29 February 2020


Celebrities are such wonderful people aren't they? They will do anything for charity. I don't know if it is the same in other countries but here in Britain our celebrities are always raising money for various charities. 

Very kindly they appear on TV quiz shows that then have no need for recruiting ordinary people as contestants. At the end of each show the celebrities tell us the names of their favourite charities. The celebrities may get their expenses paid and of course they achieve extra TV exposure but these factors are purely incidental.

We have one celebrity show called "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" in which a plane load of celebrities are flown to Australia to spend a couple of weeks in a jungle encampment. They have various tasks to perform called "bush tucker trials" in which they face snakes or spiders and munch upon grubs and animal genitalia to win stars for the other celebrities back in the camp. The celebrities have a jolly old time and in the end one of them is voted King/Queen of The Jungle. The calls of the telephone voting public raise money for charity as we watch the celebrities having fun.

Recently a random bunch of British celebrities were going to be flown out to Mongolia to trek across a frozen lake but the expedition was cancelled at the last minute because of concerns about coronavirus. Instead, the celebrity circus headed for The Namib Desert in Africa to perform a very different trek. And it was all for charity. The cost of cancelling the original project and the transport costs to Namibia were again purely incidental.

I have got a new idea for a celebrity fundraiser called "Seven Continents in Seven Weeks". It's quite simple really. The celebrities head for Heathrow Airport and are then flown business class to Las Vegas in North America. They stay at The Bellagio Hotel and get to visit The Grand Canyon and Death Valley.

Then they are flown to South America where they participate in the big Carnival in Rio de Janeiro before riding with gauchos across The Pampas of Argentina and heading down to Tierra del Fuego to do some penguin and whale watching.

Next it's on to Antarctica to spend a few days with The British Antarctic Survey, learning more about climate change and marine life beneath the ice sheets.

After this the celebrities move on to Australia - attending a charity concert headed by The Rolling Stones in Sydney Opera House before learning to surf at Bondi Beach. Then it's on to Asia, including an early morning visit to The Taj Mahal and a helicopter flight to the summit of Mount Everest - weather permitting.

Next the celebrities move on to Africa to endure a wildlife safari in The Masai Mara National Park in Kenya before heading back to Europe and a restful sojourn in The Isles of Greece, learning to dance like Zorba the Greek to exotic balalaika music.

As I say, celebrities are wonderful people who do so much for charity but some will not be tough enough to complete the demanding "Seven Continents in Seven Weeks" challenge as outlined above. Still, if they remind themselves that it is all in the name of charity perhaps a few celebrities will come up to the plate. Afterwards, one or two of them might write books about the challenge and secure magazine and newspaper interviews too. Celebrities are special people and I am sure that we ordinary mortals will be happy to fund their selfless intercontinental charity work. 

28 February 2020


Something quite sinister is going on. In the past few years, I have become increasingly aware of a secret cult to which many thousands now subscribe. Well, I suppose it is not entirely secret as the adherents boldly advertise their allegiance on  items of clothing. Perhaps that is in the rules.

You may have spotted some of these brainwashed people yourself. Somewhere about their persons they will display the legend "The North Face". 

At first I would naively ask them, "Where is The North Face?" but they would sneer or smirk at me, zealously guarding the secret of "The North Face".

I have heard that they gather in large public halls, all bearing their "The North Face" logos, looking up at stages where hazy images of "The North Face" appear with transcendental music and a deep, echoey voice says "Pray bow my people. Pay homage to The North Face. The only place where true happiness reigns."

And as "The North Facers" troop from the hall, they swipe their contactless bankcards over beeping terminals that harvest their spare incomes like barley in late summer.

Perhaps no one knows where "The North Face" is. Probably - like Shangri-La or Eldorado - it is to be found on the edge of things - in the netherworld, just beyond our reach.

I am considering leading a counter-culture called "The South Face". We will drink foaming pints of Tetley's bitter and devour pork pies as we march there - all the way to "The South Face". So near but yet so far. Will you join me?

27 February 2020


Earlier today I went in search of winter and found it in The High Peak south of Sparrowpit. I parked on an unnamed lane that leads to the rim of a huge limestone quarry and to remote Lodes Barn Farm.

There was a bitter arctic wind when I raised Clint's boot (American: trunk) seeking my trusty boots, warm coat, gloves and headgear. It was a relief when I finally donned my woolly Hull City hat and set off on a chilly ramble to a hill named Bee Low.
My bootsteps - heading to Bee Low
I wasn't out there long - little more than an hour. A circular walk would have been close to impossible.

Back in  the Clintmobile I read for a while before heading back towards the hamlet of Wardlow Mires. There's a great cafe there called The Yonderman. I was dreaming of a bacon and egg sandwich and a mug of tea but in the event all they could offer me was a tuna mayo sandwich with salad. The grills had been switched off ready for cleaning at two thirty. Ah well - you can't have everything you want.
Dove Holes Limestone Quarry
And so I left winter in those chilly uplands and returned to the eastern edge of The High Peak hills where Sheffield looks out towards the plains of Lincolnshire. Lincoln green as if springtime was about to join us.
Lodes Barn Farm

26 February 2020


President Ronald Reagan born in 1911 & Pope John Paul II born in 1920
Like several regular readers of  "Yorkshire Pudding", I was born in the middle of the twentieth century. We were aware of key events and phases in that century seen from different angles - personal, national and international. We had a real sense of what those hundred years meant.

Now we are in a new century. Already twenty years have  gone by. It's interesting to consider what would have happened by now if we were still back in the 1900's.

Born in the first year of the century, my grandmother Phyllis White is now twenty years old. She remembers working in a munitions factory on the edge of Sheffield at Templeborough. She worked there for two years along with hundreds of other young women. Most men of fighting age were in France or Belgium, participating in a ridiculous war - The "Great" War. What was "great" about it?

It's two years since both of my grandfathers returned from those killing fields. They never met each other but they both fought at The Battle of the Somme and returned to civilian life without physical injury or psychological counselling. No one will ever know what they experienced.

Twenty years ago there were hardly any automobiles. The majority of urban transport depended upon horses. There was horse shit everywhere. Now with World War One over, the age of the horse is fading away with cars, tractors and omnibuses taking over. It's as if there has been a revolution in transport.

Queen Victoria was still on the throne as this century began. Her loathsome playboy son King Edward VII lasted just nine years before the current monarch King George V came to the throne.

The entire nation mourned when the "Titanic" went down in The North Atlantic eight years ago - the same year that Robert Falcon Scott and his polar team met an icy end in Antarctica.

In Malton, North Riding of Yorkshire, my father Philip was born six years ago. He now likes to ride on the family's milk cart around the streets of  the adjacent village of Norton. My mother Doreen will appear  in May of next year in The West Riding of Yorkshire. She will be born into a coal mining family.

Next year someone called Adolf Hitler will become the fuhrer of the German Nazi Party as the German economy continues to nosedive and in two years time archaeologist Howard Carter will enter the sealed tomb of Tutankhamen in The Valley of the Kings.

For five years the English F.A. Cup football competition has not taken place but in May of this year Aston Villa will beat Huddersfield Town in a keenly contested final at Stamford Bridge in London. The Rugby League Challenge Cup will be won by  Huddersfield for the second year running.

This year Pope John Paul II, Isaac Asimov, Mickey Rooney and Ray Bradbury will all be born and in August all American women will theoretically  be entitled to vote in elections though many thousands of black women and indeed black men will still face serious obstacles.

Yes it is interesting to layer this century upon the last century - to see how far we have come and to give ourselves a clearer view of the passage of time and how years fit together like building blocks. It's called perspective.
Aston Villa FC - Cup winners 1920

25 February 2020


I first encountered the word "physiognomy" in "Wuthering Heights". It is surprising that Emily Bronte was aware of the term and was able to examine it through her fiction. Lord knows how she herself met the word  for she lived a sheltered life in the Yorkshire vicarage at Haworth, next to St Michael and All Angels' Church where her father was the incumbent vicar. 

What does "physigonomy" mean?  It is simply the idea that we can make out someone's inner character or state of mind by observing their facial appearance. It's as if the two are inseparable - what is on the outside and what is on the inside. The belief runs counter to King Duncan's observation in "Macbeth":  "There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face."

I think that we are all liable to put too much store in physiognomy and I am no different from anyone else. Perhaps it is human nature to start assessing other human beings as soon as we see them. Typically, we will initially think warmly of smiley fair-haired people with wide blue eyes. Conversely, we will be apprehensive about scowling dark-haired people with the corners of their mouths turned down.

In my life there have been many times when initial assessments have had to be thoroughly revised. That woman you thought was a miserable, depressive soul may turn out to be a happy-go-lucky joker with a heart of gold. Similarly that very together guy, apparently living happily on an even keel may turn out to be dark and suicidal. Things are not always as they seem.

Judgements based on physical appearance are invariably superficial and misleading. We should be wary. "Physiognomy" is a clever-sounding concept but in reality we should not put too much store in it. There is usually much more to other people than first meets the eye and in the end I subscribe to King Duncan's view.

23 February 2020


All art is ephemeral. Nothing that human beings create lasts forever. Time marches on and with each passing year every human artefact deteriorates until ultimately it will be gone. This is true of The Parthenon , true of Stonehenge, true of ancient aboriginal images under rock ledges deep in Australia's hinterland, true of Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Young Man" and true of  all of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World. It is just a question of time.

In 1999, a young sculptor called Jason Thomson was commissioned to carve a dead tree in one of our local parks. He called his piece "Beasts of Brincliffe" and it was a labour of love. Several animals were carved into it including a fox and a hare but the artefact was dominated by a barn owl with outspread wings.

In the past twenty years I have photographed it on a number of occasions - observing its gradual deterioration. But this afternoon I concluded that it has reached a point where new onlookers would hardly believe that it was ever a sculpture. It  has become little more than a rotten stump. In the panoply of human history, twenty one years is not long for the lifespan of a sculpture - even though it was admittedly wooden.

Now it is just food for woodlice and insect larvae, a place for birds to rest briefly - surveying the park that surrounds them. The Art is gone and only the memory remains.
August 1999
September 2011
January 2015
February 2020

21 February 2020

20 February 2020


Some of you out there seemed intrigued by Sheffield Manor and so here we go again...

In the past, ancient sites and ruins were not venerated by local people. There was no National Trust nor English Heritage running around protecting old castles, monasteries, abbeys or city walls.

When old stone structures fell into disuse, the ordinary populace saw these historical sites as fair game. Many viewed them like stone quarries - places you could go to collect building materials. It seems almost unbelievable now but that is how it was. It is why the huge medieval castle here in Sheffield disappeared almost entirely and it is why Victorians had the unenviable job of trying to rebuild Hadrian's Wall near England's border with Scotland.

I once observed  the same phenomenon in Kos, Greece. There the ancient Greek medical school, the Asclepeion, was vandalised in the fourteenth century by medieval knights in order to construct a fortress at the entrance to Kos Town's harbour. Even today you can still see writing carved into some of the stones by ancient Greeks a thousand years before the fortress was built.

All of the above is mere preamble before going back to the subject of Sheffield Manor. As soon as this impressive stone settlement on a hill fell into disuse a hundred years after Mary Queen of Scots's sojourn, local homeowners, farmers and builders pillaged the site on a regular basis until a lot of the original stonework simply disappeared. 
The Turret House - shown from a different viewpoint yesterday - is the
only complete building on the site of Sheffield Manor
If each lost stone had a DNA signature you could easily track them down and find them in a wide array of newer structures in the vicinity of the old manor complex. Once that complex was embedded in countryside with swathes of green forest and heathland where stags, wild boar and game birds flourished. 

Now what remains of Sheffield Manor finds itself stranded in the heart of an urban landscape - not leafy suburbia where middle class committees and volunteers would no doubt cradle it - but in a part of the city where there is industry and street after grim street of low-cost social housing - where survival understandably matters more than heritage.
20h century gates with Sheffield's coat of arms

19 February 2020


A view of The Turret House (1574), Sheffield Manor
On Tuesday, I parked on Skye Edge - sometimes spelt Sky Edge. It's a grassy wasteland east of the city centre and it sits on high ground. The southern section of Skye Edge was once the location of some of Sheffield's poorest housing -  leading to the vast  Manor Estate.

Going back much further in time and close to Skye Edge are the ruins of Sheffield Manor. Once this stone campus was at the centre of  vast hunting grounds known as Sheffield Park. In the late sixteenth century this land and The Manor itself were owned by the Talbot family. They were fabulously rich and headed by George Talbot, the Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. 

In 1570, Queen Elizabeth I  asked or told Talbot to detain Mary Queen of Scots and to keep her under house arrest. She was brought to Sheffield Manor and pretty much kept there for fourteen years though there were occasional costly processions to some of Talbot's other properties.

In 1587, Talbot witnessed Mary's execution at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. Her story was one of political intrigue, religious prejudice and power brokerage. Far too complicated for me to explain here.
Social housing on Skye Edge
As she looked out from her wooded Sheffield hilltop, it is unlikely that she would have imagined for one moment - dog walkers on Skye Edge, lads on motorbikes or skateboards and squat social housing with all the streets named after British birds - like the kestrel, the plover and the starling. Of course, she belonged to a very different time. For one thing, the population of England and Wales in 1570 was around 3.7 million compared with an estimated 58 million today.
Skateboarders shelter on Skye Edge
Anyway, I enjoyed my walk on Skye Edge and along to the ruins of The Manor. It was only when I returned to Clint and began to read my next book that the BBC weatherman's  promised rain began to fall upon Clint's windows.

"Can't we go now?" he snapped. "It's bloody windy up here!"

I finished the promising introduction to "Map Addict" by Mike Parker before heading home.

"About time too!" grumbled Clint, quickly moving through the gears to sixth and galloping down the hill like one of George Talbot's prized steeds.
Sheffield city centre from Skye Edge

18 February 2020


Cat Stevens in 1971
From mid-August !972 I lived on a faraway island called Rotuma. There was no electricity, no running water and no sewers.  I lived with my late American friend Richard in the village of Motusa. Richard had brought  a radio-cassette player to the island from his home in Minneapolis along with a dozen cassettes. One of them was "Teaser and the Firecat" by Cat Stevens.

We played those cassettes over and over again on dark South Pacific nights as our hurricane lamp flickered and waves rumbled in the darkness on the edge of the coral reef. Cat Stevens was a brilliant songsmith and in my extraordinarily humble opinion it is a crying shame that he later  turned to Islam. He had a precious knack and it is certain that many more great songs would have emerged from him had he not opted for medieval religious belief and all that that entailed.

Tonight, as I came home from  the quiz at "The Hammer and Pincers", I found myself singing quietly and the song was "How Can I Tell You" from the album mentioned above. Some would refer to it as an "ear worm". A simple, heartfelt song. I am sure that some of you out there in the blogospherw will remember it.  Here it is:-

17 February 2020


In Mytholmroyd
God said to Noah, “I am going to destroy all flesh because the world is full of violence. Build an ark of gopherwood, with rooms inside, three decks, and a door. Cover it inside and out with pitch.” And Noah did exactly as God commanded him (Genesis 6:13–22).

Personally, I think it was wise of Noah to comply with God's request. He could have stood up against God on behalf of his fellow human beings. After all, they can't all have been totally bad can they? They must have had some redeeming features. But if Noah had challenged God's decision he would have also been swept away in the wrathful flood. God didn't believe in democratic debate.  By the way, I wonder where Noah got the gopherwood from?

The above biblical diversion simply foreshadows the main purpose of this blogpost - to reflect upon recent flooding in The People's Republic of Yorkshire. 

Lots of rain has fallen these past two weeks - associated with two Atlantic storms - Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. The moors and hills have been drenched and drenched again. And when rain falls on saturated ground where has it got to go? It runs down gullies into brooks and streams and they in turn run into rivers so that the rivers become surging torrents that aim for the open sea, sometimes spreading out on flood plains, breaking through the banks and levees created by Noah's descendants. It's only natural - a geographical tale of yore.

We live on one of Sheffield's hills above the valley of The River Porter. We can never be flooded up here. Even if all the ice on the planet melted we would still be okay though admittedly food supply chains would be severely disrupted.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have one's home flooded. Some Yorkshire homeowners have witnessed dirty river water gushing into their houses and rising one, two, three or more feet up their walls.

Life can be challenging enough in ordinary circumstances but imagine having to throw out all your carpets and ground floor furniture, all your kitchen appliances and some of your most treasured possessions. Then when the water subsides you have to deal with mean-spirited insurance companies and have plaster stripped from your walls - back to the bare brick. The place will need drying out and you need to find somewhere else to live. 

And in the midst of this trouble you have family and work responsibilities to juggle. It almost doesn't bear thinking about. At times the worry and the stress may become intolerable and perhaps in the middle of it all you will also wonder - Could the flooding return? How will we ever sell this house?

Though I feel for any flood victims, I am rather happy that the closest we will ever get to a flood is a big puddle on the lawn after a particularly heavy rainstorm.
In Tadcaster

16 February 2020


1) Yesterday we drove to the town of Selby - an hour north of Sheffield. We were there to support Shirley's sister Carolyn who is planning to buy a small house or bungalow in the town. We went to see three properties with her. She placed an offer on one of them.

On the way home, after we had crossed the swollen River Aire and  had driven beyond Chapel Haddlesey on the A19, it was as if we were crossing an inland sea. Excess flood waters had been directed to a swathe of flat farmland called Chapel Haddlesey Ings. Fortunately the road itself is raised above the level of the surrounding land. Above you can see a view over the ings to Eggborough Power Station.
 2) I have a pile of books to read. Lord knows when I will get through them all. I hope that no more books are added to the pile. Today, with some relief,  I finished "A Week in December" by Sebastian Faulks. I have read three other novels by Faulks - "Birdsong", "Human Traces" and "Engleby". They were all great reads.However, even though "A Week in December" is also well-written I found the subject matter somewhat tiresome. This novel focuses upon different human beings in London and how the characters' lives occasionally intersect. But I didn't like any of these people - simply could not warm to them or care about them. The novel ends just as the financial crash of 2008 is about to happen. Let's hope that the next book I read is more to my liking.
3) As we were sitting eating lunch at our dining room table today, Shirley looked out into the damp February afternoon and spotted a bird sheltering on an old apple tree bough. She took some binoculars from a drawer and reported that it was a bird of prey. I went to get my camera and zoomed in on the bird through the glass of our French windows. I must have been 25 metres away from the creature so that explains the relatively poor quality of the picture. Even so, I am quite happy with it. I hope the sparrowhawk returns on a nice, sunny day.

15 February 2020


The author of this humble Yorkshire blog does not exist solely on Yorkshire puddings. It may surprise you to learn that he does eat other things too.

One food item I have never liked is oven chips. I guess that Americans call them oven fries. You tend to find them in supermarket freezer aisles. They are generally packed in bulky  plastic bags with images of golden chips/fries on the front. You spread them on  a baking tray and whack them in a hot oven for ten or fifteen minutes and then shazzam! your chips/fries are done.

The trouble is, as I said before, I don't like them. We also never do any deep frying inside our house because of the resulting odours so hence we never have chips/fries at home unless we buy them from the local fish and chip shop.
A few weeks ago, I had an idea. What if I tried to make my own oven chips/fries? I peeled a large potato and then cut it into similarly sized chunky fingers. Next I brushed rapeseed oil on a non-stick oven tray. I put the potato chunks on the tray and then brushed them carelessly with more oil. A little seasoning and then I put the tray into the hot oven.

After five minutes I flipped the chips/fries over and then turned them over again after fifteen minutes. And after twenty minutes in total they were done - golden and ready to eat. The taste was great - just like proper homemade chips but with less oil involved in the cooking.

It's all very simple and I don't know why I had not thought of this process before. You can do the same with sweet potatoes and if you prefer you can make scallops instead of potato fingers. Visitors to Yorkshire Pudding are permitted to mimic this cooking technique completely free of charge!

14 February 2020


Flash is a tiny agricultural settlement that sits on a ridge between the Rivelin and Loxley valleys west of Sheffield. It should not be confused with  Flash in Staffordshire which is the highest village on this island at 1519 feet above sea level.

Our Flash clings to the ridge like a limpet on a rock at the seaside. It needs to have a good grip because this hilltop is often buffeted by winds. I am sure that the winter temperatures up there are significantly lower than those recorded at lower altitudes in the city's river valleys. Below you can see Flash Lane near its junction with Riggs High Road.
And here's another picture of Flash itself. Some people think that it is just a single farm - Flash Farm - but there are in fact three residences there. One of them is owned by a doctor who worked at Shirley's health centre until his retirement a few years ago. I am secretly quite jealous of him because he and his wife recently holidayed in Bhutan in the Himalayas.
I was walking on tarmacadam lanes yesterday afternoon - deliberately avoiding muddy fields and slippery paths. My two hour route was circular, leading me past Flash, down Dobb Lane and along Woodbank Road then climbing up to Stannington. 

Clint was parked in the little lay-by next to Bowshaw Cemetery - a small Quaker family graveyard that I have blogged about before. It was as I was taking my boots off that I realised I was no longer in possession of  my Hull City beanie hat. What a calamity! That hat has been one of my favourite inanimate companions for twenty years or more. To lose it would be a terrible blow.

I sped back to Christ Church in Stannington where I had been snapping ecclesiastical pictures and there was my beloved woolly headgear sitting on the wall. My spirits immediately brightened in  a pleasant flash of  heavenly relief!
Christ Church, Stannington

13 February 2020


Terrace of the Oceanus Villa, Mustique
Following past expenses scandals, British Members of Parliament have to take care to record all details of their incomes in The Register of Members' Financial Interests.

On Boxing Day, Prime Minister Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie jetted off to the Caribbean island of Mustique for a fabulous two week break in the Oceanus luxury seaside villa. It transpires that the total rental cost  of that villa was £15,000. In The Register of Members' Financial Interests, Johnson has stated that this cost was borne by someone called David Ross - the wealthy co-owner of Carphone Warehouse. In other words, it was a gift.

To most British citizens, £15,000 is a lot of money. Basic state pensioners receive half of that a year. Meantime government agencies bear down on anyone of working age who seeks state benefits. They have to jump through numerous hoops and negotiate various obstacles before "the system" coughs up rather paltry sums that make daily survival just about possible.

The Oceanus Villa
Johnson is a wealthy man. Last year, before becoming PM he "earned" £327,000 for seven speaking engagements. He also received £23,000 per month for writing his bombastic weekly columns in "The Daily Telegraph". So why did he choose to accept the gift of £15,000 from one of his supporters? Besides, David Ross is a fellow with a shady financial past who dodged and weaved his way to becoming a multi-millionaire.

Now Ross denies that he paid for the holiday but it is written in black and white in The Register of Members' Financial Interests. What's going on? Why would Johnson lie about this? Mind you, he has lied about very many things before.

I don't resent national leaders taking holidays from time to time. After all, President Trump takes two or three holidays a month down at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and no one could possibly question that. There he can lounge by the pool, twittering away to his heart's content. Over in Mustique it is rumoured that Johnson attempted to limbo dance on the beach under a flaming pole and in the process managed to set his central appendage alight. What a shame! Apparently, he calls it Winston.
Master bedroom - Oceanus Villa, Mustique

12 February 2020


Just an assortment of recent photographs today. I snapped the top one just a few minutes ago while sitting on our La-Z-Boy sofa - tapping away at this laptop. Shirley always has cut flowers in our front room window. I noticed the sunlight streaming in.

When I returned from my walk around Shepley a week ago, I took this picture of Sheffield Hallam University students' union in fading light. Those drum-like buildings clad in steel are known as The Hubs. They used to house the National Centre for Popular Music which failed for reasons that still rankle with many Sheffielders. The idea was good: it was the execution that was wrong.

Above - on Rud Hill south of the city, I captured this image of a sheep called Margaret the weekend before last. She was named after Britain's first female prime minister because of the uncanny facial resemblance. Margaret was also carrying a cavernous leather handbag (American: purse) but that is out of shot.

Below - I took this rather random picture in Doncaster last weekend. It seems to me that vaping is a feature of modern life that will die away before very long and people of the future will look back upon the fashion with puzzlement. Why would anybody want to do that? Don't you just hate it when you are caught in a sweet-smelling cloud of vaping smoke? Lord knows what is in that stuff.
And finally - I know I have shown this before - our collection of fridge magnets in the kitchen. By putting them on a metal tray affixed to the wall, the front of our refrigerator can remain uncluttered and magnet-free.

11 February 2020


You may recall that exactly a week ago I commented on the world's population growth - suggesting that people should be much more concerned about it than we appear to be. Today we are understandably fretting about coronavirus but apparently hardly caring a fig about the persistent population problem.

What I am about to say should shock you. 

This was the Earth's population exactly a week ago: 7,762,009,632

This is the planet's population right now: 7,763,562,055

That means that in just seven days the world's population has increased by 1,552,423

1.55 million more! That's far more babies than the number  of people who currently live in Milan, Italy or Munich, Germany and almost as many as the current population of Philadelphia, USA. In just one week.

With 52 weeks in a year it easy to calculate that by the end of 2020, the world's total population will have risen by 80,704,000.  That is far more than the population of The British Isles and twice as many as the number of people who currently live in California and more than three times the present population of Australia. In just one year.

I do not doubt that this surging population growth would not be easy to stop or even slow down but with each passing day these thousands of extra people increase the pressure on resources and the natural environment. Some might shrug and say "que sera sera" but I am more inclined to suggest that world leaders and international organisations should be making far more effort to address this issue as a matter of priority. Very simply - there are too many of us already. The endless growth is plain crazy.

10 February 2020


Last night in Hollywood, "Parasite" won the Oscar for "Best Picture". To be honest, I knew almost nothing about it - except that it was a Korean film requiring subtitles and that it had won the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival last summer,

Today, as the British Isles recovered from Storm Ciara, and feeling somewhat curious about the Oscar winner, I travelled into the city centre to watch a lunchtime screening of "Parasite". Sitting back in my upholstered seat, I waited for the magic to happen.

It is a beautifully crafted film, fitting happily together like a thousand piece jigsaw. The attention to detail is quite uncommon. It is easy to see how those who work in the movie industry would be impressed with it.

"Parasite" is a mixture of comedy, tragedy, horror, mystery, absurdity and psycho-drama. It revolves around two families - one from the upper echelons of South Korean society and the other from the next to bottom rung. Reading the English subtitles means that you engage differently with what transpires on  screen. It's an untypical kind of concentration.

In terms of cinematic quality, I really have no idea how you could possibly compare "Parasite" with "1917". The latter is a large historical canvas but Bong Joon-ho's film is domestic and rather intimate. The latter is largely serious but "Parasite" is often very silly. I don't mean that in a disparaging way. Silliness is generally underrated and is certainly a human trait worth exploring through film.

I won't say any more about the plot - in case you go to see "Parasite" yourself. In the end, I thought that the plural form of the word would have made a more appropriate title.

9 February 2020


I am not a big fan of running. These days I never run. Sometimes I march down our street and turn the corner on my way to catch a bus. But if at that moment  I see a bus on Ecclesall Road, heading down to the bus stop I will never run for it. I would rather simply wait for the next bus to come along which might be ten minutes or more.

In contrast, when I was a schoolboy, I was always running for  buses. Hardly a day would go by without me sprinting along to jump on the rear boarding platform of a public bus.

Another thing I remember about the nineteen sixties is that the only place you would ever see people running seriously was on a sports field. Nobody went out jogging. No one wore day-glo lycra running gear or ventilated running shoes made by international sportswear companies. In fact there were no shops that sold such things.

Nowadays leisure running or running for fitness has almost become a religion for many people. You see runners with earphones in or fitness watches on their wrists and sometimes stretchy towel headbands. It is not a religion to which I have ever subscribed for I prefer to plod along like an elephant.

Back in my salad days when I played rugby I disliked training sessions that involved long runs.  I was okay with quick bursts of running from scrum to lineout or occasionally over the line with ball in hand for a try but long runs or cross country runs? No thank you!

Having had issues with my knees in the past, I am especially apprehensive about running - believing that cantering  along tarmac paths or roads could see those old knee problems return. Besides, I think my street credibility would evaporate instantly if I was ever seen out jogging in a figure hugging fluorescent running suit with pink Nike running shoes and a union jack headband. 

Yes - my running days are most decidedly over. How about you?

8 February 2020


Higger Tor seen from Totley Moor
I know that one should not tempt fate and one certainly should not count one's chickens before they are hatched but I am going to come out and say it anyway - Where has our English winter gone? 

The past few weeks have been unusually mild. There has been hardly any overnight frost, no snow on the ground and as the days begin to lengthen we see spring bulbs pushing through the earth. We are eight days into February and one cannot help wondering - Will proper winter ever appear?

Tomorrow we are scheduled to feel the full blast of an Atlantic storm that the Irish have already named Storm Ciara. Damage is likely and roof slates will rattle as trees are shaken as if by invisible giants. But big storms are not necessarily the preserve of winter and even during this storm temperatures will remain moderate and "unwinterly" - a meteorological term that I have just invented. 
Of course harsh winter weather can strike as late as April and March can certainly be a crazy month for weather but as time goes on I have the feeling that this will essentially be what I call a "green winter" as opposed to a "white winter". Another saying has suddenly echoed inside my skull - Don't speak too soon!

Thursday was a beautiful, diamond day. I had to get outside. Not too far away. Just up onto Totley Moor and Totley Moss. A big circular walk was in order, passing the air shaft that descends to the Victorian railway tunnel below. I noticed that some maintenance work is in progress there though the team were nowhere to be seen.

I have often been tempted to spray words on that remote structure. Perhaps "The Big Black Button" or "Entrance to Brexitland" but I don't suppose I will ever do it. I admit that I am prone to such flights of fancy. The pictures accompanying this blogpost were taken on Thursday when winter seemed so far away.

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