29 April 2019


In August 2017 the beloved Mrs Pudding and I decorated our bedroom. She papered one wall with a good quality paper that contained semi-abstract images of peacocks and leafy growth. The repeating pattern has  something of an oriental quality about it.

The other walls of the bedroom have a creamy plainness about them - and that includes the fitted wardrobes that run along the north wall, opposite the peacocks.

Soon after the decoration was finished, I had the bright idea of creating a canvas to hang on one of the plain walls. I wanted it to be similar to the wallpaper pattern but not identical. This weekend just gone, I finally got round to creating that picture.

Using oil paints, I am reasonably happy with what materialised. It matches my vision - only now I can see that the wallpaper link held me back artistically - chained me. At some time in the not too distant future I plan to have a go at a very different peacock painting. The paint will be thicker and brighter and the final image will be more eye-catching and indeed unique. I may just concentrate  on a peacock's head rather than attempting to depict  the whole creature.

The peacock is one of the avian world's most flamboyant characters and it will  be a challenge to make a new image that satisfies me and exists in its own right with no connection to the wallpaper design - apart from the fact that a peacock will be centre stage.
For what it's worth - here's my first attempt

28 April 2019


A week ago I parked Clint in the village of Shatton near Bamford before plodding up the hillside to a telecommunications mast that overlooks The Hope Valley. It was a mile of solid uphill walking but I have found that if you breathe steadily and take shorter steps there is no need to pause on such a walk. Patiently, you just keep going.

By the time I reached the mast there was sweat on my brow. A couple were sitting on a grassy slope nearby, admiring the view. I kept going across Shatton Moor and then onward to Brough Lane. From there you get great views of Hope Cement Works (see top picture).
A view of  Bamford in The Hope Valley
Some people bewail the presence of this industry - considering it to be a blot on The Peak District landscape. But I recognise that the modern world needs limestone-based products and families in the nearby villages of Hope and Bradwell need work. Living, breathing national parks need to be part of the real world. It's not all about rental cottages and biscuit box lid scenery.
A posse of girls on horseback trotted along the upland  track as I descended to Elmore Hill Farm where spring lambs frolicked. And then on to Upper Shatton and along the narrow lane that leads you back to Shatton. Cowslips and primroses bloomed on the grassy banking of ancient hedgerows and more lambs sheltered with ewes  in the shade of a copse because it was an unseasonably warm day.

Across the ford and back into Shatton where I took a bottle of water from Clint's boot and swigged it down in one great gulp. It was like breathing air. 

27 April 2019


Last night saw the final gig of The Blind Eagles' blockbusting tour of northern England. I am writing this on the tour bus as our driver Red steers us back to Manchester Airport so that our North American backing singers - The Eaglettes can fly home.

The last gig happened in The Spa Theatre, Scarborough. We really nailed it!

There was Steve Reed churning out the bass lines like sleepers on a railway track - taking us steadily to some faraway hills and there was his partner Dave caught in the spotlight like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. He was inspired. John Gray beat his drumkit in the style of Animal from "The Muppet Show" - beads of perspiration shooting out like some kind of human fountain. God that guy knows to drive the beat.

The Eaglettes - Mary, Vivian and Jenny crooned in natural harmony, their figure-hugging sequined dresses sparkling like distant constellations. They really gelled on the tour - not just as singers but as friends too. Speaking as the lead singer and frontman, they gave me brilliant support. I couldn't have done it without you gals!

The Scarborough crowd were really up for it. News of our success had spread across The Deep North like a forest fire and of course our social media channels - including Twitter and YouTube had added much fuel to the conflagration. Thanks to Meike Riley and Jennifer Barlow for co-ordinating all that stuff.

I think we will all remember the tour for different reasons. That cheap hotel in Blackpool where Dave and Steve were caught snorting coke in the breakfast room by Elsie the fearsome landlady and the riot in Sunderland when waiting fans were told that the gig was completely sold out. The power outage in Grimsby and Red sleeping with all of The Eaglettes that memorable night  in the Travel Lodge just outside York. 

Hey baby, it's all rock n' roll. "Carpe diem"  as they say. You gotta seize the day.

Meantime our first album "The Blind Eagles On Tour" is already charting at number one across Europe and The States. And I am proud to announce  that my original song, "Save The Earth" has been selected as the theme music for the new David Attenborough  TV series that will have the same name:-
Listen to the silence
Now that the birds have gone
Earth whispered long ago
There's no room for every one
Save the Earth
Save the Earth
Save the Earth

26 April 2019


On Wednesday afternoon I spent a couple of hours working on the till at Oxfam. I needed some music on the shop  CD player and quickly picked "After the Goldrush" by Neil Young. Incredibly, that album came out in 1970. It has been around for almost fifty years. Can you believe it?

One song from the album  has stayed in my head the last forty eight hours. It is "Birds" and if I have any say in the matter, I would like it to be played at my funeral. Can't be too long now... Please listen:-


there will be another one
Who'll hover
over you beneath the sun
see the things
that never come

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.

in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
see the things
that never come

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over, it's over.

25 April 2019


One is still catching up on the lost days when  the internet vanished like a  will-o'-the-wisp as our laptop suffered some internal malady - like technological diverticulitis.

You may not have noticed this but my blogging stage name is Yorkshire Pudding. In selecting this pseudonym, there seemed to be no more obvious or better choice. After all, my racial heritage is 100% Yorkshire. What could be better than to name myself after my great county's culinary treasure.

When I make Yorkshire puddings no measuring happens and no cookbooks are ever consulted. I could make Yorkshire puddings with my eyes closed. The basic mixture is on the face of things very simple but to make successful Yorkshire puddings you need experience and passion -two qualities which I have in abundance.

On Sunday, the evening sunlight illuminated the batch I had freshly prepared for Sunday dinner. Golden and crispy, they rose from the hollows in the old baking tin like little Yorkist angels. My mother would have been proud of me. Have a look at these bad boys:-
On Easter Monday, I parked on Bents Green Road just a mile from here on the western edge of the city. Its elevation is perhaps two hundred feet above our street's altitude so spring bursts ever so slightly later up there. I noticed the fresh and vibrant cherry blossom when the glory of the blossoming cherry trees closer to home was already fading. 

In one of the pictures you can see Clint snoozing under a pink tree - he is so sleek and silver.and was perturbed about petals falling upon his paintwork but he needn't have worried. The air was so still.
In other news, Ian and Henry have made the front cover of a national food magazine called "Vegan Life". The "Bosh!" story keeps on running:-

24 April 2019


I'm Slim Shady (I'm back)
I'm back (I'm back) (Slim Shady!) I'm back
                                                    By Eminem

How did I survive the last few days without internet access? Men made of weaker stuff would have surely crumbled but I girded my loins and battled through like a Canadian Mountie on a mission. 

After the long Easter weekend, I took this Lenovo laptop to a young fellow called Josh who manages a small computer business. I explained the problem and twenty four hours later the computer was fixed for £30 (US $40). Thanks to my friend Mick for pointing me in Josh's direction. There was no need to shell out for a new laptop after all. Fingers crossed, this repaired magic machine will now travel much further with me upon life's twisting journey. I hope so anyway.
Lyra McKee (1990-2019)
In those missing days, various things happened both in my life and in the world at large.  There was wicked mass killing by madmen in Sri Lanka and in Derry City, Northern Ireland poor Lyra McKee was accidentally killed by a mindless moron with a gun. In London, Extinction Rebellion protesters raised many questions and the amazing Miss Greta Thunberg was there to provide moral support. Meantime in Yorkshire we were bathed in Easter sunshine.

Travelling to Hull to watch my football team play Sheffield United, I made a special detour to photograph a certain geographical square. In 2011, the Ordnance Survey organisation declared that this square was the dullest, most boring square in the entire United Kingdom. It has no features - no roads or buildings or paths or hills. It is as flat as a pancake and doesn't even have any fences or hedgerows. There are just a few drainage channels and a couple of straggly bushes and in the south western corner there is an electricity pylon.

The square is situated just south of The River Ouse and the small ribbon settlement of Ousefleet that clings to a quiet lane, seven miles east of a town called Goole. It wasn't Mount Everest or The Gibson Desert but I got there...
Within the most boring square

19 April 2019


Our Lenovo laptop has been playing up, so much so that it appears to have ground to a terminal  halt. Fortunately, our Ian came back to Sheffield this afternoon. I took him out for a curry this evening and he gave me permission to access his Apple laptop when I got home. By the way, he has now gone out with some of his Sheffield chums and Shirley is over in Manchester attending a "hen-do" weekend.

So here I am back at the ranch, tapping away on an Apple laptop for the first time in my life. I could get used to it but things don't work the same way as on a regular Windows-friendly computer. 

Anyway, I thought I had better knock out a blogpost just in case you were wondering where I had gone. Perhaps you were thinking that I had travelled down to London to join Extinction Rebellion or maybe you thought I had been rushed to hospital suffering from some undiagnosed ailment.

Sorry to disappoint you. Normal life continues. I am plonked on the sofa with a mug of coffee, ready to watch "Have I Got News For You"...

...That show always gives me a few laughs. There was Trump in 2016 saying "I love Wikileaks"  and there he was again last week saying, "I don't know anything about Wikileaks".  I guess that honesty and consistency are overrated qualities these days. Who wants leaders like that?

Picture: Henry and Ian at Euston Station

18 April 2019


I don't know if it is the same in America, Canada, Australia, Germany or any other western country but here in England, insurance companies are engaged in widespread extortion. Let me explain.

You have paid for a year's house insurance. You have not made a claim and your circumstances have not changed. You are close to the end of the year and you receive a renewal notice from your chosen insurance company. You are somewhat taken aback because the new premium proposed is 25% higher than last year's premium. How can that possibly be right?

Many customers would simply trust their insurance company and pay the new premium. There's a degree of unwelcome hassle involved in complaining, querying or checking with other insurance providers. Living a busy life, it's easier just to pay up.

But that's wrong. My advice is to phone the insurance company and ask, "What's going on?". Why has my insurance gone up so much? Is there anything you can do to bring the premium down? Then you will no doubt hear a pattering of feet, you might be put on hold for a while and then the representative of the company will come back to you with a much reduced total figure. The whole thing is a despicable scam upon which the forces of government and the law should be clamping down.

At the end of March, our proposed annual  house insurance premium with The Halifax Bank had shot up by £35. Following a five minute call I got it down to a £12 increase - saving us £23 for exactly the same policy.

Yesterday, I received a renewal notice for my car insurance. The figure quoted was £65 higher than last year. I phoned the insurer up and managed to reduce the increase by £50. That's £50 in my pocket rather than the insurers' plentiful vaults. Once again, the policy is exactly the same as the one proposed. The only difference is the price.

When calling these sharks, it can be helpful to get yourself armed with an alternative quote from another company and to use this in fortifying your argument but often that doesn't seem necessary. It's as if the call centre operator's screen has flashed up this kind of message - "He has phoned up to  challenge the renewal figure so keep him waiting for five minutes and then reduce the figure using Formula A. Remember to make him think that we are doing him a big favour by saying - 'We can do this for you' etc.".

It all stinks like Grimsby Fish Market and I have little doubt that this widespread extortion by stealth is making insurance companies fatter and richer than ever before. Remember to phone them back and make a polite but firm challenge if you receive an overinflated renewal notice.

17 April 2019


Gordon Gout has crept back in his hole. He is definitely "one of them". I hope I don't see him again for many weeks. He is not welcome in this neck of the woods.

On Monday morning I was no longer limping so I thought I would treat myself to a little walk on the moors just south of Sheffield. 

I parked in a lay-by by the side of the B6054 road that links Fox House with Owler Bar. With boots on I set off. No need for a map as I know the paths up there very well. There was a chilly wind blustering down from the north so I was glad that I had donned my warm Hull City manager's coat.

After twenty minutes, I cut away from the moorland track and headed instead through heather and rough grasses to the ruined site of an old sheepfold. Two gateposts endure like a memorial to the decades of sheep farming that once played out upon that windswept moor.
Fifty yards away there's an old triangulation pillar - now no longer required for mapping or survey work. All over the island of Britain you will find such concrete pillars. With each year that passes their credentials as historical artefacts increase. Whenever I encounter one I like to capture it with my camera, like a grouse shooter bagging birds.

And then it was on to the big cairn on top of Brown Edge with excellent views of Sheffield and the city's southern suburbs. Two other men were up there. They were the best of friends and one of them was an Olympic standard talker. We chattered for a while in the wind before they skedaddled. Then I sat upon the little bench that has been wedged into the north side of the cairn and ate my apple watching meadow pipits and skylarks dancing on the north wind.

Take that Gordon Gout! - I muttered to myself as I strolled back to Clint who was dozing in the lay-by. (American: "turnout"/ "pullout")

16 April 2019


In the display cabinet next to the till counter in our Oxfam shop there was a plastic model of some sort of spaceship. A sweet little five year old boy was looking at it, his face pressed against the glass. His mother said, "It's from Star Wars."

The little boy asked, "What is Star Wars?"

Noticing me behind the counter, smiling down on the scene, the forty something woman said, "Can you explain?"

"Me? No," I said. "I have never seen a Star Wars film."

"Oh. You are one of them are you?"

This wasn't a fun remark. It had an unpleasant, judgemental edge to it. Puzzled by her response I said, "Yes. I'm one of them. Someone who is not interested in that kind of thing."

"You could easily watch a Star Wars film. It would only take up  two hours of your life."

"Yes I could but I am not interested. Why should I waste my time?"

She raised her eyebrows disdainfully At that point, the communication ended and soon the woman with her little son in tow left the shop. I had never seen them before and I suspect that I won't see them again. 

One of them? 

I wonder how she might have described me if I had also informed  her that I have never watched a single James Bond film or any Harry Potter films or Lord of the Rings or  "Game of Thrones". (By the way, is that like the children's party game - Musical Chairs?) Yes my friends, I am not just "one of them", I am a super "one of them". I'm so "one of them" it is surprising that I haven't been locked up. 

How about you? Are you also "one of them" or are you,  like the snide woman in the shop, a fully-certified card-carrying normal human being?

15 April 2019


Anyone who has a blog with Google "Blogger" can investigate their vital statistics. This is something that I do from time to time. In fact, today's post builds on a similar blogpost I published back in November of last year.

As you know, this blog is churned out lovingly transmitted from England's premier county - Yorkshire. One would expect that most Yorkshire Pudding visitors might hail from The United Kingdom and indeed for the first ten years of this humble blog's existence that was always the case. However, in the past twelve months American visitors have very much been in the ascendancy. Last month there were 4850 visitors from The United Kingdom but 9726 from The United States. Double the number of British visitors.

As I admitted last November, I am an unashamed Americophile and this remains the case in spite of Trump, in spite of school shootings, in spite of climate change deniers, in spite of Walmart and Bible bashers and the huge divide between rich and poor. I love America and recall with great affection the happy times I have spent there. America is such a big country with so many facets, so much variety, so many fine people. Forget the stereotypes.

It is easy to think of Jennifer in her South Carolina home, tapping away at her keyboard waiting for "The Fish Guy" to return and it is easy to think of Mr Brague in his neat Georgia house reading his favoured blogs and writing his erudite comments while replying to Ellie in the kitchen - "I'll be through soon honey!" And it remains easy to think of Jan Blawat in Sloughhouse, California, raising her prize poultry and fiercely maintaining her independence.

But that's just three of the 9726 Americans. What about the others? The ones who never comment.

A big shout out to Hank in Melville, Montana and all the guys and gals who get down to "Bill's Place" on a Saturday night. Hank has got a cabin by Sweet Grass Creek where he lives with his dog Ronald and enough guns to overthrow a banana republic. Life has been hard for Hank since Judy left him and since ranching in central Montana fell upon hard times. Hi there Hank! How ye doin' buddy?
WD Ranch, Montana where Hank used to work
And another huge "hello" to Kelly-Ann Schwartz  in Red Hook, Brooklyn where she shares a spacious post-industrial warehouse apartment with her partner. Kelly-Ann works in upper Manhattan at an advertising agency, servicing various Chinese clients including Huawei. After a long session on the treadmill at her local gym, she likes nothing better than a large glass of Chardonnay and a visit to "Yorkshire Pudding" on her tablet. Hiya Kelly-Ann! Thanks for your support babe!

Down in Miami Beach most weekends, tiny fingers move hesitantly over a keyboard. They belong to a Scottish American who happens to be the most powerful man in the world. Enduring a stressful workaday existence in the full glare of the world's media, DJ fires out a few angry tweets before settling down to peruse his favourite blogs. "Yorkshire Pudding" takes him away from daily pressures even though he doesn't understand many of the big words. Hello DJ my friend! Take it easy old man!

With all of you American visitors, I am now considering dressing like the average American guy - leather cowboy boots, silver spurs, a stetson hat, chequered shirt and Levi jeans. Does anybody know where I can purchase chewing tobacco? I may also consider writing "sidewalk" when I mean "pavement" or "footpath" - and "trunk" when I really mean "boot" with reference  to cars.

God Bless America!

14 April 2019


Back in September of last year I found an old bottle on the dried up bed of a depleted reservoir. I blogged about it here.

On Thursday, as I squelched through soft ground and mud to get my pictures of those arum lilies, I spotted another old bottle. It was just lying there, half-submerged in the boggy ground. I picked it up and brought it home.

Yesterday I cleaned it up with hot, soapy water. I was delighted with what emerged - a beautiful old green-tinged scotch whisky bottle. The glass is attractively imperfect. Lord knows how long the bottle had been lying there close to the arum lilies. It is not a place where people would often go so the bottle may have lain in that location for up to a hundred years.

You may perhaps have heard of the scotch whisky brand - Johnnie Walker. Well, before that name was adopted that particular fiery amber liquid was called  "Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky" - Kilmarnock being a town in Ayrshire, Scotland. 

In the 1860's, the Walker family had the bright idea of using square bottles to assist in the storage and transportation of their whisky. Those bottles were mass-produced using cheap glass manufacturing processes. These green-tinged  bottles persisted for at least sixty years so I suspect that the bottle I found  was possibly thrown down in the 1920's.

Who discarded it? Perhaps a drunkard who had been drowning his sorrows or a pre-war toff who had been partying in nearby Whirlow Brook Hall. We will never know for those imagined whisky drinkers are already dead.

Glass production methods were much improved by the 1930's  and besides by then Walker's Kilmarnock Whisky was  known as "Johnnie Walker" with the famous striding man on the label.
The base of  my new bottle

13 April 2019


Shirley spotted this Sheffield public bus down at Pond Street Bus Terminus. She snapped  it on her phone. "Lose Your Veganity" is a clever slogan for BOSH! Of course it is a little bit naughty but essentially it is saying - try vegan cooking with the help of "Bish Bash BOSH!" You can see the front cover of the book below the slogan.

Down in London, six red buses are currently displaying identical advertising. Just the other day, on Twitter, someone posted this picture of The Number 13 on its morning route:-
Meantime your genial blog correspondent has been visited by an old and most unpleasant acquaintance called Gordon Gout. He first came to me in January 2005 and in the intervening fourteen years there have been intermittent visits connected with the chemistry of my body. Often months have gone by without a single visit.

Currently my left big toe is throbbing like the devil and I am limping rather than walking. In  my experience, gout is like an internal poison. Okay, the toe is throbbing but the rest of me is somehow physically stressed and I will not be back to normal until Gordon Gout disappears. It will be like a cloud lifting.

On Thursday, I managed to hobble a few yards in Whirlowbrook Park. I wanted to take some pictures of the arum lilies that grow there each spring - down in the muddy hollow adjacent to Limb Brook. They are spectacular plants that look as though they belong in science fiction.

12 April 2019


Gabriel García Márquez was often affectionately referred to as "Gabo" in Latin America. Born in Colombia in 1927, he died in Mexico City in 2014. Many critics consider him to be the greatest writer that South America has ever produced.

That being said, I had never read any of his six novels until this very month. The one I picked was "Love in The Time of Cholera", first published in 1985. To be honest, I picked this one simply because I was intrigued by its title.

It is colourful, passionate, observant and quirky and Edith Grossman who translated the text from its original Spanish did an excellent job of  processing García Márquez's authorial voice into English.

The novel spans sixty years in a sleepy, post-colonial Colombian port. The key players are Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. It takes a lifetime of letters and waiting and diversion before their love can finally be consummated. Apparently, their story was somewhat inspired by García Márquez's parents' protracted love story. 

Of course, I could bore you silly with a detailed plot summary but I won't do that. Instead, I will just give you a glimpse of  García Márquez's characteristic command of language with this quotation from near the end of the novel when in old age Florentino and Fermina are at last beginning to see the way ahead:
They were both intimidated, they could not understand what they were doing so far from their youth on a terrace with checkerboard tiles in a house that belonged to no one and that was still redolent of cemetery flowers. It was the first time in half a century that they had been so close and had enough time to look at each other with some serenity, and they had seen each other for what they were: two old people, ambushed by death, who had nothing in common except the memory of an ephemeral past that was no longer theirs but belonged to two young people who had vanished and who could have been their grandchildren. (page 305/306)

I very much enjoyed "Love in The Time of Cholera" and plan to read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" before too long. Maybe some visitors to this blog discovered Gabo long ago but I have only just found him.

11 April 2019


The 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790 -1858)
Nearly every morning I eat a banana. We always have a cluster of bananas in our fruit bowl. Perhaps I am a banana addict. I need my fix every day.

The history of bananas is long and complicated. They originated in the Indomalayan region but there is evidence of bananas being grown in  Africa and Arabia by the medieval period. Commercial plantations began to be established in the late nineteenth century and nearly all the bananas we consume today are derived from the Musa acuminata  group - commonly referred to as Cavendish bananas.

Now the name "Cavendish" is very familiar in this part of the world for it is the family name of the Dukes of Devonshire who still own Chatsworh House in north Derbyshire, just  nine miles from this keyboard. It was the Sixth Duke of Devonshire - William George Spencer Cavendish (1790 -1858) - who first cultivated Cavendish dessert bananas in his glass houses at Chatsworth. Their descendants can be found in vast plantations across the Carribbean and Central America but nowadays mostly in India and China which are by far the world's biggest banana producers.
Interestingly, it is thought that the term "banana" is of West African or Arabic origin - arriving in the English language via Portuguese or Spanish. You would have perhaps expected the name to have originated in the islands we now call Indonesia but that is not the case.

Though we are all very familiar with Cavendish bananas there are in fact a thousand different varieties of banana. Some are short and stubby, others are red or filled with small seeds. Others are large plantains that don't get very sweet and are used as the starchy element in main meals. They are very popular in Jamaican cuisine.

There is so much more that might be said about bananas - about their susceptibility to disease, about the different ways of cooking them, about their place in humour, about the slipperiness of their skins, about the nutrients they contain and about modern cultivation and transportation methods. But I will leave you today with one of my favourite sayings - when something seems impossible or ridiculous - "If you can get there by two o'clock then I'm a banana" or "If Manchester United beat Barcelona next week then I'm a banana" and so on. Apart from being great to eat, bananas are also endearingly silly.

10 April 2019


I have tramped along every path and byway in and around Sheffield. It's hard to come across anything new but yesterday afternoon I took my first pictures of the stone object shown above. I must have driven past it a hundred times without noting its existence.

It's called Barncliff Stoop and it stands by an ancient road known as The Long Causeway. Very probably that road was first marched along by Romans as they headed westward over the hills to Buxton and Chester. Later the roadway became a trading route linking South Yorkshire with the west and it is believed that Barncliff Stoop was one of several erected in the fourteenth century to guide early travellers and merchants.

Three miles further along The Long Causeway, you reach Stanage Pole. It stands on the border between Yorkshire and Derbyshire and once marked the boundary between the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria that preceded the birth of England itself.
In the distance on the moors, close to a stand of trees you can see Stanedge Lodge - a grouse shooters' lodge and the highest residential building within Sheffield's city boundaries.
I turned back at Stanage Pole, returning to the reservoirs at Redmires. The top reservoir has been undergoing significant maintenance, including strengthening of the dam wall but now they are allowing rainwater to refill it. It's going to take a while unless the heavens open for a few days in a row.

Near Wyming Brook Farm, a girl was cantering around a paddock on her trusty steed. I noticed her lilac coloured helmet popping up above the gritstone wall and managed to snap the picture shown below.
Also by Wyming Brook Farm, I spotted this sweet and newly born lamb which I have named Robert in honour of either the English poet Robert Browning or Robert Brague that redoubtable blogger from the heart of The Peach State, USA. Take your pick. Robert bleated at me and then gambolled off to find his mother, perhaps fearing that I might have been there to do him harm.

9 April 2019


Robert Browning 1812-1889
This morning I woke up thinking, "Oh, to be in England/ Now that April's there". And I further thought, who wrote those lines? Uncle Google led me to "Home Thoughts from Abroad" by Robert Browning. The poem was written in 1845 when Browning and his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Barrett, were apparently already living in Florence,  Italy.

Home Thoughts from Abroad

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

It is easy to sense Browning's nostalgia in this poem. He is missing his homeland - even though it is perhaps worth pointing out that he was born and raised a Londoner so the rural idyll to which he refers would have been some distance from his daily experience of the world during the first thirty three years of his life.

I think that the "melon-flower" of the last line references Nature in Italy. It is so different from what he left back home and far less stimulating. 

Ultimately, I must confess that I do not like this poem very much. I think that some of the rhymes are as forced as the images of springtime that Browning has conjured up. For me the overall effect jars somehow and I am left thinking - well if you missed England so much, why didn't you simply pack up and leave Italy behind? I think it lacks the emotional authenticity that I am habitually drawn to in good poetry.

I find the ending especially problematic. The poem just judders to a halt without proper reflection on the differences between springtime in England and springtime in Italy. No, I am sorry Robert, though it starts well, I give this poem 6/10. Must try harder. What do you think?

8 April 2019


In my old Sheffield school, there was a senior teacher called Joe Lyons. He hailed from Northern Ireland and was The Head of Lower School. In this role he often had to lead school assemblies and I was witness to very many of them.

When addressing issues of misbehaviour, Joe would often revert to one of his stock sayings: "It's nice to be nice". After hearing him use it a hundred times, I came to appreciate that it is indeed "nice to be nice". People can be very good at criticising or knocking down but forgetful about the simple process of being nice to others. There's a lot to be said for niceness.

On Saturday night, I was in our local pub with my friend and former colleague Jonathan who now lives and works in Taiwan. As we were about to leave the pub, a middle-aged woman approached me. I recognised her because she had worked behind the bar a few years back.

To paraphrase as best I can, this is what she said: "I was just saying to my friends that when I worked here you were the one person who was always very nice to me. You treated me with respect without fail. I never said that to you before and I thought if I don't say it now, I might never say it. Thank you."

This was all most unexpected. I gave her a bear hug and departed. It gave me a rosy feeling. I had been boosted by her niceness.

Today, I had to take my sleek silver car Clint to the Hyundai automobile hospital because there was a problem with his heater blowing mechanism. For the second time in the past month I was dealt with by a young service desk receptionist called Lizzy.

When the job was done, Lizzy led me outside to show me where Clint was parked and that's when I asked for her name. I told her that when the online customer satisfaction survey came  through I would mention her.

"Why's that?" asked Lizzy.

"Because on the two occasions you have dealt with me you have been very pleasant, very polite and very efficient. I just want to sing your praises. It's not always like this when cars are taken to garages for work to be done."

Lizzy smiled. I know I brightened her day and that gave me a good feeling too. After all, it is nice to be nice isn't it?

7 April 2019


The Saatchi Gallery near Sloane Square in West London is housed in a former army building - The Duke of York regimental headquarters. Admission is free to all.

Sponsored by the fabulously wealthy Saatchi brothers, the spacious building houses ever changing exhibitions of modern art and photography. Because it is a good distance from London's main tourist hotspots, it seems to enjoy a better degree of tranquility and when Shirley and I visited it on Friday we were pleasantly surprised that the place was not thronging. It was possible to tarry a while and absorb the exhibits without being stressed by crowds. In one or two of the gallery rooms we were sometimes alone.

I like to feel that I am open-minded about modern art. Equally, I am unafraid to call something "rubbish" if that is how it appears to me. Fortunately, on Friday nearly all the artefacts on show seemed to have merit and we enjoyed our peaceful visit.

It was good to walk around Jean-Francois Bocle's "Everything Must Go" (2014) which consists of 97,000 ubiquitous and semi-inflated blue plastic bags. Each bag represents just one of the estimated 97,000 African people who died during transportation to the Americas when the transatlantic slave trade was at its height. Simultaneously, the blue bags also speak critically of plastic pollution in the world's oceans.
Yamal Peninsula, Russia September 2018 by Yuri Kozyrev
There was also a marvellous display of photographs from the far north of this planet - showing the effects of global warming and man's intrusion into these wilderness lands.   The photographers were Yuri Kozyrev and Kadir van Lohuizen who I am sure are well known to all readers of this blogpost. They were capturing  region that is increasingly gripped by change.

I am aware that The Saatchi Gallery has in its possession many notable pieces of modern art by artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Rachel Whiteread but this influential and ofttimes controversial work is not displayed permanently. That discovery disappointed me. However, there was enough good Art on display to make us feel that our visit had been very worthwhile. To find out more about The Saatchi Gallery, please visit the website.
"The Ochre Guitar" by Florence Hutchings (2018)

6 April 2019


Regular visitors to this blog may recall that my sleek silver South Korean automobile is called Clint. On Thursday, Clint kindly whisked Madam Pudding and I to England's capital city. This afternoon he brought us home again - safe and sound. It took us just three hours to get home. We brought Princess Pudding with us to attend an old friend's thirtieth birthday party.
 Mostly we were in London to attend the full launch of "Bish Bash BOSH!" at the old Trumans Brewery on Brick Lane. This was the venue for a monthly event called "Vegan Nights". There was a wide range of vegan food outlets, a long bar selling expensive alcoholic drinks and a stage from which loud dance music was being emitted. And we were surrounded by vegans, hundreds and hundreds of them.

It was as if we had landed on Planet Vega. Take me to your leader!
And then Ian and Henry were on stage. Ian demonstrated the cooking of four recipes from the new cookbook while Henry DJ'd and the inhabitants of Vega grooved to the music. I found myself dancing with a former "Blue Peter" presenter called Andy Akinwolere who is one of Ian and Henry's London chums.

Later the lads signed copies of their book and had photos taken with fans and followers. It was a helluva night.

Friday was a more leisurely day for Madame de Pudin and I. We used underground trains to get to Sloane Square from where we walked the short distance to the Saatchi Art Gallery.  (I will blog about this tomorrow or on Monday)

We spent a couple of hours in there perusing the exhibits before having a late lunch in the humble Piccolo Sandwich Bar on Sloane Road. Then we headed down to The River Thames after passing The Chelsea Hospital before wandering along the riverside then up to Pimlico. Soon we were back on underground trains, rattling home to Wood Green.
Top - The old Battersea Power Station under development
Second - Mural near Brick Lane
Third - Henry and Ian groovin' & a-cookin' at Vegan Nights
Bottom - Food van waiting for Vegan Nights to begin

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