21 May 2019

Recording

"This call will be recorded for quality and training purposes"... "This call may be recorded for monitoring purposes"...

You hear such statements frequently when entering telephone conversations with businesses or even government departments. Sometimes the subject matter of those conversations will be very innocuous and yet still we receive that recording advice...or is it a warning?

It never used to happen. Before effective recording technology came along you just had two way conversations. Nobody was recording them.

I sometimes wonder where all these recordings are kept and who exactly accesses them. Though I have never tried it myself, I wonder what the response might be if we phoned companies back and requested copies of the recordings or said, "Can you just play back the bit where I was talking about my insurance claim?"

How long do they keep the recordings? Are they sometimes bluffing when they say that the call will be recorded? Is it all just some kind of power game in which the customer or client is made to feel self-conscious, small and somehow defused?

Once or twice when I have been irritated or badly served by a company, I have retorted, "Aye and I want to warn you that I am also recording you for monitoring purposes!"

To me all this one-sided recording of innocent citizens is slightly sinister. They don't even ask. "Would you mind if we recorded this telephone call?" I don't think it has anything to do with "training" or "quality" - it's all about gathering evidence that might possibly be used against the caller in the event of a dispute.

Rant over.

20 May 2019

Winners

A week ago, Ian and Henry were on their way to The British Book Awards annual ceremony at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Their first book had been nominated in the Non-Fiction Lifestyle category.

They hired tuxedos and went along more in hope than expectation... but damn me - they won it! And here they are being interviewed straight after the ceremony for The British Booksellers' website:-
That happy evening, "Bosh!" also won a second award for their marketing campaign.

"The British Book Awards" are undoubtedly this country's top annual book awards and I cannot tell you just how proud and delighted I am with Ian's continuing success. The "Bosh!" story goes on.

19 May 2019

Ohhhhhhh...

Whirlow Farm - The Barn
Ohhhhhhh...No I wasn't recording sounds from the bridal suite. Ohhhhhhh... is the sound of me moaning about my hangover. I haven't had one of those in a long time. I have woken up far too early which doesn't help matters. That's why I rarely drink whisky. It seems to disturb my sleep.

Ohhhhhhh... It was a great day. The humanist ceremony was held in the garden of the old farmhouse, Fortunately, the threat of rain subsided even as a massive grey cloud trundled over the suburbs. In the middle of the ceremony, there was time for reflection as we all listened to "Una Mattina" by Ludovico Einaudi. Hedge sparrows chirped in the bushes, doves cooed above the barn and a crow cawed as he flapped effortlessly across the sky. It was as if they were part of the music.

Soon champagne was being dispensed. No sooner was one's glass empty than waiting staff were filling it up again. And there were endless canapes too. Ohhhhhhh...

In the great barn where two hundred lambs are born each spring, 150 guests settled down to an Asian thali meal. And there was wine too. And there were speeches. Lamb was not on the menu.

As the maid of honour, our Frances delivered a lovely speech about Charlotte and their friendship. She had thought it through so cleverly and it was conveyed with grace and unhurried confidence. 

I gave the happy couple a wedding album having had Wednesday's photos printed off at Boots pharmacy before slipping them into the transparent pages. Charlotte and James were delighted with it and I gave them a memory stick containing the photos too. But yesterday, I deliberately left my camera at home.

Later there was dancing and "Black Sheep" and "Moonshine" beer. Feeling like a spring lamb myself, I danced like a dervish as the pretty young things cleared the floor in awe of my rhythmic athleticism and musical interpretation skills. Ohhhhhhh...

We came home twelve hours after we had arrived - in something called an "Uber". It is a kind of taxi service which usually discriminates against people like me - people who do not possess mobile phones. In fact, in several ways we are becoming a persecuted minority.

At home, Frances said that one of her friends had seen me weeping at the wedding service and I admitted that water had indeed leaked from my eyes. I explained this by pointing out that Yorkshiremen are not afraid to reveal their emotions. We might be hard as nails, up for a fight, normally stoical, made of Yorkshire grit but we are also sensitive souls. What's wrong with the tears of a sixty five year old man - running down his cheeks as a girl he has known for twenty seven years ties the knot? Guilty as charged.

Ohhhhhhh...

18 May 2019

Launch

It was a happy morning in sunny Sheffield on Wednesday. I had the privilege of taking wedding photographs at the Town Hall for my daughter's best friend Charlotte and the young man of her choice and her dreams - James.

Bizarrely, when we arrived at The Town Hall, there was a gathering of climate protesters on the front steps. It wasn't long before they staged a "die-in" - lying down here and there to suggest that the extinction of the human race may be just around the corner if we don't wake up. I tend to think that they are right.

The civil ceremony was a simple affair witnessed only by immediate family and me. Afterwards, we walked out into The Peace Gardens for more photos before drinks were taken outside Brown's bar and restaurant.

I left the happy scene before the little wedding party all went on to enjoy a celebratory meal in Silversmiths Restaurant.

The main wedding celebrations will happen later on today at a community farm on the edge of the city. There's a huge barn that has been decorated and organised to accommodate a hundred and fifty guests. There will be another non-religious wedding ceremony followed by feasting, drinking and dancing.

Every wedding is an act of hope for the future and lord knows we need more hope in these topsy turvy times. Good luck to Charlotte and James. It was an honour to play a small role at the launch of their married life.

17 May 2019

Meltham

Church Street, Honley
In Tuesday's glorious sunshine, I was keen to walk in unfamiliar territory. My drive took me north of Sheffield via Stocksbridge and Langsett. I was on the road to Huddersfield but at Holmfirth, I branched left for Meltham and that is where I parked my silver hire car. 

I was no longer in South Yorkshire. This was most definitely West Yorkshire - once home to countless textile mills that tapped into the power of Pennine streams. Meltham shelters some nine thousand souls.  The older houses are all built from hard sandstone. They are solid and they endure - just like the Yorkshire character itself. Once wool and cotton workers inhabited those streets but most textile industries collapsed long ago and places like Meltham have had to discover new ways to exist.

From Meltham I walked through woodland to Honley where I treated myself to a small  bag of deep fried potato fingers - what we in England call chips. I shook malt vinegar and salt upon them  then sat on a shady bench consuming them along with a cold can of diet Coca Cola.
Old timer sitting on a wall in Honley. He said he was "All right".
Somewhere in Honley I managed to lose my house key. It must have escaped from the zip pocket on the front of my camera case. Fortunately, I did not also lose the key to the hire car which would have caused untold inconvenience and would also have incurred a £300 replacement fee.

I was kicking myself about losing the key but I still enjoyed the rest of my sunny walk via Netherton and Blackmoorfoot Reservoir, then on to the charming village of Helme where a woman on a chestnut black horse passed me by for a second time.
Luckily, my house key was attached to a clear plastic key ring into which I had inserted our telephone number on a  green label. And as luck would have it, soon after returning to Sheffield I received a call from Honley. A woman named Rachel had found the key and had kindly left it in the village foodstore. 
Abandoned Lord's Mill - an old woollen mill near Honley
I have just sent the shop a stamped addressed envelope so that they can mail the house key back to me. Sometimes it is easy to forget that most people are like Rachel - kind, helpful and honest. They don't get as much airtime as they deserve - rather like Kourtney...
By Whitehead Lane,  South Crosland - cow number 600937 - aka Kourtney

16 May 2019

Guide

I bought a book called "The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs" by a fellow called Tristan Godley. At times it was quite an irritating book to read. It contained far too much information and it seemed as if the author's whole interest in walking was connected with the spotting of various signs.

He explained a whole array of methods we might use to determine compass directions from the shape of trees to stars in the sky and from lichens to church architecture. All very interesting but to be truthful - when I am out walking I always know where north and south and east and west are simply by looking at my map. It's not as if I am walking in a featureless wilderness.

In two of the chapters, Godley describes a journey he made to the heart of Borneo, seeking to pick up the travelling techniques  of  Dayak tribespeople. Deep in the jungle, he heads for a village called Long Layu with two Dayak trekkers. They follow signs such as the direction of streams and birdsong. They are at one with Nature. Finally they make it to Long Layu but Godley has nothing to say about his destination. Nothing to say about the people who live there and the homes they have crafted. It's almost as if  the destination is insignificant. It's the getting there that matters.

Godley often refers to courses he leads in reading natural signs when walking in the great outdoors and at one point he refers to a "shepherd's hut" in his garden where he does all of his writing and his studying.

There's much of interest in the book. Maybe too much. As I say, it sometimes felt like a case of "information overload". For me, walking is often a meditative process of exploration and observation. I don't wish to spend my walking journeys collecting information like a scientist on a field study weekend. I want to think as I walk along, to dream, to remember and to see. It is an holistic experience and knowing where North is is never high on my agenda. In contrast,  for Tristan Godley it's probably his top priority.

I made it through 400 pages, reading every word and there are certainly a few nuggets I will take from this book but in the final analysis I am glad that the thirteen hours hours of reading are over.

13 May 2019

Sunday

We are in the habit of having Sunday dinner in the evening whereas the majority of British people have it in the middle of the day. Yesterday, I roasted another basted pork loin joint - accompanied by roasted carrots, broccoli, new potatoes, apple sauce, homemade gravy and of course the obligatory Yorkshire puddings. This was all washed down with a bottle of South African sauvignon blanc. Not New Zealand wine for once. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and go really wild!

Earlier on, it being a lovely spring day with fluffy white clouds scudding slowly from the south west, I went for a constitutional walk on the southern edge of the city. 

There was a long uphill climb from Blacka Brook until I reached the green plateau on Totley Moor where long ago there was once a sheep farm. Then I skirted up the quirkily named Wimble Holme Hill and saw a small group of  deer trotting through the woods below. One of these deer bathed noisily in a little stream but it was impossible to get a decent photo of him or her through the foliage.
Horse in a fly mask at Hallfield Fram - on yesterday's walk
Where the path round the hill meets Moss Road, I saw a family heading up (see the top picture). It might have been  reminiscent of  a scene from "The Sound of Music" but one of the girls was glued to her mobile phone and the dad was wearing a baseball cap.

Monday morning and Clint has just been taken away for bodywork repair following the accident we suffered a week ago. I will be picking up a hire car this afternoon - all part and parcel of my insurance arrangements. In the meantime, I guess I need to get some garden work done as our grass and privet hedges look like they need haircuts. The dormancy of winter is long gone.

12 May 2019

Joni

Late last night I watched Joni Mitchell on BBC 4. It was an "Old Grey Whistle Test" clip from 1974. She was singing "A Case of You" from her iconic album, "Blue". Let me share that same clip with you:-
 
Hell, that was forty five years ago though the song itself is older still. There was a strange beauty about Joni Mitchell but what was most beautiful was her ability to speak intimately and poetically to listeners through self-penned songs. She had so much to say about what it means to be human. Genius comes in many different forms but in my view, Joni deserves that label.
_____________________________________________________
A Case of You

Just before our love got lost you said
"I am as constant as a northern star"
And I said "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar"

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
"Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
"Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed"

Oh but you are in my blood
You're my holy wine
You're so bitter, bitter and so sweet

Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

11 May 2019

Recap

Weatherwise, the week that has just passed by has been dreary. Up here in the north of England (Up North) we have had  good amounts of rain and the golden orb has mostly been hidden by clouds. However, we needed a week like that to water the land, top up the reservoirs and fill the streams.

The dreariness has made photo walks problematic but yesterday, before the rain returned, I managed an hour long stroll from Ringinglow, down into the valley of The Porter Brook and up the other side along Clough Lane. I saw a bee investigating purple and blue spider flowers (Centaurea montana) by the side of the lane and later, after Clint had agreed to me reading in the driver's seat for an hour, a million silver raindrops splattered the glass.

I came home to roast slices of lean loin pork on a bed of sliced onions, mushrooms and yellow pepper. And there were Jersey potatoes and chopped pointed cabbage too. All ready for when Her Majesty returned from The Health Centre with tales of smears, inoculations and coils. It's always nice to chat over dinner.

And then I zoomed out to Walkley on the west side of this city where a little folk concert was happening in some allotments above The Rivelin Valley. It was to raise money for the local Food Bank which my friend Mike is involved with. He was also playing with his band - Dogwood Rose. I  wanted to support him. After all, he's a granddad now! Hi Gramps!

Back home, I felt the call of The Pub and who was I to deny this? I went down there at ten thirty and supped four pints of Tetley's bitter talking to an enigmatic but kind-hearted chap called Craig. I have known him for twenty five years.

Later still, The Beloved Daughter arrived home after travelling Up North earlier in the evening and heading straight to a friend's birthday party. She was a little tiddly after the consumption of alcoholic beverages but we spent an hour chattering about this and that before bedtime. How do I love that young woman?  Unconditionally and forever.

10 May 2019

Backtracking

Today I was going to post Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" but when I checked  back I found I had already done that - see here.

So then I thought I would post about our old cat Boris - the one that never came home - but upon looking back I found that I had already done that too - see here.

What could be my blogpost for today? I thought I might write a poem about one of Antony Gormley's iron men, standing on the beach at Crosby near Liverpool but again backtracking proved that I had already done that  - see here.

Perhaps I could post about my feelings upon retirement from teaching, But once again, I discovered that I had already done that - see here.

In fact, as I came up with several more "new" blogpost ideas I found that they had also already been addressed. There was nothing "new" about them at all. They were already done. Consequently, instead of publishing a fresh post today, I decided to just guide visitors back to four earlier posts. See above.

I have travelled a long way with my alter ego - Yorkshire Pudding - covering so many topics, sharing so many images, writing so many things. 3045 blogposts and counting.. I wonder if the reservoir has finally dried up. We will see what tomorrow brings for as Scarlett O'Hara correctly said, "Tomorrow is another day".

9 May 2019

Nothing

My father-in-law Charlie was a lovely, gentle man. Born the son of a farmer, he spent his entire life working hard upon the land west of The River Trent in an area of Lincolnshire known as The Isle of Axholme.

It was a two hundred acre arable farm upon which he grew barley, potatoes, leeks, turnips, sugar beet, cabbages and broad beans in rotation. Mostly he worked on his own - ploughing, sowing, spraying, harrowing, mending and finally harvesting. He spent countless hours out in those flat fields - alone under the wide Lincolnshire skies with only an Alsatian dog for company.

It was a simple life of seasons passing and the rise and fall of agricultural prices. In his fifties, he built his own modern bungalow to replace the tumbledown farmhouse where my wife grew up. And when I say "built it", I mean he built it with his own hands unlike Sir Christopher Wren or Frank Lloyd Wright.

In his early seventies, Charlie contracted prostate cancer which ate away at his body and after a short battle with that beast he died in Scunthorpe Hospital. This was back in 2000. He should have enjoyed more years but at least he got to see and love his grandchildren - unlike my father who was dead at sixty five.

Long after Charlie died, we discovered that he had kept a diary for many years. As a farmer, he recorded plantings, harvests, prices and weather matters. He always kept a close eye on the weather - measuring rainfall and temperatures.This was more than a hobby for his livelihood partly depended on fluctuations in the weather.

But when he retired at the age of sixty eight, he continued his diary entries and I remember one of them very vividly - "Nothing happened. Nobody came. Nothing on TV. A very boring day.". And there were similar entries about nothingness and dull, empty days.

Maybe the reason I remembered this is that I believe we all have days like that. The blogosphere, celebrity news and social media driven lives seem to fill us with expectations that something should be happening all the time. There should be a buzz, things to write about, maybe even boast about. Excitement, events, phone calls, friends. But the reality is that some days are quite empty. Not much happening. Nothing to say.

That's a part of life that some people struggle to accept.

8 May 2019

Bluebells

Early May means bluebells. In Sheffield's southern suburbs we have a tranche of ancient woodland known as Ecclesall Woods. That's where you will find the city's best bluebell glades. I must have taken "Yorkshire Pudding" visitors there before.

Yesterday afternoon, I was back in the woods and sure enough our lovely wild English bluebells were out in all of their subtle glory. Experience has taught me that they are difficult to capture with a camera. That dappled light, the shadows of trees, sunlight piercing the canopy. It's tricky.
A jay on a log in Ecclesall Woods yesterday
But I keep trying. There's something magical and other worldly about a haze of bluebells carpeting a woodland floor. They arrive from history and myth, marking the passing of years like a solstice. In spite of climate change, these bluebells will surely crowd the woods  and ring silently in countless Maytimes beyond my life.

Two years ago, I wrote this poem after a similar bluebell walk. I was pleased to revisit  it and make a couple of tiny changes. I hope you won't mind me sharing it again:-
_______________________________________________________

In Bluebell Time

They came back.
A haze of indigo, purple and violet blue
Swirling across that secret glade
Like morning mist 
Drifting the mottled shadows
Under gnarled and timeless trees
Where invisible thrushes carolled
In the heart of those fairy woods.
And it was lovely and it was blue.
Tumbling down to the brook
And all along the margins of the path.
I bent and held a single stem against my palm
Silently pledged no hurt nor harm
To see them dangling like drops of rain
To see the blueness once again.
Yet they made no ringing or jingling sound
As they reclaimed their ancient ground.
What joy and truth was thereby found
To see the bluebells all around.
_______________________________________________________

And five years ago, I wrote this bluebell poem after walking in Ecclesall Woods. I imagined a young man strolling with his sweetheart before going off to France to play his part in what is sometimes laughably known as "The Great War". Cannock Chase was a military training site in Staffordshire where thousands of Yorkshire recruits spent a few days before heading out to the horrors that lay ahead of them:-
_______________________________________________________
1916

I left you in the bluebell time
Afore that summer's foliage
Carpeted those paths we walked
In shadow.
I clasped you by a gnarled beech tree
And felt your urgent heart
Against my chest -
And the lovely bluebells
Hung like mist
And life seemed like a story
Of hope and yes, of love...
But I left you in the bluebell time
For Cannock Chase
And khaki games of war
No bluebell kisses
And no words to say
Those awful things we saw.

7 May 2019

Variance

Two things to report from yesterday. One good. One bad. Do you want the good news first or  the bad news?

Oh. Okay. I can hear you. Please don't shout! The good news...

Regular visitors to this humble Yorkshire blog may recall that several days ago I painted a peacock. No. I didn't grab a living peacock from a zoo and slap some magnolia emulsion paint on the screaming creature - I mean that I painted a peacock on a canvas to echo the wallpaper design in our "master" bedroom. You may remember that I wanted to have a go at a very different painting of a peacock and yesterday I managed it.

I based my painting on an image I had found on the internet. Before beginning my peacock I studied the photograph carefully. Rather than tackling the whole peacock, I decided to just paint a picture of its head. I had to remind myself that I was creating a piece of Art and not a replica of the photo image.

When I was eighteen, one of my three A level subjects was Art but the only oil painting I ever created at that time was an extra large image of a woman hanging up washing in a northern alleyway. They hung that picture in the school canteen. Painting with oils is very different from watercolour painting. Different techniques are required and different expectations. It is also a more costly process and more messy too.

However, I am pretty happy with how my second peacock turned out:-
Now to the bad news. 

Emerging from an awkward road junction that Clint has negotiated a thousand times before, he managed to bash into the side of a taxi. The damage caused to Clint's frontage and the side of the taxi appeared more or less cosmetic for it was a very low speed accident. However, knowing how expensive car bodywork repairs can be, this is an event that I have had to report to my insurance company. If only our lives had rewind buttons so that we could backtrack and erase unpleasant happenings before they happen. I admit that I was probably daydreaming about peacocks. It was my fault entirely.

6 May 2019

Letter

Finally, I have got round to sharing this splendid letter with you. It was sent out from a local primary school in March of last year when school was cancelled for the day because of heavy snow:-
In a world where children are faced with far more don't's than do's, it was most uplifting to find a headteacher asking children to go out and enjoy the snow. Perhaps he was remembering his own childhood and the fun he had in wintertime. There's affection and a real understanding of what it means to be a child in that letter.

It is easy to imagine a different school warning children about the hazards of playing in the snow. Advising them in a curmudgeonly way to stay safe and to complete homework tasks designed to fill an unexpected day off. 

I wonder what OFSTED - the government's school inspection department - would make of Mr Stewart's letter. Their bristling condemnation would probably explode like Chernobyl.

5 May 2019

Charlotte

That's our Frances on the right and there's her friend Charlotte on the left. They are having a little girl dinner in our garden. How many years ago was that? I guess that they are about eight years old in the picture so it would have been around twenty two years ago.

They have been friends since they were three years old and they are still friends now. They enjoy a special bond. They attended the same play group, the same primary school and the same secondary school before going on to the same university - The University of Birmingham.

Later, like Frances, Charlotte gravitated to London for work and after some romantic disappointments she met James her handsome husband-to-be. She is going to marry him on Wednesday of next week in Sheffield Town Hall. And on the Saturday afterwards there will be a proper wedding party at Whirlow Farm with food and music and dancing and beer and wine and flowers. Frances will be the maid of honour.

I have been asked to take photographs at the Town Hall civil ceremony that will probably only have half a dozen people in attendance. That is an honour for me but I hope it is a nice day with good light to illuminate those special moments.

Like our Frances, Charlotte has always had a proud, independent spirit. She is thoughtful, intelligent  and funny. It's quite splendid that both young women are getting married in the same calendar year and of course Charlotte will be the maid of honour at Frances's wedding.

I wish I had a friend like that - someone who has been very close for an entire  lifetime. But I left my East Yorkshire village long ago and I have no one like Charlotte. It must be lovely and rather comforting to have friend like her. A fellow traveller. Someone you will still be close to even when you grow old.

3 May 2019

Drained

Home alone and feeling drained. Shirley has flown off to Lisbon, Portugal for a long weekend away with the other nurses from her health centre.

Yesterday, I spent fifteen hours working as a poll clerk for the local elections. I was up at five thirty and at my assigned polling station by six fifteen. I didn't leave there until ten fifteen at night. The pay for this work is terrible but it is interesting to be part of the basic democratic process. 

There was a list of the seven hundred and fifty electors who live in the electoral ward. Mostly the names were Anglo Saxon with a just a smattering of names from other cultures. There were a lot of things you could read into the list. There were houses of multiple occupancy inhabited by university students. There were widows and divorcees, nuclear families, affluent families and even a lord of the realm who had hurried back from London by train. The three hundred people who bothered to vote were generally polite and friendly and I got on very well with the other poll clerk - a chap called Andy. That made the day much more bearable.

He shared something awful. Sixteen years ago this month, his sixteen year old daughter was killed in a car accident. That has got to be an awful memory to live with. I guess it never really goes away.

Anyway, it was a very long day so perhaps it is no great surprise that I have felt washed out today. I have also got a sore throat and have had another attack of  laptopitis - otherwise known as computer failure. This time I have had a new hard drive fitted for £90 so hopefully we will get far more than a week's extra service from the thing. I am typing on it right now.

I don't feel like going out. I might have a big glass of  New Zealand wine while watching The World Snooker Championship semi-finals  courtesy of the BBC. The event takes place each year at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield but in all the years I have lived here, I have never ventured down there to watch a live game. Maybe next year.

1 May 2019

Clipstone

On the edge of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire there was once a substantial royal palace. Its first buildings were erected around 1162 under the instructions of the Norman King Henry II who was England's ruler between 1154 and 1189. He was the father of King Richard I and the grandson of William the Conqueror.

Nowadays - for somewhat obscure reasons - the ancient site is known as King John's Palace. Very little remains. I guess that many of the ancient stones were taken away and used in local building projects.
There was good hunting in the area and maybe that is why the palace was popular with kings and their entourages for over two hundred years. The last king who frequently used the old palace at Clipstone was King Richard II who reigned between 1377 and 1399.

I was there yesterday, including the palace site in a seven mile walking circuit.  Long after those kings of long ago were buried coal deposits were found  close to the old palace and a hundred and fifty years of coal mining began - ending as late as 2003.

If you look hard enough you can still see the evidence of coal mining activity around Clipstone but like the royal palace, with each year that passes, the memory of what once was keeps fading.


29 April 2019

Peacock

In August 2017 the beloved Mrs Pudding and I decorated our bedroom. She papered one wall with a good quality paper that contained semi-abstract images of peacocks and leafy growth. The repeating pattern has  something of an oriental quality about it.

The other walls of the bedroom have a creamy plainness about them - and that includes the fitted wardrobes that run along the north wall, opposite the peacocks.

Soon after the decoration was finished, I had the bright idea of creating a canvas to hang on one of the plain walls. I wanted it to be similar to the wallpaper pattern but not identical. This weekend just gone, I finally got round to creating that picture.

Using oil paints, I am reasonably happy with what materialised. It matches my vision - only now I can see that the wallpaper link held me back artistically - chained me. At some time in the not too distant future I plan to have a go at a very different peacock painting. The paint will be thicker and brighter and the final image will be more eye-catching and indeed unique. I may just concentrate  on a peacock's head rather than attempting to depict  the whole creature.

The peacock is one of the avian world's most flamboyant characters and it will  be a challenge to make a new image that satisfies me and exists in its own right with no connection to the wallpaper design - apart from the fact that a peacock will be centre stage.
For what it's worth - here's my first attempt

28 April 2019

Shatton

A week ago I parked Clint in the village of Shatton near Bamford before plodding up the hillside to a telecommunications mast that overlooks The Hope Valley. It was a mile of solid uphill walking but I have found that if you breathe steadily and take shorter steps there is no need to pause on such a walk. Patiently, you just keep going.

By the time I reached the mast there was sweat on my brow. A couple were sitting on a grassy slope nearby, admiring the view. I kept going across Shatton Moor and then onward to Brough Lane. From there you get great views of Hope Cement Works (see top picture).
A view of  Bamford in The Hope Valley
Some people bewail the presence of this industry - considering it to be a blot on The Peak District landscape. But I recognise that the modern world needs limestone-based products and families in the nearby villages of Hope and Bradwell need work. Living, breathing national parks need to be part of the real world. It's not all about rental cottages and biscuit box lid scenery.
A posse of girls on horseback trotted along the upland  track as I descended to Elmore Hill Farm where spring lambs frolicked. And then on to Upper Shatton and along the narrow lane that leads you back to Shatton. Cowslips and primroses bloomed on the grassy banking of ancient hedgerows and more lambs sheltered with ewes  in the shade of a copse because it was an unseasonably warm day.

Across the ford and back into Shatton where I took a bottle of water from Clint's boot and swigged it down in one great gulp. It was like breathing air. 

27 April 2019

Pooped

Last night saw the final gig of The Blind Eagles' blockbusting tour of northern England. I am writing this on the tour bus as our driver Red steers us back to Manchester Airport so that our North American backing singers - The Eaglettes can fly home.

The last gig happened in The Spa Theatre, Scarborough. We really nailed it!

There was Steve Reed churning out the bass lines like sleepers on a railway track - taking us steadily to some faraway hills and there was his partner Dave caught in the spotlight like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. He was inspired. John Gray beat his drumkit in the style of Animal from "The Muppet Show" - beads of perspiration shooting out like some kind of human fountain. God that guy knows to drive the beat.

The Eaglettes - Mary, Vivian and Jenny crooned in natural harmony, their figure-hugging sequined dresses sparkling like distant constellations. They really gelled on the tour - not just as singers but as friends too. Speaking as the lead singer and frontman, they gave me brilliant support. I couldn't have done it without you gals!

The Scarborough crowd were really up for it. News of our success had spread across The Deep North like a forest fire and of course our social media channels - including Twitter and YouTube had added much fuel to the conflagration. Thanks to Meike Riley and Jennifer Barlow for co-ordinating all that stuff.

I think we will all remember the tour for different reasons. That cheap hotel in Blackpool where Dave and Steve were caught snorting coke in the breakfast room by Elsie the fearsome landlady and the riot in Sunderland when waiting fans were told that the gig was completely sold out. The power outage in Grimsby and Red sleeping with all of The Eaglettes that memorable night  in the Travel Lodge just outside York. 

Hey baby, it's all rock n' roll. "Carpe diem"  as they say. You gotta seize the day.

Meantime our first album "The Blind Eagles On Tour" is already charting at number one across Europe and The States. And I am proud to announce  that my original song, "Save The Earth" has been selected as the theme music for the new David Attenborough  TV series that will have the same name:-
Listen to the silence
Now that the birds have gone
Earth whispered long ago
There's no room for every one
Save the Earth
Save the Earth
Save the Earth

26 April 2019

"Birds"

On Wednesday afternoon I spent a couple of hours working on the till at Oxfam. I needed some music on the shop  CD player and quickly picked "After the Goldrush" by Neil Young. Incredibly, that album came out in 1970. It has been around for almost fifty years. Can you believe it?

One song from the album  has stayed in my head the last forty eight hours. It is "Birds" and if I have any say in the matter, I would like it to be played at my funeral. Can't be too long now... Please listen:-

"Birds"

Lover,
there will be another one
Who'll hover
over you beneath the sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.

Nestled
in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.

25 April 2019

Rewind

One is still catching up on the lost days when  the internet vanished like a  will-o'-the-wisp as our laptop suffered some internal malady - like technological diverticulitis.

You may not have noticed this but my blogging stage name is Yorkshire Pudding. In selecting this pseudonym, there seemed to be no more obvious or better choice. After all, my racial heritage is 100% Yorkshire. What could be better than to name myself after my great county's culinary treasure.

When I make Yorkshire puddings no measuring happens and no cookbooks are ever consulted. I could make Yorkshire puddings with my eyes closed. The basic mixture is on the face of things very simple but to make successful Yorkshire puddings you need experience and passion -two qualities which I have in abundance.

On Sunday, the evening sunlight illuminated the batch I had freshly prepared for Sunday dinner. Golden and crispy, they rose from the hollows in the old baking tin like little Yorkist angels. My mother would have been proud of me. Have a look at these bad boys:-
On Easter Monday, I parked on Bents Green Road just a mile from here on the western edge of the city. Its elevation is perhaps two hundred feet above our street's altitude so spring bursts ever so slightly later up there. I noticed the fresh and vibrant cherry blossom when the glory of the blossoming cherry trees closer to home was already fading. 

In one of the pictures you can see Clint snoozing under a pink tree - he is so sleek and silver.and was perturbed about petals falling upon his paintwork but he needn't have worried. The air was so still.
In other news, Ian and Henry have made the front cover of a national food magazine called "Vegan Life". The "Bosh!" story keeps on running:-

24 April 2019

Back

I'm Slim Shady (I'm back)
I'm back (I'm back) (Slim Shady!) I'm back
                                                    By Eminem
_______________________________________________

How did I survive the last few days without internet access? Men made of weaker stuff would have surely crumbled but I girded my loins and battled through like a Canadian Mountie on a mission. 

After the long Easter weekend, I took this Lenovo laptop to a young fellow called Josh who manages a small computer business. I explained the problem and twenty four hours later the computer was fixed for £30 (US $40). Thanks to my friend Mick for pointing me in Josh's direction. There was no need to shell out for a new laptop after all. Fingers crossed, this repaired magic machine will now travel much further with me upon life's twisting journey. I hope so anyway.
Lyra McKee (1990-2019)
In those missing days, various things happened both in my life and in the world at large.  There was wicked mass killing by madmen in Sri Lanka and in Derry City, Northern Ireland poor Lyra McKee was accidentally killed by a mindless moron with a gun. In London, Extinction Rebellion protesters raised many questions and the amazing Miss Greta Thunberg was there to provide moral support. Meantime in Yorkshire we were bathed in Easter sunshine.

Travelling to Hull to watch my football team play Sheffield United, I made a special detour to photograph a certain geographical square. In 2011, the Ordnance Survey organisation declared that this square was the dullest, most boring square in the entire United Kingdom. It has no features - no roads or buildings or paths or hills. It is as flat as a pancake and doesn't even have any fences or hedgerows. There are just a few drainage channels and a couple of straggly bushes and in the south western corner there is an electricity pylon.

The square is situated just south of The River Ouse and the small ribbon settlement of Ousefleet that clings to a quiet lane, seven miles east of a town called Goole. It wasn't Mount Everest or The Gibson Desert but I got there...
Within the most boring square

19 April 2019

Apple

Our Lenovo laptop has been playing up, so much so that it appears to have ground to a terminal  halt. Fortunately, our Ian came back to Sheffield this afternoon. I took him out for a curry this evening and he gave me permission to access his Apple laptop when I got home. By the way, he has now gone out with some of his Sheffield chums and Shirley is over in Manchester attending a "hen-do" weekend.

So here I am back at the ranch, tapping away on an Apple laptop for the first time in my life. I could get used to it but things don't work the same way as on a regular Windows-friendly computer. 

Anyway, I thought I had better knock out a blogpost just in case you were wondering where I had gone. Perhaps you were thinking that I had travelled down to London to join Extinction Rebellion or maybe you thought I had been rushed to hospital suffering from some undiagnosed ailment.

Sorry to disappoint you. Normal life continues. I am plonked on the sofa with a mug of coffee, ready to watch "Have I Got News For You"...

...That show always gives me a few laughs. There was Trump in 2016 saying "I love Wikileaks"  and there he was again last week saying, "I don't know anything about Wikileaks".  I guess that honesty and consistency are overrated qualities these days. Who wants leaders like that?

Picture: Henry and Ian at Euston Station

18 April 2019

Extortion

I don't know if it is the same in America, Canada, Australia, Germany or any other western country but here in England, insurance companies are engaged in widespread extortion. Let me explain.

You have paid for a year's house insurance. You have not made a claim and your circumstances have not changed. You are close to the end of the year and you receive a renewal notice from your chosen insurance company. You are somewhat taken aback because the new premium proposed is 25% higher than last year's premium. How can that possibly be right?

Many customers would simply trust their insurance company and pay the new premium. There's a degree of unwelcome hassle involved in complaining, querying or checking with other insurance providers. Living a busy life, it's easier just to pay up.

But that's wrong. My advice is to phone the insurance company and ask, "What's going on?". Why has my insurance gone up so much? Is there anything you can do to bring the premium down? Then you will no doubt hear a pattering of feet, you might be put on hold for a while and then the representative of the company will come back to you with a much reduced total figure. The whole thing is a despicable scam upon which the forces of government and the law should be clamping down.

At the end of March, our proposed annual  house insurance premium with The Halifax Bank had shot up by £35. Following a five minute call I got it down to a £12 increase - saving us £23 for exactly the same policy.

Yesterday, I received a renewal notice for my car insurance. The figure quoted was £65 higher than last year. I phoned the insurer up and managed to reduce the increase by £50. That's £50 in my pocket rather than the insurers' plentiful vaults. Once again, the policy is exactly the same as the one proposed. The only difference is the price.

When calling these sharks, it can be helpful to get yourself armed with an alternative quote from another company and to use this in fortifying your argument but often that doesn't seem necessary. It's as if the call centre operator's screen has flashed up this kind of message - "He has phoned up to  challenge the renewal figure so keep him waiting for five minutes and then reduce the figure using Formula A. Remember to make him think that we are doing him a big favour by saying - 'We can do this for you' etc.".

It all stinks like Grimsby Fish Market and I have little doubt that this widespread extortion by stealth is making insurance companies fatter and richer than ever before. Remember to phone them back and make a polite but firm challenge if you receive an overinflated renewal notice.

17 April 2019

Moorland

Gordon Gout has crept back in his hole. He is definitely "one of them". I hope I don't see him again for many weeks. He is not welcome in this neck of the woods.

On Monday morning I was no longer limping so I thought I would treat myself to a little walk on the moors just south of Sheffield. 

I parked in a lay-by by the side of the B6054 road that links Fox House with Owler Bar. With boots on I set off. No need for a map as I know the paths up there very well. There was a chilly wind blustering down from the north so I was glad that I had donned my warm Hull City manager's coat.

After twenty minutes, I cut away from the moorland track and headed instead through heather and rough grasses to the ruined site of an old sheepfold. Two gateposts endure like a memorial to the decades of sheep farming that once played out upon that windswept moor.
Fifty yards away there's an old triangulation pillar - now no longer required for mapping or survey work. All over the island of Britain you will find such concrete pillars. With each year that passes their credentials as historical artefacts increase. Whenever I encounter one I like to capture it with my camera, like a grouse shooter bagging birds.

And then it was on to the big cairn on top of Brown Edge with excellent views of Sheffield and the city's southern suburbs. Two other men were up there. They were the best of friends and one of them was an Olympic standard talker. We chattered for a while in the wind before they skedaddled. Then I sat upon the little bench that has been wedged into the north side of the cairn and ate my apple watching meadow pipits and skylarks dancing on the north wind.

Take that Gordon Gout! - I muttered to myself as I strolled back to Clint who was dozing in the lay-by. (American: "turnout"/ "pullout")

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