31 January 2017


The first image that Google produces after an image search for "death"
I tend not to think about death very much. Of course, it is the only certainty in our lives and I know that some people are secretly quite obsessive about it. But for me it is mostly something that lurks in the background like next December or 2018. It will come in some kind of costume and there's not much I can do about it.

Tomorrow I shall attend the funeral of Shirley's Uncle Chubby. He died a few days before his eighty fifth birthday. Only last summer we visited him unexpectedly and he showed me how his vegetable garden was doing on the west bank of The River Trent. I was jealous of his black riverside sediment-enriched soil. Very different from the heavy clay soil that I have to work with here in Sheffield. But isn't that nice to think that Chubby was still living happily at home and tending his vegetables just a few months before his death? No old folks' home for him with carers rushing around and the television blasting away in the corner. He lived a full, happy  life by the riverside he never left.

As an atheist, I have absolutely no expectation of any sort of existence beyond this life. To me the idea of an afterlife is absurd. I believe that the only way I will live on in any form is in the memories of my family, friends and others who knew me. In addition, I would like to think that some of my words will succeed me. In that respect, I really do need to get round to making an e-book of my poetry so it's captured for good. This was something that the now dormant Australian blogger Carol in Cairns encouraged me to do.

Nowadays, it is fashionable and co-incidentally economical for the bodies of the deceased to be disposed of through cremation. That's what happened to my mother and father and it is what will happen to Uncle Chubby's body too. But, perhaps romantically, I am drawn more towards burial. My brother Paul lies beneath the clod in a remote graveyard in County Clare, Ireland. His little plot is close to the ancient boundary wall, protecting him from Atlantic winter winds that whistle across the bog. His wife, daughter and sons can visit him there and remember him with fondness. But after a cremation all that is left is dust.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited a poet's simple grave and blogged about it here. On Philip Larkin's gravestone there was just his name, the years of his birth and death and the single word "Writer". If you were to be buried what single word would you suggest for your gravestone? A single word that somehow sums up who you were or why you were here. It might concern work, family, aspirations or character. I think I might choose - Dreamer.

30 January 2017


Google does not rest on its laurels. Change and improvement are always in the air as those clever Google boffins fiddle around with possible innovations.

All of us are familiar with the incredible search facility that Google has blessed us with. They have placed nearly all human knowledge at our fingertips. Everything is just a click away.

But did you know that you can search images? By this, I mean that you let your cursor hover over a particular image, then using the right hand button on your mouse or laptop you will find a drop down menu with one of the choices being "Search Google for Image". Click on this and you will soon find other locations where this image has been used - if any - and also a small mosaic of "Visually Similar Images".

Yesterday, I posted a striking image by the street artist Phlegm - it was a detail from his mural on Snuff Mill Lane. Hovering over the image and following the process described above, Google provided me with these "visually similar images", all black and white street art:-
The legendary Welsh blogger John Archibald Gray (or JAG for short) has several pictures in his sidebar. This is one of them:-
 And here's one of the "visually similar images" that Google quickly called up:-
Here's Ms Lee George's profile picture from "Kitchen Connection":-
 And here's a bunch of what Google consider to be "visually similar images":-
Finally here's the superb parrot header logo from the brilliant "Shooting Parrots" blog by the equally brilliant and exceedingly handsome Ian Rhodes from Greater Manchester:-
 Following the same process, Google quickly takes us to this visually similar image:-
Not only is this "search image" facility useful in numerous ways, it can also be fun as you see the kind of imagery that Google's wheels come up with in visual comparison. Lord knows how they do this so rapidly. To me it's rather magical.

29 January 2017


Above, the garden view from our bedroom window yesterday afternoon. You can perhaps just make out our pet sheep - Beau and Peep and the path that leads to our vegetable patch and the compost bins. Our rear neighbours' houses are a hundred yards beyond our back door.

Below, from our window I looked to the right where you can see the telecommunications mast on Tapton Hill and the "Ranmoor Village" University of Sheffield halls of residence below it.
Sheffield has some great street artists. I don't know about you but I rather like murals by skilful street artists. In my opinion, they make the urban scene appear more lively and attractive. In contrast.I think that hastily sprayed tags and unskilful imagery look horrible and rather spoil our environment.

One of Sheffield's best known street artists is known as "Phlegm". Finally, this morning. I got round to taking some pictures of one of his  newest murals. It appeared on Snuff Mill Lane last October. These strange black and white elongated figures are typical of Phlegm's distinctive style:-
And here's a detail from the same mural. Phlegm has cleverly incorporated the television aerial within his overall design:-
Here's another detail in which an intruder alarm and a security light  have also been embraced as part of the design:-

28 January 2017


Teresa May - glamour model
It is easy to get names mixed up. For example, our lovely daughter Frances often finds her name being mis-spelt in the masculine form - Francis. I guess that all Franceses and Francises have to battle with this - like all Lesleys and Leslies.

Very recently, over in Washington D.C., our esteemed prime minister was visiting that  Trump thing. You probably noticed this on your television screen or computer. It seems that in some of the official U.S. documentation, Theresa May's first name was wrongly spelt in the alternative manner - Teresa.

This was a very embarrassing mistake because there is in fact an English glamour model called Teresa May. In 1997, she appeared in the music video for The Prodigy's single "Smack My Bitch Up". She moved into acting later in her career in B movies such as "Exterminator City" and "One Man and his Dog". In addition to films, this alternative Teresa May has appeared in numerous tabloids and men's magazines including "Hustler", "Men Only", and "Razzle". Yes - this other Teresa May has been around the block and for that reason, I suspect that she is the kind of woman that The Donald is more used to dealing with.

He must have been very excited sitting behind his desk in The Oval Office, flicking through back copies of  "Hustler", waiting for Teresa May to turn up. Instead he got this Theresa May:-
Oh dear! Not quite the same... but Trump still grabbed her hand. It is to be hoped that he didn't grab anything else.

27 January 2017


Magpies hop around the winter lawn - their tiny black eyes looking hither and thither for food or danger. They bully their avian cousins - blackbirds, thrushes, wood-pigeons and sparrows. None are as sharp-witted as those sleek magpies in their distinctive plumage - like dinner jackets or military uniforms.

Despite their intelligence,  they cannot access the little wooden feeding station that hangs from a branch of our ornamental sumac tree. There the hedge sparrows and blue tits rule supreme - busily selecting seeds before fluttering off to consume them. Back and forth they go.

A crow caws from above the columnar fat ball container. Balanced precariously on a thin branch, he seems frustrated that he can't push his gnarled beak further down for another nutritious snack. The blue tits do not share this frustration. With wiry little toes holding on, they peck rapidly at the grey spheres before darting off.

The letter box clatters and something heavy lands on our coir doormat. Perhaps a magazine or a catalogue. Outside in a bitterly cold midday there is a flash of fluorescent orange as the postman continues with his round. A bespectacled fat woman in a grey fur coat strolls down the hill. She is wreathed in misty cigarette smoke.

A black and white cat hurries across our road between parked cars. The air is still. No movement in the leafless trees. A thick layer of cloud conceals the blue firmament and the golden orb above where silver aeroplanes and kaleidoscopic  kites fly. Down here the suburbs shiver in an empty monochrome haze. Like blood, nearly all colour has been leached away.

We are waiting for February to arrive. Fabulous February.

26 January 2017


Yesterday morning was bright and shiny but because of my afternoon Oxfam shop shift, there was no time to drive out into the countryside for a nice long ramble. Instead, I decided to have a stroll round one of Sheffield's southern suburbs - Woodseats. It's only a couple of miles from our house.

Mt top picture is in the style of The 2016 Blogger of the Year - namely Steve Reed of Shadows & Light. He often shows us shopfronts with people passing by them.

I passed "The Chantrey Arms" and snapped the pub sign:-
I wandered up the hillside towards another suburb - Norton Woodseats and on the way  I snapped these Edwardian semi-detached houses. Beyond them there is a magnificent view over south Sheffield - looking in the direction of our house:-
In Woodseats there are several streets of brick-built terraced houses. The street below is called Nettleham Road:-
To get to the little back yards and gardens there are covered passageways between the houses. Below there is a random example of what I mean:-
I thought I might treat myself to lunch at The Woodseats Palace. Beforehand, I nipped into a charity shop and bought a book about watercolour painting for fifty pence. I could read it while waiting for my order to arrive - a brunch consisting of two fried eggs, smoked bacon, sausages, baked beans and chips (french fries) with a mug of coffee. Delicious and not too much acrylamide either.

Before heading back to my car, I spotted these two amigos outside "Dos Amigos" - an Italian/Mexican restaurant. They were probably weighing up the merits of burritos as compared with ravioli.
And so back home - car safely parked and  I was off down the hill to another shift at Oxfam. It had been nice to get out in the morning - taking advantage of the weather instead of sitting on my buttocks squandering time on the internet.

25 January 2017


At the start of this week, Britain woke up to the terrible news that dark toast and roasted potatoes can trigger cancer. Apparently, when we overcook starchy foods, a dastardly chemical is released. It is called acrylamide. Government scientists advise us to eat lightly golden toast and less crispy roasted potatoes. We are further advised not to store potatoes in our fridges as this curious habit can also encourage the production of the dreaded acrylamide. See link

I must confess that before the news broke, I had never encountered the word acrylamide before but since I heard it I have not been able to sleep - tossing and turning, my head filled with pictures of slightly burnt toast and roasted potatoes and worries about contracting cancer. In my life I have eaten many loaves worth of burnt toast and a house-sized pile of roasted potatoes. Perhaps it is already too late for me. Even as I write this blogpost the cancer is probably already gnawing away at my insides!

Over the years there have been many health scares connected with foodstuffs. For example, we were once advised to make sure that we always peel carrots as carrot skin can absorb traces of the pesticides used in modern farming. Those pesticides are carcinogenic. 

It's the same with processed meats and sausages. According to The World Health Organisation, each 50g of processed meat a day - the equivalent of one sausage, or less than two slices of bacon - increases the chance of developing bowel cancer by 18 per cent.

There's no hope for the human race. Everywhere we look there's cancer-inducing danger. In fact we might think of a supermarket as the place you go to gather the stuff that will kill you.

And here's the latest horror story - hot off the press. Scientists in the Department of Food Health at Gullible State University in Utah, USA are warning that  too much consumption of fresh water can cause excessive urination. Apparently, drinking three pints of fresh water in an hour can stimulate powerful urination urges. Frequent urination can be injurious to health as each act of urination causes the body to expel vital digestive salts that protect the stomach and bowels from cancer-inducing elements contained within  any  normal diet. 

We are advised to drastically reduce our water intake, replacing water with other liquids such as beer, wine and Coca Cola - a benevolent little American company which  kindly sponsor the Department of Food Health at Gullible State University. By the way, it is even claimed that a litre of Coca Cola a day will counter any of the ill-effects caused by casual acrylamide consumption.

23 January 2017


Earlier today, while walking in the post-industrial environs of Staveley, North East Derbyshire, I spotted this graffiti on a gateway:-
"I Will Always Love You" is not just the title of  Dolly Parton's great song, it is also a line that is communicated by many people at some stage in their life. The words might be written or spoken but in this instance they appear in silver-white writing on a gate that leads to a land reclamation project at Staveley Town Basin - once an important staging post on the old Chesterfield Canal.

Having closely witnessed the handwriting habits and styles of thousands of teenagers, I would say that this particular declaration was made by a teenage girl aged between thirteen and sixteen. Was she with the object of her affections when she scrawled the message or did she expect him/her to see it when walking along that same path?

In Dolly Parton's case, the sentiments contained in "I Will Always Love You" related to her breaking up with her lover and professional partner Porter Wagoner. Singing those five words back in 1973 was a way of saying goodbye. And I think that is rather sad. "I will always love you" should not be goodbye words  but an affirmative declaration filled with hope for the future.

22 January 2017


Sunlight on Agden Reservoir
A lazy Sunday morning and a lazy blogpost. All I'm going to do is is share some more pictures from my Friday walk in the parish of Bradfield. It was a brief interlude in the greyness which is back again this morning even though the pesky weather forecasters predicted sunshine.
On the edge of Low Bradfield I came across this disused building. I thought it was an old barn but then I spotted an early nineteenth century plaque above one of the doors. It reads like this "1826/ Rebuilt at the Curate's sole cost./Nemo soli sibi natus". Translated, the Latin phrase means "Nobody is born alone". Why would such a plaque appear on a barn? I have been unable to solve this riddle. (Later - see update below)
 Below, a bridge takes Smallfield Lane over the point where Rocher End Brook  meets the reservoir.
 Above, a bright contrail is reflected on the surface of the reservoir which, because of the wooded hillside to the west is now shrouded in shadow.
 Above, another view of Boot's Folly which dates from 1927. It was built under the instructions of the landowner to keep his men in gainful employment during The Great Depression. Below, a ruined farm building near Low Bradfield - especially for Meike in Ludwigsburg, Germany. In fact, I hereby name it The Meike Building...
UPDATE re. the plaque at Bradfield
I wrote to the secretary of The Bradfield Historical Society and he kindly e-mailed me back...
"The inscription in Latin and it is my understanding that it goes back to the time before there was a Rector at Bradfield St. Nicholas and a Curate would come either from Hathersage or Ecclesfield and was put up for the night or couple of days at Fair House Farm and in recompense for his stay/keep at the farm gave money for the building of the barn at his own expense"

21 January 2017


Up here in Yorkshire, the weather has been pretty dismal most of the week. Occasionally, we get winter weeks like this when our world is blanketed by  a thick, unbroken layer of cloud. Above it aeroplanes will no doubt be flying in bright sunshine but down below we exist in a murky half'-light.

When I pulled back the curtains yesterday morning, it was another grey day. That is what the weather forecasters had predicted so the gloominess was no surprise. I had an idea for a poem and once downstairs with this laptop switched on, I began to compose it. Here it is:-
Have you ever heard of  Sod's Law? As I was honing these lines, an unfamiliar  brightness appeared in the January sky and through our bay window I even spotted a small patch of blue. The meteorological people had got it wrong! The grey days were at last giving way to light.and colour.

Standing in the shower, I contemplated a country walk - not too far away from home. Ten minutes later I was on my way to the parish of Bradfield for a sunny walk round Agden Reservoir and it was quite delightful to be out and about once more... walking in the light.
A view of Boot's Folly
St Nicholas's Church, High Bradfield

20 January 2017


An old wooden clock and a red mug. This was the challenge I faced at my second evening class on Thursday night. It wasn't easy. I had to keep looking. The tutor, John, kept floating around the room distributing positive remarks. In the end, I was fairly happy with the final product but these classes are not about the production of masterpieces, they are about learning, honing techniques and simply getting better.

Before next week's class, I plan to do a little homework - using a photograph I have taken as the basis for a new watercolour. A good way to use a spare couple of hours.

19 January 2017


One of the downsides of internet surfing is advertising. Some legitimate sites are framed in advertisements and it is easy to click on them accidentally. They crowd around some pages like traps for the unwary.

Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a cunning new phenomenon. You are tempted to click by a small photo with an enticing invitation or question such as "World's Best Beach" or "Which Hollywood star lost fifty pounds in six months?" Then you find yourself having to click again and again in order to get to the information you were promised. There's always a "Next" button.

You might have to plough through twenty build-up pages to reach what you were after, wasting five or ten minutes of your life. As you move through the pages you notice that there are plenty of ads. on view. This method of drawing internet users in and getting them to tarry, moving through the linked pages, is surely just a cunning means of securing advertising revenue.
For innocent visitors, it is very frustrating. We don't want to tarry. We want to get to the world's best beach or that Hollywood star straight away.  We don't want to be played like gullible fools.

Another thing we notice is the tracking that occurs through hidden "cookies". For example, a couple of nights ago I was looking at accommodation in Southend-on-Sea. Then when I went into my hotmail account I was confronted with holiday apartment and hotel ads for yes, you guessed it, Southend-on-Sea. Clearly, this was not a coincidence.

The internet is a magical phenomenon. Blogging with people from around the world is part of that magic. But where there is ying there is also yang and increasingly cunning methods of advertising are, in my view, a big downside of internet use. These intrusive ads irritate, annoy and threaten to spoil our experience of the worldwide web showing blatant disrespect for internet users. In an ideal world, methods of internet advertising would be monitored and controlled by independent authorities. Instead, the advertisers seem to have free rein to employ whatever methods they wish.

18 January 2017


After leaving university, I started teaching English in South Yorkshire. Thirty two years later I was an assistant headteacher but still head of the  English department. It was at this stage that I opted for early retirement. After all, almost without me noticing, I had become the oldest teacher in the school.

As what they called a "middle manager", there were always so many things to remember. At first, I used a desk diary as an aide memoire. That was okay when I was at my desk but I often found  there were things to jot down when I was away from my classroom. Consequently, for the last nineteen years of my illustrious teaching career I opted for pocket diaries instead. Where ever I was, the diary would be in the inner pocket of my jacket.

Each summer these pocket diaries were filed away in our old bureau desk at home. And there they sat - all in a line and never reopened. I wish that the entries within had been journalistic, recording what had happened each day with associated reflections but they were not that kind of diary.

Instead they contained swiftly written notes and reminders connected with teaching and department management. Dates of meetings - pastoral, department, heads of department, whole school staff meetings and appointments with parents, advisers, book sales people, the police, educational psychologists and social workers. Names of pupils caught fighting behind the tennis courts. Internal exam dates. External exam dates. Phone numbers. Library visits and planned staff absences. Deadline dates for assessments and work experience visits. And there were notes connected with my own teaching groups - homework issues, absences, merit awards etc..
From April 1991
I guess that someone somewhere, perhaps in an ivory tower, might have valued these diaries as historical evidence of a secondary school teacher's lot in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries but when I spotted them earlier this week I just thought it was time they went. Sometimes you need to be ruthless. You can't hang on to everything so  at last  I have consigned them to the recycling bin.

But before ditching them I took the accompanying photographs to remind me of that other life I lived. At the time, it frequently seemed that there was nothing more important in the world than that last school with its 900 pupils and the things that happened in it but really we were like little fish in a small aquarium. There was of course an infinitely bigger and more significant world beyond that glass tank.

17 January 2017


"La La Land"
directed by Damien Chazelle

You know how it is. You go to watch a film with someone and afterwards when you have negotiated your way past the other cinemagoers, one of you says, "What did you think?" Well I went to see the much-acclaimed "La La Land" on Sunday with Mrs Pudding and it turns out she had been surprisingly underwhelmed by  the spectacle while I thought it was delightful with beautiful imagery and a fluidity both in the storyline and the camera work.

"La La Land" sounds like it might be the place where we are all currently living but up there on the screen it was a beautiful, light-hearted place of song and dance, a place where dreams can come true and where there are many subtle nods to the history of Hollywood and its musicals.

At its centre there's Mia played by Emma Stone and Sebastian played by Ryan Gosling. She is a wannabe film actress and screenwriter while he is a frustrated jazz pianist. Their lives collide and they find love. It's a familiar story.

The Los Angeles background to events is a clean and underpopulated place of happiness and hope. No down and outs pushing trolleys, no smog hanging over the city like  a quilt - but you wouldn't want that. It's not that kind of film. This is a joyous fantasy.

A  musical thread runs through the show, "City of stars, are you shining just for me?". It kept echoing, linking the developing plot as Mia and Sebastian find themselves in a dramatic battle between ambition and the heart.

There were so many lovely images. Our two stars dance amidst the stars and upon stars reflected in water. They visit the famous Griffith Observatory which featured in, amongst other films, "Rebel Without A Cause". They see live jazz and the lights of Los Angeles twinkling in the valley below. Yes, it's quite, quite lovely. A beautiful escape from this other "la la land" of Trump and Brexit and drowning refugees. At least that is what I thought.

16 January 2017


I have blogged about the English poet Philip Larkin before. See here.

He was born in Coventry in 1922 and died in Hull in 1985, having been the head librarian at The University of Hull for thirty years.  His poetry was of the modern age, perceptive and often melancholic. There is humour there if you care to peel away the layers but he is often thought of as glum and depressive. He once said that deprivation was to him what daffodils were to Wordsworth. It was perhaps the aching ordinariness of life beneath all the pretence that inspired him. He was always seeking truth, like a knight of old seeking the holy grail but his private life was suburban and rather dull.

On Saturday morning, before watching my beloved Hull City beat Bournemouth 3-1, I took a special detour to the cemetery in Cottingham in order to see Philip Larkin's grave. It is unremarkable -  a little white gravestone in a regimented row. There's a simple inscription - 
Philip Larkin
1922 - 1985
I wondered who chose that single word - "Writer". Perhaps Larkin himself. I speculated why the word wasn't "Librarian" or "Poet" or even "Man".

It was a sunny day but tall trees and hedging to the south of the cemetery stubbornly prevented sunbeams from illuminating the face of the gravestone as I pointed my camera at it. Later, I found myself inspired to write a poem for Larkin. 

He died at the very age that I have now reached. I have known his poetry since I was fifteen and in the 1980's teaching A level English Literature, I had to cover his collection "Whitsun Weddings". My students found it quite intriguing. He really spoke to them. But then he went away where the rest of us must follow.

15 January 2017


Extracts from the diary of Randall V Grotsky Jr - Camp Counsellor at Hilltop Summer Camp near Binghamptopn NY Summer of 1956.

May 20th  - Training is now over and we are ready for our charges. It's lovely up here in the woods. The air is so pure and clean. There's a guy from my old high school in Albany. I used to date his sister. Oh wait a minute... I just heard something outside. There it goes again. Could be a racoon... maybe a bear. Gee! Anyways I need to turn in now. Can't wait for tomorrow.

May 21st - My boys are called The Wyandottes. We've got a great group day base overlooking the lake. There's fourteen boys altogether but one of them was AWOL today. He'll join us tomorrow. We had lots of fun canoeing in the lake and then we had a cook out with sloppy joes and root beer. It was so cool.Some great little guys. They're mostly from The Big Apple. One kid - Marvin lives right near my folks' place in Yonkers.

May 22nd - The new boy arrived in a black Cadillac from Queens. He's kind of mean looking and quite athletic. Most of the other boys already knew him from last year. They call him Donny. When I tried to introduce myself he said "Who the hell are you punk?" The other boys ,laughed and I wasn't sure what to do. On the softball field Donny refused to walk when he was caught. He said the ball had bounced and refused to budge. He called me "Punk" again and some of the other boys followed his example.

May 25th - The first week is through. Cars came to pick up the campers. Nearly all are heading home to NY City but there's a couple of kids from Syracuse. Donny taunts them, calling them "Saras" or "The Gals from Saracuse".  I spoke to Roman - The Head Counsellor - about this "Punk" label but Roman says I've just got to live with it and win the boys' respect. Yesterday (Thursday) Donny tried to drown Marvin (the kid from Yonkers). He had a panic attack. Donny and his little gang were laughing. "What's your problem Punk?" he asked me when I tried to confront him about what had happened. Anyway, a whole weekend without kids! Whoo-hoo! Tomorrow night with some of the other counsellors I'm heading into Binghmapton to watch a movie - "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers"

May 28th - Canoeing. Archery. Art and Free Camp Time. Donny said he couldn't see the point of art and flicked paint at Mary-Beth, the art counsellor from Kentucky. It spattered all over her spectacles. Donny said it wasn't him. In Archery he disobeyed Bob's safety instruction, firing an arrow at a target when Bob was still checking the scoring. Bob was real mad and grabbed Donny by the arm but Donny yelled "Get off you friggin' queer!" and threatened to tell his father who is a big property developer in Queens.

June 1st - So pleased that the weekend has come round again. Maybe I'm not cut out to be a counsellor. I thought I was good with kids but since Donny appeared in The Wyandottes, I'm not so sure any more. On Wednesday during Camp Free Time, Donny got all the other boys to pile on top of me. He got my wallet out of my pocket and started laughing at the photo of my mom and dad, saying they looked like dumb Polacks. At lunch yesterday (Thursday) he announced that his dad paid a lot of dough to Hilltop and he wanted proper food not sloppy joes or root beer. "Give us steak!" he chanted and of course other boys joined in. I'm starting to hate the brat.

June 7th - I just can't take it any more. I'm gonna quit. Maybe I'll get fired anyway. Donny provoked me so much at the campcraft class that I grabbed his shoulders and pushed him up against a wall. It was like he wanted it. A big beaming grin broke across his face, like he knew I'd lost it. "Yeah! You're such a big guy Punk! I'm ten years old. How old are you Punk?"

June 8th - I just got fired. Donny was in the camp office with his father. He was sobbing fake tears and he layered his accusations on nice and thick, saying I had punched him in the campcraft session and tried to throttle him, that I had repeatedly called him "Flat Top" and that I had "touched" him in the rest room. It was all fake, fake, fake! Ted Lewis, the camp manager begged Donny's father not to involve the police and suggested that firing me would be enough.I don't know what I am gonna do for the rest of the summer. Maybe I'll go and stay with my grandparents on Long Island. Try to get a job at the ice cream parlour like last summer. I don't know how I'll explain all this to my folks.

June 12th - I just discovered the word "PUNK" scratched in the paintwork of my Beetle - probably with a penknife. Now I wonder who could have done that?

14 January 2017


Please don't snigger. On Thursday evening I attended my first art class for many's the long year. I sat in a room with fifteen other adult Sheffielders and produced what I think is a passable watercolour picture.

The teacher, John, was encouraging - not dictatorial. He insisted that we would find our own tricks, our own methods of painting. He wasn't about to say. "This is how I do it and you must do exactly the same!"

He began by talking about different qualities of paper and the great usefulness of stretching paper before applying water or paint. He said we would understand what he meant when working upon unstretched paper during our first two hour session.
And if you look at my first attempt you will see that the paper appears somewhat dappled as it has reacted to water and the painting process. I hope that next week I can go along with my own stretched paper as this will make the process easier and more fulfilling.

We were working from photographs that John had distributed. As you can see there is a man at the water's edge. Perhaps he has something on his mind or maybe he just needs an influx of healing solitude.

Anyway, I enjoyed the first class. There are five more to attend. I chose to do it as a spark - to ignite more artwork. I know I can do it if I only try. Long ago when I was eighteen I gained an A grade at A level in Art and also won the school's art prize. I have neglected this talent for far too long. There must be an end to procrastination.

13 January 2017


On Wednesday, I set off early from home en route to Oxfam, making a detour through Endcliffe Park. Queen Victoria looked down on me imperiously. This statue once stood in the very heart of Sheffield but in 1930 it was exiled here - possibly because of traffic issues in the centre of the city or maybe because the socialist-leaning city council no longer wished to view The Empress of India when scurrying to attend town hall meetings about poverty, water supplies, education, housing etcetera.

The cafe looked rather quiet. It's very popular on summer afternoons - especially at the weekend. A young father was taking his toddler daughter for  a stroll in the park - she with her first bicycle dressed in a warm pink jumpsuit.
A young woman was sitting cross-legged under a tree, scribbling in her diary. I wondered what she was writing. Half an hour later I saw the same young woman entering "The Lescar" public house on Sharrow Vale Road. Her attire was what you might describe as bohemian and there was something slightly melancholic about her. Not many young women scribble in diaries these days. They're  usually checking out Facebook or exchanging Instagram messages with friends. This girl seemed deeper than that.
Of course Sheffield was built upon steel industries and that fact was in my mind when I snapped a picture of Number 1, Steel Road. Steel Road? Seems a very appropriate street name in a City of Steel. It links Neill  Road with Sharrow Vale Road. From there I walked on to Frog Walk, down by The River Porter where the old snuff mill still stands and along to the General Cemetery. But there was no time for further investigations of its sprawling jumble of  Victorian graves. It was time to get to work.

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