17 October 2021

Coelacanth

Coelacanth

Once, before the pandemics and the third world war and all the other stuff that happened afterwards, we lived very different lives. It seems like a dream world now, a place  of innocence before the collapse came.

I recall a vast flock of starlings coming back to the copse on the hilltop to roost each October evening.  Hundreds of them in perfect synchronicity. They swirled in the waning light  -  a spectacular avian wave, a murmuration that rolled and twisted like a shoal of silvery sardines in a blue ocean. Together as one while we just stood in awe. Watching.

It’s almost gone now. All of that – that beauty. Those pristine white beaches where coconuts were washed up, pushing down roots at the tideline. That rustling of the humble hedgehog amidst crinkly leaves, its elderberry eyes and snuffling snout seeking plump worms. That eagle that hovered majestically like a kite over yon purple valleys and noticed everything.

When you consider it, we had it all. We were honoured guardians, custodians but it was a role we carried too carelessly for we were almost blind. We could not see beyond the end of the week or the end of the year. Of course it is far too late now. We are way beyond the pale. Way beyond.

There were wildebeest and orang-utans and coelacanths and deep in jungles or faraway mountains other people lived. Quiet people with whom we had had no contact. It was their world too.

And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. Little did the lyricist  think that its song was in truth an alarm call. It sings no more, like the carrier pigeons and the cuckoos and the birds of paradise that danced with hope unseen in magical clearings when shafts of sunlight broke through. Golden and green.

Yes it’s misty now that happy ever after world where we once resided. We can never get it back no matter how hard we try. It’s lost between the container ports and the concrete towers, between emissions from plastics factories and the orange blue netting tangled in a young whale’s belly.

Listen and you can hear the finale with extended notes from a violin piercing  the night sky, sending a message to the outermost stars: “We were here. Long, long ago. We were here.”

16 October 2021

Hulland

Friday's weather forecast promised sunshine and an absence of rain so guess what - another long walk in the countryside beckoned.. I programmed Clint's onboard computer and soon we were heading off to Hulland - a village between two pleasant Derbyshire towns - Ashbourne and Belper. It's a journey of an  hour and fifteen minutes.

By chance I met the landlord of "The Black Horse" in Hulland Ward. He kindly allowed me to park in his extensive car park for the duration of my walk which was to last five and a half hours. Where that time went I have no idea. I just kept plodding and only sat down once to drink water and eat my fruit in the village of Atlow.

I could easily flesh this blogpost out with accounts of two more unwelcome encounters with over-excited young cattle. One incident saw me lifting up a galvanised gate and blocking the gap between two fields as the galloping beasts sought to join me in the new pasture. The resulting diversion - away from the route of the public right of way was challenging to say the least but  I got through as this blogpost demonstrates.

It was six thirty in the evening when I got home feeling drained of energy but very peaceful too. I didn't sit down again until I had prepared our evening meal - roasted slices of loin pork with baked potatoes, broccoli,  fried onions. and apple sauce.

Bell on the west wall of Bradley parish church


15 October 2021

Canada

Granddaughter Phoebe is nine months old today. There she is on the lakeside decking of the cabin she is currently staying in in the Algonquin Provincial Park in northern Ontario, Canada. It covers a lot of land - three thousand square miles and boasts over 2,400 lakes. The English Lake District is slightly smaller and contains fewer lakes - in fact there are only sixteen!

On Wednesday, Phoebe and her parents travelled to the place where Lake Erie drains into Lake Ontario. I am sure you can guess where they were. See below. I don't know if they rode on "The Maid of the Mist" - right up to the base of the falls. That's a thrilling experience for certain but I am not sure if the operators  allow nine month old babies on board.

And here the little family is/are  at the top of The CN Tower in Toronto. Phoebe doesn't look too happy does she?

14 October 2021

TV

Our Ian was on television again today. He and Henry were doing a cooking slot within the Channel 4 chat show - "Steph's Packed Lunch". It is the third time they have been on there. 

Each time the pressure has been on to talk to the hostess - Steph McGovern while simultaneously demonstrating the preparation of a vegan dish. In my opinion they're not given quite enough time. Another minute would be a huge help, making the process less frenetic.

Today they were making pulled pork sandwiches with apple sauce and carrot crackling. Of course it's not really pork but roasted and shredded jackfruit which when suitably seasoned can take on the flavour and texture of pork. It seemed to go down a treat with Steph and her other studio guests.

By the way, the show is filmed in Leeds so Ian and Henry had to travel up from London early this morning. I have lost count of the number of times they have been on television now. With each TV experience they seem more relaxed and confident in front of the camera. 

Ian knew nothing of this particular job when we saw him last weekend. This coming weekend he is off to Dubai on an all expenses paid trip - partly to promote vegan cuisine and also to play a small part in encouraging holidays to Dubai. Incidentally, I have been there twelve times but never left the airport!

13 October 2021

Smartphone

Being around our Ian for any length of time, you realise how important his smartphone is to him. It is like an extension of his being.

Let me tell you some of the things I witnessed this past weekend. He used the smartphone as an oven timer. He used it to take and send photographs. He used it to listen to music. He used it to pay for the parking of my car - The Clintmobile. He used it for online banking purposes and to check the weather. He used it to book and pay for theatre tickets. He used it as a spirit level. He used it to order a taxi. And would you believe it - he even used it as a telephone!

As I said on Monday, he has an electric Mini Cooper and as it will only cover 120 miles on a single charge, he needs to locate and use charging points quite regularly. The smartphone points him to where there are available charging points - not just their locations but whether or not other people are currently using them. Of course, he also uses the smartphone to pay for these charging sessions.

He is so adept with the phone, so comfortable with it and the services it can provide to facilitate and lubricate a busy modern life. In contrast, I have never possessed any sort of mobile phone and for example I have never sent a single text message in my life. If I go out into the world, I am happily uncontactable - be it on a country  walk or a car journey. If I go to the supermarket, Shirley cannot phone me up and tell me to get the soap powder or toilet rolls she forgot to mention.

In this sense, Ian and I are worlds apart. I  have just never felt a pressing need for a smartphone and think to myself - well I have got this far in my life without one, why bother now? I notice how obsessed millions of other people are with them. They are checking them all the time - no doubt looking at Facebook, Instagram or other social media. To me it all seems so alien and I just wouldn't wish to be hooked like that.

Nonetheless I recognise that for Ian and millions of other users, the smartphone is a vital tool both socially and for work purposes. If I felt I needed one then I would get one though I would have a lot to learn and I rather fear that my frankfurter fingers would be too big for the slippery touchscreen.

Increasingly, I notice that businesses and even governmental organisations will often assume that everybody is in possession of a smartphone. That wrong assumption will sometimes hinder or obstruct those of us who don't have them. It's a kind of discrimination born out of  ignorance and it can be pretty infuriating.

12 October 2021

Culpability

There are lots of ways you could kill someone...

You could throttle them with your bare hands. You could lace their porridge with poison. You could stab them or shoot them. You could drive them off the road or push them over a cliff.

And there are other ways...

You could put pollutants in their rivers and reservoirs. You could clad their high rise buildings with flammable panels. You could instigate wars. You could simply neglect them. You could delay action at the start of a deadly pandemic, perhaps imagining that everything would be okay in the end, even when the signs from abroad suggested otherwise. In mitigation,  you could chant repeatedly "We're following The Science" even when "The Science" was never clear. You could transport infected hospital patients to care homes without proper safety provision or informed agreement.

Who knows how many British deaths might have been avoided if Johnson had been a wise political leader and not an unapologetic optimist and showman? His dithering and delay at the start of the pandemic caused thousands of avoidable deaths and this is the clear conclusion of parliament's Health and Social Care, and Science and Technology Committees. 

Will he ever appear in a court of law to answer to the charges that should by rights be ranged against him? Never. As sure as eggs are eggs, he will get away with this unintentional mass killing scot-free. There will be weasel words and the world will move on and one day Johnson will write a book about his years in office. It will sell like hotcakes but he won't give a penny of the profits to the grieving families of his coronavirus victims. No way will he do that. He will remain a killer on the loose just like Tony Blair.

11 October 2021

London

By The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens

Down to London on Saturday morning then back today. We had a lovely time. We visited our Ian's flat in Shepherd's Bush for the first time. He was so pleased to have us there and the flat was most splendid. Mind you, at half a million pounds it needs to be.

Lovely Sarah was there too. They have been together for a full year now. It seems serious. Funny word to use that isn't it? "Serious" - to describe a relationship that is joyful and loving with much laughter and touch.  In finding each other, they feel less alone in the world and so in a sense less serious! More light-hearted.

We had lunch in "The Ship Inn" at Hammersmith by The River Thames and then we walked back to Ian's little flat before heading up to Camden to see one of his old school friends in a two man play called "Fritz and Matlock". Though the audience was small, the drama was excellent and afterwards we met the TV actor Mike Stevenson who plays a paramedic called Ian Dean in the long-running BBC medical drama - "Casualty". Co-incidentally, he also hails from Sheffield.
Pub on Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush

On Sunday I drilled holes in Ian's walls in order to put up four framed pictures and a floating shelf. This mission was completed successfully without fuss. Then we went off to the nearby "Westfield" shopping centre - the biggest in Europe - where Shirley bought a new coat and we looked at some other items but didn't buy.

By now it was late  - a beautiful autumnal afternoon. We headed over to Kensington Gardens in Ian's electric car - a black and yellow Mini Cooper. After finding a free car parking space we wandered through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park right over to The Albert Memorial.

This stone carving represents "America" and forms 
a corner of The Albert Memorial

It struck me that this gaudy rocket ship of a memorial with its stone carvings, mosaics and gilding was arguably the very pinnacle of The British Empire. A monument to a man but also a statement of imperial self-confidence, achievement and pride. Queen Victoria's German consort died of typhoid in 1861 but his memorial was not fully completed until 1876.
The Royal Albert Hall opposite The Albert Memorial

Back at the flat Ian prepared a delicious vegan stir fry and I made  an apple crumble for dessert using  windfall apples from our own garden.

After a lazy Monday morning we headed back  Up North, stopping briefly at the Northampton motorway services in order to inspect the lavatorial facilities and purchase refreshments kindly prepared by Ronald McDonald. Please don't tell Ian...
Ian with his mama by The Round Pond

8 October 2021

Poems

Following on from yesterday, I found some time to give more creative consideration to the two poems I mentioned. In a sense, they are the same poem but written in two different ways. They are fresh off the wheel. Perhaps they need more mulling over and more polishing. Often it is helpful to return to poems after a period of time and potentially revise them. 

I am off to London in the morning - mainly to see our lovely son and his girlfriend so there'll be no time for revising poems or even blogging. We should  be back on Monday afternoon.

Wild Places
(I)
Let us seek out wild places
Blasts of sleet abrading our faces
Far from the urban sirens’ bleating
Unshielded by gas central heating
Let us go where hawks fly
And grey clouds amble cross the sky
No news received from faraway wars
No bleeping  phones nor slamming of doors
Just the quiet pulse of our earth
Beating.
 
Yes, let us go there where
The curlew’s call is clear and true
As skulls are washed  of what we knew
To moors that unfold like the timeless  sea
Over their ancient  geology
Sodden boots in a burbling clough
The way is long, the going’s  tough
Ofttimes the world is not enough
For the songs of The Earth are
Fleeting
 
In wild places we shall abide
In landscapes where small creatures hide
Pine marten and the pygmy shrew
Mountain hare and kestrel  too
Dying sunlight gilds the peaks
And the quiet voice of history speaks
About what seems to come between
Acts rehearsed and what’s unseen
As the shadows of  Earth start
Retreating.
_______________________________________________________________________
(II)

In wild places
We shall be
Close to the sky
Striding to rough edges
Where the bones stick out
And pause to listen to
The curlew’s cry
Soaring plaintively
Like a lament
From long ago.
 
In wild places
We shall wander
Into the V of the clough
Or under trees
Soaring mightily
To moortops
Where red grouse cackle
Midst ancient rocks
Tossed
Like dice.
 
In wild places
We shall listen
To seasons
Lift Earth’s song            
Tenderly
Soaring unchained
Under ambling nimbus
Blown cross the coast
Then out to sea...

7 October 2021

Gestation

Today, October 7th,  has been National Poetry Day in England. Why our country requires such a day I  have never been entirely sure. Arguably, every day of the year should be a poetry day.

Nonetheless, to mark this special day I thought I would craft a poem. I had an idea. I was playing around with the term "wild places" and thinking about the long walks I have undertaken in the last decade. Walks to remote reservoirs, across bleak moorland, down into wooded valleys or along clifftops. I have been to so many wild places.

Visiting wild places  - especially on your own - can be quite spiritual. You're not just walking for exercise or to capture great pictures with your camera, you are also often walking to soothe your soul and drink in some of the sustenance that Nature can provide. 

And so for a couple of hours I played around with two different approaches to this poetic notion. I made some lines and rhymes and allusions that satisfied me and seemed to be giving substance to the core idea I was pursuing. Unfortunately, it did not come together as completely as I had hoped it would and so as midnight approaches I have decided to leave both poems on the back burner.

Perhaps there'll be time for further crafting tomorrow or early next week. There'll be no time over the weekend as we are heading down to London on Saturday morning.

6 October 2021

Broadhay

Frances, Stew and Baby Phoebe are flying to Canada tomorrow. On my advice they've booked a hotel room down in Luton for tonight. This means that tomorrow's car journey to Heathrow Airport will be much shorter and thereby far less stressful than it would have been.

To facilitate their journey even further, this afternoon I took mama and the heavenly babe to a "Costa" coffee shop at Sutton in Ashfield, close to the M1, twenty miles south of Sheffield. There we met up with Stew whose workplace is close by. Assisting in this way meant that Stew did not have to factor in his usual journey back to Sheffield. They could just carry on south.

This morning, I was able to fit in a two hour country walk in familiar territory close to the village of Hathersage in The Hope Valley. It was a beautiful early autumn day - so clear and colourful and fresh. I took several pictures of a farm called Broadhay and three of those images accompany this blogpost.

Just as I was setting off on the walk with my camera still slung over my shoulder in its case, a fellow in a pick up truck reversed back to talk to me. He lives at the adjacent farm. Still sitting in his vehicle he asked me what I planned to take photos of.

"The countryside," I said.

"You're not taking pictures of my farm are you?"

"No. I wasn't planning to. Why is it not allowed?"

"It's my house and I don't want people taking photos of it!"

"Right. Okay," I said.

In England the law says that when in a public area or on a road or public footpath photos may be taken of anything at all - houses, farms, historic sites or even military installations. There are no restrictions - unless there are people in the picture.

I knew that already. I just needed to placate that grumpy fellow. Now I am going to have to send him the relevant legal information about photographers' rights. I don't want him to err again by confronting other country ramblers in that same wrongful manner. I think he will probably rage when he opens the letter but honestly,  I don't care.

5 October 2021

Ragamuffin

That's me that is. I must have been four years old, heading for five. I was a scruffy little monkey wasn't I? There I am with my hands thrust in my pockets, knees scuffed, socks down, shirt bulging out from an old hand-knitted jumper that I probably inherited from one of my older brothers. I am sure that my father would have taken that picture. He probably called me in from our garden or from the fields in front of our house. I don't look too happy about it.

My brothers and I enjoyed a lot of freedom from an early age. We'd be roaming round our village or down the canal or cycling to local farms or playing football up at the recreation ground. The world was, if not our oyster then our Yorkshire pudding. Like other parents in our village, ours seemed quite unconcerned about our safety. That was the way of things back then. Back doors were never locked and children were trusted to come home at teatime.

It was all very different for my two children. By the 1980's paedophilia had been invented and lurid stories in newspapers made it clear that life for children was now fraught with danger. They got knocked over by speeding cars or contracted deadly diseases or were targeted by kidnappers. Parents had to be protective and doors had to be locked. Society had slithered into a very different, far less carefree way of life. We could never go back.

But I remember making caves in haystacks, "borrowing" old rowing boats, building a den in Colonel Wood's wood, scrumping apples from Mrs Varley's trees, racing caterpillars, picking potatoes and peas for money, climbing horse chestnut trees to  reach the biggest conkers and sharing tall stories with our peers. Yes - that once was me: that little  ragamuffin in the photograph who became the man I am.

4 October 2021

Babysitting

Yesterday, Shirley and I were on babysitting duty. Our precious charge was the beloved granddaughter, Princess Phoebe. Her mother and father were attending the wedding of two friends they have known for more than twenty years.

Because of COVID, this wedding had been postponed three times. It was first meant to happen at Easter 2020 in Seville, Spain - a place much beloved by the bride and groom. They kept trying to reschedule the wedding as flights and hotels were booked and then cancelled. What was supposed to be a joyous event when first conceived turned into something of a painful saga.

In the end, the couple were married here in Sheffield. The ceremony took place in the old Abbeydale Picture House before coaches took the guests to Kelham Island  and a wedding feast with dancing in a repurposed industrial building called The Mowbray. At last Kira and Andy were married and the angst of the past two years could be relegated to memory. I guess that many weddings have been disrupted in this way by the damned coronavirus.

Anyway, back to the babysitting... Our duties commenced at midday and ended at one o'clock this morning. Yes, that's right - thirteen hours. This was not made any easier by the fact that Phoebe still needs mother's milk. Okay she's getting into solid foods now but nothing is better than mum's milk. By the way, she refuses to have expressed milk or formula milk - only human milk from two particular flesh-coloured receptacles will do. Consequently, before bedtime, we did a milk run to The Mowbray where mama was waiting with the heavenly liquid.

Afterwards, I went on to "The Hammer and Pincers" to participate in the Sunday quiz. before returning at ten thirty for the final babysitting stint. - allowing Shirley to go home at that point.

Princess Phoebe woke up just before midnight and was at first inconsolable but Grandpa calmed her after ten minutes and together we watched passing traffic on the road outside  as I sang:-

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

When mama and papa returned as drunk as nuns in  an Ibizan nightclub, Princess Phoebe was under Grandpa's magical spell - calm and smiley but well ready for another milky top up. By the way, Little Phoebe is going to Canada on Thursday afternoon and in the picture at the top she is wearing her new bobble hat - bought specially for the two week trip. We are going to miss that little girl.

3 October 2021

Kominsky

Last night I finished watching "The Kominsky Method" courtesy of Netflix. It consists of twenty two half hour episodes. I  saw all of them in seven days. The series was recommended to me by my friend Mike.

It chiefly revolves around a Los Angeles stage school where has-been actor Sandy Kominsky puts his coaching "method" into practice. He is played by Michael Douglas who is not an actor I had previously registered much interest in. He kind of passed me by.

"The Kominsky Method" is very nicely produced and it is imbued with quirky often subtle humour. The writing is solid and intelligent and there is a  laid back quality to the entire tapestry. 

There's a refreshing and total  absence of guns, killings and screeching car chases. Instead the drama focuses upon relationships, ambitions, failures and the differences between people. Michael Douglas is a revelation - playing his part with dry self-deprecation and humanity.

The well-known film criticism website "Rotten Tomatoes" said this of the show: "Full of humor and heart, The Kominsky Method paints a surprisingly poignant  portrait of life and aging, elevated by two top-notch performances by acting legends Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas.."

Of course people's tastes differ  but I very much enjoyed "The Kominsky Method". It filled eleven hours of my life very happily. Perhaps you have already seen it but if you haven't and you have access to "Netflix", I suggest that you give it a try some time.

1 October 2021

October

October 2011 - Above Flash Edge

October is my birth month so every year it feels like coming home. The harvest is in and apples are still falling. You can sometimes hear them thump upon the earth. Unpicked brambles are mouldering on their briars. Red tractors drag harrows over the undulations of farmland. Days are shared equally between darkness and light. Migratory birds have departed or are in the process of coming back. Clouds scud to or from the north east. Summer is but a phantasm now - a sweet lament while winter growls like a famished creature, waiting for signals of weakness, ready to strike.

The tenth month is meant for reflection, tinged with sadness and yet it might be unspeakably beautiful too with shafts of burnished light gilding foliage that dies gloriously in shades of amber, russet and scarlet. Sometimes there's the aroma of burning - like faraway funeral pyres -  invisible wood smoke transported upon a buffeting wind. And forty years ago my wife married me in this month at Owston Ferry and yes, it does seem like yesterday.

Welcome to October.

October 2014 - Cleethorpes

29 September 2021

Lound

Idle Valley Nature Reserve

I like to get at least one long walk in every week. After all, walking is pretty much the only exercise I get these days but fortunately I love it. Not much can beat the feeling of sheer fatigue after a long walk when you can slake your thirst with cold water and check over your map to see how many miles you have covered.

Today I parked Clint in the village of Lound in Nottinghamshire - just north of Retford. East of the village there are several lakes and ponds that are a remnant of sand and gravel quarrying in days gone by. Mother Nature has done her best to reclaim this landscape and nowadays it is a haven for wild birds. Two miles beyond the nature reserve you reach a narrow river that was navigable in medieval times. It is called The River Idle.

The pub and a Royal Mail van in Lound

I walked by the meandering river for a further mile and a half before crossing a convenient foot bridge that led me to the north of the watery world I had just traversed. At a bench with a view, I met a genial gentleman called  Michael from Misterton. Neatly dressed in "Craghoppers" outdoor gear and with a mop of silver hair, he was clutching a pair of binoculars though he wasn't obsessive about ornithology. He told me that his wife died from COVID last year and I sensed that he wanted to talk so I gave him some time. There was a lightness about his character that I liked though we exchanged some serious thoughts about the environment.

Where I met Michael

Leaving Michael, I tramped to remote Wildgoose Farm  and then headed for Blaco Hill before arcing back across farmland and along quiet lanes to Lound.

It was a lovely day but with a little autumnal chill in the air. Most fields that needed harvesting have been attended to though there were still some swathes of maize and carrots holding on till October. Once reconnected with Clint, we travelled home via Bawtry, Tickhill and Maltby. 

The radio news was of The Labour Party's annual conference in Brighton - specifically the keynote speech of Sir Keir Starmer, the party's relatively new leader. I thought he came across well. He said that his late father had been a toolmaker and added there was a sense in which our current prime minister's father had also been a toolmaker! That made me laugh.

Maize near Lound

28 September 2021

Canute

Yorkshireman Humphrey Smith is a wealthy brewer. Nobody knows quite how rich he is but he could easily be a billionaire. Surprisingly, there are hardly any photographs of him in the public sphere. He shuns publicity as a tree shuns leaves in the autumn.

As I said before, my favourite pub in the whole world is "The White Horse" (Nellie's) in Beverley, East Yorkshire. This uniquely characterful pub belongs to the Samuel Smith brewing empire  led by Humphrey Smith.

When I was there a few days ago, I asked a barmaid if I could liberate a beermat and she agreed. Here it is:-

Do you get it? Customers are not allowed to use any electronic devices in Sam Smiths pubs. No mobile phones nor laptops nor tablets. It is a visible emanation of Humphrey Smith's eccentric philosophy. He is like King Canute ordering the tide to turn back.

Here's the reverse of the same beermat:-

Part of me applauds this bloody-mindedness as I much prefer pubs in which the only noise is of people in conversation, enjoying each other's company without any need for televisions or music or electronic devices. Another part of me says that Humphrey Smith's  dictatorial approach will  prove intolerable to many potential customers - especially younger people. How long can this go on? 

Last year Humphrey Smith closed one of his  pubs for good in a fit of annoyance simply because he had overheard a single customer swearing like a trooper.  When you have as much money and as many assets as Humphrey Smith has got, you can afford to do things your own way - even if that is at significant cost.

Oh, and I almost forgot - no other pub chain in England sells its beer as cheaply as Samuel Smith pubs manage to do. A pint of bitter in my local pub costs £3.70 (US $5.00) but a similar pint in a Sam Smith's pub will usually cost £2.05 (US $3.00).
An old photo of Humphrey Smith

27 September 2021

Root

Yesterday, we went for breakfast in a restaurant called "The Summer House". After a few minutes,  a young family followed us in and sat at the very next table. Who was the thirty something daddy in his comfy sports clothes and with his navy blue baseball cap casually reversed? Why! It was none other than Joe Root!

Joe Root is one of the best cricketers in the world and he is the current captain of  the England team. He is a very prolific run scorer having notched twenty three centuries in his test match career and sixteen centuries in one day internationals. Some say that he is the best batsman that England has ever produced. He is a Yorkshireman who hails from Sheffield. He lives a mile away from "The Summer House".

As soon as Joe spotted me he naturally wanted to snap a selfie together. I told him that it wasn't appropriate as I was having a birthday  breakfast with my family. Joe slunk away in disappointment. After all, it's not every day that a mere test cricketer gets to meet a world famous blogger.

26 September 2021

Hypnos

Hypnos - God of Sleep

I did that thing again. You would have thought I'd have learnt my lesson by now. I was watching "Match of the Day" with a can of beer in my mitt but I never saw the end of the football show because... I fell asleep.

And when I woke up an hour had passed by.  I climbed the hairy mountain to The Land of Nod hoping to resume my slumbers but sleep evaded me like a fickle mistress. I lay there with my wife next to me in the deepest trench of sleep's ocean. I heard the bell in the tower of All Saints Church ring one and sixty minutes later I heard it ring two.

Dozing upon one's sofa can be fatal. It takes the edge off one's appetite for sleep when one eventually pulls the quilt over one's mortal flesh. Hearing the clock strike two was enough to bring me back downstairs to this laptop. I made myself a mug of tea and grabbed a couple of McVities' ginger nuts.

It's especially annoying because we are going out for breakfast this morning - celebrating our lovely daughter's thirty third birthday. Later, I will be making a special Sunday dinner with the centrepiece being a pricey leg of lamb that I bought from a farm shop in The Hope Valley. I know exactly where that animal was reared having walked across the very fields where it grew fat.

And then after dinner and birthday cake I will be heading up to "The Hammer and Pincers" for the newly resurrected Sunday quiz.  The entire day will be affected simply by having failed to follow my customary sleep pattern. The mantlepiece clock is marching towards three o'clock. Soon I will give the process another try and past experience says that it will work this time.

Sleep will let me in through the curtains where most of us go every twenty four hours - into that other territory that is so close and yet unchartered too. The Kingdom of Sleep - that magical land where we  process experiences and dream freely and remember and forget.

25 September 2021

Brilliant


When it comes to TV drama, different people like different shows. I have recently finished watching a five part BBC series called "The North Water" and I have to say that in my estimation it was bloody brilliant. I take my hat off to the director - Andrew Haigh, the cast and the talented production team that helped to bring  Ian McGuire's original story alive in spite of its particular challenges. I was utterly enthralled though, as I have already suggested, it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Largely set aboard a whaling ship in the middle of the nineteenth century, "The North Water" is never pretty. Seals are clubbed, a whale is successfully hunted  and there's fighting and sheer brutality. The central character is the ship's newly recruited surgeon - Patrick Sumner played by Jack O'Connell.  He has inner demons to battle.

Much of the drama was filmed in The Arctic Circle and this factor seeps into the acting, strengthening the sense of authenticity.

It is about survival and it's about revenge. There are spiritual elements to it all and the sense of a battle between good and evil. As I watched, I could almost feel the bitter Arctic cold.

Never once did I stop to ponder the believability of a scene. I was entirely convinced by the artistic pretence and swept along by it. So often I feel short-changed or underwhelmed by much trumpeted shows but that was not the case with "The North Water". It was of the sea but it was earthy, realistic  and thoroughly entertaining

Jack O'Connell as Patrick Sumner

24 September 2021

Bearable

While I remember, let me recall Tuesday of this week. It was a very nice day but the next day promised to be even better so I planned my main walk of the week for Wednesday. On Tuesday, I stayed within the city and tramped over to Weston Park Museum before heading back to Ecclesall Road via The Botanical Gardens.

Weston Park Museum tells Sheffield's story very well. In addition to the permanent exhibits there are occasional temporary exhibitions and currently the museum is hosting  a couple of photographic shows. To be frank I found them a little  disappointing in their predictability. It's nice to be enthralled and surprised and I didn't get that. However, here's two of the best pictures I spotted. 


The first one reminds onlookers of Sheffield's proud steel making  heritage and the second one reminds visitors of how the city centre was rebuilt after the devastation of World War II. Officially called Castle Square but informally known  as "The Hole in the Road", the roundabout's lid concealed an underground world of shops and subways. benches, flower beds and an aquarium. It was the true heart of the city. Sadly it is no more. I once wrote a song about its passing:-

Look what they've done to The Hole in the Road
Look what they've done to this town
We used to meet on one of those seats
Down in The Hole in the Road

A few hundred yards from The Botanical Gardens I met a thin man of Pakistani origin. He was around my age and though he had lived in Sheffield for quarter of a century he had never  been to The Botanical Gardens before. He was hoping to bring his family there.

I guided him along Clarkehouse Road and led him into the gardens. He was a pleasant, gentle man and he told me something of his early life  - growing up in  the city of Lahore in a Christian family. He told me that as the years passed he and his family had faced growing intolerance from Islamic fundamentalists till  they made the agonising decision to leave and make their way to England. He said he had always felt safe here.

We saw two of "The Bears of Sheffield" modelled on  a steel bear that stands in the park's Victorian bear pit. These bears are all over the city just now - brightening urban locations as well as raising money for The Children's Hospital. The Pakistani man said that the park reminded him of The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. We shook hands when we parted on Ecclesall Road and I advised him which bus to catch.
The same bear as the one at the top

23 September 2021

Gotham

Rotting hulk of a lorry on Welldale Farm - probably a Leyland Hippo

I didn't get round to blogposting yesterday. Sorry about that. Clint and I were out of the house by nine fifteen. Soon we were travelling down the M1 Motorway bound for Junction 24 which I somehow managed to overshoot. Never mind - after a little delay we reached our destination.

My plan was to walk in what I call "virgin territory" - somewhere I had never walked before  and that is what brought me to the village of Gotham a few miles south of the city of Nottingham. I parked Clint in a shady place between St Lawrence's Church and "The Sun Inn", close to the old village water pump.

"Ouch!" yelled Clint as I slammed his tailgate.

Cottage sold recently in Bunny

The circular walk was all on the flat apart from a short slog up to the village of Bradmore. The weather was gorgeous for late September. I was walking across rich agricultural land after harvesttime. Farmers were out harrowing the fields and I noticed that the soil thereabouts was almost as black as coal.

Bradmore's medieval church is curious because it was badly damaged by fire in 1705. Only the tower and steeple remained and many years later the villagers attached parish rooms to this surviving structure. As far as I can determine, the church doesn't even have a saint's name.

The tower and steeple of Bradmore Church with Steeple Cottage in front

Can you believe it? There's a village in England called Bunny. I kid you not. Bunny! I know because I was there yesterday. It's a mile south of Bradmore. Because my time was limited , I didn't get  to visit Bunny Hall. Presumably Daddy Bunny and Mummy Bunny live there with their  little bunny children - hundreds of them -  all waiting for Easter. I wonder how they spend their time.

Between Gotham and Bradmore

And then I turned back to the west - my bootsteps taking me ever closer to Gotham which is the source of a story and a nursery rhyme that both allude to "Three Wise Men of Gotham"...

21 September 2021

Volume

I must admit that when it comes to science, I am a bit thick. As thick as two short planks as we say here in Yorkshire. I am to science what Atilla the Hun was to embroidery. Frigging useless.

Therefore would you please forgive me as I pose this conundrum. It is something that has been in the back of my mind for a long while.

Okay, here we go.

On this planet we have trees and fields. Every year the trees bear masses of leaves, fruit, nuts and seeds. The fields sprout corn, potatoes, turnips, rice and plenty of other stuff.. That's a lot of volume wouldn't you agree? If these products  of the earth were all piled up together we could make massive mountains every year.. Then the next year there'd be more mountains till the planet would be covered with such piles.

Effectively, the planet would be growing - expanding every year - as long as we didn't eat the stuff or burn it. And we would have to protect it from natural rotting processes.

The wheat and the apples and the courgettes (American: zucchini)  grow where once there was nothing - creating  an extra volume of matter. 

It's all very puzzling. I just don't get it... but as I say with regard to science I am a dunce in a pointy hat.

P.S. I hope the trees and the fields continue to produce in the bountiful manner described because climate change has already begun to curtail this timeless process.

Most Visits