26 September 2022


 Well, I just had to share this stunning photograph with you...

It was taken two weeks ago at Yarrowford near Peebles in the Scottish Borders region by a man who has nailed a huge volume of super pictures in that area.

His name is Walter Baxter. I have blogged about him before and Shirley and I met him back in 2013. Walter and I communicate by e-mail from time to time.

The image is of course of a farrier shoeing a horse. In that time-honoured process, there will often be steamy, smoky moments like this one. However, after searching through Google images, I doubt that any other photographer has ever captured the traditional equine scene as well as Walter has done.

If you would like to see more images from his oeuvre, go here and explore.

25 September 2022


Phoebe in Corfu this afternoon

Oh, we have been missing our little granddaughter Phoebe. While we were away on The Furness Peninsula, she was on the island of Corfu in Greece. Yesterday, she even went on a trip to Albania - somewhere I have never been. It's very close to Corfu - just across The Straits of Corfu, sometimes known as The Corfu Channel. She will be back in Merrie Olde Englande on Tuesday.

Phoebe's language skills improve with each passing day so after twelve days of not seeing her we are expecting to be surprised. Beforehand it was mostly single words like "dog", "cat"", "mama" and "dada". She also said "Out!" when wanting out of her high chair and "Yes!" with a nodding head when asked, "Phoebe, would you like a yoghurt?"

It has been such a delight to observe the development of her communication skills but I feel some regret that, try as I might, I just cannot remember the evolution of my own children's speech. It's like it just happened.

However, I do remember a journey back from Shirley's parents' farm in Lincolnshire. Ian was abut eighteen months old and he started to "sing" in the back of the car - mouthing the notes of " Frère Jacques" which was the tune that his plastic duck played when you pulled the string in his cot. Ian had heard it many times. Shirley and I just looked at each other. It was a real milestone in his development.

We won't see Phoebe till Wednesday. I wonder if she will remember us. Maybe she will talk about her trip to Albania or show keenness to discuss the two comedians we have at the top of the British government now - Truss and Kwarteng. Sounds like a demolition company. Oh Lord, save our souls!

24 September 2022


Now that we are back from our week's holiday on the Furness Peninsula, you probably thought that that would be the end of blogposts on that particular area of north western England. Well, I'm sorry, if you did think that you were mistaken because there's just this one last blogpost which  I am using to showcase ten more of the 299 images I snapped during the week. Perhaps you will kindly forgive me for this self-indulgence...

From Top to Bottom:
  1. Detail of  The Spirit of Barrow statue, Barrow-in-Furness
  2. Water pump in a sunny corner, Cartmel
  3. Rampside Hall, Rampside
  4. View from Piel Island to Walney Lighthouse
  5. Old bicycle sign, Cartmel
  6. Sheep scratching herself,  St Michael's graveyard, Rampside
  7. "The Needle" - Rampside Lighthouse, Rampside
  8. Happy sheep at rest, Coniston
  9. Distant view of Blackpool Tower from Hoad Hill, Ulverston
  10. Coffee shop, Cartmel

23 September 2022


In Cartmel

We left our lovely apartment at Summer Hill  at ten o'clock this morning. However, we were in no rush, knowing that the journey back to Sheffield would take approximately three hours. 

It was a beautiful late September morning - the colours of nature so vivid. We decided to make a detour  - first to the village of Cartmel and then on to Grange-over-Sands which was developed in the late nineteenth century as a genteel seaside resort served by a new railway link.

The magnificent east window, Cartmel Priory

At Cartmel, we visited the wonderful priory church  founded by the first Earl of Pembroke in 1190. Then at Grange we ambled along the promenade to the disused lido where thankfully restoration works are soon to commence. 

The disused lido in Grange-over-Sands

In a Mediterranean restaurant we ate wholesome Greek food before commanding Clint to transport us back to South Yorkshire. 

It had been a lovely break in a part of this island that neither of us knew. Lord knows if we will ever be back there but we are glad that we went and made some good memories to recollect through the coming winter and beyond.

The Promenade, Grange-over Sands

22 September 2022


Weather-wise it has been a pretty good week up here on the southern edge of  The Lake District. However, it was always predicted that Thursday September 22nd would be a washout as a moisture-laden front moved in from the North Atlantic.

We decided to just stay home, mooching about, reading, knitting or editing photographs. Our apartment at Summer Hill is spacious, clean and well-equipped with no expense spared on fixtures and fittings. Because of this we could easily bear our self-imposed confinement  We had also planned to venture out in the evening for our dinner (Yorkshire: tea).

We drove north for a couple of miles to the village of Lowick and parked Clint opposite "The Red Lion" It is an old-fashioned public house - warm and clean with no television  sets glaring or music blaring. I had a couple of pints of "Flat Cap" bitter and Shirley had two glasses of golden ale. For my main course I ordered beer-battered cod with chips (American: fries) and mushy peas. Shirley had mushroom stroganoff with rice. 

We followed up with homemade desserts - me sticky toffee pudding with cream and Mrs Pudding chose  chocolate pudding with custard.

It was a good meal and a nice trip out at the end of a grim day. We are heading home tomorrow but we plan to stop off at Grange-over-Sands  and maybe Cartmel too. The weather should be much improved.

"The Red Lion", Lowick in 2013 (©Tom Richardson Geograph)

21 September 2022


We made it to Piel Island!

Last night I did a bit of googling and discovered that around a low tide, it is possible to walk across to the island  over the extensive sands revealed daily between Walney Island and Piel. It is a distance of a mile and a half.

A search of  online tide tables told me that today's high tide would be at 9.30am and the low tide would be at 3.30pm. I figured that if we set off from Snab Point on low-lying Walney at 12.30pm we would be okay.

Clint mumbled, "Bloody fools!" as we laced up our boots feeling some trepidation. After all, it's not every day that you walk across tidal sands where several unfortunates were apparently  drowned in past decades. Naturally, I did not share that particular tidbit of information with Mrs Pudding before we left.

There was Piel on the horizon like an old man snoring on his back. Mostly the sand was hard and flat but in some places it became softer or undulated and there were seawater puddles and  shallow channels to negotiate. Our foot journey felt pretty safe but even so  it was good to reach the stony ramp that leads to the old coastguard cottages built in 1875.

The coastguard cottages, Piel Island

Further on there is "The Ship Inn" where the new King of Piel lives but it was closed today. A hundred yards to the south we investigated the ruins of Piel Castle. It was constructed in the middle of the fourteenth century under the instructions of The Abbot of Furness Abbey to protect his prosperous lands on  The Furness Peninsula from raiders, pirates and Scottish invaders.

Shirley and I were the only visitors. After our exploration, we sat upon the pebbly beach for a little picnic and drank cold water from our flasks. And there was a handful of sweet brambles I had just picked from the dense briars that grow in  the shadows of that evocative castle with its unremembered stories.

"The Ship Inn", Piel Island

I would have stayed longer but Shirley was anxious to plod back across the sands  before the ocean rolled back to claim us. 

It felt so good to be there on the tiny speck of land  that is Piel and I am happy that we made it today because otherwise   it would have gnawed at me until  returning at  some time in the near future.

Piel Castle from the south

20 September 2022


Hoad Hill above Ulverston

Like the vast majority of British citizens, we spent most of yesterday glued to the television watching our nation's fond farewell to Queen Elizabeth II. It was an amazing spectacle, brilliantly choreographed and utterly flawless. It felt as if we were saying goodbye to the Great Britain we have known. What now, now that our noble queen has left the stage?

Late in the afternoon we drove into Ulverston for a walk. We climbed up Hoad Hill to the monument to Sir John Barrow that overlooks the town. Then we drove back to Summer Hill where I prepared a meal of  baby potatoes, cheesy crumb  crusted chicken breasts and broccoli. And we toasted Her Majesty with a nice bottle of viognier.

Today we woke to the news that the Piel Island ferryman has decided  there will be no more weekday sailings for the rest of the year. We were so close and yet so far. Maybe I will never get there.

Donald Campbell's grave in Coniston

Instead today we drove up to Coniston Water and took a cruise in a motor launch around the northern half of the lake. Then we walked up into the village of Coniston where we visited the graves of both John Ruskin and Donald Campbell before happening upon "The Green Housekeeper Cafe".  There we ordered bowls of broccoli and cheddar cheese soup with hunks of  fresh homemade bread. Before departing, I told the waitress that it was the best soup I have ever had and I meant it. "To die for" as folk sometimes say.

Coniston Water today

We drove home via the quieter east side of the lake  It was a narrow country lane but fortunately in those eight miles we only met three other vehicles. Clint was grateful of my slow and vigilant driving.

Back in Ulverston, we had a stroll around the shopping streets and found the statue of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy outside the theatre. Stan Laurel was born and raised in Ulverston long before he headed to Hollywood.

19 September 2022


In The Church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael at Great Urswick here on the Furness Peninsula, I signed the book of condolences on Saturday afternoon thanking Queen Elizabeth II for her dedicated service.

Today is the day of her funeral down in London. As I write, moving images of the regal ceremony in Westminster Abbey switch to and fro upon the television screen here in our apartment at Summer Hill above The River Crake.

I wrote in the book at Great Urswick: "Thank you sweet Majesty. We will never forget you." She has gone and I surmise that something ineffable has died in all of us too.

18 September 2022


We didn't get to Piel Izland today. This morning we checked the ferryman's Facebook page and he said that all ferries today had been cancelled owing to weather conditions. That seemed rather surprising as it wasn't an especially windy or stormy day. We were disappointed.

Instead we went to Seascale Haws which is a National Trust coastal nature reserve on the edge of Duddon Sands. From the dunes of the nature reserve, you can walk out onto the vastness of the sandy estuary of The River Duddon that flows down from the hills of The Lake District. It was a lovely bracing walk and Shirley was as thrilled as I was to experience that surreal marine scenery.

We were there for two hours and afterwards we decided to drive Clint  into Dalton-in-Furness in order to find somewhere for Sunday dinner. Very soon, we happened upon Hartley's  Restaurant on Market Street. And as luck would have it, they had a spare table just for us. Champion!

Hartley's  Restaurant

The meal was great and for me it made a pleasant change not to have to prepare it myself. Mind you, I could teach the chef a thing or two about  roasting potatoes. His were okay but mine are normally fabulous. Excuse me for boasting! Boasted potatoes.

For dessert Shirley ordered baked rice pudding with apricot compote while I had sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

In case you were wondering, I have dealt with the "s" key issue by typing "z" in place of  "s" and then using the red squiggle to locate my intended words. It iz quite arduouz I can tell you. Why not try thiz typing method yourzelf?

In Dalton today zpecially for Zteve Reed

17 September 2022


Summer Hill at Spark Bridge - where we are staying

Today, Saturday September 17th, was a good day. We woke in our lovely apartment  after peaceful and uninterrupted sleep. It was sunny outside and so my first walking plan could be enacted. We set off on foot from Summer Hill at ten thirty and returned two hours later even though at one point we became a little lost and disoriented. Some of the paths around here are little walked and signage has been neglected. Halfway round, my beloved wife was unhappy with me and my guidance and in fact used a coarse unladylike word which I shall not repeat.

On our morning walk
On Roa Island looking to Piel Island

After resting back at Summer Hill and enjoying cheese and tomato sandwiches, we drove along the coast road to Roa Island - a very curious place and not an island at all because it is linked to the mainland  via a manmade causeway. Beyond Roa is another island called Piel. There's a castle there and a pub. You reach it aboard a twelve seater ferry. Today we were too late in relation to the tide timetable but we''ll try again tomorrow. It is a place I have often had a hankering to visit.

Wreck of a fishing boat by the causeway to Roa Island

I made a nice evening meal back at the apartment and afterwards we headed to the nearby town of Ulverston. We had seen publicity that this evening would be the night of the little town's annual lantern procession. We waited for an hour near the entrance to Ford Park and then the lantern procession arrived. It was a huge enterprise involving several thousand townsfolk of all ages. So  many homemade lanterns and such a buzzing atmosphere. Sadly my photographs of this marvellous community event were quite disappointing.

Horse lantern at Ulverston Lantern Procession

16 September 2022


I thought that I would let you know that we are going on holiday in an hour or so.

Florida? Indonesia? Greece? Perhaps Surfers' Paradise with an apostrophe in Queensland Australia or  snorkelling in The Maldives? No, none of these. We are off to Spark Bridge  - at the southernmost end of The English Lake District via The Snake Pass (A57) the M60 round Manchester and the M6 up to the north west of the country.

I will be taking our old laptop with me even though the letter "S" key no longer works so blogging might be a little problematic. We will be away from home for a week.

15 September 2022


From the brown book. Emma from England's West Midlands was in her early twenties when I offered her a job in my department...

"Well, where do I start? I know that compared to many I have known you for a relatively short time but I can honestly say that you have been more influential in my life than many I have known for all of it. Without wanting to sound too over the top, I will be forever indebted for what I have learned from you. Below are just some of the things I will take from knowing you

  1. Obviously the first should be my teaching. I really would have never survived the first year without your support. I will always remember the first time I heard you bellow - telling off a child. I actually felt a little guilty that I sent him to you - but such feelings later wore off. 
  2. Your work ethic - I always thought that  I  worked hard before I met you but I have never known someone so dedicated and yet receive so little appreciation for this.
  3. The fact that I now have some geographical knowledge owes a lot to the conversations we had in your car when you gave me lifts home.
  4. I now think twice about the energy I use at home and always shut down my home computer and refuse to leave the TV on stand-by.
  5. Strangely I now find myself checking how Hull City did at the weekend and I am always a little disappointed if they have lost.
  6. I am more determined than ever to write my book and in a sense it doesn't matter how rubbish it might be because really it is more for me than any potential audience.
  7. I should eat more curry dishes because they really are NOT all the same.
  8. Confirmation  that "EastEnders" is the best soap on TV. (An afterthought here is that rather than teaching you could become a scriptwriter  for the show. I'm sure you could do it with your eyes closed!)
  9. To say what I mean and mean what  I say.
  10. Your holepunch.

I promised myself at the start of this that I wouldn't attempt a poem but in thinking about what you have taught me I find myself imagining sitting in one of your lessons on poetry and hearing you say that I should just try my best so here goes:-

Autumn 2009

Term begins and you are not there
Who will listen to my rants and share
When a child is being rude and unruly
What do I do when I can't call on yours truly?
In detentions students will sit and brace
Should I tell them to  draw a smiley face?
At the end of the day when all have gone home
Will I be left in the department alone?
How will I cope the whole year through?
The answer is simply to think, "What would Neil do?"

I hope this goes some way to showing how much you will be missed. Thank you and enjoy your stress-free future."

Love, Emma xx

14 September 2022


Doreen: May 24th 1921 - Sept 14th 2007

Fifteen years ago today my mother died. 

It was a Friday. Mum had been in a residential home for just over  a year at that point. At the age of eighty six, she was going downhill and her death was not unexpected. We had visited her the weekend before but she could no longer hold a proper conversation and the strings that connected her to real life were either  broken or frayed.

At around ten o'clock that Friday morning, the residential home phoned my workplace with an important message. I needed to get over to the home in Beverley, East Yorkshire as soon as possible as the end was clearly nigh. The only trouble is that I did not receive that message until four o'clock in the afternoon and by that time Mum had gone to join the angels.

The woman on the school reception desk had failed to pass the message on to me. She said she had called the English office phone but nobody answered. I explained that I had been teaching a class at that time and besides, as it was such an important  personal message why had she not kept trying or perhaps she could have sent a messenger directly to me.?

I could and would have driven over to the residential home  to be beside my mother as she passed away but I was denied that opportunity.  It was typical of that school. They wanted teaching staff to give their all and more but when it came down to conveying a momentous message to a loyal member of staff, they could not manage it.

Anyway, amongst the boxes in my late brother's spare room, I found that familiar photograph of my mother. It used to stand on the window sill of the dining room in my childhood home. It was taken in New Delhi, India in December 1945. She would have been twenty four years old. World War II was over and so was her service to the Royal Air Force. It was time to come home with her new husband - my father, Philip.

Mum was a strong woman who lived a fulfilling life. She was an organiser, a singer, a skilled craftswoman  and a fervent Labour Party supporter. With a mother like that,  her sons could never question women's equality. She proved it all the time but had a soft heart too. I still miss her and I think about her every day.

13 September 2022


The images that accompany this blogpost were gathered today when I undertook a six mile walk out of the village of Holymoorside west of Chesterfield. The starting point was just twenty five minutes from this keyboard and Clint did not complain about the run out.

For mid-September, the day was unseasonably mild and I was wishing that I had put a T-shirt and shorts on.  By the time  I  reached the top of  Nab Lane I was sweating like a pig  with five and a half miles still to go.

On Harewood Moor these three young sheep turned to look at me. They were but lambs in the springtime - frolicking and gambolling  as lambs are wont to do...

A fly agaric mushroom viewed from above:-

Wild roses near Harewood Grange....

A  view of  Harewood House Farm....

And oh, it was good to be out. Putting in the miles and rebuilding my strength. I did not encounter even one other walker and at the end my feet felt like lead weights  as I trudged back up the hill to Clint where flasks of cold water were waiting in his boot (American: trunk).

12 September 2022


I am writing this blogpost in our study on what is now our old Dell P.C.. Bang next to me is a large pine bookcase that we had made twenty or more years ago to fit the space. The bookcase is now bursting with books two deep. I must admit that I have a psychological problem when it comes to offloading books. I just can't get rid of them.

On the sixth shelf down there is a "book" with a three inch brown spine. Actually, it looks rather like an old photo album. It has been within touching distance of this keyboard for the last thirteen years and yet in all that time I never inspected it until this past weekend.

It was given to me by my immediate colleagues when I left the secondary school where I was The Head of English and Assistant Head and where I worked for twenty two years. Perhaps they imagined that when they put the book together with its photographs and writings that I would pore over it that very weekend but it has literally taken me thirteen years to check it out.

In one or two future blogposts I plan to share some of its contents.

In other news, some visitors may be interested to learn that I managed to sell my brother's Mercedes van last week. I confess that it had been like a millstone round my neck. I ended up re-taxing it and buying a week's insurance before driving it to a "we buy and car" unit in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The price I achieved was over £500 more than the offers I got from a local garage and an organisation called The Car Buying Group. I had no appetite for selling the van privately even though I was fully aware that I might make a better price on it that way. It was worth reminding myself that I personally will gain no profit from this sale. It's gone and I can breathe a sigh of relief. Now on to the next death-related hassle.

11 September 2022


Another weekend over. Of course it's not the same as when I was a schoolteacher anticipating the busy working week ahead - all the demands upon my time and those endless human interactions. There was never enough time to get everything done.

Nowadays, I do not have to don my metaphorical armour on Monday mornings. Most mornings are the same - sleeping late and then getting up for an unhurried breakfast with a big pint mug of tea before taking a shower when I feel like doing so. As The Eagles sang, I can "Take it Easy" and I am not complaining. Welcome to retirement.

On Saturday morning the doorbell went. I was still in my dressing gown. In case of accidental exposure, I adjusted and re-tied the belt on said dressing gown. Good job too because two earnest religious missionaries were on the doorstep.  Two women. 

Before they could get into full flow, I cut them short - telling them that God does not exist and that I had been an atheist since childhood. "Sorry to let you know", I said. The older woman replied, "That's all right. We respect other people's opinions" and I said, "I am sorry. This is not an opinion. It is a fact. God does not exist. It's all a myth.". And before closing the door I said "Good luck!"

Even though it was only yesterday, I cannot remember much else that happened. I picked the last of the plums and  I made a nice evening meal - fried chicken, baked potato, fine green beans and a tomato salsa that I created using some of the excess tomatoes from Shirley's greenhouse. I also read another chapter from a book on Buddhism that I am currently reading. Oh and I also spoke to our son Ian who is holidaying on the French Riviera with his girlfriend Sarah.

Today (Sunday), after showering, I went up the garden to clear a neglected area close to the stump of the horse chestnut tree we had removed in May.  Shirley was keen to create a "bug hotel" using logs and, branches and other redundant wood. Of course this helped the clear-up operation. We began with a builder's wooden pallet. Earlier, I had watched  Queen Elizabeth's funeral cortege leaving Balmoral and proceeding to Aberdeen  along a sunny high road, under trees on the north bank of The River Dee. Fare ye well sweet Majesty - the true Queen of Hearts.

Before long, it was time for me to get back inside to prepare our Sunday dinner - roasted loin of pork, roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnip, tenderstem broccoli, sage and onion stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and homemade onion gravy - followed by strawberry cheesecake with fresh strawberries and vegan vanilla ice cream.

During the preparation of said meal - Frances, Stew and Little Phoebe arrived. She called me "grandma" after rehearsing "grandpa" in the car. Never mind, she's getting there with her fast developing language skills.

This evening I caught the bus up to Bents Green and another quiz night at "The Hammer". Trouble was that the quiz company "Redtooth" had failed to send the pub the week's questions so I ended up just chattering with Mick and Danny. Mike's on a holiday break in Llandudno, North Wales. I caught the Number 88 bus home at 10.48.

And that folks was my weekend in a nutshell.

10 September 2022


American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote the following poem on the day of Queen Victoria's funeral - February 2nd 1901. Victoria's death was felt around the world in much the same way that Queen Elizabeth II's passing is being felt today.

The Queen's Last Ride

The Queen is taking a drive to-day:
They have hung with purple the carriage-way,
They have dressed with purple the royal track
Where the Queen goes forth and never comes back.

Let no man labour as she goes by
On her last appearance to mortal eye;
With heads uncovered let all men wait
For the Queen to pass, in her regal state.

Army and Navy shall lead the way
For that wonderful coach of the Queen's to-day.
Kings and Princes and Lords of the land
Shall ride behind her, a humble band;
And over the city and over the world
Shall the flags of all Nations be half-mast-furled,
For the silent lady of royal birth
Who is riding away from the Courts of earth,
Riding away from the world's unrest
To a mystical goal, on a secret quest.

Though in royal splendour she drives through town
Her robes are simple, she wears no crown;
And yet she wears one; for, widowed no more,
She is crowned with the love that has gone before,
And crowned with the love she has left behind
In the hidden depths of each mourner's mind.

Bow low your heads -- lift your hearts on high --
The Queen in silence is driving by!
The last photo taken of Queen Victoria in her lifetime 

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