11 May 2021

Clickbait

There's an annoying form of advertising that is used widely on the internet. I am sure that you will have encountered it yourself. I normally come across it on local newspaper sites.

It works like this. You see a picture and beneath it a short headline or question. You are intrigued. How does Engelbert Humperdinck live these days?  Momentarily you imagine him living in a hovel with a  crazy cat called Elvis  surrounded by piles of old newspapers. Then you click on the picture.

In that moment, you have in effect been hooked like a fish. The advertising site does not show you how Engelbert is currently living. To discover that you have to wade through several other pages that show us how entertainers of the past are now living. These pages are themselves ringed with an array of ads all ready to be clicked upon.

The industry term for this kind of advertising or side-tracking is "clickbait". Clickbait is usually innocuous and the best way to deal with it is just to ignore it. However, some clickbait is operated by criminals - deviously leading to fraudulent activity or malware.

Innocuous or fraudulent - I am not a fan of clickbait. It makes internet users look like fools and often wastes our time. There are lots of ways in which the internet can enhance our lives but clickbait is definitely not on that list.

9 May 2021

Exchange


The League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers has, over the years, seen thousands of teachers from the British Commonwealth of Nations spending entire school years in each other's countries, effectively swapping jobs and living in each other's houses. The cross-cultural benefits have surely been enormous.

Back in 1962, an exchange teacher came to my village primary school in the heart of The East Riding of Yorkshire. She had travelled all the way from New Zealand and her name was Miss Sanderson. She was quite tall with dark wavy hair and of course she spoke English in an unfamiliar manner. Her complexion was a little dark, suggesting that she might have  had some Maori blood in her. She brought a ukulele with her. Singing was one of her strengths.

Every week she led an afternoon of singing in which she introduced us to new songs and patiently taught us how to sing them with the delightful accompaniment of her little guitar. It was always a very happy session for Miss Sanderson clearly loved her songs and certainly realised that music was not all about learning musical notation and passing music exams. It was first and foremost a happy, social phenomenon and her lovely songs had the capacity to illustrate what it might mean to be  human.

This morning I found myself singing "Riding Down From Bangor"  as I came down our staircase. It was one of the songs that Miss Sanderson taught me and my classmates  almost sixty years ago. At the time I imagined that Bangor was a place in New Zealand but the Bangor in question was in fact in the state of Maine in America.  I remember she also taught us a famous New Zealand love song called "Pokarekare Ana". It  included some exotic Maori lyrics:-
 
Fast forward to the spring  of 1989. Frances was just six months old so Ian would have been five. I had the idea of applying for a teacher exchange to Australia. Shirley was happy to go along with this. It seemed like the best time to do it with the kids being young. Maybe later it would not work out.

I filled in the application form, gathered the necessary support documents and even took photos of our house for would-be Australian exchangees. I never imagined that my headteacher would prevent the process from happening. He had never had to deal with such a request before and apparently could not imagine the possible benefits. So he blocked it. I was dumbfounded.

Two years after this the school agreed an exchange for another English subject teacher and the following year two Science teachers exchanged with Australian colleagues. But for me the ship had left the port and as a family, for personal and professional reasons,  the time was never right again to be part of such a scheme. I still feel some of the hurt. Who knows - we might have remained in Australia riding red kangaroos into the sunset singing another of Miss Sanderson's favourite songs - "Waltzing Matilda" which she sang rather slowly like a lament.

8 May 2021

Thwarted

As you will know yourself, in these lives that we are leading things do not always go to plan. And so it was yesterday when Clint and I drove out to the flat lands north of Doncaster. We parked up in the village of Sykehouse which claims to be "Yorkshire's longest village" and I have no reason to doubt that claim. After all, from one end of the settlement to the other it is just under eight miles.

I had just taken a couple of pictures of the brick-built Victorian church  when the heavens opened and Clint was bombarded with repeated sallies of hailstones. I jumped back inside him for shelter as he screamed "Ouch!", "Aargh!" and "For ****'s sake!" as the hail bounced off his silvery bodywork. Soon it passed and I donned my boots ready for the long circular walk I had planned. It was meant to be around seven miles, finishing with a mile and a half stretch north of The River Went.

But please see this snippet from the A4 map I took with me:-
The broken black line along the blue river marks the 
boundary between North and South Yorkshire

By this point I had already tramped six miles or so.  The black line heading north is England's main east coast railway line connecting London with Yorkshire before heading up to Newcastle and Edinburgh. The railway passes over The River Went at the very point that a public footpath crosses a deep V-shaped drain and then goes under the bridge. 
The path goes under this bridge on the left

However, the footbridge over the drain is presently  totally kapput and the path under the bridge appeared so treacherously muddy that it would have been easy to fall into the river.  I decided against it and headed south by the railway track hoping to find another route back to Sykehouse.

Oh lordy! I was now off the map I had printed so I had no idea where any paths might be or where they might lead and there was nobody about in the tiny village of Fenwick to ask. It was like a small ghost town.
Holy Trinity Church, Sykehouse

Following local lanes that crisscross the flat agricultural landscape I found myself plodding an extra six miles back to Clint who was still smarting from the hailstone battering. And to use a term favoured by my German blogging friend Meike, I was well and truly "knackered" when I turned the ignition key to head home.

So that was a plan that went wrong, simply because a small section of a footpath was more or less impassable. It doesn't happen very often and I have already reported the issue to North Yorkshire Council - Public Rights of Way Department. I wouldn't want other walkers to face the same problem.
The Aire and Calder Navigation Canal seen from Pollington Bridge

7 May 2021

Lurking

By Derbyshire Lane, there's a cemetery that  had not registered with me until Wednesday when Clint and I took Frances and the heavenly babe along that route.

I returned yesterday to spend a pleasant hour exploring the cemetery. It opened in 1869 in response to the fact that the old Norton churchyard had more or less run  out of space for the dead.

Norton Cemetery sits on a ridge above the suburb of Woodseats, looking out to the moors. It is a long, oblong shaped site and I was pleased to find it pretty tidy and well-maintained. 

As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth century, there must have been an awful lot of skilled stone masons expertly carving gravestones by hand. It would have taken endless hours for very many of the carved adornments are stunning. Take the grave of  Susan Jane Tippett for example. She died at the age of twenty nine in September 1908:-

Another grave that caught my eye was that of  Arthur Hebblethwaite and his wife Ada Beatrice. Arthur died on October 29th 1914 at a military hospital near Southampton. He had been badly injured a month before at The Battle of the Aisne. He was thirty when he passed away. Ada, on the other hand, did not depart this earthy life until 1972 - reaching the ripe old age of eighty six.

Perhaps it is fanciful to imagine that Arthur was never far from Ada's thoughts. She was a widow for almost fifty years. For her, World War One lasted much longer than the history books claim. You can read many similar stories from old gravestones.

6 May 2021

Guest

Hewo evweybody! Itz me Phoebe! I yam neawy 4 munths hold now. Gwandpa sed I cud right a guess powst on his bog which is cold Yorkshire Pudding.

I hev had alot to lern sins I caym owt of mummy's tummy.. It  hasbeen vewwy vewy hard 4 me. At frost I dint even no wot coulors where. I dint no wot light fittins were or windoes or curtins or anyfink, anyfink at hall. I hev had 2 lern it hall an I yam still lernin evwee day. Its vewwy vewwy hard,

I like mum's milko. Its vewwy nice. Hall I hev 2 do to get my milko is 2 go gwumpy an cwy a bit. Then mummy givs me my milko.

Mummy an Daddy an gwandpa an gwanma go 2 the toy-let 2 do there buzznest but i do it in  a  dispossible nappie that mummy or gwanpa or daddy chainges  when heather it is dirty wv my poo-poo or wee=wee. Gwandpa has knot chainged me nappie yacht but he sins to me vewy nice songs wen I yam lyin in his harms. It iz vewwy suggling an nice.  An he meks upp songs jus fer me.

Gwandpa is loverly . Vewy stwong an vewy crever 2. I yam looky to hev a gwanpa lark him.

Well I  am yorking now cos I yam tyred. Time 2 go 4 asleep in my cot. Nite-nite evwybody! Hoop you larked my guess powst.

Luv

Phoebe  x

5 May 2021

Retrospect

Sometimes I could almost pinch myself. Did I really go to Easter  Island in the autumn of 2009? 

The photographs I took there prove that I did. It was a dream come true. There was nowhere on this planet that I wanted to visit more than Easter Island. You can hold a globe in a certain position and it looks as though half of Earth is The Pacific Ocean.

It is massive  and yet the tiny islands that are dotted about The Pacific were populated by Polynesians long before there had been any contact with Europeans. The most distant and remotest island they reached was Rapa Nui - later to be known as Easter Island or Isla de Pascua.

Everyone has seen pictures of the famous "moai" heads. The image is iconic. There are over nine hundred moai statues on the island  and they all faced inland - not out to the endless ocean. They were inward looking, not outward.

It was a world within a world, like a different planet. A society that thrived for perhaps three hundred years in isolation and then declined till when the first white sailors appeared its heyday was long gone. The people who made the moai were already beyond living memory.

I would go back in a heartbeat to walk about the moai once again, to hear the echoes of a lost civilisation, to look out across the wide Pacific, to close my eyes and imagine the first dugout canoes that landed there long ago. Easter Island - the stuff of dreams and legends. Yes - I was there.

3 May 2021

Ordinariness

Mark Selby v Shaum Murphy in the 2021 World Snooker final here in Sheffield

I notice how some other bloggers are more  adept than I am  at reporting  everyday ordinariness. They can make their accounts of  relative mundanity eminently readable. It's quite a skill. When you think about it most days we tick off on our private calendars are quite unremarkable. This is the essence of life - its ordinariness. Days come and days go. Most are forgotten

Today, May 3rd, was a wet day. Chilly too. Lord knows that the land is in desperate need of water because April was amazingly dry here in Yorkshire.  Desperate farmers have been praying for rain to fall. At last God responded  kindly.

I watched the second day of  the final of The World Snooker Championship on television. The spiritual home of this prestigious event  is Sheffield's own Crucible Theatre. The relentless Mark Selby came out on top, beating the spirited underdog Shaun Murphy in a best out of thirty five frames match. At times it was really  gripping stuff as rain continued to fall on our suburban street.

I made a nice evening meal - vegetable lasagne with salad and cheesy garlic bread before returning to the snooker. Did you know that this quiet game was invented in India in the second half of the nineteenth century by British army officers? Once the coloured balls were made from ivory but now they use a kind of hard plastic known as phenolic resin.

We didn't see our lovely little grandaughter today. She is going in a swimming pool for the first time tomorrow. She has taken to lying in her Moses basket, happily kicking her legs and vocalising like a baby opera singer. She is such a delight.

Oh, I almost forgot. I had my second coronavirus vaccination today in the cavernous Sheffield Arena. The male nurse who gave me my jab asked if I had had any adverse reactions to the first jab and I said - No, none at all. Then he prepared the needle before asking, "Did you have any adverse reactions to the first jab?" Eh? The same question twice in ninety seconds!

Despite its ordinariness, this can often seem like a mad world.

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