29 November 2010


What special qualities does one need to be a taxi driver? I imagine that if a Sheffield taxi firm had to draw up a list of commandments for new drivers, it would read something like this...

1. In residential streets when picking up fares or dropping off, make sure you block the centre of the road to inconvenience other drivers as much as possible. It is especially important to ignore any available parking spaces as using them would allow free flow of traffic.
2. If you need to turn around, always do a U-turn in the middle of the street. If other drivers honk you or screech their brakes, simply ignore such petulant reactions. Never do what non-taxi drivers do - find a quiet street and back into a driveway to turn around causing as little inconvenience to other road users as possible. That would make you a laughing stock at the taxi rank.
3. If at a side junction and you need to turn into the main street, just do it. No need to look. If by chance another car smashes into you then it would clearly be the other driver's fault.
4. When someone orders a taxi, make sure you arrive at least ten minutes after the appointed time. Try a range of excuses including "The traffic was busy", "This street isn't on my satnav" and "Control said twenty five to, not half past".
5. Practise suitable facial expressions when your customer is asked to pay the fare. Whatever sum of money is placed in your palm, look at it as if inspecting rodent poo and pause with an expression that says: "Well where's the god-dam tip you freaking miser!"
6. When queuing at Sheffield railway station for fares, ensure that you make every effort to prevent private cars from entering the station drop-off and pick-up zone. For example, pull up next to a friend's cab for a chat about racing pigeons or the political situation in Korea. If the hindered driver blows his horn or politely asks you to clear the road, simply take out a copy of "The Guardian" and begin the cryptic crossword.
7. When transporting a stranger to the city to their desired location, do not forget the importance of taking a circuitous detour which will allow the visitor to see some of the least visited parts of the city such as The Manor and Fox Hill Estates.
8. If you feel like conversing with a passenger sitting in the back, make sure you have pre-prepared a range of banal comments and questions which should be directed to the cab's front windscreen in order to muffle audibility in the rear. If the passenger says "Pardon?" or "Excuse me?" you should repeat your remark with an even greater degree of mumbling.
9. When driving your taxi around town, feel free to use your mobile phone both for making and receiving calls in transit. As a taxi driver you are a professional driver and therefore normal rules of the road do not apply to you. At traffic lights it is good to text any unnecessary messages and then proceed just before the light changes back to red, leaving non-taxi drivers fuming behind you.
10. Make as much money as you can and when banknotes are handed to you, never offer change immediately. Wait until the passenger demands change and part with it slowly and with great reluctance spluttering, "I've got a wife and four kids to support."

27 November 2010


View over Coombs Dale

Just before the first snow of winter snook down in the dead of night, my friend Tony and I went rambling in nearby Derbyshire on a sharp November day. The sky was sky blue. The sun was sunny. In hollows and shaded dells, frost clung tenaciously to dry leaves that crunched like gravel as we made our way along less trodden rights of way.

After parking in the village of Calver, we soon entered Coombs Dale with its ancient mine workings which , because of Nature's attentions, now present interpretation puzzles even for archaeological genii. After a mile we climbed out of the dale and into the light, striding across Longstone Moor towards Longstone Edge where I snapped this:-
Descending from woods which disguise the edge's history of mineral extraction, we noticed the delightfully peaceful hamlet of Rowland which sits at the end of a one way track:-
We observed comical "silkie" chickens in a garden looking as if they'd dressed in furs rather than feathers:-
After lunch, drinks and more nattering at "The Eyre Arms" near Hassop Hall, we headed for Bank Wood and a long walk back to Calver. To the south east, we could just make out Chatsworth House, palatial home to the Dukes of Devonshire. To the north east we noticed the exposed millstone grit of Curbar Edge and to the west the beautifully horrendous and much debated scarring effects of Backdale limestone quarry:-
Driving homewards I parked near White Edge and the Longshaw estate to take this sunset snap:-

I've known Tony for donkey's years. With him, it's always as if we're just continuing with a conversation we began back in 1979 when we first met. Thankfully, he walks at my pace both literally and figuratively. It was as Wallace might have said - "a grand day out"... And then the snow came whispering down while my adopted city slept.

26 November 2010


Path through the forest

We all make mistakes. It's natural. We're human beings. We err. Without mistakes we would never learn what's right, never be able to appreciate the times when the choices we made were just right. Making mistakes can occur at both micro and macro levels. On a smaller scale, I will happily hold my hand up and admit that at times - in spite of my best efforts - I make mistakes in written expression. As an English teacher, I always made a tremendous effort never to belittle children for their mistakes but instead I sought to help them to see the reasons behind errors in their writing.

Once, in Manchester, on a sunny Sunday morning I made a mistake at some traffic lights and filtered right when I should have stopped. Thank heavens the oncoming driver in the opposite lane realised what was happening and was able to screech his car to a smoky halt just in time. I was taking Frances to an audition for a children's TV play. A crunching car accident was not the kind of drama she was after.

In life we take many different paths as we discard numerous alternative opportunities. Perhaps the routes we choose are littered with mistakes. What if I had done that instead? What if I had stayed there? What if we had met up again the next day as planned? We each find our way through the forest and though Edith Piaf memorably sang:-
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
most human beings do harbour regrets connected with what we see as our mistakes.

Looking back, I find that a good number of my most cringe-worthy errors were connected with times when I failed to say what I really meant or felt, choosing to keep a lid on the beast within. How often have I replayed those moments - like a loop of videotape in my head. I should have done that, I should have said this. The nagging tormentor that has often kept sleep at bay.

Instead of pondering on mistakes, we should all spend more time reminding ourselves of our best achievements, those golden moments when we said exactly the right thing, the good choices we have made, the times when everything went swimmingly well and the forest path was strewn with sunlight and flowers.

22 November 2010


In my last post, I shared a photograph I took in the summer and threw out a fishing line - the question being, if this was an illustration in a poetry anthology what sort of poem would it be married with? "Mountain Thyme" (pictured right) left me this comment:- "I see a long poem in which one learns that being true to oneself, never compromising your beliefs, "running against the wind," so to speak is not all bad. One might be lonely at times, but one will grow strong and healthy and beautiful with roots firmly planted in the ground."
She was lighting the blue touchpaper of my poetry and this is what has, rather mysteriously, emerged:-


No man is an island
But I have been an island
Salt waves crashing on my shore
Knuckles rapping at my door.
I counted the bells of midnight
With pauses between each one
And fought with hope and memory
Before the dark was gone.
And in dawn's seeping light,
I turned to face my wall
Sure that when we leave this life
There's nothing there at all.

Earth turned
Clouds of starlings on the wing
Like shoals of tiny fish beside a reef
I heard a distant blackbird sing
And sensed the molten core beneath
It churned
Like hope, like memory.

To run with the wind
To be gone with it
So many flew like kites
Their lines lost
Up and down on
Invisible air
You see such beings

I anchored myself to the earth
Held on tight for all I was worth
Felt the ebb and watched the flow
For isn't this how life must go?
I looked in the mirror
And saw my face
Entrant in the human race.


As winter winds gather in the north to turn this last full week of November from a balmy autumn into bitter winter, I give you a tree. A solitary sisterless tree. It stands at the very heart of England where Warwickshire meets Leicestershire. See how the dense new wheat which rustles around it is already beginning to change from green to gold.

It was close to the ridge-top village of Orton-on-the-Hill on June 26th, two days before my beautiful brother Paul died in his sleep. How lovely was our weather in the month of June this year. It truly flamed. Minutes after snapping this picture, I found myself in a field of rape. Beneath my boots the earth was cracked and dry, aching for moisture like an old man's weathered skin.

If my tree picture was selected to illustrate a poem in a new anthology, I wonder what that poem might concern. Perhaps not just a tree in a field on a summery day. Any thoughts?

20 November 2010


In recent weeks, I have noticed an advertisement emblazoned on the backs of many Sheffield buses. It's for "Plusnet" a South Yorkshire based broadband provider who have been enlarging their niche in this lucrative market. Their headline slogan is "We Won't Be Beat on Price" which is of course grammatically incorrect. As a (former?) English teacher and lifelong pedant, this slogan grew to irritate me so much that I fired off a complaint to the company. Here it is:-

I wish to make a strong complaint about the slogan recently adopted by Plusnet and emblazoned, for example, on the backs of many Sheffield buses, namely - "We won't be beat on price". This is grammatically incorrect. The slogan should read: "We won't be beaten on price". This blatant error gives a very bad message to school children who are still learning to develop their literacy skills and it also begs this question - if Plusnet cannot produce grammatically acceptable slogans how can potential customers possibly believe that Plusnet will get their phone and broadband services right? N.B. I would be most grateful if you could pass this legitimate complaint up along the chain of command and not simply ignore it. Thank you.

A gentleman from the company at least took the time and trouble to respond to my complaint. Here's their response:-
Dear Mr Yorkshire Pudding,
Whilst we take your feedback on board, we're trying to get our Yorkshire heritage across, hence the colloquial use of the English language.
Our campaign aims to show some of the positive values associated with Yorkshire that we feel are also true of Plusnet. I am sorry to hear you feel offended by this.
I hope my explanation helps clarify matters.
Thomas South
PlusNet Customer Support

Naturally, I couldn't let Plusnet have the last word so a follow-up complaint was fired off from my bunker this morning:-
Dear Mr South,
Thank you for taking the time and the trouble to respond to my complaint about your "Won't be beat on price" advertisement.
As a proud Yorkshireman myself, I am afraid I cannot see how grammatical inaccuracy in any way reflects my Yorkshire heritage. In my view, your slogan represents a dumbing down of the English language and as I suggested before simply reinforces a typical mistake that teachers have to address every day in our schools. It is an error born out of many children's inability to easily distinguish between the spoken word and the written word.
I guess we will have to beg to differ on this. If your ad had said something that was very obviously colloquial such as "Ee by gum...Plusnet! They're reght ont price", I would have had no complaint whatsoever and I think most Yorkshire folk would have seen the point of the oral connectivity.
Yours sincerely,
Yorkshire Pudding (Sir)

So that's Yorkshire Pudding 2 Plusnet 1 and you dear readers can now finally see what an annoying fellow I really am. What do you think? Are there healthier ways in which I should be spending my time? "I Won't Be Beaten on Ranting!"

18 November 2010


My last post celebrated the French national anthem. In the resulting comments, one of my most esteemed, worldly-wise, handsome and culturally-advanced visitors - Mr Brague of Georgia USA - gave us a link to the sleep-inducing Swedish national anthem. This could become a game of national anthem tennis with visitors hunting out the most obscure, trite and unappealing national anthems of all.

At great personal risk and in the full expectation that I will be tracked down and water-boarded by their secret agents, I give you the anthem of the People's Republic of North Korea:-

All together now!

Let morning shine on the silver and gold of this land,
Three thousand leagues packed with natural wealth.
My beautiful fatherland.
The glory of a wise people
Brought up in a culture brilliant
With a history five millennia long.
Let us devote our bodies and minds
To supporting this Korea for ever.

The firm will, bonded with truth,
Nest for the spirit of labour,
Embracing the atmosphere of Mount Paektu,Will go forth to all the world.
The country established by the will of the people,
Breasting the raging waves with soaring strength.
Let us glorify for ever this Korea,
Limitlessly rich and strong.

17 November 2010


Most national anthems are bland and predictable in praise of nations or their leaders but "La Marseillaise", the long-standing national anthem of France is different. Written in 1792 as "Song of War for the Rhine Army" by Rouget de Lisle, it became a battle cry for the French peasantry during the country's revolution. Here is the opening verse with chorus in French:-

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans nos campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras.
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

And here's the French national anthem being sung very passionately in the national rugby stadium before an important match with New Zealand a couple of years ago:-

But what does it mean? Here, the translation demonstrates that this is not your average national anthem. It's quite literally about fighting for justice and liberty. If you read the other verses there are further reference to blood, fighting and suppression of enemies. No wonder the French sing it with such passion. How different from "God Save The Queen", England's bland and subservient national anthem. I wish instead that we had an anthem like this one:-

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms my fellow citizens!
Form your batallions!
March! March!
Let the enemies' blood
Water our furrows

15 November 2010


Hoylandswaine - a Yorkshire village west of Barnsley. It clings to the Pennine chain - England's backbone. It's a strange name isn't it? "Hoyland" is not an uncommon placename in South Yorkshire. It probably means "high farm" and is derived from an ancient Norse language - testament to our invasive forefathers. The suffix "swaine" or earlier "sveinn" may refer to "Sveinn" the son of Ailric who died in 1129. So Hoylandswaine - a high farm belonging to Sveinn.

On such a gorgeous blue-sky autumn day, I couldn't spend more hours scrabbling around decorating bathrooms. Besides I needed exercise, so I slung my boots in the car and tootled northwards through Grenoside, Wortley and Thurgoland till I came to Hoylandswaine. With camera and banana in rucksack, I headed out of the village towards Guyder Bottom then on to Banks Wood, Roger Royd and Bull Haw Farm over Whin Moor to Kine Moor, the hamlet of High Royd and then back to Hoylandswaine. These are not pretty southern English names like Chipping Norton or Little Gidding, they are blunt and earthy like the area's former inhabitants and the unpromising land they farmed.

So here are four pictures I snapped today. I can never understand why Blogger allows some photos to be clickable so that you can quickly see much enlarged versions while at other times this is disallowed. If anyone knows the answer - please advise.
Village sign - in stone
Pinfold Farm entrance
Lonesome tree near Roger Royd
Sheep at High Royd

13 November 2010


Dad with Uncle Jack (seated) circa 1924
My father's father ran a small dairy in Norton which is on the south bank of the River Derwent, opposite the market town of Malton in the heart of rural Yorkshire. There was a small stable on the property for milk deliveries were still made by horse and cart. Dad and his four siblings were all born in the little house adjacent to the dairy. The first-born was Tom whose exact parentage is uncertain. Next came Dad then Frank and Evelyn and finally, the youngest - Alec John who was always known as "Jack". My Uncle Jack born in 1917.

Dad showed some academic ability at primary school, gaining a scholarship to Malton Grammar at the age of eleven. Three years later Jack followed his example. At eighteen, Dad became the very first member of my known family to progress into tertiary education, enrolling at St John's College, York on a teacher training course. In 1935, Jack followed him to St John's, specialising in Art education. Both Dad and Jack represented St John's in rowing but whereas Dad was a decent rugby player and cricketer, Jack's other sporting forte was gymnastics.

When the second world war broke out, my father was quick to leave his teaching post to join the RAF and was soon posted to India where he specialised in meteorology and like thousands of other service personnel enjoyed a bullet-less war on the wondrous Indian sub-continent waiting for a Japanese invasion that never materialised. Uncle Jack also joined the RAF and was trained up to be a radio operator aboard a Bristol Blenheim Nightfighter.

On November 16th, 1940, after a long training flight in wintry weather the Blenheim fell from the sky - probably due to icing on the wings. It crashed on farmland at Ramsey Tyrells, near the village of Stock in Essex. The three young men on board - Messrs Winter and Romanis and my Uncle Jack were killed outright. Uncle Jack was just twenty three. His burnt body was retrieved and taken back to Malton for burial. The site of the tragic crash remained undisturbed until an amateur archaeological group unearthed it in the summer of 1975 (see below):-
I'm posting this on the eve of Remembrance Sunday for two reasons. Firstly, it's in acknowledgement of a young man I never met whose life lay before him - a career, a lover or a wife, children, dreams fulfilled and others shelved, laughter and tears, the natural progress of a full lifetime. Secondly, I'm thinking of all those thousands of military personnel who have died away from the fighting but as a direct result of warfare - training exercises like Uncle Jack's, fatal road accidents perhaps simply getting to or leaving military bases, suicides, snagged parachutes, faulty weapons and so on. Deaths that may at one level seem pointless, almost ridiculous but are a rarely acknowledged feature of all wars. They also served and their deaths caused the same amount of hurt back home as that which greeted the deaths of battlefield heroes and medal winners.

11 November 2010


At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we remember in silence. The Glorious Dead. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn...At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.

Anthem for Doomed Youth
by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstruous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

9 November 2010


It's approaching eighteen months since I last worked in a school. It feels rather strange returning to the fray. However, in the old days, as a Head of English, I regularly put in sixty hours a week, living and breathing the job like a hamster on a wheel. Now, in contrast, I am just a visiting tutor, signed up to work with eight individual children in two different schools. Okay there'll be preparation to do and the usual tiresome form-filling but from sixty hours I'm down to perhaps ten hours a week. Easy peasy. My Sri Lanka fund.

I won't mention the contrasting schools by name. Let's call one Asylum and the other Eden. Last Friday, I was in the entrance foyer of Asylum at lunchtime waiting for my tutee. Two small boys - about eleven years old - began to perform some kind of impromptu street-dancing routine. The weasly, undernourished one span on his skull with no other support before falling over in a fit of manic laughter. He remained supine in the foyer, even as a young bearded teacher towered over him bellowing futilely: "Get up! Get up! How many more times do I have to tell you? Get up!"

And there I was, leaning against a wall adorned with clip-framed awards but I didn't give a fig. It wasn't my place to sort those silly billy boys out as I would once have done. I was waiting for my tutee and when he arrived we'd be going to work in the library for an hour. That's all. No other commitment required.

Over at Eden, the atmosphere is much calmer, more professional. Waiting in the swish business-like reception area, I noticed that parents who arrived were better-dressed than those I observed at Asylum. They weren't visiting about discipline issues but simply dropping by to bring forgotten homework projects in, ingredients for cookery or mislaid P.E. kits and they didn't smell of cheap cigarettes. I know my judgements are only based on snapshots but though these two schools are only two miles apart they seem a world away from each other.

At lunchtime today, I visited "The Angel" in the suburban village of Woodhouse. While I waited for my lunch to arrive, I organised the various papers I'd accumulated over the previous six days and considered future tutoring activities. Outside, rain sheeted down from a leaden sky. Shortly, a beautiful plate of homemade food arrived - liver and onions, mashed potato, boiled cabbage and peas. I relished every mouthful and recalled a thousand packed lunches I'd consumed while working busily at my desk in those unmourned days gone by when I seemed to run faster each year without really getting anywhere.

8 November 2010


Burngreave leads to Pye Bank on the northern fringe of Sheffield's city centre. I was rambling there on Saturday afternoon with camera in hand. Locals in this tight, deprived neighbourhood - many of whom hail from distant lands - Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq - may have seen me and wondered who this foreigner was in their midst and why was he snapping pictures? Probably a snooper from the Department of Work and Pensions hunting for work-shy benefit claimants.

Cities require energy. The architecture of energy production or transfer is all around us. We will often pass it without noticing. We notice, often with warm delight, churches and town halls, shopping malls, museums and universities but it's as if we wish that all evidence of energy production and transfer would simply disappear into its own functional ugliness.

Up there on the lofty promontory of Burngreave, I looked to the east and saw the state-of-the-art Sheffield Incinerator which each day converts several tons of household waste into electricity and also into hot water for heating nearby council estates. Visually it has a striking, modernistic appearance. In 2010, energy production does not have to be about choking smoke emissions, grime and sooty, functional constructions. Some critics protest that in spite of its clean appearance and claims to the contrary, the incinerator is responsible for up to 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
I looked to the west where the River Don flows down from Hillsborough to the gas holder at Neepsend. Sometimes called gasometers, gas holders are mainly designed to regulate the pressure of stored gas. I thought this industrial monstrosity looked comfortable amidst russet autumnal foliage. It has risen and fallen in the same location since Victorian times.
It's funny isn't it? We want energy, we need it but usually within urban environments we despise or at the very least choose to ignore the structures that allow us to access it.

6 November 2010


Sunday morning. How many years ago? Seventeen - eighteen - I can't quite remember. Ian is goalkeeping for his cub-scout team. We're in Millhouses Park. On my left is the main railway line south to Chesterfield, Derby, London - but before it, running almost parallel, partly hidden by bushes and overhanging trees, the River Sheaf winds its way to its confluence with the River Don.

The Sheaf hardly deserves the appellation "River" as it is normally nothing more than a shallow overspill drain from the moors. Only when there has been prolonged rain does it begin to resemble something more than a little stream.

"Cover! Cover!" yells the team manager. "Get on-side!". "What are you doing?!" "Pass!" "Make some space!" In a crowd, like seaweed fronds, the players move up the pitch and then back down. It's chilly but at least it isn't raining. The turf is spongy.

I need to urinate. I knew I should have gone before leaving home but we were late up and I had to sort out Ian's kit. Looking furtively left and right, I head for the bushes. Behind me, twenty five yards away, the referee's whistle shrills for another offside. Relief! An arc of piss hits the water. Simultaneously, I notice some clothing rubbish tangled in the branches and shadows of an overhanging willow. I look more closely, more closely. I don't want to believe it's true. It's someone, some body in the water. Not rubbish but face down.

I get down into the stream. The water is knee-deep but not dangerous. I wade over to this thing trapped by the willow. I tug it free, turn it over and momentarily forget to breathe. An ashen face with black eyes glinting from half-closed eyelids. The lower jaw sags. Dishevelled swimming pool hair. A cardigan still buttoned. Black like the buttons. A floral dress up around her waist like a curtain. But what I mainly notice is her colour and her coldness. Blotched and greying beef fat. I thought I might have saved her but she is well past saving. With hands under her armpits I haul her corpse to the bank and leave her half in, half out of the little river. She is not Millais's "Ophelia". She will not float away.

There's a man with a dog. He arrives just as I'm clambering back up. The ref's whistle blasts again. The dog man and I exchange a few words. He scurries off to get help. I tell some small boys to keep away. Before the paramedic arrives in his green and yellow livery, others have gathered from nowhere. There's a hold-up in the football match but it soon resumes. An ambulance comes. A police officer. He takes my name and contact details as I shiver. The final whistle sounds.

I forget her name. She was fifty nine and she took her own life, probably plunging from a bridge further up stream with the river still partly in flood, the night before I found her. They reckon she had only been in the water for ten hours or so. Of course I don't know the full story. She was a childless spinster with money worries and a history of mental anguish. Secreted in her underwear they found scribbled notes. I have often thought of her. That disturbing lifeless face. Those peeping eyes and naturally I have pondered upon her despair. To leave life like that. Someone's daughter with no more stomach for the battle ahead, no more hope of joy.

4 November 2010


Yorkshire Pudding Enterprises plc are proud to announce the launch of three exclusive new products that the discerning buyer will not dare to miss. Fashioned beside the exotic shores of the Far East, we think our figure-hugging ladies' vest T-shirt will be a hit at a wide range of social events. Incredibly, it comes in various sizes from extra small to extra large. Only £22.50 per shirt.
Our unique designer cap is an absolute must for guys who consider themselves to be in tune with world fashion trends. One size fits all because of the ingenious plastic extension system woven discreetly in at the rear of the hat. Ex-England and Yorkshire cricket captain, Michael Vaughan, said "I love wearing the Yorkshire Pudding cap because I am proud of my roots and always want to look cool!" Robert Brague, election official of Canton, Georgia said, "Life hasn't been the same since I acquired this cap." Only £19.99 per cap
The third new product sees YPE collaborating with Walkers Crisps of cosmopolitan Leicester to produce a genuine taste sensation in the shape of Walkers English Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding potato crisps - known as "chips" to our American cousins. This is probably the most satisfying snack product ever made in the UK - reminding snackers of Sunday dinners that Grandma used to make. Only £4.50 for a multipack.
To order any of the above products, send credit card details including expiry date and security number to me - The Earl of Puddingshire at YPE plc, Pudding Towers, Pudding Strata, Sheffield. Remember to include £8.50 postage and packing for each item ordered.
Don't Be A loser!

3 November 2010


Not Evita, Cristina. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, aged fifty seven, the recently widowed President of Argentina. Her husband Nestor whom she met at university, where they both studied law, also served as Argentina's president. He died a week ago. Like the Perons, Cristina and Nestor formed a political dynasty embellished with fashion, wealth, rumour and intrigue in true Latin American style.

Left of centre, the Kirchners are generally credited with stabilising the Argentine economy and achieving moderate social reforms. Cristina maintains her country's long-standing claim on The Falkland Islands - from where one angry islander referred to her as "Old Plastic Face". She has had to fend off plenty of somewhat sexist jibes about her appearance saying that when she was a little girl she loved to glamorise herself by plastering on cosmetics and will make no apology for always trying to look her best in public. "Just because I stand up for the poor, does that mean I should look poor?"

At the weekend Cristina spoke about the loss of her husband on national television

"It's the greatest sadness I've had in my life. It's the loss of the man who was my companion of thirty five years, the companion of my life, of struggles, of ideals... a part of me has gone with him."

That part was now in Rio Gallegos, she said, referring to Mr Kirchner's home town where he was laid to rest last Saturday.

She thanked all the Argentines who had sent support, who had prayed and who had cried, including those who turned out for his funeral. "I want to thank especially the thousands of young people there who sang in their grief, but then marched with joy, for him and for the country."

And this is the tender end comment that especially entranced me - "I want to tell them that, in their faces, I saw his face back when I met him." In the young who came to mourn Nestor's passing she saw idealism, energy, the hope for something better and lives still to be lived - the true spirit of modern Argentina which is itself still a very young country. It was his face she saw in the middle of the crowd and at the middle of her grief.

Perhaps one day they will make a musical about Mrs Fernandez de Kirchner and they'll call it simply "Cristina" with the lead actress requesting in song, "Don't Cry for Me!" How do you think it might go down?

1 November 2010


Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of
vanities; all is vanity. - Ecclesiastes (ch. I, v. 2)

For a while I have been unhappy with my profile picture. It failed to convey my handsomeness as faithfully as I desired. Consequently, I have spent several hours working on a relief mask version of my visage to use as a new profile picture.

Firstly, I located two leftover Yorkshire puddings from last evening's Sunday dinner. They had been left in the oven. The larger pudding formed my head while the smaller one was skilfully dissected to form both my mouth and ears. Next, after much deliberation, I decided to use two slightly shrivelled conkers for my eyes and a beechnut still in its prickly husk for my nose. The conkers came from the thirty foot high horse chestnut tree that grew from a conker which Ian picked up when he was three years old. Shirley found the beechnut in nearby Chelsea Park when we went for a stroll yesterday afternoon.

Though I say it myself, I think the end result was worth all the creative energy that I expended. It's spooky because for me looking at this picture is just like looking in a mirror:-

If any visitors arriving at this blog would like to hire my artistic expertise to create new and similarly eye-catching unique profile pictures for their blogs, I am open to offers. The all-inclusive fees I charge are, I think you will find, most reasonable.

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