24 March 2018


Meet William Willett (1856-1915). This moustachioed fellow is largely responsible for the unnecessary hassle that befalls every British home, business, public building and church each spring and autumn when, respectively, we are required to put our clocks and watches forward by one hour and then back by one hour. It is such a waste of time and very unhelpful  to the normal functioning of society.

Willett was a successful builder in and around London. For obscure, personal reasons he got a bee in his bonnet about changing our clocks to mark a period that would be known as Daylight Saving Time or British Summer Time. As a wealthy Tory party supporter, he was able to bring pressure to bear on influential politicians to take up his hare-brained cause.

The idea was much debated and finally in 1916 his scheme was  introduced but Willett had died the previous year so he never got to endure the tiresome process of putting timepieces forwards and then back each year. 

There are those who still make convoluted arguments that support the continued existence of British Summer Time but I am with the camp who see it as an utter nuisance. Normal life simply does not need this bi-annual disruption. Apart from anything else, the world we live in now is less entrenched in its time habits than the world that Willett occupied. 

Tonight we put the clocks forward again thanks to William Willett and I will once again be cursing him. Instead of focusing on clocks his energies would have been better spent on improving working conditions in the construction industry that spawned his personal fortune.

P.S. Willett is the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin who is the leader of the extraordinarily successful English rock band - Coldplay. He must be gutted.

23 March 2018


The pier at Cleethorpes
It was Shirley's birthday today. I bought her some new walking boots, a summer dress, a nice bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, some Cadbury's mini chocolate eggs and  a colourful bunch of Gerbera daisies but still she wanted more! She had the idea of visiting the coast - seventy miles from Sheffield so at 10am we set off.

Clint was purring as we headed east along the M180. At first we decided to head south of Cleethorpes in the direction of Donna Nook which is a coastal nature reserve famed for its seal population in the autumn but by March the seals have all left along with their new pups. Here land and sea threaten to merge and at low tide you might imagine that you could walk across The North Sea to The Netherlands.
Royal Air Force  training aids at Donna Nook
After an hour we were back in Clint and made a short stop at Marshchapel on our way back up the coast  to Cleethorpes. We had a nice stroll around the town before reaching our lunch destination - Steel's fish and chip restaurant. It was an establishment that Shirley's late parents - Charlie and Winnie - would occasionally visit and a traditional eatery that has won many plaudits.
Battered haddock with chips and mushy peas, a pot of tea and some bread and butter - you can't beat it and we also had a window seat overlooking Market Street, watching all the comings and goings. A  small funeral party emerged from The Market Tavern - some holding purple balloons - as senior citizens with small cars manoeuvred with difficulty out of tight parking spaces.

Later we went in a seafront amusement arcade and frittered away a tub of two pence pieces on one of those coin drop machines - trying to push other two pence pieces over the moving ledge inside the glass. I have always enjoyed losing money in those frustrating contraptions.

By the time we had strolled a few hundred yards along the beach, it was after four o'clock and the birthday girl decided it was time to head home. It had been a nice day out in brightening weather and a pleasant sway to mark my wife's 59th year in this world.
Pew carving by Thomas Swaby
in St Mary's Church, Marshchapel

21 March 2018


Here in Yorkshire, the BBC sponsors a regional news programme called "Look North". Mrs P and I watch it regularly and we are very familiar with the main presenters. As is the wont of regional television news shows, "Look North" occasionally organises televisual charity-related projects.

This month "Look North" sought to mark its fiftieth anniversary by arranging a week long sofa push -taking a red sofa on a trolley to fifty different locations within Yorkshire. They are raising money for the Sports Relief charity. Yesterday they came to Sheffield.

Paul Hudson and Harry Gration

I drove up to the nearby reservoirs at Redmires and sat inside Clint reading a novel. The remains of recent snows were still  on the ground, settled in hollows and drifted up against the drystone walls. I bumped into an old friend who has finally retired. He has a rescue dog now. It was sitting in the back of his car smiling back at me. My friend said that his wife had named it Deefa which sounds like a Hindu goddess but he said it was simply a shortening of "D for dog".

Soon a colourful bunch of walkers appeared on the far side of the top reservoir. It was the "Look North" team with their support staff, cameraman and an array of local followers. As luck would have it, this little caravan stopped right in front of the spot where I was standing to take stock and prepare for the arduous climb up to Stanage Pole.

Amy Garcia
You will never have heard of these people but to us they are very familiar television celebrities. There was the cheeky weather presenter - Paul Hudson whose nightly quips are legendary. And there was the lovely Amy Garcia from Wakefield looking as fit as a fiddle but surprisingly not wearing gloves and there was the genial uncle and anchorman of thirty years - Harry Gration from York. 

A young physiotherapist began to pull up Harry's right trouser leg and he spoke directly to me, "You'd best look away now!" She was checking out his bad right knee, adjusting the knee support and blasting some magic spray at the joint. 

Soon the rest stop was over and the motley crew began their ascent up the old Roman track heading towards Stanage Edge and down to Hathersage. This would be a taxing walk at the best of times but pulling a trolley along with a red sofa aboard in wintry conditions made it much more challenging. 
Harry Gration
If any of my millionaire American, Russian, Australian, Italian and German visitors would like to donate spare money to the BBC Sofa Challenge, please go here.

20 March 2018


Let's all cheer and raise a glass. It's March 20th - St Cuthbert's Day!

In my humble opinion, St Cuthbert should be the patron saint of England and not the foreigner - St George who had as much to do with England as I have to do with Timbuktu. 

St Cuthbert was a holy man who helped the poor and lived a blameless life. He was probably born in 634 AD and died on March 20th 687 AD. His tomb is the centrepiece of Durham Cathedral though at first his remains rested on the holy  island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast where he was the prior of the abbey in the last three years of his life.

When Danes and Vikings attacked the east coast of England in the ninth century, the monks of Lindisfarne exhumed Cuthbert's remains and carried him to safety. He seemed to represent the very heart of northern England and his coffin went on a long journey - resting in a variety of locations around the old kingdom of Northumbria of which Yorkshire is the major part. I have been to just a handful of the churches where St Cuthbert rested and all of those churches are named after him.

There are many stories surrounding Cuthbert including tales of miracles. When the Scandinavian threat diminished his remains were brought to Durham and for centuries his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.

I am not a religious person but most countries seem to have patron saints who come to act as symbols of a nation's character. Somewhere along the line, for reasons that are lost in the mists of history, England picked the wrong patron saint in my judgement. It should have been our own homegrown saint, a man who lived amongst us, a man of peace and hope. Happy St Cuthbert's Day Everybody! Happy St Cuthbert's Day!

19 March 2018


Snow came from the east. Then it went away. Then it came back again. This should be a time of daffodils and crocuses, a time for digging the earth ready for vegetables. Instead, there's snow on our garden once more. Silver Clint, my trusty steed, is wearing a thick white coat and our road is a treacherous ice rink. Clint is going nowhere.
Last night I noticed that icicles were forming above our back door as a wodge of snow slips slowly from our slightly angled kitchen roof. When I emerged from the snug cocoon of our winter quilt this morning I decided to photograph said icicles that have grown a little longer like super-speedy stalactites in a limestone cave.
Like a rainbow, a snowflake, a leaf, a flower-head, a seashell, a mushroom, a berry, a feather - the icicle  is a wondrous and beautiful phenomenon to behold, fashioned by Nature  for our appreciation and delight.

18 March 2018


In the British  population census of 2001, it was calculated that 15,000 Russian nationals were living in our country. By 2014, well-grounded estimates showed that there were now over 150,000 Russians living in London alone. Many of these Russian inhabitants are stupendously rich though the sources of their wealth are rarely crystal clear. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the growth of the Russian mafia meant that there was much graft and shady dealing in the years that followed. It was a dog eat dog world

It seems that Britain has welcomed Russian oligarchs, business magnates and billionaires with open arms, happily allowing them to buy up prime real estate, enrol their children in our best schools while even letting them donate many thousands of pounds to Theresa May's Conservative party.

We don't appear to welcome ragged babushkas in slippers from godforsaken post-industrial towns in Siberia or malnourished peasant farmers from the Ural Mountains or displaced steelworkers from Magnitogorsk but we have been happy to embrace bejewelled oligarchs in Bentleys.

Now when I last looked, Russia was not in the European Union and I do  not believe it has ever been a member of The British Commonwealth so as a fairly intelligent and reasonably liberal British citizen I am baffled about how all these rich Russians got to live here in the first place. Who let them in and furthermore why?

There is something quite sickening and perverse about giving rich Russians the red carpet treatment when traumatised Syrian families escaping from the rubble of their destroyed country \are denied entry or forced to get here on inflatable boats at the behest of gangsters. Ironically, Putin's forces continue to prop up Wicked Bashar al-Assad, perpetuating the Syrian conflict and the trauma.

They say that money talks and in the case of London's large Russian community that is clearly true. Normal immigration rules are shelved. The history of their dubious wealth is conveniently overlooked and we even allow them to buy Premier League football clubs, newspapers and publishing houses. Meanwhile, a Syrian child looks into the camera with bloodshot eyes, cement dust on her cheeks and memories of hellishness, fury and death seared in her mind forever.

17 March 2018


In blogging today, I was going to tell you the meaning of life. Then I thought I might give you tonight's winning National Lottery numbers. I also considered sharing the secret of eternal happiness and how to live healthily to the age of one hundred. Other blogging ideas included how to bring about peace in Syria, how to stop Saudi Arabian aggression in The Yemen, how to lace Vladimir Putin's cornflakes with nerve gas and how to lose seven pounds of excess bodyfat in a week without even trying. 
In the end, I ditched all of the above ideas in favour of sharing three more photographs I snapped last week on my circular walk around Stoney Middleton and Eyam in Derbyshire. These three pictures were all nominated in the geograph website's "picture of the week" competition though in the end I didn't bag a winner. Still, I am pretty happy with these images and I know that some of you out there like to see my various pictures from this region of England.