31 July 2022


Nature is pretty resilient and its principal urge is to live, to exist, to reproduce. Consequently, it came as no real surprise to me that our old horse chestnut tree has shown signs of regrowth. Green stirrings on the stump.

You may recall that we hired tree surgeons to take the tree down in May, leaving only a stump that we could use as an extra bird table. Go here. I could have asked for the stump to be removed or for "tree killer" to be poured into drilled holes but I didn't want that. Ofttimes when you fell a tree, the shock is sufficient to bring an abrupt halt to any future growth 

Today I cut off any regrowth emerging from the remaining trunk and applied weed killer to the greenery thrusting  upwards from around the horizontally sawn plane where the fatal chainsaw cut was made in May. I am hoping that that will do the job of inhibiting or preventing any future growth though I would not put much money on that prospect.

Meantime, congratulations to England's women on beating Germany in the final of the Euros 2022.  You did your country proud and I am not ashamed to say that when the final whistle blew, I had tears in my eyes. An authentic moment of mingled joy and pride. England 2 Germany 1.  Brilliant and well-deserved.

30 July 2022


On Friday afternoon, I held Phoebe's hand and walked her up our garden where some immature apples had fallen too early from a tree. She picked one up and inspected it.
"Apple," I said slowly "App-le!"
"App-le" she said. "App-le..."
A magical moment.

Phoebe is eighteen months old now and she keeps bringing extra joy into our lives. She was on holiday in France recently and we missed her a lot. Conveniently, the holiday coincided with Simon's death and the days that surrounded it. For two weeks we were free  from our regular child minding duties.

I copied the following four pictures from my daughter's Instagram page...

In the second picture, she is stroking the concrete figure of a cat that sits on a paving stone atop the grave of our cat Blizzard. In the last picture, she is rocking like crazy on her little blue horse even though it appears to be still. Such joy. The apple of our eye.

29 July 2022


Whee the funeral service will happen

This is the night before we return to Simon's cottage for the final push. One more trip to the recycling centre in Hornsea. Sorting out and retrieval of some tools. There's a pretty new chainsaw. Not sure what to do with it. I don't want the hassle of selling it.

Today I received a scanned copy of the funeral director's bill. I am meant to sign it and then e-mail it back but what a faff that is! I think I will drop in on them tomorrow morning. The office is not far from the recycling centre. 

For your information, the total cost of the funeral - including church fees will be £3,700 ($4507 US). This does not include a small-scale post-funeral reception in one of the local pubs. Fortunately, three months ago, Simon transferred a decent sum of money into our bank account - sufficient to cover his funeral costs.

The saga will continue way beyond his burial a week from today. I have written "The Probate Maze" in my notebook. Just locating an office which could send me the appropriate application form was a challenge in itself and then of course there were the obligatory phone queues and numbered options before I finally spoke with a human being who promised to mail me the twenty one page document. He said it would arrive "in a few days". We will see. I am not brimming with confidence about that promise.

Tying up all the loose ends of my brother's "estate" and bringing it to a proper conclusion will take a long time - possibly a year. It would have all been so much easier if  Simon had left a will. I know he wanted to but he hesitated far too long until it was too late.

It will be me delivering the eulogy in the church where we were both christened. Thanks to my long time blogging chum Bob Brague in Georgia USA for suggesting that a eulogy should celebrate a person's life - speaking positively and graciously about the departed. And that is how it will be. It's not a time for criticism or dark truths. Simon could not help who he was and I guess that that is the same for all of us. We never decide who we will become and we don't buy our personalities in shops. We evolve and make our marks almost  in spite of ourselves. That's what I think anyway.

28 July 2022


Fifty two years ago, I saw Joni Mitchell in concert at The Isle of Wight Festival. There she was. Young and vulnerable, alone upon the stage in the middle of the afternoon when some sort of crazy anarchist guy ran on to the stage and grabbed Joni's microphone in the middle of a song. The watching audience were appalled and Joni was visibly upset. It was all that she could do to carry on.

Over half a century later and just four days ago, she came back from the dead to appear on stage at The Newport Folk Festival in the US state of Rhode Island. Sitting upon a kind of throne and surrounded by acolytes, she seemed happy to revisit some of her old songs. She was no longer alone and it was clear that those up on stage with her revered her like a living goddess. After all, only a goddess could write songs like "Both Sides Now", "Big Yellow Taxi", "Woodstock", "A Case of You", "The Last Time I Saw Richard", "California" and "The Circle Game".

After her shocking brain aneurysm in 2015 and tales of her imminent demise, it was almost miraculous to see moving imagery of her resurrection. Joni Mitchell is not dead. She is still with us. Her broad smiles seemed to indicate that she thoroughly enjoyed being back at Newport basking in all the acclaim and the light from so many happy faces.

27 July 2022


St Augustine's Church, Skirlaugh

Monday morning meant a visit to The Wilson Centre in the city of Hull to register Simon's death and to pick up copies of his death certificate. Then we wandered through Queen's Gardens up to Hull College so that I could take a photograph of a stone column on which there's a statue of  one of Hull's most famous sons - William Wilberforce (1759-1833) who diligently and successfully campaigned for the abolition of slavery in The Americas.

Once out of the city we stopped to pick up sandwiches and drinks in the village of Skirlaugh knowing that we had a few hours ahead of us working through the remaining detritus in Simon's cottage. We ate the sandwiches in the village churchyard. Built in the early years of the fifteenth century, St Augustine's is an unusually light and airy church - an excellent example of the Perpendicular style of ecclesiastical architecture.

Onward to the village, finding more boxes of stuff to sort through in the cottage and Simon's two sheds. I had to be as ruthless as possible but it was quite tragic chucking out bits and pieces of my family's old life. A ship in a bottle, amateurish framed water colours by my father, old books, pottery, glassware, holiday souvenirs, three figures made by my mother which Shirley photographed before we consigned them to a "household waste" bag. Some of the stuff was allocated to charity shop boxes.

We filled Clint up with stuff to transport to the household recycling centre near Hornsea. As I approached the little seaside town that figured large in my youth, my way was blocked by a police cordon. Apparently, a murderer had fled to the coast that morning, dying in a collision with another vehicle but hey, that's another story. The detour added several extra miles to my short journey - down single track country lanes. 

Back at the cottage, we worked through till six o'clock when I phoned our friend Tony to ask if we could stay the night in the house he shares with Pauline in Beverley. He gladly consented and the next morning we were up early and on our way back to the village for another day of hard labour.

Three more visits to the recycling centre with Clint filled to the brim. I bought fresh sandwiches and drinks from a bakery in Hornsea. Fortunately, the cordon had been lifted and more details of the previous day's tragic events had been revealed. The driver of the other vehicle was a local electrician who now has "potentially life changing injuries". Poor lad. Wrong place, wrong time.

Summer field by Bewholme Lane

By six o'clock on Tuesday evening, we had once again run out of steam but there was still more detritus to deal with. Not far to go now though. We are pretty damned sure that the job will be done next time we go over there this coming Saturday. Then we will be able to hand the keys over to the landlord and landlady and try to forget about that awful place.

It is kind of sad that many bereaved families have to deal with similar house clearances between a death and the funeral that follows. It would be better to enjoy quiet contemplation and reflection about the departed than to fill boxes and sort through the physical remnants of lost lives. Thanks to Shirley for all her hard work in helping me to reach the finishing line. I could not have done it without her.

William Wilberforce Monument in Hull

26 July 2022


Alessia Russo wheels round after her superb back-heeled goal

Hurrah for England's Women! Tonight, here in Sheffield, they thumped Sweden by four goals to nil to make it through to next Sunday's final of The Women's Euros 2022 at Wembley Stadium. There they will play either France or Germany.

I have watched every minute of every game that England have played so far. It has been a display of determination, togetherness, high energy and skill. At the highest levels, women's football is not the same as the men's game. It's not better or worse - just different.

Internationally, the best women's team in the world is the USA but the current England team have been proving that they could  even give the USA a good run for their money. When Alessia Russo scored her 68th minute back-heeled goal it was as audacious as it was brilliant and a signal that women's football has truly arrived in this country.

Come on England! 

25 July 2022


Well I didn't achieve much yesterday. It was a grey and lazy kind of day with drizzle filtering down from the heavens above.

In the afternoon, I decided to have a go at the occasional brass-topped table that I rescued from my brother's cottage. I should have taken some "before" pictures but all I have to show you is two "after" images.

I spent an hour and a half working on the table - washing it, polishing it, buffing it and I even rinsed it in the light rain falling outside. I am pretty pleased with the end result and hope that my son Ian and his girlfriend Sarah will want it in their new home. I won't be forcing them.

The intricate brass top of the table came from Old Delhi in India and it must have been made some time in 1945 as the curtain was coming down on World War II.

My parents were married on December 8th in the Anglican church in New Delhi and they would start their voyage home at the end of that month. I imagine them seeking out souvenirs that they could bring home.

Down some dark alleyway in Old Delhi they would have bartered for the best price  as brass-workers skilfully tapped away at their designs with little hammers. Mum was twenty four and Dad was thirty one. Their married life and Peace in Europe lay ahead of them. Their war in India had been a generally wonderful, happy experience but it was time to go home. Back to reality.

I guess that my step-grandfather Jock Morris made the wooden base. He was good with wood and at solving practical conundrums. Mum and Dad brought a second brass tabletop home which was already in our house and which I blogged about here.

24 July 2022


Detritus is what remains. In terms of a human life, it is the debris left behind.

Yesterday, Shirley and I were back at Simon's cottage, trying to clear up the detritus. Sorting through it, saving and dismissing his stuff like beachcombers.

As Simon lived with our mother for the last years of her active life, there was also some of her detritus to make decisions upon. Bits of evidence of  our family life in the village. Four sons, a mother and a father - none of us thinking of death - just getting on with living. But mostly it was Simon's stuff.

Old school reports. Exam certificates. Postcards from afar. Letters that did not get thrown away. Birthday cards. Books and maps. A tin of dome-headed drawing pins. A poem. Leather belts. Fading photographs. A school badge. School ties. My father's green cricket cap from Malton Grammar School circa 1933. A pre-war theatre programme in which Mum was credited. Pressed flowers turned to dust. A cassette tape. Diaries listing the voyages that Simon made when he worked aboard small coasters that carried goods to and fro across The North Sea. Three brand new kettles. Jackets and work boots. His curriculum vitae. A purple "Gonk". Many tools old and new. Badges. A dead butterfly - a painted lady. Etcetera.

Some of the stuff will end up at the Household Recycling Centre in Hornsea. Some will be donated to charity shops in Sheffield. Some went into the waste bins outside the cottages and a few items we will keep including a brass-topped occasional table from India. Our parents brought it back to England after World War II. I am hoping that Ian and Sarah might like it.

Simon's six year old Mercedes van is still parked outside the cottages. I have no authority to drive it and we have found no paperwork connected with his ownership, insurance and maintenance of that van. It will be a good long while before we are in a position to sell it.

That's how it is. That's where we are at. Dealing with the detritus. And we will be back on Monday afternoon after my appointment to register his death in the city of Hull and to collect some death certificates which to my disgust cost £11 each.

23 July 2022


That's my quiz sheet from last Sunday night. The sheets cost £2 each and they are self-duplicating.

You win two beer tokens for a line, two for the four corners and four for the most points plus all the entry money collected. As it happens this sheet won the four corners:-

Q25 Who is the gamekeeper at Hogwarts School?
Q4   What JOTB  describes what someone  does when they decide to follow a current trend?
Q23  Which range of mountains separates France from Spain?
Q11  Name the iconic sit-com whose co-creator recently said that she was embarrassed about the lack of diversity on the show.

As you can see, supported by my three teammates, I scored 21 points out of 25 overall. The four I got wrong included: What kind of foodstuff is a morel? I put cherry when the answer was mushroom. I could have kicked myself.

Q 17 was a "true" or "false" question, that question being - There is a service station in Berlin, Germany where motorists are attended to my topless women - true or false? The answer was surprisingly, "true".

It's fun to focus on a quiz with three or four friends. The quiz provides a focus for the night so it's not just about drinking beer and  general conversation.

Mick and Mike and I cannot remember exactly when we started quizzing together but it was certainly in the last millennium. And there's always time  for catching up on things - family news, hobbies, the state of the nation, holidays, sport and male grooming products.

The fourth member of our team is Danny but he has only been with us eighteen months or so. He was once one of Mike's closest neighbours. Recently it was his seventieth birthday and he invited us to a slap up lunch at "The Prince of Wales" where Mike, Mick and I quizzed together before the place became a fairly posh restaurant.

By the way, if you hadn't already guessed, I was lying about male grooming products. We don't need them.

22 July 2022


Tower Bridge

Okay, let me backtrack to last weekend. If you remember, Shirley and I went down to London to see our beloved son Ian and his delightful girlfriend Sarah. They have just bought a house together in Fulham. Please don't ask me how much it cost. An eye watering amount.

On the first night, Ian rustled up a fine vegan meal with meaty jackfruit and roasted chick peas as well as lollo rosso lettuce and couscous with red peppers. Then we had water melon and mango pieces for dessert. All very nice and so for those few hours I was vegan. I still wonder why some people get hot under the collar about veganism - making ill-informed judgements and sweeping generalisations.

On Saturday we hoped to visit The Chelsea Physic Garden near The Royal Hospital. It is a very old garden in which a wide range of medicinal plants are displayed for the public's pleasure. Annoyingly it is closed on Saturdays so we could not venture in. One of us should have checked.

The Walkie Talkie Building

We walked on to Sloane Square and the nearby Saatchi Art Gallery. Its gardens were hosting a food festival with dozens of little stalls. It felt very hot with the temperature pushing 32 degrees. and many visitors were sheltering in the shade of the big plane trees.

The famous London Underground has several different lines and the one that runs up to The Tower of London is called The District Line. Unfortunately, much of it was closed last weekend for engineering works and so we found ourselves walking from the Embankment station to Tower Hill. We took our time. There was no rush and we stopped for refreshing drinks at "The Ship Inn" - tucked away up an alleyway near The Monument to The Great Fire of London.

St Paul's Cathedral

We arrived at The Tower of London around 4pm, ready to see the amazing "Superbloom" display of wild flowers in the moat. What a brilliant idea! There were masses and masses of wild flowers and whoever  hatched this idea deserves a medal. Apparently, it will  keep running for a good few years.

After drinking and dining in a restaurant by St Katharine's Docks, we did something I had never done before - walked across Tower Bridge - opened in 1894 towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign. What a bold statement of national pride that bridge is. No expense was spared. We had good views up and down The Thames.

There was more waiting around to do before we attended The Ceremony of the Keys in The Tower. Our tickets were courtesy of one of Sarah's brothers who is an officer in The Irish Guards. It was a rare privilege to be in The Tower after dark witnessing history. Photography was verboten.

On Sunday, we reserved a table for lunch in "The Captain Cook" near Ian and Sarah's house. It was just perfect and afterwards Shirley and I headed up to St Pancras Station for our train back to Sheffield. That was cancelled so we had to jump on the next train - leaving just after four. We were lucky to find two seats as the train was understandably crowded. Our tickets weren't even checked.

Ian and Sarah in Fulham

21 July 2022


Amongst Simon's things, in a dump of cardboard boxes, I found a figure that I had not seen for fifty years or more. I had completely forgotten about it. I guess that I made it when I was eleven or twelve years old. It represents the pinnacle of my exceedingly short career in fabric craft.

Our mother Doreen was a brilliant craftswoman. She could turn her hand to just about anything - from embroidery to lampshade making and from gloving to basket weaving. I remember her guiding me through the process of creating my little "Gonk" figure - with me insisting that I do it all by myself. In the end I was as pleased as punch with what I had done.I think it was a year or two later that I sewed "Hull City" on the back of my unique "Gonk" and the number 8 which was Ken Wagstaff's shirt number.

I have no idea what Waggy would have thought of my Gonk tribute. It is possible that he might have been offended.

It's just past 1.30pm on Thursday. Yesterday was all about telephone communications in relation to Simon's death. There's been a lot of waiting around and effectively I was trapped in our house, keen not to miss the promised  call back from the registrar's offices in Hull. They have still not called this morning. Some time soon, I must attend those offices in person and I need to blend that appointment in with another "sorting out" trip to Simon's cottage. It's most frustrating to be hanging around at this sad time.

Little Phoebe is on holiday in France right now so our childcare services are not required this week. In that sense, I guess that Simon picked a convenient time to cast off his mortal coil. Nonetheless, we are both missing our lovely  granddaughter who brings extra joy into our house whenever she visits. Her other grandparents are enjoying her special company this week. along with her two little cousins from Western Australia.

20 July 2022


Song for Simon

No more
Wood pigeons cooing
Morse coded messages
From the ridge tiles
Nor painted ladies
Shimmying through open windows -
Fluttering like tiny Bhutanese prayer flags
No more the dark two a.m.
Wondering who I am
Recalling paths unfollowed,
Regrets twinkling
Like distant stars.
No more struggling for breath
Or cowering in the shade of death.
It’s over.
No more plans
And no more schemes,
No more
Elusive butterfly dreams.
Your words are destined to stay unsaid
Now that you have joined the dead.
     No more…
No more.

19 July 2022


March 22nd 1956 - July 19th 2022
Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travellers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call

18 July 2022


The Thames from Tower Bridge

When a blogger sits down to create a new blogpost, he or she may be short on ideas. At other times, he or she may have plenty to say. Tonight I find myself torn between an update on Simon's situation and a more detailed account of our weekend in London but I have picked the first option accompanied by photographs from our little trip to the capital.

This morning we were phoned by Simon's attached hospice nurse at nine thirty. She suggested that we should get over there sooner rather than later which sounded rather ominous though unsurprising. Normal visiting hours are between two and seven.

We arrived at lunchtime and were taken to Simon's spacious room - The Princess Diana Suite. There was even a framed picture of her by the door. She was smiling coyly as princesses are wont to do.

The hospice was modern, very clean and immaculately presented. Simon was lying in his hospital bed, unable to converse or communicate his basic needs. His eyes were closed or half open. He has been receiving sedation and occasional painkilling injections. He isn't even drinking any more and if he had died this afternoon - just drifted away - it would not have been a surprise.

Flags at Covent Garden

Quietly, I sang three songs to him - "Waltzing Matilda", "The Skye Boat Song" and "Lavender's Blue Dilly Dilly". Shirley played him some tunes on her smartphone including "Scarborough Fair"and two songs recorded by our talented niece Katie. One of these caused my eyes to leak.

I held his hand and stroked his hair and put an ice cube to his lips. It is doubtful that he even knew we were there. 

"Superbloom" and Tower Bridge

The staff were lovely and understanding. It takes special people to care for the dying - to see them on their way in peace and without pain. I am very grateful for their service.

We are planning to travel back to Hull on Wednesday but that journey may not happen because he could so easily die tonight or tomorrow.. And when he goes, all of his demons and unrealised dreams will go with him. Sixty six years is not the longest life to be lived  by far but for Simon it seems sufficient. I stroked his arm and tidied his hair and wished him "sweet dreams".

In Fulham Cemetery

17 July 2022


Don't worry. I am still alive even though I haven't blogged in a couple of days. 

Simon is now safe in the hospice and though we will see him again tomorrow,  this weekend Shirley and I took the opportunity to visit our lovely son Ian and his equally lovely girlfriend Sarah in their new home in Fulham, West London. It was the first time we had seen it.

We slept in the attic room which in spite of the blistering heat outside was very comfortable. The house was refurbished to a high standard by the previous owners and Ian and Sarah have enjoyed their first month living in the property.

It was great to see them. Together we visited The Tower of London for two reasons. Firstly, there was an amazing display of wildflowers in the former moat called "Superbloom" and then, secondly, as the sun was sinking, we attended the ancient "Ceremony of the Keys" which has been conducted every night for the past seven hundred years. It is the oldest extant military ceremony in the world.

We all slept soundly on Saturday night and then at lunchtime today we visited "The Captain Cook" pub in Fulham for Sunday lunch before Shirley and I headed back to St Pancras for our late afternoon train back to Sheffield. It was in fact cancelled so we had to board the very crowded 16.02 back to Sheffield. Thankfully, we bagged two seats.

There's more to be said in the week ahead and of course I snapped a good number of photographs too. So yes, still very much alive as Great Britain awaits the hottest temperature ever recorded in the next two days.

And, by the way, I have never visited a hospice ever before.

14 July 2022


On the way to see Simon, we took a short diversion so that I could bag a few more Geograph photo squares. Beyond the village of North Cave, the road rises as motor vehicles traverse the rolling chalk hills and dales that we call The Yorkshire Wolds. That's where I took my latest pictures though clouds muted the July sunlight.

Leaving Beverley, the clouds had grown more ominous and sure enough, for three or four minutes, Clint had to contend with a sudden deluge that was over soon after it had started. Someone turned the tap off and by the time we reached my home village sunshine was already evaporating the puddles. Clint had been in need of a good wash.

Simon had been assigned a new Macmillan nurse. The first one had only managed to visit him once in two months. The new nurse assessed the situation quickly. Speaking kindly, she offered him three options - stay at home with daily support in a hospital bed that would be delivered to the cottage, go into the East Yorkshire hospice till the end or go into the hospice for two or three nights of respite before returning home. Simon picked the the third option.

Consequently, the nurse phoned the hospice and was able to reserve a private room for Simon. Then she arranged for ambulance transport tomorrow morning. He was not bullied into this new arrangement. He picked it willingly himself though in his heart of hearts he must realise that he may never return to his rickety old cottage.

His woman friend who is currently staying in the village will be there in the morning to see him off in the ambulance with the bag that Shirley packed for him and his purple "Do Not Resuscitate" form and his negative lateral flow test.

The hospice website says this: "At our hospice we care for patients and their families with love, sensitivity and compassion so that their last days together may be spent with dignity and quality in a setting that feels like home."

It feels as if the time is right and I guess that it is really the best place for him. He will be safe there and good people will be watching over him as he reaches the end of his story.

Princess Diana visited the hospice in 1992

13 July 2022


Fulwood Booth Farm
It was late when I decided to drive out of the city for a short walk in nearby countryside. 

I parked Clint on Fulwood Lane at the top of Roper Hill and the first sound I heard was the distinctive call of a curlew. It is a memorable and plaintive sound. Then I heard another and watched as she winged her way over unkempt grassland, her long beak curling down to the earth. Perhaps they were nesting in that rough pasture.

I walked on, passing a farm called Fulwood Booth before descending to Redmires Reservoirs. It was a lovely warm evening with the sun slipping down over Stanage Edge, gilding the edges of this northern city.

And as I walked I thought about Simon whose life must surely end in the next few days. It could even end tonight. We are travelling over there again tomorrow. I plan to meet up with a newly assigned Macmillan nurse. The previous one only visited Simon once in the past seven weeks.

How nice it would be if he could die peacefully in his own bed - just drift away without pain. Stepping from his dreamworld into that  inky darkness that lasts forever and ever and from which we can never return.

Shirley and I are supposed to be heading down to London on Friday for two nights. It may or may not happen. If he does pass away there's someone else who could be there for him - an old girlfriend who has returned from southern England to see him before he goes. Simon never once mentioned her to me. We only learnt of her existence yesterday.

Today she messaged us to say that he had had another fall and has cut his nose. Apparently the local doctor came to have a look at him and said, "It's not as bad as it looks". Mmmm...we'll see tomorrow.

The evening has now passed and a super moon is rising above the rooftops.

View to Lodge Moor from Roper Hill

12 July 2022


Halkidiki, Greece July 2012
We used to store photographs in tin boxes or photo albums which were then hidden away in cupboards or attics. Then digital cameras came along and everything changed. Now we store our pictures in computer folders or on memory sticks or CD's.

Yorkshire Wolds July 2012
I guess that some people who are good at neat organisation by nature have their digital photos stored in a logical, easily accessible manner but with other folk it will be very chaotic with photos all over the place. I guess that I am somewhere between these two extremes. 

The French Pyrenees above Ax-les-Thermes July 2012
Since I bought my first digital camera around Christmastime 2004, I have taken thousands of photographs. Looking back, I should have been more ruthless - deleting weaker pictures, saving only the best and most meaningful. But I didn't - I kept most of them like a virtual hoarder.

Hope Cross, Derbyshire July 2012
One wonders how one might feel if one's hard drive imploded or even exploded causing the loss of thousands of pictures. Fortunately, I would still be able to find many of my pictures in this blog or on the Geograph photo-mapping site so not all would be lost. However, I really should get round to backing them up on the external hard drive my daughter bought for me the Christmas before last. I can be such a procrastinator.
"The Riverside" pub, Sheffield - July 2012
For the purposes of this blogpost, I decided to go back ten years to July 2012 and to pick out a small bunch of photographs I took that month. Picked from my computer photo library, dusted off and shared with you.
Sunflowers near Coussa, L'Ariege, France - July 2012

11 July 2022


Back in 2007, we helped our son Ian to buy a terraced house just a stone's throw from Sheffield United's Bramall Lane Stadium. He was only twenty two at the time and for five years he lived there with paying friends. But in 2012 he moved down to London with his then girlfriend, Ruby.

Gradually, Ian washed his hands of that house and by default Shirley and I ended up as a landlord and landlady - not something we had ever wanted. We used savings to pay off the mortgage and for the past seven years we have rented the house out to strangers.

When Ian lived there I used to cut the privet hedge at the back and mow the little lawn. This carried on right through to 2017 when the current tenants moved in. He is a Canadian academic working at The University of Sheffield  and she is amongst other things a translator, specialising in Spanish.

When they moved in, I told them about the previous gardening and hedge-trimming arrangements but Dr Maple-Leaf said that he would be happy to do it all himself. Oh yeah! Right.

It is amazing how big a privet hedge can grow in five and a half years. Today, Shirley and I went over to the house to trim that hedge right back following a plea from Dr Maple-Leaf.

We took over everything we would need - including stepladders, sweeping brush and big heavy duty builders' bags for carting the massive pile of trimmings to the nearest recycling centre (i.e. council dump!).

It was a hot morning but we soon got stuck into the job and all was going well until I came across a robin's nest on the higher part of the now twelve foot hedge. It contained four bright blue eggs and later I spotted the mama robin hopping around. Naturally, my work on that part of the hedge ceased and I moved along. Then three feet later I discovered another nest containing three or four hatchlings - baby wood pigeons with their eyes still closed but they were squirming around in their downy birthplace.

I left that area of the hedge and moved to the very end where I discovered a third nest. I don't know what was in there for I could not see in and it might have been an old nest but I left it all the same. That was three nests in a hedge that is only twelve feet long.!

We gathered all the hedge trimmings, squashing them into the builders' bags and  headed off to the recycling centre. They pretty much filled the back of Clint - my South Korean automobile. He was none too happy about being used as a refuse vehicle.

I was determined to get that job done today but it remains only half-finished because of the nests. We will have to go back in a couple of weeks to try again. Meantime we hope the birds succeed in raising their young in spite of our unwelcome disturbance.

Newly hatched pigeon


Walking back from "The Hammer and Pincers" at 10.45, I was glad that we had won the quiz once more. The blue of that hot summer's day sky was melting into sunset's lingering rosiness as velvet blackness crept in from the east.

I thought of yesterday and how a painted lady butterfly fluttered into Simon's cottage. I tried to shoo it out but it would not go. It settled  on one of the ceiling beams. Upstairs another painted lady had fluttered through the open bedroom window. Shirley watched it and tried to shoo it out but it would not go.

In spite of myself, I sometimes think that butterflies and birds may provide some sort of mysterious signalling at vital points in people's lives. It's probably a load of poppycock but I swear I have witnessed their surprising appearances at key moments and have been left considering what they might suggest.

Throughout history, butterflies have been seen as symbols of many things - not only transformation and purity, but also death and sin. Do butterflies appear when angels are near?

Interestingly, the painted lady is the most common butterfly on the planet. It is found on every continent apart from South America.

9 July 2022


Seventy five miles there and seventy five miles back. Yet another trip to see my younger brother as he continues to drift towards death's harbour.

Shirley was with me again. At least it's summer now so the decrepit little cottage is enjoying temperatures that are more conducive to human existence.

Simon lay in bed the whole time we were there which was the entire afternoon. We wanted to dismantle that bed and bring it downstairs so that he wouldn't have to tackle those rickety stairs again but he refused our offer. We worry that his death might come through falling down that terrible staircase in his physically weakened state. But no.

Grouse butt on Blackhole Moor

We discovered that he doesn't have a normal electricity supply contract with an energy firm. Instead he has a "pay as you go" meter into which a special USB stick is inserted from time to time. His credit had shrunk to just thirty nine pence so the meter desperately needed to be topped up. This involved me driving to the nearby village of Brandesburton where I bought £30 more credit for him. In the meantime, Shirley did some more cleaning.

We wanted him to have a bath while were there but again he said no. We worry about him slipping in the bath and banging his head. He might not be found until our next visit.

Last week, I contacted his local doctor and said clearly that I was very concerned about him and wondered whether or not there was any sort of plan in place for Simon's end of life care. The doctor said he would visit the next day but patient confidentiality rules meant he would not be able to discuss outcomes and observations with me. That seems a little crazy though of course I can appreciate the principle of the confidentiality rule.

Track to Moscar House

What does he think of as he lies there? What is he remembering as he drifts between his dreamworld and the reality of a warm summer's afternoon in the heart of East Yorkshire - six miles from the sea.

When we got back to Sheffield, the traffic was snarled up because of a football match: Sweden v The Netherlands in the Women's Euros 2022. Some bright spark had dreamt up the idea of a "Fans' Walk" to Sheffield United's Stadium causing several road closures. As a result we did not have time to make and eat  dinner at home and we were late for agreed babysitting duties at Phoebe's house. Grrrr!

Same as yesterday, the soothing photos were taken on Thursday's long walk.

Approaching The Strines Inn

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