Clouds scud across from Cheshire. She sees crows upon the moor Investigating furrows And recalls buzzards Poking at roadkill By US 283. It is an idle moment. She is sorting laundry Silently Patiently. An old clock measures her day Like a metronome While high in the sky A plane catches Western rays. She is at peace. Lightly Silently She fingers Her olivewood cross And turns away From the glass, For all these things Must come to pass.
I have been a regular at our local pub for twenty nine years. In that time I have hardly ever seen any trouble. Mostly people get on nicely - enjoying their chosen tipples while they socialise and relax. Essentially, it's what pubs are for.
Habitually, I rock down there late on a Thursday night for three or four pints of Tetley's bitter and a chinwag with Bert and Steve and sometimes Danny. We are peace-loving friendly fellows united by our distaste for dog dirt, litter, Donald Trump, waste plastic, televisions in pubs, braggards and Brexit. When we leave we have put the world to rights again and we say good night.
No trouble. However, this Thursday night there was trouble, involving a young Irish barman who has been working at the pub for the past eighteen months. Let's call him Patrick.
Patrick is six feet four and a rugby player. For a few months he had a sweet and attractive girlfriend who was almost a foot shorter than him. Around ten thirty on Thursday night she came back to the pub and asked Patrick if it would be okay for her to bring her new boyfriend in for a couple of drinks.
Patrick agreed with a charming smile. Clearly he had remained quite smitten.
All was fine for the first ten minutes but then the new boyfriend got up to visit the lavatory. This involved passing the doorway that leads behind the bar. It was a bad move because at that very moment, his face red with rage, Patrick burst from behind the bar and assaulted the new boyfriend, his fists flailing like the sails of a windmill in a gale.
Luckily, three other blokes leapt in to separate the combatants and the new boyfriend was bustled outside. Meantime the sweet girlfriend who had got up to see what the hell was going on was also attacked by Patrick and again people had to step in. I guess that young lass will never again be physically attacked by a six foot four Irish rugby player. It was not nice to see.
In 1697, the English poet William Congreve wrote:
Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.
He had clearly never encountered an enraged Irish barman who'd been dumped by a pretty English maiden.
I have not been back in the pub since that trouble but I would say this in conclusion. If my son Ian had been that new boyfriend I would have been straight on to the police urging them to arrest Patrick for common assault. After all, youthful love affairs come and go. And if I had been the pub's current manager/landlord I would have sacked Patrick on the spot but I am guessing he will be back behind the bar when I next pop in - on Sunday evening. After all, it's a mad world.
What a lovely week we have had here in the wilds of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. Beautiful late September sunshine reminded us of our wonderful summer just gone. Perhaps this week has been the last hurrah before wintertime starts to elbow her way in and warm coats we had forgotten about are rediscovered.
I enjoyed two pleasant rambles this week.
Calves near Tinker Brook
Tuesday found me parking up at the hamlet of Spout above The Ewden Valley. My seven mile walk took in More Hall Reservoir - where I found the delightful HP sauce bottle - as well as the hamlet of Brightholmlee, Swinnock Hall and Glen Howe near Wharncliffe Side.
Kirk Edge Convent from the rear and front
After that I returned to Kirk Edge Convent and walked to the rear of it. Though I could not see any nuns looking wistfully from the windows, I did manage to catch a glimpse of their graveyard. It is in the woods to the west of the main convent site. In my imagination, the convent, nunnery, monastery or whatever you might wish to call it remains a most intriguing place.
Thursday found me riding on the 272 bus to Bradwell - a large Peak District village that owes its existence to historical lead mine and calcite workings. Most of the mining and quarrying ceased long ago but historical evidence of past activity is easy to find in the landscape above the village.
Limestone barn above The Hope Valley
I guess I walked ten miles in a big loop that brought me back to The Limestone Way - a long distance footpath that begins at Rocester in Staffordshire and ends at Castleton in Derbyshire. It led me down Cave Dale within the shadow of Peveril Castle. Along the way I saw a dead sheep - now a temporary feeding and breeding station for hundreds of bluebottle flies.
She looked like she might just be sleeping but there was a gaping hole in her neck and the flies had also made a gruesome cavern in her rear end. I wondered if she had been shot.
At the bus stop in Castleton I met two Chinese tourists. They were probably in their sixties. The husband seemed to know not a single word of English and the wife's English was as good as my schoolboy French - in other words - very poor. They seemed totally flummoxed by the timetable display so I helped them out and gave reassurance. After four nights in Sheffield they have four nights in Oxford and then four nights in London. How brave of them to be travelling independently - especially when you consider their awful English.
In the pub last night, Bert and Steve said I looked like a beetroot. Unsurprising as I had walked for five hours in bright sunshine. Fortunately, today I am more pink blancmange than boiled beetroot.
I spotted the sign pictured above when out rambling near Peak Forest this afternoon. I agree with that sign. We should all be wary of bull when we come across it. Perhaps they should have glued an identical sign on to the door of the US Capitol ahead of the Kavanaugh Hearings.
Still thinking of Brett Kavanaugh, I came across the sign shown below when rambling on Tuesday. It was just there on a field gate near the hamlet of Foldrings. Strangely, there was no inn or pub in sight, just a cow field with no cows.
While walking to the north west of Sheffield yesterday, I descended to More Hall Reservoir in the Ewden Valley. Its construction was finished just after World War I.
After England's long dry summer, the water level in the reservoir is currently very low so it is possible to walk in territory that would normally only be seen by fishes. I left the reservoir's encircling path and descended to the shore.
More Hall Reservoir yesterday
And there amid the rocks and sandy deposits I found an old bottle. I wish I had taken a picture of it at the spot where I found it. It was mucky and filled with sand. Fortunately, I had my "Converse" rucksack on my shoulders so I popped the bottle inside and carried on my merry way in that most gorgeous early autumn sunlight beneath a cobalt blue sky.
Home last evening I made a meal of local pork sausages, sliced leeks, buttered asparagus and finely sliced new potatoes roasted in the oven. Afterwards, I remembered the bottle and set about cleaning it. I half expected it to have been scoured and scratched but it came up well as you can see from the pictures.
It's a Garton's HP Sauce bottle - probably from the 1920's. I wish I knew its back story and how it came to be lying where I found it. Now I feel a bit like Steve Reed in West London ("Shadows and Light") who is always finding stuff and bringing it home.
I am very proud of my new bottle - in fact I'm HP! I will of course add it to my little collection. See Bottled - blogpost from August 2014.
I have just finished reading "The Cellist of Sarajevo" by a Canadian writer called Steven Galloway. It was first published ten years ago and as the title suggests focuses upon the city of Sarajevo which is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, between 1992 and 1996 it was a Yugoslavian city under siege and it is this fearful time that Galloway addresses.
Shells and bullets cascaded upon the city from the surrounding hills. Over ten thousand Sarajevans were killed and everybody lived in a state of uncertainty.
On May 27th 1992 a mortar shell hit a queue of people waiting outside a bakery for bread. More than twenty were killed outright. In their honour a classically trained cellist who lived close by came out into the street every day for a month to play music in memory of his fellow citizens and perhaps to remind those left behind that there was a better way to live.
The novel has three leading characters - Dragan, Kenan and Arrow. They do not know each other but they are all part of the siege and equally affected by it. Their lives, like their city, are forever changed.
Steven Galloway went to great lengths to research this novel so that its context might appear more convincing. I enjoyed "The Cellist of Sarajevo" though I might have liked it better if the three protagonists had somehow been brought together - instead of being separate throughout.
227 pages. The language is easy to access and there are no tedious sidetracks providing historical background, facts and figures. It's not that kind of book. It's about ordinary people and how they live in the teeth of war.
Later: It was sad to discover that Steven Galloway has been involved in much controversy since his sacking from the creative writing department of The University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Many of the facts of this case are still secret but it seems he had a two year relationship with one of his students and most of the official concerns surrounded that student's accusations. Galloway's soaring reputation may have been ruined forever.
Last night I watched the last episode of "Bodyguard" - courtesy of the BBC. Apparently, it was the most popular drama to appear on British terrestrial television in over a decade.
For those who haven't seen it or have no knowledge of it, it is a tense thriller set in modern times. The "bodyguard" of the title is an ex-soldier charged with protecting The Home Secretary - one of the loftiest political positions in the land. The incumbent is Julia Montague played by Keeley Hawes
They have an affair but that ends very suddenly and brutally when a jihadi bomb goes off as Julia is making a keynote speech. There is nothing that David Budd - the bodyguard, played by Richard Madden, can do to save her.
The plot has many twists and turns. Right to the end you don't know who to trust. It was all very cleverly written by Jed Mercurio, the creator of "Line of Duty".
Richard Madden as David Budd
Customarily, I get heartily sick of stories of crime and killing and espionage. There's far too much of it around in my view and it seems far distant for the everyday dramas of ordinary people. Normally, I avoid reading crime fiction or watching crime dramas in the cinema or television. Usually, it's just not my cup of tea.
Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed "Bodyguard". What an achievement by the team involved - including the cast, the writer, the directors - Thomas Vincent and John Strickland, the production team and the camera operators. It's amazing what a bunch of creative people can do when they get together and work together.. Brilliant!
Two scenes especially stand out. Firstly, in the very first episode when Budd confronts a jihadi bomber in the lavatory of a moving train. Secondly, when Budd is beaten up and wakes to find himself in a suicide vest with his thumb taped to the detonator button. He gets himself up into the street with a blanket hiding his lethal vest and finds himself surrounded by the disbelieving forces of law and order. It is very tense stuff.
Will there be a second series? I hope not. It seemed complete to me and to extend it would effectively belittle this jewel of modern British television drama.
On Thursday I took this picture on Kirk Edge Road. That high wall was I believe built in the early 1900's. It surrounds a convent known as Carmel of the Holy Spirit.
The location is remote and illogical. It sits high up on a ridge between the valleys of The River Loxley and The River Don. Initially it wasn't a convent at all but an orphanage for lost or abandoned children under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. Waifs and strays were brought here from the booming steel city of Sheffield with its belching furnaces and slum housing. The orphanage's remoteness meant it was a hard place for small children to run away from. They were cut off from everything they had known before.
The orphanage project did not last many years. This was partly because of issues with accessing water. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the place became an "industrial school" for girls but that venture only lasted ten years and by 1890 the site was disused and more or less forgotten.
However, around 1910, the Duke of Norfolk's sister who was herself a Carmelite nun, suggested that the place could be changed into a convent. Appropriate new building work was undertaken and the tall boundary wall was built. The first nuns came to live at the new convent in 1911 and it has remained a convent ever since.
Kirk Edge Convent or The Monastery of the Holy Spirit or Carmel of The Holy Spirit is a mysterious place. It is not open to the general public and the dozen or so nuns who occupy it are very rarely seen. By all accounts, they live an austere life - no doubt chanting a multitude of prayers and seeking to commune with their imaginary "God".
In researching the nunnery, I came across a blog created by an American nun originally from Texas who entered the order in late 2014 and as far as I or anyone else knows still resides within. She is known as Sister Mary Maravillas of Jesus and the Holy Face. The blog - created between June 2012 and November 2014 pre-empts her admission into Kirk Edge Convent as a fully-fledged nun. She called the blog, "Carmel, Garden of God". Here's a link to it.
I would love to pick her up in my car and take her for a pub lunch at "The Old Horns Inn" in High Bradfield just to see how her holy life is going in there. She'd probably order a half of "Farmer's Blonde" to wash down her steak pie and chips and we'd laugh about all the funny stuff that nuns get up to behind those walls. But I can't see such a meeting happening any time soon. After all, "God" wouldn't like it.
Rare picture of Carmelite nuns inside Kirk Edge Convent
I came across this picture of my father the other day. It must have been taken some time in 1969. The photo appeared in "The Hull Daily Mail" connected with the opening of our village's first purpose-built youth club. Dad was the main driving force behind that project. Working it out, he would have been fifty five years old in that picture. Ten years younger than I am now.
He did so many things for the village. He was also the main driving force behind the establishment of public playingfields. He was a church warden. polling officer at election time and he fought The Church of England to win back a financial legacy that had been intended for the betterment of village children. He gave so much to his adopted community. In comparison, I feel like a dwarf. I have given so little.
He was the headmaster of the village primary school from 1952 until his retirement in 1978. Sadly, he died from a heart attack just one year later. There was standing room only at his funeral service in the village church. He was greatly respected.
Dad and I had a special bond that grew stronger when I arrived at adulthood and became a teacher. We talked together like friends - not like son and father. He was a gentle, kindly man and he loved me as much as I loved him. I still miss him - his worldly wisdom and his kind heart. It is a shame that my two children never knew their paternal grandfather.
Nowadays people are snapping photographs of each other all the time but even in the nineteen seventies surprisingly few pictures were taken. The idea of a "selfie" would have been seen as distastefully narcissistic. The picture at the top of this post is the best one I now have for remembering him as he was in his later years.
His name was Philip. He was born in Norton, Yorkshire the day after war was declared upon Germany - August 5th, 1914 and died on September 14th 1979 in a hospital bed in Hull. He was of course the best dad ever.
Yesterday was a rainy day. We haven't had a proper rainy day in months. It came down like stair-rods - bouncing on our road, gurgling into gutters. It was as if countless Olympic swimming pools were being dumped over the city. There was even flash flooding in some of the valleys.
I always know when we have had heavy rain overnight by checking how much water has been retained in our green wheelbarrow. This morning it was brimful.
The forecast today was for high wind and rain showers interspersed with bouts of sunshine. I tootled off to The Loxley Valley to the north west of Sheffield and came back two hours later with a bunch of photographs, including these:
Yesterday it was ordinariness. Today it's sunniness. But I am not talking about the golden orb that floats across the sky each day like a big yellow balloon. No. I am thinking about human nature and the way we memorise our lives.
We talk of glass half full and glass half empty people. The former are blessed with sunny dispositions - optimistic and positive, seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. The latter are more circumspect, tending to expect the worst with cloudy, glum or negative dispositions.
Essentially, can we ever change our characters? If the sunniness is there you can't help it just as a morose or pessimistic nature cannot be changed. That's what I think anyway. Besides, it's likely that most of us fall between the two extremes. Sometimes sunny - sometimes overcast - just like the sky.
As some long term visitors to this blog may recall, I began teaching kids at the age of eighteen and finished in my sixtieth year. That's a long association with schoolteaching - some forty two years and of course before that I was the son of a village schoolmaster. I was even born in the school house attached to our village school.
Naturally, I have many memories of teaching. I was hard-working and passionate about my subject - English. I was creative and effective and I know I had a positive impact upon the lives of hundreds of young people. There was laughter, many happy exchanges and lessons when you could hear a pin drop. I gave it my all. And yet, and yet... somehow I best remember the bad days - days when there were incidents, days when something went wrong. I would love to sweep them all away and replace them with sunny memories. I really would. But I can't.
For example. At the school where I spent the last twenty three years of my career, there was a fifteen year old boy called Michael. I blogged about him back in 2010. Go here. if you are interested. The memory of that time is seared in my memory like a terrible tattoo. More than thirty years later, the ink has hardly faded.
I could go back further to 1972 when I was teaching on the island of Rotuma. I had to get the school bus to the north of the island every morning. Rotuma High School at Malhaha was three miles away. Sometimes I had a lot of stuff to carry.
One Friday afternoon two pupils who lived in the same village as me agreed to carry two piles of exercise books back home for me. They needed marking over the weekend. I asked them to call in at my house on Monday morning - ready to carry the books back to the school but Fauholi and Jimi didn't turn up. They had not forgotten. They had made a deliberate choice not to pick up the books.
I told Aisea - the headmaster - about this and he dragged the two boys out of their first lesson of the week. After thrashing them, he led them down to the beach adjacent to the school and briefly explained the next phase of their punishment.
There was a big pile of rocks on the beach - each rock weighing several pounds. Fauholi and Jimi had to move that pile to the other end of the beach and this they did in the hot tropical sun and when the job was finished they had to move the rocks back to their original position. It took all day and by the end of it they were exhausted.
After that the boys were fully compliant for the rest of my sojourn upon their beautiful island but it was a grudging compliance and in their eyes I could always see thinly-veiled resentment. I never asked them to do me any more favours and I also fretted about whether or not I could have handled the situation differently. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it to the fearsome Aisea.
Why should I remember all of that so vividly and not happy times in the classroom or teaching lads to play rugby on the school field or the singing club on Wednesday afternoons when my room was filled to overflowing while other teachers' clubs were underpopulated?
Someone with a sunnier disposition would have relegated Michael and Fauholi and Jimi and all the rest of the bad stuff to oblivion as happy memories rose to the surface in glorious detail. I cannot change who I am. I want to embrace the sunniness but the gloom so often gets in the way.
An ordinary day in September. I press the button on our radio alarm clock and soon the droning voices of the morning news presenters send me back to sleep again. Discussion of Brexit has become the best cure for sleeplessness known to man. They should bottle it. "Can't sleep? Try new Brexit. Available at your local pharmacy. Now!"
At nine I am downstairs in my dressing gown creating breakfast. A big mug of tea, a banana and a bowl of fruit and nut muesli with three plump raspberries on top. Thence to the front room. TV news on. Computer on. Check. Consume breakfast. Check.
Forty minutes later I am back up the stairs. Don't you get tired of showering, shaving and brushing your teeth? It's the same thing every day. Rub-a-dub-dub. The suds go down the plughole and the toothpaste tastes as minty as it did yesterday and the day before that.
Clothes on. Hair combed. Shoes tied. Grab the bags, I am off to Lidl on Chesterfield Road to get some shopping in. It's pretty quiet and there are several free places in the car park. I have got everything we need in twenty minutes including strawberries for Nurse Pudding.
Back home I unload the dishwasher and put a burger under the grill for lunch. I put the shopping away and make a mug of coffee. Fried onions in a pan. You can't have a burger without onions can you? I catch the last ten minutes of "Bargain Hunt" and then get ready to walk a mile to the Oxfam shop. I take exactly the same route I have taken for the last four years and arrive at twenty seven minutes past one ready for my shift.
There are book donations to sort through including an erotic novel aimed at women. I spend two minutes thumbing through it. It's clean but the contents are rather filthy. I can't put it on the shelves. It might cause outrage. I drop it in the rejects sack.
At two thirty I count the takings for both Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning then stroll up to the bank near Hunter's Bar roundabout. I pass a homeless fellow near Sainsburys. A few weeks ago I overheard him say to a passer-by, "Can you get me a drink please - I'm parched!" The passer-by agreed and then the homeless man said, "I'll have a bottle of Ribena - the purple-topped one. Not the strawberry one. I don't like that!" The passer-by said he'd get him some water.
Back at the Oxfam shop. An hour on the till. I am pretty good with this till now and hardly ever make a mistake. It's so easy to press the wrong button. The shift finishes differently with a staff meeting and volunteers I rarely see have arrived to participate. The agenda is mundane but it stretches far enough to make me get home late.
A woman at the bus stop says, "Can you see what number that bus is?" And I say, "As I am not a peregrine falcon I can't help you!" She chuckles.
For once, Shirley is in the middle of making our evening meal. The bolognese sauce is definitely too salty but I don't say anything. Just send it down the hatch without complaint. Whenever I have spaghetti at home it is accompanied by a glass of cold milk. That's not salty.
Then I come to this laptop and tap away at this blogpost. I am looking forward to the second episode of "Trust" on the television. It's about the oil billionaire John Paul Getty and the kidnapping of his grandson John Paul Getty III. The old man is played brilliantly by Donald Sutherland who was born in Saint John, Canada eighty three years ago. "Trust" is probably his swansong but you never know.
"Howdy! They call me Herbert or Bert for short. I live on the moors west of Sheffield with my harem. I am a peace-loving bull. Nothing much riles me - even human walkers who stroll past along Houndkirk Road but I must say we are not too fond of those goddam mountain bikers in their bright lycra suits and helmets. What do they look like?
I have heard that some bulls are mean sons of bitches with rings in their noses - snorting and mashing the earth angrily with one of their their front hooves but I am a chilled out bull. Most days I rise at dawn and begin grazing. It's one of the penalties of life for all cattle. We have to spend hours each day foraging and grazing. It is very tedious but I am resigned to it.
Here are two of my favourite girls. There's Melody - she's the redhead and Susan at the front - she's the blonde. In the late spring we are required to make beautiful music together. It's a very tiring time of year for any bull but that's life! A bull's gotta do what a bull's gotta do.
Here's the latest addition to my harem. It's Monica and as you can see she's a bit stand-offish. She came all the way from Lancashire. I can hardly understand a word she moos. Her vowel sounds are all wrong but she's got a lovely udder - not quite visible in this photo.
And that's Sheffield in the background - down in the valley where the little rivers meet - The Don, The Rivelin, The Porter, The Loxley and The Sheaf. I'd like to go there one day - make an appearance - and not in a butcher's shop window. That's the stuff of nightmares my friend and I ain't talking no bull! Ah well, if you will excuse me I must get back to my grazing before night falls. See ya!"
A month ago, we had some new vinyl flooring fitted in our upstairs bathroom. Whenever we have tradesmen in our house I am most respectful to them. I asked the fellow laying the vinyl if he would like a cup of tea.
Then I said, "I'm sorry, I don't know your name?"
And he replied, "I'm Mickey Rooney!"
This wasn't a wind up. His name really was Mickey Rooney and he was proud to bear such a famous name. I asked him if he had got fed up of making films for Hollywood studios and he laughed. I guess he had heard all the quips before.
It reminded me that when I was a teacher I taught a snotty-nosed kid called George Harrison. He came from the nearby council estate and had a reading age of 7.5 years. He was a bit thick was George. Then there was John Kennedy - a ginger-haired bully boy built like a brick outhouse whose watchword was "defiance". I think he ended up in the army. I wonder how he got his head around army discipline.
I also taught Peter Sutcliffe before The Yorkshire Ripper, captured in 1981, was revealed to have the very same name. Then there was Lizzie whose real name was Elizabeth Taylor and Catherine Howard - but not the same one who married King Henry VIII in 1540. She had very neat handwriting.
Have you met any ordinary people with famous names?
"Listen carefully. Hear that sound? It's applause." - Alphie Soup in Australia
Thank you to everybody who has bothered to click on my YouTube version of "Orford Ness". It is most heartening to think that so many people have now listened to it. Seen altogether the comments have been approving and indeed encouraging. Perhaps in the future you will be subjected to more songs by Stephen Sondheim yours truly.
In real life, Orford Ness is invariably associated with military matters - most notably the testing of secret weapons including nuclear warheads. That is why the landscape of the ness is still littered with military debris and the crumbling ruins of buildings including bunkers and laboratories. In my song, I deliberately ignored all of that and sought instead to evoke a simpler world that pre-dates the military invasion.
Beach stone painted by Glynn Thomas
I considered an end verse in which the narrator's "Nancy" had now been buried in St Bartholomew's churchyard at Orford or perhaps the fishing boat that the men travelled in might itself have been called "Nancy" now broken and rotting on the shore. But that verse never materialised. You have to draw the line somewhere and keeping things simple is arguably best.
Tragically, Orford Ness's lighthouse which appeared in the background photos is destined to tumble into the sea with each passing winter. The forces of coastal erosion and deposition mean that the lighthouse - built in 1792 - now stands on the very edge of the salty brine. This reality adds an extra touch of melancholy to the Orford Ness story.
It was something of a personal revelation when I realised I could record the song without musical accompaniment. No guitar. Nothing. Just the song on its own as songs have mostly been sung around campfires, in showers or on storm-tossed herring boats in the North Sea.
Thank you for listening. May her light always shine on our history.
As you might imagine, I put a lot more time and effort than usual into yesterday's blogpost - "Song". And yet only a few inhabitants of the blogosphere came to call - far fewer than usual.
Magically many blog owners can see immediately when a blogger of their acquaintance has created a new post. All they have to do is to check out their sidebars. I have noticed that this normally happens with "Yorkshire Pudding" posts too. However, in relation to "Song", it just wasn't happening in other people's sidebars. I have no idea why that should be so.
Anyway, today's little post is mainly a test - to see if the sidebar alert facility is still mysteriously refusing to include my new posts. Perhaps it's just vanity but I would like a few more people to listen to my song and perhaps to feed back too. I must admit that for me personally it is the most significant blogpost I have put out in a long while and making the YouTube video was no mean feat for someone of my limited computer ability.
After the ferry had brought us across The River Ore to the little wharf on Orford Ness we walked along in September sunshine. Brambles were clustered like grapes in the bushes and two rams with thick curled horns grazed in a marshy meadow nearby. We had a mile to go to the red and white striped lighthouse and my heart felt light. I began to sing a song. Only a few words came at first. I was thinking about fishermen... "At dusk we set sail for the west coast of Holland". They were the first words.
I kept humming and singing the tune I had made up and as we returned three hours later to catch the ferry back to Orford, a woman birdwatcher waiting by some brambly bushes heard me and kindly complimented me on my singing. I told her I was just making the song up and that it would never make the hit parade.
Fragments of the song stayed with me and in Windows 10 I found a voice recorder app so back home in Sheffield I have tried my best to work the seed of my song idea up into something presentable. Here it is. All my own work:-
La-la-la-la la-la-la-la-la-la-la (tune)
At dusk we set sail for the west coast of Holland
Pursuing the herring by night
And when we came back to the east coast of England
We found our way home by the light
Of Orford Ness
Sing a song of the sea
May her light
Illuminate our history
There was Tom and Joe Cable and old Billy Bodkin
We hauled in with all of our might
And when we returned to the east coast of England
We found our way home by the light
Of Orford Ness
Sing a song of the sea
May her light
Illuminate our history
Of farmers and thatchers and salty sea sailors
They peopled the world that we knew
And when later I strolled to the river with Nancy
Her sweet eyes had turned sapphire blue
Reflected in that summer sun sinking
Where wild geese and cormorants flew
While out on the ness
The lighthouse was shining
On the shingle and Nancy’s hair too
Of Orford Ness
Sing a song of the sea
May her light
Illuminate our history
Those days they have gone
And they won’t be returning
Like the herrings that swam in the sea
When we sailed from The Ore to the west coast of Holland
Billy Bodkin, The Cables and me…
When we sailed from The Ore to the west coast of Holland
There was grumbling outside our house. It was Clint. He was not in the least bit happy that his driver of the day was to be the mistress of the house and not the master.
Shirley was on her way to Rotherham to attend a diabetes day conference for practice nurses. It is an area she specialises in. Her own little car is having a couple of mechanical problems so I suggested that she should take Clint instead.
With no vehicle at his disposal, your devoted correspondent was obliged to travel into Derbyshire by public transport in the form of the number 272 bus. The morning bus was timetabled to arrive at our nearest stop at 10.01am but in the event it arrived at 10.14am with no hint of an apology or explanation from the driver. His various tattoos and neanderthal brow indicated that any complaints might be best left unsaid. Discretion being the better part of valour and all that.
After my three hour walk in the vicinity of Castleton I headed to the little town's main bus stop to catch the 15.00 bus homewards. I was there in plenty of time but it never appeared so I had to wait until 16.00. Needless to say a fiery e-mail of complaint has already been fired off to the offending bus company which in this instance was "First". I will be surprised if any apology or explanation comes back to me but you never know. Stranger things have happened.
A view of Mam Tor
The walk was invigorating with passages of September sunshine between the clouds. There was a certain chill in the air but being a rough, tough Yorkshireman I wore a thin London Olympics T-shirt and resisted any temptation to don the "Craghoppers" fleece that was in my "Converse" rucksack. It's all about the brand names you know.
In the bracken near the road that collapsed under Mam Tor - the shivering mountain - I met a pair of American tourists. We talked for five minutes. They were a married couple from Nebraska and they seemed very nice. Neither of them used annoying American words like "sidewalk" or "faucet" during our brief exchange. I said, "Nice to meet you and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day!" I have a soft spot for Americans having had some wonderful times in their star spangled country.
Now that it is dark, I hope that they are not still wandering around in the bracken.
When I am in a car, I put my seatbelt on. In Britain it is the law. We must wear seatbelts in cars or risk being fined by a court. However, this rule does not apply to motorcyclists. No sirree! If you have a motorbike you are welcome to go riding around the country without the security of a seatbelt. Of course I realise that fitting a seatbelt to a motorcycle would be practically impossible but that's not the point.
Some fellows love motorbikes. My French brother has at least ten of them and he has loved motorbikes all his life. At one time he was a keen "scrambler" - a motocross rider, frequently competing at top level amateur meets. He still loves tinkering with his bikes and occasionally speeds around the byways of southern France like a bat out of hell.
Now I have a confession to make. I do not like motorbikes. I am not interested in the makers, the shiny chrome or in their ability to accelerate. To me motorbikes are dangerous machines that can so easily cause death or serious injury. It puzzles me why anybody should want to ride one when you can sit comfortably in a car like Clint listening to the radio and occasionally reaching for a mint as the miles pass by. And if it rains, so what? You won't get wet and you have four tyres on the road surface. Not so with a motorbike.
A car seatbelt is of course no guarantee of total safety on the roads but at least if you hit something you won't go flying headfirst into a tree. Also you don't have to wear a helmet, a visor, a leather suit and boots when driving a car. If you were so inclined you could just wear latex underpants.
In Third World countries, low-powered motorcycles are often vital workhorses. They allow owners to participate in the economic advancement of their nations. They are rarely used for leisure biking - just cruising around and admiring the view. No - in The Third World they get people to and from work, they are used as taxis and for transporting goods or messages. But here in the west, we don't really need them do we? They have been responsible for far too many tears.
This roadside cross in memory of Peter James Smith is one of many shrines
to dead motorcyclists who have met their ends on The Isle of Man.
Every year between three and four hundred motorcyclists die on the roads of Britain. Around four thousand die in the USA. About two hundred and fifty die in Australia. What a terrible waste of life! Many more motorcyclists are injured - often seriously.
A friend of mine who had an addiction to motorbikes once spent three months in hospital in Inverness, Scotland after coming off his bike at speed on an awkward bend. He has never ridden a motorbike since that time and he knows he came very close to death. Though he survived, his body has never been the same since.
In 1987 when Ian was not even three years old, we were driving out of the city of Derry in Northern Ireland on a sunny afternoon. Up ahead I saw a lorry (American: truck) stationary and sideways on in the road. As I looked closer when passing by the lorry I saw a motorcycle under the vehicle. I pulled up fifty yards further on and asked Shirley to run back and see what had happened.
At that time Shirley was an Accident and Emergency nurse - used to seeing blood and death. I stayed with Ian in our car. When she eventually came back to us after giving her details to the first police officers on the scene, she told me that the motorcyclist had died in her arms. There was nothing more she could have done to save him.
Ten days ago, a close friend of my sister-in-law's new fellow was killed in The Yorkshire Dales whilst riding his motorbike. He was hit by a camper van that allegedly swerved to the wrong side of the road to avoid some stray sheep. He was fifty seven years old and he has left a family in grief.
That's motorbikes for you. To be continued tomorrow
In Aldeburgh on the coast of Suffolk there's a little cinema called...wait for it... The Aldeburgh Cinema. Last Wednesday I went there on my own to see "First Reformed" starring Ethan Hawke as Reverend Ernst Toller. Shirley didn't fancy the film so she stayed back in our rental apartment knitting and watching "Sunshine on Leith" once again.
"First Reformed" is an austere film located in Snowbridge, New York. Though it is set in modern times, the atmosphere is quiet. There are no car chases or computers or madly ringing cell phones. Our focus is almost wholly on Reverend Toller and his troubled state of mind. He finds it hard to pray and has issues with alcohol and his former wife Esther who is still part of the church community. Toller appears to be particularly affected by the pointless death of his son in The Iraq War.
Cinematographically, the film includes many thoughtfully captured scenes and moments which add a certain depth and beauty to the look of "First Reformed". It could almost be black and white but it isn't. It's Snowbridge in wintertime and you can almost feel the cold.
The ending is surprising. Some cinema-goers might feel cheated by it and at Aldeburgh there was an audible grumbling of dissent in the audience when they realised the show was over. Later, as Clint took me home, I was still thinking about that problematic ending and as I showered on Thursday morning I continued contemplating it. I do not wish to give any more about the ending away in case you get to see "First Reformed" yourself.
Themes that the film touches upon include global warming, religious belief, mental health and the modus operandi of big business church organisations.
Full marks to Ethan Hawke. His performance was a tour de force and applause too for the writer and director Paul Schrader. I must say I was quietly gripped throughout the film. There's an engaging melancholy about it all so I recognise that it might not be everybody's cup of tea but for me it was the best film I have seen in several months.
Yesterday, I steered Clint homewards. There are no easy routes from the coast of Suffolk to Sheffield. The journey took six and a half hours - including a ninety minute stop in the Cambridgeshire market town of March.
Pub in March
We travelled along unfamiliar roads - via Framlingham, Stowmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Littleport until we reached the fens - a seemingly endless flat landscape that stretches all the way from Cambridge and Peterborough to The Wash.
It is not a landscape I would wish to inhabit. You can see for miles. Your view unbroken by hills and there is no significant woodland. Just vast fields and ditches, big skies and the uninhibited wind. Some of the long straight roads are like roller coasters for it is hard to build a dependable road surface on water-logged fens with no solid rock for many yards below. There has been subsidence through the years so in spite of Clint's eagerness to travel at 80mph I frequently reined him in to do 40.
After Peterborough it was plain sailing. Up the A1 Great North Road to Worksop and then west along the A57 to Sheffield.
We return with many great impressions of Suffolk - including the vicar in Walberswick Church. She was playing the organ when we entered and the old Norman church was filled with her music. Her bicycle was propped up near the entrance door. Soon after we entered the organ music ceased and we could hear some grumbling from behind it.
Fifteenth century font in Walberswick Church
The vicar emerged and almost immediately she said, "You're a man! Can you fix this bloody light?" The best I could do was the take the bulb out and advise her to show it when purchasing a new one. There are so many different kinds of light bulb these days.
She was filled with the love of life and presumably the love of her non-existent God. She had children, grandchildren, great grand children and one great great grandchild. Her face beamed beatifically. She was ninety years old. There is hope for us all.
1. Mushroom we saw on our round walk to Leiston
2. Medieval pew carvings in Southwold St Edmund's Church
3. Gallery house at Snape Maltings
4. Evening sun reflected off the tiled lamp base in our holiday apartment. There were miniature suns all over the room. It was quite magical.