28 February 2019


Oh dear. There's a whole bunch of things I could blog about. Which one should I pick? 

It's not always that way. Sometimes I suffer from blogstipation and need to eat fibre-rich breakfast cereals to unclog the blockage. But not today. Today there are ideas aplenty. In fact, the symptoms suggest that I may have bloghorrea.

(Five minute pause)

I wrote all my blogging ideas on little slips of paper and put them in a beer tankard. They were shaken up and I closed my eyes before picking the winner. 

The slip said, "YESTERDAY'S WALK". 

"Oh not another bloody walk!" mutters Helen in Brisbane.

"So tedious!" exclaims Graham on The Isle of Lewis.

Well I'm sorry, okay? That's what the raffle slip said and I am now obliged to reveal some pictures from the walk I undertook yesterday with Madam Plodding who wanted to spend some time in the gorgeous and very unusual February sunshine.

We drove to the village of Hope and parked on Edale Road near the village school before setting off towards Lose Hill. I didn't even bother with a jacket and Shirley removed her woolly jumper. 

I had put a brand new ten pound note in my right trouser pocket but by the time we reached Castleton it had mysteriously disappeared so we had no money to buy drinks and sandwiches. The Bank of England's new banknotes are very slippery things but I should have stuck that tenner in my shirt pocket or in my camera case. What a dumb guy I am!

Still, we enjoyed the walk. The sky was blue. The grass was green and my happiness was bolstered by the fact that Hull City beat Millwall on Tuesday night with goals from Jarrod Bowen and Marc Pugh.

And now, six pictures from that delightful country walk:-
Tree in The Hope Valley with the cement works beyond
Lose Hill ahead
Peveril Castle looming above Castleton
Peakshole Water

27 February 2019


Is anything worse than Brexit? The foul odour of cigarette smoke perhaps?...No. An infestation of cockroaches?...No. The Bubonic Plague?...No. A round of golf with Donald J. Trump?...No. An earthquake? A tsunami? Global warming?...No.No.No. But Hull City getting thumped by Brentford F.C.? Yes, for sure, that is a hell of a lot worse than Brexit.

I was there in the Saturday sunshine. At Griffin Park, Brentford.. When Fraizer Campbell nodded in the first goal all was well in the world but it was a false dawn. We ended up losing by five goals to one and what is more Brentford deserved their victory. As the players trooped off  and as I contemplated suicide, I felt like applauding the Brentford team. They had cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. 

I trudged back to Gunnersbury tube station, remembering that only three hours before I had walked that same route in reverse.

I had consumed my petrol station lunch at a picnic table by The River Thames, reading a couple of chapters of "The Tattooist of Auschwitz". It was so warm. Was this really February? In the last few days, England has recorded the highest February temperatures of all time. 
Channel between Brenford Ait and Lot's Ait
Just across from where I was sitting, out in the river - there was an "ait". In fact it was Brenford Ait. Until Saturday, I had never heard of the term "ait". It means an island in a river. Brentford Ait is a low-lying wooded island and it's close to Lot's Ait.

Along the Thames Path, I met The Birdman of Brentford. He was doing what he claims to do every day of the year - feeding gulls. He threw chunks of bread in the air and the acrobatic creatures swooped to win them from the rest of the gang. It was quite a scene though it all happened so quickly that I had trouble capturing the activity with my trusty camera.
That night we met up with Ian and visited "The Punjab" - an historical Indian restaurant near Covent Garden. We had to queue up before admission was allowed. It was a delightful, authentic meal and of course it was nice to have my family together again. However, a dark cloud hung over the dining experience. Was it Brexit?...No. It was Brentford F.C. 5 Hull City A.F.C. 1.

26 February 2019


I am thinking of changing my stage name from Yorkshire Pudding to Yorkshire Plodding. Last Thursday - the day I left my camera at Langley Mill Station - I walked for five and a half hours with just a ten minute break for the meagre lunch I had prepared. I must have walked more than twelve miles.

Naturally, I saw many things. You notice more when you are just plodding along. And what is more it was a beautiful day so everything around me was nicely illuminated. It certainly didn't feel like February. It felt like springtime had truly arrived - though it probably hasn't.
I was walking to the west of D.H.Lawrence country in the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire borderlands. This was once a land of dirty coal mines, foundries, canals, railway tracks and pylons. A land of industrial endeavour, hard work and poverty layered upon an older landscape of farms and hedgerows and country lanes.
Consequently, the walk was very varied. As usual, I took many pictures but for some reason my picture of the day was the one shown at the top of this post - an old red container by The Erewash Canal. Emblazoned across it was the name "Lekkerland".
I wonder where Lekkerland is and if the people are happy there. Or perhaps that red container's compound is itself a tiny independent country removed from Brexit and street violence where the Lekkers live in peace and harmony, occasionally singing the Lekkerland national anthem...
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

25 February 2019


I'm in London as I write this. Three nights with our lovely daughter and we also saw our beautiful son on Saturday evening. Frances's fiancee is away in Qatar on business having recently taken up a new job with a jewellery organisation. 

Wood Green, where Frances and Stew live, has a strong Turkish community. Linked with this, the main drag boasts some of the best Turkish restaurants in London. They are efficient establishments and pretty good value too. We attended the "Capital" restaurant on Friday night. 

Before your main courses, you receive complimentary Turkish salad with hummus, warm Turkish flatbread and a yoghurt and cucumber concoction called cacik. If you are not careful you can easily overindulge on this free starter.

For my main course I had lamb shish with rice, grilled peppers and a little more salad. It was delicious and happily washed down with Turkish beer. The bill was most acceptable.

We wandered homewards but when we looked up Vincent Road, near Frances and Stew's flat we could see several blue lights flashing. Something had happened just two hundred yards from our daughter's front door. We had an eerie feeling - a premonition that something bad had happened. Not just an unfortunate road accident.
Forensic checking of parked cars on Vincent Road
after the killing of a 19 year old lad
Indeed the following morning we learnt that a young man of nineteen had been killed. Another was in hospital. There had been a street fight between warring gangs of young men and  there had been knives with a gun also being discharged. The clash happened at just after eight in the evening.

This was how the London Evening Standard broke the news.

Such events are terrible. They are becoming far too common in London. For law-abiding citizens who cherish their lives, it is exceedingly difficult to understand the animosity and violence that underpin these killings. Life is challenging enough without courting danger through street warfare, without carrying weapons, without forgetting that the young man in front of you is also human.

The blue lights on Friday night were far too close for comfort.

23 February 2019


Yesterday morning, thousands gathered in our local park to remember ten young American men who died there on February 22nd 1944. They were the crew of the "Mi Amigo" flying fortress. Tragically, it crash landed in our park following an aborted bombing mission to Denmark. I blogged about it back in November 2015. Go here.
That day an eight year old boy was playing football in the park with his friends. He was called Tony Foulds and he never forgot what he witnessed that fateful  day.

Ever since a memorial was established at the crash site, Tony has tended it. For decades his quiet weekly acts of remembrance and care continued without fanfare or acknowledgement. Then one day, by chance, he met a BBC journalist who was walking his dog in the park.
Tony Foulds on the big screen
They got talking and the rest, as they say, is history. Yesterday morning an estimated ten thousand Sheffielders gathered in the park to witness a memorial fly-past arranged by the American Airforce in conjunction with the The Royal Air Force. And Tony Foulds appeared on a giant TV screen - a humble and unlikely hero. He wiped away his tears for his dream had come true - a fly past on the 75th anniversary of the tragedy.. As he said, "It's not about me".

Lest we forget.

22 February 2019


Remember the story of The Prodigal Son? He was lost but later was found again.

At 4.35pm yesterday afternoon I was sitting on a yellow saltbox at the very end of a station platform. The station in question was at Langley Mill in Derbyshire. I was sitting on the saltbox because at this unmanned station there are no benches. Not one. 

I was the only traveller waiting for the 16.38 train to Sheffield having just undertaken an invigorating  twelve mile walk. I looked down the track and saw my train approaching - a couple of minutes earlier than expected. I gathered up my things, stuffing them into my rucksack before hurrying along the platform to board the two carriage local train.

The whistle went and the train pulled away from Langley Mill as I flopped into a vacant seat ready to read another chapter of "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" by Heather Morris.

It was only as we approached Chesterfield that I discovered I had left my camera on the yellow saltbox at Langley Mill. Oh no! I berated myself for my stupidity. I thought of all the pictures I had taken during the day and started to anticipate the costly purchase of a replacement camera. What a fool! Oh woe is me!

I crossed the threshold of our house at 6pm, having already decided to immediately drive back to Langley Mill. I expected that the camera would have disappeared by the time I got there but at least I could tape a plea for its return to the saltbox.

Just after seven o'clock I plodded back up the ramp to the west platform of Langley Mill Station and again walked to the very end of it. And there - oh glory of glories - sitting on top of the saltbox for all the world to see was my beloved Sony bridge camera! Joy to the world! A grin spread across my puddingish face and if I knew how to dance a jig I would have performed one there and then.

My camera was lost but is found again!  I got back to our house at eight o'clock and shared the good news with my long-suffering spouse who had kindly prepared me a vegan evening meal with slices of pork loin on the side. As you can imagine, it was a day of mixed emotions.

20 February 2019


When I picked up "Edgelands" in the Oxfam shop where I work every Wednesday, I was drawn by the sub-heading on the front cover - "Journeys into England's true wilderness".

I imagined it was going to be a book about mountain tops, heathland, forests and lonely beaches but I misled myself. It is actually a book about places that exist between cities and the true countryside. These are oft neglected and overlooked regions that writers usually ignore.

"Edgelands" has not one but two authors - Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts - both from the north west of England and both usually  more interested in poetry than examining the edges of cities. The chapter headings give a good sense of what their book is about - Cars, Paths, Dens, Containers, Landfill, Water, Sewage, Wire, Gardens, Lofts, Canals, Bridges, Masts, Wasteland, Ruins, Woodlands, Venues, Mines, Power, Pallets, Hotels, Retail, Business, Ranges, Lights, Airports, Weather, Piers.

Here's a taste of their writing from the very middle of the book when they are focusing upon those ubiquitous telecommunication masts that seem to surround us these days:
Head for the scrubland outside Big Storage or the B&Q Warehouse where the pallets rise like a fortress over the razor-wire fence. Stand like a latter-day St Sebastian, and open yourself to the multiple text messages, wireless e-mails and mobile phone calls cutting through you. Sift through the trivia, the cold calls and spam, until you reach the desperate evocations of love, loss, fear. Listen to them whisper as they pass through you. Take on the cares of the world. (page 133)

The authors explore and reflect upon some of the uglier and least celebrated features of the modern world. Their view is both observant and opinionated and I found "Edgelands" to be quite revelatory. It categorises and examines and it opens one's eyes to elements and arrangements we are habitually blind to. Next time I find myself in any "edgelands" I expect I will look at them a little differently..

19 February 2019


This time last year I was eagerly anticipating the publication of the first "BOSH!" cookbook. The book was launched with much brouhaha at Borough Market in London on April 19th. I blogged about the event here.

In the months that have passed by since that happy launch day, the book has become a tremendous success. Sales have far exceeded expectations and "Bosh!" has become Britain's best-selling vegan cookbook of all time.

Our son Ian and his "Bosh!" partner Henry have appeared on several TV and radio shows and have featured in various newspapers and magazines. It has been a helluva ride for them.

Their publisher - Harper Collins - wanted to see a second "Bosh!" book on the market before a year had passed so Ian and Henry knuckled down and came up with a whole new cookbook which they have named "Bish Bash Bosh". It will be published on April 4th and this is the front cover:-
Last week they spent two days signing inner pages ahead of the binding process. They had 13,000 books to sign! A sweet kind of punishment. The "Bosh!" phenomenon continues. Let's hope that "Bish Bash Bosh" mirrors the success of the first book.

If you are interested, you can pre-order a copy of "Bish Bash Bosh" from Amazon UK. Go here. Non-UK ordering sources are shown on the "Bosh!" website. Go here.

18 February 2019


When I took the train from Sheffield to Saxilby in Lincolnshire, I figured I would have some good , peaceful reading time both there and back. The journey takes around seventy five minutes - plenty of time to devour a good few pages.


On the way there there were two middle aged women in my carriage. Stupidly, they had got on the wrong train. They were rough, ill-educated women with loppy hair and bad manners. They kept swearing in an unladylike manner and wanted to blame somebody for their mistake. They circled their self-made problem from various angles, often repeating themselves. They spoke loudly and twice used their mobile phones to complain to family members about what had happened. Why the hell they didn't get off the train at the very next stop I have no idea.

Their presence on the train prevented me from reading.

In a fantasy scenario that I hatched secretly in my brain, I stood up, went over to these two unpleasant women, and yelled, "SHUT THE **** UP OR I WILL CHUCK YOU OFF THE TRAIN!"  They quaked with surprise and fear and were completely silent for the rest of the journey.

On the way back to Sheffield there was a thirty something woman on the train just behind me. She was accompanied by her two little girls aged five and seven. The girls were talking and behaving in an entirely normal girlish manner but the mother - oh, the mother! Quelle horreur! - as the French might say.

Her loud talk was all about discipline, disapproval and admonishment. Nothing those two poor girls could say or do attracted any kind of approval, laughter or delight. I felt so sorry for them and rather sorry for myself as again there was no chance of concentrating on my book.

In my fantasy response, I stood up and bent over the woman, saying quietly, "This is no way to speak to children my dear! Do you love them? If so, you must show them your love in the way that you talk to them. Stop criticising everything they say and do! I have been subjected to your horrible whining voice for the last hour so I just have one more thing to say to you -  SHUT THE **** UP!"

17 February 2019


How should we shake hands?

Handshaking is important in British culture and indeed in many other cultures too. It's customarily how we meet or greet people. It can also be how we say goodbye. There's physical contact - not just smiles or words of greeting or farewell - but actual touch.

One's handshake  transmits information to the other party. A limp, seemingly reluctant handshake suggests disinterest or superiority. In contrast, an excessively strong handshake suggests that there's a power game going on. The provider of the "too firm" handshake may be deliberately attempting to claim some kind of illusory top dog spot.

Perhaps it's mostly characteristic of would-be alpha males but I can recall several manly handshakes which have almost caused me to yelp with sudden pain as my knuckles have been unexpectedly crushed. That's not how a genuine handshake should be. You surely should not cause the unsuspecting recipient any discomfort.

This is my philosophy of handshaking: it's a way of signifying respect for the other person and establishing equality. There should be no squeezing or limpness and you should avoid holding on -  never maintaining your grip for too long. 

A socio-psychologist could have a real field day observing and reflecting upon the handshakes that are meted out by the forty fifth president of the USA. Now there's someone who definitely uses his handshake as a means of  suppression or intimidation. He often squeezes too hard and deliberately hangs on for too long. These are techniques that he probably developed while working in real estate and property development. With him it's all about power.

I never thought I would find myself agreeing with anything said by the late George H.W.Bush, but with regard to handshaking, we are definitely on the same wavelength. He said:-

It is possible to tell things by a handshake. I like the "looking in the eye" syndrome. 
It conveys interest. I like the firm, though not bone crushing shake. The bone 
crusher is trying too hard to "macho it." The clammy or diffident handshake - 
fairly or unfairly - get me off to a bad start with a person.

16 February 2019


Tree by Hazelhurst Lane, Sheffield
Sunshine in February. Blue skies and spring flowers stirring. What is a Yorkshire Pudding to do but to go out plodding through the countryside? After all, there may come a day when I find myself sitting in the window of a residential home, hardly able to shuffle to the lavatory, with porridge dribbling down my chin, wishing with all my heart that I could still walk miles.
St John the Evangelist Church, Ridgeway
On Thursday, Clint kindly whooshed me to the south-eastern fringes of the city. He parked himself near the old Lightwood aerodrome and then surgically I pulled my boots out of his rear end. I set off over the fields and through woods to the village of Ridgeway before returning in one of my habitual circles.

Then yesterday - Friday - I caught a train out to Lincolnshire - alighting in the village of Saxilby. It's situated about five miles west of the city of Lincoln in a flat agricultural landscape.
I had planned a walking route that would take me to Skellingthorpe, Doddington and Harby. And I marched over fields and wooden footbridges that crossed drains, through woods - only resting on a bench in Skellingthorpe for ten minutes to consume my corned beef and tomato sandwiches, washed down with Yorkshire water that I carried in an excellent one litre flask that was given to me as a Christmas present. There was also a sweet apple to much upon.
Crocuses at Doddington
I estimate that I walked ten miles - maybe more. I missed the 16.29 train back to Sheffield and had to catch the 17.31 instead. That was no big issue. I sank a pint of bitter shandy in "The Anglers" and then a small portion of chips with a fishcake from "Smiths" fish and chip shop before riding home in the gloaming.

And throughout this adventure, there wasn't even a vague hint of complaint from my right knee though, if I might share an intimate observation,  one's nether regions were somewhat chafed after so many strides. 
Top House Farm, Doddington
Blacksmith's Cottage, Harby

14 February 2019



A particular egg
A particular sperm

A certain pub
A particular night

A certain church
A particular Saturday

Particular years 
Certain happy days 

Particular paths
Certain stiles

A particular alignment of stars, 
A certain feeble heartbeat... 
The End.

13 February 2019


Yesterday morning as I stirred from sleep, a word rose up from the murky depths of my unfathomable mind. It was a word that I do not ever remember using - not even once in my entire life. That word was "happenstance". I liked the sound of it and it buzzed about in my skull like a bluebottle - happenstance, happenstance...

I knew roughly what it meant - something like co-incidence or circumstance. It's not a word you encounter every day. Google led me to a good example of the word in context:-

While some gardens can be grown through happenstance, a water garden is deliberately created by the gardener.

"Happenstance" implies happenings that  somehow collide. Some seeds were scattered. A shrub was planted. Creeping ground plants invaded from next door's garden. And together, through happenstance, the garden evolved into what you see today.

It seems that the word was first coined in the USA in the 1850's so it has not been around for very long. It sounds somehow Shakespearean but Shakespeare never used it. He went to his grave 250 years before "happenstance" emerged. Who first gave breath to the word is unknown - perhaps it was a mistake - but it seemed to fill a gap in the language, cleverly combining "happening" with "circumstance" just as "guesstimate" in more recent times has usefully combined "guess" with "estimate".

While particular word usage may  decline over time, the graph for "happenstance" has followed a steady, upward trajectory since 1900. However, just as I don't remember ever using the word myself, so I don't recall anyone else using it in my company. That may be pure happenstance or more likely the word mostly rears its head on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you also happen to like the word "happenstance" then this blogpost has been happenstantial.

12 February 2019


Back home again. Uploading pictures during my time in south west France was almost painful. The process was terribly slow. Consequently, today's blogpost is just a gallery of previously unshared photographs.
Treacle and Meike's blog
Cobweb in a store room at Floc
Typical house in Mirepoix
Medieval marketplace in Mirepoix
Near Mirepoix with Marty on the ridge
Croix deTerraset
Cow in the hills above Mirepoix
Sculpture by the church in Carla-Bayle

Window in Carla-Bayle
In Carla-Bayle

Memorial fountain to Carla-Bayle
Treacle (again) at Floc

10 February 2019


A view of Arvigna parish church
Arvigna is a cluster of hamlets, a couple of miles from Robin and Susie's place. Together they boast a population of just 232. Yesterday I parked Pierre near the commune's "mairie" or mayor's office and set off on another walk that was explained in "L'Ariège à pied".

The walk covered almost ten kilometres and the route was fairly easy to follow though at times my progress was slowed by muddy tracks and as I have said before French mud is exceedingly slippery. In comparison,English mud is far less treacherous.
 See above. This sign was at the top of a particularly awful path that led down an embankment. "Troupeaux" means herds and it was obvious that the path was regularly churned by cattle. I had a devil of a job getting down it.
When the circle was complete I drove up to the church shown in the top picture. With reverence, I observed the commune's war memorial and noticed that a plaque was attached to it for three local victims of the dreaded Gestapo. Jean Naudy and his son Antoine Naudy were slain with Francois Soler on July 29th 1944. I know nothing of the circumstances. Perhaps they were members of the French resistance or maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. So many French civilians were summarily eliminated by The Gestapo.

Today I was quite proud of myself for driving up to Toulouse , navigating the traffic, the toll road and finding a free place to park near the football stadium that is home to Toulouse F.C.. The final score was Toulouse 1 Stade de Reims 1 in the French first division. Before the game commenced there were two minutes applause for Emiliano Sala - the Argentinian footballer who died two weeks ago in a tragic air accident. Whatever happened to respectful silences?

This is my last night here. Tomorrow I will give the cats extra food before setting off to the airport at Carcassonne. Robin and Susie are due to get home on Tuesday afternoon. There'll be a furry welcoming committee waiting for them. Certainement.

9 February 2019


I have just come back inside the house after sitting in the sunshine with my shirt off, finishing "Sons and Lovers". Imagine that if you will - a bare-chested Yorkshire Pudding, soaking up the sunshine on February 9th!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the novel - partly because I have been able to give it my full, uncluttered attention. It speaks of social mores just after the Victorian era, of sexual psychology, of people striving for happiness. Our hero, Paul Morel, remains emotionally crippled and at the end readers are not quite sure what the future might hold for him. Miriam waited for him for years but in spite of himself he spurned her - intellectualising his resistance, unaware that he was thwarted by his mother's controlling influence.

Yesterday, Pierre took me to Mirepoix. It was not a market day so the picturesque little town was sleepy. I didn't care because I had mainly come there to park before undertaking a 10km walk north of the town. It  was explained in French in "L'Ariège à pied" and  I was able to find my way quite happily up into the forest along woodland tracks, passing the "hameau" (hamlet) of Marty and then down to Bourdicou - another remote "hameau" - where I took the photo of the cross at the top of this blogpost.

I sat upon the plinth of that cross for twenty minutes, looking out to the Pyrenees, stripped to the waist munching the apple I had brought with me. A horsey woman walked by, clearly stunned by my masculine physique. "Bon jour!" I said to her in a husky tone and she quickened her pace. She may have thought I was Jesus.

After the walk, I strolled around the centre of Mirepoix. You will be relieved to learn that I was no longer shirtless. Previously, I have visited Mirepoix a few times - but usually on market days when it is thronged with traders and visitors. It was nice to see it in a more quiet, everyday mood. And then I drove back to Floc to light the log fire, make spaghetti sauce and settle down for the night with nine pussies to stroke.

Eight nights gone. Two to go.

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