31 May 2021


Journeying over to Shepherd's Crook Farm on Saturday morning, we stopped off in a Lincolnshire village called Laceby. As Shirley nipped into the village shop to buy some edible gifts for our friends, I mooched around and snapped three pictures. 

The first of them is shown above. It was on the door of the Laceby Chinese Takeaway. Sadly, the business was not open at the time so I could not test out the shockingly loud door. Mind you - at the age of sixty seven - I may have counted as an "elder customer". Perhaps the "vey loud" din would have caused me to collapse in a heap - denying me the opportunity to purchase some sweet and sour pork balls with Shanghai noodles. How kind of the proprietor to leave two kisses after the "Thank you".
Above, the little market square in Laceby. I doubt that  a market has been held here since the second world war. Just around the corner it was sad to see that the main village pub - "The Nag's Head" was all boarded up and like the market, will probably never do business again. 

Below is  the delightful twelfth century village church - dedicated to St Margaret and built from stone derived from the quarries at Ancaster - some fifty miles away. Imagine that - in the middle ages - transporting many tons of stone  by cart or coastal barge to build a church.  It's really quite amazing in my estimation. I often think about that when viewing an old church. Where did the stone come from, how did they get it there and at what cost? Another relevant question might be: Why?
I wonder if the application of a little oil might have reduced the noise of the shockingly loud door?

30 May 2021


Covenham Reservoir - like a fragment of The Pacific Ocean

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. 

Navigation Warehouse by The Louth Canal at Austen Fen

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.

St Mary's Church, Covenham St Mary

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.

Pauline in Covenham St Bartholomew churchyard

29 May 2021


Why did I drive up to Leeds on a Friday evening? Well, I will tell you. It was to visit the Showcase Cinema De Lux in order to watch a film that came out in Great Britain this week - but not on general release. The film's title was "Zebra Girl". Opportunities to watch it in the north of England are currently few and far between.

What was it about this film that attracted me? Well - that's simple. The star of the show is one Sarah Roy who is our son Ian's girlfriend. They have been going steady for eight months now. Sarah and her team created the film before she hooked up with Ian. A lot of it was shot at her parents' second home in Kelso, Scotland.

I went to see "Zebra Girl" with an open mind and I must say that  it really held my attention. It is a quirky, psychological thriller in which the central character Catherine - played by Sarah is damaged, confused and dangerous  - possibly because of historical sexual abuse by her own father. It's pretty dark.

The film's title refers to a story that she created with her best friend Anita when she was a  little girl.
Sarah Roy as Catherine in "Zebra Girl"

There were many excellent cinematographic touches - often subtle, involving light and shade and intricate movement between different time periods in Catherine's tortured story.

Unfortunately, Shirley could not come along with me as she had to look after Little Phoebe. The heavenly babe's parents went out for dinner in a restaurant called "Turnip and Thyme" and enjoyed an excellent meal.

A sad reality about "Zebra Girl" is that not enough people will get to see it. As long time visitors to this blog may recall, I love a good film. However, I have seen a significant number that are not as well-crafted and engaging as Sarah's film appeared to be yesterday evening. My  trip to South Leeds was very worthwhile and I would like to publicly thank my trusty vehicle Clint for safely transporting  me.

28 May 2021


Was it one path or a series of paths joined together? These path pictures are from the long walk I undertook yesterday after parking Clint in the village of South Hiendley which is just inside West Yorkshire - in the administrative district of Wakefield. The area was once blighted by coal though conversely the hum of that mucky industry put money in people's pockets and pride in their hearts. It's all gone now. Even modern archaeologists might have trouble making sense of the vague and disconnected evidence left behind.
I could have shared other pictures of the scenes I observed along my route but in this blogpost I wanted to photo-illustrate the path itself. Until yesterday, our merry month of May here in Yorkshireland had been a big disappointment compared say with last May which was warm, dry and sunny as I recall. Yesterday the sun was out, peeping coyly from the gaps between drifting cumulus clouds, promising a much better spell of weather in the week ahead.
As you can see, the path took me  through fields of rapeseed and wheat. I walked by the disused Barnsley Canal and along old railway track beds connected with coal. Though not illustrated here, I walked by three reservoirs and through the tiny village of Wintersett where a gang of young men were making a long wooden fence at the side of the path. Mischievously, I asked them if they were "doing community service". It was a question that caused an outburst of mirth because that is a punishment frequently given to  lawbreakers.
As I walked this nine mile circle, following my chosen path, my mind drifted like the cumulus clouds above. Fragments of memory appeared and then faded  back. I thought through a couple of matters that have recently caused me concern though not in the logical manner of an Albert Einstein or a Stephen Hawking - more in the manner of a bumble bee flitting here and there, never settling for long.
Above,  American blog visitors may be interested to see a street of terraced homes once provided by the coal industry as cheap rental accommodation for mining families. This is in Havercroft. The English don't all live in Downton Abbeys or Buckingham Palaces you know.
I love the snowy whiteness of  hawthorn blossom and the fresh new greenness of the grass and foliage when the land is bathed in sunlight in late May. The path drew me onward, until the circle was  once again complete.
I was back on Chestnut Drive in South Hiendley where I asked Clint if he was ready for the long drive home.
"I suppose so," he muttered in his typically disgruntled tone.

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!

Regular customer Stan  in our local - one sunny 
afternoon in 2015.He died in 2019.

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?

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
from Equatorial Guinea
Alexander Lukashenko
from Belarus
Min Aung Hlaing
from Burma (Myanmar)
Benjamin Netanyahu
from Israel

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:-

A year or two later it always featured  on the set list of the band I belonged to. With Jock's electric guitar we turned that song into something so different. The woman that the narrator met in "As I Went Out One Morning" was a slave.  Several  Dylan songs spoke up for Black America long before the Black Lives Matter movement was ever dreamt of.

Back in 1976 when I had spent the summer working on a summer camp in Ohio, I headed up to Minneapolis to see my old friend Richard. We drove up to the Canadian border for a long weekend at his parents' cabin.

On the way back to the big city, I asked if we might make a diversion and drive into Hibbing where Robert Zimmerman spent his childhood. We asked around in the centre of the hard-working iron town. Did anybody know where Bob Dylan had lived? Nobody seemed to have the slightest clue.

Leaving town feeling slightly dejected, we called into a bar for liquid refreshment and it turned out that the bartender knew exactly where Dylan had grown up. We drove back into town and found the very house. Richard took a photo of me outside it. I guess we were like pilgrims.

23 May 2021


Back in 2015, Google brought a new facility into their search engine results page (SERP). I am sure that you have noticed it: "People Also Ask" followed by a number of questions that relate to the one you first put into the search box. 

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?":-

So God's skin is red and white? Does that make him a Manchester United supporter? Possibly Cheltenham Town.

Questions related to "What is Mickey Mouse?"
I must confess that I have also often wondered if Mickey Mouse is a cat or a dog.

Questions related to "What is death?"

Yes indeed - the three definitions of death: quite dead, dead and very dead. And indeed, how does someone feel when he dies? Perhaps cold and stiff?

If you are ever bored, why not spend a little time mucking around with the "People Also Ask" extension? You might be tickled by some of the bizarre questions that come up.

22 May 2021


One of the things I love most about this life is that there's no final goodbye. You 
know, I've met hundreds of people out here and I don't ever say a final goodbye. 
I always just say, "I'll see you down the road". And I do. And whether it's a month, 
or a year, or sometimes years, I see them again. -  BOB WELLS in "Nomadland"

Finally, I got to see "Nomadland" yesterday afternoon at The Showroom Cinema in the centre of Sheffield. The last film I saw in a cinema was "Parasite" and that was back in February of  2020.

I watched "Nomadland" in silence with my friend Mike. As we shuffled out of the darkness during the final credits, I agreed with him that it had been a great film - captivating and beautifully constructed. We were not disappointed - quite the opposite in fact. It was quietly joyous - a celebration of life in spite of the central theme of poverty and displacement - modern American "nomads" living on the fringes of  normal society.

The central character is Fern played by Frances McDormand. When her husband died, she remained in the remote Nevada mining town where they had spent all of their married life. However, finally she ended up in a small camper van seeking seasonal work and solace in the great American wilderness. 

Brilliantly directed and edited by Chloé Zhao, "Nomadland" is not laced with the anger and resentment one might have anticipated. People get by and get along. They do not really blame anybody else for the situations they have found themselves in. Two other things I loved about this film were the beautiful imagery of the west and the fact that the cast included a number of travellers that the filmmakers encountered along the way - true life American nomads  like Swankie, Linda and Bob. They added to the film's aura of authenticity.

There was no killing. No drunkenness or cop cars or wily detectives. It was a quiet and lovely film about outsiders and Frances McDormand was superb. It is easy to see why "Nomadland" has  achieved so many awards - including "Best Picture". Richly deserved in my view.

21 May 2021


I guess it is part of being human - to weigh things up, to make our own judgements. However, some people take this too far. They sit all high and mighty making judgements about others and what they say or do often without actually putting themselves out there. They seem to think that they have full licence to do this. In fact it is their "go to" position.

Take blogging for example. The comments one receives may be supportive, funny or just engaged but some respondents habitually put on their proverbial wigs to pass judgement. Making judgement calls is fine when you have "money in the bank"- a reservoir of goodwill accumulated over time but when every comment you have ever made is laced with judgmentalism then you become a pain in the arse. Perhaps you would be best to keep your judgements to yourself.

A few years ago, one of my commenters shocked me. Not only was she leaving judgemental comments every time she came here, she was  also visiting other blogs to assess my comments from elsewhere - weighing them up and trying to identify contradictions or inconsistencies. Quite flabbergasting really.

Currently I still have "comment moderation" switched on. I don't really like it but at least it allows me to weed out comments by two currently active Judge Judies and one Judge Rinder. They have a long history of making niggling, undermining or  plain nasty remarks and I just don't want that stuff in my life or on this blog which has become an extension of my life.

Whenever their names appear in the Yorkshire Pudding comments section pre-moderation, I simply delete what they have said without ever reading it. Click and it has gone. It feels kind of nice to do that. A bit like deleting spam.

20 May 2021


I took this picture on January 23rd 2019. Over at the Geograph site, it is today's "Picture of the Day", displayed on the website's home page. What a nice surprise.

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


How annoying. I fell asleep watching "Newsnight" and that unintended nap lasted far too long. Consequently, when I did climb the stairs to bed, sleep evaded me. I lay there waiting for the magic to happen - for sleep to embrace me once again before carrying me off to the land of dreams and revitalisation. But after an hour I realised it was not going to happen so I came back downstairs and made a  mug of  tea which is now sitting next to this laptop with two "McVities" gingernuts.

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


On Monday afternoon last week I went up to "The Hammer and Pincers" where I met Mick, Mike and Danny in the beer garden. Because of COVID rules we had to sit outside under a big parasol. Soon the heavens opened and then there was the ridiculous sight of us in our rain gear, dripping as we supped our "John Smith's" and gossiped like fish wives. Fortunately, it was not long before sunshine reappeared.

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


After the FA Cup Final in London on Saturday, two Leicester City players
 displayed the flag of Palestine in a brave gesture of solidarity

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


This is Rachel Chiesley. She married James Erskine, son of the noble Earl of Mar in Edinburgh - probably in 1707. Later Erskine was ennobled becoming Lord Grange so on that day Rachel Chiesley became Lady Grange.

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.

Lady Grange on St Kilda
by Edwin Morgan

They say I'm mad, but who would not be mad
on Hirta, when the winter raves along
the bay and howls through my stone hut, so strong
they thought I was and so I am, so bad
they thought I was and beat me black and blue
and banished me, my mouth of bloody teeth
and banished me to live and cry beneath
the shriek of sea-birds, and eight children too
we had, my lord, though I know what you are,
sleekit Jacobite, showed you up, you bitch,
and screamed outside your close at Niddry's Wynd,
until you set your men on me, and far
I went from every friend and solace, which
was cruel, out of mind, out of my mind.

15 May 2021


Returning to Hayfield

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.

I saw sheep and new lambs and at Piece Farm several black calves frolicking beneath the overcast heavens. I encountered a lone woman walker and saw the apprehension in her eyes. Little did she know that the respectful  author of this blog is not to be feared and I wanted to tell her that as she hurried along in front of me wondering when The Pudding Monster would strike.

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.

Cold Harbour Farm

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


1888 OS Map

Yesterday I had been hoping to take another long walk but the weather seemed too unpredictable. Instead, I drove out of the city then over the moors to Hathersage. There  I turned up the winding road that leads to Highlow Hall.

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.

Lamb on Offerton Edge

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


Rosie played by Genevieve O’Reilly in "Three Families"

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


The League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers has, over the years, seen thousands of teachers from the British Commonwealth of Nations spending entire school years in each other's countries, effectively swapping jobs and living in each other's houses. The cross-cultural benefits have surely been enormous.

Back in 1962, an exchange teacher came to my village primary school in the heart of The East Riding of Yorkshire. She had travelled all the way from New Zealand and her name was Miss Sanderson. She was quite tall with dark wavy hair and of course she spoke English in an unfamiliar manner. Her complexion was a little dark, suggesting that she might have  had some Maori blood in her. She brought a ukulele with her. Singing was one of her strengths.

Every week she led an afternoon of singing in which she introduced us to new songs and patiently taught us how to sing them with the delightful accompaniment of her little guitar. It was always a very happy session for Miss Sanderson clearly loved her songs and certainly realised that music was not all about learning musical notation and passing music exams. It was first and foremost a happy, social phenomenon and her lovely songs had the capacity to illustrate what it might mean to be  human.

This morning I found myself singing "Riding Down From Bangor"  as I came down our staircase. It was one of the songs that Miss Sanderson taught me and my classmates  almost sixty years ago. At the time I imagined that Bangor was a place in New Zealand but the Bangor in question was in fact in the state of Maine in America.  I remember she also taught us a famous New Zealand love song called "Pokarekare Ana". It  included some exotic Maori lyrics:-
Fast forward to the spring  of 1989. Frances was just six months old so Ian would have been five. I had the idea of applying for a teacher exchange to Australia. Shirley was happy to go along with this. It seemed like the best time to do it with the kids being young. Maybe later it would not work out.

I filled in the application form, gathered the necessary support documents and even took photos of our house for would-be Australian exchangees. I never imagined that my headteacher would prevent the process from happening. He had never had to deal with such a request before and apparently could not imagine the possible benefits. So he blocked it. I was dumbfounded.

Two years after this the school agreed an exchange for another English subject teacher and the following year two Science teachers exchanged with Australian colleagues. But for me the ship had left the port and as a family, for personal and professional reasons,  the time was never right again to be part of such a scheme. I still feel some of the hurt. Who knows - we might have remained in Australia riding red kangaroos into the sunset singing another of Miss Sanderson's favourite songs - "Waltzing Matilda" which she sang rather slowly like a lament.

8 May 2021


As you will know yourself, in these lives that we are leading things do not always go to plan. And so it was yesterday when Clint and I drove out to the flat lands north of Doncaster. We parked up in the village of Sykehouse which claims to be "Yorkshire's longest village" and I have no reason to doubt that claim. After all, from one end of the settlement to the other it is just under eight miles.

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.

But please see this snippet from the A4 map I took with me:-
The broken black line along the blue river marks the 
boundary between North and South Yorkshire

By this point I had already tramped six miles or so.  The black line heading north is England's main east coast railway line connecting London with Yorkshire before heading up to Newcastle and Edinburgh. The railway passes over The River Went at the very point that a public footpath crosses a deep V-shaped drain and then goes under the bridge. 
The path goes under this bridge on the left

However, the footbridge over the drain is presently  totally kapput and the path under the bridge appeared so treacherously muddy that it would have been easy to fall into the river.  I decided against it and headed south by the railway track hoping to find another route back to Sykehouse.

Oh lordy! I was now off the map I had printed so I had no idea where any paths might be or where they might lead and there was nobody about in the tiny village of Fenwick to ask. It was like a small ghost town.
Holy Trinity Church, Sykehouse

Following local lanes that crisscross the flat agricultural landscape I found myself plodding an extra six miles back to Clint who was still smarting from the hailstone battering. And to use a term favoured by my German blogging friend Meike, I was well and truly "knackered" when I turned the ignition key to head home.

So that was a plan that went wrong, simply because a small section of a footpath was more or less impassable. It doesn't happen very often and I have already reported the issue to North Yorkshire Council - Public Rights of Way Department. I wouldn't want other walkers to face the same problem.
The Aire and Calder Navigation Canal seen from Pollington Bridge

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