17 February 2020

Flooding

In Mytholmroyd
God said to Noah, “I am going to destroy all flesh because the world is full of violence. Build an ark of gopherwood, with rooms inside, three decks, and a door. Cover it inside and out with pitch.” And Noah did exactly as God commanded him (Genesis 6:13–22).
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Personally, I think it was wise of Noah to comply with God's request. He could have stood up against God on behalf of his fellow human beings. After all, they can't all have been totally bad can they? They must have had some redeeming features. But if Noah had challenged God's decision he would have also been swept away in the wrathful flood. God didn't believe in democratic debate.  By the way, I wonder where Noah got the gopherwood from?

The above biblical diversion simply foreshadows the main purpose of this blogpost - to reflect upon recent flooding in The People's Republic of Yorkshire. 

Lots of rain has fallen these past two weeks - associated with two Atlantic storms - Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. The moors and hills have been drenched and drenched again. And when rain falls on saturated ground where has it got to go? It runs down gullies into brooks and streams and they in turn run into rivers so that the rivers become surging torrents that aim for the open sea, sometimes spreading out on flood plains, breaking through the banks and levees created by Noah's descendants. It's only natural - a geographical tale of yore.

We live on one of Sheffield's hills above the valley of The River Porter. We can never be flooded up here. Even if all the ice on the planet melted we would still be okay though admittedly food supply chains would be severely disrupted.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have one's home flooded. Some Yorkshire homeowners have witnessed dirty river water gushing into their houses and rising one, two, three or more feet up their walls.

Life can be challenging enough in ordinary circumstances but imagine having to throw out all your carpets and ground floor furniture, all your kitchen appliances and some of your most treasured possessions. Then when the water subsides you have to deal with mean-spirited insurance companies and have plaster stripped from your walls - back to the bare brick. The place will need drying out and you need to find somewhere else to live. 

And in the midst of this trouble you have family and work responsibilities to juggle. It almost doesn't bear thinking about. At times the worry and the stress may become intolerable and perhaps in the middle of it all you will also wonder - Could the flooding return? How will we ever sell this house?

Though I feel for any flood victims, I am rather happy that the closest we will ever get to a flood is a big puddle on the lawn after a particularly heavy rainstorm.
In Tadcaster

16 February 2020

Threesome

1) Yesterday we drove to the town of Selby - an hour north of Sheffield. We were there to support Shirley's sister Carolyn who is planning to buy a small house or bungalow in the town. We went to see three properties with her. She placed an offer on one of them.

On the way home, after we had crossed the swollen River Ouse and  had driven beyond Chapel Haddlesey on the A19, it was as if we were crossing an inland sea. Excess flood waters had been directed to a swathe of flat farmland called Chapel Haddlesey Ings. Fortunately the road itself is raised above the level of the surrounding land. Above you can see a view over the ings to Eggborough Power Station.
 2) I have a pile of books to read. Lord knows when I will get through them all. I hope that no more books are added to the pile. Today, with some relief,  I finished "A Week in December" by Sebastian Faulks. I have read three other novels by Faulks - "Birdsong", "Human Traces" and "Engleby". They were all great reads.However, even though "A Week in December" is also well-written I found the subject matter somewhat tiresome. This novel focuses upon different human beings in London and how the characters' lives occasionally intersect. But I didn't like any of these people - simply could not warm to them or care about them. The novel ends just as the financial crash of 2008 is about to happen. Let's hope that the next book I read is more to my liking.
3) As we were sitting eating lunch at our dining room table today, Shirley looked out into the damp February afternoon and spotted a bird sheltering on an old apple tree bough. She took some binoculars from a drawer and reported that it was a bird of prey. I went to get my camera and zoomed in on the bird through the glass of our French windows. I must have been 25 metres away from the creature so that explains the relatively poor quality of the picture. Even so, I am quite happy with it. I hope the sparrowhawk returns on a nice, sunny day.

15 February 2020

Chips

The author of this humble Yorkshire blog does not exist solely on Yorkshire puddings. It may surprise you to learn that he does eat other things too.

One food item I have never liked is oven chips. I guess that Americans call them oven fries. You tend to find them in supermarket freezer aisles. They are generally packed in bulky  plastic bags with images of golden chips/fries on the front. You spread them on  a baking tray and whack them in a hot oven for ten or fifteen minutes and then shazzam! your chips/fries are done.

The trouble is, as I said before, I don't like them. We also never do any deep frying inside our house because of the resulting odours so hence we never have chips/fries at home unless we buy them from the local fish and chip shop.
A few weeks ago, I had an idea. What if I tried to make my own oven chips/fries? I peeled a large potato and then cut it into similarly sized chunky fingers. Next I brushed rapeseed oil on a non-stick oven tray. I put the potato chunks on the tray and then brushed them carelessly with more oil. A little seasoning and then I put the tray into the hot oven.

After five minutes I flipped the chips/fries over and then turned them over again after fifteen minutes. And after twenty minutes in total they were done - golden and ready to eat. The taste was great - just like proper homemade chips but with less oil involved in the cooking.

It's all very simple and I don't know why I had not thought of this process before. You can do the same with sweet potatoes and if you prefer you can make scallops instead of potato fingers. Visitors to Yorkshire Pudding are permitted to mimic this cooking technique completely free of charge!

14 February 2020

Flash

Flash is a tiny agricultural settlement that sits on a ridge between the Rivelin and Loxley valleys west of Sheffield. It should not be confused with  Flash in Staffordshire which is the highest village on this island at 1519 feet above sea level.

Our Flash clings to the ridge like a limpet on a rock at the seaside. It needs to have a good grip because this hilltop is often buffeted by winds. I am sure that the winter temperatures up there are significantly lower than those recorded at lower altitudes in the city's river valleys. Below you can see Flash Lane near its junction with Riggs High Road.
And here's another picture of Flash itself. Some people think that it is just a single farm - Flash Farm - but there are in fact three residences there. One of them is owned by a doctor who worked at Shirley's health centre until his retirement a few years ago. I am secretly quite jealous of him because he and his wife recently holidayed in Bhutan in the Himalayas.
I was walking on tarmacadam lanes yesterday afternoon - deliberately avoiding muddy fields and slippery paths. My two hour route was circular, leading me past Flash, down Dobb Lane and along Woodbank Road then climbing up to Stannington. 

Clint was parked in the little lay-by next to Bowshaw Cemetery - a small Quaker family graveyard that I have blogged about before. It was as I was taking my boots off that I realised I was no longer in possession of  my Hull City beanie hat. What a calamity! That hat has been one of my favourite inanimate companions for twenty years or more. To lose it would be a terrible blow.

I sped back to Christ Church in Stannington where I had been snapping ecclesiastical pictures and there was my beloved woolly headgear sitting on the wall. My spirits immediately brightened in  a pleasant flash of  heavenly relief!
Christ Church, Stannington

13 February 2020

£15,000

Terrace of the Oceanus Villa, Mustique
Following past expenses scandals, British Members of Parliament have to take care to record all details of their incomes in The Register of Members' Financial Interests.

On Boxing Day, Prime Minister Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie jetted off to the Caribbean island of Mustique for a fabulous two week break in the Oceanus luxury seaside villa. It transpires that the total rental cost  of that villa was £15,000. In The Register of Members' Financial Interests, Johnson has stated that this cost was borne by someone called David Ross - the wealthy co-owner of Carphone Warehouse. In other words, it was a gift.

To most British citizens, £15,000 is a lot of money. Basic state pensioners receive half of that a year. Meantime government agencies bear down on anyone of working age who seeks state benefits. They have to jump through numerous hoops and negotiate various obstacles before "the system" coughs up rather paltry sums that make daily survival just about possible.

The Oceanus Villa
Johnson is a wealthy man. Last year, before becoming PM he "earned" £327,000 for seven speaking engagements. He also received £23,000 per month for writing his bombastic weekly columns in "The Daily Telegraph". So why did he choose to accept the gift of £15,000 from one of his supporters? Besides, David Ross is a fellow with a shady financial past who dodged and weaved his way to becoming a multi-millionaire.

Now Ross denies that he paid for the holiday but it is written in black and white in The Register of Members' Financial Interests. What's going on? Why would Johnson lie about this? Mind you, he has lied about very many things before.

I don't resent national leaders taking holidays from time to time. After all, President Trump takes two or three holidays a month down at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and no one could possibly question that. There he can lounge by the pool, twittering away to his heart's content. Over in Mustique it is rumoured that Johnson attempted to limbo dance on the beach under a flaming pole and in the process managed to set his central appendage alight. What a shame! Apparently, he calls it Winston.
Master bedroom - Oceanus Villa, Mustique

12 February 2020

Assortment

Just an assortment of recent photographs today. I snapped the top one just a few minutes ago while sitting on our La-Z-Boy sofa - tapping away at this laptop. Shirley always has cut flowers in our front room window. I noticed the sunlight streaming in.

When I returned from my walk around Shepley a week ago, I took this picture of Sheffield Hallam University students' union in fading light. Those drum-like buildings clad in steel are known as The Hubs. They used to house the National Centre for Popular Music which failed for reasons that still rankle with many Sheffielders. The idea was good: it was the execution that was wrong.

Above - on Rud Hill south of the city, I captured this image of a sheep called Margaret the weekend before last. She was named after Britain's first female prime minister because of the uncanny facial resemblance. Margaret was also carrying a cavernous leather handbag (American: purse) but that is out of shot.

Below - I took this rather random picture in Doncaster last weekend. It seems to me that vaping is a feature of modern life that will die away before very long and people of the future will look back upon the fashion with puzzlement. Why would anybody want to do that? Don't you just hate it when you are caught in a sweet-smelling cloud of vaping smoke? Lord knows what is in that stuff.
And finally - I know I have shown this before - our collection of fridge magnets in the kitchen. By putting them on a metal tray affixed to the wall, the front of our refrigerator can remain uncluttered and magnet-free.

11 February 2020

Update

You may recall that exactly a week ago I commented on the world's population growth - suggesting that people should be much more concerned about it than we appear to be. Today we are understandably fretting about coronavirus but apparently hardly caring a fig about the persistent population problem.

What I am about to say should shock you. 

This was the Earth's population exactly a week ago: 7,762,009,632

This is the planet's population right now: 7,763,562,055

That means that in just seven days the world's population has increased by 1,552,423


1.55 million more! That's far more babies than the number  of people who currently live in Milan, Italy or Munich, Germany and almost as many as the current population of Philadelphia, USA. In just one week.

With 52 weeks in a year it easy to calculate that by the end of 2020, the world's total population will have risen by 80,704,000.  That is far more than the population of The British Isles and twice as many as the number of people who currently live in California and more than three times the present population of Australia. In just one year.

I do not doubt that this surging population growth would not be easy to stop or even slow down but with each passing day these thousands of extra people increase the pressure on resources and the natural environment. Some might shrug and say "que sera sera" but I am more inclined to suggest that world leaders and international organisations should be making far more effort to address this issue as a matter of priority. Very simply - there are too many of us already. The endless growth is plain crazy.

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