24 November 2020

Honesty

Looking up from my leather La-Z-Boy throne on Sunday morning, I noticed how splendidly sunlight was spotlighting our old model of Pinocchio. He stands on the rosewood mantelpiece in our front room but for many more years he resided in my mother's display cabinet where she kept a variety of fascinating treasures.

I guess that everybody associates Pinocchio with lying. His lies caused his wooden nose to grow but in the end he learnt the errors of his ways and his embarrassingly long snout shrank back to more normal proportions.

Pinocchio's lies were never malicious. It could be argued that they were rather typical of the kind of lies that little boys and girls tell as they develop their moral senses and how to function acceptably in this social world. Ultimately, lying impacts upon our sense of self-worth though there are arguably situations in which being economical with the truth is the wisest way to proceed.

Do you lie? How do you feel about lying?

One of my pet sayings is "Honesty is the best policy" and for many years it has been one of the guiding principles of my daily life. I sleep better in my bed and feel better about myself because of this. 

Last week when walking between Everton and Gringley-on-the-Hill, I passed through a sea of ripened maize. I visualised boiled golden cobs steaming in bowls, slathered with salted butter and reached out to twist one of those cobs from the mother plant. Surely, the farmer wouldn't miss four corn cobs would he? I was about to take my "Converse" rucksack off my shoulders and put ripe corn cobs inside it when a voice inside my head said "No!"

I felt better about myself as I walked on minus the corn, realising that future munching upon stolen cobs would not sit well with me.  As I have discovered before, it is better for my mental well-being to live as honestly as possible. Replaying lies and small acts of dishonesty would be tormentuous.

None of us are saints. As human beings, we err and if you peel away the layers you will undoubtedly find that no one  is immune from lying - not even The Pope or The Archbishop of Canterbury. We might avoid the corn but deeper than that, deep inside what lies might we find?

There's more to the original Italian tale of Pinocchio than initially meets the eye. 

23 November 2020

Congestion

View from Coggers Lane to Lose Hill and Win Hill

A five minute walk from this suburban mansion and you're on Ringinglow Road. Follow Ringinglow Road for half an hour passing High Storrs School, the shops at Bents Green and "The Hammer and Pincers" pub and you are out in the countryside. A further mile out of the city and you reach the tiny village of Ringinglow itself with its "round house" and "The Norfolk Arms" public house.

Half a mile beyond Ringinglow you reach Yorkshire's border with Derbyshire. It's a route I have driven many times. It takes you out to the moors, to Stanage Edge and The Hope Valley and the world beyond. If you have been a frequent visitor to this blog you will have seen pictures of the landscape I am talking about and you will have previously travelled with me along Ringinglow Road.

On Coggers Lane looking to Stanage Edge

Mostly when I get out there there's hardly anybody else about. However, yesterday afternoon it was crazy with cars, walkers and cyclists. I have never seen the area so congested before. It was because of COVID-19 and our current semi-lockdown arrangements. People need to do something at the weekend but what can they do? Drive out of the city and enjoy the countryside.

"What the hell is going on?" grumbled Clint. "Is there a pop festival?"

Cars parked on verges where I have never seen cars parked before. Cars on both sides of the road. Burbage Bridge car park overflowing. The rock climbers' car park under Stanage Edge chock-a-block. Many of the verges will have been damaged by tyres, impairing the appearance of the moorland environment.

Rainbow's end on Stanage Edge

I had been more or less housebound for two days so Sunday afternoon's nice weather was an opportunity for a constitutional walk along the narrow lanes beyond Stanage Plantation. After edging through the cars and the bloody cyclists in their space helmets and ridiculous lycra jumpsuits, I headed for a tiny gravelled pull-in where I have often parked Clint in splendid isolation but yesterday there were five other cars there.

Boots on, I plodded my familiar route. Unusually, I needed to have  my wits about me because of the coronavirus vehicles passing by. Perhaps I should have snapped potentially historical pictures of the cars and people in the photographs that accompany this blogpost but I chose to blot them out.

Clint was dozing when I completed my circle. Gently, I raised his tailgate and extracted a deckchair, a flask of coffee and a book about the English Civil Wars (1640 to 1660). And there I sat with the sun sinking over Bamford Moor, certain that a lot of the vehicles would have disappeared by the time I steered Clint home in time to prepare a roast chicken dinner.

On my route I passed North Lees Hall which Charlotte Bronte visited in the summer of 1845
and below Bronte Cottage - so named because of that visit. She was writing "Jane Eyre" at the time.

22 November 2020

Idle

Keeper's Cottage at Gringley Lock

I have a bout of blogstipation this morning. Just can't come up with anything to blog about. Either that or I am feeling too idle to bother germinating the seeds of any current ideas. Ah well, that's how it goes during a worldwide health pandemic I guess.

Consequently, I shall grasp the lazy option by sharing another batch of the photographs I took on Thursday when walking in north Nottinghamshire south of the appropriately named River Idle.

Ripened maize - still not harvested

St Peter & St Paul Church, Gringley-on-the-Hill

Park Farm amidst the maize north of Gringley

The River Idle near Misson - once it was an important inland waterway

Pear Tree House, Gringley-on-the-Hill and the view north
over former marshland towards The Humber

21 November 2020

Sorry

Priti Patel with Feckless Johnson

Priti Patel  is Britain's Home Secretary. She was appointed by Feckless Johnson. Numerous complaints were made about her style of leadership - so many complaints that an official inquiry was undertaken.

That inquiry concluded that Ms Patel was at times guilty of bullying behaviour in her department - including shouting and swearing at members of the civil service. Historically, such a damning judgement would result in the spotlighted politician resigning or being fired. However, Priti Patel has neither resigned as a matter of honour nor has she been given her marching orders by Feckless Johnson.

Instead what has happened is that the senior member of the civil service tasked with actioning this inquiry has himself resigned his post. Undoubtedly, he is quite disgusted about Feckless Johnson disregarding the inquiry's findings. That fellow is called Sir Alex Allen and I applaud him for doing the right thing.

Following receipt of the inquiry's report, Feckless Johnson said he had "full confidence" in Ms Patel and that she had given a "fulsome apology". Fulsome apology? What the hell! This is what Priti Patel said:-

"I am sorry if I have upset people in any way whatsoever - that was completely unintentional."

Is that a "fulsome apology"? It does not sound like one to me. It sounds like the kind of "apology" that someone might say when they don't truly wish to apologise. It's like saying "I am sorry if you feel that I was in the wrong" - throwing it all back at the complainant - as if it was their fault in the first place.

A proper "fulsome apology" would have gone something like this: "I apologise most sincerely for my past behaviour. It was wrong of me to shout and swear at members of staff.  I shall try harder from now on to alter my managerial style and cease any swearing or shouting - even when we are dealing with stressful issues and time pressures. I should like to thank Sir Alex Allen for conducting his inquiry in  a characteristically professional manner."

Feckless Johnson didn't have the political nous to sack his senior adviser Dominic Cummings when he blatantly broke coronavirus lockdown rules in  early summertime. Now he has again shown a streak of his unlovely stubbornness - instead of doing what's right and proper. He hasn't  even released the report for others to examine.

You will now be pleased to learn that this particular parochial rant is over. My sincere and undying apologies to North American visitors, readers from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland and Eswatini (the new name for Swaziland). Sorry... I really mean it.

20 November 2020

Gringley

The Chesterfield Canal east of Everton
Yesterday I walked for five and a half hours. I left Clint in the village of Gringley-on-the-Hill in north Nottinghamshire and had set off by ten fifteen. The weather gods had granted me a lovely window of opportunity for plodding and though the day was chilly with a breeze from the Arctic, it was also bright with no hint of rain.

Gringley-on-the-Hill is a charming village with a long history and a population of around seven hundred souls. As its name suggests, it sits on a hill. North of the village flat farmland stretches out for several miles. Once it would have been marshland - home to reeds and wildfowl but in the seventeenth century Dutch engineers were employed to organise effective land drainage. Their hard work is visible today in the form of rich arable land.

I plodded out to The River Idle and looked across to the remote village of Misson which cut off from the rest of Nottinghamshire by the river. I was there in 2016. Go here.

Then it was along muddy lanes passing two or three remote farms and a flock of white geese or swans clustering on ploughed land.  I reached the village of Everton by two o'clock and then headed east to The Chesterfield Canal which took me eventually to Gringley Lock. The sun was sinking over the far horizon as I trudged up Wood Lane - all the way back to Clint and the journey back home.

"You took your time!" grumbled Clint as I lifted his tailgate.

"That is my prerogative," I responded. "After all, I own you!"

Clint said nothing for a while but as soon as I settled into the driver's seat he said. "You mean like a slave? You own me like a slave?"

"I guess so. I hadn't thought of it that way."

Of course Clint hummed slave songs from America's Deep South all the way home just to make me feel bad. However, it had been a grand day out. The six accompanying pictures should give you a fuller sense of the day I had.

Cottage on the edge of Everton

19 November 2020

Uplifting

It took me five days to read "The Salt Path" by Raynor Winn. And what a delight it was!

It is a true story about a long distant walking route in the south west of England. Beginning at Minehead in Somerset, the "salt path" or South West Coastal Path hugs the coast through Devon and Cornwall all the way to Land's End where it turns and heads east along the south coast to Poole in Dorset. Six hundred and thirty miles in total.

in 2014, Raynor Winn and her husband Moth became unexpectedly homeless. They were in their early fifties. What could they do? Despite Moth having a life-threatening condition they decided to set off walking.

They had very little money and only basic equipment, including two cheap sleeping bags. Some days they had nothing to eat and they wild camped almost all the way just to save money.

On the walk they discovered inner reserves of strength and they witnessed Mother Nature in various guises - from nocturnal badgers to Atlantic storms and from baking sunlight to cliffs abundant with fossils. It was a journey of self-discovery.

Raynor Winn's style of writing is honest, easy and observant. She focuses on small aspects of everyday life. Her love for Moth is like the chain on a mighty anchor and though times get tough she retains a priceless positivity.

When it comes to reading, we all have our own individual preferences. Maybe some would dismiss "The Salt Path" but I loved it. In this year of COVID 19 and worrisome uncertainty about the future of our planet, it was great to read a book that was so uplifting.

Though Raynor and Moth had nothing, they found something so special. Maybe there's a message there for the rest of us.

18 November 2020

Theseus

When I was at secondary school in Kingston-upon-Hull I was one of the best rugby players in my year group. Our coach was an ex-player called Bill Minns. He had a habit of endowing his favourite lads with nicknames and he called me Theseus. The name stuck for a while. As far as nicknames go it wasn't a bad one to have. Better than Fatty or Beanpole or Specky Four Eyes.

In the last seventy two hours I have felt like Theseus in the Labyrinth. Behind the scenes of this illustrious blog, I have been battling with demons. Technological robo-demons that threatened to block me from my favourite websites and blogs.

"Error 401" kept raising its ugly face and I was repeatedly warned that my security had been compromised. Habitual passwords were being blocked as unfamilar dialogue boxes appeared on the screen.

All of this sent me scurrying off into a Google labyrinth of Blogger forums, YouTube help videos, techo-babble and "solutions" that turned out not to be solutions after all. It was nightmarish I tell you. On Sunday night I had little sleep as I tossed and turned, wrestling with my personal minotaur. How could I defeat it?

Today, the minotaur has slunk off into the bowels of the labyrinth for I have managed to resolve several of the blockage issues. Passwords have been changed. Caches have been cleared. Google Chrome has been reset. I am doing what I want to do on the computer again but I fear that the minotaur has not gone forever. This is just a temporary lull for the bull and the lad from Hull.

I am not a techical kind of guy. I have little idea how a car engine works and I am not interested in finding out how all that wonderful imagery appears on our television screen. Similarly, I find no pleasure in solving computer problems. I just want to press the on button, wait for it to load up and then do my stuff.

Before I leave this window of cyber-doom, may I just say that Google, Microsoft and Apple are advancing all the time. They do not stay still. They track our password choices and when their systems spot unhealthy patterns - such as repeated use of the same password - they are likely to ask questions, create barriers or block your activity. This is done via robots so you can't just phone up and speak to a human being saying something like, "Hi! I am Theseus. In error you have directed me into a labyrinth of anxiety. Now please get me out and remove the blockages. Thank you. Have a nice day."

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