29 July 2016


One of today's BBC news items surrounds the drinking of alcohol and air travel. It seems that around the world there at least fifty significant incidents of alcohol-fuelled air rage every day and in the last couple of years there have been  hundreds of arrests and plane diversions directly connected with drunken air travellers.

When Shirley and I flew to Kefalonia last month, our flight departed from East Midlands Airport at nine in the morning. I remember commenting on the fact that in the airside lounge where we had breakfast, there were several people drinking pints of lager or beer. I ask you - who in their right minds drinks beer at eight in the morning? And how can it be right to board a flight when you are feeling tipsy?

If I ruled the world, alcohol would not be sold in airport lounges. There's no need for it and it certainly does not sit well with safe air travel. Having said that, on board a plane during a long flight a small bottle of wine with a meal or a small can of beer should not cause any problems and may help travellers to snooze.

Today's news item reminded me of a flight I took to New York in May, 1975. Aboard the aeroplane were various young Britons like myself - all heading to American summer camps to work as counsellors. It had been a routine, uneventful flight but as we descended to JFK, a young man got up and headed for the lavatory at the front of the cabin. The cabin staff were already seated and buckled up ready for landing. One stewardess challenged the passenger but he claimed he was desperate for the toilet so he got his way and just managed to get back to his seat before touchdown.

I met this young man in the immigration queue. He was as drunk as a lord but I managed to discover that he was a university student like me and he was heading to a summer camp in the state of Maine. We were getting closer to the head of the queue and I advised him to get his passport out. "Where is it?" I asked. "Inmybag," he slurred, finding it difficult to simply stand still.

I unzipped his little canvas cabin bag and there I spotted his passport and other documents beneath a broken bottle of vodka. All the contents of his bag were soaked in vodka. It was at this point that he said he needed to visit the toilet again. I left the queue and steered him towards the lavatories. Before we could get there, he unzipped his flyhole and near a large potted palm began to urinate against a terminal wall,

I thought to myself, "I don't need this" and left the stupid fellow to find a member of the airport security staff. I got back in the immigration queue and a few minutes later I spotted the drunken idiot clutching hsi vodka-soaked bag in a wheelchair, accompanied by three security people. I have no doubt that he was about to be deported back to England and may not have even remembered his very brief stay in The States.

What was he thinking of, getting so drunk that he never experienced a glorious, life-enriching summer as a camp counsellor? And what kind of an ambassador was he for our country?

No. In my humble opinion, drunkenness and air travel do not belong together. In this matter, airports and airlines must bear a large share of the guilt as their focus is mostly upon profit and alcohol sales help that mission. However, passengers should also realise that they owe it to other travellers and cabin staff to be sober, self-controlled and sensible.

28 July 2016


My week has been dominated by ten year old terrier Biscuit. We have been on numerous walks together - during the day and late at night. Last night we were strolling  round our neighbourhood after midnight when he spotted a cat running under a parked car. The barking that ensued was enough to wake the dead as Biscuit strained on his lead, almost dislocating my shoulder. I felt very bad about disturbing sleeping residents in houses close by.

It's worse when we encounter another dog on our walks. Then he's like The Hound of the Baskervilles, his eyes filled with bloodlust and me desperately holding his collar, pathetically pleading "Shush!" as his frantic barking threatens to burst the sound barrier.

With his stubby little tail wagging, Biscuit is quite a character but he has convinced me never to get a dog of our own. It's too much hassle. Dog hairs on our cushions and early morning disturbance and then there are the little piles of dog shit you have to clear up. Yuk! 

But to me, worst of all are the walks. As you know, I normally love walking but I do not appreciate having my rhythm interrupted every twenty yards so that Biscuit can carefully sniff the undergrowth or street furniture before cocking his leg. I want to march on. Because Biscuit has to be kept on a lead, when he stops I have to stop.

This is the first time in my life I have ever looked after a dog and it will probably be the last. One thing that has amused us is his response to doorbell sounds on the TV. He may appear sound asleep but upon hearing a TV doorbell he starts to howl and runs for our front door before realising his mistake. We also laugh when he rolls over onto his back to have his belly rubbed. It's one of his greatest pleasures. I might start imitating that behaviour myself. The look of contentment on Biscuit's face during a bellyrub makes you think he's in seventh heaven... where ever that might be. Perhaps he's looking there in the picture below...
His owner, a university academic specialising in modern Japanese culture and society, will be retrieving Biscuit on Saturday. Not long to go now. There's a good dog!

27 July 2016


Assassinated yesterday morning at the altar of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray's Catholic church, Father Jacques Hamel was eighty five years old. The cowardly assassins made him kneel before slitting his throat. A witness said they were callously recording the event on a mobile phone as she slipped out of the church. to raise the alarm.

The contrast between his selfless life of service and the cruel ignorance and wickedness of his killers is very sharp indeed. He was an old man, peacefully serving the community in a place of worship, while  they were self-obsessed young thugs whose heads were filled with tidbits of a warped theology that has nothing to do with any proper religion. In his life he had done so much good but in their lives they had done nothing of note or value.

But let us also not forget those who were killed in north eastern Syria just a few hours later. in the Kurdish town of Qamishli. A truck bomb exploded killing at least forty people and injuring countless others in a  terrible act that was down to the so-called Islamic State - just like the murder of poor Jacques Hamel in the suburbs of Rouen.

Where is all this horror leading us and how will it end? I am sick to the stomach of hearing news item upon news item about fatal atrocities. You wonder what's next. Both of my grown up children live and work in London and it is surely just a question of time before our capital city is hit once more by these mad nobodies. I hope my kids are not nearby when it happens.
Qamishli this morning

26 July 2016


Michelle Obama in  Philadelphia last night
Lord knows what is going on in America. Republican and Democrat conventions used to appear like stage-managed jamborees of   self-congratulation and flag waving but suddenly things have got serious. Eerie Republicans chant "Lock her up!" when Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned while Bernie Sanders supporting Democrats boo her. Trump arrives on the stage like a character from "Star Wars", ready to unleash spiteful and infantile remarks, still maintaining that he's going to build a massive wall right across the country's southern border while supporters cheer him - as if the idea was actually sane.

Last night in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton with a heartfelt speech woven with core Democrat principles . These were her own words, perhaps checked over by advisers, but essentially her own words - as in the Democratic National Convention of 2008 when she eloquently endorsed her husband's  candidacy for president. You may remember that particular speech as it was plagiarised by Melania Trump just last week.

What a contrast! Intelligent, articulate and naturally beautiful Michelle Obama writes and delivers her own speeches but Melania Trump just reads out whatever she is told to say like an automaton. Why couldn't she write her own endorsement of "The Donald"? There's no substitute for authenticity.

The next bit of this blogpost is almost  unbelievable but I swear I am not making it up. Amongst conspiracy theorists and vindictive Republican numbskulls, the notion has arisen that Michelle Obama is in fact a man! The story goes that the Obama daughters were  adopted and there are photographs that attempt to demonstrate the crazy idea that Mrs Obama is male, including highlighted shots of her crotch. The claimants even focus upon the length of her fingers and the possible presence of an Adam's apple. The whole thing is absurd, astounding and horribly cruel. For example, go here.

How low can these people sink? The claims contain unpleasant whiffs of racism and sexism. Michelle Obama has been a breath of fresh air, supporting righteous causes, backing up her husband and frequently displaying a happy,  fun-loving approach to life. How different she has been from other more stuffy first ladies like Laura and Barbara Bush or Nancy Reagan. 

As I have said before in this blog, I am an Americophile and so of course I hate to see the political establishment of such a fabulous country tearing itself apart with lies, bitterness and misunderstanding. The prospect of giving Trump the keys to The White House makes me shudder with concern.  As Michelle Obama said last night, it just has to be Hillary in November.


Henry the Constructor
Yesterday I photographed three members of "The Herd of Sheffield" in The Botanical Gardens. The Herd consists of fifty eight fibreglass elephants, all individually decorated by artists. The elephants have been placed in various locations around the city and their ultimate purpose is to raise extra funds for The Sheffield Children's Hospital through sponsorship and other money raising ideas. I think it is a brilliant if slightly crazy project that brings some extra colour and fun into the urban landscape. No doubt I will be snapping more elephants in the weeks ahead. 
In It Together
Small Beginnings

24 July 2016


Who is that lying next to me on our sofa? Why it's Biscuit, the wire-haired Jack Russell. He's staying with us for a week while his owner is on holiday.

I have already taken him on several walks. Though he is small, he likes a good long walk and his little feet patter along as if in a film that has been speeded up. These walks have been characterised by an enormous amount of sniffing - not by me but by Biscuit. His world seems to be dominated by his sense of smell and often a careful halt for sniffing is followed by a squirt of urine. I guess he is marking territory covered. It pleases me enormously that as a male human being, I don't have to do this when walking city streets or country paths.

I don't know much about dogs because we have never owned one and growing up in my East Yorkshire village we only ever had Oscar, a tortoiseshell pussy cat who, in spite of the name, bore several litters of kittens. She died at the age of twenty, long after I had left home.

No I don't know much about dogs but I am learning. When out and about with Biscuit you have to be alert to the presence of other dogs. When Biscuit spots another member of the canine family he goes berserk, barking and straining on his lead with murderous intent. It doesn't matter how big the other creature is, Biscuit will have a go at it and if he wasn't on the lead, blood would certainly be spilt.

The rest of the time he is mild-mannered and lovable. He looks up at you with his soulful brown eyes and you have to guess what he is trying to say. Mostly it's "Get off your fat ass and let's go for another walk. I need to do some sniffing and leg cocking! Let's go buddy!" Soon I shall take him to The Botanical Gardens where three elephants are located from The Herd of Sheffield. He'll enjoy sniffing those big mothers.
Later on Sunday - Biscuit in The Botanical Gardens

23 July 2016


Sometimes blogs go into hibernation. Weeks, months or maybe even years may pass before they wake up again. This is what has occurred in relation to "Demob Happy Teacher" by Jenny from Wrexham, North Wales. It is a blog I have visited for years so it is nice to discover that Jenny is back in the blogosphere again.

Why not go over and visit her blog. Here is the link:-
We bloggers sometimes need encouragement and when a blog has been dormant for a while, it can be difficult to regather an audience. All visitors to "Demob Happy Teacher" will have their names entered into a free draw. The first prize is a week's stay in The Ramada Plaza Hotel in Wrexham and the second prize is a two week stay.

22 July 2016


In a recent afternoon  conversation around a patio table, the topic shifted to higher education. I said that there was a time when intelligent young people picked subjects they were interested in. They weren't so focused on the careers that would follow after their years in university. These remarks caused a ripple of chortling hilarity - as if I was implying that such choices had been dumb or self indulgent. In our wisdom we could surely all see that  higher education is principally about getting a good job in the end.

The others sitting round the table had misread me. I was in fact bewailing a general shift in perceptions about higher education. Nowadays it sometimes all seems to be about getting qualifications that lead directly to a good career and damn the intellectual interest value of it all. In contrast, I still believe in the love of study and passionate enquiry. Focusing upon a subject you're interested in instead of  calculating one's future financial status.

When our lovely daughter Frances Emily was thinking about university, she really didn't know what to do. She gained good A levels in English Literature, Theatre Studies, General Studies and Sociology but didn't want to continue along any of those routes. One day I threw into the mix the idea of American Studies and that seed took hold. She ended up completing a degree in American and Canadian Studies at The University of Birmingham. She enjoyed the course. It lifted her in various ways and in the end she came very close to achieving a first. She also got to spend two semesters in Birmingham, Alabama.

It was not about getting a good job. However, as it happens, she now has a good job - working on the twenty sixth floor of The Shard in London as part of a young team providing innovative software for recruitment agencies. A few months ago she questioned the usefulness of her years at university with the associated student debt but I pointed out that she had found the course stimulating. Besides, though not directly linked to her current role, her degree had honed her intellectual skills, bolstered her vocabulary and opened windows in her mind that allowed her to step into her present position.

Even today, it is possible to study subjects that fit your nature, things you are simply interested in without having to look too hard at the future. Higher education should not be mechanistic - just a means to an end. In my opinion, that now widespread perception goes against the grain of what education is meant to be and I find it rather sad. There is something quite noble and laudable about learning simply for the love it and as Socrates said, "kindling a flame".

21 July 2016


"Ye Olde Royal Oak" in Wetton
Yesterday was the hottest day of the year but instead of locating the nearest air-conditioned building or sticking my head in our fridge, I opted for a long walk in the delightful Manifold Valley in Staffordshire. As Noel Coward sang, "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" and I didn't want to let the side down.

In Clint, my trusty South Korean chariot, I tootled over the hills to Bakewell and thence to Monyash and Hartington before arriving in the quaint village of Wetton where I parked up. I slathered exposed skin with "Nivea" sun protection, pulled on my little rucksack that sensibly contained two bottles of water, an apple and an orange and plonked my new sun hat on the Pudding bonce.
All Saints Church, Grindon
Before I continue, let me tell you about this hat. It was made for me by my lovely wife who is becoming something of a seamstress in her late middle age. To look at it you could not tell that it was homemade. In my life I have had very few hats - almost none - because my skull is so big that I can rarely find hats to fit me. How many times have I tried hats on - only to find them sitting precariously on my head as if simply balanced there? I am a freak of nature but it's all just bone - not brains.

I set off in search of Thor's Cave, high above the river valley. Archaeological evidence has revealed that this cave was visited by human beings from the beginning of human time on the island of Britain. Back in Victorian times, it was a popular tourist attraction as the small gauge Leek and Manifold railway ran parallel to the river. There was even a little station called "Thor's Cave".
Thor's Cave and the Geordie folk
When I got to the cave, four grown up people from Newcastle were there - demonstrating how difficult it was to get inside it. The entrance was a cascade of smooth limestone with no steps or ropes. It would have been very easy to fall but bravely your intrepid blogger followed the Geordie guineapigs and I did not fall. It was even harder getting out.

Then down to the river and along to Weag's Bridge with an arduous climb up to the village of Grindon. It was over thirty degrees centigrade and my shirt was so drenched in aromatic Pudding sweat that I could have easily wrung it out as I basked in the sun near All Saints Church, peeling my orange and glugging one of the bottles of  Adam's ale.
Dilapidated barn above Weag's Bridge
Then up and onwards to Ossam's Hill soon to experience fine views of Dale Farm and the limestone plug known as Sugarloaf. I descended to Wetton Mill where I purchased an ice cold can of Diet Coke for £1 which is 71pence more than an identical can cost me from Lidl in Sheffield. Bloody capitalists!

There followed a punishing walk up Wetton Hill where panting  sheep were sheltering from the sweltering sunshine in  the lee of drystone walls. Just a little further and then up to the skyline. There was a quarry where I guess that most of the stones that built Wetton were sourced long ago. I was looking forward to a pint of bitter shandy in "Ye Olde Royal Oak" but damn me when I got there I found the door was locked. I beat upon it screaming, "Let me in!" but no one came.
Cow sunbathing in Grindon
In the scrupulously clean village toilet block, I guzzled a gallon of water from the cold tap - like a camel that has just reached an oasis. To use a common colloquial expression, I was well and truly knackered after this hike - driving homewards nearly five hours after I had arrived. But it had been wonderful and in that tropical afternoon I was so glad to be alive and able to plod those beautiful country miles.
Dale Farm and Sugarloaf near Wetton Mill

19 July 2016


Back in the late fifties and early sixties, very few families owned cars. Though my East Yorkshire village had a population of just three hundred and fifty, there were several shops. Mrs Austwick had a little sweet shop, Mr Peers ran one of three grocery shops, Mr Lofthouse was the local butcher and Mrs Rosling ran the post office. People shopped locally in those days. They didn't drive to faraway hypermarkets to fill their boots with bulging carrier bags.

Nowadays, because of housing developments, my old village has a population of 2,500 but only one shop and there are more cars than you can count. Like villagers all over the country, people seem happy to travel several miles to buy their essentials. How things have changed.

Anyway, on Saturday I was walking in a rural part of Lincolnshire between Gainsborough and Lincoln. The walk took in four lovely and peaceful villages - Harpswell, Hemswell, Blyborough and Willoughton. Once their raison d'etre was agriculture and associated trades but today's inhabitants undoubtedly include a lot of "incoming" commuters and retirees.

It was a warm morning and by the time I reached Willoughton I was feeling quite thirsty. Magically, there before me, in the centre of the village, appeared Willoughton Post Office  with the family name "Moore" above the door. It was 12.20 but thankfully a notice about opening hours told me that it closed at 12.30 on Saturdays.

I pressed the brass latch on the door and went inside. It was like stepping back in time. Back to the very early sixties. In front of me was the glass-fronted post office section and to the  left and right wooden counters with shelves behind. The air was filled with a potpourri of aromas - bacon and stationery, cheese and furniture polish. A bell had rung when I opened the door and a timid woman in a floral apron soon appeared from the living area behind the shop.

She seemed wary of me - a six foot stranger in size eleven boots with tousled hair and a camera - as if she expected a hold-up or something. She had no fresh milk and no sandwiches so I grabbed a "Mars" bar and asked if she had any cans of pop. Warily, she put her hand in the chiller cabinet and pulled out a lone can of "Diet Coke". Who had she been saving it for?

Willoughton is well off the beaten track and I can't see that post office and general store being open much longer. It is a wonder that it has survived for so long. Once it would have been a bustling, vital facility with the bell above the door ringing regularly but now it has the air of a museum about it - like a window into a very different England  - one that evaporated many years back. 

16 July 2016


Mosquito squished on a  ceiling
Yesterday, I noticed a baby earwig on the tiled windowsill in our bathroom as I was having my morning shower. I got a piece of toilet paper and tempted her to climb aboard then very carefully put her outside. This morning a tiny spider was hanging from a gossamer thread, dangling below the showerhead. I moved him out through the window before I pressed the "on" button. It would have been awful if he had been washed down the plughole.

You see, I don't like killing any living creatures and try to avoid doing so. However, I must hold my hands up and admit that I do reluctantly kill garden slugs with slug pellets and when we were in Greece recently I killed a dozen mosquitoes that had found their way into our hotel room. My weapon of choice was a damp towel tied into a ball at the end which I fired at the ceiling with a deft yank of my wrist. It's okay - they would have felt nothing. It was all over quickly.

Like a Buddhist, I respect other living creatures and I would never kill a wasp or a even a fly. I am more likely to marvel at their flying skills and applaud their ability to  survive. 

As an omnivore I of course eat meat and fish but if I had to kill the unfortunate creatures that die for supermarkets or butchers' fridges I would probably walk away and become a vegetarian. I really do not like killing. The thought of it sickens me.
In Nice on Thursday night
And there is no way, no way at all that I could ever drive a heavy truck along a French promenade crowded with pedestrians. And carrying several deadly weapons, I could not blunder into a Florida nightclub frequented by gay people  -  intent on human slaughter. And I could not venture into the corridors of a Scottish primary school determined to kill other people's children with bullets or aim a crowded jet at a skyscraper or fire at holidaymakers on a Tunisian beach.

I would be held back by unbreakable but invisible reins, respecting the otherness of other human beings, sensing their fragility, their hopes and their dreams - knowing that they were all a bit like me and that our time on this earth is so precious and magical and brief. There's no cause, religious or otherwise that could ever turn me into an assassin of the innocent. And for this reason I am unable to project my thinking into the minds of the cowardly  killers who have been making the news this year - week in and week out. So much cruel and pointless slaughter. 

What kind of  beings are the perpetrators? Surely they are not human beings like you and me. They can't be. If it is wrong to kill a tiny spider hanging from a showerhead, it must be wrong to kill a complete stranger - someone you have never met who has never done you any harm. A son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a husband, a wife, a friend - someone with stars in their eyes and hopes in their heart. The targets are not mosquitoes on a ceiling. They are unique people. They should be left alone and allowed to live, to see another dawn, another full moon. Nobody has  reason or right to slaughter them. No one.
Peace & Love

15 July 2016


At Wombwell Ings in the Dearne Valley, I noticed about fifty horses grazing in the rough pastureland or wandering to the edges of the "flashes" - temporary shallow lakes which disappear in especially dry months. The horses are owned by "travellers" or gipsies who have an encampment close by. The animals  are not well-manicured or groomed and like the travellers they spend a lot of time fending for themselves.

In just a few minutes I took more than fifty pictures of these horses but in this blogpost I am sharing just five of those images. I hope you like them.

14 July 2016


Time - what is that? A straight line that moves steadily towards some distant future? More likely it zigzags about so that in any one hour we have been absorbed by the present, contemplated the future and revisited the past. Every day it's the same - a kind of fluidity, not just plodding forward into the future upon a predictable highway but looking left and right, remembering where we have been and imagining what lies beyond the hills up ahead.

How easy it is to slip back into the past  - reviewing  moments that our brains choose to highlight when so many other moments have been swept away, forgotten. These memories are often mundane - not always recollections of  peaks and troughs in our lives - but memories of the everyday, the ordinary...

It is 1958 and Uncle Tom is holding my hand. We are behind the school's new toilet block and there is a bed of nettles. He tells me that you can make soup from nettles. He seems very tall and his silver hair undulates in tight waves across his scalp. His hand is big and warm. Soon we go back inside but the rest of that day is lost to me. There's just me and Uncle Tom and the nettles.

It is 1970, The Isle of Wight Festival. I am camping on Desolation Row. One night we are sitting by a bonfire. Strangers. We tell each other where we are from... Denmark, America, France, Edinburgh. And then I ask the next guy. He's older and a little aloof. He says, "Me? I am an earthling". And for a moment the rest of us are quiet. Why did he say that? Later I knew.

It is January 1978. My first day as a teacher at Dinnington Comprehensive School. Sitting in Bob's sky blue VW Beetle, the windscreen wipers are swishing the sleet away as we travel along the country lane from Gildingwells. I can still hear and see them making their fan shapes in the sleet but I can recall nothing else about that day.

Of course there are bigger, more predictable memories - of the births of our children, of deaths, of achievements - special times - but they are outnumbered by the mundane, like the unexceptional moments alluded to  in the previous three paragraphs. I think such ordinary memories are important to all of us but I struggle to say why. I should look for a good layman's book that explores the patterns and mechanics of memory because this is something I often find myself thinking about.

13 July 2016


Theresa Mary May - born in Eastbourne on October 1st 1956 - and now Great Britain's eighty first Prime Minister. But who is she? The following quotations give a real sense of the character of the woman behind the headlines.

"I was in the Commons recently and saw a young lady wearing a nice pair of shoes. I said I liked them and she said my shoes were the reason she became involved in politics."

"I'm not sure I should reveal the sources of my clothes."

"My night out would be with my husband, wherever he chose to take me."

"I have not watched WAGs World, I have not watched the BBC's Upstairs, Downstairs, either. It would be Downton Abbey, I think."

"I was a teenage godmother."

"I'm not someone who feels anger on particular issues."

So there we have it. Britain's answer to Angela Merkel... or maybe our answer to Hillary Clinton. During these challenging political times, it is comforting to know that our ship is being sailed into the future under the watchful guidance of  such a passionate and capable skipper. Someone with her finger on the pulse and so heavily endorsed by the electorate. As the song said:-
May each day of the week be a good day,
May the Lord always watch over you,
And may all of your hopes turn to wishes,
And may all of your wishes come true.

Theresa Brasier as a girl in Eastbourne. It was a happy, rambunctious
childhood of love and laughter as the picture possibly suggests.

11 July 2016


A wedding in Gainsborough. Shirley has a large extended family with enough cousins to fill a double decker bus and yesterday cousin Elaine was getting hitched to an abattoir worker called Steve. It was his third marriage but her first. They are both in their mid-fifties and as poor as church mice.

Gainsborough sits on the eastern bank of the River Trent and has been an inland port for hundreds of years. Vikings came here and medieval wool traders from The Low Countries. It is still a bustling town.

The wedding ceremony was in the town's register office. Then we moved on to the supporters' club at Gainsborough Trinity's football ground. There were almost two hundred people there and as I looked around them, I realised that they were all white and Anglo Saxon. Not one member of our Asian community. Not one Afro-Caribbean and not one person of mixed race. 

If I had undertaken a survey of those seated at tables I am sure I would also have discovered that there were no Poles, Latvians, Romanians or indeed French. No this was the white Anglo Saxon English heartland and these were the kind of English people who have experienced a sort of sidelining in recent years. Britain is meant to be vibrant and globalised with an exciting rainbow patchwork of interconnected cultures but in the Gainsborough Trinity supporters' club a different kind of England was represented.

It reminded me of growing up in East Yorkshire. I lived in an entirely  white Anglo Saxon village and after passing my eleven plus went on to a totally white Anglo Saxon secondary school. We just didn't see people of colour though I once saw a Chinese sailor on Alfred Gelder Street in Hull. 

There are still huge swathes of England where the multicultural melting pot seems like a metropolitan fantasy. You can see this in demographic statistics. 92% of our people belong to the white Anglo Saxon host community. Yet watching the BBC or listening to the London politico-intelligentsia you might be forgiven for believing that every other house is home to inhabitants whose origins lie overseas. But this is most definitely not the case. You might also have witnessed evidence of  this at The Gainsbrough Trinity supporters' club yesterday evening.

The wedding guests were decent people - the backbone of England. People whose parents and grandparents were born here. Tolerant and fair-minded people. They all had family members who fought in the trenches of the Somme and all could trace their English roots way back in time. As I say, lots of these people now feel sidelined and I am sure that many of them voted to leave The European Union because of that feeling. They were cocking a snook at the establishment and yelling in the only way they could - "Look at us! We are still here. Why did you forget us?"

8 July 2016


Of course I could carry on blogging about Kefalonia but I don't want to bore my esteemed visitors to death. No. Instead, I will just reflect on the flight home.

It was in 1972 that I first boarded an aeroplane. I was on my way to New York and thence to Los Angeles and Hawaii. Looking through the little oval window next to my seat I was in awe of the world I saw below me. England's green patchwork fields, little fishing boats in the Irish Sea and then the emerald jigsaw of Ireland before we crossed the wide expanse of The Atlantic Ocean. Truly fabulous.

And I never lost that sense of wonder about looking out of aeroplane windows. I estimate that I have taken about two hundred flights in my life and I am always disappointed if I don't get a window seat. To look down upon our planet  is something our ancestors could only dream about - high above the land and the water like a bird. 

On Wednesday, we flew up the Greek coast towards Corfu and then on to the islands of Croatia. There were so many of them, dotted about the eastern shore of The Adriatic Sea. In fact, Croatia has 1246 islands - and I must have looked down on half of them. Little ferries moved between them like ants and there were tiny yachts anchored far below  in Lilliputian bays. 

Then on to Venice. I recognised its shape immediately. There was The Grand Canal and there was the oblong island of San Michele -  the cemetery island. Beside it Murano - the island of glass.
Venice from a plane © Daniel Persson 2006
Soon we were over The Alps - great jagged teeth pointing angrily at the sky and snow nestling in the highest plateaux and valleys. Hidden little mountain lakes in green and blue and over there Mont Blanc and Lake Constance. It was the best view of The Alps I have ever had. As clear as a bell.

Onwards, ever northwards over the summer fields of Germany where tiny giggling frauleins were no doubt being chased through flowery meadows by miniature men in lederhosen. Then over the border into La France where insect-like men in striped shirts carried minuscule strings of onions on bicycles while humming "Sur Le Pont d'Avignon". Then over Paris with a distant view of The Eiffel Tower.

Crossing the English Channel took four or five minutes before the little fields of Kent and East Sussex appeared. And there underneath our big steel bird was Biggin Hill's famous airfield and there London's orbital motorway - The M25 - already clogged up with early evening traffic.

Soon we were flying over the metropolis of London itself. I spotted The Oval cricket ground and then the silvery ribbon of The Thames before Arsenal's Emirates Stadium came into view. I told Shirley and she unbuckled her seatbelt to have a look because our son Ian lives bang next to that football ground. We waved but he didn't see us and then one of those painted waitresses they have on aeroplanes appeared in the aisle to tell Shirley to buckle up again.

Watford and Luton then up above the M1 to the city of Leicester with a good view of The King Power Stadium before the aeroplane swung round to make its descent to East Midlands Airport. The farms and villages grew closer and there were interesting lumps and bumps in some of the fields - perhaps hinting at hidden archaeology. And then we were down.

Yes I still love to look down from aeroplanes - like a child at a sweetshop window. The wonder never diminishes. How about you?

7 July 2016


In Fiskardo
Seven days of sunshine, blue sky and blue sea... but now we are home. We enjoyed our first visit to Kefalonia. The hotel was in an isolated rural location with a lovely swimming pool. We were on a "half board" deal with breakfast and evening meal included. 

The food was okay - some hits and some misses - certainly not as good as the fayre we enjoyed in Crete last year but perfectly acceptable. To accompany each evening meal we ordered a carafe of white wine and we got to meet some of the other hotel guests. They were mainly English with a sprinkling of Italians, Greeks and Dutch.

Around the pool there were not enough sunbeds to cope with demand and I noticed that some guests were in the habit of claiming sunbeds before breakfast by draping towels over them. This has got to be one of the most selfish and anti-social holiday habits known to humankind. 
Roadside shrine near Assis
When our children were young we once went on holiday to Minorca and in our holiday complex some guests even claimed sunbeds the night before the sunny day ahead. On the day we left, our hotel pick up time was four in the morning. Before departing, I gathered up all the towels that had been draped on the sunbeds - around thirty towels in total. Then I went round to the games room pool table and carefully piled all the towels up there - one spread on top of the other. How I would have loved to watch the confusion and annoyance that this must have caused a few hours later but by then we were high above The Bay of Biscay, flying home.
Belltower in Kouroklata
In Kefalonia we had a hire car for three days and travelled around the island - to Assis, Fiskardo, Lixouri, Skala and the capital - Argostoli. A lot of hairpin bends and hill climbs but the asphalt was usually pretty good. We saw some tremendous views but I didn't spot a single old man with a donkey. Perhaps those weatherbeaten old men with their stubborn animals have all gone now. They used to be such a feature of rural Greece and where were the old women in black with beautifully wrinkled faces, counting worry beads in the shade of old fig trees? I guess they are gone too for the world has moved on - even in ancient Greece - and when the old pass away they may not be replicated.
Shirley at Assis - west coast of Kefalonia

5 July 2016


 Above an old piece of amateur advertising at a taverna in the village of Sami. Below a wuild turtle in the lagoon at Argostoli.
Above a rowing boat waits in the amazing  collapsed limestone cavern lake at Messalini. Below a ferry glides from the mainland to Sami.
Above the beach at Petana. You drive down a scary hairpin road to get there and below our white Ford Fiesta hire car on the ferry from Lixouri back to Argostoli - saving a twenty five mile drive around the gulf.
 Well that's all I have time for just now. Got to get my breakfast. Best wishes....YP x.

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