31 October 2020


Thirty four years. That was the time gap between the publication of  Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and its sequel "The Testaments". Between the contents of the two novels there is another time gap. Fifteen years.

And as we are thinking about time gaps - the space between me finishing "The Handmaid's Tale" and starting to read "The Testaments" was just one week.

"The Testaments", like the earlier novel, is set in the strange patriarchal nation state of Gilead. Women serve different functions. Some are Aunts, some are Marthas, some are Wives and selected younger women are Handmaids - designated for procreation. Gilead draws its structural guidance from "The Bible" but  interpretations are puritanical and lacking in basic  humanity. 

It is never clear how big Gilead is nor how many people live there. It is located somewhere in New England and relations with nearby Canada are strained. It is extremely difficult to get in and out of Gilead though missionaries called Pearl Girls are sometimes seen on the streets of Toronto seeking new recruits.

The novel unfolds through broken testimonies that are delivered by three residents of Gilead. I found this device awkward at times because it was not always clear who was speaking - Aunt Lydia, Agnes (aka Aunt Victoria) or Nicole (aka Daisy, aka Jade). In my opinion, that could have been helpfully spelt out in the chapter headings.

What we are looking at in this novel is the beginning of the end of Gilead. Its moral certainties are eroding. Like "The Handmaid's Tale", the end section concerns an academic symposium held long after Gilead has been buried in history. Once again I found this bolted on post script odd and somewhat unnecessary. It was a distraction from  the main body of the text.

I enjoyed "The Testaments" and wanted to turn each of its four hundred pages. I finished it while sitting in Silver Clint up at Redmires Reservoirs yesterday afternoon.  There were quite a lot of other people up there - because of the schools half term and  COVID Tier 3  travel restrictions.

In an afterword, Margaret Atwood referred to some of the places in which she had been to write the novel - including  a trans-Canadian train brought to a halt by a  landslide. It's funny to think of where writers write and where readers read. We are rarely stuck in the same location throughout.

Finally, here's a choice quote from Aunt Lydia in  "The Testaments" to give you a flavour of the writing:

My larger fear: that all my efforts will prove futile, and Gilead will last for a thousand years. Most of the time, that is what it feels like here, far away from the war, in the still heart of the tornado. So peaceful, the streets; so tranquil, so orderly; yet underneath the deceptively placid surfaces, a tremor, like that near a high-voltage power line. We’re stretched thin, all of us; we vibrate; we quiver, we’re always on the alert. Reign in terror, they used to stay, but terror does not exactly reign. Instead it paralyzes. Hence the unnatural quiet.

30 October 2020


Jeremy Corbyn

Britain's Labour Party is allegedly riddled with anti-semitism. The story has been rumbling on for ages. Yesterday, the former leader, Jeremy Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party for simply suggesting that the claims have  been exaggerated.

I have followed the anti-semitism story for quite a while, reading newspaper articles about it and watching television news items. However, it has been almost impossible to determine the exact nature of the anti-semitic acts. What was done? What was said? Did they occur via social media?  How many of those tweets were actually from mischief-making Conservatives?

If you put say "Examples of anti-semitism in The Labour Party" into Google you will not be led to any examples - just to general articles about the anti-Semitism row. The examples - that is the evidence - are kept so well hidden that you wonder how much substance there is to the entire story. It is possible that I could be accused of anti-semitism just by harbouring such a thought!

Sometimes Judaism and the state of Israel are so conflated that any criticism of Israel may be interpreted as anti-Semitism. Interestingly, it is worth remembering that 21% of Israeli citizens are defined as Arabs who of course do not follow the Jewish religion.

I was christened under the authority of The Church of England and though I have been a conscious non-believer since the age of ten, The Church of England has always been a part of my culture and my being. I was married within The Church of England and both of my parents' funeral services were held in an English  parish church.

Yet, when I watched "Life of Brian" by the Monty Python team I laughed. And I laughed at "The Vicar of Dibley" and "Rev" and when I read books and essays that disputed the existence of God or lambasted The Church of England I did not feel affronted. It was perfectly fine. 

With Judaism it's apparently different.

To any Labour people who might stumble across this blogpost, I have some survival advice. Never speak about Israel. Never refer to the beleaguered Palestinian people and The Gaza Strip. Never mention synagogues or West Bank settlers. Never comment upon American support for the state of Israel. To use a Yiddish word, just keep schtum. It's easier that way.

I  leave the final words to Jeremy Corbyn: "Labour is an anti-racist party to its core and has a long and proud history of standing against racism, including anti-semitism. I have campaigned against racism all my life and the Jewish community has been at the heart of the Labour party and progressive politics in Britain for more than a hundred years...There is no place for anti-semitism or any form of racism in the Labour party, or anywhere in society, and we will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all communities."

28 October 2020


St Wilfrid's Church, Scrooby earlier today

Out in Nottinghamshire, close to The Great North Road, there's a village called Scrooby. Back in the sixteenth century, a family by the name of Brewster lived in Scrooby's Manor House - not far from St Wilfrid's Church. 

For whatever reason, William Brewster (1568-1644), stopped attending the local church and held alternative puritanical services in The Manor House. It was part of a regional movement - away from The Church of England that had itself broken away from Catholicism under the reign of King Henry VIII.

William Brewster and other puritans attracted unwelcome attention that began to give out the aroma of persecution. In those days The Church of England was all-powerful and crossing it was a dangerous thing for anyone to do.

Brewster and his adherents headed to The Netherlands where they lived for almost ten years, enjoying what they saw as greater religious freedom. Then in September 1620, with his wife Mary and a hundred other puritans, he set sail for the east coast of America via the Devonshire port of Plymouth. Their aim was to establish a puritan colony in The New World.

The puritans were aiming for Virginia but bad weather and wretched conditions aboard "The Mayflower" saw Brewster and the rest disembarking near Cape Cod on the coast of Massachusetts. 
Elder William Brewster and The Pilgrim Covenant. This picture is in The US Capitol building.

For twenty four years William Brewster played key roles in the successful but difficult establishment of The Plymouth Colony. The first governor was William Bradford from Austerfield in South Yorkshire - a village that is just five miles from Scrooby. Brewster was Bradford's right hand man and adviser. Together you might say that they were the architects of  The Plymouth Colony - the true "pilgrim fathers".

I was in Scrooby earlier today. St Wilfrid's Church - the church that Brewster disavowed is still standing. However, the old manor house where he grew up and held puritanical services is no more. It was razed to the ground in 1636/37  as ordered by King Charles I.

After Scrooby, I set off along farm tracks to the village of Mattersey. Later, walking by the B6045 that leads to Ranskill, I was nearly killed by  the driver of a speeding 4x4 vehicle when he overtook two slower cars. I must have been no more than ten inches from him as he flashed by. I hope he looked in his rear view mirror to see my two-fingered salute.
Starlings on telephone wires near Mattersey


I received the following supportive comment from "Terry" in response to yesterday's blogpost:-

It's nice to have an observant reader like Terry who notices the small detail of one's humour.

Terry's remark reminded me of  certain encounters I had in the state of Ohio when I was a summer camp counsellor there in the mid-nineteen seventies.

One night I fell into conversation with a couple of local redneck guys (English: Conservatives) in "Skip and Ray's Bar" (English: pub) by the road to Burton, east of Chagrin Falls.

They had noticed my English accent. One of them asked where I was from so I told them. They seemed a little puzzled to learn that other countries existed beyond the shores of The United States.

I informed them that they in fact spoke the English language and that it originated in England.

One of them - let's call him Bob - visibly bristled and protested, "I don't speak English. I speak American!"  

His pupils enlarged dangerously. He was clearly a proud patriot, affronted by the idea that the very language of his land of sidewalks (English: pavements) and cottoncandy  (English: candyfloss) was borrowed from another country.  

Who was I to persuade him otherwise? Just a cleverdick limey bastard ordering another pitcher of beer, hoping that Bob did not have a rifle  in his pick-up truck (English: a small vehicle with an open part at the back in which goods can be carried).

Of course, I am aware that  the kind of Americans who visit this lil'ol' blog tend to be better educated and  more knowledgeable about the  wider world than Bob  appeared to be. As I recall, he and his buddy (English: friend)  worked in land drainage, moving earth and digging trenches from dawn to dusk.  The salt of the earth. You have to respect people like that. We need them.

27 October 2020


The picture shown above appeared in "Shadows and Light" this morning. It was taken in Golders Hill Park, London by the blog's owner, Steve Reed. Steve thought it was some kind of pipe joint until research indicated that it is in fact an artwork called "Gazebo" by Wendy Taylor.

Let us hope that when googling her name, Ms Taylor does not stumble across Steve's blog. It would be quite traumatic to discover that one's finest artistic achievement has been dismissed as a mere concrete pipe joint. 

Steve's photograph reminded me of a picture I took several days ago at Booth Farm on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border. Two massive concrete sump pipes were just lying in a field. The farmer may have got his order wrong or maybe I am also being philistinic. 

Perhaps it is another art installation by Wendy Taylor. I could go back to Booth Farm and make the farmer an offer before having the pipe ends transported to our garden. I doubt that they would fit in my rucksack so I would need a great big lorry (American: truck) with a crane. If the sculpture is by Wendy Taylor, I wonder what she might have called it? 

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...

26 October 2020


The Blogging Song

Of what shall we blog today my friend?

Of what shall we blog today?

We’ll blog of kings and the homeless too

Of oceans deep and skies so blue

Of dogs and frogs and flying things

The changing moods that winter brings

The way you feel when a cuckoo sings

Of that we shall blog today.


Of what shall we blog today my friend?

Of what shall we blog today?

We’ll blog of stuff seen on TV

Of threats to human liberty

Of dishes we’ve prepared to eat

The boots and shoes upon our feet

The president’s ordained defeat

Of that we shall blog today.


Of what shall we blog today my friend?

Of what shall we blog today?

We’ll blog of plants and blooming flowers

Of minutes that turn into hours

Of memory and days gone by

The hopeful sound of a baby’s cry

"The End" that comes on the day we die

Of that we shall blog today.


Esteemed visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding" are cordially invited to create their own alternative verses.

25 October 2020


Shirley and I were randomly chosen to  participate in our national "Covid-19 infection survey" run by The University of Oxford in partnership with The Office for National Statistics.

The Sunday before last, a  phlebotomist arrived at our house in a shiny 4x4 vehicle and we had swabs and bloods taken on our doorstep.

On Thursday we received our swab results and yesterday our blood results arrived. We were  "negative" on both counts. No current COVID infections and also no anti-bodies indicating past infection.

Now that is a little strange. As you may remember, Shirley is a part-time practice nurse working at a health centre. She undertook identical tests at her workplace a couple of months ago and her blood sample indicated that she did have anti-bodies. 

Was the initial test faulty? Have the anti-bodies left her blood system? Perhaps it simply tells us that testing is not 100% accurate.

There will be other tests for us in the future - more swabs and more blood letting.

Why, you might ask, have I agreed to participate in this survey? Perhaps it's from a sense of civic responsibility as our nation wrestles with the invisible monster in our midst? Not at all. My reason is purely mercenary.

The initial tests provided me with a £50 e-voucher that I spent yesterday at Cole Brothers (John Lewis) in the centre of our Tier 3 Yorkshire city. Future tests will earn me £25 a time. We should make £300 each over the next year. Who said there wasn't money to be made from pandemics? Incidentally, we are also contributing to a laudable scientific study.

With my £50 I bought a pack of new "Canon" printer cartridges. Why the hell do printer cartridges cost so damned much? Maybe that is a subject for another blogpost. To our esteemed leaders I might well say - forget COVID-19, just reduce the cost of printer cartridges!  I am sure that I would once again receive a negative result.

24 October 2020


The meal at "The Robin Hood" down at Millhouses went better than expected. Shirley and I sat at one table while Frances and Stewart sat at another table - two metres apart. Fortunately, we were  the sole occupants of a large alcove and were able to talk freely. We were attended to by a lovely waitress whose friendly demeanour enhanced our dining experience in these strange times.

You were meant to order from a smartphone app but I told our nice waitress that I don't own a mobile phone so she kindly brought paper menus for us. 

After my long walk in Nottinghamshire I was hungry. I had only had a banana and an apple for my lunch. I checked out the menu and noticed this:-

MIXED GRILL  Grilled rump steak, chargrilled chicken breast, thick-cut gammon steak, two British farm-assured pork sausages and two fried free range eggs.

Upgrade to 8oz rump steak for an extra £2.00

All of our steaks are expertly aged for depth of flavour and served with seasoned chips, grilled tomato, flat mushroom, garden peas and crispy onion rings.

Well, I hadn't eaten a mixed grill in years and I was so sorely tempted that I confess I submitted to the temptation. My apologies to any disgusted vegans  (i.e. our son Ian) who may be reading this post. It was a plateful I can tell you and towards the end of my  gluttonous munching  I admit that I regretted going for the larger steak. Uncharacteristically, I even  failed to clear my plate.

All four of us enjoyed our meals and drinks so much that we booked a return visit next week. By the way, we also had desserts. Mine was a Belgian  chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream.

It was nice to catch up with the beloved daughter and her handsome husband. Being in Tier 2 has been difficult enough but today South Yorkshire begins its phase in Tier 3 . We do not know for sure how long Tier 3 restrictions will last but I guess we will be in it throughout November.

What  the hell will Christmas be like this year? Remember Christmas 2019? We had absolutely no idea what lay ahead of us - just round the corner. Will we ever get back to something resembling the old life - the life that we knew before and often forgot to love? We took it for granted.

23 October 2020


Doorway of The Old School House in Eaton

What did my father Philip say to me before he died? Oh yes. I remember. Go east young man!

And so I did. Late yesterday morning aboard my South Korean travelling machine, Lord Clint of Seoul, I travelled once more into rural Nottinghamshire. There were notices everywhere: "Tier 3 KEEP OUT!" and "Death to Tier 3!" but we snuck into the village of Eaton, south of Retford and parked opposite All Saints Church. I was not challenged by any of the roving red-faced COVID vigilantes armed as they were with pitchforks and burning torches.

Sad Sack Johnson and his fish-faced health minister are considering tattooing all residents of Tier 3 areas but it would be very easy to conceal the big "3" on one's forehead with theatrical make-up. Consequently, I doubt that their evil plan will ever see the light of day.

All Hallows Church, Ordsall

Off I went by the idly meandering River Idle. Soon I was in Ordsall to the south west of Retford. Inside All Hallows Church I could hear the congregation singing, "If you hate Tier Three clap your hands!" Ooo err! Time to skedaddle.

Clouds began to cluster like worries in one's mind. I passed through Retford Golf Course where several men of a certain age were pulling golf trolleys or clouting their little white balls. Then I cut south to Morton Grange.

Breck Plantation

I saw countless little stones in the fields - all rounded by the erosive actions of ancient seas long before human beings emerged blinking into the light of our existence. Those fields are fifty miles from The North Sea but geology is a very, very, very long story. So long it would make our lifetimes seem like mere milimetres on a ruler that could reach The Moon.

Redundant pub sign in Retford

I needed the exercise. Plodding for almost three hours without ceasing - all the way back to Clint. I was relieved to discover that Tier 2 vigilantes have not yet  employed number plate recognition to root out Tier 3 lepers like me. By the way, there is no relationship between the Nottinghamshire village of Eaton and Eton in Berkshire where our current prime minister idled away his school days.

The River Idle

22 October 2020


After being in COVID Tier 2 for little more than a week, Sheffield and South Yorkshire have now been placed in the top tier - Tier 3. It makes you wonder why we weren't in the top tier in the first place. After all, any effects of the Tier 2 restrictions did not have chance to filter through. It is all very confusing.

I have read the official Tier 3  guidelines very carefully. The fact that these guidelines consist of both rules and advice is itself confusing. For example, we are advised not to travel outside South Yorkshire from Saturday onwards but if I do and the bobbies happen to stop me am I breaking the law? Apparently not but a cop who has not read the guidelines might think otherwise.

At this point I was going to insert some made-up silly Tier 3 rules - just for fun but when I saw what I had written, I thought to myself - that's not funny. In fact, it has been difficult to find any  humour in this entire COVID-19 saga. It's a continuing nightmare like a never-ending season of "Love Island" or "At Home With the Kardashians" that we are all required to watch.

Tonight we have arranged to meet up with Frances and Stewart for dinner at "The Robin Hood" in Millhouses but we won't be allowed to sit at the same table as we live in different houses. The landlady has agreed to give us two adjacent tables - two metres apart and of course we may only remove our face masks when seated. We will see how it goes. At least I won't be cooking tonight.

Partly for future reference, here are some of today's COVID statistics:-

Great Britain: 789,229 known cases overall. 44,158 deaths. Yesterday there were 26,688 new cases and 191 deaths.

Australia: 27,466 known cases overall. 905 deaths. Yesterday there were 22 new cases but no extra deaths.

Florida USA: 762,534 cases overall. 16,210 deaths.

21 October 2020


They stand like sentries on our front paving. Bins. The blue one is for paper and cardboard. The brown one is for glass, cans and plastic bottles. The charcoal grey bin is for general household waste.

The charcoal grey bin is collected by the local council every two weeks. The blue bin is emptied every four weeks and so is the brown bin. A few people in our street have large green bins too. These are for garden waste. You have to pay an annual fee for the green bins and they are emptied six times outside winter months.

I don't know how it is in other countries but in England household waste and recycling collections vary from city to city and from region to region. It is very frustrating. There should be commonality driven by government.

As well as the three "official" bins we have two more bins at the front of our house. Here they are:-
We have been using them for more than a decade now. I bought them myself. You are probably intrigued. What on earth do The Puddings put in those bins? Well let me take one of the lids off and show you:-
It's all the plastic waste that we are not allowed to put in the brown bin. Instead of chucking this in the general household waste bin, we collect it and then when the two bins are full I take them to one of our large local supermarkets where there are skips into which you can toss such waste. Most homeowners don't bother. They dispose of it in their charcoal-grey bins.

When Clint and I take our round bins, I make sure that it is as part of a shopping expedition. Just a short diversion. After all, it wouldn't make sense to use precious petrol just for a recycling trip. That would be something of an ironic contradiction.

There are a four rambling points I would like to make about those excess plastic bins:-

1) Local councils should be collecting all plastics - not just plastic bottles. I should not have to be going to all this trouble - month in, month out.
2) It's not clear what happens to waste plastic. Where does it end up? I don't want it to travel to Indonesia or Sri Lanka or China on ships. There should be full-scale recycling facilities closer to home. Has all our effort been in vain?
3) Local councils and their profiteering waste sub-contractors should be transparent about their procedures. They should be clarifying what can and can't be collected and explaining, for example, what is meant by "contamination".
4) Supermarkets and the businesses that supply supermarkets with products should be making a much bigger effort to reduce the enormous amounts of waste plastic that they are effectively responsible for creating.  It should not all be about making profit - there should be environmental  responsibility and action too - and definitely not just a bunch of empty words - paying lipservice to recycling.

Recently, the great David Attenborough was asked by a child if he would like to give people a message about the perilous state of our planet and his response was simply this: "Don't waste anything...Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food. Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste".

It's a good message but we all need help to make it happen. We cannot do it on our own.

20 October 2020


The winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature was the American poetess, Louise Glück (b. 1943). In the awarding committee's citation, they said this: "Louise Glück is not only engaged by the errancies and shifting conditions of life, she is also a poet of radical change and rebirth, where the leap forward is made from a deep sense of loss". 

The Irish writer and critic Colm Tóibín said of her, "It is difficult to think of another living poet whose voice contains so much electrifying undercurrent, whose rhythms are under such control, but whose work is also so exposed and urgent".

Here's a typical example of Louise Glück's work:-



by Louise Glück

The part of life
devoted to contemplation
was at odds with the part
committed to action.


Fall was approaching.
But I remember
it was always approaching
once school ended.


Life, my sister said,
is like a torch passed now
from the body to the mind.
Sadly, she went on, the mind is not
there to receive it.

The sun was setting.
Ah, the torch, she said.
It has gone out, I believe.
Our best hope is that it’s flickering,
fort/da, fort/da, like little Ernst
throwing his toy over the side of his crib
and then pulling it back. It’s too bad,
she said, there are no children here.
We could learn from them, as Freud did.


We would sometimes sit
on benches outside the dining room.
The smell of leaves burning.

Old people and fire, she said.
Not a good thing. They burn their houses down.


How heavy my mind is,
filled with the past.
Is there enough room
for the world to penetrate?
It must go somewhere,
it cannot simply sit on the surface—


Stars gleaming over the water.
The leaves piled, waiting to be lit.


Insight, my sister said.
Now it is here.
But hard to see in the darkness.

You must find your footing
before you put your weight on it.


If you have got this far, what is your response to Louise Glück's poem?

19 October 2020


Monday October 19th. Another day in this magnificent year - 2020AD. COVID-19 control measures have placed the city of Sheffield in the "high" tier. There are three tiers - medium, high and very high. To me this seems like a manipulative misuse of language. Surely the three tiers should be low, medium and high. Playing language tricks like that contributes to feelings of mistrust that may lead to further non-compliance.

Rules connected with "high" zones are manifold. Some of those rules are clearcut but others are vague and open to interpretation. What I do know is that we are not meant to visit other people's homes. We must stay in our household bubbles. This means that Shirley and I cannot visit our lovely daughter and her equally lovely husband and they cannot come here. Who knows for how long? Perhaps a month, maybe longer. Ideally, pregnant women enjoy family support as the birth day approaches.

Over in Wales, their devolved government have decided to enforce a two week shutdown. I just heard the First Minister of Wales on the radio. He declared that people - with few exceptions - must stay in their own homes and only venture out to buy food or to visit a medical facility. As an aside I should say that the infection rate in South Yorkshire is significantly higher than in Wales. Maybe we are heading for a similar "fire break" period.

It's a bit glum outside. Not raining but overcast. I went to the big Sainsburys at Millhouses earlier on to buy some supplies - including "Red Label" tea bags and my first ever jar of "Marmite" flavoured peanut butter. As Frances is a fan of both, I bought her a jar too. Well, you have to have something to look forward to when you are in the "High" tier. I wish that being in the "High" tier meant that that we received free bags of marijuana from our beloved government so that we could get "High" and forget about The Plague till tomorrow.

18 October 2020


You must have heard about the killing of Samuel Paty on Friday in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. Aged 47 he was a teacher of history, geography and personal and social education. He was beheaded by a wicked  eighteen year old nutcase who probably saw himself as an Islamic soldier fighting the good fight on behalf of his religion.

It seems that Monsieur Paty had very legitimately devoted some teaching time to considering cartoon depictions of Mohammad and Allah. They were creatively  slid into a citizenship module for pupils to consider and debate.

An ignorant Muslim parent, whose daughter was not even present when this lesson happened, launched a social media campaign against Monsieur Paty - even naming him and the school's location. The killer must have encountered this toxic stuff and headed to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine to mete out what he misguidedly saw as revenge.

In my way of looking at things, Samuel Paty represented  light, freedom and truth but his cruel killer belonged to darkness, ignorance and misunderstanding. 

You might quietly be thinking that Samuel Paty was partly the architect of his own death. Perhaps he should not have brought attention to the cartoons. Perhaps he should have avoided any reference to Islamic fundamentalism and the arrogant bigotry that clings to it like an infected rash. But keeping quiet and saying nothing is surely a form of submission. - giving in to the forces of darkness. That cannot be right in free societies.

In memory of Samuel Paty with love. Liberté, égalité, fraternité! May he rest in peace and may his legacy be one of courage, togetherness and illumination. 

17 October 2020


As regular visitors to this humble Yorkshire blog will recall, I am going to be a grandfather for the first time very early in the new year. I have already bought a couple of granddad outfits including a beige cardigan with leather elbow pads, braces, a flat cap, brogues and gold-rimmed  John Lennon glasses. I am also growing a paintbrush moustache which I plan to dye silvery white.

There are lots of things one needs to do before a new arrival in the family. Another thing I have done is to write a story for the baby. Let me share it with you:-


Once upon a time there was a lovely world. It looked rather like our world but it was different in lots of ways.

In that lovely world nobody needed to wear horrid face masks because the air was not filled with the scent of death. In supermarkets, people would mingle happily, gaily filling their trolleys with all manner of nice things to eat - pineapples, sausages, cans of soup, chocolate ice cream and kale. There was no tension amongst customers and no big stickers on the floor reminding shoppers to keep two metres apart.

Out in the streets, the jolly townsfolk would hug, kiss or shake hands when they met and you knew when people were smiling because as I said before - nobody wore masks.

In the lovely world of which I speak, there were buildings called theatres where people would go to watch plays enacted on stages by actors and actresses. The actors were men and the actresses were women. There were also other nice buildings called cinemas where people went to sit quietly in darkness watching films shown on big screens. They ate popcorn in silence, not wishing to spoil the enjoyment of other cinemagoers.

People did not have to wash their hands all the time - nor did they have to see graphs about infection and death on their TV screens every night. Instead, there were stories about rescuing cats from trees and men and women reaching the ripe old age of a hundred. They smiled into the camera before blowing out candles on their big iced cakes. They looked so happy.

In that lovely, lovely world, everybody had a job and a home to live in. There was no starvation, no murder and no suicide. Leaders were universally respected and countries helped each other out as much as they could. Rich people did not evade tax. The seas were filled with cod fish and the air was graced with all manner of birds. Elvis Presley still lived. In the jungles of South America, members of indigenous tribes trod silently along ancient forest pathways, never seen by outsiders and like the rest  of humanity, they were so happy to live upon this Earth that their hearts might have burst with joy.

Yes. That is how it was. Once upon a time before...

The End

16 October 2020


Washgate Bridge over the infant River Dove - an old packhorse bridge

With my South Korean friend Clint, I travelled west yesterday morning. We went through Bakewell, Monyash and Longnor before coming to rest in the scattered hamlet of  Dove Head which straddles the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border just south of Buxton. It is  half a mile east of Britain's highest village that is named - and I kid you not - Flash.

As I donned my trusty walking boots, Clint again asked how long I would be.

"At least three hours," I responded. "It's hard to say."

A small but culturally diverse herd of cattle had come to take a look at us. They peered over a drystone wall.

"What the **** are you looking at?" said Clint as I strolled away.


Though I had my A4 hand map, my circular walk was not made any easier by poor signage and by the obvious fact that some of the paths I walked upon were rarely trodden. At Booth Farm, a stocky young farmer questioned me.

"Are you lost mate?"

Helpfully, he directed me to remote Laycote Farm. Again there were no signposts. What I find is that some county authorities have better signposting than others. For example, paths are usually well-indicated in Cheshire and Derbyshire but in comparison Staffordshire's signage is poor. It's the same in Nottinghamshire. All over England's vast network of paths  there are small guidance discs with yellow arrows upon them. They are very helpful to walkers but many that I saw yesterday were so weathered that you could not even make out the arrows. Come on Staffordshire! Get your act together!

In Derbyshire but with Staffordshire's hills beyond

I made the young farmer laugh when I retorted, "I am a bit lost but it's not the Amazon jungle is it?"

The weather played ball. There was no rain but there were intermittent spells of sunshine as the BBC online weather forecast had promised. I was back in Sheffield by five o'clock ready to prepare a quick and simple midweek meal for Nurse Pudding and her house husband: baked potatoes, baked beans and Cornish pasties.

As Wallace might have said in the "Wallace and Gromit" animated films, it was another "grand day out".

Trying to get airborne near Thirkelow
Distant view of Chrome Hill
Upland pond near Booth Farm

15 October 2020


Above - the overall winning photograph in The Wildlife Photographer of The Year awards. It is a female Siberian tiger somewhere deep in the forests of eastern Russia. The picture was taken remotely by an extremely patient and resourceful cameraman called Sergey Gorshkov.

The tiger appears to be hugging the old tree - possibly leaving her scent on the bark. Perhaps she is marking her territory or signalling her availability to any fertile male tigers in the region.

Of course we are all painfully aware that in ten or twenty years time it may prove impossible to record a similar image as the Siberian tiger is a severely endangered species. There are perhaps only five hundred Siberian tigers left in the wild and with each passing year their territory is reduced. Like polar bears, rhinos, blue whales, river dolphins, eagles, hedgehogs, koalas, pandas, pangolins, harvest mice and elephants the odds are stacked against the Siberian tiger.

Sergey Gorshkov's wonderful image looks rather like an oil painting. Perhaps in the future that is the only way we will get to see new pictures of Siberian tigers in the wild - as oil paintings, displayed on walls alongside pictures of unicorns, dragons and griffins.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
                                                          - William Blake

14 October 2020


Do you notice something odd about the road sign above? Look closely. The zero in "20" has been altered with a piece of black tape to make it look like a letter "Q". That sign is at the end of The Sheffield Parkway - where it meets the M1 motorway. I have seen a number of other speed limit signs altered in the very same way.

I first started noticing these altered signs in the early summer and I became puzzled about them. What could the "Q" mean?

Hunting around on the internet, I have discovered that it is a pseudo-political symbol. It stands for QAnon, a sinister right wing  movement that began in The United States and has gradually, quietly moved around the world like a virus.

There are many things in this world that I do not understand and I readily admit that QAnon is one of them. Its thousands of supporters seem to be the kind of people who happily embrace conspiracy theories as though they are joining some sort of exclusive club that enjoys superior, secret  knowledge about how this world runs.

QAnon suggests that Trump is the planet's saviour. He is closing in on an international paedophile ring as he battles against "The Deep State". QAnoners tend to be anti-vaccine and link with anti-5G and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  It is all quite eerie and disturbing but it is happening. It is out there.

To these blinkered fantasists, evidence does not seem to matter as they promote their nonsense. Their numbers are growing along with their influence. Of QAnon, Trump has said, "they like me very much. I heard... that these are people who love our country".

So that is pretty much all I know about QAnon. Instinctively, it sends a shiver down my spine. Had you heard of QAnon already? What do you know about it?

13 October 2020


Apologies for the foul language but it wasn't me - it was the gorilla!

12 October 2020


Sailors spoke of  the calm that comes before a storm. That's where we are in Great Britain right now.  Sailing in the calm before the storm.

In March, our government, led by English Trump, shut down the country a week too late. That error of judgement led to thousands more deaths than might have been the case. However, the majority of British people complied with lockdown rules and gradually, as months passed, COVID-19 infection and death figures plunged.

All was looking rosy. We had taken the bitter medicine and it had worked. Consequently and tentatively, elements of normal activity were resumed. Schools and universities re-opened. So did many businesses. The government even introduced "Eat Out to Help Out" - subsidising visits to restaurants and cafes.

Sadly, COVID-19 has not played ball. Infection, hospitalisation and death figures have been on a worrying upward trajectory through the last month. Tonight, with his little piggy eyes, English Trump will look down the barrel of a television camera and tell us all about "new measures" designed to send COVID-19 back into its kennel. These "measures" will undoubtedly differ according to current numbers in different cities and regions.  The rules for cities like Liverpool and Nottingham will be especially harsh. Sheffield won't be far behind.

We  are already entering the dark pit of wintertime. Christmas is up ahead. On  October 25th, the clocks will be put back an hour as we transition to "Greenwich Mean Time".  It's all rather depressing. And let's not throw "Get Brexit Done" into the mix right now. It also looms like a ruddy spectre thanks to English Trump and his troop of blinkered clowns.

Yes. This is the calm before the storm. This afternoon I will be up at "The Hammer and Pincers" for a few beers and manly discussion before watching The Pigman speak to the nation. Captain Johnson aka English Trump addressing his assembled sailors. "Aye-aye Cap'n!":-

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
                                                               King Lear Act III scene two

11 October 2020


It was my birthday on Thursday. In fact, now that I come to think about it I was born on a Thursday. "Thursday's child has far to go" replaced the earlier "Thursday's child is sour and sad". Take your pick. I have never been a big fan of birthdays - well not my own anyway. In all those long years of working in education I never told any of my colleagues when my birthday was and as it happens, nobody ever asked. That suited me fine. No fuss.

On Thursday morning I had a slap up full English breakfast at "The Norfolk Arms" and then in the evening with Shirley, Frances and Stewart we had dinner in a Sicilian restaurant at nearby Hunter's Bar. We had not been there before but we all agreed that the food was excellent.  It's funny dining out in these COVID-19 times though. Everything stripped down, social distancing and the waitress wearing a mask. It's not good for the general ambience.

The following pictures show you most of what I received for my birthday. All that is missing is a few more cards.
The "Happy Beers Day" card was from Meike In Ludwigsburg, Germany and the tiger card was from my younger brother - Simon. Frances created the card that was decorated with little bugs. The old Hull City football programme (1953) was from my old friend Tony - a fellow Hull City supporter. Shirley gave me the new "Bosh!" book, the new bird feeder and the new CD from Bob Dylan.

I am hoping to reach 68 - but you never know, do you?

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