20 July 2019


We like fizzy water - otherwise known as soda water. It's a guilty secret.

On Thursday evening I visited the "Argos" counter within "Sainsbury's" to exchange two "Sodastream"  CO2 gas canisters. I never guessed how expensive this transaction would be with a fresh canister costing £14.99 or about US$20. Our son Ian bought us the "Sodastream" unit as a Christmas present saying, "Yow won't need to buy bottles of fizzy water any more!"

Now I have discovered that buying two litre bottles of fizzy water from Lidl was far more economical than using the Sodastream. At Lidl their two litre bottles cost 19 pence each - around twenty five US cents. It is hard to weigh up the comparative environmental costs on this one.

Okay the Lidl water comes in plastic bottles but we were always assiduous about recycling them. The Sodastream canisters have to be transported to the UK Sodastream plant many miles away and then brought back. Sodastream have created a kind of monopoly and their environmental credentials are not as convincing as they might at first appear. As with most companies, profit is the omnipotent king.

Consequently, I am not certain that we will be exchanging CO2 canisters again any time soon. 

I took a big detour on the way home and parked Clint on the edge of White Edge Moor. There's an old gamekeeper's lodge nearby. I have referred to it before. See here. I walked along the track and secured a few photographs in the declining light but by the time I reached the lodge itself a bank of cloud over the western horizon was obscuring the familiar golden orb.

Oh and please don't worry, I am not planning to write a ghostly thriller titled "White Edge Lodge" any time soon. I'm still getting over "Stanedge Lodge".

19 July 2019


This is Ilhan Omar, a bright and brave thirty six year old American politician. She was elected to represent Minnesota's fifth district in the US House of Representatives. 

Born in war-torn Somalia, her family fled to America when she was a small girl. In spite of the odds stacked against her, she has risen through local, state and national politics to become a significant voice on the left of The Democratic Party.

But for Trump and his evangelistic redneck followers, she has become a convenient  hate figure. On Wednesday in Greenville, North Carolina rabble-rousing Trump had his supporters chanting, "Send her back! Send her back!". This spectacle was as chilling as it was racist. Trump has turned Ilhan into a target for right wing lunatics.

What do they mean by "Send her back!"? She is a US citizen who deserves admiration  and applause. She is living proof that anyone can make it in America - even a Muslim woman from a refugee camp in Somalia.

Indeed, isn't  Ilhan genuinely from "Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", now living in a land that proudly boasts that it provides "liberty and justice for all"? 

"Send her back!"? Wouldn't it be better to send Trump back to his maternal family's humble cottage on The Isle of Lewis or back to Kallstadt, Germany  where his father's  family came from?  After all, Ilhan Omar surely better reflects the true values of decent American society than a draft-dodging playground bully who demeans women and is so demonstrably self-obsessed.

These are my true thoughts. Like them or lump them.

18 July 2019


Just as there are trends with clothing and food and music and entertainment, so there are fashions with words. I am sure that this is not just in my own head. Two words that I have noticed creeping into regular use from obscurity are "diaspora" and "trope". Here I am thinking about talk radio and intelligent debate - not about exchanges in the local pub or the market.

diaspora - is a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. In particular, diaspora has come to refer to involuntary mass dispersions of a population from its indigenous territories, most notably the expulsion of Jews from the Land of Israel (known as the Jewish diaspora) and the fleeing of Greeks after the fall of Constantinople. Other examples are the African transatlantic slave trade, the Palestinian diaspora, the southern Chinese or Indians during the coolie trade, the Irish during and after the Irish Famine. (My thanks to Wikipedia for this)

The term comes from the Greek word diaspeirein - which means to disperse or scatter.

Using the word "diaspora":-
When war broke out in their home country, a diaspora of refugees settled in a neighbouring nation.

The Romans were responsible for the Jewish diaspora when they drove them from their homeland.

The African diaspora in the Americas was due, almost entirely, to slavery.

trope - something such as an idea, phrase, or image that is often used in a particular artist's work or in a particular type of art. In more recent times the word often refers to a well-used cliché or motif in political rhetoric.

The term comes from the Greek word tropos meaning turn or way.

Using the word "trope":-

Love triangles are a popular romance trope found in films and books because they increase the level of drama and angst.

It is shocking to hear a member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money'.

Trump's suggestion that the Congresswomen should "go back where they came from" is a typically racist trope.

Have you noticed any other "fashionable" words  rising to the fore? Please do tell.

17 July 2019


Between the ages of eleven and nineteen, I was music mad. At eleven I would listen almost nightly to Radio Luxembourg on a little transistor radio and every weekend I would copy down the "top ten" in red "Silvine" exercise books.

The first singles I ever bought were "Return to Sender" by Elvis Presley and "Scarlett O'Hara" by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan. My very first album - shared with my brothers - was "With The Beatles" (1963). We listened to it over and over again and I can still sing all the songs it included... from "It Won't Be Long" to "Money (What I Want)".

But as I advanced through my teenage years my tastes veered  towards singer songwriters. I discovered Bob Dylan and later Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Donovan, Gordon Lightfoot and Joan Baez. I played their records on a new record player that I paid for with the proceeds of a holiday job - working on a local turkey farm. That's also how I bought my first guitar.

The songs were poetic - with the accompanying music there just to lift the song - to give it a setting. The lyrics were everything. But I was open-minded and I continued to enjoy progressive rock music.

At fifteen I was attending concerts - either in Hull or the Yorkshire coastal resorts of Bridlington and Hornsea. I saw Jethro Tull, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music, The Who, The Strawbs, Pink Floyd, The Nice, Yes, Ten Years After, Wishbone Ash and many more but in my memory and in my heart there was one rock band that stood out from all the rest and I must have seen them a dozen times. They were called Free.

There was a raw, bluesy simplicity about that band. On drums there was Simon Kirke, on bass Andy Fraser, Paul Kossoff was the lead guitarist and the singer was a Yorkshire lad - Paul Rodgers. They were jigsaw pieces that came together perfectly.

They weren't really about singles, they were about live performances and albums but they had a big hit single in 1970 - "All Right Now" which they played at The Isle of Wight Festival that year. It is still aired regularly on several  British radio stations.

Tragically Paul Kossoff died at the age of twenty five. He just couldn't drag himself away from drugs. Andy Fraser died from natural causes in California four years ago but Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke are still alive and well in their seventieth years. Rock and roll survivors. Free.

I look back on my teenage years and the mad passion I had for music back then and I often wish I could recapture that all-consuming fervent interest but as life has proceeded the music has skulked away.  Sad to say it doesn't thrill me like it used to so maybe it's not "all right now"...

15 July 2019


In Scotts Arms, Sicklinghall
We drove to Harrogate today so that Shirley could buy a hat for the beloved daughter's wedding. "Hats On Top" had an excellent and varied collection of hats for women and even a reasonable collection for men. By the way, Harrogate is sixty miles from Sheffield.
Laneside botany in Spofforth  Park 
Frances and Stew were here for the weekend. Frances is usually a calm, level-headed human being but once in a while she will have an emotional wobble. And that's what happened on Friday night. She decided that she doesn't like her wedding dress. I was gobsmacked at first.

As you can imagine, it has cost a pile of money and of course she chose it months ago. It has been fitted and altered and everything. But no - all of a sudden, she doesn't like it. Consequently, she went out on Saturday to buy a second wedding dress and her smile returned. 
Black bull  near Wardlow Mires
Meanwhile Stew and I were having a Peak District walk near the wedding venue - considering a route for a big group walk pencilled in for the Sunday after the wedding. We met a black bull and had pints in both "The Bull's Head" in Foolow and "The Queen Anne" in Great Hucklow. And I almost got stuck in  a squeeze stile. I told Stew to phone for the fire brigade but a bit of laughter and some jiggling about got me through.
A bus shelter in Spofforth
As part of the deal for driving up to Harrogate, Shirley agreed to join me on a four mile walk out of the nearby village of Spofforth. Our circle included a lovely village called Sicklinghall where we rested for ten minutes in "Scotts Arms" with cold drinks before carrying on along country lanes and paths back to Spofforth. 

And then it was home to Sheffield via Wetherby and  the A1 and M1 with the new hat safe on the back seat. I felt tired and had to fight to maintain the alertness you need when driving on fast roads. I am afraid that Clint is is till incapable of self-driving but we live in hope.
Stew completed a charity abseil in Tideswell Church on Sunday morning

14 July 2019


I proceeded up the stairs, one step at a time. I could still see the half-moon through a Victorian stained glass window that depicted shooters on the moor. Ralph said the place was haunted but I didn't believe in ghosts so what the hell was I about to find up here on the first floor of the lodge? Still the insane yelling. Still the thundering feet. My heartbeat pounded madly inside my skull...

Part Four

I took one step along the polished upper corridor and at the selfsame moment, it was as if an invisible giant hand had clenched the building and shaken it. Something like a violent aftershock following a major earthquake.

As well as the din from upstairs I heard the gang members below panicking hysterically.

"What the hell was that Smithy?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

"Let's get the hell outta here!" cried Benny.

I took another step along the corridor and there was a correspondent  unnerving aftershock. The thundering of feet - like hooves and the maniacal voices continued, emerging from behind one of those doors. I thought I could hear the jarring notes of violins, rising into the rafters.


"Let's go Smithy! Let's go!"

"Grab the bags lads!"

"What about him upstairs?"

"Forget him! Just bloody go!"

The lodge's front door slammed. Then car doors slammed. "Get in!" An engine burst into life.  Tyres skidded in gravel. The cowardly rogues were gone speeding off into the night and I was alone in the lonely  moortop lodge or was I?

Another step. The floorboards creaked. No aftershocks now for the entire building was shaking, physically convulsing. The violin strings screamed. The feet thundered and those shrill argumentative voices became interwoven, almost unintelligible. Outside a storm was brewing - complete with sheet lightning.

Lord knows what was drawing me on. Perhaps it was simply a case of "fight or flight". The gang had flown but my instinct was to face up to whatever might be in front of me. To fight.

There were brass numbers on the various doors. A framed painting of a stag was briefly illuminated by the approaching storm. I had reached the door to Room 11. The voices were now deafening. I could hardly stand up. A pane of glass shattered somewhere below and cold air came surging along the corridor.

Tentatively, I reached for the doorknob of Room 11. It was hot so I took my linen handkerchief from my trouser pocket to protect my hand.

Inside it was all "Get off! Get off!" and "Ring a ring a roses!" and snatched words from nursery rhymes and famous speeches and "Stop! Stop! Get back!" and then a woman screaming and the sickening thud, thud, thud of a knife being repeatedly plunged into   a human torso.

And so when I turned the knob I expected to find a bloody murder scene within. As I pushed that whining door open, the volume in the room was abruptly switched off.  The building stopped shaking and in the light of the half moon and distant sheet lighting I saw... nothing, absolute zero. Just an old chair  and a flapping curtain. There was nobody there. No body.


Three weeks later, after many  hours in the local studies section of Sheffield Central Library, I  asked one of the librarians to bring me a particular city council file from the vaults below. And that's how I discovered that in 1918, Stanedge Lodge had become a temporary  asylum for certain returning war veterans - those suffering from severe shellshock. It was a good place to hide these men away from prying eyes or newspapers. After all, they did not fit in with the idea of a glorious victory.

On the very last closely typed sheet I examined there was a reference to a "Top Secret" War Office document. It was titled "Murder of Nurse 31572 - May Pritchard by Inmate 0880395 Collins (Private) at Stanedge Lodge Sanatorium July 14th 1919". It was a light bulb moment in my desperate attempts to understand what the hell had happened that terrible night.

13 July 2019


Before I bring the story "Stanedge Lodge" to its gripping conclusion, here's a pleasant interlude. Think of it as something like an ad break during your favourite TV drama. Time for a quick toilet break or a swift snack or, if you belong to The Cult of the Smartphone, time to check your Instagram, your Twitter or your Facebook feeds.

Before proceeding, may I say "thanks" to the visitors who have been following "Stanedge Lodge". 

When I posted about my recent walk past the old shooting lodge, I had no intention of writing a story about it but Steve Reed - currently holidaying in Florida - said " It looks like a setting for a Stephen King novel." and Frances in Harpenden said, "Did you see a ghostly face peering out of a window?" and JayCee on The Isle of Man said, "Stanedge Lodge looks very forbidding to me. Like something out of an episode of Vera" and Jennifer in Florence (not the one in Italy) said, "Stanedge Lodge looks like a haunted manor house in an English gothic novel.". 

These remarks got my creative juices flowing and now after three episodes "Stanedge Lodge" is on the brink of its conclusion.
Crawshaw Farm
Yesterday I had a two and a half hour walk after parking at Crawshaw Lodge, west of this city. As I was donning my boots, I noticed that I had a distant view of Stanedge Lodge across The Rivelin Valley and up on the moors beyond Redmires. When I took the top picture of hemlock growing by the roadside, I made sure that I got Stanedge Lodge in the background. It's there by the trees on the horizon.
Shorn sheep above The Loxley Valley
I set off to Crawshaw Farm, then to Platts Farm, along to the hamlet of Ughill, down Tinker Bottom to Corker Walls and up and along a rough moorside track that leads  from Corker Lane to Load Brook, then along two more lanes - Beeton Green and Rod Side back to Clint still basking in his little lay-by. 

The circle was complete and so it was time to drive home. But as I headed away from Crawshaw Lodge I glanced again at the moors to the south where Stanedge Lodge is situated - far from anywhere. And I thought about Smithy and Benny with the stubbly chin and Silent Steve and Ralph with the greasy combed back hair and of course I remembered the terror...

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