2 April 2020

Jackson

Jackson Browne (right) with his sons Ethan and Ryan on the beach at Santa Monica
I wanted to create a blogpost that had nothing to do with The Plague. I thought about one of my musical heroes - Jackson Browne from Santa Monica, California. I first encountered his self-penned songs back in 1972. The album was  "Saturate Before Using" and I loved it. I loved the way the poetry and the music intertwined. It spoke to me in a very personal way.

As the years passed, I purchased every one of his albums and back in March 2009 - I got to see him in concert at Sheffield City Hall. I was sitting on the front row with my younger brother Simon. We were not disappointed. If you will excuse the expression, Jackson brought home the bacon that evening. It is amazing to think that this was eleven years ago.

Jackson's love songs are plaintive, vulnerable and poetic but he also writes about injustice, climate change, and the state of America. He is a singer songwriter who belongs to the real world, not a minstrel who strums his guitar in some ivory tower remote from everyday life.

I already knew a lot about Jackson's personal life - about the death by suicide of his first wife -  Phyllis Major in 1976 - about his two sons Ethan and Ryan - about his ten year relationship with Daryl Hannah. But just to check out some details I investigated his "Wikipedia" page and I was shocked to read this amendment:-

"On March 24, 2020, Browne announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 amidst the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic."

Jackson Browne at Glastonbury in 2010:-

1 April 2020

Victory

 
Between March 14th and March 20th, 3224 eligible photographs were submitted to the Geograph website that I have mentioned several times before. It was nice to see that one of my pictures had made the Week 11 shortlist but a couple of days later it wasn't just nice it was uplifting to discover that that image had been selected as the overall Photo of the Week winner! Ring the bells! Bang the drums! Pudding is back on the pedestal!

I revealed the winning picture here on this blog before I submitted it to Geograph so you saw it first my blogosphere friends. I guess I was just lucky that the judge - a woman called Pam - was drawn to the sheep. It was very different from the other nominated pictures - mostly predictable landscapes. Pam said that the sheep reminded her of one of her aunties.
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Last Friday morning, after I had dropped Clint off at the garage for his service and Ministry of Transport test, I walked home via Sheffield's General Cemetery. It is a fascinating place. Some areas are wild and overgrown but the graveyard remains a monument to Victorian England and to a northern steel city that became a world powerhouse in just a hundred years. Here are just three of the pictures I took:-
Victorian stone carving
View from the cemetery to The Royal Hallamshire Hospital
Blackbird

31 March 2020

Notices

How will small businesses recover when we come out the other side? 

Shirley and I walked down to Hunters Bar this morning. It's a slightly bohemian midtown district close to Endcliffe Park. There are many independent businesses in the area ranging from health food shops and cafes to picture framers, bakers and a vacuum cleaner repair shop.

It will be so hard for them to get back on their feet again. I took some photographs, recognising that in the future they could be used as historical evidence of something quite terrible that passed us by and changed the world we knew.
Yes, "See you on the other side"!

30 March 2020

Distraction

Being a newsaholic, I have consumed so many words about the ****ing coronavirus that I am filled to the brim with them. In addition, I have taken to regularly consulting a website called Worldometer that gives running statistical updates about how The Plague is developing around the planet. These visits have become curiously addictive.

Anyway, last evening with little of interest on terrestrial television, I decided to have a break from present reality and travel back in time to May 24th 2008. Almost twelve years ago. That was the day that my beloved football team, Hull City finally made it into England's top division - The Premier League.

Some time ago I  bought a DVD of the match but had not got round to watching it until last night. I had almost forgotten how to activate our DVD player but with a little advice from my technical support staff (Shirley) I  was soon reclining on our Lay-Z-Boy sofa with a mug of tea and a packet of root vegetable crisps ready to watch the historic game.

We were playing Bristol City in the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium in London. It was a warm, summery day and I was there, sitting at the Hull City end with Tony and Fiona and thirty thousand other Hull City fans.

Sadly, Shirley was not there because her mother Winnie passed away on the morning of the match. It had been the inevitable conclusion of a battle with lymphoma. Her death that morning was not unexpected. Of course, I was torn. In the early morning light, there was only half an hour to decide what to do but we decided that I would go to London as planned while Shirley would travel to her mother's deathbed in Lincolnshire. That's how it was. Please don't judge me.

Watching the DVD last night I had a big smile on my face, knowing what the result would be. It was a tight game in which Bristol City played well but Hull City's defence was resolute.

The defining moment of the match happened just before halftime. Frazier Campbell was driven over to the goal line and with his angle severely narrowed, he spotted Dean Windass rushing towards the penalty area. Coolly, Campbell passed back to his partner and Windass met the ball with an exquisite volley that saw the leather orb arcing into the corner of the net with the Bristol keeper flailing. It was a beautiful moment and it is unlikely that Hull born Windass ever volleyed a football so sweetly as he did that day. Needless to say the Hull City end went wild.

After the game, we were three of the last supporters to leave the national stadium. Descending the concrete exit staircase my voice echoed as I sang, "Premiership! We're having a laugh!" Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. The team I  had supported since the early sixties had made it. It was a dream come true.

It was only when the DVD disc ejected itself from our rarely used Samsung player that I remembered we have a different opponent now. But I will never forget that balmy afternoon in London and Hull City's victorious fans singing our adopted song in unison:
Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay? Would it be a sin?
If I can't help falling in love with you
It was one of the very best times of my life.
Windass and Campbell celebrate the dream goal

29 March 2020

Confusion

The screenshot above is taken from drone footage by Derbyshire Police. The scene is Curbar Edge  where I have often walked. The film sought to shame several members of the public who were simply out in the sunshine enjoying country walks. As with the targeted fellow above they were all practising social-distancing.

During The Plague, government guidelines say that we can leave our homes to shop for food, visit a pharmacy or medical centre and we can also exercise once a day. 

When the guidance first emerged I tried like crazy to clarify the vague guidance about exercise. Could I, for example, travel in my Clintmobile to a remote country location and then get out for a walk? Common sense said that I wouldn't be causing anybody any harm and there'd be  far less chance of infection than say walking down to our local park.

That clarification proved impossible but it seems that Derbyshire Police have placed their own interpretation on the guidance. Their reading is that you cannot  drive into The Peak District for a walk. You can cycle or ride a horse but you cannot drive. They have even been pulling cars over to question drivers and reinforce their interpretation.

The drone footage has caused controversy and further mixed responses have since emerged from government spokespeople. To me it seems that there's an element of petty vindictiveness in all of this. It's as if to say - you are not allowed to have pleasure during The Plague. Why should you be strolling happily on country paths when people are dying? Stay home and suffer like the rest of us!

What does "local" mean anyway? As in "exercise locally"? Is "local" my street, my district, my city, my county, my region? I don't understand.

Last Sunday I drove for an hour to Wirksworth in mid-Derbyshire. I blogged about that day here. During The Plague I was hoping to have a few more days like that but now I have been forced to think again. Big Brother may be watching me and of course nowadays the cops can find out where you live simply by running your car registration number through their computer system.

I will be taking more walks but I'll be choosing my parking locations carefully. By simply parking in a village I believe that I will be thwarting Big Brother. I wonder if the authorities will soon be cranking up their enforcement procedures.

JUDGE We find you guilty of parking in the countryside and going for a walk. Before I send you down is there anything you want to say?
YORKSHIRE PUDDING Yes your honour. I saw a stag by Redcar Brook grazing in the adjacent meadow. He was unaware of my presence and I watched him for ten minutes or more as the brook babbled by. And once I was alone at The Horse Stone with snow all about me and not another soul for miles around. And I am so very, very sorry for my heinous crime against humanity your honour, for donning my boots and walking through the heather, for following my map along unknown paths, for daring to walk in peace during The Plague. I admit it, I am a dirty no-good felon and I deserve to have the full weight of The Law pressed down upon me.
JUDGE Take him down!

28 March 2020

Update

Cilla Black (1943 - 2015)
What's it all about Alfie?
Here's a list of five countries that you will have heard of. I have put them in rank order according to their populations with Bolivia at the top and and Portugal at the bottom. The population of Bolivia is 11.6 million while the population of Portugal is 10.2 million. Hence:-
Bolivia
Cuba
Czech Republic
Greece
Portugal
Are you with me so far?

Now, do you mind terribly if we go back to February 4th of this year? On that day I announced on this humble Yorkshire blog that the population of Earth was 7,762,009,632.

Now, just 53 days later, the population of Earth stands at:-
7,773,852,630
That means that our world's population has risen by 11,842,998 in less than two months. More than the population of Bolivia or Cuba or The Czech Republic or Greece or Portugal. 11.8 million extra people. The 26,826 coronavirus death tally to date  is utterly dwarfed by this population increase.  It makes you think. Well, it certainly makes me think anyway.

As Cilla Black once sang, "What's it all about Alfie?"

27 March 2020

Nostalgia

It seems like only yesterday. I close my eyes and I am back there in that other world - the world we knew before.

Back then we had pubs. They were gathering places for local communities. You drank beer. You laughed. You chatted for hours about this and that - things that mattered and things that didn't matter. Sometimes you would look up at the TV sets where live sports were forever being screened. All gone now - rugby, cricket, football and golf. It was the way of the world. And boxing and tennis.

When you met people you shook their hands or hugged them, You got up close - not like today when you keep your distance. Back in 2020 they said two metres and that is how it has stayed.

We used to enjoy cheap flights and if you had the desire to do it you could go just about anywhere you wanted. The world was your oyster as they say. From Sri Lanka to San Francisco. From New Zealand to New Orleans. It's different now. Nobody goes anywhere much.

In those days gone by the living was simple. It was vibrant and there was hope. You could realise your dreams. Big dreams or small dreams. Most of all, I remember the freedom. We went here and we went there. Nobody stopped you. Nobody questioned you. There were no pass books, no phone numbers for whistleblowers, no rubber stamping. We were free.

But of course that was then and this is now. The dead lie in their graves.  Perhaps we will never get back to where we once resided. To those innocent days of yore.

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