchio as the tensions of backstage and the Shakespearean production are healed with a final dramatic kiss.

We travelled back to the suburbs in another taxi - arriving at our pub at 10.30pm. But the doors were locked. The pub is meant to stop serving at 11.15pm so we had been looking forward to a couple of pints to round off the evening. Reluctantly, the young Irish barman let us in and equally reluctantly he deigned to pour us one pint each but no more. 

Bizarrely, I believe he thought he was doing us a favour when it is of course our money that pays his wages. This isn't the first time he has unilaterally decided to shut up shop on a quiet evening. The ignorant manager/landlord isn't the kind of bloke it's worth complaining to. He just doesn't seem to care either. As "Kiss Me, Kate" proved - it really can be a mad world.

10 January 2019

9 January 2019


Lawn Farm
Yesterday was a lovely blue sky day. It felt more like April than January.

Clint carried me south for an hour - past Chatsworth House and onward to Darley Dale, Matlock and Wirksworth. Finally, I found a place to leave him - by a quiet lane near the hamlet of Ashleyhay in a rural area of Derbyshire  that is commonly referred to as The Amber Valley.

I might not be an expert in many things but I am pretty good at map reading. Britain's premier mapping organisation - The Ordnance Survey - produce a wide range of maps. The most detailed ones even show  field boundaries with great accuracy and they are an excellent guide.

However, yesterday I had a smaller scale map that I had printed off on an A4 sheet. It showed public footpaths but no field boundaries or other fine details. Another important factor here is that most of the paths in The Amber Valley are not well-trodden. Wooden stiles and waymarkers are generally poorly maintained. In that sense, it is quite different from The Peak District.
That's the background to how I managed to get lost - not once but three times. Getting lost meant that I left the area covered by my A4 sheet. It also meant that I ended up walking three or four miles more than I had planned and it also created the following scene.

Disoriented and trying to get back on track, I descended  wide green pastureland. In the small valley at the bottom there was a lazy stream that meandered through woodland. Wary of the marshy ground within those woods I walked fifty yards further up the little valley and then plunged into the woods. Three minutes later, I was pleased to have crossed the stream without getting my boots wet.

Next I had to negotiate a bank of dead brambly briars that would have been impassable in the summer. I reached my legs up like an inelegant ballet dancer in order to tread down the barbed and entangled shoots. Progress was slow and then suddenly my right foot was no longer on solid ground. It sank right up to the thigh. I had trodden in the entrance to an old badgers' sett. At first my foot was stuck but with a little manoeuvring I managed to yank it out.

Through the brambles like Indiana Jones and then over a a barbed wire fence that was itself entangled and half-hidden by climbing plants. I am happy to report that I avoided personal injury to the nether regions.

Half an hour later I found myself in the village of Cowers Lane. It was off the map and far from where I wanted to be. In "The Railway Inn" the blonde barmaid's geographical skills were on a par with my own knowledge about knitting but helpfully she agreed that we were somewhere in Derbyshire.

I sank my pint of orange cordial and soda water and soon set off towards Idridgehay. It was late in the afternoon and already I observed that daylight was being sucked away by the low sun. If I was going to avoid getting back to Clint in darkness I needed to press on - marching like a soldier across that unfamiliar terrain, missing the leisurely and more scenic route I had visualised on Monday night.

Another rarely trodden path led me through the farmyard of Alton Mill Farm where a herd of Friesians were waiting to be milked. The farmer showed me the way. It led through a gateway and a veritable quagmire of slurry. But as the French national anthem suggests,sometimes you just have to March On! March On!
Near the end of the walk - Storer Farm, Ashleyhay

7 January 2019


Encyclopedia Britannica
There was a world before the internet. It may sound surreal but there really was. I know - because I was there.

In the days before the internet you had to book holidays or flights at your local travel agent. You could not shop "online" because there was no "online" - unless you were fishing by a lake and you had just hooked a trout "on" your "line"

Before the internet you had to deal with all banking matters in a physical bank where bank clerks and tellers were swamped with paper files because there were no computers to facilitate their work. I know this will sound crazy but if you had a financial problem or needed a loan you could talk it over with your bank manager who was a real human being.

In the days before the internet, people bought newspapers to keep up with things. There were local and national newspapers which sold daily in millions. You found out about the weather there, about births, deaths and marriages. You checked the football results and learnt about the latest political shenanigans or murders or fluctuations in stock markets.

Before the internet you had to use libraries to gather information or delve into The Encyclopedia Britannica - available in thirty two volumes containing 32,640 pages. And if you were a university student there were none of the shortcuts that the internet now provides. You had to spend hours following up references, hunting down pearls of information.

In the days before the internet, there was no e-mail. You had to write letters. They might be handwritten or tapped out on a typewriter but if you made a mistake when typing you had to start again as the word processor did not exist.
An old typewriter
Before the internet, it was not easy to find out how to make a bomb and if you wished to access pornography I understand that you had to reach up to the top shelf in your local newsagent's shop and then - probably with enormous embarrassment - take your chosen magazine to the counter. 

If you were decorating your house you had to check colour charts at your nearest D.I.Y. store and if you needed new recipe ideas when cooking you had to thumb through recipe books. And back then people you had left behind in the past stayed in the past. They didn't come back to haunt you.

In the days before the internet, children played "Snakes and Ladders" together on actual boards and if they were the victims of snide bullying in schools they left it all behind when they went home. It didn't follow them into their bedrooms on internet smartphones.

Yes - my friends - there was a world before the internet. The memory of it is getting misty now. Historically, we sometimes delineate time with the letters "B.C." and "A.D." but perhaps we should consider a new delineation - "B.T.I." and "A.T.I." - before the internet's arrival and after it came along to transform so many aspects of human life in often unexpected ways.

6 January 2019


By Gadding Moor

Where are the vivid greens of summer
Emeralds and harlequin and mint
And water lilies spreading by the dam
Where lustrous dragonflies darted?
Now the colours are departed.
Under plumbous skies we move like ghosts
No definition or shadows cast
No sense of future or what’s past.
By Gadding Moor, midst ancient beeches
A gurgling beck tumbles ever eastwards.
Under a carpet of autumn leaves
The woodland path  is still concealed.
Oh, where are the songs of springtime
Primrose, bluebell and celandine
Drifts of wild garlic milk white by the lane
And when will the swallows be here again?

5 January 2019


Just the other day, I was listening to a radio interview. The interviewee was recounting a personal story. It doesn't really matter what the story was about. What I noticed was his use of a particular word that I have hardly ever used. That word was "crestfallen". He used it three times in relatively quick succession. It's clearly one of his pet words. I think we all have them.

"Crestfallen" is an excellent word. It suggests how in life we might be riding along on the crest of a wave and then all of a sudden we're thrown off it. We are "crestfallen". Next time this happens to me I will be telling everybody that I am "crestfallen".

I often visit a very helpful word website called simply Thesaurus.com . It's especially useful when exploring synonyms. However, recently it threw up a word that I had never heard of before. That word was "petrichor". Do you  know it? "Petrichor" means - a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. 
Like me, you will have experienced it - a sweet and slightly metallic odour that only arrives when rain has at last fallen to quench the earth. "Petrichor" was coined as recently as 1964 by two Australian researchers who were investigating the phenomenon. It has always been one of my favourite smells - along with a newly tarred road and the aroma of freshly baked Yorkshire puddings lifted from a hot oven.

Next time rain falls after a long dry spell of a weather I will stick my head out of the door and fill my lungs with the petrichoral air before shouting to Mrs Pudding - "Come and breathe in the petrichor honey!"

Crestfallen, that spurned lover stepped out into a newly dampened summer's morning  which was fragrant with petrichor.

Are there any great words that you have noted recently?

4 January 2019


When walking along a busy city street, I never say "hello" to the strangers I pass. However, out in the countryside it's a different matter.

Frequently, I find myself plodding in splendid isolation along little trodden paths but then occasionally other ramblers will appear in view, heading towards me.  When this happens, I always try to make eye contact before smiling and saying "hello". 

I would estimate that 70% of the people I greet in this way respond in kind with a cheery "Good day", "How do you do" or "Hello". Sometimes we might even stop and chat for a while before carrying on. I have met several interesting people in that way.

But three out of ten people I pass by say nothing. They blank me entirely making me feel like The Invisible Man or a leper who has just escaped from his colony. When this happens I will often say, "Well don't say hello then!" when they are level with me and once when I was in a foul mood, I confess that I added, "You ignorant sod!"

Having contemplated this matter on several occasions, I have compiled a mixture of conclusions about why some walkers refuse to return friendly greetings. Firstly, they might be extremely arrogant or toffee-nosed. Secondly, they might be very shy or bashful. Thirdly, they might be wary of six foot strangers - fearing assault or worse still - personal interaction that could lead to some sort of undesired social  tangle. Fourthly, they might be listening to music through earphones hidden by hair or woolly hats.

When I see someone approaching I have no idea what their personal story is. They could be feeling suicidal. Maybe a family member has just died. Perhaps they are suffering in other unimagined ways. That's one of the reasons I choose to smile and say "hello". My greeting proves that they have been noticed and that we are fellow members of the human race. But it should work the other way too. When they see me coming they don't know what my story is either.

Saying "hello" is a gesture that shows humanity and a belief in our togetherness as we sail through space. We are all travellers making our way along the paths of life, experiencing ups and downs. Surely, the least we can say is "hello".

3 January 2019


Lunchtime at Carr Lane Farm
Walking near Penistone today, the weather forecasters' promise of bright, sunny spells did not materialise so my photographs were poorly illuminated. I plodded for three hours and The Sun God did not show his face once. Still, after the excesses of Christmastime it was nice to tramp for several miles and to tire myself out.

Later, back in Penistone, I visited The Arts Cafe opposite the parish church for refreshment. I fell into conversation with an elegant and articulate woman who soon explained her heritage. She was born in Equatorial Guinea - her father was from the Basque region of Spain and her mother was from the Catalan region of France. She had married an Irishman and after living in both America and Australia they had settled in Yorkshire where her three children were born.

Not that she was particularly interested but I was proud to tell her that in contrast I am a thoroughbred Yorkshireman. All my great grandparents were born here and so were my four grandparents and my parents too. I was born in Yorkshire like my three brothers and my own children were born in the county. Not a whiff of Equatorial Guinea, not a drop of Basque blood. All pure Yorkshire! The Master Race!

Another picture from Carr Lane Farm... oh and by the way Penistone is a genuine place name. I swear I did not make it up. 

2 January 2019


Lower Bents Farm, Totley Bents
So this is 2019. It's a strange place and it will take me some time to get used to it. 

Here we stand at the beginning, looking out over a mysterious  landscape that stretches before us like a counterpane - all the way to the distant hills of December. Who knows what will befall us as we travel onward?

There'll be personal happenings, national matters and events of international significance. For the billionth year running we will receive no visitors from outer space and God will continue to ignore us. Perhaps he is dead.

Yesterday, at the KCom Stadium in Hull, my beloved team thumped Bolton Wanderers by six goals to nil. I am glad it was Bolton because in early 1966 as I walked to Burnden Park, Bolton from the grimy railway station, a local youth grabbed my Hull City bobble hat from my head and ran off with it down the thronging streets. I chased him but he got away. My mother had knitted that hat and on the front was my "World Cup Willie" badge. That summer England would famously win the World Cup.

I wasn't in Hull to see yesterday's goal fest. Instead, I was walking with my wife. Two miles out of the city, we took the same circuitous route I have plodded a hundred times or more. We parked by the old stables on Shorts Lane.
View to "The Cricket Inn", Totley Bents
There were plenty of people about, Usually,I see no one at all but with it being New Year's Day and with the clement weather, many folk had had the same idea as us. 

The walk took exactly an hour and afterwards Clint took us to "The Hare and Hounds" in nearby Dore. There we enjoyed our first alcoholic drinks of the new year. I had a pint of "Black Sheep" and Shirley had a half of "Moonshine". We considered ordering food but thought better of it and returned home for cheese on toast.

Two days in to 2019 and so far so good. I have secured a dental appointment for Friday afternoon and  that morning I will have a skin cancer check up at The Royal Hallamshire Hospital. Hopefully, my basal cell carcinoma has been resigned to history but you never know.

With regard to the land of 2019, I feel a sense of trepidation as we begin to travel across it. Not for my personal life but for the country and the world at large. After the events of 2018, it is hard to be  hugely optimistic. Early cartographers would often sketch fabulous beasts on the edges of their maps, writing "Here be Monsters" or "There be Dragons" and that's how I feel about the year ahead.

Let's hope I am wrong. Should old acquaintance be forgot? Happy New Year Everybody! Happy New Year!
Tree house by Strawberry Lee Lane