29 July 2007


Thanks to Alkelda at "Saints and Spinners" for directing me to The Simpsons Movie site where you can make your own Simpsons avatar character. Above you can see me strolling through Springfield to meet my old mate Homer in order to discuss next year's "Mature Blogger" awards over a do-nut or two.

By the way, visitors old and new, this blog will probably be in mothballs until August 9th because Shirley and I are heading to the south of France tomorrow - Biarritz then Lourdes, then five days with my brother and his girlfriend near Pamiers before a short spell at the Mediterranean near Perpignan and then home. See ya later!

25 July 2007


Towards the end of June, Yorkshire was hit by the worst floods in living memory. Thousands of households were affected and yet... the national media and national politicians were slow to react. It took a full ten days before the BBC Ten O' Clock News gave proper coverage to the awful floods in Hull -which labelled itself with bitter irony, England's "Forgotten City". Our new prime minister - Gordon Brown took twelve days to reach South Yorkshire and Hull to pat rescue workers on their backs and visit some affected dwellings and schools. To give Prince Charles his due - he was round and about offering heartfelt support well ahead of Mr Brown.

And now new floods have hit our island - but this time mainly affecting the southern rivers Severn, Avon, Thames and Great Ouse. And what do you know - surprise, surprise - the film crews and reporters, politicians and journalists are there straightaway! They are standing in waders and wellies - they are "Live" from the scene while Gordon Brown is shown marshalling his cabinet like Winston Churchill in wartime. An objective observer of the media would confirm this clear bias. England remains a divided nation.

You see it in various guises. Look at a quality Sunday magazine - take the restaurant recommendations - invariably they are nearly all down south with perhaps a token northern restaurant thrown in for good measure - to keep accusations of bias at bay. I remember when I was ten or eleven years old, camping with my family in South Wales - I met a boy of similar age who came from London. We were chummy enough for him to ask me one evening at the swings, "Do you have electricity in Yorkshire?" That kind of ignorance about "Up North" abounds in southern England and there are plenty of southerners who have never travelled north of Watford. It's like an old map and in the unexplored northern territory the cartographer has written "There be monsters!"

I am proud to be a northerner. I would loathe living in London with its pretensions and cosmopolitan over-indulgence, its greasy palmed taxi drivers and besuited tube commuters scowling like saints in stained glass windows, its Hooray Henries and "IT" girls, its beggars and blaggers, its Chelsea and Arsenal and pearly furred women clambering out of Bentleys and motor cycle couriers honking. Good heavens - I am shocked to admit that we northerners probably have more in common with the Scots than we do with those southern softies! Come on lads and lasses! To the barricades! Home Rule for Yorkshire!

22 July 2007


Isn't television sports coverage wonderful these days? Although football (soccer to Americans) will always be my first love, there are numerous other sports that I can watch in goggle-eyed awe. Rugby - the only sport I ever really excelled in at school - cricket, tennis, darts, snooker, indoor bowls, basketball, athletics. One of the few sports that bores me rigid is horse racing - in fact any sports that involve horses leave me feeling grossly underwhelmed.

Last evening, I watched the conclusion of the British Open Golf Championship live from Carnoustie in the county of Angus on Scotland's east coast. Sergio Garcia of Spain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory while Ireland's Padraig Harrington held his nerve to clinch his first major and a cheque for £750,00. It was tense and fascinating stuff. Golf is about form and bounce and lady luck. The changing weather meant that participants were suitably challenged. It was a great tournament.

Padraig Harrington - the first Irish winner of The Open since 1947.

You know sport doesn't matter. It is unimportant - a mere adjunct to life - but perhaps it reminds us that living life to the full must involve some frivolity and activities that take the spotlight away from the daily grind of work and sleep and getting food on the table. At times it is like a new religion - with hushed audiences, team colours, chants and pure unadulterated hero worship. Perhaps they'll make Padraig Harrington the next Pope!

21 July 2007


It appears that the "Mature Blogger" awards have created some tantrums and foot-stomping from many bloggers who were not recommended for this year's prizes. Unsuccessful candidates must recognise that the "Mature Blogger" team set very high standards, scouring the world wide web and closely monitoring thousands of blogs from around our planet. However, our Welsh team of judges have sadly blundered this time round by failing to forward their nomination by the due date. For this we most heartily apologise.

The affected blogger may now have the satisfaction of knowing that the Welsh judging team have been sentenced to a weekend drinking spree in downtown Cardiff - bound to end up with fighting, an unwanted pregnancy, a night in the cells or a real Cardiff greeting - the broken glass attack that leaves you permanently scarred. Land of my bally fathers! Of course the affected blogger is the annually "Demob Happy Teacher" - Jennyta , known to her friends and ankle biting pupils as "Taffy". This blog can be intermittent as mature Jennyta lives a demanding life - balancing the stresses of home, school work and sheep rearing. Once again Jennyta please accept a big "sorry" from "Mature Blogger". A bouquet of lilies is even now winging itself to your door!

Jennyta - wantonly setting the style in her Welsh sheep farm playground.

17 July 2007


The audience of assembled mature dignities was hushed yesterday evening as the winners of this year's "Mature Blogger" awards received their coveted prizes at The Woodseats Workingmen's Club off Woodseats Road in Sheffield. Each recipient gave a moving and maturely phrased acceptance speech with awards being variously sponsored by Walls' Pork Sausages, Saga Holidays, The Pfizer Pharmecutical Company and The Cooperative Funeral Parlour on Queens Road.

This year the only overseas winner was the mature Mrs Friday-Webb from Rednecksville, North Carolina. Her figure-hugging jet-black chiffon gown with its plunging neckline caused some members of the audience to gasp with incredulity and Ms Mopsa from Devon yelled out "You brazen hussy!". Her brown tweed twinset with cerise blouse and grey Nora Batty stockings did not invite the same kind of reaction.
Above: Mrs Muddy Boots, Ms Mopsa, Mrs Friday-Webb and Ms Griselda A. Cobblers thumbing through "Studs and Stallions" magazine after the Woodseats ceremony.

Interviewed afterwards, Mr Arctic Fox said he had always thought of himself as rather immature and Ms Griselda A. Cobblers from Northampton said that she felt so mature "it hurts!"
Scandalously, Mr A. Clewley from North Yorkshire was discovered behind the stage curtains in an unseemly romantic clinch with the ice cream magnate Mrs M. Boots. Both blushed with dire embarrassment. Rebuttoning her blouse, a flushed Mrs Boots growled "What you looking at you perv!" Mr Clewley asked for a beta blocker.

Direct from Springfield, Vermont, President Homer Simpson gave a video-conferencing address in which he praised maturity in blogging. The Sheffield master of ceremonies, well-known screen actor, Olympian, academic and all round good egg Lord Yorkshire Pudding referred to up and coming bloggers who could be in the frame for next year's awards - including Texan Earthmother - Mrs ByGeorge, Washington State subversive storyteller Alkelda the Gleeful, animal-loving terraced house-dwelling journalist Miss Tracey Muttering-Meanderings, Manchester's princes of blogging Steve of "Occupied Country" and Mr Sparrots from the city's wealthy Cheshire underbelly and last but not least South London's own Hamish McBeth - Mr Walter Reidski.

After the ceremony award winners and supporters all descended on "The Big Tree" in Woodseats and in a mature way got utterly sozzled on sweet sherry and barley wine. Hic!

Supporting wrinkly bloggers

14 July 2007


Borrowing an idea from Ms Mutterings and Meanderings, I have decided to institute a new blogging award:-
Designed FREE by WWW.DUCKYTEXT.CO.UK .... Check out: www.lookitsme.co.uk
When listed you are entitled to copy the logo above and paste it into your own blog. The font is obviously "Simpsons" as the exclusive Society of Mature Bloggers is led by our noble President Sir Homer Simpson. The first six recipients of this award go to bloggers who have blogged with mature dignity, saying wise and mature things. Such bloggers drink in moderation, pray each night and begin every other sentence with either "When I was young..." or "In my day..."

1. Mr Arctic Fox - in spite of his weird ideas about paragraphing.
2. Mr Arthur Clewley - in spite of the fact he keeps going into a coma and failing to blog.
3. Mrs Friday-Web - in spite of her vindictive attitude towards The Thing.
4. Ms Ali Cobblers (Griselda) - in spite of her kindness towards down and out Scots in London.
5. Mrs Muddy Boots - in spite of her lucrative ice cream empire.
6. Ms Mopsa (definitely female) - in spite of her rural and inbred Devonshire habitat.

Any other bloggers who feel that they deserve the "Mature Blogger" award must send me money or grovel.

Sir Homer Simpson - President of Mature Bloggers.


There are various stories doing the rounds in Britain about the consequences of confusing the terms "paedophile" and "paediatrician". It seems that early in this decade, a female paediatrician came home one night to her house in South Wales to find her home vandalised and the word "Paedo" sprayed on a wall. How ironic that a skilled professional doing her best to help children in need should be confused with those warped individuals who prey on kids. Growing out of this tale came rumours about a fatal assault upon a paediatrician in Portsmouth and various other similar stories. What is interesting about all of this is the embedded implication that ignorance and inaccuracy in the field of spelling can have dire consequences.

I have always been brilliant at spelling. I might not be brilliant at a long list of other things - from mental arithmetic to fixing engines but spelling I can do. Hey that doesn't mean I never make mistakes because I do and it doesn't mean I am a pedant who is chiefly interested in the nuts and bolts of writing. What matters is meaning and though I have fortunately been blessed with the ability to spell very accurately, this doesn't mean I look down on less gifted spellers or scorn their writing in any way.

Eleven years ago presidential hopeful Dan Quayle (left) scuppered his political fortunes by telling this little boy that potato needed an "e" on the end.

What does piss me off is people who seem personally offended when their mis-spellings are pointed out to them and people who dismiss the importance of good spelling - "What does it matter?" I see mis-spelling all around me - in shop windows, in newspapers, in TV credits and official forms, holiday brochures, web pages, blogs and magazines. Mis-spellings that have evaded proof readers of novels glare out at me.

I think that if we are inaccurate in our use of language we are very likely inaccurate in other aspects of life. If we shrug our shoulders at correctness how can we measure anything?

My place of work and punishment is near a suburb of Sheffield called Grenoside which computer spell checkers usually correct to "genocide"! Thinking about the untrustworthiness of spell checkers, somebody called Janet Minor wrote this:-

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your pleased too no,
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

11 July 2007


At least it's not raining. Frances is away in Ibiza for a week, following completion of her A level exams. She worked so hard and deserves the end reward of a university place - reading American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham. We will be so proud if she makes it. I think the Canadian bit is covered in an afternoon!

Ian is so well-settled in the new house that we hardly see him. It's about a mile and a half from where we live. By all accounts the house has already become a magnet for his many mates. But me and Shirley, we are feeling a certain emptiness. It's a premonition of things to come.

Up until this point in time we have been blessed with a happy family life - meals round the table, barbecues, some crises to get through, pets, never-ending conversation and companionship, a long list of lovely holidays - camping in France, the summer in Italy, trips to Ireland, all the Balearic Islands, Greece, Portugal, three times in America, cottages with open fires and coastal caravans. It has been wonderful and it began in August 1984 when Ian was born. So we have had twenty three years of busy family life - little time to rest on your haunches or feel sorry for yourself. We have been simply... living.

Now what? I guess many people have been through this sense of emptiness - as if your main mission in life - to raise a family - is almost through. Sure, Ian will continue to need support with his house and financial affairs and Frances will come home during university holidaytime but it's never going to be quite the same again.

Where is the little girl in her red wellington boots, wrestling with the hosepipe on a hot summer's evening? And where is the boy who yelled one Christmas morning - "...He's been! HE'S BEEN!"...the same boy I taught to ride a bike and with whom I scaled Ben Nevis. And where is the girl who blew out the candles and weirdly wrote her name in perfect mirror image script?

But you know, the thing was, I always knew such a day would come and I knew the trick was to love and live each day because this joy wouldn't last forever. I remember weeping one afternoon when Frances was four and Ian was eight. I had taken them to the post office to post their paintings for a "Blue Peter" TV competition. They were holding my hands and laughing. I saw our combined shadows on the pavement - moving as one and I had this overwhelming and grievous realisation that this ordinary moment was exceptional and that one day I would look back on it as a symbolically happy picture of my fatherhood and no matter what I tried I just couldn't hang on to the physical reality of the moment forever... only the memory.

You see... as well as being hard as nails... Yorkshiremen can also be bloody soft too!

7 July 2007


For Sheffield and much of South and East Yorkshire, last month was not just ludicrous, it was devastatingly tragic. Sheffield suffered 400% more rain than the June average. Even as early as the 14th, 88mm fell in just one day. Hence the land was sodden when the worst rain of all gushed down on the 25th and 26th of the month. It was officially Sheffield's wettest ever month - not just the wettest June but the wettest month in our city since records began. This weekend looks promising but even into July the skies have been heavy and leaden with rain either falling or threatening.

Another Yorkshire city to be hit hard on the 25th was Hull - home to my beloved Hull City AFC. Nearly two weeks after the flooding began, they reckon that some 17,000 homes have been badly affected (only 1260 in Sheffield!) For many of these people, the aftermath doesn't bear thinking about - stripping of plaster walls, replacement of floorboards, cleaning, replacement furniture, weeks of drying out. The stress will remain awful. Another tragedy surrounds the damage caused to 90% of Hull's schools - some schools are so badly damaged that they won't be able to function normally again for over a year - floors to be replaced - replastering - redecorating - replacing furniture - thorough cleaning etc..

Chanterlands Avenue, Hull - reflections of the sky mask a more horrible reality.

Hull is England's seventh largest city and yet the national news services largely ignored what was happening there until they were deluged (excuse the pun) with emails and complaints and then they finally allowed Hull's plight to hit the news. For example, it wasn't until Thursday July 4th that the BBC evening news ran a special upon the disaster in Hull. National politicians have been just as dilatory. Our new Primeminister, Gordon Brown, should have been up in Hull and South Yorkshire a day or two after the flooding to show solidarity with and governmental care for beleaguered citizens. Yet I understand his much belated visit will occur today July 7th! Too late Gordon!

Beverley, East Yorkshire - near my mother's residential home.

I thank heavens that our house has not been affected - nor Ian's new house near Sheffield United's ground. Flooding is a terrible thing. Lives have been lost, homes ruined and once again England's north/south divide has been shown in stark and bitter relief.
Addendum: Ms Muddyboots from East Yorkshire correctly ticked me off for failing to refer to the flood damage in outlying East Yorkshire villages. Just one unreported flood-related event happened in the village where I was born and raised. Last year, a small estate of some sixty modern designer homes was completed to the south of the village on somewhat low-lying land and yes - you have guessed it - the land flooded and all sixty homes had to be evacuated after water two feet deep penetrated floors and walls, causing misery and damage. These homes are people's dreams - so much hope and money invested in them - and even when they are sorted out after many months, the memory will remain alongside the fear that it could happen again. Why are builders allowed to build on land liable to flooding? It's crazy.

To support the citizens of Hull - many of the poorest absolutely uninsured - send donations to the Hull Flood Fund (click link)

3 July 2007


"A Portrait of Ann" 1957
One of Lowry's favourite images. He was photographed several times with this picture just happening to be in the camera's gaze. Who was she? Perhaps a metaphor for his late mother.
Below there's the lyrics of a minor hit in the UK in 1978 - just two years after Lowry's death. Some awkward lines but don't you think that it's quite refreshing when popular songwriters shelve their obsession with romantic love? Lowry was perhaps the most unlikely subject for a pop song.
(Burke / Coleman)
Brian & Michael - 1978
He painted Salford's smokey tops
On cardboard boxes from the shops
And parts of Ancoats where I used to play
I'm sure he once walked down our street
Cause he painted kids who had nowt on their feet
The clothes we wore had all seen better days.
Now they said his works of art were dull
No room, all round the walls are full
But Lowry didn't care much anyway
They said he just paints cats and dogs
And matchstalk men in boots and clogs
And Lowry said that's just the way they'll stay

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
Now canvas and brushes were wearing thin
When London started calling him
To come on down and wear the old flat cap
They said tell us all about your ways
And all about them Salford days
Is it true you're just an ordinary chap

And he painted matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He painted kids on the corner of the street with the sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them factory gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
Now Lowries hang upon the wall
Beside the greatest of them all
And even the Mona Lisa takes a bow
This tired old man with hair like snow
Told northern folk its time to go
The fever came and the good Lord mopped his brow

And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs
He left us kids on the corner of the street with sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside them pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs "A Manufacturing Town" 1922 - Here the figures are more anatomically correct. His matchstick men style is just starting to emerge.

2 July 2007


As a Yorkshire Pudding, it pains me to confess that one of my all-time favourite artists is the Lancastrian - Laurence Stephen Lowry. Born in Manchester in 1887, L.S. Lowry died in Glossop in 1976. He was an odd fellow - a tall bumbling bachelor with a pipe and trilby, an untidy and unmodernised house, few friends but he possessed an abnormally strong bond with his mother even long after she had died.

In the twenties and into the thirties, he was mostly focussed on the grim workaday reality of his sprawling home city. He said, "I saw the industrial scene and I was affected by it. I tried to paint it all the time. I tried to paint the industrial scene as best I could. It wasn't easy. Well, a camera could have done the scene straight off".

His painting came to an abrupt halt in 1939 with his mother's death. "After she died, I lost all interest".

After World War II, he was drawn to painting individual people - often ordinary people who inhabited his neighbourhood. He said, "I feel more strongly about these people than I ever did about the industrial scene. They are real people, sad people. I'm attracted to sadness and there are some very sad things. I feel like them".
In my little gallery below I have posted three of my favourite Lowries from the nineteen thirties:-

A Procession 1938... And an old man turns away from the
passing throng at the end of his street. He has seen it all before.

Man With Red Eyes 1938... The gaze is intense and unsettling. The mind is troubled. Perhaps it is a metaphor for Lowry himself.

A Fight 1935... It's a community event. Who knows why they are fighting? It seems so petty. Like a scene from some slapstick silent movie.

1 July 2007


Hurrah! Hurrah! I am writing this just after midnight on the very day on which England finally bans smoking in all public and work places. Tonight Shirley and I went down to the local and three young people - in their twenties - sat next to us and lit up their evil little tobacco cylinders. But that's the last time! Next week they will have to breathe out their stinking smoke at home or stand out under the stars making smoke rings.

I loathe smoking. Everything about it but mostly the foul stink of it. I hate the stench of stale smoke on my clothes and I hate the way it catches the back of your throat and stings your eyes. And I hate the commercial thrust of it - the advertising, the profit hungry targeting of vulnerable people. Everything about smoking stinks.

Lungs. Guess which pair belonged to a smoker!

This is how the BBC have heralded July 1st - "Smokers across England are having their final puff at work and the pub before the ban on lighting up in enclosed public places begins at 0600 on Sunday. The move follows bans across the UK, and is intended to cut deaths from secondhand smoke. Many venues are planning farewell events for the final Saturday night, while local authorities are preparing to enforce the ban. Anyone lighting up illegally will face a fine of up to £200."

Since this ban was announced in Parliament we have had to wait a long, long time but finally the day of reckoning has arrived and at last we, the non-smoking majority have got the upperhand. I have not one iota of sympathy for hardened smokers but I hope that this ban will inspire hundreds more of them to say goodbye and good riddance to the dreaded weed.

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