"O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." - Hamlet Act II scene ii
31 May 2021
30 May 2021
More news from the jet-setting, high rolling, limelit existence of your friendly host - Lord Pudding of Holderness.
Yesterday, the silver South Korean chariot Sir Clint kindly carried Lord and Lady Pudding eastward - along the M180 motorway before cutting south on the A18 towards Louth - beyond The Lincolnshire Wolds.
It was a perfect day. Crystal clear beneath a blue canopy and at Shepherd's Crook Farm near Covenham Reservoir we met old friends Tony and Pauline where they had set up their caravan (American: trailer) for the weekend. In celebration of our arrival Tony prepared a fine brunch of bacon, eggs and mushrooms with the obligatory English breakfast tea.
Naturally I boasted about my yacht, my stocks and shares, the racehorses I have just purchased from Saudi Arabia and my intention to replace Clint with a banana-coloured Lamborghini. When Tony and Pauline began yawning with jealousy. I knew it was time to set off on our country walk.
Down by the side of The Louth Canal to Austen Fen and then across to Covenham St Mary and its sister village Covenham St Bartholomew before taking a look at the blue waters of a mini-Pacific Ocean - Covenham Reservoir.
The other three were utterly knackered by the time we got back to the caravan though I remained as strong as an ox and as fresh as a daisy. I could have easily walked another six miles. We had only been plodding for three hours.
After dousing him with a bucket of canal water, I instructed Young Tony to prepare a barbecue meal of pork loins, kebabs and sausages with green salad, coleslaw, French bread, tomatoes and suchlike. I checked the wine list but there was nothing that appealed to me and besides - at just after seven o'clock I knew that I would be steering Sir Clint back to our luxurious home - Sheffield Castle which stands proudly on a suburban hill overlooking the humble dwelling houses of the peasantry.
It had been a grand day out in unfamiliar territory with familiar friends. And this morning, as I survey my realm from the west turret, I realise that I caught the sun in spite of the factor 30 cream I applied. My legal team have already been informed.
29 May 2021
28 May 2021
26 May 2021
We have lived in this house for almost thirty two years. In all that time, I have been a regular at our local pub. Of course, COVID-19 has had a big impact on English public houses. Until very recently our local had been closed for many months. Three weeks ago it opened for outside drinking only but on May 17th customers were allowed to go back inside. No waiting at the bar. Table service only. Hand sanitising. Masks on when not at your pre-booked table. Such fun!
Last night I moseyed on down there for the first time in a year. I met up with five other regulars - all retired folk like me. I have known them for years and we have seen that pub pass through several changes - including refurbishments, management comings and goings, deaths of other regulars and the sad decline of pub attendance in this country.
I remember the pub being packed to the rafters on Friday and Saturday nights. It was hard to find a seat sometimes. The air would be a fug of cigarette smoke, filled with lively conversation and raucous laughter. When we first moved to this suburb, there weren't even any televisions in the old place - just a piano which apparently, before my time, used to be the focus of Saturday night sing songs.
Shirley and I have spent several happy New Years Eves in the pub and we have attended a number of wakes there too. It is where I honed my quizzing skills on Tuesday and Sunday nights. Generally speaking, the atmosphere was always pleasant and unthreatening in this law-abiding neighbourhood but I have seen a couple of fist fights in there - like scenes from The Wild West - though they never lasted long.
Just before the pandemic the old days were long gone. Before closing time most tables would be empty and the careless young bar staff were often in a rush to stop serving and get customers out. It was putting me off going there any more and it felt as if the pub was dying before my eyes. Metaphorically speaking, it was becoming like an old western saloon in a dusty ghost town with the tumbleweed blowing past.
And so I was back in there last night. A slim young woman with long dark hair was taking our orders. I asked what her name was and she said, "Alice".
"Welcome to wonderland!" I said and she chuckled under her black coronavirus mask.
"Are you regulars?" she asked and I admitted that we were though alternatively I might have claimed that we were in truth dinosaurs.
25 May 2021
When forming a new boyband that will be commercially successful you need a point of difference - something to set them aside from other boybands. Welcome to The Leaders! Each band member has been chosen for his unique contributions to humanity and world peace. The Leaders require a fifth member. Any suggestions?
Those screaming girl fans are going to go really wild when The Leaders perform their repertoire of rejuvenated tracks from past times, including "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears for Fears.
24 May 2021
May 24th. It is a special date. My mother's birthday. My son-in-law's birthday. Queen Victoria's birthday in 1819. The day my mother-in-law Winnie died. The day that Hull City first made it into The Premier League and of course it is also Bob Dylan's birthday. The great man is eighty years old today.
If you are reading this Bob, I just want to say "Happy Birthday" to you and thanks for being my companion from the early sixties right through to today. Your songs have meant so much to me and I for one still marvel at your genius - your special way with words and ideas, your passion for songs and life itself. What a life you have led - to touch so many millions - people just like me.
This is the first Dylan song I learnt to play on my guitar:-
23 May 2021
The facility is meant to be helpful in our quest for knowledge. Indeed the "People Also Ask" questions can lead us down interesting avenues. Sometimes you click on the newly generated questions and they lead you in different directions, bringing up yet more questions. It can be a bit like navigating a maze.
In spite of all of this, I have sometimes find myself chuckling about some of the random "People Also Ask" questions that are thrown up. At this present point in time bots can be so indiscriminating, lacking the sophistication of human experience. Unbeknown to them they make blunders all the time.
Questions related to "What is hell?":-
22 May 2021
21 May 2021
20 May 2021
The picture of the triangulation pillar was taken at the southern end of Stanage Edge looking west towards The Hope Valley and the snowy hills beyond. This location is almost in my back yard - just a short drive from our house in Sheffield's southwestern suburbs. I have been up there many times in varying weather conditions. It is a good place to put everything into proper perspective.
See this blogpost's title: "Before". It occurred to me that the image was captured before COVID-19 seeped into the world, before many thousands died, before the masks and the social distancing, before the vaccination programme and the travel restrictions.
Though it was not taken in a time of innocence at all, looking back it kind of seems that way. If someone had come up to me on Stanage Edge on that wintry January day just two years ago and told me that the world would soon be experiencing a deadly pandemic that would touch every country on the planet, I might have openly scoffed. It would have seemed like the stuff of fantasy or wanton scaremongering.
A year after snapping that photograph, in late January 2020, I was listening to an item on BBC Radio 4 about the worsening epidemic in China. One of the contributors to that discussion suggested that things were going to get worse, much worse before they got better. It could so easily turn into a pandemic. He further suggested that one day we might remember the world in this way: pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus. It sent a chill along my spine. Not pre-war and post-war any more but pre-COVID and post-COVID. It seemed incredible.
I told my chums in the local pub that night but they looked at me as though I was bloody Harry Potter. Of course, this was before, before the wild eyes and the microscopic agents of death arrived - those minuscule fur balls - like little spiky mines riding Atlantic waves and The North Sea during World War Two. Yes, this remains our war - stranger than any that have gone before.
19 May 2021
After switching the laptop on, I wondered what I might blog about here in the silence of the night as this great northern city sleeps. All the lights in our neighbourhood are off apart from ours and outside the true citizens of the night have reclaimed the streets - tom cats, owls, urban foxes, badgers rodents and bats. Reaching up the valleyside come the faraway sounds of a train and an ambulance siren.
Brains can be such a torment. They seem to constantly throw up images, memories, ideas, phrases, plans, Mine does anyway. A ceaseless chain like mental bunting stretching to some distant horizon. How lovely it is when that process slows and how lovely it is to sleep.
A nice thing about this sleepless hour is that I know I do not have to hurry off to work at daybreak. There's none of that old pressure to get the zeds in as before - knowing that if sleep time is lost one's functionality will be reduced during those demanding working hours. No. Not sleeping now does not really matter any more. Very few duties to perform this May 19th. Pick up Frances and Phoebe to take them to their lunch date. Do a little grocery shopping. See a central heating engineer about our boiler. Make the evening meal. I can handle all of that.
There were many things I might have blogged about in the middle of this night. Really, I am never stuck for blog content and it quite amazes me how much ground I have covered since June 2005 when this blog began. 3626 blogposts in total. It has been a hell of a journey and just like sleep the blogging process remains pretty magical to me.
As I say - so many things I might have blogged about but I decided not to bother. The tea mug is empty. The gingernuts are gone. It's 3.45am and over in the east the sky is slowly lightening. Maybe it's time to give sleep another try.
18 May 2021
Roll forward a week and the rules were changed. Thanks to the National Health Service, not our bumbling political leaders, Britain's vaccination programme has squashed the key coronavirus statistics right down - infections, hospitalisations, deaths. What a brilliant national response and something to be proud of at last.
Anyway this meant that yesterday we did not have to sit outside at "The Hammer and Pincers". We could go inside to a pre-booked table. Social distancing guidance is still in place so I was slightly annoyed to see that our table in a snug corner of the pub meant that we had to sit closer together than I would have wished.
The conversation flowed naturally as usual - a tapestry of happenings, memories, family news. jokes, ideas with no judgement or point scoring. Danny was a senior police officer, Mike was a Head of English in a secondary school just like me and Mick was a warehouseman.
Four pints and two and a half hours later it was time to go. Shirley had kindly offered to drive up there to taxi me home because I have had a bad foot the last two or three days and I have been limping around like Hopalong Cassidy. By the way, this morning it feels significantly better.
Cinemas were also opened up yesterday and I have booked to see "Nomadland" at The Showroom on Friday. No doubt I will be reviewing it in this blog. I bet you can't wait!
Somehow I can't help feeling nervous about the slackening of restrictions. With the new more deadly Indian variant now creeping around in towns like Bolton and Blackburn, it makes me think that the government were unwise to prematurely earmark a date - namely May 17th - for loosening the national tourniquet. They should have waited and thoroughly assessed the evidence. Another week or two would not have made much difference. Equally, they should have acted more swiftly to block travel from India. They let the thing in because of their political optimism and dilly-dallying.
17 May 2021
Last week, as the BBC were covering the current deadly friction between Palestinians and Israel, they spoke to an Israeli citizen whose town had been hit by a couple of rockets. Shockingly, he suggested that it was time for his government's forces to "obliterate" Gaza, to "wipe it out".
But that is not the solution. The kettled Palestinians of Gaza and their compatriots within Israel and around the world have every right to exist, to dream of freedom, to dream of Palestine.
It's an awful, seemingly intractable conflict that goes on and on. Who would want to be in Gaza right now? The Israeli military are bringing down tower blocks under the pretext that they are occupied by "Hamas terrorists". How do they know this and what of the "collateral damage"? The mothers and the children, the old and the innocent?
Looking back through "Yorkshire Pudding", I see that I have thought of Gaza before. Here's a 2009 post and here's a post from 2014 and here's another from 2018. The tale of woe goes on and on and you wonder if there can ever be a solution. Not all puzzles can be unravelled. Perhaps it will always be like this - peaks and troughs in a never-ending cycle of calm and anger, life and death.
16 May 2021
They belonged to Scotland's ruling elite and lived in comfort as Lord Grange climbed the ladder of success in the legal profession, later becoming a Member of Parliament in London. Lady Grange bore nine children during a marriage that lasted for twenty five years but then things seemed to fall apart.
Not only was Lord Grange a womanising drinker he was also strongly suspected of being in league with The Jacobites who sought to restore The House of Stuart to the British throne. Lady Grange may have been witness to some of her husband's clandestine meetings.
Undoubtedly, Lady Grange was not a shrinking violet. She spoke her mind and was not prepared to stand silently by as her husband committed his various misdemeanours - both private and political. She had been a dutiful wife, bearing nine children to Erskine. As a consequence of this she probably never imagined that her husband would arrange for her to be kidnapped and effectively imprisoned in faraway places but that is what happened.
In those days Lowland Scotland was very different from Highland Scotland. For one thing Scots mostly spoke English in the lowlands and Scottish Gaelic in the Western Isles and Highland regions. They were two dissimilar worlds.
For six years - between 1734 and 1740 she was exiled to the remote island of St Kilda where she lived a harsh life with the islanders charged with accommodating her. At first she spoke no Gaelic and boats rarely called there. She was very much like a fish out of water.
Lord Grange spun many tales of his wife's unreasonable behaviour. He painted her as a madwoman and was supported by his peers. Letters from Lady Grange do not indicate that she was crazy but her cruel exile - out of sight out of mind - may have driven her to despair.
In 1740 she was transferred to The Isle of Skye and ultimately that is where she died at the age of 66 in 1745, the year before The Battle of Culloden which effectively killed off the Jacobite rebellions. In that same year Lord Grange married Fanny Lindsay, his London mistress.
I know these things because I have just finished reading "The Prisoner of St Kilda" by Margaret Macaulay.
By the way, if I was asked to make a list of the ten places in the world I would most like to visit St Kilda would come top - above The Valley of the Kings in Egypt and Pitcairn Island in The Pacific. Even above Florence in South Carolina, Ludwigsburg in Germany, The Sheep's Head Peninsula in Ireland and Red Deer in Alberta, Canada.
15 May 2021
The weather forecasters got it right yesterday. It was as if a light grey quilt had been spread across the sky. The temperature beneath that counterpane was mild and the "no rain" prediction was ratified.
Clint kindly agreed to transport me to the village of Hayfield between Glossop and Chapel-en-le-Frith in north Derbyshire. I had found a great free place to park with the assistance of Streetview and magically one of the five spaces round the back of the village church was indeed unoccupied.
I did not expect to take any stunning pictures because of the washed out light as I set off on a circular walk around Chinley Churn which is a long, undulating hill between Chinley and Birch Vale. Up on the top there is much evidence of historical stone quarrying. The land remains scarred but Nature has a way of softening and repairing - taking away some of the ugliness that humans create.
Sitting on a wooden stile at Throstle Bank I had my humble lunch - a banana from Ecuador, a Jazz apple from Italy and a caramel wafer bar from Scotland. The water came from our tap.
Two hours later and back in Hayfield, the sign in "The Village Chippy" window said that it would reopen in ten minutes so I hung about and after an annoying delay bought a portion of chips (American: fries) and a sausage. The delay was especially annoying because the proprietor and another customer were talking bullshit about the coronavirus pandemic and how it had all somehow been engineered by big business and the idle rich. Thankfully, I was wearing a mask to conceal my sneering dismissal of their stupid theory. They were both maskless as well as brainless.
Driving home I listened to a Tom Paxton album on Clint's CD player. I was especially struck by a song he wrote long ago about a fellow singer-songwriter called Phil Ochs who committed suicide in New York City in 1976: "Gone, gone, gone by your own hand".
"Can't you put something cheerful on?" snapped Clint as we descended Winnats Pass.
13 May 2021
With Clint happily parked, I set off along the little used narrow lane that leads to Offerton. There I headed up to Offerton Edge. It was quite a steep climb and I had to rest twice or thrice just to catch my breath. Leaving the path, I headed east along the top of the moorland edge hoping to solve a mystery. I was looking for something called "The Reform Stone".
It is marked in Ordnance Survey mapping but I have never seen a photograph of it and I have no idea why it has that peculiar name. My research has suggested two possibilities - that it is either a "cairn" or a small "standing stone". Its exact position seems to vary. I have used all my googling cunning to find out something more about it but to no avail.
Offerton Moor hosts several "tumuli" and other lumps and bumps dating back as far as The Neolithic Period. Again, I have no idea if The Reform Stone belongs to that same era of human presence.
When I got to the rough position of The Reform Stone nothing really caught my eye. It is very possible that I stumbled right past it - not knowing quite what I was looking for. Then set back a few yards from the top of the edge, I saw this rising up out of the heather:-
It is obviously not a natural feature but some sort of cairn or burial structure placed here by people from our distant history. For a moment I thought I had found The Reform Stone but later research led me to suspect that this was not it. Now I have found some mapping coordinates that may or may not help me to pinpoint the stone. I must go back there again before too long. This mystery is starting to annoy me. My camera is GPS enabled so with a small amount of effort I can stand here - 53°19'25"N 1°40'54"W - where The Reform Stone is meant to be. However, I am sure that I have already been within ten feet of this position and spotted nothing of particular note.
Finally, here's lovely Offerton Hall, sheltering below the edge on the southern side of The Hope Valley. The building dates back to at least 1658 but it was clearly developed around a much older structure:-
12 May 2021
Here's something I have often thought about the pro-life, anti-abortion lobby. If human life is so precious why aren't these people doing something meaningful, something active to save the lives of African children? It's okay to hold a placard or sign a petition about unborn children and foetuses but what about raising money to provide clean water? What about combating malaria, AIDS and fatal diarrhoea in childhood? Getting behind such schemes would be an authentic way of demonstrating your belief that every life matters.
But they don't do they? These anti-abortionists, often emboldened by questionable interpretations of medieval holy books, it's only unborn western foetuses that they carp about, not living black babies with distended bellies, hollow eyes and legs like sticks in faraway places like Malawi, Somalia or Chad. Perhaps those lives are not quite as precious.
Last night I watched the second part of an excellent BBC drama called "Three Families". Set in Northern Ireland and based upon three true stories, it explores the heartbreak that anti-abortion regulation has brought to very many families in that corner of these islands. Two of the women were even obliged to proceed to full term births even though they knew that the babies they were carrying were incapable of independent life outside the womb.
All my adult life I have believed in the principle of "A Woman's Right to Choose". It should not be up to religious leaders, politicians or old men in legal robes to make decisions about women's bodies. The reasons for seeking abortion are manifold and no woman takes that path without good reason to do so.
It is undoubtedly best for abortions to happen in a safe medical environment close to home. Denying women abortions will often drive them into the back streets, putting their lives at risk. Abortion is not a nice thing but it is often very necessary. - because of poverty, the mother's age, rape, physical problems with the unborn child and simple bad timing.
My late grandmother was desperate for an abortion in the 1920's and had to go to an unqualified back street abortionist. The operation was botched and involved a knitting needle. Tragically, she could never have any more babies after that.
Obviously, the question of abortion has been the subject of much moralising debate but for me it all boils down to that famous rallying cry: "A Woman's Right to Choose". The drama "Three Families" helpfully served to fortify that simple belief.
11 May 2021
There's an annoying form of advertising that is used widely on the internet. I am sure that you will have encountered it yourself. I normally come across it on local newspaper sites.
It works like this. You see a picture and beneath it a short headline or question. You are intrigued. How does Engelbert Humperdinck live these days? Momentarily you imagine him living in a hovel with a crazy cat called Elvis surrounded by piles of old newspapers. Then you click on the picture.
In that moment, you have in effect been hooked like a fish. The advertising site does not show you how Engelbert is currently living. To discover that you have to wade through several other pages that show us how entertainers of the past are now living. These pages are themselves ringed with an array of ads all ready to be clicked upon.
The industry term for this kind of advertising or side-tracking is "clickbait". Clickbait is usually innocuous and the best way to deal with it is just to ignore it. However, some clickbait is operated by criminals - deviously leading to fraudulent activity or malware.
Innocuous or fraudulent - I am not a fan of clickbait. It makes internet users look like fools and often wastes our time. There are lots of ways in which the internet can enhance our lives but clickbait is definitely not on that list.
9 May 2021
8 May 2021
I had just taken a couple of pictures of the brick-built Victorian church when the heavens opened and Clint was bombarded with repeated sallies of hailstones. I jumped back inside him for shelter as he screamed "Ouch!", "Aargh!" and "For ****'s sake!" as the hail bounced off his silvery bodywork. Soon it passed and I donned my boots ready for the long circular walk I had planned. It was meant to be around seven miles, finishing with a mile and a half stretch north of The River Went.
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