29 September 2021


Idle Valley Nature Reserve

I like to get at least one long walk in every week. After all, walking is pretty much the only exercise I get these days but fortunately I love it. Not much can beat the feeling of sheer fatigue after a long walk when you can slake your thirst with cold water and check over your map to see how many miles you have covered.

Today I parked Clint in the village of Lound in Nottinghamshire - just north of Retford. East of the village there are several lakes and ponds that are a remnant of sand and gravel quarrying in days gone by. Mother Nature has done her best to reclaim this landscape and nowadays it is a haven for wild birds. Two miles beyond the nature reserve you reach a narrow river that was navigable in medieval times. It is called The River Idle.

The pub and a Royal Mail van in Lound

I walked by the meandering river for a further mile and a half before crossing a convenient foot bridge that led me to the north of the watery world I had just traversed. At a bench with a view, I met a genial gentleman called  Michael from Misterton. Neatly dressed in "Craghoppers" outdoor gear and with a mop of silver hair, he was clutching a pair of binoculars though he wasn't obsessive about ornithology. He told me that his wife died from COVID last year and I sensed that he wanted to talk so I gave him some time. There was a lightness about his character that I liked though we exchanged some serious thoughts about the environment.

Where I met Michael

Leaving Michael, I tramped to remote Wildgoose Farm  and then headed for Blaco Hill before arcing back across farmland and along quiet lanes to Lound.

It was a lovely day but with a little autumnal chill in the air. Most fields that needed harvesting have been attended to though there were still some swathes of maize and carrots holding on till October. Once reconnected with Clint, we travelled home via Bawtry, Tickhill and Maltby. 

The radio news was of The Labour Party's annual conference in Brighton - specifically the keynote speech of Sir Keir Starmer, the party's relatively new leader. I thought he came across well. He said that his late father had been a toolmaker and added there was a sense in which our current prime minister's father had also been a toolmaker! That made me laugh.

Maize near Lound

28 September 2021


Yorkshireman Humphrey Smith is a wealthy brewer. Nobody knows quite how rich he is but he could easily be a billionaire. Surprisingly, there are hardly any photographs of him in the public sphere. He shuns publicity as a tree shuns leaves in the autumn.

As I said before, my favourite pub in the whole world is "The White Horse" (Nellie's) in Beverley, East Yorkshire. This uniquely characterful pub belongs to the Samuel Smith brewing empire  led by Humphrey Smith.

When I was there a few days ago, I asked a barmaid if I could liberate a beermat and she agreed. Here it is:-

Do you get it? Customers are not allowed to use any electronic devices in Sam Smiths pubs. No mobile phones nor laptops nor tablets. It is a visible emanation of Humphrey Smith's eccentric philosophy. He is like King Canute ordering the tide to turn back.

Here's the reverse of the same beermat:-

Part of me applauds this bloody-mindedness as I much prefer pubs in which the only noise is of people in conversation, enjoying each other's company without any need for televisions or music or electronic devices. Another part of me says that Humphrey Smith's  dictatorial approach will  prove intolerable to many potential customers - especially younger people. How long can this go on? 

Last year Humphrey Smith closed one of his  pubs for good in a fit of annoyance simply because he had overheard a single customer swearing like a trooper.  When you have as much money and as many assets as Humphrey Smith has got, you can afford to do things your own way - even if that is at significant cost.

Oh, and I almost forgot - no other pub chain in England sells its beer as cheaply as Samuel Smith pubs manage to do. A pint of bitter in my local pub costs £3.70 (US $5.00) but a similar pint in a Sam Smith's pub will usually cost £2.05 (US $3.00).
An old photo of Humphrey Smith

27 September 2021


Yesterday, we went for breakfast in a restaurant called "The Summer House". After a few minutes,  a young family followed us in and sat at the very next table. Who was the thirty something daddy in his comfy sports clothes and with his navy blue baseball cap casually reversed? Why! It was none other than Joe Root!

Joe Root is one of the best cricketers in the world and he is the current captain of  the England team. He is a very prolific run scorer having notched twenty three centuries in his test match career and sixteen centuries in one day internationals. Some say that he is the best batsman that England has ever produced. He is a Yorkshireman who hails from Sheffield. He lives a mile away from "The Summer House".

As soon as Joe spotted me he naturally wanted to snap a selfie together. I told him that it wasn't appropriate as I was having a birthday  breakfast with my family. Joe slunk away in disappointment. After all, it's not every day that a mere test cricketer gets to meet a world famous blogger.

26 September 2021


Hypnos - God of Sleep

I did that thing again. You would have thought I'd have learnt my lesson by now. I was watching "Match of the Day" with a can of beer in my mitt but I never saw the end of the football show because... I fell asleep.

And when I woke up an hour had passed by.  I climbed the hairy mountain to The Land of Nod hoping to resume my slumbers but sleep evaded me like a fickle mistress. I lay there with my wife next to me in the deepest trench of sleep's ocean. I heard the bell in the tower of All Saints Church ring one and sixty minutes later I heard it ring two.

Dozing upon one's sofa can be fatal. It takes the edge off one's appetite for sleep when one eventually pulls the quilt over one's mortal flesh. Hearing the clock strike two was enough to bring me back downstairs to this laptop. I made myself a mug of tea and grabbed a couple of McVities' ginger nuts.

It's especially annoying because we are going out for breakfast this morning - celebrating our lovely daughter's thirty third birthday. Later, I will be making a special Sunday dinner with the centrepiece being a pricey leg of lamb that I bought from a farm shop in The Hope Valley. I know exactly where that animal was reared having walked across the very fields where it grew fat.

And then after dinner and birthday cake I will be heading up to "The Hammer and Pincers" for the newly resurrected Sunday quiz.  The entire day will be affected simply by having failed to follow my customary sleep pattern. The mantlepiece clock is marching towards three o'clock. Soon I will give the process another try and past experience says that it will work this time.

Sleep will let me in through the curtains where most of us go every twenty four hours - into that other territory that is so close and yet unchartered too. The Kingdom of Sleep - that magical land where we  process experiences and dream freely and remember and forget.

25 September 2021


When it comes to TV drama, different people like different shows. I have recently finished watching a five part BBC series called "The North Water" and I have to say that in my estimation it was bloody brilliant. I take my hat off to the director - Andrew Haigh, the cast and the talented production team that helped to bring  Ian McGuire's original story alive in spite of its particular challenges. I was utterly enthralled though, as I have already suggested, it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Largely set aboard a whaling ship in the middle of the nineteenth century, "The North Water" is never pretty. Seals are clubbed, a whale is successfully hunted  and there's fighting and sheer brutality. The central character is the ship's newly recruited surgeon - Patrick Sumner played by Jack O'Connell.  He has inner demons to battle.

Much of the drama was filmed in The Arctic Circle and this factor seeps into the acting, strengthening the sense of authenticity.

It is about survival and it's about revenge. There are spiritual elements to it all and the sense of a battle between good and evil. As I watched, I could almost feel the bitter Arctic cold.

Never once did I stop to ponder the believability of a scene. I was entirely convinced by the artistic pretence and swept along by it. So often I feel short-changed or underwhelmed by much trumpeted shows but that was not the case with "The North Water". It was of the sea but it was earthy, realistic  and thoroughly entertaining

Jack O'Connell as Patrick Sumner

24 September 2021


While I remember, let me recall Tuesday of this week. It was a very nice day but the next day promised to be even better so I planned my main walk of the week for Wednesday. On Tuesday, I stayed within the city and tramped over to Weston Park Museum before heading back to Ecclesall Road via The Botanical Gardens.

Weston Park Museum tells Sheffield's story very well. In addition to the permanent exhibits there are occasional temporary exhibitions and currently the museum is hosting  a couple of photographic shows. To be frank I found them a little  disappointing in their predictability. It's nice to be enthralled and surprised and I didn't get that. However, here's two of the best pictures I spotted. 

The first one reminds onlookers of Sheffield's proud steel making  heritage and the second one reminds visitors of how the city centre was rebuilt after the devastation of World War II. Officially called Castle Square but informally known  as "The Hole in the Road", the roundabout's lid concealed an underground world of shops and subways. benches, flower beds and an aquarium. It was the true heart of the city. Sadly it is no more. I once wrote a song about its passing:-

Look what they've done to The Hole in the Road
Look what they've done to this town
We used to meet on one of those seats
Down in The Hole in the Road

A few hundred yards from The Botanical Gardens I met a thin man of Pakistani origin. He was around my age and though he had lived in Sheffield for quarter of a century he had never  been to The Botanical Gardens before. He was hoping to bring his family there.

I guided him along Clarkehouse Road and led him into the gardens. He was a pleasant, gentle man and he told me something of his early life  - growing up in  the city of Lahore in a Christian family. He told me that as the years passed he and his family had faced growing intolerance from Islamic fundamentalists till  they made the agonising decision to leave and make their way to England. He said he had always felt safe here.

We saw two of "The Bears of Sheffield" modelled on  a steel bear that stands in the park's Victorian bear pit. These bears are all over the city just now - brightening urban locations as well as raising money for The Children's Hospital. The Pakistani man said that the park reminded him of The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. We shook hands when we parted on Ecclesall Road and I advised him which bus to catch.
The same bear as the one at the top

23 September 2021


Rotting hulk of a lorry on Welldale Farm - probably a Leyland Hippo

I didn't get round to blogposting yesterday. Sorry about that. Clint and I were out of the house by nine fifteen. Soon we were travelling down the M1 Motorway bound for Junction 24 which I somehow managed to overshoot. Never mind - after a little delay we reached our destination.

My plan was to walk in what I call "virgin territory" - somewhere I had never walked before  and that is what brought me to the village of Gotham a few miles south of the city of Nottingham. I parked Clint in a shady place between St Lawrence's Church and "The Sun Inn", close to the old village water pump.

"Ouch!" yelled Clint as I slammed his tailgate.

Cottage sold recently in Bunny

The circular walk was all on the flat apart from a short slog up to the village of Bradmore. The weather was gorgeous for late September. I was walking across rich agricultural land after harvesttime. Farmers were out harrowing the fields and I noticed that the soil thereabouts was almost as black as coal.

Bradmore's medieval church is curious because it was badly damaged by fire in 1705. Only the tower and steeple remained and many years later the villagers attached parish rooms to this surviving structure. As far as I can determine, the church doesn't even have a saint's name.

The tower and steeple of Bradmore Church with Steeple Cottage in front

Can you believe it? There's a village in England called Bunny. I kid you not. Bunny! I know because I was there yesterday. It's a mile south of Bradmore. Because my time was limited , I didn't get  to visit Bunny Hall. Presumably Daddy Bunny and Mummy Bunny live there with their  little bunny children - hundreds of them -  all waiting for Easter. I wonder how they spend their time.

Between Gotham and Bradmore

And then I turned back to the west - my bootsteps taking me ever closer to Gotham which is the source of a story and a nursery rhyme that both allude to "Three Wise Men of Gotham"...

21 September 2021


I must admit that when it comes to science, I am a bit thick. As thick as two short planks as we say here in Yorkshire. I am to science what Atilla the Hun was to embroidery. Frigging useless.

Therefore would you please forgive me as I pose this conundrum. It is something that has been in the back of my mind for a long while.

Okay, here we go.

On this planet we have trees and fields. Every year the trees bear masses of leaves, fruit, nuts and seeds. The fields sprout corn, potatoes, turnips, rice and plenty of other stuff.. That's a lot of volume wouldn't you agree? If these products  of the earth were all piled up together we could make massive mountains every year.. Then the next year there'd be more mountains till the planet would be covered with such piles.

Effectively, the planet would be growing - expanding every year - as long as we didn't eat the stuff or burn it. And we would have to protect it from natural rotting processes.

The wheat and the apples and the courgettes (American: zucchini)  grow where once there was nothing - creating  an extra volume of matter. 

It's all very puzzling. I just don't get it... but as I say with regard to science I am a dunce in a pointy hat.

P.S. I hope the trees and the fields continue to produce in the bountiful manner described because climate change has already begun to curtail this timeless process.

20 September 2021


Beverley Minster still rising high above the houses

Clint was deposited at the "Park and Ride" car park  at Hessle west of Hull. I rode on a double decker bus to the stadium and headed to a little Polish cafe on Anlaby Road. We have met up there countless times before.  It was a lovely, sunny morning so we bagged one of the picnic tables in the small enclosed garden at the back. "We" meant me and Tony and Karl. 

We had what the young Polish café proprietors call British breakfasts as opposed to the Polish breakfasts that are also on the menu. We drank mugs of tea.

The game began promisingly for The Tigers but well, one thing led to another and we ended up losing the match by three goals to one. It might have been so different if  fortune had been on our side. The result cast a shadow over the weekend. It's crazy I know but a victory always puts a smile on my face  and the world seems like a much better place for a day or two. It is the opposite of that when we lose.

Back in the town of Beverley six miles north of Hull, Tony and I went walking. First we headed to the  allotment that he and his wife Pauline have been working on for the past eighteen months. We sat in the afternoon sunshine drinking tea from a flask after picking the last of the raspberries.

Allotment gardens  looking to Beverley Minster's twin towers

Then we walked along Beverley Beck to the point where it meets The River Hull. Beverley Beck is really a short canal. It was dug in medieval times and along it the limestone for Beverley Minster's construction was brought in barges. Beverley Minster is a truly magnificent church built between 1220 and 1425 and it still stands in testimony to the town's medieval importance.

At the end of  Beverley Beck there is a small marina and in there - I kid you not - there's a silver submarine. It has been there for years. If the skipper shouts "Down! Down!" the submarine won't be going far - perhaps no more than five feet!

Submarine at the end of Beverley Beck

Pauline was heading out to Hull for a little soiree with some of her nursing colleagues so Tony and I visited one of the best pubs in the world. It's real name is "The White Horse" but everyone around Beverley knows it as Nellie's. I first had a beer in there over fifty years ago. It hasn't changed much though on Saturday night I noticed that it was not heaving with customers. It still retains its authentic Victorian appearance.

Then we went on for a delicious late curry at "The Windmill Inn"  before heading back to Tony's house for "Match of the Day" on the television.

Statue that remembers medieval carriers in Beverley

In the morning, Tony made a slap up breakfast as our endless conversation continued. Then I whipped Clint's silver buttocks, galloping back west to Sheffield. However, before leaving the East Riding of Yorkshire, that land of my heart, I made an interesting diversion - to a vineyard! It was the Little Wold vineyard near South Cave on the edge of the chalky Yorkshire Wolds. There I bought a bottle of  the Barley Hill White (2020). Shirley and I have drunk it  before and it's excellent. Mind you it needs to be at £15 a bottle.

Apart from what happened on the football pitch, this was a great weekend. It was nice to  be back in the very town where I went to school between the ages of sixteen and eighteen - Beverley Grammar School, on the edge of The Westwood. Like coming home.

Signs spotted on an old house in Beverley

18 September 2021


It's 8.45 on Saturday morning and the sun is shining. Clint is outside gleaming like a silver rocket ship, ready for take off. We are going over to the city of Hull in an hour. I'm off to see our match with Sheffield United. Kick off is at 12.30pm - an unusual time, no doubt chosen for the benefit of Sky Sports. Don't you just hate Rupert Murdoch?

As requested by The Office for National Statistics I have already completed  a swab test and a PCR blood test this morning. It's something we do every month as part of an ongoing national survey.

I will be staying over in Beverley tonight with my friend Tony and his missus Pauline. He's also a Hull City nut and we have watched countless matches together. Seen plenty of downs and a handful of ups such as reaching the promised land of The Premier League back in  2008.

Blogging will be problematic so to accompany this short post I am just leaving you with three pictures of Phoebe from my daughter's Instagram account. The beloved granddaughter was eight months old this week. She's  ⅔ of a year old. Now I must go and shower the vessel in which I dwell. Up The Tigers!

16 September 2021


Cyclists on The Old Coach Road, Clumber Park

It was time for another walk. I pressed the buttons on Clint's onboard computer and he whisked me off in  an  easterly direction along the A57 to Worksop in Nottinghamshire. There he parked himself along a quiet lane close to Manton Lodge. We were on the northern edge of Clumber  Park - once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle.

Today I just wanted to walk in Geograph squares that I had not yet ticked off. There were many, many  trees but with the assistance of a map I made my way happily in a sausage-shaped circuit of some six  miles.

On one narrow lane I met two council workers in day-glo jerkins. I conversed with them for a while. Their role is to clear up litter and something awful that we in Britain call "fly-tipping". I do not know what this is called in America, Canada, Australia, Germany or New Zealand. Essentially, fly-tipping is the dumping of rubbish in the countryside. Often it's simply the detritus from building projects - broken tiles, old lumps of mortar or half-empty bags of cement, random bits of wood, plastic bags and suchlike. The thing is that someone has to clean this crap up  - people like the two men I met.

As we parted, I said  "Keep up the good work gentlemen!"

Happy as a pig in muck

Flytippers are the lowest of the low in my opinion. They do not give a toss about the environment that we all have to share and apparently they have zero concern about the fact that their mindless dumping causes local councils extra and very unnecessary expense.

Ah well, it's nice to blow off a little steam.

Clint transported me back to Sheffield  with little persuasion. Beforehand, we pulled into a McDonalds where I was hoping to purchase one of their brand new plantburgers but apparently they have not reached Worksop yet.

15 September 2021


The Old Grammar School in Market Harborough

Last week, when we were holidaying in Leicestershire and Rutland, I snapped almost two hundred photographs. I shared a handful of those images with you - illustrating blogposts. Today, I simply wish to share some more previously unseen pictures from that lovely week away. We could have easily chosen this week but I am glad that we didn't because it's rather grey and chilly and we have seen some rain  in the past three days. It's hard to believe that just a week ago we were applying sun lotion.

Strangely weathered gravestone at Tilton-on-the-Hill

Ceremonial horseshoes in the Castle Hall, Oakham

Modern stained glass window in Melton Mowbray church

Another view of Normanton Church, Rutland Water

Passer-by in Oakham

14 September 2021


From the Bosh! Instagram page

In Britain there are five big supermarket chains. One of them is called "Morrisons". Yesterday they launched a new range of vegan ready meals designed by Bosh!

They are really good. I know because I have eaten each of the six ready meals -  "Smashin' Shepherd's Pie", "Ultimate Chilli and Rice", "Smokin' Spag Bol", "Mighty Mac N' Greens", "Crackin' Jalfrezi Curry and Rice" and "Game Changin' Lasagne". All so delicious that it is very easy to forget that they contain no meat or dairy elements.

For your interest, the packaging is all recyclable apart from the thin film that is sealed to the tops of all similar ready meals. The card sleeve is made from recycled paper products.

Ian and Henry were over in Wrexham, Wales three weeks ago - visiting a large food factory that has been charged with producing the Bosh! ready meals and shipping them to Morrisons stores around the country. They are in  five hundred locations though the supermarket chain began as a single shop here in Yorkshire.

It is, I am sure you will agree - incredible news. Ian and Henry are further excited by the special relationship that Morrisons have established with Amazon for food deliveries.

The "Bosh!" journey continues. We are naturally so proud of our Ian and wonder what might come next. Perhaps more ready meals...

13 September 2021



Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts in 2001

"I’ve no recollection of ever meeting her" - Prince Andrew

Well, she was just seventeen
You know what I mean
And the way she looked was way beyond compare
So how could I dance with another (Ooh)
When I saw her standing there

Well she looked at me, and I, I could see
That before too long I'd fall in love with her
She wouldn't dance with another (Whooh)
When I saw her standing there

Well, my heart went "boom"
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine

Whoah, we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long I fell in love with her
Now I'll never dance with another (Whooh)
When I saw her standing there

Well, my heart went "boom"
When I crossed that room
And I held her hand in mine

Whoah, we danced through the night
And we held each other tight
And before too long I fell in love with her
Now I'll never dance with another (Whooh)
Since I saw her standing there
Oh since I saw her standing there
Oh since I saw her standing there

12 September 2021


The amazing "Bosh!" story continues. Our son Ian and his old schoolmate Henry have been working hard on their sixth book and it is now available for pre-order pending its release in early December I believe.

Some critics of plant-based diets put about the myth that being vegan is expensive. In this book Ian and Henry wished to dispel that daft rumour and prove that preparing good vegan food can be inexpensive. In fact, when you take the meat or fish element out of food you save yourself many pounds or dollars (Malaysia: ringgits).

Three weeks ago I was checking the final publishers' manuscript for errors and discovered something that made me grin from ear to ear. Ian had not told me in advance about this but in the desserts section of the book there's a recipe for "Neil's Tiger Bars"! In other words they are named after me with a nod to my lifelong support for Hull City A.F.C. - The Tigers! Though I have not yet eaten one of these bars I am confident that they will be amazingly yummy just like me. Sorry about the image below - it is a photo I took of page 203 of the manuscript:-

My immortality  is at last guaranteed!

To explore Bosh! start here.

11 September 2021


Medieval carving in St Peter's Church, Tilton-on-the-Hill

Back home now. It's not terribly far from the heart of Leicestershire to our home in Sheffield. Clint made it in one hour and forty minutes.

Last evening we visited "The Fox and Hounds" in Tugby for a second meal there. Once again the fayre and the service were excellent. Stewart and I had homemade steak pies with fries (English: chips) fresh vegetables and beef gravy. Shirley had a Moroccan chicken dish with couscous and Frances had a pork medley with mashed potato and side vegetables. For dessert, we all opted for homemade sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Mouth-watering deliciousness.

Another view of Normanton Church by Rutland Water

The owner of Chestnut Cottage lived right next door in Glebe Cottage and she was cool about us departing by midday rather than by 10am as stated on  the contract. We toddled north across the A47 to visit a modern cafe that is very popular with cyclists and locals alike. It is called  Café Ventoux  and there they serve great English breakfasts, including a splendid vegetarian option. Phoebe was her usual contented self. So far in her short life, she has always been calm and smiley in eateries, showing a lovely, easy disposition that we hope will endure.

Oh it was good to get away to Leicestershire - not a typical holiday destination for English folk but we  loved it all the same. Of course, the good weather helped a great deal but we were also very happy with our spacious, comfortable cottage overlooking the village's little primary school and the village green. I will always remember Tugby as sweetly as we will surely remember the local area - a green and pleasant land.

Some of the skittish cattle I encountered near Skeffington

10 September 2021


Cottage in Uppingham

The weather held yesterday. The  rain and thunder that were forecast did not arrive  even though cloud cover increased from the west by the late afternoon. I began the day with a three mile walk out of the next village west of here - Skeffington. Another charming place.

Harvesting near Skeffington

By Welsh Myers Farm, I had a tricky encounter with a herd of mixed cattle. The public footpath led across their field. They were a little panicked and raced two or three times from one corner of their enclosure to the next. I was so happy to reach the far gate and get out of there. They clustered by it with apparent disappointment.

"I told you we should have trampled him earlier!" muttered Buttercup.

My womenfolk and I spent a couple of hours in nearby Uppingham - a small town famous for its public school. In England, a public school is essentially a school for the children of the rich so its really a private school - not open to the public at all. The fee for a boarder is currently £40,000 a year or $55,000 (US). The school is the alma mater of Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Boris Karloff . Surprisingly, it has not spawned a single prime minister in it its five hundred year history.

A glimpse of Uppingham School

We found the place to be quite lovely with little shops and quaint cottages. We enjoyed an excellent lunch in "The Crown" on The High Street. Lovely Mediterranean food that arrived within ten minutes and pleasant, attentive service too.

Hospice shop on Uppingham High Street

In the evening I prepared a simple meal of Lincolnshire sausages from the local butcher, chips (US-french fries), baked beans and fried eggs, followed by scrumptious brownies made by the butcher's wife.

Beforehand, I went on another "Geograph" photo expedition with Clint's assistance, gathering a bunch of map squares in the local  area that I had not yet captured. This involved another visit to the Rolleston Hall country estate where I had to open and close four gates. This is most unusual on a public road in England. Confusingly, "public" in this sense does not mean a private road but one maintained by the state.

Lovely little Phoebe on the rug yesterday morning

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