31 March 2021

Today

Higger Tor with resting cattle
 Today was a good day. 

After a breakfast of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with slices of banana and a pint mug of tea, I went upstairs for my daily shower then donned some shorts and a  blue T-shirt I bought in Croatia before the pesky pandemic arrived.

I grabbed my car keys and ordered Clint to take me to Burbage Bridge.

"Steady on the brakes!" he advised following Tuesday's costly garage work on that particular feature of his anatomy.

It was another warm spring day with the golden orb shining from a milky blue sky. I plodded a four mile circuit around The Burbage Valley, Higger Tor and Carl Wark and then got back home for 1pm. I made Shirley and I cheese salad sandwiches for lunch.

She ferried me to  my friend Mike's house for 2pm and there I met up with Mick and Danny for beers and conversation. We hadn't met like this in five months but the session was legal following very recent changes in England's coronavirus regulations.

A view of Carl Wark

I was home for five where Frances was sitting happily with Princess Phoebe having her nappy changed by her ever-willing grandma. It was time for me to set to work on our evening meal.

I prepared fried chicken, fresh green beans, roasted tomatoes and some good quality pasta in red pesto sauce. It was almost ready when Stewart arrived from work. For dessert we had brownie slices with vegan ice cream.

After what we in Yorkshire confusingly call tea and not dinner like most people, it was time to watch football on the television - a World Cup qualifying game between England and Poland which we managed to win by two goals to one. Up The English!

Next of all I edited the photographs I took while  walking this morning before sitting down to write this blogpost. Three of those pictures accompany this blogpost.

As I say, today was a good day.

A rock composed of millstone grit in Burbage Brook

30 March 2021

MOT

Pat O'Brien's butcher shop mannequin at Banner Cross

"I am not going for an MOT. I don't want an MOT and it's just not necessary!"

That was Clint at nine o'clock this morning. For those who do not dwell upon the sun-bathed British Isles, let me explain that MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. Any motor vehicle that is over three years old must be tested every year for road worthiness and safety.

"I am taking you to KwikFit at Townhead and you are going to have your annual test whether you like it or not! Also - I am having you serviced."

"Serviced? You never told me that. You mean they are going to change my oil and my filters. All that kind of stuff?"

"Yes."

"It's not fair. How come you don't get serviced and tested every year?

"That's because I am a human being. Not a moaning lump of South Korean metal with an attitude problem!"

St George's Church reflected in the facade of  The Diamond  -
The University of Sheffield's Engineering Department building

By now my voice was raised. Honestly, I am getting fed up with Clint. It's always the same when he has to go into a garage. Complaining and moaning like a spoilt brat. Maybe I should have called him Barron or Eric or Donald Jr instead.

Having left Clint with the fellows at KwikFit, I walked a mile and a half before catching the 82 bus back up Ecclesall Road to wait for the dreaded phone call from KwikFit..."Your car is terminally ill" or "He needs a new engine and a new chassis and new body work". Many times in the past I have had the distinct impression that the main purpose of a commercial garage is to fleece customers.

The very first time I came to Sheffield I stayed in that first
 floor room of The Harley Hotel. It was October 29th 1971

It is a delightful, warm spring day here in South Yorkshire. I had my camera with me as I walked back and gathered a variety of images along the way. These I happily share with you as I sit here hoping that Clint doesn't kick off at KwikFit and that I do not have to sell this house in order to pay his garage bill.

The Glass House - Sheffield Botanical Gardens

The pub on the right is called "The Doctor's Orders" but it used to be called "The West End". 
That's where Shirley and I had our first proper date together in December 1979. Behind 
you can see The Hallamshire Hospital where she worked rising above the old church.

28 March 2021

Vaxhole

I came across a brand new word today and it is an honour to introduce you to it too. The word is:-
vaxhole

It means this: "One who has been fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus and brags about it."

You may have encountered such people yourself..."Oh yes, I have had both vaccinations. Had my last one on Tuesday. No adverse reactions at all. I feel I am wearing a suit of armour now. That pesky virus can't get me now. I am 100% safe. I feel so good. Oh, by the way, have you had your first jab yet?"

The author of this blog has only had one jab so far. He will be receiving his next one on May 5th. No doubt on that day I will become a fully-fledged vaxhole too. 

And while we are into bragging, let me pause to boast about Britain's brilliant vaccination programme that has seen significant falls in COVID cases, new hospitalisations and deaths. In the last twenty four hours COVID only claimed 19 British lives and yesterday it was only 58. We seem to be getting something very right after so many mistakes  in the past year,  mistakes that have led to a total of 126,592 deaths.

I wonder if there's a new word for someone who boasts about his country's vaccination success? Perhaps  - an asshole? Oh no - quick research tells me that this word already exists - 
A person who is intentionally cruel, obnoxious and heartless. Assholes are most often 
male. A female who follows these traits is referred to as a bitch. Assholes can 
take any form. Knowing this allows you to spot assholes at any time or place.

27 March 2021

Religion

An envelope arrived on our doormat this morning. It was addressed to "The Householder" so I guess that means me. Inside was a leaflet headed "Why You Can Trust The Bible" and a genuinely hand-written letter which is shown below:-
 
To tell you the truth, I very rarely think about God, Jesus, The Bible and all that stuff. I just do not need it in my life. As far as I am concerned it's all medieval hocus pocus and a distraction from reality. In saying that I apologise to any visitors  for whom religion is their lifeboat.

Let's have a look at the leaflet's title: "Why You Can Trust The Bible". Well I am very sorry but you simply cannot trust The Bible.  The history of its emergence on paper is long and complicated, clouded by unjustified partisan claims by various Christian and Jewish groups. There is also the question of translation to consider and the impact of  Roman Catholicism and medieval monastic orders upon its transcription. Its earliest manifestations were  written centuries after the death of Jesus Christ. Signing up to such a dodgy literary  concoction seems very odd to me. It was created by men and not by any God.

As for Robert Lindley's question: Why does God allow suffering? Well, that's a very good question indeed. Why should African babies die from diarrhoea? Why should the rich get richer while the poor get poorer? Why should a smooth-talking tyrant like Bashar al-Assad wreak vengeance upon the already oppressed people of Syria - his own people?  Questions about suffering and  evil might well be endless.

Religion  remains a useful prop for millions of people. It helps them to get by and I am among the first to admit that there have been very many good Christians who have lived blameless lives of kindness and prayer, helping their fellow human beings and doing good in the name of God. However, it is also hard to dispute the truth that religion has been at the root of so much bad stuff - including wars, anti-abortion movements, overpopulation, bigotry and denial of some of the basic truths provided by science, history and archaeology.

I wonder if I should get in touch with Robert Lindley? Maybe not...

26 March 2021

Pavement

Sheffield and Manchester sit thirty five miles apart with the Pennine hills between them. Transport connections between the two cities are woeful. Living in south west Sheffield, the best road link for us is the two lane Snake Pass that weaves over the hills through The Peak District before descending to the town of Glossop with its inevitable hold-ups.

The bleakest part of The Snake Pass is a wild moorland area known as Snake Summit. It feels as if you are on the roof of England when you are up there. A long distance footpath bisects the road. It is The Pennine Way that runs from Edale in Derbyshire to  Kirk Yetholm just over the Scottish border. 268 miles in total.

Yesterday, I commanded Clint to take me to Snake Summit. "Certainly my lord,"  he snivelled. I sat on the back seat reading a book as my South Korean servant transported me to my desired location.

With boots on, I set out south from the road along The Pennine Way. The landscape was a huge peat bog that would have been treacherous to traverse were it not for the paving stones laboriously placed there several years ago by The Peak Park Authority. I estimate that I stepped over seven thousand paving stones before reaching MIll Hill that overlooks The Ashop Valley and the northern edge of The Kinder Plateau.
Kinder seen from Mill Hill

There I sat down on a  small guidestone to eat my apple and observe the moorland landscape.  There's little life up there. A few meadow pipits and red grouse and where the bog relents a handful of hardy sheep. I could see "The Edge" of the Kinder Plateau and recalled the day  I walked along it observing its outdoor gallery of weathered outcrops that seemed like abstract sculptures.

A woman from Glossop in  a magenta anorak and an amber bobble hat reached Mill Hill soon after me and we chatted for a while. She was a Londoner who had moved up to Glossop ten years ago to build a totally new life there. Fortunately, the plan had worked.  She walks the nearby hills very regularly, breathing in the fresh northern air while maintaining her fitness.

I returned to Clint along the same three mile  path, treading on the same paving stones and when I reached him he said, rather obsequiously, "Your carriage awaits sir."
Looking towards Manchester from Black Moor

25 March 2021

Growth


Long time visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding" may recall that last year I drew special attention to our planet's relentless population growth. It was on February 4th of 2020 that I noted the world's population was 7,762,009,632 and increasing day by day.

Since then we have all been cowering in the shadow of COVID19. Death stalks us like an escaped beast, waiting to take us in moments of weakness. Surely with what COVID has done, the planet's population must have been in freefall but that is far from the truth. Today, almost fourteen months after my initial blogpost, Earth's population is 7,854, 418, t43

In fourteen months our population has risen by 92 million. Only 2,755,000 have died from coronavirus in that same period of time. 92 million extra earthlings. That's  a much bigger number of people  than the current population of Great Britain, bigger than Germany or Turkey and  more than the Democratic Republic of Congo, bigger than the populations of California, Texas and Florida put together. It makes you think.

I find this rampant growth extremely concerning. In the last year I have seen miles of TV footage connected with this damned pandemic  and I have read thousands of words about it. I don't know about you but in the main media outlets I have seen and read almost nothing about population growth in the past year. 

Every extra human being puts extra strain on this planet's limited resources. All 92million  need to eat and keep warm when it is cold. I am not offering any solutions - just highlighting the issue.

Surely, if all this attention, this money, this sacrifice, this worry is being devoted to COVID and its effects we should be saving some of that stuff up for population growth. If it goes on this way we will implode as even Prince Philip recognised.

23 March 2021

Stainsby

Stainsby Farm, Stainsby

Stainsby is a tiny village in North East Derbyshire. It has just eleven  houses. Stainsbybrook is even smaller. Yesterday, I parked Clint between the two diminutive settlements.

"How long are you going to be this time?" he quizzed me with emphasis on "this".

"Oh not too long. Two and a half hours maximum."

"Well get moving then!" he sighed.

It was a lovely afternoon as I followed paths over the fields then down under the M1 motorway to Hardwick Park which sits in the shadow of Hardwick Hall. The historic site is managed by The National Trust and they even have a little shop which was open to visitors. There I treated myself to a cone of vanilla ice cream which I consumed at a picnic bench surveying Miller's Pond.

The Great Pond, Hardwick Park

The temperature was so balmy under a milky blue sky and I was glad that I had opted not to wear a jacket. At Hardstoft I saw a couple approaching along the field path. He had a dog on a lead as she trailed along behind. Because of  social  distancing guidance, I stepped away from the path. As he approached I smiled at the man and said "Hello" then did the same to his partner. Neither of them responded in any way. Not a flicker. Perhaps I had become temporarily invisible though I could see myself just fine. What's wrong with some people?

Canada geese and a moor hen - Miller's Pond, Hardwick

I marched on to Astwith, another small village that I  first visited in August 2015. The village's disused  telephone box has now disappeared  into history. I like that little place; Astwith in the parish of Ault Hucknall.. Peaceful and off the beaten track. Though small it has some characterful houses.

Onward to Hawking Lane then back to Stainsby. Once again the circle was complete. Clint jumped as I unlocked his tailgate.

"You gave me a shock!" he announced, stirring from his slumber. "Can we get back to Sheffield now?"

"Just getting my shoes on," I explained.

Hardwick Hall seen from Hawking Lane

22 March 2021

Whisperer

It took nine days to get the heating sorted out at Frances and Stewart's rental property. A new boiler was eventually fitted with all of the associated work. In the meantime, Frances and Phoebe stayed with us but Stewart went home each weekday night around nine thirty because the rental house is en route to his workplace and he drives away before seven each morning.

It was lovely having our granddaughter here with her mother and I think it was good for Frances too - a kind of holiday with a grandparent or two always around to take the pressure off. How delightful it was to see Phoebe each morning - bright as a button, kicking her legs and chortling away.

After more than thirty years, I had forgotten some of the fine details connected with looking after a little baby but Phoebe's presence has reminded me of how it was. Shirley went back to work when Ian was nine weeks old and I would rush home to look after him as Shirley departed for her evening shifts at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. We must have had much more energy back then.

Frances referred to me as "the baby whisperer" because it seems that whenever Phoebe is crying I can always quieten her simply by holding her in my arms and singing to her. Often she falls asleep like that. I remember doing that with both of our children. What can be better than being cradled safely  in the arms of a big, warm man who can, though I say it myself,  sing quite beautifully and always in tune?

This is a lazy kind of blogpost. I didn't have much else to write about today so I thought I would just share three more pictures of our precious little girl and chuck in a bunch of words to accompany them. I hope you don't mind.

20 March 2021

Continuation

Aerial view of the Kolahoi Glacier snipped from Google Maps

43,000 words typed and I am left with just six hours more to do. It began as a dutiful task by a son in honour of his father but as it has progressed I have become enamoured with the story. Two young RAF men in the middle of a war, finding themselves on leave in the Western Himalayas and having the time of their lives - creating special memories that they would bring back to England, memories that would help to sustain them in the years ahead.

At one point my father mentions donning his balaclava. I remember that balaclava. It was a dusty pink colour and had a bobble on the top. I found it in a drawer in the early 1960's and I asked my father about it. He said he had worn it in The Himalayas - some faraway mountains in India and he mentioned a walk across a glacier though I had no real conception of what a glacier might be.

Arnold and Dad took seven hours to reach the summit of Doodh Nag - a sister mountain to the more famous Mount Kolahoi. Then they took five hours to return to their encampment below the glacier, next to a surging glacial stream. What a day that was! 

The next day, gloom descended as they prepared to head back to Delhi - almost a thousand miles away. Eighteen months later the war would be over and Dad would marry Mum in New Delhi before returning to England where they would begin a happy postwar life together, being good British citizens and raising four sons. 

πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜πŸ”˜

On the summit of Doodh Nag:-

So with Kolahoi always in our view, we started off on the last lap to the summit. It was comparatively easy going up well-worn and rather sharply serrated rock but after the struggle of the climb from the couloir it felt rather restful. When we at last reached the head of the slope we found what we had half-expected – namely that we had not yet reached the highest point for from where we now stood there was a very gradual rising slope which led to the highest point. The peak itself was crowned with a gigantic rock about twelve feet high. Travelling faster than we had travelled all morning we arrived at the base of this great rock together. This saved argument as to who reached the top first. We did not stop but surveyed the rock for a way to the top of it. A convenient little rising edge not more than an inch wide at any point presented a means by which we could scale this last obstacle. There was sufficient roughness to provide all the finger holds we needed. So Arnold started up in a monkey-like manner. 

Quickly and with agility he reached the top and stood up tall shaking his clasped hands above his head much in the same manner of a boxer who has just won a prize fight. Following his example and in his foot and hand holds I was soon standing beside him and together we sat down on the weather-polished crown of the rock and stared about ourselves in wonderment. Arnold was particularly ecstatic about the day’s work for it was his highest ever mountain and I too was jubilant though it was my second highest climb.

Returning from the summit:-

From the col we scanned what lay below it for we hoped to leave the saddle on which we had stood and traverse diagonally down. About fifty feet below the saddle and away to the right, the steep slope seemed to be scarred with gullies of small dimensions but all snow-filled. Each of these, assuming that it finished safely at the bottom, provided a quick and easy downward path. So among the rocks below the saddle we struck own down and to the right. It was rather rough work on the ankles and except for the necessity of exercising a little caution there was no difficult obstacle to bar our way into the first gully. In this the slope of the snow was at an angle of around forty degrees and it sloped away down to the depths about a thousand feet below before it ended at a broad ledge, almost like the little plateau of Chhota Nag. 

There was absolutely nothing to prevent us revelling in the exhilarating exercise of glissading, elegantly or otherwise, down this slope. Independently, we started off and a few seconds later the wind was whistling in a cold, mad rush past our ears as we gathered speed down the snow. With conservative care I decided to try and find how quickly I could stop. The only possible method seemed to be to lift up one foot and drive one heel into the snow as a brake. Perhaps the word should have been “break” for no sooner had I attempted this than I turned at least two somersaults and finished at a very full stop several feet below. The experiment had been a success though not a comfortable one. Arnold was by this time way down below me. Gathering confidence from his descent, I continued my downward flight and soon I was sitting on my rump amidst the soft slush and rocks on the ledge, having followed Arnold’s example faithfully and down to the finest detail. For some time after this I felt very uncomfortable for the seat of my trousers was saturated.

Back at the camp:-

After what seemed like an age we eventually came within sight of our little camp and our steps were given a new vigour with the sight of a large and cheery fire crackling away merrily before our tent. Shortly after this, at seven thirty precisely, we slumped into our camp chairs with sighs of deep satisfaction. We had been away twelve and a half hours and the majority of this time had been devoted to walking or climbing. There was no wonder that we both swore that we had never felt so physically exhausted in all our lives. We sat there a while and drank cups of the most wonderful tea that has ever been brewed. Thus regaled and strengthened we removed most of our clothes and had a thorough wash in the waters of the stream which had ironically just cost us an additional two hours of walking. Arnold splashed and puffed during his ablutions as though he and cold water were the greatest of pals.

Some time shortly after this we were both sitting, warmly clad by our dancing bonfire with a feast of roast leg of mutton and various choice vegetables before us. All the trials and tribulations of the day were behind us and we felt like joint kings of the Earth. This is one of the things that I can never understand about physical exercise of any description. The enjoyment of the period immediately following a time of physical exertion seems to vary in proportion to the amount of energy expended. One can return, as we did, utterly worn out and after a bath and a meal and a change of clothing one feels fresh and fit and in the best of spirits. So we were and after dinner we even sang songs between jokes and swapped tales of past experiences. All memories of the harder and least appealing parts of the day were forgotten and we focused on the most enjoyable parts, the best climbs, the superb scenery and feelings of freedom that will never die.

19 March 2021

Bathtime

Here's a picture to lift your heart on a COVID Friday in the middle of March:-
 
Little Phoebe had to be bathed in a yellow storage box because her proper baby bath is back home. She and her mama have been staying with us but now their new boiler is fixed and they can return to their own residence. However, today is the day she will receive her first baby vaccinations and she is certain to cry for England when the needles go in. Poor girl! Maybe they will decide to stay with us for one extra night.

18 March 2021

Hazlehead

Hazlehead Hall seen through the trees

On Wednesday, I treated myself to a long walk in the countryside. I parked Clint on Hollin Lane just west of  Flash House Farm which is itself west of the village of Millhouse Green. 

It was a circular walk of perhaps six miles. At first, a canopy of light grey shaded the land. It seemed it would last the entire day but as I hoofed up Royd Moor Hill, the sky suddenly appeared divided - as if a painter had decided to apply blue emulsion. By the time I reached Thurlstone brightness and blue  had replaced the grey.

I am well aware that it is very possible to take great pictures under a grey sky but I always prefer the definition and colour that sunshine and blue heavens provide. I frequently liken this to visiting theatres - you need the action upon the stage to be illuminated. Without that lighting, the drama is reduced and the imagery struggles to grab one's attention.

Old railway bridge on The Transpennine Trail

In Thurlstone, I made my way to The Transpennine Way. It is a long distance footpath that connects Liverpool on the west coast of this island with Hornsea  in Yorkshire on the east coast. Several stretches of this trail follow long-abandoned railway beds and so it was as I plodded along to Hazlehead.

The portly owner of Hazlehead Hall was on his sit-down lawn mower, cutting his surrounding grass for the first time this year. I spoke with him and asked if I could walk along his half mile driveway back to the main road instead of heading east via the public footpath to Catshaw. He said he might let me if I asked nicely and chuckled when I fell to my knees pleading with clasped hands. I have no idea how that fellow made his money but Hazlehead Hall is a palatial, well-maintained  building with a long history.

Soon I was back at Clint. Apparently he had been attempting to communicate with sheep in the adjacent field. "Those creatures are braindead!" he announced which seemed a rather cruel judgement to me but I didn't comment as I needed his willing service to get me back to Sheffield.

16 March 2021

Knitting

Knitting is an admirable craft. It requires patience, dexterity, arithmetical skill, the ability to follow a knitting pattern and determination. Also - when it comes to a grandparent knitting for a grandchild, it requires a bucketful of love.

As well as being admirable, knitting is widely underrated and undervalued. This is probably because knitting is largely the preserve of women. Okay I know that there are coastal communities where seafaring men knitted happily and effectively but the vast majority of knitters are women.

My mother could knit. Shirley's mother could knit. They each produced dozens of knitted items in their lifetimes. It was a thing that women did. Shirley has inherited that ability and of course with the arrival of Little Phoebe she was delighted to get out her needles once more.

She created a grey cardigan and a mustard coloured one. Phoebe has been wearing both of them so I am sorry to say that my photos show the cute cardigans or matinee coats after they have been washed two or three times. All that possetting, vomiting and liquid overflow takes it toll you know.

Two or three visitors have asked about the dusty pink matinee coat that Phoebe was wearing the other day. I must confess that this was not hand-knitted but produced in a factory in Turkey. It was given to Frances and Stewart as a gift by one of Frances's many friends. It must have been purchased online.  A little research led me to this web address.

15 March 2021

Vocabulary

Couloir Couturier in the French Alps

Perhaps my father's account of his 1944 Kashmir adventure requires a glossary. I have had to type out a number of  words that were previously unfamiliar to me. Some of them are technical words connected with climbing and some are drawn from the British experience of living and working in India.

couloir - a snow-filled gully on a mountainside (French origin)

arΓͺte - a ridge on a high mountain ( French origin)

tiffin -  a snack or light meal in India - often  a packed lunch

pony-wallah - the fellow who looks after the ponies. The Hindi term "wallah" may be applied to many other roles  and duties. Hence a rickshaw-wallah is a person who operates a rickshaw.

charpoy - a bedstead of woven webbing or hemp stretched on a wooden frame on four legs. This kind of bed is common in India and the word is of Urdu origin.

chota hazri - Chhota haazri or Chota hazri was a meal served in households and barracks, particularly in northern British India, shortly after dawn. It preceded breakfast by an hour or two.

shikari The shikara is a type of wooden boat found on Dal Lake and other water bodies of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Shikaras are of various sizes and are used for multiple purposes, including transportation. A usual shikara seats six people, with the driver paddling at the rear.

doonga - In Kashmir - a long, narrow boat, the base of which is constructed with thick planks of cedar. The superstructure consists of a wooden frame supporting matted curtains. The roof is of wooden planks covered with rushes.

πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’πŸ’’

There are as many as a thousand Hindi words that were absorbed into English long ago and are testament to the British presence in the Indian subcontinent  during the days of Empire. They include:-
thug
jungle
juggernaut
bungalow
punch (drink)
pyjamas
bandana
chutney
shampoo

13 March 2021

Possetting

They say that you learn something new every day. I believe that to be true. This week I have learnt a new word. It's "possetting" and it relates to the feeding habits of babies. Shirley and Frances were jointly amazed that I had never heard of the term before. Feeling ashamed of myself I researched the concept, visiting an array of websites aimed at mothers. Clearly, the world of possetting is not one which men are encouraged to explore. I found the following in "Made For Mums":-

Your baby will probably regurgitate a bit of milk and saliva when she burps, which is called possetting. A muslin nappy or square draped over you while winding is a good idea to save your clothes.

I have observed that our adorable little granddaughter Phoebe - who is almost two months old now - has a special talent for possetting. She gulps so much of her mother's nutritious milk that there are regular overflows - not so much cheesy mama's milk but cloudy saliva. I wonder if there are international possetting tournaments because if there are Baby Phoebe would surely bring back a gold medal for Yorkshire.

By the way, I have taken to referring to the muslin squares as "muslims" and I apologise if this causes any offence to Islamic brothers and sisters who may be reading this blog. There are muslims all over our house now as Stewart and Frances are temporarily living here. The boiler in their rental house has broken down and needs to be replaced. It's too cold over there for an eight week old  possetting champion.

12 March 2021

Mountains

Modern day climbers on the Kolahoi Glacier © "Outlook" Magazine 2018

Each foolscap page of my father's  account of his wartime mountain adventure in Kashmir in the summer of 1944 takes me an hour to type inclusive of light editing. This means that the task has taken me around forty hours so far with about another ten hours to go.

As a good number of visitors to this blog  have enjoyed previous posts on this topic, I am now going to share a couple more extracts from recent typing. 

My father Philip and his companion Arnold had spent a day away from their camp, exploring the head of the valley with some useful guidance from a local shepherd. They climbed up onto the Kolahoi Glacier, traversed it  and then tackled the snow field that led to the base of a 16000 foot mountain they hoped to climb the next day.

They were both exhilarated and weary when they returned to camp that evening...

✺✺✺✺✺✺

Even before the sun had ceased to shed its warming rays on the west side of the valley, we felt an extra chill in the air that presaged a more bitter cold to follow. Taking this as our cue, we spent the remaining minutes of daylight on a swift foraging expedition for fuel. We did not have to search far for the valley was plentifully supplied with the remains of dead and broken trees. 

As a result of the number of trunks and large branches we manhandled and dragged to the fireside we felt rather warm and in fact perspired. As a reward for our labours, we had accumulated a supply of wood sufficient to keep the fire going all night if necessary. The pile of wood we heaped over the fire made it look more like some fantastic beacon than a camp fire. 

As the night came creeping into the valley, our fire grew larger and brighter, driving the shadows afar. So while the more distant features of the valley around were drowned in a sea of darkness, those nearest remained lit up by our artificial daylight – the dancing orange flames of the fire. Soon the light of the moon allied itself with the fire and together they drove back the encroaching night. The valley was immersed in a sea of silver while the snow-caps of the adjacent peaks reflected the glory of the moonlight to the insipid dark blue of those starlit heavens. 

As the flames of the fire grew so the encircling ring of heat enlarged and we were compelled to make a staged retreat from the furnace. That night we were not alone for the fire was ringed around by curious mountain sheep, attracted no doubt by the unfamiliar blaze. Our conversation was interspersed with the intermittent bleating of goats and the more sonorous baying of ewes. Yet even this did not disturb the peace of the valley for mingled with the diapason of the nearby rushing waters, the cries of the sheep seemed if anything to be a natural part of the background symphony. We turned in earlier than usual and through the walls of our tent the rosy glow of the still bright fire illuminated our canvas shelter.

✺✺✺✺✺✺

Arnold and my father woke early the next morning ready to get back to where they had been the previous day -  intent on conquering a little climbed peak there on the edge of  the Western Himalyas. By the way, they had no helmets or ropes nor Gortex snow jackets bought from some fancy outdoor gear shop. However, they did have their trusty hobnailed boots  and a shoulder of mutton and my father had his pipe.

✺✺✺✺✺✺

The sun had not yet penetrated the valley which was wrapped in the grey cloud of early dawn. There was a forlorn, cold and lonely look about the peaks, similar to the appearance of the streets of a town at early morn. As we ate breakfast, the veriest tip of the highest peak was touched with gold and as we looked, the gold of the rising sun cascaded down the sides of the peaks driving back the cold loneliness of the night and replacing it with the warm and friendly light of day. By the time our meal ended the sunlight had reached us and we felt almost instantly the need for lighter clothes so we changed into our shorts and sweaters. I superintended the packing of the tiffin into our haversacks. Lusul and Sidi had evidently been busy for the chief feature of the tiffin was a whole shoulder of roast mutton. At seven o’ clock, we turned our eager faces to the glacier and the day’s adventure began.

Whether it was the freshness of the morning or the hearty meal that lay comfortably inside us, I do not know, but something put a spring in our step and we crossed the rock-scarred stretch of ground that lay between us and the glacier in fine style. By seven thirty we were back at the snout weighing up our best route up onto the ice. At this time of day there was little risk of rocks detaching themselves from the glacier thereby endangering anyone below. We were therefore able to pick out the easiest route up without much consideration for the rocks. A short, sharp scramble brought us to the top of the glacier snout and within view of the ice falls. There they lay ahead of us, golden and crenellated like the walls of some fairy castle, looking benign in the still golden rays of sunrise. Here was no cold challenge but a warm welcome. Even as we watched, the mask was removed as Earth continued to turn in its orbit and the ice falls stood there revealed in their true fashion. Old Kolahoi stood, the cornice of snow on its summit glistening in the sunlight, like a king surveying his kingdom. There was an inviting friendliness about the whole scene no doubt due to the warm light of that early morning. The high hanging glaciers of Hurbhagwan were of finest gold, the grey rocks that lay around and the drab precipices of rock that surrounded us were tinged with a faint orange that camouflaged them and effectively disguised their antagonism.

10 March 2021

Loxley

Did Robin Hood exist? Perhaps he was just imagined or desired - the stuff of legends. A green man of the greenwood who behaved righteously, a true man of the people and of their hearts. If he did exist back in the mists of time, he would surely have begun his life in the area I walked in yesterday for he was Robin of Loxley or Locksley and I was in the Loxley Valley just west of Sheffield. Some say that he was born in 1160 in Little Haggas Croft at the top of Rodney Hill. Later it became the site of Normandale House.
Though the afternoon was dry, the vibrant blue of the morning sky had been replaced with washed out greys rolling together in a heavenly eiderdown. I walked up the valleyside through what remains of Loxley Chase up to Hillsborough Golf Club's grounds. Then across Long Lane and through the woods up to Low Ash Farm.

Close by, I met a most pleasant elderly woman who was out walking her sweet-smelling Scottish deerhound. She told me that he was a rescue dog and that when she and her husband had adopted him the signs of neglect were still very visible. We chatted for ten minutes or so about this and that. Turns out she has never been on a computer, does not have an e-mail address or a mobile phone. We laughed about that. I could have chatted with that woman for hours but I needed to move on.
Garland Farm with heather burning on the distant moorland

The top picture in this blogpost is of Haighenfield Farm. From there I walked to the hamlet of Holdworth scattered on the hillside and then down West Lane to Stacey Bank where I took the picture of the old red phone box. These much loved features of  twentieth century Britain are gradually disappearing into memory and history. Before very long they will all be gone - resigned to museums or quirky restaurants.

Just after I took that picture, a couple walking by asked me if I was an engineer. They had noticed my camera and my bright orange coat. I told them I was in fact a burglar casing out the houses down there. This joke bombed like a lead balloon. Ah well - you can't win them all.

Clint was still dozing by Loxley Green as I made my way along the valley bottom. It is not the easiest of paths as it does not stick to the riverside and there are the derelict ruins of a couple of industrial sites - including an old brickworks. Even so,  I was soon back at my trusty Korean vehicle who was singing to himself as I strode up from behind:-
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen 
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men 
Feared by the bad, loved by the good 
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood
Walkers on Low Ash Common

9 March 2021

Love

He was so romantic
I could not resist
Someday my prince will come
Someday we'll meet again
And away to his castle we'll go
To be happy forever I know
Someday when spring is here
We'll find our love anew
And the birds will sing and wedding bells will ring
Someday when my dreams come true

8 March 2021

Bubble

Britain's COVID guidance allows two households to form a support bubble when, for example, a new baby has arrived in one's family. Consequently, since Baby Phoebe arrived in our lives there has been much to-ing and fro-ing between our house and Frances and Stewart's house - perfectly legitimately. They live a mile away from us.

I don't know about you but for us the preparation and consumption of nice meals has been one of things that has kept us going during these difficult times. For the past seven weeks, Frances and Stewart have come round for Sunday dinner and a midweek meal. We have been round to their place for a few meals too. Of course Phoebe is always present, gradually developing, snorting, thrashing about in her Moses basket, crying out loud, cooing like a dove, looking into our eyes with her sparkling blue eyes and wondering: What's it all about Alfie?

These are precious times that I am sure we will only truly recognise when the agony of COVID-19 has been carried away by the tides of time. We have been privileged to support our lovely daughter and to closely witness the early weeks of Phoebe's life. Tragically, this has not been the case for Stew's parents. They remain in their house in Bristol, yet to meet their only granddaughter.

Yesterday, the menu I prepared was roasted loin of pork with golden roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, asparagus tips, buttered leeks with parmesan, apple sauce, homemade gravy and of course Yorkshire puddings in beef dripping. Dessert was a banoffee pie. To accompany this meal, we had a bottle of chilled prosecco while Stew drank a bottle of "Black Sheep Ale" - from Yorkshire of course.

Afterwards, we again slouched in the front room for a while, watching "Countryfile" on the television.

Oh - by the way - long before dinner we had our first Bosh! Ultimate Chocolate Slices - now available in all branches of Costa Coffee. It is by far Britain's favourite coffee shop chain with 2467 branches. It also has 1400 international outlets. It has been quite a coup for Bosh! to get their vegan bars in there.

It's a bit miserable outside this Monday morning with a light grey blanket overhead. I am going for my shower very soon and then I will type up  a couple more pages of my father's Kashmir adventures. If I can't think of anything else to post tomorrow, I shall share a couple more extracts with you.  31,000 words typed now. I am getting there.

7 March 2021

Forecast

"Here is the national weather forecast from London.

Well. Yesterday was a lovely spring day wasn't it? The sun was shining across the south east and  daffodils are now blooming in gay profusion. It was a good day for changing the guards at Buckingham Palace as the high pressure indicated on the map settled over The Thames Valley. 

In Wales rain was pissing down and Up North in Yorkshire and suchlike the weather was crap. Scotland and Northern Ireland were the same but who cares? Let's get back to London and the south east where real life is lived.

Tomorrow a devastating gale will sweep across England's garden tragically bringing down trees and causing some structural damage. Please take care of yourselves. If concerned, phone the helpline shown at the end of this bulletin or listen to the prime minister's radio message to his people. Meantime, up in Yorkshire and Lancashire it might be sunny but we don't really know or care. Who would choose to live in those nether regions anyway?

On Saturday, our beloved south east will once again be bathed in golden sunshine. Good day for a picnic  in one of our lovely parks or perhaps a trip to the seaside. Her Majesty will be in residence at Windsor Castle as The Union Jack flutters above the famous Round Tower. Lambs will frolic in Windsor Great Park and all will be well with the world. Oh - I almost forgot - there will be floods Up North and severe thunderstorms in Scotland.

So that's all from me. Back to Clarence Tissington-Snodgrass in the studio."

6 March 2021

Lycidas


Yesterday I returned to Sir William Hill to undertake a longer walk. It was cloudy, chilly and few other people were out and about. I checked out a long abandoned sheep farm that I have visited before, above the Highlow valley to which I descended.

I had no map and after leaving the footbridge at Stoke Ford, I headed up the valley of Bretton Brook. The path was sometimes unclear and I had to be as alert as an Indian scout in a cowboy film. Over two streams, across boggy land and then up to ancient lead mine workings with conical spoil heaps now clothed in vegetation.

Then, in the shadow of Abney Grange Farm, I climbed up and up to the one-track lane on the ridge that took me back to Bretton Mount. That is where "The Barrel Inn" is located but shut for months because of the pandemic.

Before I reached Lord Clint of Clintshire, I passed a small stone-walled enclosure. Perhaps the original intention had been to maintain a little memorial garden but now it is wild and neglected. For the first time, I noticed a plaque on the roadside wall in memory of a gentleman called Harold Farmer of Burton-upon-Trent. Born in 1903, he died in 1984. I know nothing else about him.

In addition to his basic details, there was a piece of verse:-

Under the opening eye-lids of the morn
Oft til the star that rose, at ev'ning bright,
Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new

The lines come from "Lycidas" by John Milton - written in 1634 and revised in 1645. In its day this lyrical poem was popular and famous, capturing as it did religious issues of that troubled period in our history.  But the peculiar thing about the three lines on Mr Farmer's plaque is that they do not sit together in the poem. The first line is the fourth line of  the poem's third stanza, the second line is the eighth line of that same stanza and the third line is the last line of the eleventh stanza and indeed the last line of the poem.

I am not sure that Milton would have approved of his poem being broken up in this manner but it was nonetheless nice to see poetic lines on a plaque  in the heart of the north Derbyshire countryside.

Speaking of poetry, when I got back to Lord Clint he was reciting a love poem to a cute little pink Fiat 500 who was parked in the same rough and ready lay-by:-

To bed a sweet Fiat Five Hundred
Is a fantasy I have oft wondered
To take thee to a car park late at night
And wax thy chassis with all my might

"You lecherous beast!" I  yelled, pressing the button on my electric key fob.  I could see that the Fiat 500 was trembling though I knew not if it was with fear or desire. It is so hard to read Italians.
"...a long abandoned sheep farm"

5 March 2021

Letter

 

Deer Big Bloggy Peeple,

Hell-Oh! It's me, Phoebe! Grandpa asked if I wood like to right a guessed post hear on his bog and I said yes.

I am seven weeks old today and my life has started good. I have put on five pounds since I was born - just guzzling mummy milk. It is deliccs nice but sumtimes i have to scream to get it. Mummy can be sooooo sloooow.

I am learning a lot as the days pass by. I grew in Mummy's tummy and when I came out I didn't know much. Every day there is something new. I am trying to make sense of it all - all the shapes and sounds and things like that. I did not know that there wood be colours out here. I like colours (American: colors). And I herd a siren near the suprememarket. It made me jump. Mummy said it woz an amlulance. I don't know what that is.

I have got a big giraffe, a sloth, a hedgehog and a teddy beat called Brian. I have filled lots and lots of nappies. Mummy does not like them going to Landfill but I don't know where Landfill is. Is it over the rainbow?

Daddy is vewy nice. Mummy is vewy nice. Grandma is vewy nice. Brian is vewy nice. But the nicest of all is Grandpa. He sings to me whenever I see him.

I am feeling sleepy again now. Got to go boggy peeple. Have a nice day.

Love,

Phoebe  x

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