4 July 2022

Heeley

Almost every week of the year I take photographs. Usually, I take them on my regular country walks. After editing, I submit many of these images to the Geograph project which I have regularly contributed to through the last thirteen years.

However, there are rare weeks when photo expeditions just don't happen for one reason or another and that's where last week seemed to be heading. Zero! Zilch!

But then Friday night came along and before I headed out to the Lidl store on Chesterfield Road to do some shopping, I remembered that I had been meaning to take a few pictures of the Labour Party's constituency office for Sheffield Heeley. The current MP for that section of the city is Louise Haigh - presently the country's Shadow Minister for Transport at the tender age of thirty four (see right).

That office is just across the road from Lidl and what had frequently caught my eye was the slightly surreal painted images of this city revealed in the windows. They are all by a local artist called Bryan John.

Consequently, I took my camera this time but the evening light was sub-optimal. As well as snapping photos of Louise Haigh's offices, I collected images of two businesses further along the street. The Tramshed" is a  popular micropub and   "Baked and Caked"  is a specialist bakery business.

Anyway, that's all I have for you on the night of American Independence Day. I know it's not the most scintillating blogpost I have ever released and for this I apologise. I must try harder...I must try harder... I must try harder.

3 July 2022

Disgraced

There are plenty more where these fellows came from. It's a kind of rogues' gallery showing the faces of four Conservative MPs who have recently disgraced both The Conservative Party, this great kingdom and the ordinary people who voted for them. It has all happened on PM Johnson's watch and in each instance Johnson has sought to brush the embarrassment and wrongdoing under the carpet. I guess it is a technique he has often used in relation to his own misdemeanours of which there are many.

At the top is senior  Tory MP - the appropriately named Chris Pincher - who got as drunk as a lord in the Carlton Club in central London and then proceeded to grope other men. Not the first time he has been guilty of such misconduct. Maybe he should have his name changed to Dick Pincher.

Below there's Imran Ahmad Khan, the former MP for Wakefield. He is now languishing in prison after he was found guilty of sexual assault on a fifteen year old boy. Again - not the first time his sexual predilections have been observed.  and noted.
 
Now we are looking at Neil Parish - the former Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton. He was observed in The House of Commons chamber drooling over porn material that he was watching on his smartphone. Not a "smart" thing to do in such a place. He was supposed to be there to work and to represent the people who had voted for him but he preferred looking at naked women and sex acts. In addition he has let down the illustrious Society of Neils.
Finally, here's Owen Patterson who blatantly tried to use his position as an MP to benefit two companies who had given him money - Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods. Johnson even tried to change the standards rules to save Patterson's bacon.  I remember him trying to use his wife's illness as a suitable reason for not pursuing his wrongdoing. He was like a schoolboy in denial, stomping his feet and yelling, "It's not fair!" Thankfully he has gone never to return. Johnson's support was once again badly misplaced.
See - it's not just in the USA or Australia where citizens find themselves lumbered with disgraceful politicians who get too big for their own boots and  are very slow to confess. Usually they only get round to spitting out words like "sorry" and "I take full responsibility" when they have been caught out  and they are cornered like rats in a barn.

2 July 2022

Keith

Keith? No I am not talking about Keith Kline (a.k.a. Red) who resides in Red Deer, Alberta. I am referring to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. I believe they were playing a concert in Hyde Park, London this very day.

Keith is greatly admired by Mary Moon in Lloyd, Florida.and by thousands of other fans of The Rolling Stones. He will be seventy nine years old later this year and his life story is etched in his face. So many experiences and so many lines. What a hell of a life he has led and the joy he has brought to millions of fans through his music is incalculable. 

Today I came across this time lapse video in which a skilled and confident oil painter creates an image of Keith Richards. It is really quite mesmerising but I should warn you that the video is thirteen minutes long. If you haven't got thirteen minutes to spare, you might want to do some jumping along. 

 

1 July 2022

House

Thirty three years ago today we moved into this semi-detached house in the south west of Sheffield. It cost us £65,000 but today it would sell for - around £450,000.  That summery day back in 1989 we had no idea that we would live here so long. I guess that at the time, I viewed it as a stepping stone and before too long we would move on but it never happened.

Our two kids were always very happy here. They attended two good schools - both within walking distance and they grew friendships here that will last them a lifetime. How could we rip them away from this suburb, this street, this house?

I remember how neglected our garden appeared the day we moved in. Evidently, the previous owners had zero interest in gardening. The garden is forty five metres in length and it was a jungle when we moved in. It hadn't seemed so bad when our house offer was accepted the previous February.   One of the first things I did was to hire a petrol-driven strimmer and cut the vegetation right back as I accepted the challenge to make a usable garden in which there would be a lawn, a shrubbery and at the top a vegetable patch and a place for occasional fires. 

I had to pull out hundreds of bricks that had once formed the edgings for paths. They were all embedded in the ground at a forty five degree angle with just the tops showing. A pick axe was required to lever many of them out. There were enough to build a small cottage but of course I didn't do that.

Since 1989 we have done a lot to the house. Usually this is at Shirley's behest because I'm not passionate about home improvements. I could live in a cave and not wish to change it. But she has always got another idea up her sleeve  and I find myself being nudged to change things from time to time. Pick up a paint brush, make a phone call. There's always something.

On the whole we have been happy here and safe too. We have good neighbours and there are plenty of facilities within easy walking distance - including bus routes and shops. There are certainly a lot worse places you could live and looking back, I think we made a good move back in the summer of 1989. I have lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere else. It would be hard to leave it.

30 June 2022

Mannerisms

I have been watching tennis from Wimbledon today. You may not be interested in tennis but I rather like the dramatic tension of it all and the way that games can swing from one player to the other. Confidence and calmness under pressure are key features of a winning mentality.

Surely one of the finest players the world has ever seen is Rafael Nadal from Majorca, Spain. At thirty six, he is coming to the end of his career now but he remains a battler and a winner- so passionate about the game he loves and eager to win every point.

When delivering hundred mile an hour serves or receiving them, a player needs to be souped up and ready. At these moments you will see Rafael Nadal touching his face lightly in several places. It's a kind of preparation routine - getting himself in the right mental place to do his job. Other players have different habits in these key moments.

It made me think that we all have different mannerisms - not just in sport but in everyday life too. We don't decide to have them, they just come to us and they are hard to suppress or change.

When conversing with others I have always thought it to be pretty important to look at each other, make eye contact. I don't mean fixed stares because that would be unnatural and unsettling but at least in western cultures it is normal to show respect by looking at who we are speaking to.

However, this causes me to reflect on one of my own mannerisms.

Very often when I am deep in conversation with others and I am perhaps trying to express a difficult point or recall a tangled memory of yore, I look away from the person or people I am talking to, focusing perhaps on a curtain or fireplace. I find this helps me to better concentrate on what I am saying and to be honest I just can't help it. I have always done it.

It is usually surprising when the listener stops looking at me and instead follows my eye line to that curtain, that fireplace or that window. I can read their thoughts in such moments - "What's he looking there for?" and  "Why have we lost eye contact?" Sometimes I stop the conversation at that point to explain or apologise.

Does this sound familiar to you? Perhaps it's just me.

29 June 2022

Poem


Ukraine June 29th 2022

Beyond the solstice there came no better truth
Just the mangled wreckage of a fallen roof
In Kremenchuk’s Amora shopping centre
Bright lives doused by a cruel tormentor… who grunts
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.

Beyond the borders in faraway lands
Ephemeral politicians wring their hands
As newspapers shift their spotlights elsewhere
If you want a disaster we’ve got one to spare
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.

Beyond the concept of imagination
The subjugation of a once proud nation
Putin studies the reflection of his face
A "Wanted" poster for this human race… and smirks
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.

28 June 2022

Accidents

Accidents can happen. That is so true. 

I seem to spend a lot of my time trying to avoid accidents. I am a careful driver who avoids taking risks. And when I am out walking in the countryside I am very careful with regard to muddy paths and climbing over gates or stiles or walking through farms where dogs might be roaming.

At home, we have a rubber bath mat with suction pads in the bath where I  normally take my morning shower. On Sunday morning, I had had my shower and was drying my manly physique with a fluffy bath towel when I noticed a streak of bird shit on the window adjacent to the bath.

I had the bright idea of pouring a jug of water out of the window in the hope that it might wash the offending bird shit away. I filled the jug and then put my right foot on the rubber bath mat. I went to stand up in the bath once more but suddenly - Swwwwish! The bath mat slid towards the taps and my standing left leg was bashed violently against the side of the bath. I thought  I had done myself a nasty injury.

Fortunately, the bird shit was washed away very easily but even now my knee and upper shin are bruised and a little uncomfortable. It could have been a lot worse for my mobility has not been affected.

And then this evening. Frances and Stewart were still in Stratford-upon-Avon for the funeral of Stew's grandfather Brian. I  picked Phoebe up from her nursery school which is close by and simply carried her home. 

In the back garden there is a small raised lawn. To reach it, you have to climb over a low wall - less than a foot high and the bricks are not cemented into place. I don't know exactly what happened but I tripped and fell onto the lawn still holding Phoebe in my arms. In that split second I discovered a way of falling that would keep her safe. She was still a little shaken by the experience. Briefly, I recalled my rugby playing days when such falls were routine but back then I was normally in possession of a rugby ball and not a precious granddaughter.

Accidents can change lives. I guess I should be grateful that I have survived this week's minor accidents unscathed and so has Little Phoebe. The look upon her face when we hit the grass is now etched in my memory. Silly Grandpa!

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