25 March 2019

Weekend

"The Old Neptune Inn" at Whitstable
Monday morning and the birthday weekend is almost over. It has been great.

Whitstable is a smashing little seaside town with an array of independent shops along with bustling restaurants and pubs. It's all low rise - giving the coastal settlement a human scale.

The town is famous for its oysters and when the tide goes out the oyster beds are revealed. It's big business with tractors operating at the water's edge and the oysters growing happily upon large chain racks. Look to the left of the top picture and you can just make out some of the oyster beds.
In fact our town centre rental is called Oyster Bed Cottage. It has been just perfect. Everything works. It's clean and it has its own parking space on the other side of fob-operated security gates.

London is fifty miles away. Our capital is a multi-cultural melting pot containing residents with roots in every corner of the planet. But Whitstable is not like that. Essentially, it remains a white Anglo Saxon place. On Friday night we were in the "Peter Cushing" Wetherspoons pub. A throng of local people were eating and drinking and there was a hubbub of   Kentish voices. I looked around the throng and there was not one black or Asian face. Perhaps it is little wonder that this region is the country's Brexit supporting epicentre. 
Street art by Whitstable High Street
I bought Shirley a  new watch by Mondaine and Frances and Stew gave her pearl earrings, Ian gave her a card with a cartoon of Freddie Mercury on the front and he's singing "MAMA OO-OO-H..." She also received many other cards that she opened on her birthday morning.

Yesterday, we drove along the coast to Margate in gorgeous sunshine and we promenaded after visiting the Tate gallery on the seafront. Later we had Italian pizzas in a rustic cafe on Whitstable high street before the young ones were driven back to the town's station.
At Margate
Oh, and I forgot to mention my cunning little birthday plan. I had been in touch with a local cake maker called Tessa and when we visited the weekly farmers' market in The Umbrella Centre, there was Tessa with the cake I had ordered. She opened the box to reveal an orange and passion fruit cake with "Happy Birthday Shirley 60" iced neatly on the top. The cunning plan came to fruition and  Shirley was suitably surprised.

Very soon we'll be heading back to the land of UpNorth where the wild things are. Bye bye Whitstable and thank you for a weekend to remember.
Sunset over Essex - seen from Whitstable Harbour

24 March 2019

Whitstable

Yorkshire Pudding and Shirley
It's one in the morning on Sunday March 24th. I have consumed too much Kentish ale but I am still very much compus mentis. We are in Whitstable on the north coast of Kent - fifty miles east of London. 

We came here to celebrate Shirley's sixtieth birthday and were joined by our son and daughter - Ian and Frances - as well as Frances's fiancee Stew. 

Saturday was a great day. We walked five miles along the coast to Herne Bay and later enjoyed a delicious Moroccan meal in the Alimo restaurant. And afterwards we spent a couple of hours in "The Old Neptune Inn" by the beach, grooving to a splendid band called Squeeze Gut Alley - named after a very tight Whitstable alleyway.

For now, that's all I want to say but I am attaching two pictures to this post. My old woman is sixty. It's hard to believe when so often she seems so young. I first met her when she was still nineteen. We have travelled so far together. Happy Birthday Shirley! xxx
Frances and Ian

21 March 2019

Noddy

The very idea that a horse might be able to talk was ridiculous. And yet that was the premise of a funny American TV Show called "Mr Ed". I can still hear the theme song now -  "A horse is a horse, of course, of course/ And no one can talk to a horse of course/ That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed!"

The show was first aired in 1961 and ran for six seasons. The star of the show was a palomino called Bamboo Harvester. 

I hadn't thought of "Mr Ed" for years until this very afternoon when I was walking through the village of Millthorpe. I had just passed the entrance to Cordwell Farm when a grey-white gelding galloped towards the galvanised gate to his field in order to check me out.

I scratched his cheek and patted his neck and emitted a few sentences including, "There's a good boy!", "I haven't got any food for you!" and "I don't really like horses!"

Then I carried on my way, not realising that there was another gate further along the hedgerow. Sure enough, the horse galloped along to this second gate and once again put his great big equine head over the top bar.

I ignored him and carried on, I had only taken a couple of strides when I heard a voice saying quite clearly, "And I don't like people!" I turned round and shook my head rapidly. There was nobody there just the damned horse. I did a double take.

The horse chuckled, showing his big horsey teeth, "Don't look so surprised pal! Horses are more intelligent than you might think!" His voice was deep but unlike Mr Ed, he spoke in a broad Derbyshire accent. To say I was astonished would be to make a massive understatement.

A couple of cars passed by and a wave of self-consciousness passed over me. After all, I was standing on the roadside talking to a ruddy horse! If anybody saw me they would think that I was a nutcase. Perhaps I am. I had to pinch myself to confirm that this encounter was not just happening in my head.

The horse asked for my name so I asked for his. He is called Noddy and he is six years old. There was another horse in the field called Blaze but Noddy described him as "Thick as two short planks. He can't talk like me pal."

I laughed and then Noddy said, "Fancy a ride Mr Pud?"

"What do you mean?"

"A ride round the field on me back!"

"But you haven't got a saddle and I haven't got a riding helmet!"

"You'll be okay. I'll take it easy. Ever been on a horse?"

I could only remember one other occasion. It was when I was a camp counsellor in Ohio. We were trotting along a woodland path in a line and then my horse bolted. It was all I could do to hang on. Perhaps that nameless horse had been stung or spooked in some other way.

I used the gate to climb up on Noddy's back. He snorted and whinnied and then he began a gentle trot around his field. Blaze watched in bemusement. And then I realised that Noddy's gentle trot was turning into a run. 

My bottom bounced painfully upon his spine as I clasped his mane. Noddy was laughing but I was begging him to stop. The run had turned into a full blown gallop and I was terrified about falling off. Briefly, I pictured myself in traction in a hospital bed but I needn't have worried. "Stop! Stop!" I yelled. Noddy slowed down and took me back to the gate so that I could dismount.

"I enjoyed that!" he declared.

"Good for you!" I said, with my legs wide apart like John Wayne. My arse (American: ass) felt as sore and swollen as a baboon's red butt. 

"Will you come again?" asked Noddy.

"Maybe."

"Well please bring carrots next time. And maybe an apple or two. Not those cooking apples. The sweet ones!"

I smiled and patted Noddy on his neck then he snorted and bounded off across the field again. 

Walking through the fields to Horsleygate and up the hill to Holmesfield, I  reminded myself that he is only six years old. Not the kind of horse with which one could have a serious, adult conversation but I still plan to bring him carrots and sweet apples.

20 March 2019

Lee

Down at the Oxfam shop, the workforce consists of twenty six unpaid volunteers and a full-time manager. Of course we are not all on duty at the same time. Most volunteers - myself included - only work one 4½ hour shift a week.

This afternoon I met a new volunteer called Lee. He's nineteen years old and a business studies student at one of our city's two big universities. It was my job to get Lee up to speed with the shop's touchscreen till so I spent most of the afternoon with him.

What a charming young man he was - with a happy disposition and pleasant manners. We chatted at quiet times but when customers arrived at the counter, I helped him through the on-screen processes.

Lee was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and he speaks with a distinctive Nottinghamshire twang. If you heard him on the radio you would think he was just a regular Nottinghamshire lad but there was  something different about Lee.

His parents and all four of his grandparents were born in Hong Kong and in his family home the preferred language is Cantonese. His family run a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of Nottingham and every weekend he has to go home to work as a waiter.

Lee is going to America for the first time in June. He'll be heading to San Francisco where his girlfriend has cousins. He was very interested in my little tales about California.

I may not see Lee again because his designated shift will be on a Monday so our paths are unlikely to cross in future. Realising this, at the end of the shift I shook his hand and told him that I had enjoyed spending the afternoon with him. I said I hoped he'll have a wonderful time in San Francisco.

Meeting someone like Lee consolidates one's faith in younger generations. I recall that I was nineteen once but it was long ago in a very different age.
Daffodils at Whirlow Bridge this morning.

19 March 2019

Son

Do you remember that dog from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons? He was called Spike and he had a son who was very much a chip off the old block. The son's name was Tyke and Spike would often proudly declare, "That's my boy!"

Well, please look at the picture above. See the fellow on the right? That's my boy!

Ian is sitting with his "Bosh!" partner Henry in a warehouse in Glasgow. They are perched on a pallet piled high with newly printed copies of "Bish Bash BOSH!" In fact, Ian tells me, that there were many more pallets off camera.

Everything is building to the new book's launch dates. Its first public reveal will be at Sheffield Hallam University on April 3rd followed by the official launch at Vegan Nights on Brick Lane in London on the evening of Thursday April 4th. Go here.

Ian also tells me that their publishers have arranged for "Bish Bash BOSH!" ads to appear on the sides of several buses in London and Sheffield. They are also renting a prime hoardings site near Euston station (American: billboard).

The first cookboook - "BOSH!" has been tremendously successful. Better than the publishers anticipated. Here at Pudding HQ we are obviously hoping that the new book will do at least as well. The dream is not going to end tomorrow but if it should, Ian and Henry have already enjoyed an amazing ride that would have seemed impossible three years ago.

Visit "Bosh!" here. Then, if interested, navigate through their various social media channels.

We plan to see Ian next weekend when we mark Shirley's 60th birthday down in Kent. Moldovan security guards with dogs will be guarding our house - just in case you were planning to take advantage of our absence.

18 March 2019

Weekend


It was a nice weekend.

On Friday night, I picked The Beloved Daughter and  Husband Designate up from the station. We sampled Bradfield Brewery beers and watched "Gogglebox" on the gogglebox. I had visited Bradfield Brewery on Thursday, thinking ahead about wedding beer for August.

On Saturday, Shirley and Frances attended a flower arranging class - again with the wedding in mind. Stew was seeing his best man and Clint was speeding me over to Hull to watch The Tigers play Queens Park Rangers.

I met up with my old friend Tony and we enjoyed pre-match breakfasts in the little Polish cafe we discovered a couple of years ago. By halftime we were up by two goals to nil but in the second half QPR came back to score two of their own. It felt like a defeat. 

Clint took me back home and soon afterwards he transported us all to the "Shapla" Indian restaurant in the city centre. We were all hungry and enjoyed a damned good meal before heading back to our local pub for beer and wine.

On Sunday morning, in spite of Clint's protests, I let Shirley drive him over to Tideswell where the wedding of the year will happen. Frances and Stew needed to attend the morning service as part of their qualification to be married in Tideswell Church. Being an irreligious devil worshipper, I stayed at home wallowing in my sins.

At midday I put a nice basted loin pork joint in the oven and got on with Sunday dinner preparations. Along with the tender pork there were roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, chopped leeks tossed in butter, garden peas, Yorkshire puddings, apple sauce and a tasty gravy made from meat juices and vegetable water. 

It all came together nicely and better still the churchgoers loved it. I took The Beloved Daughter and The Husband Designate back to the station for the four o'clock train to London and six hours later I moseyed on down to the pub again for a couple of pints with Bert and Steve. Fortunately, the St Patrick's Day shenanigans had ceased by that time. I still find it strange that we "celebrate" St Patrick's Day in English pubs. I would much prefer to celebrate Yorkshire Day on August 1st or St George's Day on April 23rd.

Anyway, that was my weekend. It was a nice one and now, on Monday morning,  I am sitting waiting for an electrician who should have been here an hour ago. He has probably forgotten. When he asks for his money I may have to calculate a 20% deduction. In my dreams.

17 March 2019

Snapshots

Ahove - Sheffield Central Library. Can you see the art deco frieze on the corner parapet? This splendid civic building was opened in 1934 by the then Duchess of York - mother of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II. Sadly, there have been rumours that the library might be sold to Chinese hotel developers - causing much public outrage.

It was the day I went to see the Leonardo exhibition. After leaving The Millennium Galleries I walked through The Winter Gardens and took several pictures of the steel balls below. One ball appears to be larger than the other ball which, I understand, is not uncommon:-
And then it was onward to Pinstone Street where I snapped this picture of Sheffield's magnificent Victorian town hall which was opened by Queen Victoria herself in 1897. The interior is even more magnificent. The entire building speaks of civic pride and of Britain's wealth and self-belief at the height of its powers in the Victorian era:- 
Just round the corner in Barker's Pool you find Sheffield's equally magnificent City Hall, opened in 1932. It holds a special place in my heart because in 1972 I visited Sheffield for the first time in my life to attend a concert in the city hall. I was there with a school friend to see Buffy St Marie and Loudon Wainwright III. Little did I know that night that six years later I would find myself living in the city.I have been here for over forty years.
As I enjoyed a pub  lunch in "The Frog and Parrot", I noticed the David Bowie mural on the corner of Division Street and Trafalgar Street. To be frank, I think that the image looks nothing like Bowie but sometimes in life and indeed street art, it's the thought that counts
My snapshots give a glimpse of Sheffield's city centre. Back in 2005 I blogged about my home city for the first time and received comments from Free Thinker, Stony and Tara. These occasional visitors disappeared long ago so I thought it might be a good time to tell current Yorkshire Pudding visitors something about this great northern city.

16 March 2019

Leonardo

The Bust of a Man (1510)
Leonardo da Vinci made thousands of drawings. In his lifetime, he never anticipated that these drawings would one day be treasured or gazed upon by legions of admirers. They were mostly preparatory sketches or studies, drafts or rough work.

Amazingly, a big proportion of these drawings survived after Leonardo passed away in France in 1519. They were gathered together and by the late seventeenth century they were in the possession of King Charles II of  England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They have remained in the hands of the British royal family ever since - mostly hidden from public view.

However, to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death, the keepers of The Royal Collection agreed to release some 140 of Leonardo's drawings in a nationwide exhibition titled "Leonardo: A Life in Drawing". One of the twelve venues selected was Sheffield.

Yesterday, I visited The Millennium Galleries and closely observed a handful of examples of the great man's sketching and scribbling. 

He had his fingers in so many pies: science, invention, physiology, sculpture, botany, poetry, map-making, astronomy and legend - to name but a few but the obsession of his lifetime was drawing. It underpinned everything and revealed his genius.

Ten years ago I visited Leonardo's childhood home in Tuscany. He was born and raised in a peaceful hamlet called  Anchiano - a  mile from a more substantial little town called Vinci.  I imagine that on countless occasions he walked the very same ancient path that I walked that late honey-warm afternoon - through vineyards, by  elegant cypress trees, never suspecting that he was remarkable or that he would be so revered centuries after his death.
Preparartory sketch of St Philip (Circa 1495)
For "The Last Supper" - sorry about the glare

15 March 2019

Realisation

Mum at a school sports day in 1963
When you have got nothing much to blog about, you can always raid your memory bank. Some people's memory banks are no doubt like well run libraries with the memories neatly filed in alphabetical order. But my memory bank is more like an attic in an old house. The jumbled detritus of past years has been thrown up there and everything is jumbled. There are cobwebs and spiders and the lighting is poor.

After much rooting around, I managed to pull out this one. It's very personal, very private and I have never shared it with anyone before.

I am perhaps eight years old so it's probably 1961. I live in a house with three brothers, my mother and father; and I know nothing about girls or the mysteries of sexual reproduction. However, as you can imagine I am a clever little devil, always asking questions.

There's an evening drama on our little black and white "Bush" television. I am watching it with Mum and Dad. In this drama, a woman is apparently deciding whether or not to have a baby. Curious, I ask what is going on because up until that moment I had supposed that babies just happened. You couldn't decide, could you?

Mum looked at Dad and he looked back. I wondered why they weren't immediately concurring.with my wise observation.

Soon after that, Mum took me aside and gently gave me a very basic lesson about the making of babies. I was taken aback. She claimed that women had holes instead of willies and what is more babies emerged from these holes after growing in a mummy's tummy for nine months. And then I found out that the daddy was somehow involved in sowing the seed, a baby seed.

It was flabbergasting.

A few days later when Mum was dressing in the bathroom I reminded her of our little conversation about babies. I couldn't quite get my head around it all - especially this business about holes instead of willies so without any sense of impropriety I asked Mum if I could see her hole. 

She didn't know how to respond. I remember her blushing - wearing a rubbery corset  and gathering up her clothes. I didn't know that she was weighed down by the heaviness of social mores and a keen sense of lines that should not be crossed.

Secret talks with other boys from the village confirmed that girls did indeed have holes. Unlike me, several of the boys had sisters so they knew.

I very much hoped to see one of these holes myself and the following summer when my family were on holiday in southern Germany my wish came true. We went to a lovely verdant  park in Munich. You could swim safely in a river that flowed swiftly through the trees till you reached netting and could clamber out ready for another go.

And that's when I spotted a young German girl as naked as the day she was born. What Mum had said and what the village boys with sisters had said was true! 

Perhaps these linked memories have stayed with me through the years because they marked a staging post in my existence. Life wasn't as simple and straightforward as I had previously imagined and maybe there were many more new truths ahead to wrestle with.

14 March 2019

Storm

"The Energy of the Wind" by Giorgio Vaselli
Storm on the Island
by Seamus Heaney

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
This wizened earth has never troubled us
With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees

Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast: you know what I mean - leaves and branches
Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale
So that you listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.

But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat

Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo,
We are bombarded with the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

13 March 2019

Tattooist

Recently I finished reading "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris. As the title perhaps  suggests, it's about  someone who was responsible for tattooing numbers on the wrists of new prisoners arriving in  that Nazi hellhole. The tattooist was a prisoner called Lale Sokolov and the book is imaginatively based upon his true life story.

Heather Morris teased out the story from the man himself. He had settled in Melbourne, Australia after the war, building a new life with his wife - Gita Furman who was also incarcerated in that inhuman  nightmare of a place.

I was looking forward to turning the pages and the book was certainly easy to read but for me it lacked the harsh authenticity I had been expecting. It was just too damned comfortable. Where were the moments that ought to elicit tears? Where were the moments to make you turn your head away from the text and shake your head in sheer disbelief?

The way that Lale and Gita were able to conduct their relationship  - well for me it made it seem that Auschwitz was rather like a holiday camp. It was just too easy.

I am sure that in reality Lale and Gita went through a terrible time of fear, physical deprivation, cruelty and uncertainty. Another writer - someone different from Heather Morris - could have made their true story really bite, really hurt, really resound in one's memory. However, there was something about Heather Morris's telling of the tale that made it all seem too sweet, too flaming nice.

Though it always held my attention, "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" failed to disturb me and I am sorry about that. I think that Lale Sokolov's  tale deserved a more poignant telling in honour of the  thousands who  were so cruelly eliminated - when ordinary men did such terrible things. 

12 March 2019

Flatlands

English weather? I love it. I love it's unpredictability. It seems like a metaphor for life itself. You never know what you are  going to get.

On Sunday morning I woke to snow. It covered the garden and the blooming daffodils and the road and poor Clint - shivering in his special parking place. And then on Monday morning I woke to blue sky, bright sunshine and spring greenery. The contrast could hardly be more stark.

I drove up to the flatlands near the town of Goole - "England's premier inland port". I was there to walk and to take photographs in the beautiful light. 
Goole - seen across a bend in The River Ouse
I walked in four villages I had never visited before. They all sit close to The River Ouse, protected from flooding by earth embankments and flood walls and pumping stations. They were - Old Goole, Swinefleet, Reedness and Whitgift.
Old phone box in Reedness
South of these villages there is a wide expanse of flat farming land dissected by long straight drains. There are occasional lonesome farms and you ponder a while to imagine how it must be to live in such  places, without neighbours or communities. 

Whitgift has a lovely old church made from limestone even though there are no stone quarries for many a mile. I imagine rafts and barges bringing the stone down Yorkshire's river system - probably from the ancient quarries nearTadcaster. The church was built in 1304 - replacing an earlier building. It seems almost incredible that our forebears would go to so much trouble transporting stone like that.
The Church of Mary Magdalene, Whitgift
I would have tarried longer and explored some more. Perhaps I should have got there earlier but after five hours it was time to head home. I climbed in Clint's saddle and whipped his silver ass. To infinity and beyond! Well, Doncaster and then Sheffield...
Whitgift Lighthouse by The Ouse

11 March 2019

1931

A couple of weeks ago I bought an old book from the Oxfam shop. It's called "Across The Derbyshire Moors" and it was printed in Sheffield in 1931 - that's eighty eight years ago. Written by a  local Justice of the Peace and newspaper editor  called John Derry, it is essentially a guide to twelve country walks in the Sheffield region. Needless to say, all of John Derry's recommended walks are very familiar to me.

The little book also contains several advertisements for local businesses.. For example on the back cover there's an advert for "Sugg's" - a sports and outdoors shop located on Angel Street. It claims to provide "Everything for THE RAMBLER" including a 14 inch x 14 inch rucksack "with outside pocket". This retailed at two shillings and sixpence which is twelve and a half new pence in our decimal money or sixteen American cents.
Sugg's also advertised a portable tent for two or three people - retailing at seventeen shillings and sixpence - well under one British pound.

In the introduction John Derry urges ramblers to be respectful of the countryside. He says - "Remember that to smoke on a heath-covered grouse moor in summer is as rank treason as to smoke in a friend's stackyard seated on the straw."

Each of the twelve chapters contains a folded reproduction of a carefully hand drawn map. It's not clear who first made these maps. Perhaps it was John Derry himself.

As I read through "Across the Derbyshire Moors" I sensed the author's passion for the great outdoors. He is aware of geology, plant life, history and, the way paths bend and rise and he celebrates beautiful views, sometimes bemoaning modern changes to the landscape. It is a guide book - yes but it's driven by the writer's personality and his love of walking. Of course, I felt a strong connection with him.
John Derry died in 1937 and therefore did not witness World War II or its legacy. He speaks from a more innocent and simpler time. When Ladybower Reservoir had not yet been constructed, when tramcars carried ramblers to the edge of the city and when Harrop's sold something called "Solvit". I have no idea what it was but I very much doubt that it had anything to do with crosswords.

10 March 2019

-ess

If a king and a queen crack out a male child, he will be a prince. If the child is female she will be a princess. Does anybody dispute this? Is there anyone out there who would prefer the princess to be called prince? Would it be better if our queen's only daughter was called Prince Anne?

When I was a boy, public buses did not only have drivers: there was a second adult who sold tickets and checked passes. If that person was a man, he was known as a conductor. If the person was a woman, she was known as a conductress.  Was there anything wrong with that?

Lying under an acacia tree on the plains of Africa a lion may be flicking away flies with his tail. Next to him there will probably be lionesses - adult females. Is there anything wrong with calling them lionesses?

Now it used to be that the accepted term for a woman who writes poetry was poetess. Increasingly, that word has been discarded in favour of the masculine version - poet. Some women writers seem to bristle about the term "poetess" as if it was somehow demeaning or suggestive of second class writing.

The same applies to the world of acting. Once we had actors and actresses but the term "actress" is now in decline and many women who appear on the stage or in film seem to prefer the masculine term. They're all actors now.

Being a simple Yorkshire fellow, I must say that I find these shifting lexical sands rather confusing. About it all, there seems to be some tenuous connection with feminist thinking - as if in certain instances the feminine versions of  particular nouns have become strangely unacceptable. At the same time some other -ess words appear to have escaped scrutiny - princess, lioness, hostess, headmistress, sorceress, heiress etc.. What's going on?
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I posted the above just after midnight and took this picture through our kitchen window at 6.30am this morning. Not white... but whiteness:-

9 March 2019

Portrait

On Wednesday, when I was sorting through book donations at the Oxfam shop, I came across the portrait shown above. Not the original I hasten to add but a printed version that had fallen out of a coffee table art book.

I stared at that portrait for a few moments and I was very struck by it. At first I didn't know who painted it or when. I guessed it was created many years ago but the young man in the picture seemed so modern and defiant. It was as if he was challenging onlookers, as proud of his beliefs as  he was of his flowing brown locks.

And then I discovered that it was painted in the 1480's in Florence, Italy by no lesser artist than Alessandro Botticelli. It is known simply as "Portrait of a Young Man" and it hangs in The National Gallery in London. Nobody knows who the subject of the painting was but he reflects Florentine pride and at least one commentator has suggested that he may have been a member of the city's thriving artistic community.

In the late fifteenth century, it was customary for Italian portraits to be made in profile only. Botticelli's decision to show this young man face-on was in its time quite revolutionary.

The painting speaks to us from over five hundred years ago and it says - "Look at me. I am as sentient, and as involved in the world as you are my friend. Five hundred years means very little." 

It is worth noting that Leonardo da Vinci painted "Mona Lisa" just a few years after Botticelli finished "Portrait of a Young Man". It is very possible that the latter painting informed the creation of the former and hugely more famous portrait. But I like Botticelli's picture better. The young man may have died long ago but through the painting he remains very much alive.

8 March 2019

Blogpost

What do you do on a miserable Thursday when rain is siling down and your appointments diary is empty? In my case, I rode on the number 82 bus into the city centre. heading once again to The Showroom Cinema.

I went to see the 12 o'clock screening of "Green Book" starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. I had a rough idea of the plot and of course I was aware that the film won the "Best Picture" oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

Two hours later, I left The Showroom having been thoroughly entertained. "Green Book" is charming. It takes you on an American road trip and it reflects upon racism in the early nineteen sixties. It made me laugh and it made me cry and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two lead actors.

It isn't hard-hitting or gritty, it has a certain lightness of touch. However, one image that has stayed with me is of a quiet moment in The Deep South when Tony (Mortensen) and Don Shirley's (Ali's) hire car has overheated. Tony raises the hood (English:bonnet) to see what is going on and concert pianist Don Shirley also slides out of the vehicle. In a field across the road, black farm workers are quietly tilling the soil.  They look up in puzzlement as Don Shirley looks back at them. Nothing is said and soon the travellers move on. It is as if Ali's character had arrived from a different planet where Afro-Americans might have a chance to make something of their lives.

Yes. I enjoyed "Green Book" and I can see why it got the nod for "Best Picture". It wasn't setting out to dig deep into the reality of American racism. It was setting out to entertain and that it did. It was a real "feelgood" film.
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In other Pudding news. .. In January I finished reading "Endeavour" by Peter Moore. I blogged about it here. Later I e-mailed the author praising him but also raising a niggling question. I wanted to know why he had twice described Whitby boats passing "the mouth of the Ouse" when he should surely have been referring to "the mouth of the Humber". I pointed out that there is an inland point where the Yorkshire Ouse and The River Trent meet and that is where The River Humber begins.

Peter Moore kindly wrote back to me. He had taken on board my point. He wrote, "Most importantly, you'll be pleased to know that you caught me just in time and the Ouse has been transformed into the Humber for the Endeavour paperback which will be published in the summer. Thanks for that - appreciated!"

How delightful! I guess this will be the closest that I ever get to immortality. After all, time is running out - as it is for all of us.

7 March 2019

Walking

After my memorable trip to the mean streets of Mumbai and after narrowly avoiding an unintended blog implosion, it's time to retreat to my number one comfort zone - walking. 

Walking is one of the best things a healthy human being can do. When you walk you see things. When you walk your blood pulses through your veins and your lungs are exercised. You burn off calories and your mental state is improved. Nature never intended that human beings should spend hour after hour sitting on their backsides.. We have legs so we should use them. (My apologies to anyone reading this who has mobility problems)

That's my promotional message over. Now to the practice.Walking. With pictures.

When Shirley and I were in the nation's capital recently, we stayed in our daughter's flat in Wood Green. On Sunday February 24th, the weather was far too lovely to stay indoors so we went to an area of north east London called Walthamstow Wetlands. There are several reservoirs there and The River Lea passes through, making its way to The Thames.
If you were so inclined you could walk for six miles amongst the manmade lakes but we covered just two miles under a cobalt blue sky east of Tottenham. There were distant views of Stamford Hill and Canary Wharf and I saw new apartment blocks rising up in the Black Horse Lane area of Walthamstow, surrounded by yellow cranes. 
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon.I parked on the edge of the Derbyshire town of Bakewell, not far from a preparatory school called St Anselm's. Then I walked down to All Saints Church, in which I saw the marble effigy of a baby and the tomb of Sir Thomas Wendesley who was killed at The Battle of Shrewsbury in July 1403.
I crossed the River Wye via the town's old bridge and then walked two miles south of the town to Over Haddon before taking a different route back to Bakewell. 
Noton Barn Farm near Bakewell
As I was climbing up out of a little valley near Burton Closes, I was surprised to see a schoolgirl on her own walking towards me. She was in school uniform and was probably twelve or thirteen years old. It was one o'clock in the afternoon. If she had screamed, nobody would have heard her at that location. I wondered if her parents or indeed her school knew about her solitary rambling. In this modern world which is allegedly fraught with danger, it is almost taboo for young girls to wander along country paths on their own. I hope she makes it safely to adulthood.

Soon I was back in Bakewell. I hoped to buy a Bakewell pudding from Ye Olde Puddinge Shop but when I drove Clint into the car park in the market place the parking ticket machines announced that the minimum fee was £1.50. I only wanted to stop for five minutes so I forgot the Bakewell pudding and drove home.

6 March 2019

Sorry

Yesterday, I had the bright idea of changing the picture at the top of this blog. Very quickly, I wished that I hadn't bothered. Everything was going wrong.

The sidebar shifted itself down to the bottom. I googled possible solutions but they didn't help and soon things started to disappear. Was I really losing the evidence of fourteen years of regular blogging activity?  I was in despair.

Not only was I in despair, I was in the "advanced" zone of blog customisation. It was somewhere I definitely did not belong. Undoubtedly, I belonged in the beginners' easy peasy zone.

So I did this and I did that. Clicked this and clicked that. And then, after a couple of hours of html distress, a miracle happened. I managed to resurrect the disappearing blog. "Yorkshire Pudding" was about to live again.

Now the green-themed appearance the blog currently has was never intended but from my angle it will do - at least for the time being. I am just happy to have got the blog back on line for others to view. 

Of course the moral of this tale is "Leave well alone". So please think twice if in an idle moment you think it might be a good idea to change the appearance of your blog. Just stop right there. Finally, I humbly apologise if the appearance of "Yorkshire Pudding" is no longer to your liking. With hindsight, I agree that stability and sameness can be very attractive qualities.

5 March 2019

Mumbai

CONTINUED

PART THREE
The Gateway of India
What a wonderful day of sightseeing I had in Mumbai! We managed to see everything that was on my list. 

Our taxi driver, Viraj, was a mine of information but it turns out that Sweety knew next to nothing about Mumbai's main tourist attractions and historical sites. It appeared all new to her and she listened to Viraj as intently as I did. Though she was a most attractive young woman, she was a hopeless escort. Incredible as it may seem, she had never seen The Gateway of India before in her life! Flabbergasting! Just wait till I reported back to Mr Singh!

The three of us had lunch in a traditional cafe overlooking Juhu beach. I forget its name but it was owned by Viraj's brother-in-law. Excellent curry cuisine though Sweety ate like a hedge sparrow.

When she visited the "Ladies" I remarked to Viraj that Sweety's escorting skills left much to be desired. In fact, I seemed to know more about the places we were visiting than she did! Viraj was enjoying a mouthful of tarka dhal and spluttered most of it out as he burst with laughter.

"Very good Mister Yorkie! Most funny!"

At that point Sweety drifted back to our table.

In the afternoon we drove out to the Kanheri Caves north of the city. Wow! What a spectacle! Natural cave formations mingled with ancient rock carvings and shrines. Hindu chanting echoed through the chambers and the still air hung heavy with the aromas of incense and candlewax. It was another place that Sweety had never visited before. She clung to my arm for security as though far from her comfort zone.

We arrived back at The Hotel Kohinoor in the late afternoon. I paid Viraj handsomely and shook his hand as he shook his head from side to side in that curious Indian manner. 

"Nice meeting you Mr Yorkie!"

And he drove off into the endless traffic jam as Sweety Patel and I waved him goodbye.

Up in my room, I needed to deposit something most unsavoury in the lavatory bowl. I will save you the details.When I emerged from the en-suite, Sweety Patel was half undressed. She had also pulled the curtains across and thrown back the bed sheets.

"What? What the hell's going on?" I exclaimed.

She sidled up to me and whispered, "Now we go jiggy jiggy Mr Pudinge?"

There was another whelk-like kiss which again I pulled away from with admittedly a soupcon of regret. My morality held me back like leather reins on a bronco.The penny was starting to drop. She wasn't a tourist guide after all. She wasn't the type of escort I had naively anticipated.

"Get off me Sweety! I'm old enough to be your father! No! Your grandfather!"

Tears welled in her dark eyes and she sank onto the bed in despair, her face buried in her hands. 

"You don't liking me sahib? Achetbir give no money!" and she sobbed like a child.

She was so distraught that I sat beside her and tried my best to comfort her.  Gradually, the tears and the sobbing subsided and through her distress her story began to emerge.

She belonged to one of the lowest Hindu castes of all and had become an "escort" or what most people would call a prostitute in order to subsidise her family. Achetbir had requisitioned her when she was just fourteen years old so she had been "escorting" for almost seven years. The money had also allowed her to take up a college course, learning English and I.T skills. 

"I want to work in call centre Mr Pudinge. I so sick of men. Like pigs,"  and she imitated the sound of a grunting hog which made us both chuckle.

I told Sweety to get her clothes back on and insisted that I would accompany her on her journey home. She seemed horrified but I was adamant.
At Lokhandwala with The Patels' shack in the middle
Over an hour later our taxi arrived in the Lokhandwala district. There were tall, modern apartment buildings but the taxi dropped us near what appeared to be a vast shanty town of  tin and plywood and cardboard huts all squashed chaotically together.

Sweety tried to rebuff me but once again I insisted that I would lead her right back to her home. We delved into the malodorous shanty town with its barking dogs and small children wailing and thin men sitting on overturned oil tins and tyres. It was a veritable maze.

And then we arrived at Sweety's place. It was one of the better shacks on the alley with a new tin roof  and the ground outside neatly swept. 

Inside, her parents were startled to see us. I doubted that Sweety had ever brought one of her clients back home before. I shook hands with her mother and her father who was lying on a day bed. He had only one leg and there were crutches close to hand. Her parents didn't speak a word of English.

Standing upon an old wooden dresser there was an ornate statuette of the elephant god - Ganesh. Incense burned amongst orange blossoms and I also noticed framed photographs of Sweety's siblings. She was the youngest.

Though Mr and Mrs Patel looked much older than me they were in fact younger. Sweety explained that her father had lost his leg in a road accident and could no longer work.  Her mother's face sparkled with the joy of life even though she lived in a slum. The lines on her face spoke of laughter and contentment.

It was clear that Sweety's escort income had been vital to this family's survival though she explained that pimps like Mr Singh always helped themselves to the largest slice of the cake. 

"He take money for clothing and cosmetic," she said. "He take money for taxi."

Outside, another Bombay night was merging with the shadows of the slum. Somewhere a radio was playing "Bohemian Rhapsody". I bid Sweety's parents farewell and she "escorted" me back through the maze to the main road. 

As we waited for a passing taxi, I told Sweety that she deserved a medal for supporting her family in the way she did. It wasn't my place to deride her for her demeaning escort work though I encouraged her to keep up her college course and get a job in a call centre. It was an achievable dream.

Just then a white Suzuki Swift pulled up beside us. It was Mr Singh but his golden tooth was not glinting any more. He said some angry words in Hindi and reluctantly Sweety began to climb in the back. She was visibly trembling.

"But I paid for twenty four hours!" I yelled, reaching through the driver's window and grabbing Mr Singh's face with both hands added. "You little shit!"

Like a dog, Singh tried to bite me and then he put his foot down and the car zoomed off sending me reeling back onto the side of the road. Sweety waved through the rear window and I never saw her again.

Twelve hours later I boarded my flight home determined to never again respond to a scam escort advertisement in the blogosphere. But I was also thinking about Sweety Patel and her parents and what I might have done to help them, later reminding myself that their situation was by no means unique. Nevertheless, at least I had at last visited Mumbai and stood before The Gateway of India as my parents and had done in the summer of 1942.  Another item ticked off my bucket list.

THE END

4 March 2019

Mumbai

CONTINUED

PART TWO
My hotel room in Mumbai
I thought that London was busy but the traffic in Mumbai was horrendous. As we drove from the airport to my hotel, there were times when I closed my eyes, fearing that we were about to crash. But Mr Singh seemed unconcerned. As he manoeuvred his silver Suzuki Swift through red traffic lights and around noisy street sellers with handcarts, he laughed manically and slapped my thigh, his golden tooth glinting in the streetlights. 

He dropped me outside The Hotel Kohinoor and promised to be back bright and early in the morning saying, "I get you very good escort sahib! Nightie nightie!"

After my flight, I was exhausted and flopped on my bed without unpacking. I was looking forward to my tour of Mumbai with a local escort and as I slumbered I dreamt of elephants and punkah wallahs and The Gateway of India that had greeted my mum and dad in the summer of 1942.

Sunlight pierced the curtains and I stirred, reminding myself that I was not in my own bed in Sheffield but on the third floor of The Hotel Kohinoor, Mumbai. I took a shower and was in the process of dressing when there was a rapping on my door. It was Mr Singh.

"But I haven't had breakfast yet!" I grumbled.

"No matter Sahib Pudinge, I have breakfast with you. We picking your escort no?" he winked.

In the buffet style breakfast room, Mr Singh's fingers slid across his i-pad as I ate my muesli and paw-paw. I was surprised to observe that every one of the escorts he was showing me were young women and some of them were clearly under-dressed. I queried their qualifications but Mr Singh assured me that they were all experienced escorts. I had been expecting academics or more mature residents - proud to show off their city.

The escort fees were much higher than anticipated - around £250 a day! But having just won that very amount on the football pools back in England, I thought easy come-easy go. Almost randomly I selected a young woman called Sweety Patel, a twenty year old "collage girl" who "love making friendly nature". This was her profile picture:-
Mr Singh approved of my choice, slapping me on the back. "Sweety very popular escort! Good jiggy jiggy!"

I had no idea what he was talking about.

An hour later there was a gentle tapping on the door of my hotel room. It was Sweety Patel. She looked just like her picture and she greeted me by running her false red nails through my hair while latching her fulsome lips onto mine like a whelk in a rock pool. I could hardly breathe but I didn't wish to cause offence as I supposed that this was the way in which escorts greet their clients in Mumbai. I noticed that she smelt of soap.

Pulling away and panting, I said, "Well let's get going then Sweety."

She looked puzzled and so I elucidated.

"I want to see everything. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, Elephanta Island, The Haji Ali Dargah, Dhobi Ghat, The Hanging Gardens and of course The Gateway of India. I leave it up to you to suggest somewhere for lunch but I am rather partial to a decent curry."

"Whatever you wanting sahib," she replied huskily.

With a somewhat furrowed brow, Sweety picked up her bejewelled handbag and we wandered out into that hot tropical morning. She flagged a taxi and we joined Mumbai's version of The Wacky Races. Horns bleated and whistles were blown. Fruit sellers flogged their wares and rusty old buses belched diesel fumes. Sweety snuggled close to me on the back seat, squeezing my right arm.

It was going to be a day to remember.

TO BE CONTINUED

3 March 2019

Mumbai

PART ONE
You may have seen the following ad which has been wriggling its way into the "Comments" sections of various blogs:-
Being an inquisitive chap, I decided to contact the sender who it turns out was a Mr Achetbir Singh, a Sikh gentleman who resides in a small apartment close to the Worli Fort in Mumbai with views of Dadar Beach and Mumbai Bay.

Achetbir was surprised to receive my call. Apparently, his famous "Mumbai Escorts" advertisement has not generated much business. However, as soon as he realised that I was contemplating a sentimental trip to Mumbai, taking advantage of one of the various escort opportunities, his brain quickly switched into overdrive.

I asked him about fees, accommodation in Mumbai and how we might meet. He asked me which branch of his escort agency I wished to plump for and I selected "Mumbai Escorts Services", simply because I prefer place names to begin with capital letters.

Wind the clock forward forty eight hours and the lights of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are coming into view. It has been a trouble-free flight during which I have dozed or devoted waking hours to reading "Travel Mumbai" by Shalu Sharma.

Tired, I queued at passport control as cooling fans whirred overhead and the bing-bong of the public address system preceded various travel announcements delivered in thick Indian accents. 

I had arrived in Bombay...or Mumbai as it is now called for some obscure reason. My parents had separately arrived here by troop ship in the early years of World War II ahead of their wartime service with the Royal Air Force and I was keen to explore the city, walking in their footsteps with the help of one of Mr Singh's knowledgeable escorts.

After picking up my suitcase from Carousel Number 7, I headed for the arrivals gate. There was much commotion and various brown-faced fellows were yelling or flourishing cardboard signs. Several men were wearing turbans and then I spotted a bearded bloke in an orange turban waving a sign that read "YORKSURE PUDINGE". Such appalling spelling! It was Mr Achetbir Singh.

"Welcome to Mumbai Mr Pudinge," he grinned before ushering me away into the sultry Mumbai night. He smelt of turmeric and used Indian banknotes. One of his front teeth had been capped with gold.

TO BE CONTINUED

2 March 2019

Pinpointing

Recently, "The New York Times" has been hosting two very clever dialect quizzes. After quickly processing responses, the facility then suggests where the respondent hails from.

Now I left my East Yorkshire homeland in 1972 - over forty five years ago. I have lived in Sheffield since 1978 and I have travelled to many other countries. And yet, and yet... in spite of all this and in spite of my four and a half years in higher education the dialect quiz finally suggested that I was from East Yorkshire. My hot spot region included Scarborough, Kingston upon Hull and Sheffield with my home village being in the very heart of this hot spot.This was my end map:-
There's a British version of the quiz. Go here.

And there's also an American version. Go here.

I have always been proud of my roots and proud of my East Yorkshire accent and the language choices I make in my sub-conscious. I have never attempted to modify or alter the way I talk. Why should I?  

In a small way I found the quiz  life affirming. It confirms where I hail from and it reassures me that in spite of everything there's a big part of me that has stayed the same through the years. If you are interested and British or American, you might wish to give this ingenious quiz a go yourself.

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