As another unremarkable year draws to a close, The Laughing Horse Awards Committee have been zooming like dervishes in order to determine who will be the recipients of this year's coveted blog awards.
Recognition is important in the world of blogging in order to lubricate the industry's wheels and encourage talent. Blogging has become a worldwide pastime. As I write these words, 2,700,000,000 blogposts have been posted on the internet this year alone.
Blogging is a vehicle for expression, for shared interests and for making connections with other people around the planet. Our blogs are not subject to the normal controls of government, publishers or the forces of law and order. No wonder blogging has become such a popular human activity.
Without further ado, let us move on to reveal who has been honoured this year before announcing the overall Blogger of the Year. Winners are entitled and encouraged to copy the widget shown below and paste it proudly into their blogs - perhaps in the sidebar.
The Committee wish to recognise the excellent work of Dave Northsider in West Cork, Ireland. His blog, "Northsider" reflects his peaceful life upon The Sheep's Head Peninsula. He becomes Irish Blogger of the Year for 2020. Similarly, The Committee commends the good work of JayCee who resides near Peel on The Isle of Man. She becomes Isle of Man Blogger of the Year.
There was much argument in The Awards Committee over the work of three particular bloggers. Unfortunately, only one can be The Blogger of the Year. The other two have duly been "Highly Commended". They are Jennifer Barlow in Florence, South Carolina for "Sparrow Tree Journal" and Tasker Dunham in West Yorkshire, England for "A Yorkshire Memoir".
Both are entitled to display the stylish 2020 widget displayed above.
Before arriving at the main announcement, The Awards Committee would like to commend visitors who leave thoughtful, friendly and encouraging comments on other people's blogs. Many of these visitors do not manage blogs of their own. They are not fawning sycophants but free-thinking people who see no purpose in trolling or seeking to occupy what military historians might call "higher ground". Instead, they tend to leave nice, supportive comments. After all, and this has been even more true this challenging past year, it really is nice to be nice.
And so we come to The Blogger of the Year 2020.(Cue beat of drums and dramatic pause). He is none other than Cro Magnon for his blog "Magnon's Meanderings" who posts from the Périgord region of south western France.
The citation was longer the new British/EU trade deal document but here's the summary:-
"Cro Magnon has been managing his eclectic blog for almost eleven years. It is what the French might call a bouillabaisse of things. In "Magnon's Meanderings" you will find memories, opinions, hopes for the future and objets d'art, plates of food and family photographs. There's his vegetable plot, "Haddocks" and tales of pet dogs and cats. Always present in the blog's peripheral vision is the love of his life - Lady Magnon.
People may sometimes forget the old adage that "life is for living" but Cro Magnon is not one of those. He has lived his life to the full and continues to do so. This is reflected in his blog. He notes many things and remembers many things. Though he posts almost every day of the year, he is never lost for something to say. For Cro, life is a veritable feast.
He handles reasonable comments with kindness and good humour. Visitors feel that they are being listened to and acknowledged but step out of line and he will whack you with a metaphorical cricket bat."
During this pandemic a new British hero has emerged. His name is Marcus Rashford. He is a very talented twenty three year old footballer who plays for both Manchester United and England.
Marcus is now a very wealthy young man but he was born into poverty in Wythenshawe - a tough Manchester suburb. His father disappeared when Marcus was young leaving his mother to struggle in low paid jobs to pay the bills and put food on the family table. There were times when he went hungry. Times when his mother didn't even have enough money to buy a loaf of bread.
Many young footballers wallow in their wealth - buying fancy cars and the kind of flash homes you will usually only see in lifestyle magazines. They seem to forget where they came from but you cannot say that of Marcus Rashford. He has not forgotten his tough start in life and the deprived, mostly white, community in which he grew up.
Quietly, calmly and with dignity and determination, Marcus has led a campaign to bring food to hungry children. His focus has mainly been on school holidays when subsidies are commonly put on ice until the new school term starts.
He has embarrassed our current Prime Minister and his mean-spirited right wing government into restorative action. Marcus appreciates that people in power have never known what it means to go hungry. "They don't understand because they haven't been through it," he said.
He has already been given a national honour for his efforts to help children from poor homes - an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire). I applaud him and admire his stance. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with civility and kindness. It will be interesting to witness his next steps and how his campaigning continues. But for now - what an absolute hero!
Click on the above for Laughing Horse Awards background music. With apologies to the hard of hearing, you are humbly requested to play the music as you read the following:-
History: "The Laughing Horse Blogging Awards" were launched way back in the mists of time following a random meeting between the author of this blog and Larry Page - one of the founders of Google. Back in the summer of 2007, Larry was enjoying a seaside holiday in Withernsea, East Yorkshire when your genial host literally bumped into him causing Larry's vanilla cone to tumble to the pavement. Larry was most displeased but they made up over a few pints of Tetley's best bitter in "The Spread Eagle" and that's when the idea of annual awards for excellence in blogging was conceived. Incidentally, Larry is now worth an estimated $76.5 billion whereas the host of this blog is worth peanuts. How did that happen?
Previous Winners: Each year there are several sub-awards but of course the most coveted prize in the international blogging scene is to become the overall Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year. Here are the twelve esteemed recipients from past years. Some of them are still very much active in the blogosphere and you may recognise their blog titles but others have fallen by the wayside - unable to cope with the stresses of worldwide fame:-
2008 – Arthur Clewley for “Arthur Clewley”
2009 – Daphne Franks for “My Dad’s a Communist”
2010 – John Gray for “Going Gently”
2011 – Ian Rhodes for “Shooting Parrots”
2012 – Kate Steeds for "The Last Visible Dog"
2013 – Tom Gowans for “A Hippo on the Lawn”
2014 – Meike Riley for “From My Mental Library”
2015 – Lee George for “Kitchen Connection”
2016 – Steve Reed for “Shadows and Light”
2017 - Keith Kline for "Hiawatha House"
2018 - Mary Moon for "Bless Our Hearts"
2019 - Jenny O'Hara for "Procrastinating Donkey"
2020 Arrangements: Tragically, this year's ambitious awards ceremony arrangements have had to be curtailed because of some pesky virus. The event was going to be held in The Royal Albert Hall in London, hosted by Paul McCartney with live musical contributions by The Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga. Invitations had already been accepted by Prince Charles, Princess Ivanka Trump, Dame Judi Dench and the world's best footballer - Cristiano Ronaldo. Nominees from around the world were going to be flown in with their travel and accommodation generously funded by the aforementioned Larry Page. There was to be free champagne and thousands of golden Yorkshire puddings in beef gravy.
Sadly all of that had to be cancelled. Instead, the awards will be announced in this humble but strangely awardless Yorkshire blog on New Year's Eve. I bet you can't wait...
Looking beyond the suburb of Fulwood to Sheffield city centre
Yesterday, Shirley fancied a walk in the winter sunshine. Clint agreed that she could sit in the front passenger seat and soon we were heading up to Ringinglow, beyond Sheffield's south western suburbs.
We parked in the car park up Fulwood Lane. It was here during the first COVID lockdown that I would meet with Mick and Mike and Danny for beers and happy conversation that flowed like the nearby River Porter.
There were lots of Sheffielders out and about - walking or cycling or standing outside "The Norfolk Arms" supping beer from the takeaway doors. All pubs have been closed round here since November 4th. The car park off Fulwood Lane was most unusually chock-a-block but as I say, we found a space.
It wasn't a long walk. No more than forty minutes. We stuck to the lanes because the land has been saturated in recent days. Shirley hadn't walked that circuit before and it was nice for her to see vistas of our adopted city and its suburbs in sharp winter light.
Back home I made a simple meal from chipped potatoes, leftover turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce and garden peas. Dessert was some of Shirley's scrummy vegan Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, brandy butter and brandy cream.
By the way, I telephoned our son Ian yesterday morning. He is feeling fine but has not yet received his COVID test result.
A view of Fulwood with Mayfield Chapel bottom left
Here's an old postcard containing famous lines that are meant to sum up a Yorkshireman's character. To me they are ridiculous. I mean, how can you generalise about 5.5 million people? I am including Yorkshire women in this figure and indeed Yorkshire children too.
The final piece of advice is especially galling - If you ever do something for nothing then do it for yourself. This is very much at odds with my experience of my fellow Yorkshire folk. If anything, they tend to be charitable and kind - not looking out for number one all the time. Of course, I realise that in saying that I am also in danger of falling into the stereotyping trap.
Nobody seems to know who came up with the lines in the first place but I very much doubt that it was a Yorkshireman or Yorkshirewoman. They are a crude attempt at caricature but the more I think about those words , the more I think - they are not funny and they are not right either.
In other news... In spite of COVID-19 restrictions, The Laughing Horse Blogging Awards for 2020 will still go ahead as this challenging year draws to a close. The judging committee have been conversing via "Zoom" and following heated discussions the winners have already been chosen. The much anticipated award announcements will be made on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, there will be no party. No drunken frolics and no joyful assembly of bloggers from around the world. Don't blame The Laughing Horse Awards Committee, blame The Virus! Watch this space.
On Christmas Day we enjoyed a turkey feast at Frances and Stewart's house. Stewart's parents were also in attendance having driven up from Bristol the day before Christmas Eve. With the COVID restrictions, they had to stay in a nearby hotel. All that we had was that one day together and we enjoyed it. A little island of normality. Shirley's Christmas pudding was divine and the Christmas cake that Stewart's dad made and iced was also a triumph. I led the lively singing of "Bachelor Boy" by Cliff Richard followed by a less convincing version of "The Young Ones":-
Why wait until tomorrow?
Sometimes never comes
Stewart's dad and I reminisced briefly about being university students and that set me off thinking about my life back then. I was at university between September 1973 and December 1977. In those days, a much smaller proportion of each generation went to university - something like 14%. Nowadays it is more like 50%. Quite a big difference.
I enjoyed my studies and worked hard to achieve a good honours degree in English Studies with Education plus the Diploma of Education. However, in terms of life skills, I freely admit that I was quite naïve in several ways. To explain, the following short paragraphs will all begin with "When I was a student..."
When I was a student I never owned a dressing gown. This would have been pretty handy when venturing out of my study bedroom for a shower.
When I was a student I hardly ever bought any groceries to store in the fridge or cupboards. Instead, I tended to eat at the refectory. I never had anything in for breakfast - not even a loaf of bread. How could I have been so dumb?
When I was a student, I frequently didn't get round to putting a fresh sheet on my bed or to putting my quilt in a fresh duvet cover. These tasks seemed so onerous and yet they were easy to perform in less than five minutes.
When I was a student I never ironed anything - not even when I undertook teaching practices in Tillicoultry, Alva and Alloa in Central Scotland. I found I could get away with wearing a knitted V necked jumper and keeping my jacket on. My trousers were "stay pressed".
When I was a student I drank far too much beer and sometimes woke up with extremely hazy memories of what had been said or done the night before.
When I was a student I never went walking in the nearby Ochil Hills. Nor did I climb to the summit of Dumyat that overlooks both the university campus and The Forth Valley that reaches east to Edinburgh. Such a waste of walking opportunities.
When I was a student I was an extra in "Monty Python and The Holy Grail". It was filmed nearby and I met John Cleese at the catering van up on Sheriffmuir moorland north of the campus but I was tongue-tied like a fool.
When I was a student, I had absolutely no idea where my future life would lead me. In spite of having a steady Scottish girlfriend, I knew I didn't want to work as a teacher in Scotland - having encountered far too much subtle racism towards the English. That is why I returned to my homeland - Yorkshire where all rainbows end and shooting stars fall to earth like diamonds.
It's forty three years since I left university. If I could live my life again...
With the prospect of a dry day with sunshine I headed east of the city, hoping for another long walk with my camera in hand. It has been quite wet recently so I expected some puddles and mud out there but I guessed that if I mostly stuck to the lanes I would probably be okay.
I parked Clint in Carlton-in-Lindrick not far from the village pond. After a hundred yards, in spite of the day's positive weather forecast, rain began to fall. Not fat tropical rain but thin grey English rain - seeping down from a low hanging sky.
I looked up to the firmament and thought to myself - it's going to be a miserable walk. It was still raining when I reached Hodsock Priory. This is one of the best locations in the land to see snowdrops in the early springtime. I blogged about a previous visit there in this blogpost from 2012.
Hodsock Priory and gatehouse
Today, f I had waited for half an hour, the priory and its sixteenth century gatehouse would have been bathed in sunshine under a blue sky. Such can be the fickleness of the weather experienced by the inhabitants of this famous island on the edge of Europe.
Of course I gathered a good number of photographs along the way as I usually do. None of them pleased me greatly but for your interest I have picked four to accompany this writing.
The village pond Carlton-in-Lindrick
Back home it wasn't long before I started to prepare a chicken curry with aubergine chunks, red pepper, onions and mushrooms. Served with fluffy white rice and peshwari nan bread.
Our son Ian down in London may have contracted the COVID virus. He went for a test this afternoon. On reflection, it is a good job that he didn't travel north for Christmas as originally planned. The last thing our heavily pregnant daughter needs is a dose of that frigging virus just as her baby emerges into our world.
Happy Christmas! This is the virtual card that I e-mailed to twenty people who did not make our real Christmas card list. Feel free to print it off, mount on stiff card and place upon your mantelpiece...
Yesterday's metaphor about a private blog being like the front room in someone's house was immediately trashed by a visitor who burst into the house with a spray can and tossed my cushions around. There were accusations and allegations and far too many words. The visitor would have done well to take on board some of the helpful guidelines contained in yesterday's blogpost - including this advice: "You don't start criticising everything from the moment you walk in and you don't start taking over the conversation either."
In the fifteen and half years that I have been a blogger, I have always refused to enable comment moderation. In fact, until a few minutes ago I did not even know how to do that. For me, it very much goes against the grain to check out comments before they are posted. But that is what I have now chosen to do.
I apologise to regular commenters for this change and I am sorry that there will now be some police tape between us. An unwelcome barrier. I will try to get your very welcome future comments up for public consideration as soon as I can.
However, to the house guest who tried to trash my front room and had to be led out still raging, I want to say this: I will no longer be reading any of your comments. In the moderation process, they will simply be deleted.
I am a tolerant guy and habitually I support the concept of free speech but you pushed it too far in your various comments after "Visiting" and became insulting to me and to some of my other visitors. Once again you wrote more words than there were in the blogpost. That itself should tell you something. In spite of your intelligence, linguistic athleticism, fluent thinking and passion for life, you have become too shouty, too judgemental and too impolite for my liking. Enough is enough.
You came into my front room and you ignored the house rules so that's that. It's a horrible thing to have to do just before Christmas and for that I am truly sorry. Because you have so much to say, perhaps you will consider relaunching your own blog?
When you visit someone else's blog it is a bit like entering their front room. That's what I think anyway.
You look around at the pictures on the wall, the colour of the carpet and the furniture. Perhaps it is not to your taste but you are in somebody else's house so you bite your tongue and show good manners, keeping some of your thoughts to yourself. It's only right.
You don't start criticising everything from the moment you walk in and you don't start taking over the conversation either. If you simply do not like being in that front room then you should get up, make your apologies and leave. You do not have to come back - ever. Equally, if the blog owner effectively asks you to leave then maybe it's best to just go without creating a scene. There are many other front rooms you can visit.
Remember that the owner of the blog may have been nurturing their place for years. Visitors will have come and gone. There will have been many stories and ups and downs. There's history. We should respect that.
The owner of the house will be different from you or me. Would we really want to live in a world where everyone is just the same? Just clones with the same outlook on the world. Accept they are different and delight in that.
It's easy to judge. To brood quietly in the corner of the parlour - not saying a thing - just taking mental notes, gathering evidence to confirm your prejudices. Anybody can do that. Much harder to host a gathering in your own front room, to put yourself out there and actually say what you think.
In visiting other bloggers' front rooms, I may have made some mistakes. However, I can say in all honesty that since I entered Blogworld sixteen years ago, I have sought to be a pleasant guest. I would like to think that my visits have been coloured with interest, compassion and good humour. I am not looking to score points or to "dig" at people. What's the point of that?
When you visit someone else's front room, smile and show polite respect. Perhaps after you have really got to know the host you can suggest changes to the wallpaper and ask searching questions about the pictures on the wall but that only comes with time and mutual trust.
Sadly, I know that there will be at least two people out there in this big wide blogging world who will now be ferociously searching for "evidence" that what I have said here is at odds with my past conduct. To them I would say - why not just be nice? After all, it's nice to be nice. Look for positives, not negatives nor chinks in the other person's armour. That's not nice.
Tiers or tears? I try not to bang on about the ****ing virus all the time but on Saturday night I went to bed feeling especially glum about it. All these months of being careful and now we find that Britain is in an especially concerning phase of this pandemic. Things are no better. In fact, they are probably worse.
Late on Saturday night, our hapless prime minister appeared on the television sandwiched between the nation's chief medical officer and our chief scientist. All three of them looked as if their dogs had just died.
They shared the most recent coronavirus figures with us - infections, hospital admissions and deaths and they confirmed that there is a new, mutant strain of the virus waiting to infect us all more efficiently than the first strain.
As a result of this, restrictions have been beefed up. Until very recently, London and the south east were in Tier 2 but now they have been moved to Tier 4. Here in South Yorkshire we remain in Tier 3. No pubs. No restaurants. No mixing in private homes.
Until recently, our esteemed mop-headed leader was promising a loosening of restrictions to allow families to enjoy Christmas together. But now it is as if Christmas has been banned at the last minute. We were looking forward to seeing our son, Ian. We have only seen him once since last Christmas but now he is not coming back. Londoners are advised to stay in their homes, avoid travelling to other areas and generally respect the new tighter lockdown rules.
It's the same for thousands of other families. Christmas plans cancelled and presents lying unopened under thousands of Christmas trees. Lonely citizens alone.
I am sick of it. Sick of seeing Johnson's ugly face on the TV screen. Sick of masks and social distancing. Sick of precious time drifting by when we should be really living but most of all I am sick of this goddam cruel virus. It is as if we have all become characters in some endless horror film.
Yesterday's figures for Britain:- 35,938 new cases, 325 extra deaths, 67,401 total deaths, deaths per million now 990.
In defence of Bobby Goldsboro. An interpretation...
The tree outside this house holds many memories. See how high
its arms reach. Up to the sky. But I remember when it was nothing more than a spindly
I had just come home from work and there my late wife was,
holding it in her hand. She had already dug a hole for it and when I saw the pathetic specimen in her hand I laughed.
“That thing will never grow babe!”
“Just you wait and see!” she said with fire in her eyes.
She shovelled the earth back into the hole and carefully
stomped it down so that the tree cutting would have the best possible chance of
The following winter I remember that snow came early,
blanketing the yard one cold November night. She put on her slippers and ran
outside to brush the snow from her little tree. Before coming back inside she
was laughing and threatened to throw a snowball at me as I stood in the
doorway. Then she almost slipped on her ass and I laughed till I cried.
She was always so young at heart and that is partly why I
loved her so much. Sometimes she could goof around and act dumb but at other
times she was wise and clever beyond her years.
She had always wanted a dog and two years ago I surprised
her with a puppy. Such a mischievous pooch. It kept me up most of Christmas
Eve. I wanted it to be a big surprise on Christmas morning. She was so happy.
It was love at first sight. She called him Jack.
She wore her heart on her sleeve and when watching
television there would often be tears in her eyes. Sometimes, when I came home
really late, she’d be wiping her eyes with a handkerchief after watching one of
those late night shows and she would be kind of embarrassed.
What I would give to get back to those days. I miss her so
much. I am trying to be strong, to live a good life and if I could speak to her
again I would simply say, “Honey – I miss you! And I would love to be with you
if only I could.”
I remember the time she crashed her car – an old Mustang
thatwe bought from her Uncle Jimmy for a
thousand bucks. It was wrecked. She came home imagining that I would be really
mad with her but I was just glad she was okay. I pretended to be mad but she
saw through me straight away and put her arms round my neck to hug me close. It’s
funny the little things like that that you remember.
A few months after that she became ill and visited her
doctor a couple of times. I came home from work early one afternoon and found
her crying inconsolably on the sofa. She had received a proper diagnosis and
told me that she only had a short time left. I could not believe it. It was
The following weeks passed by in a blur. She would sit by
the window looking out at her tree as spring flowers bloomed and robins sang.
It was later, in the early spring, that she would leave us.
Oh, how I miss you Honey and as I
said before I am trying to be good, wishing that I could still be with you, if
only I could.
She was slipping away in front of
me but the bills needed paying and she encouraged me to keep on working saying,
“I’ll be alright darling”. She would sit in her armchair looking out at the
yard and on her last day I came home to find her there but she had passed away
that afternoon – all on her own. The angels came to take her away and now all
that I have left is memories. At night I wake up calling her name.
For me life is now just an empty
stage where Honey once lived and Honey once played. This house is where our
love grew. Out in the yard a small cloud passes overhead raining gently on the
flower bed that Honey loved so much.
And look my friend. Look at the big
tree that Honey planted long ago. Once it wasn’t big - it was little more than
a twig that she held gently in her hand. She got mad when I laughed at her,
joking that it would never grow. But she was right and I was wrong. As I say,
the first day that she planted it it was just a twig and look at it now.
Back in 2011, "Rolling Stone" published a list of "the worst songs of the 1960's" based upon a readers' poll. I am old enough to remember every one of those songs from when they first emerged onto the airwaves. They are, as they say, part of the soundtrack of my life.
Okay, I will agree with "Rolling Stone" readers about "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies and "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express but there are songs on that list that I remember with affection. Amongst them are "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher, "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" by Tiny Tim who was a friend to Bob Dylan when he first arrived as an unknown in New York City in 1961.
However, the "worst song" I want to single out came in at number three on the "Rolling Stone" list. It's "MacArthur Park" by Jimmy Webb as recorded by Richard Harris in 1968. When I first heard it as a boy of fourteen, I saw it as a soaring, rather mystical, perhaps drug induced song about frustrated ambition and loss - "And I'll never have that recipe again". In fact it's Jimmy Webb's account of a broken relationship. He developed the song with the eccentric actor Richard Harris himself prior to recording. In spite of repeated correction Harris kept inserting an apostrophe - hence MacArthur's Park.
There is no truth in the myth that this seven minute song was reduced from an original twenty two minute version. Richard Harris died in 2002 but at the tender age of 74, Jimmy Webb is still going strong.
Yesterday morning I walked two miles into the centre of Sheffield. I saw this leaf:-
Then I saw this cat sunning itself on a wheelie bin:-
Then I walked past the park keeper's house near the entrance to Endcliffe Park. I know the family who live there:-
As in some other cities, the council have been putting plastic COVID information sleeves round lampposts and road sign poles:-
I rather like the last guide point on this side of the sleeve - "Be patient and kind":-
Soon I was on Hodgson Street where yet more student housing is going up:-
Then I walked the short distance to Headford Street to take this picture of a giant creature by the Sheffield-based street muralist Phlegm:-
I visited a couple of "sports" shops but could not find the Christmas gift I was looking for. Then I nipped into Brenda's fish and chip shop to buy a small portion of chips doused with vinegar and salt. And then I simply came home. All that way just for a bag of chips (American: fries).
In the evening, people from our neighbourhood gathered outside to sing two Christmas carols - "While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night" and "Sweet Chiming Bells". Tony from next door played his French horn and effectively I again led the singing with my booming tenor tones:-
Sweet bells, sweet chiming Christmas bells,
They cheer us on our heavenly way - sweet chiming bells.
In the so-called western world, keys are ubiquitous. We carry house keys, car keys, workplace keys, keys for padlocks, bicycles, jewellery boxes, safes. You just can't get away from keys.
When I was a teacher, I carried several keys about my person - all in a bunch. They were vital for security. I was pretty good about looking after my keys and very rarely mislaid them but on the few occasions that did happen my brain went into a kind of meltdown. All I could think about was my missing keys. Where are my keys? Where did I put them? Where have I been?
No matter what anybody said to me, all that I could think about was my keys. Of course, I always found them again and when that happened my relief was like the end of an eclipse. Such joy! There was a future after all.
A few years ago, I went walking on Crowden Moor up to Black Hill. The circle was several miles long. When I got back to where I had parked Clint's predecessor - Francisco - I realised that my car key was missing. Suddenly plunged into severe mental depression I had to nip into Crowden youth hostel to ask if I could use their telephone.
My devoted wife had just got back home after a hard day's nursing. She agreed to drive out to Crowden with my spare car key - some sixteen miles or so. That evening, a cleaner called Wendy who was responsible for the public toilets at Crowden phoned up to say she had my key. Fortunately, my key ring had our phone number on it. Sweet relief.
In these modern times, replacing a lost electronic car key is always eye-wateringly expensive. I blogged about the Crowden key incident here . It was back in 2012.
Yesterday evening, I experienced a similar mental trauma related to the apparent loss of a car key. Shirley and I hunted high and low for it to no avail. At midnight, with torch (American: flashlight) in hand I was about to retrace my footsteps from a lunchtime walk down to the "Neptune" fish and chip shop when I noticed my black leather jacket was on a different peg.
Yes! Suddenly, I remembered that I had worn that jacket earlier in the day when I went to pick up the heavily pregnant daughter. It was the first time I had worn it since the early spring. And sure enough - there nestled in the righthand pocket was The Holy Grail - my car keys. Hallelujah! Normal life was about to resume.
I ran upstairs to shake Shirley awake with the good news before dashing outside to let Clint know that all was well.
"I'm going to tell you this just the once buddy," growled Clint. "Never and I mean never lose my key again! Now stop stroking my bonnet (American: hood) and get to bed! I will see you in the morning you great pudding!"
Twelve miles. That's how far I walked yesterday, east of The River Trent in Lincolnshire.
I left Clint in the car park of the village hall in Blyton - which is undoubtedly the origin of the surname Blyton as in Enid Blyton - one of Britain's best known children's writers.
It was a beautiful day as I set off - hardly a cloud in the sky - and for mid-December the temperature was pretty mild. No need for the big coat, gloves or a woolly hat.
I was heading north west for the tiny riverside village of Wildsworth. Across from Wildsworth is another small village called Gunthorpe which is where my wife was born and spent the first sixteen years of her life. Her father, Charlie, was an arable farmer there and was also born in Gunthorpe. Sadly now there are no living family connections to the place - just memories.
View of the Andersons' house in Gunthorpe - Holme Farm
Three and a half miles by the river down to East Stockwith. There I sat on a bench and looked across to West Stockwith as I ate my banana and apple and swigged some water. It's funny that these riverside communities can be so close to each other and yet so far apart. There may have been little rowboat ferries in the past but there are none today.
Looking to West Stockwith from East Stockwith
A long, straight road led me eastwards - away from the river and back in the direction of Blyton as the sun was sinking prettily over Retford and Gainsborough.
I nipped into Blyton's village shop and treated myself to a "Snickers" bar after renewing my "Lotto" ticket. Just think - if I won the jackpot I would not have to walk anywhere again. I could pay people to do the walking for me and Clint would be traded in for a banana-coloured Lamborghini called Gina Lollobrigida. What merry japes Gina and I would have.
The seventeenth century was a time of religious unrest here in The British Isles. I guess that the pilgrims aboard "The Mayflower" in 1620 were but an early manifestation of that unrest. There were tensions between Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians and non-conformists. Undoubtedly, these religious animosities were fuelled by political and social trends.
At the start of the century, the British people were ruled by King Charles I. He seemed remote from his people - especially the protestant community. Drawn to Catholicism he was a high-handed spendthrift, full of self-importance and frequently disrespectful of parliament. He ruled from 1600 to 1649 when he was beheaded in London.
I wanted to know more about the seventeenth century - especially the civil wars that affected the land in the middle of the century so I bought a book titled "The English Civil Wars - 1640-1660" by Blair Worden. Though I came to that book willingly, I am afraid that I found the reading of it rather painful.
What the drily academic writer did manage to convey is that these twenty years were confusing in so many ways. Skirmishes broke out hither and thither. People changed sides. There were executions and accusations. Parliamentarians argued interminably and there were issues surrounding taxes, war chests and land ownership. It was all very complicated.
With Charles I dispatched and his first born son in exile, Oliver Cromwell became the nation's leader on behalf of Protestantism allied with parliament and its "new model army". There was even a powerful movement to have him crowned as a new king but Cromwell resisted He himself died of natural causes in 1658 and soon after, Charles II was restored to the throne with the hope that the nation's wounds might be healed.
It was a very turbulent period in British history which foreshadowed the modern age. Of course I could go on and on about The English Civil Wars until you screamed for submission but I am no torturer. Newspaper and journal snippets that accompany Worden's book suggest that it will be "lively", "gloriously lucid", "easy and enjoyable" but I found that not to be the case.
To me it was pretty turgid. He didn't even pause to paint pictures of Charles I's execution or the life of Oliver Cromwell before he rose to power. It was all fact after fact with historical connections, speculations and implications but little colouring. Very dry and I would not recommend it but that is not to say that the history of The English Civil Wars is a subject to be avoided by general readers. It was a troubled but fascinating time in our history when of course America's east coast was still under British rule. The ripples went there too.
When she was a girl in Rawmarsh in The West Riding of Yorkshire,
Mum loved to dance. Why should we remember the dead as they were
just before they died? Picture taken around 1930.
Old e-mails now give evidence of times past just as documents in dusty files use to do. Looking back through my hotmail library I stumbled across a message I wrote to my late brother Paul on September 2nd 2007. I did not even remember writing it.
Our mother died just eleven days after I wrote that e-mail more than thirteen years ago now and Paul himself was to die less than three years later. Though no longer alive, they are still with me. Do loved ones ever truly die? We hold them in our hearts long after they have left us.
I am glad that I didn't delete the e-mail years ago. It brought memories of that sad time rushing back. Here's what I wrote:-
We all went over to see mum in Beverley today - me, Shirley, Ian and Frances. We had Sunday lunch in "The Rose and Crown" - it scored a measly five out of ten on my pub food scale.
Mum was asleep when we got to her room - lying on her new bed which has sides and electronic vibration through a super-duper hospital mattress. This is for her painful bed sores and especially her painful feet. She's probably drugged up too. I doubt that she is ever out of that bed now and wonder if she will ever make it to her chair again. Her Sunday Express was unread like Saturday's Daily Express. She lives in a kind of slumber - fading away with only occasional flashes of her old spirit.
As on previous visits she asked me how old she is. She had no recollection of Katie's visit in mid-August and was surprised that Shirley and I had been to France. We bought her a little souvenir in Lourdes but getting it out of the little paper bag seemed like a test in the Krypton Factor. In the end we had to get it out for her and she stared for a moment at the back of it as if not realising where the front of it was. I put a new picture on her wall of some bluebell woods and rather sweetly she said it reminded her of her childhood in Rawmarsh when she would walk to her bluebell wood past the "fever hospital".
I asked her about "When you have passed away" and she confirmed - no religion - just a simple ceremony at the crematorium. I think I am going to get in touch with the British Humanist Society who will conduct funeral ceremonies now. Maybe one of their reps might visit mum in Westwood Park and get to know her a little before the inevitable end.
She was very thirsty when we were there and seemed to appreciate the non-alcoholic drinks we plied her with. I don't think the staff have time to persuade and cajole residents to eat and drink. It's very nearly twenty eight years since Dad died - Sept 14th 1979. If there were a heaven I would think that Mum will be meeting up with him again before this year is out. She's so weak and thin and sleepy.
Normally I sleep like a log - often for seven or eight unbroken hours - but this morning I came back to wakefulness just after four thirty. I had things on my mind and felt a strange sense of loss mingled with uncertainty, irritation and regret. Not a helpful recipe for getting back to sleep.
Consequently, I got up and crept downstairs for a mug of tea and two ginger biscuits. I have the television on but the sound is turned off. Game wardens in Africa are craning an elephant on to a flat bed truck. I wonder where they are taking her? It must be for her own good.
Now she is coming off the truck. She has been heavily sedated. Now she is waking up in a big steel truck. It's like a prison cell on wheels. Maybe I will never know where she was going because the wildlife programme has switched to a parallel story about penguins on the South African coast. Are there any black people in Africa? This programme suggests not. All the humans in the camera's gaze are earnest whites.
We put up our Christmas tree yesterday and then Shirley decorated it as I absorbed the day's football results. My beloved Hull City lost at home to Shrewsbury Town and defeat always causes my mood to plunge . She remembered that I like green tinsel. As the tree stands almost eight feet off the hallway floor she had to ask me to plonk our fairy on the topmost branch.
Soon after completing this challenging manly task I ordered a meal from our favourite Chinese takeaway - the "New Hing Lung" on Abbeydale Road. I have been going there for over twenty years. During the pandemic their business has doubled in popularity and waiting times have grown. I drove over to collect at six thirty but found myself waiting an extra half hour. I won't be ordering at the weekend again. Still the order was as tasty and wholesome as it has always been. Chicken chow mein, chicken foo yung, sweet and sour chicken, chicken chop suey and egg fried rice - all for thirteen pounds. Incredible value.
It's now six fifteen. I should climb the hairy mountain once more - back to bed to seek sleep's replenishing embrace. However, I am conscious I might disturb my wife of thirty nine years so perhaps I will wait a while longer.
In the south west of Ireland, overlooking the ocean, there lives a man called David. He is not alone. There is his devoted wife who we shall call Pamela and his two grown-up sons who we will call George and Eric - named after two of Manchester United's greatest players.
David is a keen gardener and so he spends a lot of time pottering in his polytunnel, listening to songs by his favourite bands - "The Osmonds" and "Westlife" - as he splits plants, repots them or sows seeds. There is always something to do in the polytunnel and a bonus is that gardening gets him well away from his nemesis - the dreaded vacuum cleaner!
Should you wish to visit David's blog, "Northsider" - please go here.
The other day, David remarked upon plants that flower out of season and indeed plants that have been hanging in there since summertime here in The British Isles. In passing, I mentioned a particular plant that we have noticed on our top decking. It sprouted from a pot that contains a little hebe. It is very likely that a bird accidentally dropped a sunflower seed there.
The sunflower germinated and a plant rose up in the early autumn - too late for summer and then a small flower emerged. Not the plate-like flower that usually forms but a stunted yellow flower the size of a child's fist.
David requested photos of said flower so they are here with this blogpost. A sunflower in mid-December? It may be perfectly normal in Florida or Australia but at this latitude and in this northern clime it is pretty unusual. I guess it helps that we have not had any significant frosts this winter - not yet anyway!
In my humble opinion, we should all be doing more to save our planet. Global warming is happening right now. We shouldn't leave it all up to governments, major industries and international organisations. There are things we can do ourselves to reduce the world's enormous carbon footprint in order to benefit future generations.
They may not be entirely original but here are eight ideas I want to share:-
1) Switch off lights when you leave rooms. They should not be illuminated unnecessarily. A side benefit is that your energy bill will be slightly reduced each month.
2) Do not waste food. Try to use up leftovers and when grocery shopping think about what you really need before your next visit to the supermarket.
3) Linked with 2) keep crackers, sliced bread loaves and biscuits (American: cookies) airtight. In this way you will be reducing waste. After all nobody wants to eat soft biscuits or stale bread and these products will last longer if they are airtight.
4) Only replace electric appliances and mobile phones when they stop working and cannot be repaired. You may have spotted a super-duper new flatscreen TV in the electrical store but if your old one is still working fine then just stick with it
5) If you are a parent in a town or city, your child really ought to go to a neighbourhood school - preferably a school that the child can walk to. The ferrying of children to and from schools day after day, mile after mile, year after year in private motor vehicles represents a huge drain on natural resources.
6) Drink more tap water and less fizzy drinks, tea or coffee. Do not buy bottled water.
7) If you are lucky enough to have a garden, patiently and continuously make your own compost with organic matter and vegetable peelings etc..
8) Try to make your clothes last. Don't be replacing them all the time as you ride the bandwagon of consumable fashion. Maybe buy better quality clothes in the first place.
Climate change is of course a big, urgent and important subject and we all know why there is a worldwide move towards wind and solar power. Similarly, we are all aware of the reasons for recycling and why the ownership of electric vehicles is on the rise. Even the growth of veganism and vegetarianism may be connected with this conservation movement.
I have suggested eight ways of assisting the reduction of humanity's carbon footprint. Have you got an idea or two you would like to share? Perhaps you would just like to say something else on this topic...
As you may have gathered, I am not much interested in fame or celebrity. There's too much focus on that kind of stuff these days. However, in this blogpost, I am going to place on record the famous or relatively famous people that I have spoken with in my life.
1. The Queen Mother (1900-2002) - she who was the wife of King George VI, our present queen's father.
2. Mick Ronson (1946 - 1993) - Hull-born guitarist who was for a long while David Bowie's right-hand man.
3. Lulu (Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie) - the Glasgow-born pop singer. I met her twice.
4. Robin Williamson - the founder of The Incredible String Band who performed at Woodstock in 1969.
5. Tom Bailey - leader of The Thompson Twins who performed at Live Aid in 1985.
6. Jimmy Savile (1926-2011) - disgraced British television personality, disc jokey and charity fund raiser.
7. John Barnes - legendary England footballer.
8. Jacqueline Wilson - best-selling children's writer.
9. Lord John Hunt (1910-1998) - leader of the British/NZ successful mission to climb Mount Everest in 1953.
10. Lord David Blunkett - former British Home Secretary (Labour).
11. Lord John Reid - former British Home Secretary (Labour)
12. Wesley Hall - legendary West Indian fast bowler (cricket).
13. Neil Franklin (1922-1996) - another legendary England footballer - also more importantly he played for Hull City!
In addition to these famous people I once spoke with, I would also like to record that when my family and I returned from our Californian holiday in April 2005, we were on the same Virgin Atlantic flight as Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach. When we were airside at London Heathrow, I found myself walking to baggage reclaim right beside him. He's a weedy little guy. We did not speak. Of course he did not realise that I was about to become a world-famous blogger.
I am sure that you yourself have met at least one famous or relatively famous person in your life. Please tell...