29 November 2021


This is Day 333 of 2021. If that is true, how come I have only created 289 blogposts - including this one? Somehow  there have been 45 days on which I have not posted a fresh blogpost. Perhaps I was asleep. Checking through the past months, I can see that March was my least productive month. I managed to miss eight days but for the life of me I can't remember why.

I am now trying to cover lost ground as the end of the year approaches. I aim to get past 300 posts for the year.

In the year that I began blogging - 2005 - I only published 42 posts. Then the graph started to rise -  110 posts in 2007, 132 in 2009 then up to  214 in 2011. I finally broke the 300 barrier in 2017 with 319 blogposts. My biggest total was just last year with 340 posts published.

Okay. Okay. I can hear you thinking - "This is a dull post! Going on about blogging statistics!" so it's about time to change focus....

Britain is a maritime country with changeable weather conditions throughout the year. Yesterday I reported on the arrival of winter but twenty four hours later, winter is in retreat. The snow and ice are melting as I type and tomorrow is predicted to be a very mild November day in London with the noontime temperature up to 12C.

Why London you ask? Well Shirley and I are heading down there tomorrow. We are going to see a play produced by Ian's girlfriend - Sarah. It's called, "Yes So I Said Yes" by David Ireland and it looks at "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland/ I believe it's going to be pretty gritty. The reviews have been good much to Sarah's relief.

Today I took photos of the weird snowmen outside the house across the road from us. They must  have been made by Sophie and Helen - the two sweet girls who live there. They are both in secondary school now but they still make snowmen - or is the small one a snowcat? I wonder if there will be more snowmen for them to make in the weeks ahead?

28 November 2021


View up our suburban street five minutes ago at 11.05pm on Sunday night

Here in northern England, it had been an exceptionally mild autumn until this past weekend. I got up very early on Saturday morning - disturbed by an infuriating ticklish cough. I looked out on our back garden and noticed that there had been a light dusting of snow - like icing sugar sprinkled on a sponge cake.

I made a mug of tea and sat down in  the study with the desktop computer in front of me. I am sure you know yourself how easy it is to fritter away time when online. An hour later, I got up and went into the kitchen to check out the back garden once more. In that hour a couple of inches of snow had fallen - associated with Storm Arwen - the first named winter storm. 

The decking furniture was thickly covered in the white stuff and so was the bird table. It was six thirty in the morning and snow was still whipping down. I went back to bed and with Radio 4 playing on the side, I managed to return to slumberland for  two more hours. When I woke for the second time, I looked out of the bedroom window and in the risen morning light revealed a veritable whiteout though by this time the feathery snow was no longer falling.

Clint was supposed to be driving me over to the city of Kingston-upon-Hull later in the morning - sixty miles from our house.  I was meant to join Hull City's small army of supporters that cheered the lads on to victory against Millwall from south east London. In the event, I decided not to go. Our street was snowy, I would have had to dig Clint out and with the ticklish cough and the broken night's sleep I was not in top form. So I stayed at home in the warm.

It's been the same today (Sunday). I have been housebound. The most I have achieved is making Sunday dinner for Frances and Stew who came over with the little princess in spite of yet more falling snow. Snow upon snow. They loved my dauphinoise potatoes. Maybe one day I will post my special recipe in this blog.

Little Phoebe's development is motoring along. When I managed to sit down in the front room for five minutes, she crawled over to me and pulled herself up to a standing position using my trousers to grip upon. Then I read her "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" for the umpteenth time before returning to my Sunday dinner preparations.

According to our digital thermometer, it's minus 1C now and I just popped out to take a photo looking up our suburban street. Brrrr!

27 November 2021


That once was me

It was hidden from public view. Most of it happened rather secretly in my own time - at night, over weekends, in holidays, in the early morning, during lunchtimes. It never seemed to end. No matter how hard I worked at it there was always more to do. I devoted countless hours of my life to it . Perhaps a little conservatively, I estimate three hundred hours a year - the equivalent of seven full weeks.

What am I talking about?


Marking was the bane of my life and as an English teacher - later Head of English - I had a lot of it to do. It never enriched me personally one iota.  It was always for somebody else. I would sit there with my red pen reading reams and reams of writing from adolescents - helpfully pointing out grammar and spelling errors, making helpful suggestions while providing praise and encouragement wherever possible.

It was something quite unfamiliar to P.E., Maths and Art teachers for example and not really part of their weekly routine. However, when inspectors came to visit my English department they often had peevish things to say about marking practice. They would never stop to consider for a moment when the marking might be happening. It was an unspoken assumption that English teachers would willingly give up many hours of their private time without extra pay to get children's books and written assignments thoroughly marked and up-to-date.

I remember one particular inspector - who had not been an English teacher himself - criticising a junior colleague. He said he had found some unmarked pages in some of her charges' books. She was a hard working young woman who engaged effectively with her various classes and was an assiduous marker. I thought "So what!". There are plenty of other things I would have liked to say to such passing visitors but they verge on the unprintable. These well-rewarded escapees from the classroom came with their clipboards and then went - never to be seen again.

How many red and green pens did I exhaust in my (almost) forty years of teaching?  A mountain of them that's for sure.

I wish I could get those thankless marking hours back but they have gone forever. I don't even have any examples of my marking to share with you. All those hours and nothing to show. I remember the church clock ringing two in the morning and I remember all the lost lunchtimes sitting at my desk with a pile of exercise books in front of me as I munched sandwiches and gulped hot coffee from my flask. And I remember Sunday nights wading through marking that I meant to do on Saturday morning.

As I say, it was the bane of my life and I thank the Lord Buddha himself that I will never, ever, ever have to do any more marking in my life. Overseen by prison guards, I would prefer to smash rocks in a quarry with a lump hammer.

26 November 2021


Joan Baez is eighty years old now. There was a pureness and integrity about her voice when she was young. Here she is in 1965 singing a Bob Dylan song for the BBC:-

It Ain't Me Babe
written by Bob Dylan (1964)

Go away from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I'm not the one you want, babe
I'm not the one you need
You say you're looking for someone
Never weak, but always strong
To protect you and defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain't me, babe
No, no, no, it ain't me, babe
It ain't me you're looking for, babe

Go lightly from the ledge, babe
Go lightly on the ground
I'm not the one you want, babe
I will only let you down
You say you're looking for someone
Who will promise never to part
Someone who'll close his eyes for you
Someone who'll close his heart
Someone who will die for you and more
But it ain't me, babe
No, no, no, it ain't me, babe
It ain't me you're looking for, babe

Go, melt back into the night, babe
Everything inside me is stone
There's nothing in here moving
And anyway, I'm not alone
You say you're looking for someone
To pick you up each time you fall
To gather flowers constantly
And to come each time you call
A lover for your life and nothing more
But it ain't me, babe
No, no, no, it ain't me, babe
It ain't me you're looking for, babe

25 November 2021


Above, a crippled tree bent double by the prevailing wind. It was in the Staffordshire Moorlands south west of the spa town  of  Buxton and I was there yesterday.

It took me  exactly one hour to reach the village of Flash which is where I parked my South Korean jalopy - Clint. Flash is a small village but pretty noteworthy because it is the highest village in The British Isles. It also has the highest parish church and the highest village pub - "The New Inn"'. Perhaps the altitude got to the signwriter - no apostrophe in "Britains" and an unnecessary capital "V" in  "village". Tut-tut!

Below you can see Three Shires Head which is where the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet.  According to legend this is where crooks would meet in past times to complete business deals or traffic goods - in days when each county had its own discrete law enforcement arrangements. One county could easily be played off against the other.

In the middle of the afternoon, as I returned to Flash via Wolf Edge, I  captured the following two images that seem to  convey something of  the character of that wild and lonely  upland region.

The north wind blew and there was a  distinct chill in the air. We have enjoyed a mild November so far  but up  there around Flash and the outlying farms, it was clear that Winter is on her way - like the scary Snow Queen on her sleigh.

24 November 2021


Central Stores, North Kelsey R.I.P.

When I was born, my home village in the very heart of  The East  Riding of  Yorkshire had a population of just under four hundred. Even so, the village had plenty of services. 

There were three grocery stores, a post office, a confectionery shop run by Mrs Austwick, a butcher's shop run by Tommy Lofthouse, a cafe, a ladies' hairdressers, a men's barbershop, an independent cobbler's shop, Holy Trinity Church, a Methodist church, a fish and chip shop, a primary school, a doctor's surgery, a police station, two pubs, an agricultural store trading in grain and seed and a petrol station with an attached car mechanic's workshop.

Because of housing developments since 1964, the village now has a population of just under 2500. It is six times bigger than it was when I was a boy. However, a lot of those former services have now gone. There is only one grocery store. The barber shop has gone along with the cobbler's, the agricultural store, Mrs Austwick's sweet shop, Tommy Lofthouse's butcher shop, the petrol station, the Methodist church and the police station. Though still managing to stay open, the two pubs struggle to attract customers and I  am sure it won't be long before one of them bites the dust.

Life has changed in rural England. As the fifties turned into the sixties, most rural households did not have their own cars so villages had to be fairly self-sufficient and self-contained. There were no supermarkets in nearby towns. The fresh fish van came on Fridays, the mobile library came on Thursdays and the pop lorry carrying bottles of fizzy drinks came every other Wednesday. Coal and fresh milk were delivered by local families. Weeks could pass by without any need to leave the village.

"The Butcher's Arms", North Kelsey - still in business

I was reflecting on such things as I walked out of North Kelsey in Lincolnshire last week.

Before walking in unfamiliar territory I often have a bit of a look round the area with  the help of Google Streetview. Sometimes I am on the look out for a parking place for Old Clint, my trusty silver chariot.

As I was checking out North Kelsey I noticed the village shop shown at the top of this post and I  thought, "Oh that's nice! They still have a shop." North Kelsey is a significant settlement with a population of just under a thousand so one would think that that shop would be well-supported. Not far from the shop was a pub and I thought "Oh that's nice!" The name of the pub was  "The Royal Oak".

There is another pub in the village called "The Butcher's Arms" and that is still open but last Friday when I landed in North Kelsey, I discovered that "The Royal Oak" is now a large private residence and "The Central Stores" are closed for good. I peered inside and saw the detritus of a business that had failed. Quite depressing.

Now if the people want to buy anything, they have to go by car to Caistor (four miles away) or Brigg (six miles away). There are very few buses. I find it very sad and another signal of how rural life continues to change so that villages become little more than settlements where you sleep.

"The Royal Oak", North Kelsey  R.I.P.

23 November 2021


Extract from the British Prime Minister's speech to The Confederation of British Industry at The Port of Tyne - November 22nd 2021:-


"And Tony, yesterday, I went as we all must to err err a um Peppa Pig World. Hands up if you’ve been to Peppa Pig World – [not enough]. I was a bit hazy about what I would find at err Peppa Pig World, but I loved it. Err...Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place.

Err... Err... um It had very safe streets. Discipline in schools. Heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems, I noticed. Even if they are a bit stereotypical about daddy pig.

But the real lesson for me about going to Peppa Pig World was about the power of UK creativity. Who would have believed err... Tony, that a pig that looks like a hairdryer, or or possibly well a sort of Picasso-like hairdryer... A pig that was rejected by the BBC would now be exported to 180 countries...with theme parks both in err in America and in err China as well as in as well as in the New Forest,.."


Perhaps if the prime minister had not been to Peppa Pig World on Sunday, he could have prepared a more coherent, serious speech to deliver to the C.B.I.. After all, following Brexit,  British industry and businesses inhabit a  more uncertain  economic landscape. They need to feel that the tillerman has the ability to negotiate the rocks.
Daddy Pig

21 November 2021


Eamon Holmes - British TV personality - and the smiling face of equity release

Back in May, 2015 I wrote about my friend Higgy and the issues he was facing regarding health, money, work  and I suppose life itself. Go here.

Roll forward six years and things are no better. He is sixty two now. Incredibly, he held a job down for two years - as a low paid carer attending to elderly people in their homes but he lost that job a year ago over some issue with documentation of visits undertaken. 

In England, the long term unemployed are often pushed into basic jobs by a system that is unwilling to cough up benefits to those who have the capacity to work. It's all much tighter than it used to be and the unemployed are sometimes seen as idle layabouts who in effect are scrounging off the state.  That is how Higgy ended up as a carer when arguably he is someone who needs a carer himself.

I swear that no cleaning whatsoever has happened in his flat since I used to call in there to help Higgy with job applications and the negotiation of welfare hurdles. There are items on his coffee table that have not moved in seven years, including a leather diary that is covered with a 2mm layer of dust.

On another part of the coffee table, twelve  thin rolled up cigarettes were sitting in a line for later. That sitting room is stained brown by nicotine - even the Audrey Hepburn mirror left on the wall by the flat's previous owner. Higgy inherited all of her furniture, including the pictures on the walls, the bed. the carpets, everything  and he was never tempted to change a thing.

It's like a set for a television drama about a hermit-like fellow who was ignorant of the concept of cleaning. In the kitchen , toast crumbs gather like tiny tumbleweeds in an abandoned western gold-rush town and you wouldn't want to see the ceiling where the paint peels  like lines of surf upon an ocean.

Yet Higgy remains as bright as a button when it comes to current affairs and football. He retains so much knowledge, so many names and dates. Perhaps he is autistic but if he is it has never been diagnosed.

He doesn't go out any more because he has no money so he has decided to access a few thousand pounds through the equity release route. He seems to have no other choice and he has pressing debts to pay. Recently he has taken to staying in bed much of the day - just to keep warm. He is dreaming of three pints of lager beer in the local pub at lunchtime on Christmas Day.

In order to  release equity in his flat he needs witnesses and that is why I visited him yesterday with another friend who was also visibly taken aback by the state of the place. It is what my mother would have called "a pig sty". Even so I still like Higgy and I hope the funds come through soon to keep that damned wolf from his door.

20 November 2021


The photograph above has not been enhanced in any way. It is the thirteenth century tower of St Mary's Church in the Lincolnshire village of South Kelsey. I was lucky to catch it in sinking autumn sunshine after a four hour walk in the district before night time arrived far too early as it does at this time of year.

It was yesterday. Clint and I had set off from Sheffield before 9.30am. At 11am I parked him near the church in North Kelsey. After inspecting that lovely church,  which by the way was open to the public, I set off on my planned walk. The surrounding countryside is rich agricultural land. In the past, there would have been more trees, woods and hedgerows and farming would have been a mixed and labour intensive affair. Nowadays, it is more of an industry, eager for profits with machinery that is often computer assisted. Pesticides and herbicides mean that wildlife struggles to assert its presence - from moles and starlings to ducks and badgers. Even insect numbers are shrivelling.

The landscape is pretty flat so there are many land drains such as North Kelsey Beck - shown below:-
Cadney was a lovely little village with a Grade I listed church. It was also open to passers by. Inside, there were some homemade jars of autumn chutney for sale on trust  so I bought one, leaving the money in a locked collection box. Cadney is off the beaten track and sleeping there at night must be so peaceful - far from the hurly burly of city life.

From Cadney I walked west to The River Ancholme. That river looks more like a canal because its old route was superseded by waterway engineers as early as the 1630's. Cadney Bridge, shown below, was constructed in 1882:-
As I walked east along Carr Road, I stopped to take a picture of starlings flying off from telegraph wires. Then just up ahead I saw a bird lying on the grass verge beneath the wires. I assumed it would be a starling but it wasn't. It was a member of the hawk family and it was still very much alive. though my image wrongly suggests that it was dead. I hoped that it was just stunned. Perhaps it had flown into the wires while unsuccessfully trying to grab a starling. What could I do? I decided to leave it. It was, I think, a kestrel but I am no ornithologist. It can't be easy being a hawk in such a landscape. What would you have done?

Lincolnshire is well-known for its associations with The Royal Air Force. By The River Ancholme I spotted this lonely radar tower several miles from the nearest RAF base:-
And over the farmland near North Kelsey there was some sort of training exercise going on. The contrails left behind show that the pilot had just been looping the loop. I hope he or she didn't waste any aviation fuel  because that stuff is precious you know.
Almost exactly four hours after setting off, I was back at Clint. The day's light was fading away fast. I crept up behind him and caught him singing an old Neil Young number:-
My life is changin' in so many ways
I don't know who to trust anymore
There's a shadow runnin' through my days
Like a beggar goin' from door to door

Coincidentally, it was a song that had been playing in my own mind for a while. The great Canadian songsmith wrote it  some time in 1970 - fifty one years ago.

19 November 2021


Above - that's our Phoebe. She was ten months old this week as the card announces. This time she wasn't chewing it!

She remains the loveliest baby you could imagine. She's starting to crawl and can pull herself up to a standing position if there's something to lean on. When we say "Good girl Phoebe!" she claps her hands with glee. 

It wasn't planned but for a few months now I have been speaking for Phoebe as her advocate. After all, she is currently unable to speak English herself. I freely admit that I have been the ventriloquist and she has been the ventriloquist's dummy.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Mummy has just been to the toilet while Grandpa cradles her. Mummy returns. Phoebe says: "Where have you been Mummy? Why did you leave me here with this smelly old man? He has been singing nursery rhymes to me again and I'm sick of them!"

At the dinner table: "How come you get to have that nice stir fry and I get this disgusting baby food and a squashed banana? It's not fair! I want proper food like you!"

Of course Phoebe's voice is quite high-pitched and it is easy to spot Grandpa's lips moving. He's one of the worst ventriloquists in the world but he makes everybody else laugh. Laughter round a baby is not a bad thing.

And here she is in what I call her snow leopard suit. I think Frances took this picture in Canada:-

18 November 2021


In an idle moment last week I set myself a challenge. Could I think of ten famous people dead or alive who hailed from certain different countries? Great Britain was of course no problem at all, nor was the USA.. Canada was slightly harder and so was Australia but I came up with ten for each in the end. The Republic of Ireland was fairly easy - perhaps easier than France:-

  • Charles de Gaulle
  • Edith Piaf
  • George Pompidou
  • Thierry Henry
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Emile Zola
  • Brigitte Bardot
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir 
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Joan of Arc
And then I got on to the hard ones. I managed only seven for Norway and the same for Sweden. I could not come up with the full ten for Italy, Spain or Germany but I was nearly there. And what about the two most populous nations on Earth? India and China? 

I am ashamed to say that off the top of my head I was unable to give ten names for either of these countries. It was the same with Russia - nearly there but not quite.

So I am passing this challenge on to you dear reader. Without googling or smart phoning or even flicking through encyclopedias, can you think of ten famous people dead or alive from either the continent of South America or the continent of Africa? And if you manage that, try to come up with the names of ten famous Russians or ten famous Chinese people.

If you wish you can put your lists in the comments section. Good luck and happy braintime!

17 November 2021



October 27th 2009


Dawn is breaking and I can hear cockerels greeting the day. Some are close by, others are faraway snd beyond those there are no doubt others. There's no clear "cockadoodle-doo" - nothing musical like that, these rooster calls are pained and varied as if appealing to some unmerciful god.

Nearer are more melodic songs from small birds. How did they arrive -here - 2500 miles from anywhere else? There was so much  gorgeous birdsong down in Rano Kau crater  yesterday. I think that place would be a botanist's dream - a micro-climate in which plants have developed with minimal human interference.

Again - how did they get there? Those mighty thick reeds that proliferate in the centre of the crater lake or those ferns with their studded leaves. Was it microsorum parksii? Often used medicinally and in fact seen in other parts of Polynesia though here on Rapa Nui it only grows in Rano Kau crater.


I'm now in the Bar Tavake pub on the main drag of Hanga Roa - "drag" being the operative word because the waiter/waitress is six feet tall, built like a powerful rugby fly half but with long ginger hair, excessive make-up and a flowery Tahitian style dress. Never mind - it takes all sorts.

Today - great breakfast again. I photographed  it for Trip Advisor. I was determined to be much less energetic today but ended up doing plenty of walking. I hitch-hiked to the bay known as Anakena on the northeast side of the island. First a lift to a sort of ranch entrance with a Rapa Nui man in a flatbed Mitsubishi. He said it would take a further half hour to reach Anakena on foot but fortunately an old man with his grandson stopped and took me the rest of the way.- more like a good hour's walk I would say.

At Anakena I was at first the only person there, alone with the impressive ahu with its seven moai standing tall. Nearby there was a more primitive, bulkier moai statue on a separate "ahu" (stone platform). Then a New Zealand woman appeared. She had stopped earlier for me but I had declined the lift as she was heading for Ranu Rakuru - the great crater where 95% of the moai were carved. I was surprised at how little time she must have spent there.

Having clicked several pictures of the moai, I wandered over the headland towards the neighbouring sandy bay - Ovahe.

On the way I saw a horse's corpse rotting disgustingly and I made a stone cairn topped with a bleached bone. The cliffs down to Ovahe looked treacherous so I carefully negotiated the headland before descending. There are many hawks on Rapa Nui and for the second time I was "bombed" but I made it down to the beach safely. A sign said "No Swimming" but I stripped off and plunged in anyway.

Lovely, clear water and a pleasant temperature given the rising heat of the day. Little silver fishes surrounded me at one point and floating on my back  I felt happy and at peace with the world here on this island of secrets.

As I explore, I notice evidence of many other structures - perhaps villages and small field boundaries. What might at first appear as a pile of volcanic rubble is often the ruin of a Rapa Nui house - abandoned who knows when - perhaps two or three hundred years ago. It becomes clearer that although the "moai" are the archaeological headliners that have continued to intrigue the world, there is so much more to see here - to do with daily life and the struggle to simply survive.

Ovahe, Easter Island

16 November 2021


On the southern edge of Sheffield, just beyond the Batemoor and Jordanthorpe council estates, there are three garden centres - New Leaf, Ferndale and Tommy Ward's. I visited all three of them earlier today - searching for a particular Christmas gift for my brother Robin who lives in south western France. The gift idea is garden-related.

In passing I noticed four identical things at each garden centre:-

1) The car park was almost full

2) They each had a lot of Christmas tat on display.

3) There was nobody outside looking at the plants and trees etc..

4) The cafe tables were all full and there were customers queuing at the counter.

It seems that a visit to a garden centre may not be about horticulture any more. Not about seeds and slightly pink hydrangeas or  watering cans and shasta daisies but more about tinsel and singing snowmen made in China as well as cups of tea and toasted sandwiches or slices of chocolate cake and  bowls of carrot and ginger soup.

I have nothing against the elderly as I am officially an old git myself, but it was interesting to note that just about every table in each of the three cafes was occupied by silver-haired people. And they were all chattering away about topics that interest the wrinklies such as the price of bread, grandchildren and the writings of  Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Needless to say, I did not find the present I was after and now must resort to a small online business named after a rain forest in South America. I cannot name the gift in question as my brother sometimes peruses this blog. Hiya bro! Comment ça va?

15 November 2021


The outer side of Ranu Raraku crater where the moai statues were created

In the autumn of 2009 when I visited Easter Island, Chile and  western Argentina, I kept a diary. Had I read it in the last twelve years? I don't think so but today I dipped into it and about thirty pages in I discovered that I had attempted a poem while staying on the island. 

Twelve years later I have reworked it slightly and given it a little spit and polish while retaining the sense that it was "of the moment" - inspired by being there on one of the remotest inhabited specks of land on the entire planet. 

Here it is:-

Rapa Nui

With such certainty
The stone adze struck
Unyielding tuff.
Sometimes the masons
Would wipe their brows
And survey the line
Drawn where ocean met sky.

Way beyond it,
Chinese potters made exquisite vessels,
Aztecs built Tenochtitlan,
Egyptians immortalised the Nile
And America sat unknown.
But here on the slopes
Of Ranu Raraku
They chipped away
Day by day
Making their moai
For the dead
And for the
Extolment of the living.
There was never a doubt
That's what life
Was all about.
Rapa Nui = Polynesian name for Easter Island
tuff = a volcanic rock native to Easter Island.
Tenochtitlan = Aztec city now overwhelmed by modern day Mexico City. It was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas
Ranu Raraku = crater on Easter Island where nearly all the statues were carved
moai = the famous stone heads
Extolment = praise, approval and commendation

Moai inside Ranu Raraku crater - still waiting to be transported

This poem is, I think,  okay. I am glad I rediscovered it but maybe it's time to write another poem or two that reflect upon that faraway island and what it might mean.

14 November 2021


You may recall that it was my job to judge the Week 44 shortlist over at the Geograph site and come up an overall winner. I considered each image carefully and asked Frances and Stew for their thoughts too.

This was the picture that achieved the proverbial bronze medal  and was therefore in third place:

It's St Eadburgha's Church in  Broadway, Worcestershire.

In second place came this stunning backlit shot of dying fern taken by my friend Walter in Tibby Tamson's Plantation in the Scottish Borders near Peebles:

And finally, the gold medallist and winner was this image of Embleton Beach in Northumberland with a stunning early morning view of Dustanburgh Castle. It seems so perfect to me and in my opinion the image really suits the elongated framing:

Most Geograph contributors are men  so it was quite nice to notice that this picture was captured by a woman - though that had no impact whatsoever on the judging process. I just mention it in passing.

© Copyright Philip Halling

Middle  © Copyright Walter Baxter

Bottom © Copyright Rebecca A Wills

13 November 2021


Walking along through the woods below Blacka Moor, who should run past me but Jessica Ennis-Hill and her husband Andy. For anyone who may not have heard of Jessica, she was Britain's gold medallist in the women's heptathlon event at the  London Olympics of 2012. In her illustrious athletics career, she also won three world championship gold medals. She is arguably  Sheffield's most famous and best loved daughter. 

Anyway, I was out for a circuitous walk beyond the suburbs following a two mile route I worked out thirty years ago. It takes me just seven minutes to drive to the starting point. I needed the exercise because Friday had been such a lazy day. I ventured out of the house twice - firstly to the recycling bins at the front and then to the compost bin at the back.

I have done that same walk more than a hundred times. Every time it's a little bit different depending on the month and the weather conditions. Sometimes I plod in a clockwise direction, sometimes anti-clockwise. Normally the circle is completed after an hour though occasionally I stop to talk to people or snap photographs.

Half way along the route is "The Cricket Inn" at Totley Bents. I have taken many pictures of it and today was no exception as you can see from the images above. I was also quite pleased with these two:

12 November 2021


Sheffield is Britain's fifth largest city. The best loved department store in the city centre was  "John Lewis"- part of a well-known  nationwide chain. The shop sat in a prime position opposite Sheffield  City Hall and was much appreciated by Sheffielders and visitors from surrounding districts.

Astonishingly and sadly, in the middle of the pandemic, the John Lewis board decided to shut the shop down as they sought to rationalise their business. Nobody in this city ever anticipated that our beloved John Lewis would be one for the chop. Of course, shutting the store in the middle of the pandemic meant that Sheffielders did not even have an opportunity to mount a campaign to save it.

One late October evening, I happened to be in the city centre  and  felt shocked and slightly disgusted that the illuminated  John Lewis  signs on the now empty building were still burning bright. It felt like a kick in the teeth to me. They had crept away in the middle of the night and yet they still had the gall to advertise their brand to passers -by now deprived of their familiar department store. The next day I composed  an e-mail to the leader of Sheffield City Council. This is what I wrote:-

Dear Mr Fox,

Like many Sheffielders I remain aggrieved about the way John Lewis shut down their Sheffield department store in the middle of the pandemic.

Last week, I happened to be in the city centre one evening and noticed that the illuminated "John Lewis" signage is still operating - both on the Barkers Pool side of the building and on the Cambridge Street side. I found this infuriating. They have unilaterally departed the fifth largest city in the kingdom and yet they leave their signage switched on to advertise themselves. Symbolically, it is like rubbing salt in Sheffield's wounds.

I know you have more important matters to deal with but I hope you will take action over this ongoing insult and get those glaring signs turned off. Who's paying the electricity bill anyway?
Yours fraternally,
Yorkshire Pudding

Today I was pleased to learn that positive action had been taken with regard to my complaint. I received the following response from one of the leading councillors  though I would have much preferred to hear that John Lewis had rescinded their original decision:

Dear Mr Pudding

Thank you for your email to the Leader, Councillor Terry Fox. This has been passed to me to respond.

We have been in contact and they have agreed to switch off the John Lewis signage this week

If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me

Kind regards

Councillor Mazher Iqbal

Executive Member for City Futures, Development, Culture & Regeneration

A small victory but bittersweet.


Shirland Park

"Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?" - John Keats "Ode to Autumn"

I like to have at least one long walk every week of the year. Very often, the days I walk are determined by our weather forecasters. With camera in hand, I prefer my images to be nicely embellished by sunshine. Not for me the washed out greyness created by heavy skies when the yellow orb is in hiding. I like the landscape to burst forth with colour - "alive alive o!" as sweet Molly Malone once sang.

Plenty of sunshine was promised when I set off yesterday morning.

"Where we going this time?" groaned Clint as I lifted his tailgate.

"To Alfreton and beyond!" I announced in my best Buzz Lightyear voice.

It was bright in Sheffield but by the time we got to Phoenix Alfreton a milky greyness had settled over the day. At least it wasn't raining.

At the war memorial in the old marketplace, the remembrance day service was just finishing. A lone piper could be heard as if from the fields of Ypres or Passchendaele. I was wishing I had reached Alfreton ten minutes earlier so that I could have also stood in silence to remember the glorious dead. Young men fighting wars that were not of their own making.

I set off into the murk, my footsteps describing a large circle that took me precisely two hours to complete. By the end of it, the mistiness had turned into the thinnest rain you can imagine. It lightly sprayed my leonine locks and dampened the A4 map of the area I had printed off earlier.

Near Ufton Fields Farm, I heard the grinding unlovely sound of mechanical hedge trimming. Perhaps a more appropriate sound for the eleventh of the eleventh - jarring and unsweetened like war itself.

Back at Clint's parking space on Rowland Street, Alfreton, he said, "Are we going home now?"

"Not yet," I replied for there were three or four random Geograph squares I planned to tick off.

Crich Lane Farm

Driving through the winding lanes of The Amber Valley we went under the overhanging branches of mighty beech trees clothed in their russet autumn coats but the murkiness persisted. It was frustrating because I knew that if it had been a sunny afternoon, the autumn scenery would have been simply glorious.

Instead, it was a grey and mournful day. A day for remembering my Uncle Jack who was killed before I could meet him and all the other Uncle Jacks whose lives were so cruelly cut short. 


A Photographic Tale of Two Thursdays

Above, entering Shirland yesterday with Clint parked up ahead.
Below, entering Market Warsop last Thursday.

10 November 2021


Of course there are many useful environmental lessons that might be learned from reflecting  on what happened on Easter Island. The first settlers discovered a sub-tropical Garden of Eden - forested and green with multitudes of seabirds. There they might have made their own lasting earthly paradise but through ignorance and carelessness and other typically human traits, they gradually destroyed it till there were no trees left and the seabird population was decimated. When the first Europeans arrived Easter Island's heyday was long gone. Where once there had been forest there was now nothing but barren grassland.

"The Guardian" newspaper recently announced the winners in an international environmental photographer of the year competition, organised by environmental and water management charity CIWEM and WaterBear, a free streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet. The awards celebrate humanity’s ability to survive and innovate, and showcase thought-provoking images that highlight our impact and inspire us to live sustainably. (Language from "The Guardian")

I have chosen two of the winning images to share with you, both are from Bangladesh.

In this drone image by Ashraful Islam, a flock of sheep at Noakhali seek water on the cracked earth. J guess there's an anxious shepherd under the umbrella. Though Bangladesh has often had to deal with terrible coastal flooding, in some inland areas droughts have become more frequent and basic survival more challenging:-

The second image is from Chittagong and it is by Subrata Dey. A little boy sits on a rough homemade ladder that reaches up a veritable mountain of used plastic bottles. Plastic recycling has become a significant industry in Bangladesh where much of the sorting is done by hand:-

Shirley and I are pretty scrupulous about recycling plastics, tins, glass, paper and in fact anything else that might be recycled. However, I worry about where our stuff goes. The authorities seem to deliberately shroud their recycling procedures in veils of mystery. I fear that some of our waste plastic might be on that pile or on its way to Indonesia or Malaysia or certain African countries. This is a matter that COP26 might have addressed - to bring about recycling transparency and internationally agreed processes and rules. Sometimes you wonder if they really care.

9 November 2021


It is believed that Easter Island was first settled around 1200AD. Those early Polynesian settlers arrived on ocean going canoes. They came from the west, far beyond Tahiti. In sublime isolation they built a unique society  over five hundred years and it wasn't until Easter Sunday 1722 that first contact was made with Europeans in the shape of Jacob Roggeveen, his sailors and their two sailing ships. Arriving there was purely accidental.

By the way, the indigenous people of the island were Polynesian and of course they never called it Easter Island or Isla Pascua. Nobody knows for sure what they called it though modern descendants of those original inhabitants now refer to it as Rapa Nui.

Ever since I became enamoured with The Pacific Ocean in 1972, I had dreamed of visiting Easter Island one day. I finally made it at the end of October 2009, after a five hour flight from Santiago, Chile.

I stayed at The Hotel Tiare Pacific near the airport in Hanga Roa - the only settlement of note on the island. On my first morning there, after a hearty breakfast,  I set off to see the Rano Kau Crater and the cliffs of Orongo. There were no other visitors there - just me. I was seeing things I had read about and dreamt about. It was up on those cliffs that the annual birdman competitions began.  Brave young men swam out to three small offshore islands to retrieve the first sooty tern eggs of the year.

The owner of my little hotel suggested that I might rent a 4x4 vehicle from one of his friends and for three days this allowed me to travel all over the island on the dirt track roads. I visited as many archaeological sites as I could. The highlights were Anakena beach  where it is reputed the first settlers made landfall and Rano Raraku crater where nearly all the famous moai statues were manufactured.

If you remember nothing else from this blogpost, please remember that the moai statues  that stood on their stone platforms did not look longingly out to sea, they all looked inland to where their people were with their internal issues.

On Rapa Nui I felt fully alive. It was such a privilege, such a joy to walk where those Polynesian people had built their own special world, separated from the rest of the planet. There is no truth in the rumour that Easter Island society collapsed because of European contact. It was already declining when Roggeveen visited and this was still happening when Captain James Cook appeared  aboard "The Endeavour" in 1774 - fifty two years after  Roggeveen.

I could write reams more about that mysterious faraway island. There's so much more to say about it but I will leave it at that for I know that not everybody is as obsessed with Easter Island as I am. I would go back in a heartbeat.

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