6 July 2020

Anticlockwise

Lodge Moor
A few weeks ago, earlier in The Great Lockdown of 2020, I undertook a splendid circular walk in Bradfield Dale - just inside Sheffield's western city limits. On that occasion, I walked the route in a clockwise direction.

Yesterday I followed the very same route but this time in an anti-clockwise direction. It's funny how a round walk can be experienced very differently when you simply go the other way round. Downward slopes become ascents and vice versa and you see vistas that would have been behind you if you had gone the opposite way round.
Stake Hill Road
I saw a few other ramblers and we smiled and said "hello" as our paths crossed. But down by Holes Clough where a stream hurries down to Dale Dike Reservoir, I saw a small family enjoying a picnic in a sunny spot. I saluted them, smiled and said "hello" but got nothing back in return. Zero. It was as if I was invisible or perhaps they mistook me for a passing axe murderer. Of course the simple explanation could be that they were from Down South. It's always nice to greet strangers unless of course you are in an urban environment where it would get ridiculous.
Boot's Folly
A west wind buffeted me as I walked along but occasional grey and  threatening clouds retained their loads of rain. I  had troublesome thoughts in my mind but the walking dispelled them.
Bents House
Back where I had left my South Korean travelling companion, Clint said, "You've been gone for two and a half hours! What the hell have you been doing?"
"Walking," I replied.
"What do you want to do that for when you can ride miles with me at sixty or seventy miles an hour?"
"It's not the same," I protested. "You miss so much when you are riding in a car."
"I will never understand you," said Clint. "Now get your boots in the boot and let's go home!"
Strines Reservoir - the dam wall
Back at Banner Cross,  I made a lovely Sunday dinner of roast beef, new potatoes, carrots, broccoli, homemade gravy and golden Yorkshire puddings that had risen magically like helium balloons. Shirley had made a delicious raspberry crumble for dessert and we ate it with a light vegan ice cream that I bought from our local co-op store. The raspberries were all from our garden - picked by the son-in-law.
Cows at Moscar Cross Farm

5 July 2020

Films

I watched two great films on the television this past week. "Touching the Void" (2003) was on Channel 4 and "Leave No Trace" (2018) was on Netflix. They were both cinematic labours of love - beautifully crafted and perhaps not really intended for mass market success.

"Touching the Void" is a docu-drama which tells the story of two British climbers who got into serious trouble on a previously unclimbed mountain in The Andes called Siula Grande. With strenuous effort and courage Joe Simpson and Simon Yates managed to conquer the icy peak but it was as they were descending that trouble struck. Joe Simpson's survival with a badly broken leg was all about determination when death seemed more likely. 

One night - in a delirious state - he could not dismiss a particular pop song from his head. It just kept playing over and over, goading him - "Brown Girl In The Ring" by Boney M.. He didn't even like that song.

I found "Touching the Void" - if you will pardon the pun -  a truly gripping experience. The reenactment of the climb and the descent was both breathtaking and very believable.

"Leave No Trace" is set in the Pacific North West of America. Directed by Debra Granik, the film focuses chiefly on two survivalists - Will played by Ben Foster and his daughter Tom played by Thomasin McKenzie. They live in the woods, not really part of society.

We suspect that Will is a war veteran, plagued by memories of Iraq or Afghanistan or possibly Vietnam. It is never fully spelt out for us and that seems deliberate. There are other questions that hover in the air - about the past and the future. They also remain unanswered.

However, "Leave No Trace" is an excellent film in my opinion. There's tension and fear in the air and who knows where Will is running to. He doesn't even know himself. Mark Kermode, the British film reviewer, called it "a work of overwhelming, understated power that quite simply took my breath away". I can see where he was coming from with that.

4 July 2020

Gestures

Prime Minister A. B. deP. Johnson on LBC Radio yesterday: “I do not believe in gestures, I believe in substance.” He had just been asked if he would take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter.
Substance not gestures Mr Johnson? Tell us another. In reality, your past history shows you are all gesture and no substance just like your Brexit battle bus with its cheap and misleading promise.

3 July 2020

Bovril

There used to be a children's programme on British television called "The Wombles". The Wombles were lovable furry creatures that spent much of their time cleaning up after litter louts on Wimbledon Common in London. They even had a hit single in 1973, called unsurprisingly - "The Wombling Song"

I thought that The Wombles were no more but now there's a new Womble living in West Hampstead, not far from Billy Fury Way and Fortune Green. There's another one called Northsider in West Cork, Ireland. The London one wombles around his neighbourhood with a squirrel hound called Olga scouring the streets for the detritus of modern life. 

Back in May, he stumbled across a small cache of old bottles - including several vintage "Bovril" bottles. He blogged about them here.
"Bovril" is a black meat extract paste - first marketed in Britain in 1889. You can spread it on toast or mix it with boiling water to make a savoury drink. Traditionally, this warming beefy drink was always available at football matches and popular with supporters too. Sadly, its popularity has faded in modern times but you can still buy it at halftime  in many football stadia.

At lunchtime yesterday, our postman rang our doorbell before scurrying away. He had left a box on our doorstep. At first, I thought it might be some sort of explosive device, but after carefully opening it I discovered, to my delight, that it contained two of the aforementioned "Bovril" bottles - kindly sent by The West Hampstead Womble. They will be added to my collection of antique bottles for the wonderment of house guests and other visitors.

Thank you Stephen G.Reed! Very thoughtful.

2 July 2020

Serendipity

Just yesterday, a remarkable co-incidence occurred. It is almost breathtakingly bizarre. I received the following comment from a fairly new visitor to this blog. The commenter is called John. He's a freethinking, well-read fellow from Glasgow, Scotland. John wrote this:-
Now here comes the weird bit. Just an hour before John posted the comment, I had been sitting on a bench by the duck pond in Whirlow Brook Park where I finished reading that very same book. In translation it is a haunting little novel with various different titles including "The Lost Domain", "The End of Youth" and  "The Land of the Lost Contentment". However, I was reading "The Wanderer" which I bought from a secondhand bookshop in Bloomington, Indiana in August 1976. Like "the lost domain" that bookshop no longer exists. You may only find it in memory or imagination.

In French, the book is usually known simply as "Le Grand Meaulnes" - Augustin Meaulnes being the central character whose adolescence and troubled quest for love and contentment in rural France is observed by the narrator - Francois Seurel. Interestingly, the title of "The Great Gatsby" was inspired by "Le Grand Meaulnes" which was published in 1913 and written by Alain-Fournier who was soon to die in World War I. It was the only novel he ever published.

In the summer of 1976, after the summer camp outside Cleveland had shut down, I was staying with my American girlfriend in Bloomington - south of the bookshop on  South Washington Street. Her name was Donna Smith. Years later, in this very millennium, I discovered by accident here on this blog that the maiden name of  my lovely correspondent Peace Thyme was Donna Smith! Not the same one but even so such a hell of a coincidence. Serendipity once more.

I completely lost touch with my Donna Smith but like Meaulnes and Yvonne de Galais, dismissing her from my memory has proved both impossible and tormentous. 

1 July 2020

Scanning

Up by Fulwood Lane, a sitting bull peacefully scans two Yorkshire gentlemen peering over the wall. One is 66 years old, the other is half his age. It's me and the son-in-law.

Yesterday afternoon Frances and Stewart returned from London with a special picture containing a scanned image of the foetus child taken yesterday morning at the Whittington Hospital between Archway and Highgate Cemetery. The babe is now the size of a small lemon.

After the drive back, Stewart was keen on taking a short walk. We didn't drive far and the walk was only a couple of miles in familiar territory. Below, white foxgloves bloom by windy Houndkirk Road, looking down from the moorland to Sheffield.
Stewart studied geology at university but he had never seen The Ox Stones on Burbage Moor before. Remnants of a primordial ocean, they sit  like beached whales above the heather. I cannot help believing that ancient men and women gathered there to shelter or pay homage to ancient gods or simply to the sun and the moon and the passing seasons. They are phenomena you really can believe in. My theory is strengthened by the fact that within shouting distance of The Ox Stones there are several known Bronze Age sites
And finally here he/she is. The lemon child, growing imperceptibly in amniotic fluid, already looking forward to meeting his/her grumpy grandfather. The feeling is mutual.

30 June 2020

Fifteen

I first began blogging fifteen years ago. I didn't really know what I was doing or why I was doing it or whether or not I would be blogging fifteen weeks or fifteen months later. But here we are. Fifteen years of my life have passed under the bridge - much of it documented via this blog.

Here's my very first post:-
As you can see, I even attracted one comment. It was from someone called Hadashi in Japan. To receive that comment from faraway was kind of magical. Encouraging too.

Four days later I posted a picture of myself being interviewed at work and the first verse of a poem about work by the late Philip Larkin who spent his most productive days in The East Riding of Yorkshire.
That post also attracted a single comment - from Zandrea! in Brookline, Massachusetts. Zandrea! was in fact two people - Zara and Andrea. Perhaps they were lovers or someone with a split personality. They or she stopped blogging four years ago.

In fifteen years I have created 3421 blogposts, receiving 1,822,114 visits. It has been quite a journey - something to look back on with a degree of satisfaction. I did that!

Only sometimes do I pause to think: Should I have done that? All those hours of blogging and reading other people's blogs, perhaps I should have saved up that energy and poured it into writing - stories, novels, poetry. Precious time has slipped away like sand in an hour glass. Fifteen years older and the end is nigh. What is there left to say?

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