31 January 2021


Two weeks after her birth, here's Phoebe on Grandpa's shoulder. In all my years of teaching I never taught one girl named Phoebe but curiously two female ancestors on my father's side had that name. They would have been housemaids or humble agricultural workers up on the moors west of Scarborough - like most of my father's family in years gone by. 

Phoebe is doing well. She is putting on weight. Her eyes are clearly focusing and she is beginning to make some sense of this multi-sensory  world she has now found herself in. She has not yet learnt that humans tend to sleep in the night-time and get active in the daytime but Frances is a patient and pragmatic mother. She knows that this post-natal confusion will not last forever.

30 January 2021


How The English hold a tea cup

Having described Americans in vivid detail, it is only fair that I should summarise The English. I am not talking about the English language but the English people. Of course Yorkshire people do not consider themselves to be fully English. We are first and foremost of Yorkshire and we trace our heritage back to Viking invaders and to the ancient kingdom of Northumbria.

No my friends, the true English live south of here in faraway counties with strange names - Surrey, Hampshire, Kent, Bedfordshire, Essex and the like. And of course that is where London is situated - the great metropolis of The English.

The English all talk as if their mouths are filled with marbles. Their vowel sounds are very similar. Favourite utterances of The English  are "Gosh!", "Golly!" and "Oh, I say!"

The English send their sons to boarding schools when they are still in nappies (American: diapers) where the play rugger and cricket, learn Latin, eat from tuck boxes and suffer physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their housemasters. Meantime English daughters ride ponies at gymkhanas, take piano lessons and stomp off to their rooms yelling "It's not fair!"

The English have afternoon tea every day. Crustless salmon paste and cucumber sandwiches are presented on cake stands with iced buns, scones and jam tarts. The tea itself arrives in a china teapot with exquisite cups and saucers and silver spoons.

In the summer they attend horse racing events at Ascot or ride their own horses across The South Downs or through The New Forest, yelling "Tally-ho!"

The father of the house is called either Tarquin, Douglas or Neville . He smokes a pipe while checking how his stocks and shares are doing in "The Financial Times". On weekdays he travels into London on a crowded train wearing a bowler hat, carrying an umbrella and a leather briefcase like all the others on board.

The mother has gardening gloves and secateurs to prune roses. She is called Arabella, Fiona or Belinda and she titters behind her lace handkerchief when ever her beloved husband makes an amusing remark. At Christmas she goes wild, treating herself to a small dry sherry. She has a spaniel called Tinkle who is an "absolute darling".

The English know little of Yorkshire and the other counties "Up North". They never travel there, preferring to visit The Isle of Wight, Cornwall or The French Riviera and Tuscany for their holidays. As old maps used to say of unexplored regions - "There Be Dragons!"

The English always vote for The Conservative Party and have framed photographs of Churchill, Thatcher or John Major in their bathrooms. Presumably, this avoids any need for laxatives. Out on their manicured lawns they play croquet and down in the village they occasionally visit "The Red Lion" to guffaw under the horse brasses with a buxom landlady called Joyce who is an "absolute darling".

Obviously, I could say much more about The English. I have observed them all my life. They are the true inheritors of The British Empire. If you require further information about The English please pose your questions in the comments below.

29 January 2021


English people of my generation have always been fascinated by America and Americans. We grew up on American popular music, American films and TV shows and heard tales of American servicemen who fornicated constantly with our women when they were posted over here in the nineteen forties. They brought chewing gum, "Lucky Strike" cigarettes and nylon stockings - rather like missionaries in Africa with their gifts of beads and mirrors.

In my last blogpost, I revealed my intimate understanding of Americans. This was achieved not just through the popular culture I absorbed in my youth but via several research trips to the USA. I was first over there in 1972 and my last visit was in 2014. I was half hoping to make a further research visit this past year but that coronavirus thing got in the way.

This is what I wrote in my last post: "It is well-known over here in England that all Americans are stupendously rich. They drive around in massive cars and have massive refrigerators and every night they go to drive-in movies where they watch cowboy films on massive screens while munching huge handfuls of popcorn from massive paper buckets."

Here are some extra key points about Americans.

They are all born with pearly white teeth that are as straight and white as piano keys and they never need to visit dentists. Even elderly Americans smile brightly in their retirement villages. In contrast, all British people have rotten brown stumps in their crooked mouths.

All Americans know the lyrics of "Home, Home on the Range" - having learnt to sing it while sitting round campfires at summer camp.  It is like a second national anthem  and it is to me a little surprising that Lady Gaga did not sing it at President Biden's inauguration.

American mothers are all called "mom" and they like massive household appliances.  They make meatloaf every day apart from the days when they have pizzas delivered. American fathers like to sit in massive Lay-Z-Boys drinking "Rolling Rock" and watching baseball or ice hockey on their massive  TV sets. These fathers are all called Chuck, Hank or Doberman and when they come back from work they put their hats on hat stands before calling out, "Honey, I'm home!"

In every American home there is a massive arsenal of weapons. Americans like to venture out into the woods at weekends shooting moose and other "critters" which is the term they use for "creatures".  Oftentimes they cut off the animals' heads and mount them on their walls - like trophies.

In America there are no shops as such - just shopping malls. Every town has a massive shopping mall in the suburbs and everybody drives out to it at the weekend to buy clothing from "Abercrombie and Fitch". Nobody ever looks at the price tags and afterwards they get massive chocolate milk shakes and burgers before driving home.

In American high schools, the kids never do any school work. Boys play American football in helmets while girls join marching bands. Mostly school is about dating and planning ahead for the school prom. There's also a considerable amount of hanging about by school lockers.

Yes folks, I know a lot about Americans as the observations revealed above demonstrate. If you need any more information, please ask. My apologies to  Canadians and Mexicans who are, when you think about it,  also  Americans as they share the continent of North America. In this post, I was of course not referring to them. 

Have a nice day y'all!

28 January 2021


Shirley and I spent yesterday afternoon in The Palace of Princess Phoebe where she is attended to by her two slaves. Not quite two weeks old, Princess Phoebe's life chiefly involves three activities - the consumption of mother's milk, the filling of nappies and sleeping like a baby.

Yesterday her grandfather - King Pudding de Yorkshire - sang her songs and she was bemused, lying in his arms as the vibrations of his tuneful singing were absorbed by her rib cage. She looked up with her bright blue eyes wondering, "Who is this man?" and "Can I make him a slave too?"

How heart-warming it is to observe our lovely daughter Frances taking to the role of motherhood like a duck to water.  She is so patient and so loving. In spite of her tiredness there is a beatific aura about her. After all, she has been the engine of an ongoing miracle.

When we got home there was a mysterious Amazon package lying on our doormat. It was addressed to Phoebe Pudding so I guessed that it had come from someone in Blogland - but who could it be? Over the telephone, Frances gave me permission to open the package and inside were these two lovely children's books:-

But there was no note. However, later a comment in this blog revealed that the sender was none other than Mrs Jennifer Barlow of Florence, South Carolina. What a kind and generous thing to do! Once again - thank you so much Jennifer.

It is well-known over here in England that all Americans are stupendously rich. They drive around in massive cars and have massive refrigerators and every night they go to drive-in movies where they watch cowboy films on massive screens while munching huge handfuls of popcorn from massive paper buckets. Given this fact, we have decided to appoint Jennifer as Princess Phoebe's official American auntie. Henceforth she will be known to the princess as "Your rich Auntie Jennifer from South Carolina". It has nothing to do with the wealth. Honest.

27 January 2021


Stuart Goodman in his daughter's arms - one of the 100,000

On and on this bloody pandemic goes. So many words spoken about it, so many words printed. Together they could make a pile that would reach the moon. A year ago, very little had been said about the virus. It was just easing itself into our consciousness - the ultimate elephant in the room.

Yesterday, Britain's official death toll surpassed one hundred thousand. Our scruffy, bumbling prime minister appeared on TV saying that he was sorry about all the lives that have been lost. Arguably, he should have also said sorry for dragging his feet at various points in this living nightmare, having the guts to  admit to some of his many errors.

Incredibly, it is only now - this very day - that airport border controls are going to be beefed up to get incoming travellers from South America, Portugal and South Africa into quarantine hotels. Who is going to police them?  Who is going to arrange food supplies?  In past months our borders have been pretty porous with people coming and going as if there was no deadly pandemic. As I say - quite incredible and the latest initiative just seems like an attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

A hundred thousand. So many people. Enough to fill the old Wembley Stadium in London.  For them the match is over. No more flag waving. No more brass bands marching on the pitch. They have gone. Their families could not even bury them with the funeral goodbyes and the dignity their lives merited. So tragic.

As if in the aftermath of a war, let us pause to think of the hundred thousand... "At the going down of the sun and in the morning - we will remember them".

26 January 2021


Over in Ludwigsburg, Germany a certain blogger hatched a plot. She wanted to give her sister a unique birthday gift. She remembered a story that she and her sister conceived when they were little girls - "How The Cat Lost Its Thumbs".

The idea was to put the story into book form with illustrations. What a lovely gift this would be but who could create the necessary pictures? The blogger, Ms Meike Riley who is the custodian of "From My Mental Library" had a sudden brainwave. Yes! She would ask Grandpa Pudding over in Yorkshire, England. He could draw the pictures.

Meike offered me money to do the job but I declined and said that my preferred payment would be a copy of the book. When you are a retired teacher in a pandemic you have oodles of spare time and so I set to work, following Meike's fairly precise instructions.

To tell you the truth, I enjoyed this task and it was most delightful to receive my silver bound finished copy of "How The Cat Lost Its Thumbs" . I also received an e-mailed "thank you" message from Meike's sister who prefers to remain anonymous. It felt nice to be part of a cunning plot - just like another Yorkshireman who went by the name of Guy Fawkes. 

If I am still alive when our Phoebe is two or three years old I shall put her on my knee and read the story to her. And she will look at the illustrations, pointing out the cat who lost its thumbs and maybe she will say "Again! Again!"

25 January 2021


Brooding shadow of the author by an old stone trough - this morning

This sunny Monday morning saw your intrepid reporter tootling north west of the city back to Damflask Reservoir.  I was intent on walking round it. According to signage, the circuit is 3.5 miles in length but somehow I doubt that. I managed the whole thing at ambling pace in  an hour and ten minutes.

"Oh you're back then!" said Clint as he saw me approaching along the side of Loxley Road. "Come on! Get that ignition key in - I'm bloody freezing."

"Yes master!" I replied somewhat ironically.

Valve houses on the reservoir dam

Now that Baby Phoebe is with us, Shirley and I  along with Stewart and Frances have formed what COVID regulations call a "support bubble". We can officially be in each other's houses and of course grandparent involvement invariably eases pressure on any new parents.

Mind you, Frances and Stewart seem to be taking to their parenting role like ducks to water. The newly discovered love they feel for Phoebe is palpable. You can see it in their eyes. What they are experiencing is joy, not hassle or unwelcome inconvenience. After all, they wanted her and now she is here - to enhance their lives, not to diminish them.

Reclining angler by Damflask Reservoir

Yesterday I prepared another Michelin star quality Sunday dinner. I had purchased a nice joint of beef topside which we had with savoy cabbage, roasted squash, green beans, roasted potatoes, horseradish sauce, homemade beef gravy and last but not least - the food of the gods - golden Yorkshire puddings. For dessert, Shirley had baked a light chocolate sponge which we ate with vanilla custard. That was also a tastebud hit.

Over dinner, Frances and Stewart ribbed me about my lockdown hairstyle - another  brown mop of unruly hair with a fringe like an Old English sheepdog. I was unable to get an appointment with my favoured barber before the latest lockdown pulled down the shutters upon all of our nation's hairdressers. It looks like Shirley will have to get out the kitchen scissors again.

After dinner, Little Phoebe listened as I sang "Lavender's Blue" to her. I have learnt the song by heart now and of course she was mesmerised - even more than she would have been if Elvis Presley had been cradling her. She is the most beautiful granddaughter any man has ever had and she is developing nicely on mother's milk and around eighteen hours sleep a day. How wonderful it will be to watch her grow.

Stone cottage and sheep near the end of the reservoir

23 January 2021


View to Emley Moor Television Mast - the tallest building in England

"Are ye goin' up top?"

The words came from an elderly woman I encountered by the side of  the A616 at Jackson Bridge. And yes - I was indeed "going up top" having parked Clint by Holy Trinity Church in Hepworth.

The  two adjacent stone  villages sit in  the valley of a tributary of  the River Holme. It was surging north to Holmfirth -  famously connected with a long running  British comedy series, "The Last of the Summer Wine". To the east of Hepworth, the land rises  to a plateau. It's like you are climbing to a different climate - colder, windswept but sunlit.  Hence - "Goin' up top".

"I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation..."

Stone farmsteads and mill cottages cling to the landscape while down in the valleys motor vehicles scurry like tiny beetles between miniature villages. To the north west the Pennine hills were dusted with snow and the great mill town of Huddersfield sprawled in its moorland bowl, its tentacles reaching for the hills.

Dick Edge Farm

Mostly I stuck to paved lanes but a map won't tell you everything so on three sections of the route I found myself edging nervously down or up lethally muddy paths where one false move could have spelt disaster or at least a muddy outer coating and a bruised coccyx. 

It seems like yesterday but of course this walk happened long, long ago  - way before the world's unwelcome guest arrived to scupper our plans. Incidentally, I noticed that Heathrow Airport was crowded with air travellers yesterday. What happened to the "Stay At Home" message down there I wonder?

21 January 2021


I was holding my brand new granddaughter in my arms as I watched the inauguration of Joe Biden, live from Washington D.C.. And I rocked her gently from side to side as Lady Gaga sang "The Star Spangled Banner" with her raised fist clenched in a black leather glove.

Sometimes, people might see poetry as mere decoration - as unnecessary and indulgent as a cream cake. But you cannot say that about the poetry of World War One nor about words carved upon gravestones. Sometimes poetry is vital and so it was when Amanda Gorman recited "The Hill We Climb" for the very first time.

It was a poem for our times and a declaration of hope for the future.  The words were  like beach pebbles - each one carefully chosen for its shape, its colour and for the weight of it.  Amanda Gorman had  arranged them painstakingly  as if constructing  a mosaic. Her poem was very apt, very apt indeed and even though it is as fresh as a newly born child, it has already entered America's great literary heritage - to be recited through the decades ahead of us...


When day comes, we ask ourselves
Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

20 January 2021


It wasn't so when I was working but nowadays I prepare 99% of our meals. Even though my son Ian has written four bestselling cookbooks with his Bosh! colleague Henry, I myself hardly ever look at a recipe book. I just go with what I know and my culinary instincts.

It occurred to me this morning as I lay in bed like a lazy sealion upon some remote shore that when it comes to main evening meals I have developed a repertoire. The wheel keeps turning and old favourites reappear. These are the eleven staples in that repertoire:-

♦ Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings - might be chicken, pork, beef or rarely - lamb. Vegetable accompaniments will vary.
♦  Spaghetti bolognese with fried mushrooms and parmesan.
♦ Oven broiled salmon with fresh pasta in a pesto sauce, broccoli,  roasted tomatoes and lemon wedges.
♦  Chicken thigh fillets in Sicilian tomato sauce with mushrooms, peppers and grated cheese served with farfalle and tender-stem broccoli
♦  Beef stew with swede, green lentils and dumplings
♦  Chicken stir fry in a satay or black bean sauce with noodles
♦ Rump or sirloin steak with fried onions, mushrooms and green beans plus baked potatoes
♦  Chicken curry with basmati rice, peshwari nan breads and mango chutney
♦  Cauliflower cheese with gammon, pineapple and roasted potatoes
♦  Slow-cooked mince with gravy, mashed potatoes and garden peas
♦  Tossed summer salad with quiche and fried rice

Occasionally I will try other things - often influenced by what I encounter at the supermarket but essentially these are the meals I make. And that reminds me...

I love Greek cuisine and it is about time I got round to baking stuffed peppers. It's something I have thought about doing before but have never got round to. On the isles of Greece I have also enjoyed stuffed tomatoes but that requires those massive beefsteak tomatoes that you rarely see in English supermarkets so I think I will just stick to peppers in the first instance. Watch this space.

By the way, please pick a favourite staple or two from your own meal repertoire and put in the comments below.

19 January 2021


Over at the "LIDL" store on Chesterfield Road there's a sweet little shopworker called Anna from Romania. Last night, when I was at the checkout ready to pay for my shopping, Anna asked if I had "LIDL Plus" on my phone? I said that I didn't have a phone so  I was excluded from using "LIDL Plus". "It is a kind of discrimination," I told her.

"Still, it must be very peaceful - not having a phone," she said.

"Yes it is. I can recommend it. Many people seem addicted to their phones. Checking them out all the time. I don't have that in my life."

Now let me rewind and explain that "LIDL Plus" is a kind of store discount card. It was introduced quite recently. However, there are no actual plastic cards - membership benefits can only be accessed via smartphones. Folk like me who do not possess smartphones are excluded from using the system.

When "LIDL Plus" first came out I had several e-mail communications with the chain's customer services - complaining about this careless discrimination but to no avail. After a while I gave up complaining but it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I have been a pretty loyal "LIDL" customer for years but my loyalty is disregarded. 

It's one of the downsides of not having a mobile phone. In fact, I cannot think of many other  negatives.

It's a bit weird living in a world where so many of my fellow citizens are glued to their phones. They just cannot stop looking at them.

One of the things that appals me about smartphones is the sight of young parents checking them out while pushing babies or small children along in their prams or pushchairs. It's as if they are saying - I am proud of you kid and I love you but you are not as interesting as what is on my little screen! Oh you said "birdie" for the first time as that pigeon flew by but Sandy just left me a message on Facebook so please keep schtum child!

And please don't talk to me about drivers using phones behind the wheel. That makes my blood boil with rage.

Apple, Samsung, Facebook and the rest have cunningly designed their systems to keep phone users hooked. In this sense they are bit like dealers who encourage drug addiction.

Modern humans have existed on this planet for about 200,000 years and for 199,950 of those years no one had access to mobile phone technology. People got along fine. Consequently, it makes me chuckle inwardly when anybody expresses anxiety or concern about me walking in the countryside without a phone.  They are like religious converts who pray to the great god Smartphone and cannot understand why there are still a handful of non-believers out here in the wilderness.

Of course, I can see why phones are pretty much essential in various forms of work these days but in my life I have neve arrived at a point where I felt I needed one. I hope that that day never arrives but if it does then okay, I shall also join The Smartphone Cult and feel the benefits of "LIDL Plus".

18 January 2021


Last week two milestones were reached on the very same day. The official worldwide number of COVID-19 deaths  hit two million and the number of visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding" since June 2005  reached the same figure. That's a lot of "hits".

It's as if the entire population of Perth (Western Australia) or Minsk (Belarus) have either died from the virus or they have visited my blog. I would like to think that the latter might have been  a better choice though some contrarians might disagree with that. Ah well, I know that I tried my best.

It is likely that COVID has in fact  claimed the lives of far more than two million people. Calculation in western countries is pretty comprehensive but what about more challenging, less developed countries like Malawi, Bolivia, India or Egypt? In such countries accurate tallying is far more problematic. Maybe we will never know the true death figure.

Thanks to Yorkshire Pudding visitors past and present for tarrying here from time to time. Much appreciated. Onward to three million.

Blog counter last Friday morning

17 January 2021


There may be other stuff going on in the world right now but I don't care about all that. Don't care about COVID-19 or Ugly Trump or Scruffy Johnson or global warming or the death of Phil Spector or even the fact that Hull City only drew with Blackpool yesterday. No - this weekend, all that I care about is the new addition to our family - Little Phoebe.

She came to our house today with her soft skin, her tiny fingernails, her sighs and her plaintive cries. And she fell asleep while her mama and papa enjoyed the Sunday roast I had prepared after we had toasted Phoebe's arrival with a bottle of "Bolinger" champagne.

And later I held her in my arms, close to my chest and sang the song I have chosen for her babyhood - "Lavender's Blue" - an agricultural song from long ago. I will use this song to comfort her and send her to sleep:-

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly,
Lavender's green
When I am king, dilly dilly,
You shall be queen

Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so

Call up your friends, dilly, dilly
Set them to work
Some to the plough, dilly dilly,
Some to the fork

Some to the hay, dilly dilly,
Some to thresh corn
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly,
Keep ourselves warm

And one day, when I am gone and she is a woman she might hear this song again and think to herself - "I know that song but I don't know how or why".

Finally, sincere thanks to readers of "Yorkshire Pudding" for all the lovely messages I received in the comments section of this blog after the last two posts. I have read many of them out to Frances and Stewart. It's very uplifting to think that there are so many good people out there thinking such kind,  genuine thoughts about our heavenly babe. Thank you so much.

16 January 2021


I love this picture of our Phoebe. She is now a day old. Frances took the photograph with her smartphone. As I write, they are both still in the maternity hospital.
But this is the very first picture that was ever taken of her. She is in the midwife's arms and she is singing, "Tutti frutti, oh Rudy / A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo!" See how she grasps the imaginary microphone so expertly:-

15 January 2021


Phoebe arrived an hour ago. She weighed in at 7lb 12oz. I could hear her exercising her lungs in the background and Frances said, "She's perfect!". I will go out soon to buy two newspapers so that one day Phoebe will read about what was going on in the world and in the city of her birth the day that she was born - January 15th 2021. Let us hope that the life she paints will be long and lovely in spite of the ups and downs that are part and parcel of being human. 

14 January 2021


This morning I leapt out of bed and threw back the curtains. Now that wasn't supposed to happen - Snow! And it was still falling.

After breakfast I ventured out to feed the garden birds though it wasn't long before the seeds and suet were hidden by  falling snow. Our sheep - Beau and Peep - were wearing snowy blankets and our fox  - Fake Fred  was almost suffocating in the white stuff.

At half past ten there was a knocking on our front door. It was lovely Sophie - a thirteen year old girl who lives across the road from us. She had been sent home from school because of the snow and could not get in her house. Naturally, SuperPudding was here to save the day! Their front door lock is ridiculously stiff and it's awkward for the key to turn but with my super powers I had no difficulty.

After a BLT sandwich and a mug of coffee I decided to head out to take some photographs. Stubbornly, Moody Clint refused to take me anywhere. 

"No freakin' way man!" he said. "Look at that snow! I would be skiddin' and slidin' around like a freakin' ice dancer!"

I protested, "But I own you! You do what I want. Not what you want!"

My pointless protest received a mouthful of South Korean obscenities.

Alternatively, I found myself trudging up to Ecclesall churchyard. It's somewhere I have taken pictures before in snowy weather. I gathered plenty of images but these were I believe the best:-

13 January 2021


In the middle of a terrible pandemic we need some "good news" stories.  Down in London there's a groundbreaking craft brewery called "BrewDog". Founded by two Scottish fellows who are passionate about beer, the company has been tremendously successful, progressing in leaps and bounds. Of course  COVID-19 has thrown and unwelcome spanner in their works but still they are looking forward.

At the back end of last year BrewDog teamed up with Bosh! to produce a new alcohol-free vegan beer. I don't like commercial advertising in this blog but on this occasion I will make an exception...

An alcoholic version of the beer should be arriving before Easter and when it does appear I will be ordering several cartons. Getting hitched up with BrewDog is a hell of a coup for Bosh!. I guess that continuation of production will depend on sales and of course it's not too easy to promote new beers when all your usual outlets have been shut down by government restrictions. Fingers crossed, BrewDog/Bosh! beers will still be around with thriving sales after this unholy virus has been driven back into its cage.

12 January 2021


Damflask Reservoir earlier today

Damflask Reservoir is within Sheffield's city limits. It was formed in  1896 when the damming of The River Loxley was completed. Damflask had been the name of a small village - the remains of which now lie at the bottom of the man-made lake.

I was over there today for a short walk in afternoon sunlight  before our golden orb dipped below the hills. On another occasion I shall circle the entire reservoir - some 3.5 miles but today was not the time for that.

Just before I turned about, ready to head back to Clever Clint The South Korean Silver Machine, I was joined by a robin. He hung around like an old friend as I wilfully bemused him by imitating various bird calls. Slowly, I slid my camera out and managed to get several photographs of my new feathered friend. A recent poll by the RSPB (Royal Society for The Protection of Birds) revealed that the European robin is in fact Britain's favourite bird.

The European robin is not to be confused with The American robin which is a bigger bird that got its name "robin" from early European settlers who, because of the bird's breast colouring, were reminded of the robins they had left behind on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. American robins are more common and will often be seen in flocks but the European robin tends be solitary and territorial.

Here's the American robin:-

And once again, here's the little European robin that welcomed me to Damflask Reservoir:-

11 January 2021


Late on Friday afternoon. I was in the middle of preparing a lovely beef stew with green lentils and dumplings. The phone rang. It was Shirley.

She said that if I could zoom down to her health centre in the next ten minutes I would be allowed to receive my first anti-COVID vaccination. They had some unused vaccine left. I dithered for a moment and then declined. After all, I am enrolled at a different surgery and there was no guarantee that I would get the second inoculation in a few weeks' time. However, mostly I was thinking about my beef stew.

This may have been the most foolish and possibly most tragic decision of my life. I could have had the jab but I turned my back on it. What if I now contract the virus? What if I die? It could happen and I could have saved myself by grasping the vaccination offer with both hands.

On Saturday there was the possibility of a second chance but on that day the unused vaccine went to medical practitioners who were called in from their Sheffield homes - and quite right too. There was no vaccine left over for the spouses of health centre staff.

It is still very possible that by the end of this week I will have been vaccinated  - nonetheless I reflect upon that old saying - "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". I wish I had remembered it when I was rolling dumplings in my floury palms on Friday afternoon.

What a bloody fool!

10 January 2021


The ruins of Ramsley Lodge

Ramsley Moor is just west of the bent tree. Some moors are typically rugged upland places of heather and gorse where you may find hardy sheep grazing amidst the rocks. Other moors are flat, characterised by boggy ground and tussocks of rough grasses. Such is Ramsley Moor.

Yesterday was bitterly cold but bright and clear. I left Clint in a lay-by adjacent to the the A621 road to Baslow.

"Brrr! It's flippin' cold up here boss man! Can't you keep my engine running?" said Clint.

"Can't do that mate. I would have to leave the key in so somebody might steal you."

"How bloody compassionate! Don't mind me freezing my exhaust pipe off - just go and enjoy your ramble!"

I set off into the winter's afternoon and soon found myself at the ruins of Ramsley Lodge. Not the most picturesque of moorland ruins and  later on Google could not lead me to its history. Then I was plunging through straggly trees. The path led me to what is left of Ramsley Reservoir. It served the town of Chesterfield for over a hundred years but it was decommissioned twenty years ago. 

After circling the reservoir site with its remaining pools, I thought I would head past the approaching woods, reach the open moorland and then head back to Ramsley Lodge across the expanse of tussocks.

Tree above the hollow of Ramsley Reservoir

All was going well but in a fifty yard wide dip in the slight undulations of the landscape I discovered an area of boggy ground that soon revealed it was a quagmire with black pools of mud hidden beneath an icy crust that was itself camouflaged by the tussocks.

Ramsley Moor

I tried to cross this unwelcoming zone in three or four places - at one point sinking to the very top of my boots. I was floundering and flailing around. If a drone with a camera had flown over me at that instant it would have gathered comedy footage of  a solitary human being in a Hull City manager's coat, being beaten by boggy ground as the sun lowered itself rapidly in the west.

It was sensible to backtrack - get out of the bog and retrace my steps. Back to the trees just north of the disused reservoir. There I discovered another treacherous path with swampy ground and mossy pools amidst malnourished saplings and rotten trunks. It was like being a character in a computer game. To win the golden rings you had to traverse the danger zone. I was Sonic the Hedgehog moving at the pace of a hedgehog.

And then before you knew it I was up through the trees and back at the ruined lodge, marching along the exposed path back to Clint whose teeth were still chattering. 

"G-g-get the en-en-engine run-running quick!" he pleaded.

On the way home, I stopped to take this picture from Owler Bar Road towards White Edge Lodge which is on the left...

9 January 2021


Karl has moved. For twelve years he stood upon the black marble plinth of the fireplace in our dining room but now he's in an alcove in the front room - standing upon a cabinet that an old friend called Colin Tohill made for us twenty five years ago.

Above Karl there's Fred Fox in his frame. I painted that picture myself after several trial attempts. I am rather happy with it and each day he reminds me that I should get painting again. I have a particular project in mind and have even purchased the required canvas. It's way past time to get cracking but procrastination has its delicious attractions.

We visited Goa on the west coast of India in 2008 and that is where we spotted Karl in the midst of a veritable army of carved elephants.  Here's what I wrote about him in September of that year:-

Karl the Mahogany Elephant. He stands about eleven inches tall. He's smooth and chunky. He has little white tusks and little white toenails and two beady little glass eyes. He stands on the polished black granite hearth, frozen in mid-stride. He is a souvenir of Goa. We bought him from a Kashmiri trader after numerous visits and discussions. On the last day of our Indian holiday we released him from captivity, wrapped him in Hindi newspapers and squeezed him into my hand luggage. Every carved elephant is a little different. Karl is named after a Brummie* we met at the Lui Beach Hotel in Candolim. He cost just under twenty quid.
*Brummie - resident of Birmingham, England

Karl is watching me as I type this blogpost. He is not trumpeting or surging across the room in a frenzied attack. He is just there, quiet as can be and still as a rock. He is as lovely now as he was that day we carried him back to the Lui Beach Hotel on the last day of our lovely holiday in Goa - almost thirteen years ago.

8 January 2021


Last September I came across a lonely spruce tree on moorland between Sheffield and the Derbyshire village of Baslow. See here. It had been dramatically bent over by prevailing winds and I vowed to return to it from time to time to take fresh pictures.

At present, I am staying quite close to home whenever Shirley is at work. This is simply because our heavily pregnant daughter is due to give birth any day now. Yesterday, I phoned her before venturing out into the winter's day for little more than an hour. No immediate signs of  impending birth so I had Frances's permission.

Here in the city, it was a beautiful blue sky January day but by the time I got to the spruce tree, clouds were swirling and a snow storm appeared to be approaching from the west. It was bitterly cold up there and I thought that I had missed an opportunity to capture the crippled tree in glorious technicolour. Fortunately, there was a five minute spell when sunshine burst through a gap in  the clouds.

I have fallen head over heels in love with that tree. I ran my fingers along its bark and felt its spiny leaves. It appears to be bent at almost ninety degrees but of course things are not always as they seem. It is clear that in some hurricane or wintry blast - perhaps years ago - this tree lost its top section. A cruel beheading courtesy of Mother Nature.

Back home, I immediately phoned Frances again. Still no birth pangs. That babe is staying put for a while and I don't blame him or her one bit. It's a wild world out here as Cat Stevens warbled plaintively long ago. Snug inside a warm, watery sac dreaming dreams of the unborn may seem a better alternative.

7 January 2021


Rioter in Nancy Pelosi's office in The U.S. Capitol 

I need to blog about this for the record so that in future times I may look back upon this historical moment.


Yesterday, in Washington D.C., a mob descended upon The Capitol Building. They breached security and got inside what is in effect the beating heart of American democracy. You must have seen it on your television screen. It was as terrible as it was terrifying.

They were fired up by a rabble-rouser, someone who evidently does not  care a fig for normal democratic processes. He incited  the mob. In fact, he had been inciting that mob for weeks with fantastical tales of a stolen election.

When given an opportunity to subdue the mob and to get them out of The Capitol straight away, this rabble-rouser could not stop himself from repeating his lies about a stolen election. To him, the rioters were "very special" people.

After their assault on The Capitol, I had the impression that they simply walked away. It seems incredible that there were no mass arrests. Those people deserve to be apprehended, charged, brought to court and then sent to prison. What is more, their leader deserves identical treatment. Here in Britain, inciting a riot is a serious criminal offence and I understand that this is equally true in America.

Another point I would wish to make strongly is that this mass gathering of embittered bad losers in Washington happened in the teeth of a deadly pandemic when crowds are obviously  discouraged because of possible COVID infection. On the day that the attack on democracy happened, 4068  more Americans died from the virus and a further 259,807 citizens became "new cases" in  the country's awesome infection figures.

How wonderful it would be if Joe Biden could begin his presidency without any backwash from the last four years.  With his chosen team, he has so much to do and the last thing he needs is a deranged egomaniac still shouting his head off from the sidelines,  still dividing the people, still stabbing his bloody knife into the guts of American democracy.

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