2 October 2023


Hadrian's Wall was built under the instructions of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It stretched from The North Sea in the east to the Solway Firth in the west, covering some eighty four miles. It marked the very edge of The Roman Empire and was also intended to keep out unwanted visitors and warriors from the land we now call Scotland.

The wall rises and falls, clinging to the landscape in terrain that remains challenging to this day. It was an ambitious project that took around six years to complete but it did not function as intended for very many years. After Hadrian's death a new but less imposing wall was built further north called The Antonine  Wall.

I remind myself at this point that when I sat down to create this blogpost, I did not intend to write a potted history of Hadrian's Wall. That is just background context for my reflections upon a beautiful sycamore tree that hugged the wall at a point where the base  geology had formed a significant dip in the land.

They say that the tree was around three hundred years old. It was disease-free and had every prospect of thriving for another three hundred years. It had found a perfect niche - partly sheltered and well-watered. Lonesome but strong.

People loved that iconic tree. They felt connected to it and countless photos were taken at Sycamore Gap. Marriage proposals were made there and the tree even featured in the film "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

And then in the dead of night just last week the tree was cut down with a chain saw. The tree crashed to the ground. People all over this kingdom shared a sense of sadness mingled with utter disbelief. Why would anyone do such a thing? 

A sixteen year old youth and a man in his sixties were arrested, charged  and later bailed. If they have any reasons to explain their vandalism we have not yet heard them. Something died in all of us when they murdered beauty. Personally, I hope that for the rest of their lives they will be known  as the men who chopped down the iconic tree and that that reputation will follow them to their graves.

Below - the sycamore tree and Sycamore Gap seen  via Google Streetview from the nearby "B" road...

1 October 2023


It was a good weekend. My old friend, Tony, invited me over to Beverley in the very heart of East Yorkshire. It's where I went to school and where Tony now lives with his second wife, Pauline.

We drove into the nearby city of Hull. The team I have supported for sixty years were playing Plymouth Argyle. But Tony had not only bought me a match ticket, he had paid for a "prestige" package that involved a lunch, free drinks, great seats next to the directors' box  and so on.
High Esk Lake  by The River Hull

At halftime, we looked up at the big screen and a  digital birthday greeting came on wishing me a happy 70th birthday "from Tony".  I have waited for fame all my life and now I had it. Of course the crowd cheered wildly when they saw my name.

Though Hull City deserved to win, we ended up drawing the match with Plymouth. The final score was 1-1.
The River Hull north of Hull Bridge

Back in Beverley, we visited Nellie's. Its real name is "The White Horse" and it is my favourite pub in the whole world. Right next to St Mary's Church, it is an authentic  Victorian pub in which time has stood still. I first went in there when I was seventeen - 53 years ago. It is little changed.

On Sunday morning, in spite of the inclement weather forecast, we  drove out of the old market town to undertake a four mile walk east of   The River Hull and it was on this walk that I snapped the attached pictures.
Cattle by The River Hull at Arram Carrs

29 September 2023


Eleven years ago, I was walking near Pilsley in Derbyshire. As I recall, it was a lovely day at the very end of September. Sunny spells played tag with the clouds and all seemed well with the world. As usual, I plotted a circular course, unsure of what sights I might see. Like a technicolour feature film without a plot. Just a beginning and an end.

When rambling, I am always drawn to abandoned farm buildings. They add a melancholy beauty to the landscape. Like old churches, they speak poetically of past times and of the now silent rural workers who once plodded along the same lanes.
Recently, I have been somewhat incapacitated - confined to barracks as they say so there has been a hiatus in my walking activity. In such circumstances, it is such a tonic to look upon the "inward eye" that is "the bliss of solitude" and recall past walks with the assistance of photo folders stored here on this aging personal computer.
Above, a man in a blue sweater walks up the lane towards Pilsley passing a stone cowshed with warped roof timbers. When it was constructed all of the materials would have been sourced close by and no building inspectors would have come along to stamp their  official approval.

Before too long, I will be out there again finding new paths to plod while relishing the gifts that walking provides. It's so simple. One foot in front of the other and I shall do it for as long as I am able.

28 September 2023


Trump mini-speaker

I swear that I am not making this up. There really is an online store where you can order stuff that pays homage to the American demagogue and no doubt  help to pay his spiralling legal bills.

There was a time when such an idea would have been unthinkable. Serious politicians are meant to focus on the onerous responsibility of running countries not upon souvenir merchandise sales.  But Trump spotted a business opportunity.

At the Trumpstore you can purchase all manner of apparel from T-shirts to baseball caps and from hoodies to golfwear. Mostly these items bear a single word and that is "Trump". It is as if he is some sort of religious leader - a mast to pin your allegiances to.

Leaving the clothing aside, here are some of the other bizarre items you can purchase via Trumpstore 

Lady's clutch bag $84

Trump gummy bears

Mar-A-Lago and Trump jet models - sold as a set for $205

Dog collar

Beach ball and bucket set

Trump cheese knives $44

Perfume, hi-ball glasses, bandanas, flasks, umbrellas, socks and many other Trump items may be bought from the Trumpstore. But here are some things that they don't sell - Integrity, Honesty, Kindness, Humility, Intelligence, Fairness and  Truth. Of course these things do not sit well with Donald J. Trump. And they do not seem to matter much to his deluded followers either.

27 September 2023


Katie in "The Job of Songs"

Lying in bed this very morning half-listening to the "Today" programme on BBC Radio 4, I was surprised to hear the dulcet tones of my niece Katie warbling "I Remember You Singing This Song Ma". There then followed an interview led by the presenter Martha Carney with our Katie plus an American documentary film maker called Lila Schmitz.

Schmitz has created a film called "The Job of Songs". Focused upon Doolin in County Clare, Ireland, I understand that the film explores the tension between the quiet solitude of the west of Ireland and the vibrancy of traditional music sessions. Apparently, Katie has a lead role in the documentary which I have not yet managed to see.

Katie features in the film trailer...

And then this very evening, I learnt that our son Ian featured in today's edition of "The Evening Standard" down in London. It is our capital's most widely read paper and during the week you will find it stacked at every tube station entrance.

Ian starred in a regular mid-week item where "celebrities" give insights into their particular neighbourhoods. For Ian, it was the Fulham district...

Such family fame and publicity! In contrast, the faceless author of this humble Yorkshire blog has reached the end of his course of antibiotics. Still feeling rather nauseous and not quite myself I did very little all day - only venturing out in the Clint rocket ship  to do some grocery shopping at half past eight in the evening.  

Now that my difficult love affair with  nitrofurantoin is over, I hope to become myself again and fully able to drive over to Hull on Saturday to watch my beloved Tigers play Plymouth Argyle in the English Championship.

But to recap, I guess this was a pretty momentous day for my family - my only niece on Radio 4 and my only son in "The Evening Standard". I am not jealous - not one little bit for I am content to bask in the reflected glow of their achievements.

26 September 2023


The nights are drawing in and autumn seems to have ousted summer. It wasn't so long ago that it was still light at 9pm but now it's getting dark by 7pm. There's a definite chill in the air.

At this time of year, in many British communities, people still give thanks for harvest time - in schools and churches. For me, growing up in a village that was surrounded by productive farmland, the idea of harvest festivals seemed perhaps more pertinent than it might have done to city dwellers. We saw combine harvesters scything the wheat and we helped to pick the potatoes and the peas. We knew for certain that our food came to us from the very earth that we walked upon.

As an erstwhile  choirboy in Holy Trinity Church, I knew the harvest hymns by heart and watched small children bringing baskets of produce to the altar. It was a time of celebration.

For decades, a BBC TV Sunday institution has been a programme called "Songs of Praise". The format is quite simple really. The cameras visit different churches to record congregations singing hymns in unison. Of course, unlike ordinary Sundays,  the pews are always filled and people are always nicely attired. They are clearly told to ignore the cameras.

I now invite you to sing along to "We Plough The Fields And Scatter" - Britain's favourite harvest-time hymn (written by a German). And while you are singing along please observe the multicultural nature of the congregation - like a beautiful rainbow pattern... See Michael Caine at 2:22 - he has been putting away the pies.

25 September 2023


Jonathan Pie is just a character played by actor and comedian Tom Walker. Pie has become a bit of a cult figure over here in Britain and a thorn in the establishment's side. The idea is that he's a news reporter but he often bitterly disagrees with the version of the news he is asked to tell and when he's "off air" he rants about political truths he's not allowed to broadcast on his imaginary mainstream TV channel.

Last week our current Tory Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, sought to distance himself from established green policies and to slow down the pace of change in that critical area. This is all about him appealing to the lowest common denominator in order to win votes in the forthcoming General Election. Currently The Tories (Conservative Party) are in for a trouncing and Sunak is desperately looking to change gear, even making stuff up about proposed green measures.

Once again, Jonathan Pie has seen through the bullshit:-

Health Update
Your faithful correspondent survived the weekend and the poorliness caused by a) a urinary tract infection and b) a disagreeable course of antibiotic capsules is now in remission. Though still far from top form, I did manage to stroll down to the local post office today to purchase a birthday card for our beloved daughter Frances. Unbelievably - she will be thirty five tomorrow.

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