"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 July 2021
29 July 2021
Most English people are keenly interested in weather forecasts. This is undoubtedly because we enjoy a changeable maritime climate. You never know what you are going to get upon this island on the edge of Europe.
One of the "favourites" stored on my laptop for quick access is the BBC Weather site. There I regularly look at five locations. It's like a compass. I have our city suburb in the centre. North is Penistone. South is Chesterfield. West is Tideswell . East is Worksop. The differing forecasts for these locations frequently determine where I will go when I fancy a good long walk. I like to avoid being rained on if at all possible.
Today I headed east - beyond Worksop and across The River Trent via the toll bridge at Dunham - not Old Tasker Dunham but Dunham-on-Trent. Once across the river, Clint grumbled "Are we nearly there yet?" and I told him that we were.
Together we breezed into the village of North Clifton which is a mile and a half from South Clifton. Charmingly peaceful villages with numerous attractive homes, they nevertheless have few community facilities - no pubs, no bakeries, no blacksmiths, no shops. Once they had all of these - in the days when villages were vibrant living entities and not dormitories for retirees, incomers and commuters.
I left Clint snoozing in North Clifton and set off on a ten mile walk over rich agricultural land and finally along the east bank of The River Trent. I passed a huge field of carrots and another huge field of ridiculously healthy maize. In neither field did I see a single bird and only a handful of insects. In modern farming, it seems that the quest for profitability means that insects and birds are just an irritation .
From mid-afternoon, I kept looking at my watch - knowing that I had to get home to make the evening meal - for Frances, Stew and Phoebe would be there. At 4.15pm I was back on the toll bridge at Dunham and at 5.30pm I was chopping onions in the kitchen - the first step as I created a tasty vegetarian curry from scratch.
28 July 2021
In this humble Yorkshire blog, I have written about beer before. Lord knows how many gallons of the stuff I have consumed in my life. I think about an enormous oil tanker passing a headland far out to sea. The capacity of that vessel probably represents the volume of beer I have sunk in my life thus far. More than an Olympic swimming pool...more than The Aral Sea. Glug-glug-glug!
Consequently, you can imagine the beacon-like glow of pride I felt when I recently held my first cold can of "Bosh!" beer by "Brewdog". I am not talking about the non-alcoholic version that I blogged about in January of this year but proper "Bosh!" beer with a 5% alcohol content.Many readers may not realise that the majority of beers are not vegan. Though created from plants and water, most brewers use fish products or "finings" when clarifying the liquid. The production of "Bosh!" beer does not involve the use of fish products. It is wholly vegan.To see my only son's name on the side of a can of beer - well I wouldn't have been prouder if he had won The Nobel Peace Prize. We ordered two cartons of "Bosh!" beer from "Brewdog" after receiving a free carton from our lovely Ian. Maybe I should order more but I do not feel good about putting the empty cans in our recycling bin.
Finally, specially for visitors from the USA, here's a different can of beer I bought recently from our local "Lidl" store. Do you recognise the brand? I am not sure if you can buy it in America - maybe it's only available in Springfield:-
27 July 2021
I was only joking when I tripped you up.
I never meant to hurt you.
I was only joking when I left that comment on Facebook
It was just a bit of fun.
I was only joking when I put itching powder between your sheets
I got it from the joke shop along with the fart powder.
I was only joking when I listed your house on Right Move.
I thought you would laugh at the description and the price.
I was only joking when I said your sister had fallen on the ice.
Seems like you can't have a laugh any more.
I was only joking when I painted the big red cross on your front door
Lighten up - it will easily come off with some turps and a cloth.
I was only joking when I put small pencil crosses in the boxes for Trump and Johnson
They seemed such fun guys - like cuddly circus clowns.
We were only joking when we hi-jacked those planes that morning
Why must people take everything so seriously these days?
25 July 2021
24 July 2021
When I was a young man, I never thought of what I might have inherited from previous generations of my family. I am not talking about money or possessions but about the characteristics that make us who we are. None of us can dissociate ourselves from the people who went before. I understand that quite clearly now.
Of course, we inherit certain physical characteristics - the colour of our skin, the shape of our eyes, our heights, the shape of our fingers and toes. These are relatively easy things to identify but what's not so easy to discern is the link between one's inner self and the inner selves of previous generations.
I believe that tendencies are frequently inherited. Someone who tends to be jolly with an optimistic outlook will tend to have children with similarly happy souls. Equally, those who are drawn to the dark well of depression will tend to have youngsters who are pulled that way too. Parents who read books often pass that passion on to their children and rebellious parents will tend to raise rebels. Of course, it goes without saying that there are exceptions to all such rules.
To understand the connections between generations may often require careful deliberation as the layers are peeled back and tangled threads are unravelled.
I think of my two Yorkshire grandfathers - Wilfred Jackson and Philip Theasby. As young men they volunteered to fight for king and country in World War I. They were both at The Battle of the Somme in 1916 and unlike thousands of dead and injured countrymen, they survived the war and came home. It is possible that they may have met or seen each other, not knowing how their future families would be knitted together.
What did Wilfred and Philip see on that terrible battlefield? What did they hear? And more importantly, what did they bring home - hidden in their hearts and in their memories? How did it affect their marriages and the raising of their children? Wilfred ended up leaving my grandmother in the early nineteen thirties. Were his war experiences somehow responsible and how did his leaving impact upon my mother's character? I am sure that some fragments of Wilfred and some echoes of Philip have filtered down to me.
One's parents have the greatest influence upon the forging of one's character. My parents met and married in India in 1945. Then they came home to properly begin their married life together in England. Not in the Yorkshire market town of Malton where my father grew up, nor in the coal mining village of Rawmarsh where my mother was raised but in three villages in East Yorkshire where they had no roots or associations. My father had trained as a primary school teacher before World War II broke out and in 1946 was happy to accept the position of headteacher in a small rural school.
I was not immune from all of this. Those past choices and experiences have drip fed into my own character. I see that now. Though we are blessed with the ability to choose, there is a real sense in which we cannot help who we become.
23 July 2021
My space mission ended in abject failure. The space in question was the rough land between the A621 and an ancient stone circle or cairn that I had noticed in Ordnance Survey mapping. The first arrow shows where Clint was parked and the second arrow shows my intended destination. The distance was not great - less than one kilometre.
However, the map above does not tell you everything. The terrain was difficult and in full summer growth. Beneath my feet were clods of risen vegetation, grasses up to my waist, occasional rocks and swathes of heather with thorny bushes and solitary undernourished silver birches. In wet weather this land would be nigh on impossible to traverse with swampy hollows and other squelchy unknowns to contend with. People simply do not walk here and I know for sure that the ancient site is little known and rarely visited.
I had researched its exact location as much as possible, studied aerial imagery and had even written down GPS co-ordinates which, by the way, proved to be incorrect. I even remembered my compass as I set off across that miniature wilderness. Go east young man I said to myself.
But it did not work out. When I had crossed the space, reaching far less swampy rising ground, I became confused. Of course the summer greenery was hiding things. The walking was still so arduous with each footstep requiring twice the normal effort. I headed south instead of north. That was my big mistake. I was twenty five yards from the site but I could not see it. So close.
And when I had plodded two hundred yards south I just did not have the energy to retrace my steps. By the way, I should add that it was really hot out there - probably 88° to 90°F.
Accepting my failure, I headed down through the wooded scrubland to meet a path that runs parallel to Hewetts Bank. I could not entertain the idea of heading back across the moor the way I had come.
A long but certain detour followed and when I reached the former site of Ramsley Reservoir a woman who was taking gear out of her black Honda said, "You look hot! Where have you been?"
I was tempted to say "Death Valley!"
I don't think it's too much to suggest that my failed space mission was like a metaphor for some of the trials that life throws up. You can see where you want to go and you know how to get there but making it - well, that can be a whole different story. Of course, I will try again another time.
22 July 2021
20 July 2021
Scorchio! Over the last few days, the weather has been sweltering in The Yorkshire Republic. To tell you the truth, walking good distances in this kind of weather can be quite challenging but as Noel Coward sang, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". I made sure I had my faded sunhat from Malta with me and a big flask of cold water.
Clint agreed to transport me to the village of Arksey, north of Doncaster. I had never been there before. It's in flat agricultural land criss-crossed by languid drains, sloth-like rivers and arrow straight railway tracks. This is not an area favoured by walkers so some of the public footpaths are rarely trodden.
I came down a dusty lane to a path that hugs a currently dried up stream. It would have taken me in a big arc heading up to the former site of Thorpe Marsh power station. However, it was so overgrown with nettles and brambly briars that even Indiana Jones would have thought twice about it. I retreated and found another way.
At home, the circular route I had planned seemed pretty straightforward but reality on the ground can often be different and the retreat from the overgrown path was not the only issue I had to deal with. There was also a disused railway line to circumnavigate because of the jungle-like character it has now adopted.
At one remote spot, a lone red-faced man had been using a small mechanical digger in relation to embankment repairs. He was heading back to his wagon as I approached it from the other direction. He almost jumped out of his skin when he spotted me but then we had a laugh about it. He's a man who is used to working outdoors but the morning's heat had left him physically drained.
After three and a half hours, the circle was complete. Unfortunately, "The Plough" at Arksey did not open till 5pm so the pint of bitter shandy I had been daydreaming about evaporated into the thick July air. Before setting off, I had remembered to crack Clint's windows open ever so slightly so the cockpit temperature was acceptable as we headed home again. I was well and truly bushed but pleased to have had the workout in previously unexplored territory.
19 July 2021
Mr Bumble said that today would be our Freedom Day. The day on which Britain would break away from coronavirus restrictions.
On Saturday our new Health Secretary, Mr Spock came down with COVID-19 in spite of being double-vaccinated. Fortunately his symptoms are mild. Towards the end of last week Spock had been in protracted close contact with Mr Bumble and our Chancellor of the Exchequer - The Pocket Dynamo.
Following their own rules, this duo should have gone into self-isolation immediately. For thirty six hours they put about a story that they would instead join a "pilot scheme" which would not require them to self-isolate but they were rumbled. Recognising the growing public backlash they did a "U" turn and pledged to self-isolate like ordinary citizens.
A couple of months ago Britain was doing really well. Our key COVID figures were looking very promising with daily infections dropping below one thousand, hardly any new hospitalisations, the successful vaccination programme proceeding at pace and on some days there were no COVID-related deaths at all.
It's not like that now - ever since Mr Bumble failed to act decisively on the "Delta" variant that arose in India. Our daily infection tally is now worse than anywhere else in the world. Yesterday we had 48,161 new infections - more than any other country on the planet, including India, Brazil, The USA and Russia.
Our NHS driven vaccination programme has gone really well but several million British people remain unvaccinated. Nonetheless, just twenty five citizens died of COVID-19 yesterday which is a very low number when you consider the mushrooming infection rate.
A top epidemiologist reckons that our infection rate will climb over 100,000 a day this summer and hospitalisations and deaths will grow correspondingly. It is all very concerning.
At some stage in the very near future, economies must open up and we must all learn to live with COVID. It is not going away. But right now seems the wrong time for this country to ring the bells for Mr Bumble's Freedom Day. It is a very strange kind of freedom.
18 July 2021
Great food. Good beer and good table service too. Phoebe gurgled peacefully in her pushchair as we tucked into our nosh - served on wooden bread boards.
Afterwards we meandered into the town, crossing a pedestrian bridge that is now festooned with padlocks. You know the ones I mean - where people have locked in their devotion to each other. It has become a worldwide phenomenon. The first time I ever noticed it was on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy several years ago.
I guess that the first couple who ever did this with a padlock were doing something quite unique and endearing but when you see many hundreds of padlocks clipped to the handrails of a bridge it seems a little irksome and rather odd. The uniqueness has been replaced with copycat predictability.
Bakewell is a popular town in the middle of The Peak District. We bought Bakewell puddings from Ye Olde Bakewell Pudding Shoppe but decided not to buy Bakewell tarts. It was not a market day and the school holidays had not quite started so the place was not overwhelmed with visitors.
Yesterday (Saturday) Shirley was out all day attending a hen do organised on behalf of lovely Caroline who we have know since she was two years old.
When I got home, Shirley was still not back so I made my own tea - cold chicken, new potatoes and salad. The weather folk said it had been the hottest day of the year so far 32°C or 89.5° and I can well believe it. Today (Sunday) will be equally as hot so there'll be no traditional Sunday roast in the evening. I have bought all the stuff needed for a barbecue - oh and a swede for Phoebe. She's gonna love that thing.
17 July 2021
I slipped over on an icy pavement... Why didn't the local council spread grit there?
I was late for my appointment... I knew it should have been scheduled for a later time.
My instant barbecue caused a small woodland fire... I didn't see any warning signs at the picnic site and besides who left all those dry pine needles lying around?
The doctor told me I have got lung cancer... The British American Tobacco Company knew about the carcinogenic dangers of smoking their products long, long ago.
I was outed for posting comments about black English footballers online... It's not my fault that social media providers don't vet respondents properly - they are just asking for trouble.
I was charged for storming The Capitol Building... President Trump had called for a response so as an American patriot it was like I was obeying his command.
I lost the presidential election.... The vote was rigged.
16 July 2021
Every actress has to start somewhere...
15 July 2021
The beloved granddaughter Phoebe Harriet is six months old today. What special joy she has brought into our lives. She is the best baby ever and this week she began the process of weaning. She was very happy with broccoli but not so keen on avocado. Perhaps she had heard about the carbon footprint of this increasingly popular fruit. I am looking forward to feeding her some mashed up swede on Sunday.
Weatherwise today was overcast at first but round about two o'clock the clouds parted to reveal our particular star shining brightly in an aquamarine firmament with occasional wisps of cotton wool scudding quietly by. I needed no further invitation. Soon Clint was in full harness and we galloped out to the hills.
I tethered him near Hagg Farm above the valley of The River Ashop and soon I was walking up, up to the sky. Well, not really the sky - just Rowlee Pasture - an area of open moorland above Rowlee Farm.
As I had set off so late in the day, I reduced the length of the walk in order to get home at a reasonable time to prepare our tea (evening meal). We ate it at the table on the lower decking - a simple meal of egg and bacon quiche, new potatoes, salad and coleslaw which was washed down with cans of ice cold "Bosh!" beer by "Brewdog".
I told Shirley that I had sat for a while on the moors with my back resting against a gatepost as I swigged some cold water from my flask. It had been so peaceful and so pleasantly warm with just a few sheep and lambs bleating in the rough pastureland below me that I felt I could have rested there till sundown. The summer's beauty was bewitching.
And I thought of Hagg Farm - an outdoor education venue for many years. I helped with school visits there in the early eighties. It was a lovely place for urban teenagers to become more intimate with the great outdoors and spend memorable time away from home. How strange that my once sharp memories of those good old days are now faded like ghost advertising on a gable end wall.
14 July 2021
13 July 2021
Can you guess how many mugs we had in our cupboard? Well let me tell you.
Twenty eight... thirty one... thirty four! That's how many. Thirty four! We may not be rich in paper money but we are rich in mugs. That is sufficient mugs for two football teams with all the named substitutes too.
Putting mugs in the cupboard has sometimes proven to be a dangerous balancing act. In the past couple of years, two mugs plunged to their untimely deaths. You get attached to familiar mugs. The death of a favourite mug can be very distressing
Well yesterday I decided to grasp the bull by the horns or more accurately - the mugs by the handles. I lined them all up, forgetting that a few were still hiding in the dishwasher. It was time to cull them.
We aimed to reduce our mug collection by eight. It was like picking school football teams. Shirley chose one then I picked the next and so on until there were eight sorry mugs left behind. They had reached the end of the line. Among them were four Hull City mugs - somehow fading because of repeated visits to the dishwasher. One of them was emblazoned with "Pride of Yorkshire" reminding me of the years, earlier this century when my beloved Tigers were undoubtedly Yorkshire's top team.
Having just twenty six mugs will be a much easier situation to handle. Normally there are just two people in this house so thirteen mugs each should, I hope, cover all of our tea and coffee drinking demands. If not, we will just have to go out and buy extra mugs.
If any friends or family are reading this blogpost, please do not give us any more mugs as gifts. If you do, then shortly thereafter you will probably find them bouncing off the tops of your heads. Don't be a mug! Don't give a mug!
12 July 2021
11 July 2021
After ninety minutes, the score was England 1 - Italy 1. The match then went to extra time. After thirty minutes, the score was still England 1 - Italy 1. To find a winner, the game then went to penalties. Tragically, England only scored two of their five penalties but Italy scored three. Consequently, Italy have won the European Championship Cup.
I do not begrudge Italy their victory. They played well throughout the tournament. England played well too but at the final hurdle we stumbled. I feel as sick as a parrot and that's all I have got to say. Good night.
10 July 2021
I took a second picture of that window, looking down the valley known as Oyster Clough. In my opinion, the second picture does not work quite as well. What do you think?
England waits for Sunday evening with eager anticipation mingled with nervous trepidation. Our national football team has reached the final of the European Championship. This tournament normally takes place every four years but COVID-19 scuppered last year's schedule.
We scraped past Denmark in the semi-finals and now we 're to play Italy in the final at Wembley Stadium in London. Beating them to the trophy will be a big ask. Italy have shown themselves to be a splendid team with talent all over the pitch. However, I could say just the same of England.
Bizarrely, at Wembley tomorrow night, the England fans will join together for a loud and uplifting rendition of "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond. It has become our third national anthem after "God Save The Queen" and "Three Lions (It's Coming Home)". And if we beat Italy, they will sing it again even louder than before... "Good times never seemed so good".
Be still my beating heart! I need to calm down. The biggest match in more than fifty years is still thirty six hours away! Let me finish this lazy blogpost with three more calming pictures from Thursday's moorland ramble:-
8 July 2021
Today's walk was on moorland east of The Snake Pass, before the road turns up onto Snake Pass Summit. I had parked Clint by ten fifteen. Soon I was ready to climb the long steep path northwards out of Birchin Clough through a pine plantation.
Twenty minutes later I was up in the light again clasping a detailed map of the area and ready to complete a long circular route that did not involve any proscribed public footpaths until I met Doctor's Gate south of Cowms Rocks near the old sheepfold.
You have to watch every step when walking in such terrain. Moorland vegetation can hide deep holes filled with water and there's squelchy peat and bogland to negotiate. I plod along slowly and carefully because one thing is for sure - if you have an injurious accident out there, there will be no good Samaritans passing by. You are as skiing aficionados might say - off piste.
I circled the head of Birchin Clough and schlepped* over to the next major clough or valley - Oyster Clough. Previously I had noted that there's a shooting cabin near the top of Oyster Clough. I have visited a good number of such cabins and they are normally locked up securely but this was unlocked so I went inside.
There was no evidence of grouse shooters using it but the roof and walls were well-maintained. It was very basic and there were log books dating back to 2017. I flicked through them, surprised by how many visitors there had been before me. Naturally, I left my own entry before enjoying a brief sit-down with my flask of water and three shortbread biscuits. The log books revealed that a number of visitors have slept in the cabin or sheltered from wild weather there.
I had forgotten to bring my compass but had little trouble finding my way to Cowms Rocks before descending to the old Roman track that is, as I said earlier, known for some strange reason as Doctor's Gate. Nearly two thousand years ago Roman soldiers walked that way linking Ardotalia Roman fort near Glossop with Navio fortress at Brough in The Hope Valley.
The walk took me longer than anticipated - just over four hours . Clint admitted that he had scared off a sleek black Audi A5 who had pulled up next to him. "She said there was no way she would go out with a Hyundai i20!" he grumbled but then with a glint in his eye added, "You should have seen her bodywork!"
East of those lost hills, Sheffield was calling.
7 July 2021
Like most people of my generation, I have never received any lessons in how to use a computer. Everything I know I found out simply by using computers. In other words, I have taught myself.
My computer interface is kindly provided by Microsoft. I am presently writing this courtesy of Windows 10. Worldwide, 77% of computer users use Windows. The number of Apple users tarries far behind - probably because of the extra cost factor.
The helpful advice I am about to provide is aimed squarely at Windows users who have opted for the most popular browser - Google Chrome. Apple folk may want to look away now. In addition, I recognise that many Windows users will already be aware of the facility I am about to explain.
Please look to the top right hand corner of your screen. You should see something very like this which is a snip of my own screen:-
Click on those dots and a grey dropdown menu should appear. The tenth item on the list will be "Find...". This is a photo of my own screen:-
Click on "Find..." and then a search box will appear:-
I was on a BBC news item about Hurricane Elsa which is currently making its way to northern Florida. Just to illustrate this "Find" facility I decided to search the text for "Elsa". The instantaneous search told me that the word "Elsa" appeared seven times in the article with the first appearance already being highlighted in the headline. Here's a snip of some more of that item with "Elsa" highlighted by the computer:-
Last night, we lay down on sunbeds and watched Mrs Moon rise like a tangerine over The Aegean Sea. To capture the beauty of the scene fa...
Chavs being chavvish. Just the other day, I spotted a male "chav" down by the local Methodist church. He was wearing a Burberrry ...
So there I was standing in the kitchen of our son's terraced house. Something caught my eye outside in his little urban garden. It was a...