31 March 2020


How will small businesses recover when we come out the other side? 

Shirley and I walked down to Hunters Bar this morning. It's a slightly bohemian midtown district close to Endcliffe Park. There are many independent businesses in the area ranging from health food shops and cafes to picture framers, bakers and a vacuum cleaner repair shop.

It will be so hard for them to get back on their feet again. I took some photographs, recognising that in the future they could be used as historical evidence of something quite terrible that passed us by and changed the world we knew.
Yes, "See you on the other side"!

30 March 2020


Being a newsaholic, I have consumed so many words about the ****ing coronavirus that I am filled to the brim with them. In addition, I have taken to regularly consulting a website called Worldometer that gives running statistical updates about how The Plague is developing around the planet. These visits have become curiously addictive.

Anyway, last evening with little of interest on terrestrial television, I decided to have a break from present reality and travel back in time to May 24th 2008. Almost twelve years ago. That was the day that my beloved football team, Hull City finally made it into England's top division - The Premier League.

Some time ago I  bought a DVD of the match but had not got round to watching it until last night. I had almost forgotten how to activate our DVD player but with a little advice from my technical support staff (Shirley) I  was soon reclining on our Lay-Z-Boy sofa with a mug of tea and a packet of root vegetable crisps ready to watch the historic game.

We were playing Bristol City in the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium in London. It was a warm, summery day and I was there, sitting at the Hull City end with Tony and Fiona and thirty thousand other Hull City fans.

Sadly, Shirley was not there because her mother Winnie passed away on the morning of the match. It had been the inevitable conclusion of a battle with lymphoma. Her death that morning was not unexpected. Of course, I was torn. In the early morning light, there was only half an hour to decide what to do but we decided that I would go to London as planned while Shirley would travel to her mother's deathbed in Lincolnshire. That's how it was. Please don't judge me.

Watching the DVD last night I had a big smile on my face, knowing what the result would be. It was a tight game in which Bristol City played well but Hull City's defence was resolute.

The defining moment of the match happened just before halftime. Frazier Campbell was driven over to the goal line and with his angle severely narrowed, he spotted Dean Windass rushing towards the penalty area. Coolly, Campbell passed back to his partner and Windass met the ball with an exquisite volley that saw the leather orb arcing into the corner of the net with the Bristol keeper flailing. It was a beautiful moment and it is unlikely that Hull born Windass ever volleyed a football so sweetly as he did that day. Needless to say the Hull City end went wild.

After the game, we were three of the last supporters to leave the national stadium. Descending the concrete exit staircase my voice echoed as I sang, "Premiership! We're having a laugh!" Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. The team I  had supported since the early sixties had made it. It was a dream come true.

It was only when the DVD disc ejected itself from our rarely used Samsung player that I remembered we have a different opponent now. But I will never forget that balmy afternoon in London and Hull City's victorious fans singing our adopted song in unison:
Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay? Would it be a sin?
If I can't help falling in love with you
It was one of the very best times of my life.
Windass and Campbell celebrate the dream goal

29 March 2020


The screenshot above is taken from drone footage by Derbyshire Police. The scene is Curbar Edge  where I have often walked. The film sought to shame several members of the public who were simply out in the sunshine enjoying country walks. As with the targeted fellow above they were all practising social-distancing.

During The Plague, government guidelines say that we can leave our homes to shop for food, visit a pharmacy or medical centre and we can also exercise once a day. 

When the guidance first emerged I tried like crazy to clarify the vague guidance about exercise. Could I, for example, travel in my Clintmobile to a remote country location and then get out for a walk? Common sense said that I wouldn't be causing anybody any harm and there'd be  far less chance of infection than say walking down to our local park.

That clarification proved impossible but it seems that Derbyshire Police have placed their own interpretation on the guidance. Their reading is that you cannot  drive into The Peak District for a walk. You can cycle or ride a horse but you cannot drive. They have even been pulling cars over to question drivers and reinforce their interpretation.

The drone footage has caused controversy and further mixed responses have since emerged from government spokespeople. To me it seems that there's an element of petty vindictiveness in all of this. It's as if to say - you are not allowed to have pleasure during The Plague. Why should you be strolling happily on country paths when people are dying? Stay home and suffer like the rest of us!

What does "local" mean anyway? As in "exercise locally"? Is "local" my street, my district, my city, my county, my region? I don't understand.

Last Sunday I drove for an hour to Wirksworth in mid-Derbyshire. I blogged about that day here. During The Plague I was hoping to have a few more days like that but now I have been forced to think again. Big Brother may be watching me and of course nowadays the cops can find out where you live simply by running your car registration number through their computer system.

I will be taking more walks but I'll be choosing my parking locations carefully. By simply parking in a village I believe that I will be thwarting Big Brother. I wonder if the authorities will soon be cranking up their enforcement procedures.

JUDGE We find you guilty of parking in the countryside and going for a walk. Before I send you down is there anything you want to say?
YORKSHIRE PUDDING Yes your honour. I saw a stag by Redcar Brook grazing in the adjacent meadow. He was unaware of my presence and I watched him for ten minutes or more as the brook babbled by. And once I was alone at The Horse Stone with snow all about me and not another soul for miles around. And I am so very, very sorry for my heinous crime against humanity your honour, for donning my boots and walking through the heather, for following my map along unknown paths, for daring to walk in peace during The Plague. I admit it, I am a dirty no-good felon and I deserve to have the full weight of The Law pressed down upon me.
JUDGE Take him down!

28 March 2020


Cilla Black (1943 - 2015)
What's it all about Alfie?
Here's a list of five countries that you will have heard of. I have put them in rank order according to their populations with Bolivia at the top and and Portugal at the bottom. The population of Bolivia is 11.6 million while the population of Portugal is 10.2 million. Hence:-
Czech Republic
Are you with me so far?

Now, do you mind terribly if we go back to February 4th of this year? On that day I announced on this humble Yorkshire blog that the population of Earth was 7,762,009,632.

Now, just 53 days later, the population of Earth stands at:-
That means that our world's population has risen by 11,842,998 in less than two months. More than the population of Bolivia or Cuba or The Czech Republic or Greece or Portugal. 11.8 million extra people. The 26,826 coronavirus death tally to date  is utterly dwarfed by this population increase.  It makes you think. Well, it certainly makes me think anyway.

As Cilla Black once sang, "What's it all about Alfie?"

27 March 2020


It seems like only yesterday. I close my eyes and I am back there in that other world - the world we knew before.

Back then we had pubs. They were gathering places for local communities. You drank beer. You laughed. You chatted for hours about this and that - things that mattered and things that didn't matter. Sometimes you would look up at the TV sets where live sports were forever being screened. All gone now - rugby, cricket, football and golf. It was the way of the world. And boxing and tennis.

When you met people you shook their hands or hugged them, You got up close - not like today when you keep your distance. Back in 2020 they said two metres and that is how it has stayed.

We used to enjoy cheap flights and if you had the desire to do it you could go just about anywhere you wanted. The world was your oyster as they say. From Sri Lanka to San Francisco. From New Zealand to New Orleans. It's different now. Nobody goes anywhere much.

In those days gone by the living was simple. It was vibrant and there was hope. You could realise your dreams. Big dreams or small dreams. Most of all, I remember the freedom. We went here and we went there. Nobody stopped you. Nobody questioned you. There were no pass books, no phone numbers for whistleblowers, no rubber stamping. We were free.

But of course that was then and this is now. The dead lie in their graves.  Perhaps we will never get back to where we once resided. To those innocent days of yore.

26 March 2020


Eye of a horse at Totley Bents
Once again, I undertook my familiar circular walk on the edge of the city. It involves parking Clint  at the end of  Shorts Lane, Normally, the circuit takes an hour. I have blogged about this walk before. Go here and here.

With boots on, I slammed the tailgate.

"Ouch!" snarled Clint. "That bloody hurt! Why can't you shut it more gently?"

"Go to hell!" I retorted. "You're only a car! And besides how come you talk in English when you were born and raised in South Korea?"

"꺼져 " said my charming silver machine.

And so I set off on another diamond day. For some reason, I  decided that any photographs taken would show small details of what was observed along the way. After a hundred yards I was wishing I had left my fleece jacket inside the obstreperous vehicle. Pleasantly warm.
I talked to a woman with three English pointer dogs and another woman I have spoken with before at Totley Bents. She was gardening and I said, "I'm sorry I haven't got a handbell!"

"What do you mean?"

"Then I could ring it and shout Unclean! Unclean!"

She laughed and made a cross with her hands.
Because I was dithering about with the camera, procrastinating like a donkey, it took me longer than usual to get back to The Clintotron. He was snoozing under the sycamores. I made sure that I closed his tailgate gently. He is booked in for his annual service and Ministry of Transport roadworthiness test tomorrow morning. Poor thing! He hates having his oil drained. Wouldn't you if you were a car?
At the weir on Redcar Brook
Bumble bee on gorse

25 March 2020


I found the skull of a young sheep on the moors above the reservoirs at Redmires. I placed it on a rock where a clump of heather was newly sprouting. It seemed like an appropriate symbol for what is happening all over the planet  right now. People dying.

Construction of the reservoirs began in 1833 after another epidemic. Cholera swept through the booming industrial city of Sheffield in 1832 killing 402 unfortunate citizens. Creating a clean, reliable water supply became an urgent priority.
Overlooking the three  reservoirs is this carved marker stone. I am surprised that I missed it on previous rambles in the area. Shirley and I walked by it on Monday afternoon. It was her birthday and the day was beautiful apart from that horrible phantom with which we are all now painfully familiar. "S.W.W." stands for Sheffield Water Works.

Heading up to a rocky area of the moor known as White Stones I saw this crustone lichen clinging to the west face of a large boulder. Lord knows how long it has been growing there, year upon year, millimetre after millimetre.
I took a photograph of the upper dam that separates the top reservoir from the middle one. See how it curls in an "S" shape.
Shirley enjoyed her birthday walk in the sunshine with a breeze blowing over the moors and meadow pipits bobbing about the heather exchanging their sweet songs. We went home knowing that we would be unable to go out for the customary birthday meal. Instead, I ordered takeaway meals from "The Greedy Greek" delicatessen at Hunters Bar.

The owner asked me to wait outside. He brought the chicken souvlaki meals out to the street tables in white plastic bags and insisted that I paid with a contactless card. That's the pandemic for you. I said "efharisto" and he smiled, replying "parakalo" which means - you're welcome!

Co-incidentally Monday was also Jennifer's birthday over at "Sparrow Tree Journal". Bless her and bless us all. Let's hope that when Shirley and Jennifer are another year older this thing that is amongst us will have been returned to its cage.

24 March 2020


I am not sure if you heard the news but it seems that there is a pesky virus flying around just now. Fortunately, I spotted an antidote for it in our "Lidl" supermarket so I bought a whole box of the stuff. Being fluent in Spanish I was able to translate the words on the box; "La cerveza mas fina" which means - guaranteed to kill the virus dead.

The box contained twelve bottles of the antidote. You can see that I bought the "Extra" variety for a supplementary boost. Corona Extra Antidote is the colour of piss and tastes like it too but who cares? I drank all twelve bottles in quick succession and (hic!) I'm now tozzally immna..imo...imoon (hic!)

If only it was that easy.

23 March 2020


Sunday was a gorgeous day. Spring was in the air and after an initial milkiness the sky above turned sapphire blue. Winter had crept back into its lair - at least for the time being.

With Clint's kind agreement, I headed south out of the city to Baslow and then on through Chatsworth Park, Rowsley and Darley Dale to Matlock. Through Matlock Bath and Cromford before filtering left along  narrow country lanes  that brought me eventually to the small upland village of Alderwasley.
I had never been there before and as I tied my boots I was looking forward to circumnavigating the district. There's nothing I like more than exploring unknown territory,

"You can't park here I tell ya ya daft oaf!" protested Clint.

I had parked in the little village hall car park that I had spotted on Streetview and chose to ignore the sign that said "Village Hall and Cemetery Parking Only". The lanes are so tight in Alderwasley that there seemed to be no alternative.

"Be it on your own head then!"  sneered Clint who has been rather tetchy recently because he needs his annual service.
Hay Lane
And so I set off on that crisp spring morning with hardly anybody else about though I did encounter a couple of other walkers in nearby Long Wood. They kept their distance as if  I might be the carrier of something worse than leprosy. "Good morning!" I  smiled as they withdrew into the undergrowth with pained expressions, as if they had seen a ghost. Perhaps I am a ghost. Casper The Friendly Ghost.
Senior couple admiring the view of Wirksworth
Half the walk was through fields and woods and the other half was on lanes like Breamfield Lane where a couple of senior citizens  were sitting on a bench enjoying the view of Wirksworth in the valley below. I also walked along a byway that would surely be popular with most female blog visitors and some male ones too - Knob Lane.
At Netherpark Farm on Jackass Lane (no kidding!)
Bumble bee on dandelions
You don't need any more details about my solitary ramble than that. In case you were wondering, there was no note or parking ticket on Clint's windscreen (American: windshield) when I returned to my faithful jalopy.

Driving home via Matlock Bath, I noticed that a couple of hundred motorcyclists had gathered there as they often do on sunny Sundays. Some were eating fish and chips but mostly they were just hanging out, no doubt chatting about the things that motorcyclists usually chat about - horse power, oil, tyres, leather jackets, car drivers and fatal accidents. There was no "self-isolation" going on that I could see. Perhaps I just dreamt about a pandemic. 

Yes that's it. It was just a bad dream.
Procrastinating Donkey - for Jenny

21 March 2020


Thursday night at eleven thirty. There was just a handful of regulars in "The Banner Cross Hotel". It was almost time to leave. Little did we know that in less than twenty four hours all British pubs, cafes and restaurants would be shut down by order of Her Majesty's government. Nothing like this happened in the twentieth century. Even in the dark days of the two world wars our pubs remained open.

The friendly barman, Birmingham Jack had been playing requests via his i-phone connected to the pub's sound system.

As my friend 83 year old Bert donned his overcoat he began to sing as he often does, "We'll Meet Again" made famous by wartime songstress Vera Lynn. Bert was twirling his walking stick and as he sang Birmingham Jack found the song on his phone. In an instant it was playing through the speakers.

Supporting Bert's performance and painfully aware of the historical moment we are living in, we all joined in with the singing. Intermittently, Steve and I were crooning at full volume. We were all laughing and connecting with each other via eye contact. And there was smiley, kind-hearted, fun-loving, gregarious Bert leaning on the bar, in his element. Singing his favourite song at closing time. It is an image that will stay with me.

With his rheumy eyes sparkling he often says, half-singing "You'll miss me when I'm gone!" and I know I will. It occurs to me that I might not see him again what with the virus and the fact that though we are good friends we don't even have each other's phone numbers. We have been pub friends for thirty years. "We'll meet again", sang Vera Lynn but maybe we won't.

20 March 2020


I just finished reading "Thinking on My Feet" by the British TV presenter Kate Humble. She has always specialised in programmes about the natural world. The book was not a novel but a homage to walking. That is why I picked it.

It is a kind of diary of the writer's varied walking experiences over the period of a single year. The walks range from morning strolls with her dogs to rambles through the concrete canyons of New York City and a challenging long distance walk following the course of The River Wye from its source in the mountains of mid-Wales.

Kate Humble is neither pretentious nor especially intellectually gifted but she really understands the joys and the benefits of walking. She writes simply and honestly, noting the world around her - the birds, the trees, changes in the weather, rivers, mountains and farmland.

She appreciates that walking can help us to get troubles into perspective and it can help us to think creatively.  The rhythms of walking are etched into our very DNA. We were walking for thousands of years before motorised transport appeared on the scene.

"Thinking on My Feet" provides a pleasant, undemanding read about an activity that is so often overlooked or undervalued. When you walk, your feet take you from A to B so that you can stand on a hillock and see where you came from, happy in the obvious knowledge that your legs carried you there. Furthermore,  when you walk - you never know what you might see. The world around us is filled with wonder just as it always was.

19 March 2020


Not  Brownland, nor Yellowland - not even Redland but Greenland. Yes. Let us go there today, The photo illustrations will all be courtesy of Streetview.

I realise that many residents of Blogworld are geographically challenged but with a modicum of confidence  I will tentatively suggest that everybody has heard of Greenland! Furthermore, most of you will know that it is a stonking big island squeezed up against eastern Canada. and that its name is a mischievous deception. Surely it should have been Whiteland!

In terms of size, how does Greenland measure up? It has a land area of 836,300 square miles.  As you know, Australia is another massive island but at 2.97 million square miles it is more than three times larger than Greenland. However, Greenland is much bigger than Mexico or Alaska and almost ten times bigger than The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Despite its vast size, the population of Greenland is only 56,770 - the same size as the towns of Loughborough in Leicestershire and Macclesfield in Cheshire. The vast majority or Greenlanders live in or around the capital city - Nuuk which means "tip".

Greenland is not an independent country. It is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government via its own parliament. Denmark contributes two thirds of Greenland's budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing.

89% of Greenlanders have an indigenous Inuit heritage. The Kalaallit of western Greenland speak Kalaallisut while the Tunumilt of eastern Greenland speak Tunumilt oraasiat. The Inguhuit of north Greenland speak Inuktun.

I would love to visit Greenland in person but I don't suppose I ever will. Instead, let us board the Google Streetview car and go to Nuuk - virtually.
Queen Ingrid's Hospital, Nuuk
Streetview imagery on foot - not by car

17 March 2020


When I went to my local "Lidl" discount supermarket on Monday morning, there were many more shoppers in the aisles than I would normally see on a Monday morning. Two fat women had loaded their trolleys with whole boxes of canned soup, baked beans and stewing steak. Perhaps they are planning a trek to The North Pole. The dogs won't be happy.

Before I could even get inside the store, a bearded man approached me. He needed a pound coin so that he could unlock a trolley. In my head, I was thinking - I should not be helping this guy out. He is going to give me some of his loose change. He might be infected.

But I was caught off-guard and I gave him a shiny pound coin as I pocketed his coronavirus change. If it happens again I am sure that I will say "No!"

How flimsy our shell of civilisation is! Built upon the shifting sands of international finance, stocks and shares and slave to the whims of Saudi Arabian princes and the dreams of Jeff Bezos. The current chaos demonstrates how easily it could all come tumbling down. Yet still only 7893 coronavirus victims have died compared with 283,962 road traffic fatalities this calendar year and 2,352,663 deaths from hunger.

Everybody has their coronavirus stories now - about how family members and friends have been directly affected - about how future plans have been destroyed or shelved for how long? Who knows? 

I am going up to the pub quiz at "The Hammer and Pincers" tonight but it might be the very last pub quiz I ever attend. Who knows?

And all of this because a particular bat sank its fangs into a particular chicken on the other side of the planet. Thereby the bridge to pandemonium was crossed.

16 March 2020


There are an estimated 22 million sheep on the island of Britain and I have seen most of them. My relationship with sheep is, how shall I say it, interesting. They often stare at me as I ramble by. Sometimes they run away from me as if I was a no-good sheep rustler but at other times they rush towards me as if I was Jesus tending his flock. My relationship with sheep is, I swear, wholly platonic.
Being under the age of seventy, and with a pleasant afternoon promised, I climbed upon Clint's Moroccan leather saddle and galloped off into the Derbyshire hills for a pleasant circular walk around the disused Eldon Hill Quarry beyond Castleton.

As per usual many pairs of ovine eyes observed my progress. They looked up from their perpetual grazing. Their lambs will be arriving very soon but on this mid-March promenade I did not see a single newborn.
When you are a sheep you are very hardy. Your life is simple and straightforward. You are sociable and you have no real sense of the past or the future. You live in the moment and you are fearful of the unknown - such as foxes or raptors or human beings who ramble by singing songs by The Doors:
This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end

15 March 2020


The Enemy

Once you could see your enemies...
They gathered by coppices on hills
Sharpening their swords,
Horses whinnying
Before the impending storm...
Or they clustered down the alley,
Shadows in the darkness
Smoking cigarettes...
Or waded  in rat-infested trenches
Preparing to attack at dawn...
Or clad themselves in IED’s
And dissolute philosophies.
Now the enemy is silent and unseen
Where it will venture or might have been
We have absolutely no idea...
We are simply waiting here -
Washing our hands
Like Lady Macbeth -

"Out, damned spot! Out, I say!"
Waiting for
The enemy to enter us

And steal our breath away.

13 March 2020


I heard a whisper that fresh supplies of toilet rolls and hand sanitiser would soon be delivered to my local "Lidl" store. I grabbed my coat and hightailed it over there.

"What's the hurry?" grumbled Clint who had been dozing in the afternoon sunshine.

We screeched into the car park and I rushed to bag a trolley then sped into the store. To my horror, I discovered that a crowd of shoppers were gathering at the toilet roll section as supermarket employees attempted to re-stock the shelves. It was pure chaos.

Being a big lad with bulging biceps, I managed to elbow my way through the other customers and grabbed an armful of toilet roll packs. Then I went back for more. There was even a toilet roll tug of war with a Russian lorry driver called Olga. No gentlemanly decorum I'm afraid. Needs must.

From the corner of my eye I saw boxes of hand sanitiser arriving from the stockroom on a big trolley steered by Ray the assistant manager. He gave me a knowing wink and a quick thumbs up. Before he could even rip open the cartons I had grabbed three boxes - each containing a hundred "Medex" hand sanitiser dispensers.

It was "mission impossible" but I managed it. The checkout woman asked if I really needed so many toilet rolls and so much hand sanitiser but I was not prepared to legitimise her question with a response. I tapped in my PIN number and paid the £327 requested.

Driving home in Clint's cabin, I was surrounded by toilet rolls. The hand sanitiser was in the boot (American: trunk). 

When I got home, Shirley was flabbergasted.

"What the hell have you bought all that for? You must be mad!"

"I'm going to be an entrepreneur my dear! Gonna make lots of dough."

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