22 March 2023


Here are two numbers to juggle with. They are 81 and 152. 81 is the number of  comments I found in my spam folder yesterday and 152 is the number of  comments I have found there today.

90% of the comments were originally posted by me in response to visitors' comments. They dated back to 2007. None of these comments were offensive  and none were written to promote dodgy businesses.

You can imagine how irritating and time-consuming it is to plough through a folder packed with alleged spam comments. You have to re-publish each comment individually and what I do not know is what tomorrow will bring. Will my spam folder be annoyingly refilled by mindless Blogger bots?

Although Blogger has been a pretty kind and efficient host through the years, there seems to be no way of complaining to the service or explaining user problems to them. It's the same with a lot of big businesses these days. They just don't want us talking to them or even finding ways and means of contacting them. It is very frustrating.

Still thinking about numbers. This old Beatles song contains a number which indicates precisely my wife Shirley's birthday age tomorrow. It is hard to believe that she was just twenty years old when we first met and fell in love over forty three years ago.  I was her Paul and she was my Linda.

21 March 2023


Lamb's Ears

My younger brother Simon would have been sixty seven years old tomorrow - March 22nd. For months I have been wrangling with the pensions company he entrusted with his savings. On his pensions plan I was named as the sole beneficiary in the event of his death. It was very clear and Simon had no dependents.

Almost on his death bed, he told me what he wanted me to do with his money and probably died believing implicitly that the well-known pensions/assurance company would do the right thing in a professional manner. For my part, I promised Simon that I would fulfil his wishes.

There have been regular phone calls, e-mails and most recently a strongly worded letter which I posted to the Customer Relations department of the pensions company at their head office in Edinburgh. I have found the whole experience to be both infuriating and stressful. The quality and efficiency of their communications have both been dreadful..

Now, eight months after Simon's death, it seems that the agony is about to end. They requested my bank details and though they say payouts are currently taking ten working days to process, I expect to receive the money before the end of April. Then I can distribute the funds as my brother instructed.

We should not speak ill of the dead but as I said in my eulogy last August, Simon had his demons and his difficulties as he travelled through life. I won't go into details but he caused both of my parents a lot of anguish and sleepless nights. 

Amongst his things, I discovered a letter I had sent to him in the summer of 1978 during a phase when things were pretty bad. I was crying out to him, tying to bring back the Simon we once knew:

"I don't hate you - nor will I ever do. I will always send you birthday cards and presents. Always love you, even if I am a thousand miles away. Always open up my arms for you if you need help. Always.....

...We have moved and grown in different  ways but you are still Simon and I am still Neil and I still want the best for you. I want to be sixty six with you my little brother at sixty four, still touching lamb's ears by the pond where we once played. And we'll be looking back upon our lives. Weathered and weary, still wondering but smiling all the same.

It is for all of this and more besides that I have shed tears for you. Tears which rolled down my cheeks, surprising me - tears for you. In the month of July 1978.  I am Neil - your brother and I am here for you."

I was twenty four years old and he was twenty two. At the time, he was detained in a mental hospital under what is called a police "section". It is true what some say about cannabis. It really can trigger psychotic episodes and utterly change someone's character.

20 March 2023


A rattail teaspoon

It is Mrs Pudding's birthday this week. I had a brilliant idea to buy her a voucher for the massage of her choice. However,  when I  asked if there was anything she wanted for her birthday she told me she would like some new teaspoons.

Several years ago and at some expense we bought a full set of Sheffield-made cutlery in the famous rattail design.  Only three of the original eight teaspoons have survived. Who knows what happened to the other five - probably accidentally tossed into the kitchen waste bin or taken out of the house in lunchboxes - never to return.

Anyway, over in the Hillsborough suburb of the city there's a business called The Sheffield Cutlery Shop. They have a website - see here. This morning I phoned them. Though they normally sell their goods through online orders, the respondent at the other end checked his spoon stock and said that they did have six rattail spoons in and I could come over to buy them directly.

As I drove over there in Clint, my luxury South Korean automobile, I expected to soon be standing at a shop counter, whipping my bank card out and simply paying for the six spoons. But it wasn't like that.

First of all, there was no actual shop. It was a workplace dedicated to cutlery with machines, lathes, boxes, polishing instruments and different types of cutlery at different stages of preparation all over the place. The owner was a man of around fifty called Lee. His father and grandfather had owned the business before him.

Lee made a very positive impression upon me. He was infectiously passionate about cutlery and very much a hands-on boss. In half an hour I learnt so much more about making and finishing cutlery as Lee whizzed me around the premises randomly pointing things out including packages containing knives and boxes of  cutlery that were about to be dispatched around the world.

He told me that he has recently taken an order to make six thousand serrated table knives to be sent to Irish embassies and consulates around the globe. He also showed me an antler bone handled carving set to be sent to a customer in Minneapolis. Wistfully, I told him that I had been there and thought of it as a beautiful city with its lakes and spacious suburbs. Maybe George Floyd saw it differently.

You might say that the work environment was chaotic but everything had its place. In one room, Lee showed me boxes of antlers - some from Scotland, some from the Woburn Abbey estate in Bedfordshire and some from Scandinavia. I wished I had taken my camera but the last thing I was expecting was a guided tour. It was utterly fascinating and I would have happily spent the rest of the day there.

One of the rattail spoons had not been "stamped" so Lee did it there and then using an amazing laser machine. I reminded him that I needed to pay for the teaspoons and he said I could do it online when I got home. He didn't even know my name  but he trusted me to do the honest thing which of course I did this very afternoon.

Oh and shhhh! Please don't tell Shirley that I have bought her spoons as requested. Being the perfect husband can be quite demanding I find.

Inside R&R Polishing Ltd premises at Jericho Works, Malin Bridge.
This was the only picture of the place I could find online.

19 March 2023


Earlier today on Mothering Sunday morn, we went out for breakfast at a popular cafe called "Made by Jonty" on Sharrowvale Road. There were three mothers there and one small girl who might well be a mother one day - Frances, Cheryl (Stewart's mama), Shirley and Little Phoebe.

Shirley has begun working at a charity shop that raises funds for for Age Concern. After the breakfast, she went off to work and I drove Clint to the southern edge of Sheffield for a bracing three mile walk that took me up to the moors above Totley.

At the top there's a panoramic picture of the view from Moss Road and just above there's the driftwood sculpture of a horse's head at Hallfield Farm. Who ever owns that lovely, secluded property is obviously obsessed with horses.

Below - whenever I take that particular walk, I always seem to spot  wild deer and  so it was today. I was circling  the pleasantly named Wimble Holme Hill and there in the woods below I spotted this doe. Of course, I wanted to shoot her but not with a shotgun containing lethal bullets like some guys. I just wanted to shoot her with my new Lumix pocket-sized camera. She was perfectly safe...

And here's another image shot from Moss Road which climbs up to Totley Moss. I snapped it before heading home to make the Sunday dinner - roasted chicken, roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stuffing balls, tenderstem broccoli. succulent Yorkshire puddings, homemade gravy and cranberry sauce. All followed by lemon curd cupcakes  that Shirley made from a recipe issued by a company called "Bake In". It was a subscription gift I bought her for Christmas and it has been working out very nicely.


18 March 2023


Why has Trump declared that he expects to be arrested next week with regard to the Stormy Daniels scandal and the hush money he paid her before the Presidential election of 2016? Surely, most people who expect to be arrested by the police keep such information as secret as possible. The vast majority are remorseful but not Trump. Perhaps he's trying to wind up his base supporters and get them out on the streets just as he did in early January 2021.

Has Mr B.Johnson got no shame? First he successfully  makes his younger brother Jo Johnson a member of The House of Lords and then he nominates his father Stanley Johnson for a knighthood. Neither of these close family members have done anything to deserve such honours but it seems that Mr B. Johnson does not care a fig about such minor details. This blatant favouritism and misuse of the honours system is an utter disgrace but I guess not at all unexpected given Mr B.Johnson's track record.

Why is China's President Xi Jinping visiting Vladimir Putin next week? Doesn't he realise that a warrant is out for Putin's arrest - for countless crimes against humanity? Xi Jinping ought to appreciate that having a powwow with a tyrannical  criminal who kidnaps children and encourages the brutalisation  and killing of Ukrainian citizens is definitely not a way to improve your reputation in the eyes of the wider world.

17 March 2023


Time for a song I think. I confess that most songs that float around in my head are rather deep or heavy or poetic - call them what you will - but there are a handful that are just light, "feel good" songs. Such is the case with "Daydream" by John Sebastian.  Formerly of The Lovin' Spoonful, Sebastian wrote this song in 1966. He performed it at both Woodstock (1969) and The Isle of Wight Festival of 1970. It seems like a good song for a sunny afternoon and it was once I think accurately described in this manner: "an easy-going, funky blues-soaked happy-go-lucky item with a real infectious chorus portion."


John Sebastian was born in New York City in 1944 and as far as I can determine he still makes music. The tie die shirts and jeans have gone but the kindly smile remains as this post-pandemic photograph shows:-

16 March 2023


Not much of note has been happening in my life these past few days so I have nothing of any significance to report. I am desperate to undertake more long country  walks but recent weather has been uninviting - with greyness to the fore and vibrant colours back in the paint box.

For tonight's blogpost, rather than rabbiting on about nothing in particular I have decided to simply raid my past photo files and share with you three photographs from 2008 - fifteen years ago. We were in Olu Deniz, Turkey...

Lounging on sunbeds by our hotel pool, we kept seeing paragliders descending from the nearby mountain. Not only that, we noticed that they were tandem jumps - two for the price of one.

My scaredycat instinct was to mumble to myself, "I would never do that!" but Shirley was thinking different and near the end of the week we found ourselves in a battered all-terrain vehicle bumping up twisting pine forest tracks to the summit of Mount Babadag - the father mountain.

You received basic instruction from your allocated flying partner and then you were strapped to him. Taking deep breaths, we ran together down the gravelly slope above the trees  before the parachute "caught" upon the thermal breeze. Suddenly, my feet were lifted off the ground and we were flying. Up, up we soared and it was so quiet - no engine sounds or anything. You felt like an eagle.

Expertly, the flier controlled the gradual descent of the chute. We could look over the ridge to a deserted Greek village called Karakoy and then we seemed to circle above the lagoon with its defensive spit of sand. Eventually, we landed gently on a grassy lawn by the seafront promenade just outside the paragliding company's kiosk. There was no rolling over or anything like that - you just walked.

It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience for both of us and even now Shirley and I can hardly believe that we really did do it. Here are my big size elevens above the lagoon at Olu Deniz:-

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