21 May 2019

Recording

"This call will be recorded for quality and training purposes"... "This call may be recorded for monitoring purposes"...

You hear such statements frequently when entering telephone conversations with businesses or even government departments. Sometimes the subject matter of those conversations will be very innocuous and yet still we receive that recording advice...or is it a warning?

It never used to happen. Before effective recording technology came along you just had two way conversations. Nobody was recording them.

I sometimes wonder where all these recordings are kept and who exactly accesses them. Though I have never tried it myself, I wonder what the response might be if we phoned companies back and requested copies of the recordings or said, "Can you just play back the bit where I was talking about my insurance claim?"

How long do they keep the recordings? Are they sometimes bluffing when they say that the call will be recorded? Is it all just some kind of power game in which the customer or client is made to feel self-conscious, small and somehow defused?

Once or twice when I have been irritated or badly served by a company, I have retorted, "Aye and I want to warn you that I am also recording you for monitoring purposes!"

To me all this one-sided recording of innocent citizens is slightly sinister. They don't even ask. "Would you mind if we recorded this telephone call?" I don't think it has anything to do with "training" or "quality" - it's all about gathering evidence that might possibly be used against the caller in the event of a dispute.

Rant over.

20 May 2019

Winners

A week ago, Ian and Henry were on their way to The British Book Awards annual ceremony at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Their first book had been nominated in the Non-Fiction Lifestyle category.

They hired tuxedos and went along more in hope than expectation... but damn me - they won it! And here they are being interviewed straight after the ceremony for The British Booksellers' website:-
That happy evening, "Bosh!" also won a second award for their marketing campaign.

"The British Book Awards" are undoubtedly this country's top annual book awards and I cannot tell you just how proud and delighted I am with Ian's continuing success. The "Bosh!" story goes on.

19 May 2019

Ohhhhhhh...

Whirlow Farm - The Barn
Ohhhhhhh...No I wasn't recording sounds from the bridal suite. Ohhhhhhh... is the sound of me moaning about my hangover. I haven't had one of those in a long time. I have woken up far too early which doesn't help matters. That's why I rarely drink whisky. It seems to disturb my sleep.

Ohhhhhhh... It was a great day. The humanist ceremony was held in the garden of the old farmhouse, Fortunately, the threat of rain subsided even as a massive grey cloud trundled over the suburbs. In the middle of the ceremony, there was time for reflection as we all listened to "Una Mattina" by Ludovico Einaudi. Hedge sparrows chirped in the bushes, doves cooed above the barn and a crow cawed as he flapped effortlessly across the sky. It was as if they were part of the music.

Soon champagne was being dispensed. No sooner was one's glass empty than waiting staff were filling it up again. And there were endless canapes too. Ohhhhhhh...

In the great barn where two hundred lambs are born each spring, 150 guests settled down to an Asian thali meal. And there was wine too. And there were speeches. Lamb was not on the menu.

As the maid of honour, our Frances delivered a lovely speech about Charlotte and their friendship. She had thought it through so cleverly and it was conveyed with grace and unhurried confidence. 

I gave the happy couple a wedding album having had Wednesday's photos printed off at Boots pharmacy before slipping them into the transparent pages. Charlotte and James were delighted with it and I gave them a memory stick containing the photos too. But yesterday, I deliberately left my camera at home.

Later there was dancing and "Black Sheep" and "Moonshine" beer. Feeling like a spring lamb myself, I danced like a dervish as the pretty young things cleared the floor in awe of my rhythmic athleticism and musical interpretation skills. Ohhhhhhh...

We came home twelve hours after we had arrived - in something called an "Uber". It is a kind of taxi service which usually discriminates against people like me - people who do not possess mobile phones. In fact, in several ways we are becoming a persecuted minority.

At home, Frances said that one of her friends had seen me weeping at the wedding service and I admitted that water had indeed leaked from my eyes. I explained this by pointing out that Yorkshiremen are not afraid to reveal their emotions. We might be hard as nails, up for a fight, normally stoical, made of Yorkshire grit but we are also sensitive souls. What's wrong with the tears of a sixty five year old man - running down his cheeks as a girl he has known for twenty seven years ties the knot? Guilty as charged.

Ohhhhhhh...

18 May 2019

Launch

It was a happy morning in sunny Sheffield on Wednesday. I had the privilege of taking wedding photographs at the Town Hall for my daughter's best friend Charlotte and the young man of her choice and her dreams - James.

Bizarrely, when we arrived at The Town Hall, there was a gathering of climate protesters on the front steps. It wasn't long before they staged a "die-in" - lying down here and there to suggest that the extinction of the human race may be just around the corner if we don't wake up. I tend to think that they are right.

The civil ceremony was a simple affair witnessed only by immediate family and me. Afterwards, we walked out into The Peace Gardens for more photos before drinks were taken outside Brown's bar and restaurant.

I left the happy scene before the little wedding party all went on to enjoy a celebratory meal in Silversmiths Restaurant.

The main wedding celebrations will happen later on today at a community farm on the edge of the city. There's a huge barn that has been decorated and organised to accommodate a hundred and fifty guests. There will be another non-religious wedding ceremony followed by feasting, drinking and dancing.

Every wedding is an act of hope for the future and lord knows we need more hope in these topsy turvy times. Good luck to Charlotte and James. It was an honour to play a small role at the launch of their married life.

17 May 2019

Meltham

Church Street, Honley
In Tuesday's glorious sunshine, I was keen to walk in unfamiliar territory. My drive took me north of Sheffield via Stocksbridge and Langsett. I was on the road to Huddersfield but at Holmfirth, I branched left for Meltham and that is where I parked my silver hire car. 

I was no longer in South Yorkshire. This was most definitely West Yorkshire - once home to countless textile mills that tapped into the power of Pennine streams. Meltham shelters some nine thousand souls.  The older houses are all built from hard sandstone. They are solid and they endure - just like the Yorkshire character itself. Once wool and cotton workers inhabited those streets but most textile industries collapsed long ago and places like Meltham have had to discover new ways to exist.

From Meltham I walked through woodland to Honley where I treated myself to a small  bag of deep fried potato fingers - what we in England call chips. I shook malt vinegar and salt upon them  then sat on a shady bench consuming them along with a cold can of diet Coca Cola.
Old timer sitting on a wall in Honley. He said he was "All right".
Somewhere in Honley I managed to lose my house key. It must have escaped from the zip pocket on the front of my camera case. Fortunately, I did not also lose the key to the hire car which would have caused untold inconvenience and would also have incurred a £300 replacement fee.

I was kicking myself about losing the key but I still enjoyed the rest of my sunny walk via Netherton and Blackmoorfoot Reservoir, then on to the charming village of Helme where a woman on a chestnut black horse passed me by for a second time.
Luckily, my house key was attached to a clear plastic key ring into which I had inserted our telephone number on a  green label. And as luck would have it, soon after returning to Sheffield I received a call from Honley. A woman named Rachel had found the key and had kindly left it in the village foodstore. 
Abandoned Lord's Mill - an old woollen mill near Honley
I have just sent the shop a stamped addressed envelope so that they can mail the house key back to me. Sometimes it is easy to forget that most people are like Rachel - kind, helpful and honest. They don't get as much airtime as they deserve - rather like Kourtney...
By Whitehead Lane,  South Crosland - cow number 600937 - aka Kourtney

16 May 2019

Guide

I bought a book called "The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs" by a fellow called Tristan Godley. At times it was quite an irritating book to read. It contained far too much information and it seemed as if the author's whole interest in walking was connected with the spotting of various signs.

He explained a whole array of methods we might use to determine compass directions from the shape of trees to stars in the sky and from lichens to church architecture. All very interesting but to be truthful - when I am out walking I always know where north and south and east and west are simply by looking at my map. It's not as if I am walking in a featureless wilderness.

In two of the chapters, Godley describes a journey he made to the heart of Borneo, seeking to pick up the travelling techniques  of  Dayak tribespeople. Deep in the jungle, he heads for a village called Long Layu with two Dayak trekkers. They follow signs such as the direction of streams and birdsong. They are at one with Nature. Finally they make it to Long Layu but Godley has nothing to say about his destination. Nothing to say about the people who live there and the homes they have crafted. It's almost as if  the destination is insignificant. It's the getting there that matters.

Godley often refers to courses he leads in reading natural signs when walking in the great outdoors and at one point he refers to a "shepherd's hut" in his garden where he does all of his writing and his studying.

There's much of interest in the book. Maybe too much. As I say, it sometimes felt like a case of "information overload". For me, walking is often a meditative process of exploration and observation. I don't wish to spend my walking journeys collecting information like a scientist on a field study weekend. I want to think as I walk along, to dream, to remember and to see. It is an holistic experience and knowing where North is is never high on my agenda. In contrast,  for Tristan Godley it's probably his top priority.

I made it through 400 pages, reading every word and there are certainly a few nuggets I will take from this book but in the final analysis I am glad that the thirteen hours hours of reading are over.

13 May 2019

Sunday

We are in the habit of having Sunday dinner in the evening whereas the majority of British people have it in the middle of the day. Yesterday, I roasted another basted pork loin joint - accompanied by roasted carrots, broccoli, new potatoes, apple sauce, homemade gravy and of course the obligatory Yorkshire puddings. This was all washed down with a bottle of South African sauvignon blanc. Not New Zealand wine for once. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and go really wild!

Earlier on, it being a lovely spring day with fluffy white clouds scudding slowly from the south west, I went for a constitutional walk on the southern edge of the city. 

There was a long uphill climb from Blacka Brook until I reached the green plateau on Totley Moor where long ago there was once a sheep farm. Then I skirted up the quirkily named Wimble Holme Hill and saw a small group of  deer trotting through the woods below. One of these deer bathed noisily in a little stream but it was impossible to get a decent photo of him or her through the foliage.
Horse in a fly mask at Hallfield Fram - on yesterday's walk
Where the path round the hill meets Moss Road, I saw a family heading up (see the top picture). It might have been  reminiscent of  a scene from "The Sound of Music" but one of the girls was glued to her mobile phone and the dad was wearing a baseball cap.

Monday morning and Clint has just been taken away for bodywork repair following the accident we suffered a week ago. I will be picking up a hire car this afternoon - all part and parcel of my insurance arrangements. In the meantime, I guess I need to get some garden work done as our grass and privet hedges look like they need haircuts. The dormancy of winter is long gone.

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