6 May 2021
5 May 2021
The photographs I took there prove that I did. It was a dream come true. There was nowhere on this planet that I wanted to visit more than Easter Island. You can hold a globe in a certain position and it looks as though half of Earth is The Pacific Ocean.
Everyone has seen pictures of the famous "moai" heads. The image is iconic. There are over nine hundred moai statues on the island and they all faced inland - not out to the endless ocean. They were inward looking, not outward.
It was a world within a world, like a different planet. A society that thrived for perhaps three hundred years in isolation and then declined till when the first white sailors appeared its heyday was long gone. The people who made the moai were already beyond living memory.
I would go back in a heartbeat to walk about the moai once again, to hear the echoes of a lost civilisation, to look out across the wide Pacific, to close my eyes and imagine the first dugout canoes that landed there long ago. Easter Island - the stuff of dreams and legends. Yes - I was there.
3 May 2021
I notice how some other bloggers are more adept than I am at reporting everyday ordinariness. They can make their accounts of relative mundanity eminently readable. It's quite a skill. When you think about it most days we tick off on our private calendars are quite unremarkable. This is the essence of life - its ordinariness. Days come and days go. Most are forgotten
Today, May 3rd, was a wet day. Chilly too. Lord knows that the land is in desperate need of water because April was amazingly dry here in Yorkshire. Desperate farmers have been praying for rain to fall. At last God responded kindly.
I watched the second day of the final of The World Snooker Championship on television. The spiritual home of this prestigious event is Sheffield's own Crucible Theatre. The relentless Mark Selby came out on top, beating the spirited underdog Shaun Murphy in a best out of thirty five frames match. At times it was really gripping stuff as rain continued to fall on our suburban street.
I made a nice evening meal - vegetable lasagne with salad and cheesy garlic bread before returning to the snooker. Did you know that this quiet game was invented in India in the second half of the nineteenth century by British army officers? Once the coloured balls were made from ivory but now they use a kind of hard plastic known as phenolic resin.
We didn't see our lovely little grandaughter today. She is going in a swimming pool for the first time tomorrow. She has taken to lying in her Moses basket, happily kicking her legs and vocalising like a baby opera singer. She is such a delight.
Oh, I almost forgot. I had my second coronavirus vaccination today in the cavernous Sheffield Arena. The male nurse who gave me my jab asked if I had had any adverse reactions to the first jab and I said - No, none at all. Then he prepared the needle before asking, "Did you have any adverse reactions to the first jab?" Eh? The same question twice in ninety seconds!
Despite its ordinariness, this can often seem like a mad world.
2 May 2021
1 May 2021
As we were travelling along The Great Yorkshire Way, I spotted a new feature in the landscape. Situated near the entrance to a new "park and ride" facility, it was a stonking great letter "Y" in yellow. The "Y" stands for Yorkshire. I resolved to drop into the "park and ride" on my way home in order to take photographs of this magnificent yellow letter.
I have driven by the east side of Doncaster countless times. Even as a young boy in the late fifties and early sixties I remember seeing a huge white water tower on the horizon. Yesterday - somewhat by accident - I found myself walking close to that landmark for the very first time and in spite of tricky light conditions I snapped it and its smaller companion several times.
30 April 2021
If I swindled or attempted to swindle someone out of a significant amount of money - say £73 for example then I would expect to get my comeuppance in a court of law. After all The Holy Bible tells us not to steal. It is one of the ten commandments.
Three weeks ago I received my motor insurance renewal pack from a leading insurer. Nothing has changed since last year and Clint has not been involved in any accidents or scrapes. All is the same.
Last year my premium was £341.60 but this year they were going to charge me £358.40. I phoned them and after fifteen minutes waiting in a phone queue I finally got through to a young fellow called Rob. He asked me why I was phoning and I told him that I was not happy about the increased premium.
There was no argument or any further pushing from me. After two or three minutes Rob returned to the phone and said he could give me a significant discount on the quoted price. In fact he could bring the premium down to £285,60. A saving of £73 on the original quote! Nothing would be changed. The cover would be exactly the same.
I suspect that many people who receive receive renewal notices from their insurers simply pay up without question, not realising that they are the unwitting victims of daylight robbery. Insurers clearly do not care a fig about loyalty. If they can rip you off they will.
Does this ring a bell with other bloggers or blog visitors in other places?
29 April 2021
Today we are all ten years older. Normally it is hard to track the aging process after just one year but a full decade is different. Hair is perhaps lost or greyer, eyes become more tired, lines start to form, girth may increase. A decade's worth of old people will have died as a decade's worth of babies arrived to take their places. A kind of shunting along.
Prince William still seems like a really nice guy. You can see it in his eyes. There is an earnestness about him and an innate dignity. He really cares about the plights of less fortunate people. In Catherine he found a lovely, intelligent spouse who understands what duty means. So different from the other two who shall not be named. You know who I mean.
April 29th 2011. There was no expectation of a deadly worldwide pandemic. No idea that America would put the self-obsessed host of "The Apprentice" in The White House with his fake hair and fake views. No thoughts of "TikTok" or Ed Sheeran or Tesla cars or Greta Thunberg. Our daughter Frances was just finishing university in Birmingham and our son Ian was still slaving away in men's fashion retail. Shirley and I had not been to New Zealand or The Pacific North West or Malta or Garlieston in Wigtownshire and I had not yet begun working at the Oxfam shop where I put in over five years of service. A full decade of life. So much water under the bridge.
In April 2011, the population of our planet was almost exactly 7 billion. Today Earth's population is 862 million bigger - 7,862,293, 428 as I type this full stop>. When will this endless population explosion be meaningfully addressed?
What were you doing a decade ago and how has your life changed - just as William and Catherine said - for better or for worse?
27 April 2021
Where will you find it?
The real England I mean.
Not there in those biscuit lid villages
Where camera crews are seen
And pagan barns converted
Fringe the village green.
Perhaps beside the motorway
Where HGV’s make thunder
And weary children in
Trembling bunk beds wonder
If they’ll ever sleep again.
In the statuary of history
Amidst these rumpled hills
Or sunlight on The Shard
In the shadows of old mills
Or the wisdom of The Bard.
Perhaps beside a river bend
Where an angler waits all day
As mallards in the shallows
Watch tiny ducklings play
Regardless of danger.
Where will you find it?
The real England I mean.
Not here where keyboard keys
Strive to process what has been -
This place of hope and memory
The kingdom of a queen.
26 April 2021
Previously, I sang the praises of the first three series of "The Handmaid's Tale" starring Elisabeth Moss. It absorbed me for many hours thanks to our daughter Frances who signed us into her Amazon Prime account for free. She also gave us free access to Netflix.
In England on recent Sunday evenings it seems that the whole country has been glued to BBC 1 watching the sixth series of the tense police drama "Line of Duty". It contains many twists and turns and you never quite know what is coming next but I must confess that I do not see what all the fuss is about. If I never saw another episode, I would not mind at all.
On Saturday night we stumbled across a British film called "Lad: A Yorkshire Story" on Amazon Prime. We settled down to enjoy it, hoping to be thoroughly entertained for ninety minutes or so. However, it wasn't long before we were sighing with disappointment. It just lacked the important ingredient of believability and was laborious and predictable. The best aspect of "Lad" was the North Yorkshire landscape in which the dull plot unfolds. It was meant to be a light comedy but we didn't laugh once and it was a relief when the credits rolled.
One show that almost always brings me to tears is "Long Lost Family" on ITV 1. In this programme people are reunited with loved ones after patient professional research. Often the subjects were adopted as babies and they are now looking for their blood relatives. Frequently they feel painfully lonesome in this interconnected world so when they finally meet up with their blood relatives their joy is palpable. It's like coming home at last. You really feel for them and in my opinion the show handles the process with care and respect. Each story is a true one.
I think it is important to keep our television viewing in proper perspective - not allowing it to take over our lives and turn us into couch potatoes. However, to return to my original point - screentime has certainly been a blessing in these very trying times. I think it has helped us to survive and stay sane - well, relatively sane!
25 April 2021
A year ago, my beloved Hull City A.F.C. were relegated from The Championship to League One. Hull City supporters far and wide felt as sick as parrots. However, twelve months later and we are walking on air with beaming smiles. After a great season in which The Tigers have won twenty six games and scored seventy seven goals, we met fellow promotion contenders Lincoln City at Sincil Bank yesterday and beat them by two goals to one.
I have been supporting Hull City for close on sixty years. Lord knows how much money, time and emotional energy I have spent upon them. So many ups and so many downs. The progress of my club matters a great deal to me. It has been very different from supporting Liverpool or Chelsea or Manchester United. In comparison, being a fan of such clubs is so easy.
But Hull City, Scunthorpe United, Tranmere Rovers, Rotherham United, Sunderland, Reading, Bristol Rovers... - fans of clubs like these know what it means to support a proper team - taking the rough with the smooth, remaining loyal in spite of everything.
One of my biggest thrills in life is to see The Tigers score winning goals. In those orgasmic moments, the troubles of ordinary life completely disappear. The exquisite joy releases me. There is no time for dissection, no time for pondering - the joy is everything. If you have ever supported a football team you will understand what I mean.
Congratulations to our current manager Grant McCann, his support staff and all the lads who donned the amber and black shirt this season. Maybe next season I will get to see some games back up in The Championship. Up The Tigers!
24 April 2021
However, it could have all been so different.
I had parked Clint on Sunderland Street, Tickhill close to "The Scarborough Arms" pub before setting off on a seven mile country walk under another blue sky. No need for a jacket or sweater.
When I reached Stancil Farm, I noticed that the public footpath bisected a large cattle pasture. The herd of young Jerseys was down in the bottom corner close to The River Torne but when I was half way across the field they spotted me and headed in my direction.
Of course there was no aggression but they were investigating me with their muzzles and no matter how much "Yaah-ing" I did along with windmill waving of my arms, they would not retreat. They surrounded me as I headed, hopefully, towards the stile which led through a hawthorn hedge to safety. Perhaps they thought I was a farmhand bringing food supplements.
I was very aware that if I had tripped up and fallen to the ground they might well have accidentally trampled me in their panic.
Normally, when I walk through cow fields, the cattle will look up with lazy indifference before returning peacefully to their endless grass munching. That was not the case yesterday. I tell you, it was such a relief to reach that wooden stile and climb over into the next field.
"The Scarborough Arms" was open for outdoor drinkers so I treated myself to a pint of bitter shandy with a bag of plain crisps. This was the first time I have visited a pub since November 4th last year. It was an agreeable experience but then Clint started honking his horn so I knew it was time to head home.
23 April 2021
22 April 2021
Am I really the "Best Dad"? Being a father is not something they teach you in school. No exam authorities offer qualifications in fatherhood. How you operate as a father comes from deep within, usually informed by your experience of your own father and observations of other male role models.
A lot of it is about gut instincts. It's not as if you work out a plan. Mostly you just go with the flow.
Nobody is perfect and I know that I made some mistakes along the way but the fact that my grown up children now love and respect me proves that I must have got most of it right.
Above everything else, I wanted them to be happy, well-rounded people with minds of their own. I wanted them to be respectful of others - no matter what their station in life might be and I wanted them to feel equal to all other people too. Now that they are both in their thirties, I am delighted to observe that these aspirations have been met.
I know of at least three people who regularly read this blog whose relationships with their own fathers were difficult to say the least. They look back with understandable bitterness, drawing a veil over times that are best forgotten. It is so sad and I feel for those readers, I really do. How wonderful it would be if we could all have happy, secure childhoods overseen by loving parents who treat us kindly and point us in the right direction.
My own father was like that and I thank him for showing me how to be a good father. I trusted him, loved him and respected him. Perhaps he learnt the rudiments of fatherhood from his own father. And so it goes on through the generations. Thinking of cruel, fearsome or abusive fathers - perhaps they also inherited their loathsome habits from previous generations. That is not to forgive them, just to offer a partial explanation.
Being a father should not be onerous. There should be much joy and laughter along the way. Fatherhood should enrich your life and not curtail it or weigh heavily upon you. I can say in all honesty that being Ian and Frances's father is the best thing that ever happened to me.
21 April 2021
I left Clint in a quiet lay-by on Blackwell Lane, just west of Huthwaite. It was another pleasant spring day though not quite as sunny as most recent days. I was wearing my Panama City Beach T-shirt that my daughter bought there when on Spring Break from Birmingham Southern Collage, Alabama in 2010.
My route was pretty much a circle round the overgrown village that was once known as Hucknall-under-Huthwaite then later Dirty Hucknall. Huthwaite means "a clearing on a hill spur" as derived from the old languages that in the course of time spawned English.
I doubt that many Peak District ramblers would be drawn to Huthwaite. No sheep on heather-clad hills. No vistas of pleasant valleys criss-crossed with drystone walls. This is a very different England with M1 motorway traffic humming constantly from the west. Taking things north and south.
Part of my walk was through Brierley Country Park - developed on the former site of Huthwaite Colliery. There I came across a block of concrete with the date "1919" embossed upon it without explanation. I imagined that it marked the spot where a new shaft had been sunk to the coal seam below a century before and thought of the damage that had just been wrought upon the world by World War One. The heroes who returned from those killing fields could now descend daily into Hell to earn their daily bread. They were the real England.
19 April 2021
What beautiful weather we have been having in northern England over the last ten days. Clear, chilly nights have been succeeded by bright spring days.
Our bedroom is on the west side of the house so I never know for sure what the new day will be like until I pull back the blackout curtains. And there again this morning I could see the shadow of our house with its chimney drawn upon the lawn by a bright sun rising higher in the sky. On days like this the colours of the world are stunning.
Yesterday I dug over half of our vegetable plot taking trouble to pull out any weeds. There has been little rain of late so the texture of the soil was more like a friable loam than Mississippi mud pie. Because of reduced moisture, raising spadefuls of earth was not like an Olympic weightlifting event.
At the other end of the plot there are two rows of purple sprouting broccoli which I left in the ground over the winter. It was a good decision because plants that had given no hint of broccoli heads last summer are now providing a plentiful crop. If you cut the central florets then the side shoots will flourish a couple of weeks later.
Also yesterday I fixed a broken step on the decking and pottered around in the garden - filling little pots ready for the germination of runner beans, sweeping up and trying to improve a small stone recess under the fixed bird table. As I was doing this, a wood pigeon landed on the homemade bird table without noticing me working four feet below. Upon seeing me, it flew up into the air scattering bird seed on my head. They are pretty dumb birds.
At five, with clean trousers and a clean shirt on, I headed over to Frances and Stewart's house for Sunday dinner. Phoebe was there of course with her other grandparents who are still up here from their home in Bristol and Shirley was there as well because Clint and I had driven her over after lunch.
Stew had roasted a leg of lamb with all the trimmings followed by Shirley's chocolate pudding and ice cream. At eight thirty we returned home to watch an ongoing police drama - now in its sixth series - called "Line of Duty". With all of its twists and turns and dramatic tension, it is very popular here in England but I must admit that I find it all rather underwhelming. If they said it was being taken off air I wouldn't give a toss.
Ah well, it's still sunny outside. I need a shower. Before too long I will be outside once more - digging for victory.
18 April 2021
The weather in the window this morning
is snow, unseasonal singular flakes,
a slow winter’s final shiver. On such an occasion
to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up
for a whole generation – that crew whose survival
was always the stuff of minor miracle,
who came ashore in orange-crate coracles,
fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea
with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.
Husbands to duty, they unrolled their plans
across billiard tables and vehicle bonnets,
regrouped at breakfast. What their secrets were
was everyone’s guess and nobody’s business.
Great-grandfathers from birth, in time they became
both inner core and outer case
in a family heirloom of nesting dolls.
Like evidence of early man their boot-prints stand
in the hardened earth of rose-beds and borders.
They were sons of a zodiac out of sync
with the solar year, but turned their minds
to the day’s big science and heavy questions.
To study their hands at rest was to picture maps
showing hachured valleys and indigo streams, schemes
of old campaigns and reconnaissance missions.
Last of the great avuncular magicians
they kept their best tricks for the grand finale:
Disproving Immortality and Disappearing Entirely.
The major oaks in the wood start tuning up
and skies to come will deliver their tributes.
But for now, a cold April’s closing moments
parachute slowly home, so by mid-afternoon
snow is recast as seed heads and thistledown.
17 April 2021
We were heading back to the same region I visited on Monday but a mile east of the grouse shooters' cabin. There were squares for The Geograph Project that I needed to bag. Clint parked himself on Cow Low Lane close to Cow Low Farm and immediately began napping - with his mandible relaxed, he soon began snoring quietly. Ewes with new lambs occupied the adjacent fields and some of them rushed towards me believing perhaps that I was the farmer bringing supplementary food pellets.
I walked for a couple of miles towards Buxton, passing a triangulation pillar numbered TP1406 before turning back following the little path all the way to Castle Naze - an Iron Age hill fort that now overlooks Combs Reservoir. There I found an ancient diagonal path that ran straight as an arrow down Short Edge. It must have been created by the ancients who made the hill fort or perhaps by stone quarrymen of previous centuries.
When Nurse Pudding came in the house she said, "Mmmm! Something smells nice!"
16 April 2021
Now I dislike napping and try to avoid it as much as possible. For me napping is annoying because it tends to spoil my appetite for proper sleep when I finally get to bed. This is especially so late at night.
In recent weeks, I have found myself napping on several occasions. I will be watching something on the TV with my eyes getting heavier and then, gadzooks - I am asleep just like my parents. Sometimes, half an hour or more will pass before I wake up, bleary-eyed wondering how I have missed a big chunk of the show I was watching.
This happened during my first attempt to watch "The Mauritanian" and again when I was watching "Seaspiracy" - the disturbing and controversial documentary about the world's fishing industries. It was so disturbing and controversial that I fell asleep. Fortunately, both shows are on "Netflix" so I was able to successfully re-watch them.
Every time I have ever napped it was unintended and undesired - possibly with the exception of air travel. Napping seems to happen when you have had an active day and you're warm, safe and comfortable. You don't mean to give in to sleep but it takes you anyway.
Later you may find yourself tossing and turning in bed, your head buzzing with thoughts as you are refused entry to The Palace of Sleep. The dreaded nap has taken the edge off your tiredness and you may have to get up, have a hot drink and a biscuit (American: cookie) and do some pottering about before giving proper sleep another go.
Most of my life I have happily avoided napping but as I say, in recent weeks, I too have fallen victim to the sly, creeping condition on various occasions. Perhaps somewhere, ingenious immunologists are developing vaccines to defeat NAP-21. If so, I will have some of that. Napping is, in my humble opinion, the secret scourge of the western world.
15 April 2021
It was a mystery until last weekend when the platform's maker got in touch with me and kindly provided this explanation:-
14 April 2021
13 April 2021
Finally, finally I reached the parking spot I had identified via Google Streetview - two miles north of Buxton on the Whaley Bridge road. With brand new walking boots on, I set off on what was a chilly but bright blue sky afternoon. It was just after midday.
And what a delightful walk it was too - in an amphitheatre of north Derbyshire countryside, more or less surrounded by Combs Edge. The tops were dusted with April snow but the valley was green and fresh with new spring lambs resting or frolicking in the old sheep pastures.
The photographic highlight was the grouse shooters' cabin above Allstone Lee. I descended from there on the grouse shooters' track only to arrive at a gate at the bottom that was topped with barbed wire and padlocked. A sign had been fixed to it warning me to "turn around" and that the track now led to "private property". Bugger! Now I had to schlep back up the slope until I could circumvent the sheep pastures and find a different way down to the village of Combs. This all added an extra hour to my ramble.
Then I plodded up Lesser Lane - a steady mile and a half all the way back to its junction with Old Road - a former Roman route in the far off days when Buxton was a Roman spa town known as Aqua Arnematiae.
I was knackered when I finally unlocked Clint's tailgate at 5pm. My new boots had been entirely comfortable as expected and it had been another really splendid walk. I decided to avoid Buxton on the drive home and headed up to Whaley Bridge instead before cutting down to Chapel-en-le-Frith and then along Rushup Edge back to The Hope Valley and home. I unlocked our front door just before six.
12 April 2021
More apologies to senior bloggers and visitors whose birth dates preceded the popular music charts.
Investigating the charts I was hoping that the hit single on the day of my birth would be a deep and meaningful song like "We Shall Overcome" or even "I Believe" but instead, I discovered that it was a superficial and forgettable number by a crooning American pop singer called Guy Mitchell. It was "Look at That Girl". This formulaic song was top of the pops in Britain from September 11th 1953 to October 23rd. Mitchell had had another big hit earlier that year with "She Wears Red Feathers".
Here are the (cough...cough) poetic lyrics of "Look At That Girl":-
11 April 2021
10 April 2021
The political leader of this great country is an inveterate liar. Lying comes as easily to him as breathing does to most people. His lies have been well-documented and yet he continues to get away with them. It is as if his life is charmed. He's like a roguish young lad with tousled hair denying that he scrumped the neighbour's apples even though his satchel is stuffed with the stolen fruit.
9 April 2021
Chavs being chavvish. Just the other day, I spotted a male "chav" down by the local Methodist church. He was wearing a Burberrry...
Last night, we lay down on sunbeds and watched Mrs Moon rise like a tangerine over The Aegean Sea. To capture the beauty of the scene fa...
So there I was standing in the kitchen of our son's terraced house. Something caught my eye outside in his little urban garden. It was a...