28 February 2017


Allo! Salut! Coucou! Bonjour La France!

Regular visitors to this humble Yorkshire blog may already be wondering why this post has begun with a happy greeting to our Gallic neighbours across La Manche (English Channel). Well, my jolly amis de Blogeur, it is all to do with this blog's statistics.

Regarding audience locations, Yorkshire Pudding's leaders have always been Great Britain (aka UK) and The United States of America. Other countries that have consistently figured in the audience top ten are Australia, Canada and Germany.

However, in the past month, the majority of page views have been from France - 24,481 in total compared with only 6,433 from the USA and  4438 from Great Britain. 

It's hard to know what's happening - especially as there have been no visitor comments from France that I am aware of. . If you are French and you are reading this post, please suggest why there has been such a surge in page views from your jolie country. Merci beaucoup.

I have read a couple of articles recently about Russian involvement in Western European politics. Some believe that British social media and opinion polling  were both infiltrated by Russian trolls ahead of our depressing Brexit decision. They may also be digging away under the surface to bring nationalist Marine Le Pen to power  in France.

I don't fully understand what is going on but it is not inconceivable that this somehow explains the puzzling numerical growth in visits from France.  Alternatively, a legion of innovative French teachers may be using "Yorkshire Pudding" on interactive whiteboards to illustrate the elegance and flexibility of the English language. Who knows?

27 February 2017


"Smidgeon" or sometimes "smidgen". I like the sound of that word but  rarely use it. However...

Late on Friday night, I ventured down to the local pub for a couple of pints. Over the years, without making prior arrangements,  there has usually been somebody there to chat with but on Friday I was sitting on my tod like Sad Sack.

Rose, the tattooed Australian barmaid, was clearing tables and she called across to me, "Having a good night?"

"Best night of my life," I retorted.

"Do I detect a note of sarcasm?" she asked.

"Just a smidgeon," I smiled.

In the moments immediately following, I pondered where the hell that strange sounding word came from. - smidgeon - and this afternoon I have just got round to doing the online research.

It seems it hasn't been present in English for very long. Usage can only be traced back as far as the late nineteenth century but before that nothing.

Most etymologists deduce that it came into English from Irish or possibly Scottish Gaelic. The words smidin and smuitín are used in the Irish language to describe small things like bits of paper or flecks of paint, little smudges etc.. It is very likely that the word smithereens also emerged from this Gaelic source. When you blow something to smithereens, you blow it into little pieces.

I would conjecture that the arrival of "smidgeon" owed much to two historical factors. Firstly, the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century saw many Irish people leaving their homeland to seek work elsewhere. Secondly, with The Industrial Revolution in full swing over here in England, the demand for cheap labour was enormous. Rather than heading for America or Australia, thousands of desperate Irish folk chose to seek their fortunes in England, Wales and Scotland instead. We had roads and railways to build, textile mills, metal foundries and engineering works too.

As well as bringing their muscle power, the Irish would have also brought their language, sharing it with the communities they joined. There are numerous other Irish words that have gained lasting footholds in the English language including hooligan, slogan, slob, gob, phony and brogue. Interestingly, like smidgeon their usage also began in the mid-nineteenth century.

The origin of English words is fascinating isn't it? Have you got any other  interesting words you can share?

26 February 2017


A young woman in a bobble hat sits upon a rock on The Bole Hills looking westwards to the Sheffield suburb of Stannington and beyond that to the Loxley Valley and Broomhead Moors. Several small metalworking industries were once located on The Bole Hills. Those men of old harnessed the winds that surged up the valleys to increase the temperatures in their boles and little furnaces. It wasn't easy to melt metal.

Perhaps those lead, bronze and iron men of yore would sometimes take breaks from their labours and sit upon that selfsame rock looking to the west, considering their lives and their futures and wondering about the beauty of our world. 

And then I walked to Slinn Street, Sheffield 10 close to where we used to live before moving to our present house in Sheffield 11. I took this picture of a house called "Mount Pleasant" which enjoys a commanding view of The Don Valley:-
Suddenly feeling the urge to use a lavatory, I nipped into "The Princess Royal" public house. Upon lifting the seat, I spotted this:-
Sheffield United is one of this city's professional football teams. The other is Sheffield Wednesday. As you may have already guessed "The Princess Royal" is a Wednesday pub. What could be more insulting to a sporting adversary than to advertise its existence upon a toilet seat? Perhaps this kind of toilet humour is a Yorkshire thing.
For "Shooting Parrots" Sunday Round-Up. Go here.

24 February 2017


"Manchester by the Sea". What a wonderful film! Shirley and I went to see it as Storm Doris was arriving from the west. It was nice to be sitting snugly in a dark cinema as Kenneth Lonergan's masterpiece unfolded upon the silver screen and bad weather marauded outside.

The cinematography and the varied musical soundtrack were both brilliant - enhancing a painful story of loss and recovery. The central character is Lee Chandler played by Casey Affleck who bears a weight of sorrow. He had escaped Manchester to get a humble job as a janitor and handyman in a Boston apartment block. But initially the audience has no idea what brought him to this juncture. It takes a while for this to be revealed.

He is called back to Manchester by the Sea following the sudden death of his older brother, Joe. To Lee Chandler's horror his brother had  chosen him to be the guardian of his nephew - sixteen year old Patrick played by Lucas Hedges. Gradually learning to embrace this responsibility, Lee begins to claw his way out of the emotional hollow in which he has been residing.

Kenneth Lonergan has a short cameo role - rather like Alfred Hitchcock. He witnesses Chandler berating his nephew in the street and grumbles under his breath, "great parenting!" which causes Chandler to fly off the handle again.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away in case you get to see the film yourself. Suffice to say that as we emerged from the darkness of Screen Two, we encountered a couple we know and I was asked how I would score "Manchester by the Sea" out of ten. I replied, "Nine and a half" but on reflection perhaps I should have said ten. 

Casey Affleck added subtle depths to his troubled role. He was often brooding, angry, self-absorbed, guilty or  wounded - endowing the role of Lee Chandler with human vulnerability and confusion. If he doesn't win the "best actor" award at this weekend's Oscars then something is terribly amiss.

23 February 2017


The title of this blogpost should be "Red Deer" but that would involve two words and since I embarked upon this blogging journey, I have only ever used one word titles. Anyway - Red Deer - not the four-legged creatures that roam about the Scottish Highlands but a town in the middle of the Canadian province of Alberta. Currently it has a population of just over 100,000 but back in 1901 when it was first given township status, it only had a population of 323.

The present citizenship mostly consists of white folk of European extraction (88.4%) and the next significant group are Métis people - descendants of First Nation inhabitants who mixed with the original white settlers (3.1%).

In just over a hundred years, Red Deer has established itself as the third most significant city in Alberta - after Calgary and Edmonton. It's amazing to think that such a short time ago it was little more than a river crossing. Now it has fifty schools, shopping centres, parks and industries as well as modern homes often set in spacious grounds. With all the greenery and trees you might say that Red Deer has evolved into a beautiful garden city.

Last week, I climbed aboard the Google Streetview car to cruise around Oldham, Lancashire but this week I am off to Red Deer to see what we can see in six equally random pictures snipped from Google imagery...
Red Deer Golf and Country Club
Red Deer River
Red Deer City Hall
Exclusive Spencer Street in the southern suburbs
The Riverside Meadows area - often seen as the toughest neighbourhood of Red Deer.
And finally The Club Cafe with its attached massage parlour. This 
is known to be very popular with senior male members of the local 
birdwatching fraternity... including Red from "Hiawatha House".

22 February 2017


LATER NOTE: Usually a poem should speak to its readers without explanation but with regard to "Poor Tree" I have something to say. The other day, in an idle moment, I realised that the term "poetry" sounds just the same as "poor tree". Why it had taken me sixty years to reach this realisation, I have no idea. 

And then I thought about the toughness of solitary moorland trees - windblown and exposed, perhaps as poetry should sometimes be. Seeking truth, seeing the world clearly, selecting the right words - all of this requires a certain hardiness - like the tree clinging on to the hill.

I could claim that this elusive poem has nothing much to do with trees. It's really about poetry and the quest for truth and understanding. In this, the tree becomes merely a metaphor for tenacity - something that endures "when all is lost".

For the illustration, I remembered a tree I had photographed in October 2013, by a track that leads up from Shireoaks Farm near Malcoff in The Peak District. It seemed to possess the character of poetry - a "poor tree" on the edge.

21 February 2017


We are thinking of visiting The Isle of Anglesey in April. We have only ever driven across it to get to the ferry port at Holyhead but have never properly visited it. Last night I was looking for accommodation - sifting through a whole bunch of listings. 

Of course, the owners want to "big up" their properties, making them seem desirable and worth booking. They often use positive, flowery language for describing both the accommodation and the surrounding area. Here was one example. I have emboldened the subtly impactful descriptive vocabulary:-

The rural village of Llanddaniel Fab is ideally situated just 2 miles from the beautiful Menai Straits, on the south coast of the delightful Isle of Anglesey, and provides a local shop and an all weather, 9 hole golf course. Discover the magnificent Llanddwyn Beach, 3 miles of golden sands boasting stunning walks and striking views across the glistening sea toward the Welsh Mountains, or explore the fascinating National Nature Reserve, renowned for its colourful birdlife, whispering forest and huge sweep of marshes and dunes. The National Trust's Plas Newydd country house and gardens is a short drive and well worth a visit.The whole of the island boasts superb watersports, fishing, diving and walking opportunities. A wonderful location for a varied and enjoyable holiday.

Just for fun, I have written an alternative, downbeat version of this blurb...

The isolated settlement of Llanddaniel Fab is located two miles from the dangerous Menai Straits. on the rocky coast of the impoverished Island of Anglesey and only has a basic local shop and a small golf course that some desperate golfers even tackle in the rain. Relieve the tedium by trudging to litter-strewn Llanddwyn Beach, three miles of monotonous sand that furtive dog owners plod along sometimes looking across the grey Irish Sea towards the equally grey and cloudy Welsh hills, or instead you might want to go to the mildly interesting National Nature Reserve, where bird spotters in khaki anoraks scribble sightings of common birds in old notebooks and where there's an impenetrable pine plantation and a large area of boggy ground with windswept sand dunes. The National Trust's expensive Plas Newydd estate house and grounds is several miles away and something to do if you can't think of anything else. At a few places on the coast of the island you can pay through the nose for watersport activities in the freezing sea. There's also fishing - but don't expect to catch anything, diving - but you won't see anything and of course long, tiring walks. A satisfactory place to go for a budget break.

But that was just an exercise. I think we'll still be going to Anglesey and have failed to persuade myself otherwise.
North Wales

20 February 2017


I wanted to begin this post with the following sentence - Last night I went to Timbuctu - but unfortunately Google Streetview vehicles have not yet been there. So instead I am going to begin this travel post with...

Last night I went to Oldham, Lancashire. Why Oldham, Lancashire? Because last year it was deemed to be the most deprived town in England. There may be other, more deprived communities such as Moorends in Yorkshire or Jaywick in Essex but as a whole borough or town, Oldham comes out on top... or bottom, how ever you might want to look at it.

My grandmother was first married in Oldham and I have been to Oldham Athletic's football ground to watch Hull City play. I also have a good friend who hails from Oldham but really I don't know the place at all. 

In the nineteenth century, it became the most productive cotton spinning town in the world but today its textile industry has more or less died away. It sits just to the north of Manchester, home to 100,000 people, 27% of whom are officially classified as "Asian" which is a direct legacy of the town's historic  textile industries.

In 1900 it had the largest concentration of fish and chip shops in the world - one for every four hundred people and as we all know the tubular bandage was invented and developed in Oldham - a "vital contribution to advancing medical science".

But that's enough factual background. Let's have a look at six random picture of Oldham. Can we see visible evidence of the town's deprivation?
Afghan Strret with nineteenth century terraces to the left and
new social housing to the right.
 "The Egerton Arms" and Egerton Estate in the St Mary's area of the town below. This is believed to be the poorest neighbourhood in Oldham with 88.4% of residents claiming at least one kind of welfare benefit.
Regency Close near Werneth Park - an area of aspiration and relative affluence.
On Yorkshire Street I spotted the Tymbuktu Health and Beauty Shop Why the
mis-spelling? I have no idea. Perhaps the "Y" adds a touch of offbeat sophistication.
An old cotton mill  on Suthers Street. Now various industrial units.
So there we have it. A little trip to Oldham. What I learnt from this exercise is that deprivation is not easy to spot. It's kind of hidden away behind closed doors and even in towns that are classed as being especially poor you will still find pockets of pleasantness - decent homes belonging to people with money in the bank and hydrangeas in their gardens.

Who knows where my next Streetview excursion will take us?

18 February 2017


Today we met up with Shirley's sister and her boyfriend. They have been seeing each other for a good few months now. The only trouble is that he lives in The Channel Islands while she lives in a village near Selby, Yorkshire. We met in Thorne and enjoyed a pleasant lunch together in "The Punchbowl Inn". He seemed like a pleasant fellow and it is great that Shirley's sister has found him. Her husband died in 2011 so it has been quite a long time since she had a man in her life.

Afterwards, Shirley and I drove to the nearby settlement of Moorends. I had an idea that we might stroll to The Humberhead Peatlands Nature Reserve but it was a bit far. We passed the site of Thorne Colliery where there is now a solar farm. I find that rather ironic.

I am sure that there are many decent and happy people in Moorends but the place itself seems desolate and unloved. The houses were nearly all built by the local council or The National Coal Board. There's a dearth of trees but  plenty of litter, broken concrete and dog faeces. Two laughing yobs careered past us in the street on exhaust belching go-karts that were probably acquired illegally. On the main street there are basic shops and takeaways - the stuff of survival, not aspiration. This is the "other" England - forgotten, neglected. Just east of Doncaster, on the wrong side of the railway track.

Where Grange Road meets Northgate, a forlorn pony was tethered to a stake on rough wasteground. I wanted to release him and lead him off into the sunset and freedom but I guess he has an important role to play as the living symbol of Moorends. Poor thing. He looked at me through his unkempt fringe as if to say "What kind of life is this?"


Trump keeps banging on about "fake news" but there's plenty of fakery about him. His complexion is unnaturally bronzed - as if he applies foundation cream each morning. Then there's his weird hair. Once it was dark brown but now it's kind of blonde and it balances on his head like a Scottish sporran. Just occasionally you get tantalising glimpses of the baldness beneath the sporran. But what about his teeth? A row of ultra-white porcelain veneers that must have cost him a fortune. These are certainly not the natural teeth of a seventy year old man.

And what about his marriage? Even that seems fake to me. The Slovenian immigrant Melania languishes happily in New York City whilst "The Donald" plays up to the cameras in Washington D.C.. And whenever they meet her body language speaks volumes about the repulsion she feels deep inside. They're just playing at being President and First Lady.

One of the things I really don't get about the "fake news" accusations is that America's press and news services are pretty conservative and tend towards The Republicans. Surely it would have been in Trump's own interest to placate them and bring them on board. But at every opportunity he denigrates them just like his laughable pipsqueak of a White House press secretary - Sean Spicer.

Great to see Spicer lampooned brilliantly on "Saturday Night Live" by Melissa McCarthy. Go here.

17 February 2017


A break from decorating. So where did I go? To my painting class of course! But the painting class doesn't cover matt emulsion or the best way to use paint rollers. No. It's about Art with a big "A".

This was the last of six sessions. I am pleased to say that the class has given me a boost and I suspect and hope  I will continue with the pastime in a solitary fashion. It has been a case of rediscovering my mojo.

Meike in Ludwigsburg, Germany asked if I might make a picture of a fox for her so this evening I took along a photo of the old fox that used to come in our garden. We called him Fred Fox and this is the photograph I decided to base my painting upon:-
Working on coloured paper, this is the version of Fred Fox that I created after two hours at the final Art class. Perhaps Meike will like it but if she doesn't I will try to make her a different fox painting.

15 February 2017


Caramel Latte
Out there in the blogosphere, it may have appeared that the author of this blog has been keeping a low profile over the past few days. Such a suspicion is accurate because I have been engaged in a grim, time-consuming human activity called decorating which is only slightly less onerous than grave digging.

The target for my endeavours has been our front room or lounge or sitting room -  whatever you want to call it. Before the decorating begins there's the moving of furniture. I took most of the furniture out of the room but I was still left with two leather sofas which I placed on top of each other in the centre of the room. Of course there's also the carpet which needed to be protected from possible paint spills as we do not plan to replace it - just give it a damned good clean when the decorating is done.

Above the picture rail, I have painted the frieze areas and the ceiling almond white using brushes and rollers. Plenty of this almond white emulsion paint finished up on my hands. One substantial blob of it plopped into my right eye and a smaller blob landed on the end of my nose. When decorating I wear paint-splattered old clothes and trainers (American: sneakers) and I leave my nice wristwatch by our bed for obvious reasons. Yesterday, when I took an empty paint can out to our wheelie bin, our next door neighbour Tony grinned at my stylish apparel and asked,"What are you painting today Picasso?" Cheeky monkey!

The almond white went on top of barley white but the difference between these two colours is so slight that you can only really tell where you have painted in daylight. In electric light, the two colours appear to merge into one.

The walls have been easier in that I didn't have to balance on aluminium step ladders and also the new colour - caramel latte - is somewhat different from the previous wall colour. To get behind the central heating radiator, I used a long-armed roller which worked a treat and meant I didn't have to remove the radiator sending mucky water squirting everywhere.

The job isn't over yet. I still have to do the skirting boards, radiator, window ledge and the picture rail in white satin paint. Then time must be left for the paint to dry properly before I get the furniture back in place. As it happens, the two leather sofas which we have had for about twenty years will soon be replaced. We ordered two new "La-Z- Boy" sofas from a local department store before Christmas and they have now arrived in the warehouse earlier than expected. That is what sent me spiralling into a decorating frenzy.

When undertaking decorating projects, it used to be that I could bounce up and down like a tree frog but these days I have dicky knees and have to be careful when kneeling down or getting up again. I must always remember to use my foam rubber kneeling pads or face the consequences. Even so,  I was hobbling uncomfortably when I strolled out at lunchtime today en route to the Oxfam shop where I put a shift in with no paint pots, rollers, rags , brushes or dust sheets in sight. But they were all waiting for me when I got home.

Nevertheless, as Scarlett O'Hara correctly stated - Tomorrow is another day.
Almond White

14 February 2017


"Human" by Rag and Bone Man ( Rory Graham). Enjoy!
I'm only human
I'm only, I'm only
I'm only human, human

Maybe I'm foolish
Maybe I'm blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what's behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I'm blind
But I'm only human after all
I'm only human after all
Don't put your blame on me
Don't put your blame on me

Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see
Do you see it clearer
Or are you deceived
In what you believe
'Cause I'm only human after all
You're only human after all
Don't put the blame on me
Don't put your blame on me

Some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck
Some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I'm only human after all
I'm only human after all
Don't put the blame on me
Don't put the blame on me

13 February 2017


The 45th President of The United States of America uses handshakes to assert himself and signal his dominance. Did you see the embarrassing way in which he squeezed and held on to Shinzo Abe's hand last week? It was quite disrespectful. Mr Abe was doing his best to pull away but the 45th President held on, beaming triumphantly at the cameras.
Some men are of the opinion that  a handshake should be so firm it's almost vice-like. Perhaps they see it as a way of signalling their manliness or their sincerity or like the 45th President - their dominance. Other men have weak and rather gentle handshakes so that the proffered hand feels like a limp lettuce. My own handshake is in between the two -  firm but not knuckle-cracking. I don't want to dominate, I just want to say hello - we are equal.

You need to be careful with overly firm handshakes as sometimes they can hurt the recipient. He or she may be slightly arthritic or they may have a ring or two on their fingers. They may have had a recent hand injury. Squeezing too hard could be painful.

Another tactic the 45th President employs is to use his spare hand to grip the receiver's arm as if to say, "We are shaking hands but I'm in charge here buddy! Make no mistake!" What at first appears to be a friendly greeting becomes a non-verbal interactive device, a tool of assertion.

I wonder what your philosophy is when it comes to shaking hands with others?

CAPTION COMPETITION - Canadian PM Justin Trudeau
 meeting The 45th President earlier today:-

12 February 2017


Here in England, it used to be the case that double barrelled surnames were the preserve of the rich landowning gentry. Pray rise for Sir Henry and Lady Margaret Ponsonby-Smythe! May I introduce Major Fortescue-McDonald and Sir William Cavendish-Pratt. Often the collision of surnames was connected with estates and noble family histories.

However, during my decades as a secondary school teacher I noticed a growing trend towards double-barrelled surnames in ordinary households.There were various reasons for this phenomenon. Sometimes it was to do with divorce. In other instances it was frequently to do with children being born out of wedlock. Hence Tyson Johnson-Smith was the son of a roofer called Graham Johnson and his mistress Shelley Smith who had two other children by different fathers - Chardonnay O'Reilly-Smith and Cameron Obafemi-Smith.

You can perhaps appreciate the basic reasoning behind these modern surname choices.

But let's suppose that in maturity Chardonnay O'Reilly-Smith hooks up with a fellow called Sam Ramsbottom-Vincent. After a few months, Chardonnay announces that she is pregnant and in due course a beautiful baby is born. Now Sam and Chardonnay are unmarried so how will Baby Elvis be named? Will he have a four-barrelled surname? Elvis O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent?

And move onwards twenty or thirty years - Elvis O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent falls in love with Madonna Gibson-Williams-Brague-Gray. When they have a little baby girl, does she become Adele O'Reilly-Smith-Ramsbottom-Vincent-Gibson-Williams-Brague-Gray? An eight-barrelled surname! 

It's hard to get your head round this but multiple surnames no longer suggest privilege and land ownership. On the contrary, they often suggest dimness, shaky relationships and a lack of historical perspective or foresight. I often felt a little sorry for children from the local council estates who had to suffer double-barrelled last names so heaven  knows how teachers of the future will feel about eight-barrelled surnames. Perhaps some of the teachers will also bear them - Yes Miss Douglas-Raptor-Dalgleish-Hunter-Fitzpatrick-Martinez-Kruschev-Trump, I do know the answer to your question!

11 February 2017


Born into rural poverty in 1793, John Clare spent all the early years of his life in and around the village of Helpston between Stamford and Peterborough in eastern England. As an adult, he was only five feet tall. It is believed that this small stature was the result of malnutrition. Records of 1818 show that in that year he requested and  received  charitable support - what was known as "parish relief".

He had little formal education but as an agricultural labourer he learnt a great deal about the natural world that surrounded him. He was in tune with it and knew its vocabulary and seasonal rhythms intimately. Sometimes he would scribble down his primitive early verse on tree bark as he couldn't afford to buy paper.

The door to publishing may have been forever closed to him had he not stumbled accidentally upon "Seasons" by the eighteenth century Scottish poet James Thompson. It inspired Clare to show some of his own poems to a book seller in nearby Stamford. Co-incidentally the bookseller's cousin worked in publishing in London.

One thing led to another and in 1820 Clare's collection, "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery"  was published. It was a massive turning point in his life. You might say that he was in the right place at the right time. Middle class England had developed  an appetite for new literature and as industrial towns and  cities drew in farm workers and other country folk  there was an associated longing for some kind of lost rural idyll.

Clare's poems celebrated the countryside and as the nineteenth century advanced he became a minor national celebrity, The income he received from his pastoral writing allowed him to just about keep his head above water. However, neither he nor his publisher or his many fans had reckoned on Clare's painful descent into mental ill-health. 

He died in an Essex asylum at the age of seventy one, his body being returned for burial to the churchyard in distant Helpston.
John Clare by William Hilton
& below an example of Clare's poetry...
Emmonsail's Heath in Winter

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps its melancholy wing,
An oddling crow in idle motion swing
On the half-rotten ash-tree's topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.

By John Clare

"awe" - hawthorn berries
"bumbarrels" - long tailed tits
"closen" - small enclosed fields

10 February 2017


What is The Donald drawing in his sketch book? I apologise if you have already seen "Trump Draws". I was alerted to this silly twitter feed by Ian over at Shooting Parrots. It brought a smile to my face and a chuckle up from by belly as I scrolled down. To any Trump supporters offended by this link, tough! I wonder what The Donald will draw next? 

9 February 2017


Recently, I have had to phone an electricity and gas  provider  called Scottish Power on three separate occasions. To begin with, you have to key in your account number followed by the hash key. Then you have to wait and wait, listening to banal music. Sometimes a recorded voice intervenes saying "Your call is important to us", "You are moving to the head of the queue" or "All calls are recorded for training purposes".

Finally, you get through to a human being sitting in a noisy call centre. There's a hubbub of voices in the background. You are asked to give your account number again and other information such as date of birth, email address, the four main blood groups and the capital of Outer Mongolia.

On the first occasion I phoned them, the call centre operative was a woman of Asian descent. I could tell this from her thick Indian accent. It was so pronounced that I could hardly tell what she was saying and I told her so - "I'm sorry. I can't understand a word you are saying. Please slow down and speak more clearly." I hope I wasn't being unwittingly racist. Of course, the background din didn't help.

On the second occasion I phoned them to sort out problems of their making, I got through to a Glaswegian gentleman. His accent was almost as impenetrable as the Indian lady's a few days before. To me it sounded as if Jock had just emerged from "The Sporran and Haggis" after a heavy drinking session and a full packet of "Woodbines". Fortunately, I was at university in Scotland where I gradually gained some understanding of the Glasgow accent. It is rather like a foreign language. After a few "Could you repeat that pleases", I managed to get through the call successfully.

This morning, after the customary long wait, I got through to a Russian call centre operative called Svetlana. I understood her more easily than the other two but it was still hard work. I was worried in case she had been visiting "Yorkshire Pudding" with other Russian and Ukrainian blogosphere observers. After a few minutes of fascinating banter about meter readings, the call reached a natural conclusion and I was able to thank Svetlana for her assistance. In her husky Siberian voice she asked, "Eez there anything else I can... help you with today Mr Pudding?" And for a moment I imagined riding with her on a sled pulled by huskies to an ice cave where we would drink vodka to the plaintive sounds of balalaika music before tossing our fur coats on the floor.

In some aspects of life I can be quite conservative and traditional. Is it wrong of me to expect call centres to employ people who speak English lucidly and intelligibly - preferably people for whom English is their first language? Furthermore, is it wrong of me to expect swift human response whenever I phone a company like Scottish Power? How come my time is so unimportant that they can squander it without apology or recompense?

"Your call is important to us". Yeah, right! 

8 February 2017


Yesterday afternoon,, I made a quick trip to Stanage Edge and caught these two walking companions silhouetted against a spectacular February sky. They are at the old triangulation pillar that was erected here for mapping and survey purposes back in 1938. It's just right of the walkers, peeping above the horizon.

I descended from The Edge at 5pm. A month ago it would have been pitch dark at that time. Ten minutes later I was in the car heading home to cook mashed potato, savoy cabbage  and pork loin chops with gravy and apple sauce before walking up to "The Hammer and Pincers" for the Tuesday evening pub quiz with friends Mick and Mike.

We did not win. One of the questions was "What are the four main human blood groups?" Would you have known? We didn't.

7 February 2017


In 1970, I moved to Beverley Grammar School to begin my A level studies. My subjects were English, Geography and Art. My art teacher was known universally as TAD for those were his initials - Mr T.A.Doyle.

Very early on, he instructed me and my classmates to design and paint a new book cover for "Around the World in Eighty Days". I had the simple idea of a biplane pulling a banner around the globe and on that banner the name of the book would be spelt out.

I worked diligently on my initial painting and after two double lessons proudly presented my effort to Mr Doyle. He looked over the rim of his silver framed spectacles, silently perusing what I had done and then looked up at me saying, "That's a very good rough draft Neil."

For a moment I was flabbergasted. But I took my work back to my bench, rolled up my sleeves and started anew. Rough draft! Rough draft? A week later I had produced a much more careful version of my design and this time Mr Doyle approved of it. His initial judgement had spurred me on to achieve a better standard and this was clear to see when placing the first effort alongside the second attempt.

Last week I made a blogpost about pheasants and two of my American blogging friends - Donna (aka Mama Thyme/Mama Bear/ Big Sis) in Colorado and Jennifer in Florence, South Carolina challenged me to have a go at painting a pheasant picture based on one of my photos. This was the photo I chose:-
Last evening, using a mixture of watercolour crayons and paint, I produced this:-
But it's only a rough draft, not the finished picture. After all, Mr Doyle is still watching me.

6 February 2017


Very occasionally, I check out Blogger "stats" in relation to this humble blog. It's always interesting to see where one's "traffic" is coming from. Here you can see the Yorkshire Pudding state of play yesterday evening:-
Unsurprisingly, top of my league table comes Great Britain (i.e. "United Kingdom"), closely followed by The United States in which an adulterated form of English is widely spoken. No surprise there then and for the same reason it's no surprise that Australia and Canada are also in my top ten.

However, look at the countries coming in at three, four and five - France, Russia and Germany. I am especially surprised about France as in that Gallic nation, the French language is the preferred means of communication and this blog is of course almost exclusively written in English. 

Pausing for a moment, it has just dawned on me that French people will read this very post. Being a stickler for good manners, I should like to take this opportunity to say "Bon Jour!" to all my French visitors and "merci beaucoup" for visiting "Pudin de Yorkshire".

Though obviously not as nice as Yorkshire, France is in my view a great country. Your wine is third only to wine from New Zealand and Australia. Your cuisine is pretty good too though personally I prefer a nice Indian curry, fish and chips or a trip to our local carvery. It's also nice to recognise that these days some French people actually have sweet smelling breath - untainted by garlic or "Gauloises".  This is a great improvement upon past times.

Yes it's great to have French visitors in my fold - even though they never leave any comments. As for my equally silent Russian visitors, I just want to say that getting Trump elected was in my view a very sick joke on your behalf. Mind you, your own cartoon leader Vladimir is a bit of a joke himself - baring his chest, riding horseback, invading Ukraine and belting pucks across the ice. Even so, to all my Russian visitors I would still like to say - "Благодарим Вас за посещение йоркширского пудинга!" which I hope means "Thank you for visiting Yorkshire Pudding!"

5 February 2017


St John the Baptist Church in Whitton
Even if you don't like football, you will have heard of Liverpool FC. They are more than a football club, they are a worldwide brand and a religion. They even have their own theme songs - such as "You'll Never Walk Alone". Over the years, they have often played wonderful football, achieving the dizzy heights enjoyed by all Champions of Europe.

Yesterday afternoon they were in Hull to play my beloved Hull City at the KCOM Stadium. Liverpool began the game in fourth position in The Premier League while my troubled team were rock bottom in  the same division. And yet... and yet we beat them fair and square. Our lads played like real tigers. They were on it through the entire game, harrying, closing down, breaking out of defence.

It was a wonderful spectacle and when in the eighty fourth minute Oumar Niasse ran for their goal with only Liverpool's hapless Mignolet to beat, my heart was filled with unadulterated gladness as he struck the ball through the advancing keeper's legs to put us in an unassailable two-nil lead. Oh joy upon joy! Take that Ken Dodd, Paul McCartney, Lily Savage, Anne Robinson! Our boys gave your lads a helluva beating!
...But earlier in the day, there was a different kind of joy as I wandered by the southern shore of The River Humber. I had driven to the remote and tiny village of Whitton. It is the kind of place that you only go to - nobody passes through it, because it is at the end of a long straight road, surrounded by watery meadows and arable land, originally and skilfully  drained by Dutch engineers in the seventeenth century.
Whitton is very peaceful and there's an old church there that was built with stones and other materials from a nearby Roman fortress. East of the village the land is protected by an eight foot flood embankment to save it whenever the Humber overlaps its shores.

It was a lovely morning for a walk and I was wishing I had set out earlier from home. When I reached the paint peeling silos and barn at Whitton Ings I felt thrilled by the images I saw before me but I must admit - not quite as thrilled as I felt when Niasse's strike hit the back  of the net at 5.40pm. 
At Whitton Ness

3 February 2017


Out walking in the nearby Mayfield Valley this afternoon, I was startled by a cock pheasant. He squawked from undergrowth at the side of the path before running off. I have had similar surprises many times when out rambling. In the English countryside, pheasants seem to be everywhere.

I always think of common pheasants as particularly stupid birds which is probably a tad unfair. The male of the species has beautiful plumage while the female's dun feathers are designed for camouflage. The fact that they have been able to spread across our green and pleasant land demonstrates that they are not as dumb as they appear.
Pheasants are not native to The British Isles. Originally, they were confined to eastern regions of Asia. It is not known for certain how they arrived on our shores but generally it is believed that they were brought over during the Roman occupation of Britain. Perhaps Roman soldiers simply wanted to supplement their monotonous diets. They also introduced rabbits and sweet chestnuts.

Thousands of pheasants are shot every year by bloodthirsty field "sports" enthusiasts armed with shotguns. Though there's not a large amount of meat on your average bird, roasted pheasant is certainly tasty. In spite of the widespread annual killing, our country is still home to millions of pheasants. Plenty are specially bred for shooting but many thousands survive in the wild.

As I walked along Mark Lane by Mill View Farm, I spotted a second cock pheasant in a tussocky field up wind from me. He didn't spot me as he strutted nervously, sometimes stopping to observe his environment and to emit his characteristic chortled echo of a mating call. Naturally, I took the opportunity to shoot... some photographs..

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