25 March 2019

Weekend

"The Old Neptune Inn" at Whitstable
Monday morning and the birthday weekend is almost over. It has been great.

Whitstable is a smashing little seaside town with an array of independent shops along with bustling restaurants and pubs. It's all low rise - giving the coastal settlement a human scale.

The town is famous for its oysters and when the tide goes out the oyster beds are revealed. It's big business with tractors operating at the water's edge and the oysters growing happily upon large chain racks. Look to the left of the top picture and you can just make out some of the oyster beds.
In fact our town centre rental is called Oyster Bed Cottage. It has been just perfect. Everything works. It's clean and it has its own parking space on the other side of fob-operated security gates.

London is fifty miles away. Our capital is a multi-cultural melting pot containing residents with roots in every corner of the planet. But Whitstable is not like that. Essentially, it remains a white Anglo Saxon place. On Friday night we were in the "Peter Cushing" Wetherspoons pub. A throng of local people were eating and drinking and there was a hubbub of   Kentish voices. I looked around the throng and there was not one black or Asian face. Perhaps it is little wonder that this region is the country's Brexit supporting epicentre. 
Street art by Whitstable High Street
I bought Shirley a  new watch by Mondaine and Frances and Stew gave her pearl earrings, Ian gave her a card with a cartoon of Freddie Mercury on the front and he's singing "MAMA OO-OO-H..." She also received many other cards that she opened on her birthday morning.

Yesterday, we drove along the coast to Margate in gorgeous sunshine and we promenaded after visiting the Tate gallery on the seafront. Later we had Italian pizzas in a rustic cafe on Whitstable high street before the young ones were driven back to the town's station.
At Margate
Oh, and I forgot to mention my cunning little birthday plan. I had been in touch with a local cake maker called Tessa and when we visited the weekly farmers' market in The Umbrella Centre, there was Tessa with the cake I had ordered. She opened the box to reveal an orange and passion fruit cake with "Happy Birthday Shirley 60" iced neatly on the top. The cunning plan came to fruition and  Shirley was suitably surprised.

Very soon we'll be heading back to the land of UpNorth where the wild things are. Bye bye Whitstable and thank you for a weekend to remember.
Sunset over Essex - seen from Whitstable Harbour

24 March 2019

Whitstable

Yorkshire Pudding and Shirley
It's one in the morning on Sunday March 24th. I have consumed too much Kentish ale but I am still very much compus mentis. We are in Whitstable on the north coast of Kent - fifty miles east of London. 

We came here to celebrate Shirley's sixtieth birthday and were joined by our son and daughter - Ian and Frances - as well as Frances's fiancee Stew. 

Saturday was a great day. We walked five miles along the coast to Herne Bay and later enjoyed a delicious Moroccan meal in the Alimo restaurant. And afterwards we spent a couple of hours in "The Old Neptune Inn" by the beach, grooving to a splendid band called Squeeze Gut Alley - named after a very tight Whitstable alleyway.

For now, that's all I want to say but I am attaching two pictures to this post. My old woman is sixty. It's hard to believe when so often she seems so young. I first met her when she was still nineteen. We have travelled so far together. Happy Birthday Shirley! xxx
Frances and Ian

21 March 2019

Noddy

The very idea that a horse might be able to talk was ridiculous. And yet that was the premise of a funny American TV Show called "Mr Ed". I can still hear the theme song now -  "A horse is a horse, of course, of course/ And no one can talk to a horse of course/ That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed!"

The show was first aired in 1961 and ran for six seasons. The star of the show was a palomino called Bamboo Harvester. 

I hadn't thought of "Mr Ed" for years until this very afternoon when I was walking through the village of Millthorpe. I had just passed the entrance to Cordwell Farm when a grey-white gelding galloped towards the galvanised gate to his field in order to check me out.

I scratched his cheek and patted his neck and emitted a few sentences including, "There's a good boy!", "I haven't got any food for you!" and "I don't really like horses!"

Then I carried on my way, not realising that there was another gate further along the hedgerow. Sure enough, the horse galloped along to this second gate and once again put his great big equine head over the top bar.

I ignored him and carried on, I had only taken a couple of strides when I heard a voice saying quite clearly, "And I don't like people!" I turned round and shook my head rapidly. There was nobody there just the damned horse. I did a double take.

The horse chuckled, showing his big horsey teeth, "Don't look so surprised pal! Horses are more intelligent than you might think!" His voice was deep but unlike Mr Ed, he spoke in a broad Derbyshire accent. To say I was astonished would be to make a massive understatement.

A couple of cars passed by and a wave of self-consciousness passed over me. After all, I was standing on the roadside talking to a ruddy horse! If anybody saw me they would think that I was a nutcase. Perhaps I am. I had to pinch myself to confirm that this encounter was not just happening in my head.

The horse asked for my name so I asked for his. He is called Noddy and he is six years old. There was another horse in the field called Blaze but Noddy described him as "Thick as two short planks. He can't talk like me pal."

I laughed and then Noddy said, "Fancy a ride Mr Pud?"

"What do you mean?"

"A ride round the field on me back!"

"But you haven't got a saddle and I haven't got a riding helmet!"

"You'll be okay. I'll take it easy. Ever been on a horse?"

I could only remember one other occasion. It was when I was a camp counsellor in Ohio. We were trotting along a woodland path in a line and then my horse bolted. It was all I could do to hang on. Perhaps that nameless horse had been stung or spooked in some other way.

I used the gate to climb up on Noddy's back. He snorted and whinnied and then he began a gentle trot around his field. Blaze watched in bemusement. And then I realised that Noddy's gentle trot was turning into a run. 

My bottom bounced painfully upon his spine as I clasped his mane. Noddy was laughing but I was begging him to stop. The run had turned into a full blown gallop and I was terrified about falling off. Briefly, I pictured myself in traction in a hospital bed but I needn't have worried. "Stop! Stop!" I yelled. Noddy slowed down and took me back to the gate so that I could dismount.

"I enjoyed that!" he declared.

"Good for you!" I said, with my legs wide apart like John Wayne. My arse (American: ass) felt as sore and swollen as a baboon's red butt. 

"Will you come again?" asked Noddy.

"Maybe."

"Well please bring carrots next time. And maybe an apple or two. Not those cooking apples. The sweet ones!"

I smiled and patted Noddy on his neck then he snorted and bounded off across the field again. 

Walking through the fields to Horsleygate and up the hill to Holmesfield, I  reminded myself that he is only six years old. Not the kind of horse with which one could have a serious, adult conversation but I still plan to bring him carrots and sweet apples.

20 March 2019

Lee

Down at the Oxfam shop, the workforce consists of twenty six unpaid volunteers and a full-time manager. Of course we are not all on duty at the same time. Most volunteers - myself included - only work one 4½ hour shift a week.

This afternoon I met a new volunteer called Lee. He's nineteen years old and a business studies student at one of our city's two big universities. It was my job to get Lee up to speed with the shop's touchscreen till so I spent most of the afternoon with him.

What a charming young man he was - with a happy disposition and pleasant manners. We chatted at quiet times but when customers arrived at the counter, I helped him through the on-screen processes.

Lee was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and he speaks with a distinctive Nottinghamshire twang. If you heard him on the radio you would think he was just a regular Nottinghamshire lad but there was  something different about Lee.

His parents and all four of his grandparents were born in Hong Kong and in his family home the preferred language is Cantonese. His family run a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of Nottingham and every weekend he has to go home to work as a waiter.

Lee is going to America for the first time in June. He'll be heading to San Francisco where his girlfriend has cousins. He was very interested in my little tales about California.

I may not see Lee again because his designated shift will be on a Monday so our paths are unlikely to cross in future. Realising this, at the end of the shift I shook his hand and told him that I had enjoyed spending the afternoon with him. I said I hoped he'll have a wonderful time in San Francisco.

Meeting someone like Lee consolidates one's faith in younger generations. I recall that I was nineteen once but it was long ago in a very different age.
Daffodils at Whirlow Bridge this morning.

19 March 2019

Son

Do you remember that dog from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons? He was called Spike and he had a son who was very much a chip off the old block. The son's name was Tyke and Spike would often proudly declare, "That's my boy!"

Well, please look at the picture above. See the fellow on the right? That's my boy!

Ian is sitting with his "Bosh!" partner Henry in a warehouse in Glasgow. They are perched on a pallet piled high with newly printed copies of "Bish Bash BOSH!" In fact, Ian tells me, that there were many more pallets off camera.

Everything is building to the new book's launch dates. Its first public reveal will be at Sheffield Hallam University on April 3rd followed by the official launch at Vegan Nights on Brick Lane in London on the evening of Thursday April 4th. Go here.

Ian also tells me that their publishers have arranged for "Bish Bash BOSH!" ads to appear on the sides of several buses in London and Sheffield. They are also renting a prime hoardings site near Euston station (American: billboard).

The first cookboook - "BOSH!" has been tremendously successful. Better than the publishers anticipated. Here at Pudding HQ we are obviously hoping that the new book will do at least as well. The dream is not going to end tomorrow but if it should, Ian and Henry have already enjoyed an amazing ride that would have seemed impossible three years ago.

Visit "Bosh!" here. Then, if interested, navigate through their various social media channels.

We plan to see Ian next weekend when we mark Shirley's 60th birthday down in Kent. Moldovan security guards with dogs will be guarding our house - just in case you were planning to take advantage of our absence.

18 March 2019

Weekend


It was a nice weekend.

On Friday night, I picked The Beloved Daughter and  Husband Designate up from the station. We sampled Bradfield Brewery beers and watched "Gogglebox" on the gogglebox. I had visited Bradfield Brewery on Thursday, thinking ahead about wedding beer for August.

On Saturday, Shirley and Frances attended a flower arranging class - again with the wedding in mind. Stew was seeing his best man and Clint was speeding me over to Hull to watch The Tigers play Queens Park Rangers.

I met up with my old friend Tony and we enjoyed pre-match breakfasts in the little Polish cafe we discovered a couple of years ago. By halftime we were up by two goals to nil but in the second half QPR came back to score two of their own. It felt like a defeat. 

Clint took me back home and soon afterwards he transported us all to the "Shapla" Indian restaurant in the city centre. We were all hungry and enjoyed a damned good meal before heading back to our local pub for beer and wine.

On Sunday morning, in spite of Clint's protests, I let Shirley drive him over to Tideswell where the wedding of the year will happen. Frances and Stew needed to attend the morning service as part of their qualification to be married in Tideswell Church. Being an irreligious devil worshipper, I stayed at home wallowing in my sins.

At midday I put a nice basted loin pork joint in the oven and got on with Sunday dinner preparations. Along with the tender pork there were roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, chopped leeks tossed in butter, garden peas, Yorkshire puddings, apple sauce and a tasty gravy made from meat juices and vegetable water. 

It all came together nicely and better still the churchgoers loved it. I took The Beloved Daughter and The Husband Designate back to the station for the four o'clock train to London and six hours later I moseyed on down to the pub again for a couple of pints with Bert and Steve. Fortunately, the St Patrick's Day shenanigans had ceased by that time. I still find it strange that we "celebrate" St Patrick's Day in English pubs. I would much prefer to celebrate Yorkshire Day on August 1st or St George's Day on April 23rd.

Anyway, that was my weekend. It was a nice one and now, on Monday morning,  I am sitting waiting for an electrician who should have been here an hour ago. He has probably forgotten. When he asks for his money I may have to calculate a 20% deduction. In my dreams.

17 March 2019

Snapshots

Ahove - Sheffield Central Library. Can you see the art deco frieze on the corner parapet? This splendid civic building was opened in 1934 by the then Duchess of York - mother of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II. Sadly, there have been rumours that the library might be sold to Chinese hotel developers - causing much public outrage.

It was the day I went to see the Leonardo exhibition. After leaving The Millennium Galleries I walked through The Winter Gardens and took several pictures of the steel balls below. One ball appears to be larger than the other ball which, I understand, is not uncommon:-
And then it was onward to Pinstone Street where I snapped this picture of Sheffield's magnificent Victorian town hall which was opened by Queen Victoria herself in 1897. The interior is even more magnificent. The entire building speaks of civic pride and of Britain's wealth and self-belief at the height of its powers in the Victorian era:- 
Just round the corner in Barker's Pool you find Sheffield's equally magnificent City Hall, opened in 1932. It holds a special place in my heart because in 1972 I visited Sheffield for the first time in my life to attend a concert in the city hall. I was there with a school friend to see Buffy St Marie and Loudon Wainwright III. Little did I know that night that six years later I would find myself living in the city.I have been here for over forty years.
As I enjoyed a pub  lunch in "The Frog and Parrot", I noticed the David Bowie mural on the corner of Division Street and Trafalgar Street. To be frank, I think that the image looks nothing like Bowie but sometimes in life and indeed street art, it's the thought that counts
My snapshots give a glimpse of Sheffield's city centre. Back in 2005 I blogged about my home city for the first time and received comments from Free Thinker, Stony and Tara. These occasional visitors disappeared long ago so I thought it might be a good time to tell current Yorkshire Pudding visitors something about this great northern city.

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