31 August 2022


Verse 257 in The Saga of My Brother's Death and What Happened Afterwards, involved me travelling five miles to a suburb of this city that I do not know well.  It is called Darnall and I was there for an appointment at a branch of The Trustee Savings Bank. It was Simon's chosen bank.

I was there to shut down his current account and I was dealt with very pleasantly and professionally by a lovely young woman called Emily. Previously, I had repeatedly tried to use the bank's "simple" online process to close the account but to no avail. I had fixed today's appointment three weeks ago.

Though not entirely tied up because the bank requires a signature from my brother Robin in France, today's business went smoothly thanks to Emily.

Afterwards I thought I would have a little walk around Darnall. Once it was an entirely white working class district. Many steelworkers lived in the terraced streets but in the last fifty years it has become a magnet for Pakistani and Bangladeshi  immigrants and Muslims from a number of African countries. I don't know what the population balance is these days but I would guess the white host community is now less than 50% of the total.

Reedesque street scene in Darnall

Because I  had only had a slice of toast for breakfast, I was getting hunger pangs so I decided to treat myself in  "The Teasmaid Cafe" that was once home to "Dot's Chip Pan" takeaway. Looking up at the big menu on the wall, I  noted that for £5 you could buy either a traditional English breakfast or an intriguing  Indian breakfast. Perhaps bravely, I decided to go for the latter. Onion omelette, a melange of chick peas (channa) with keema (mince) and tomato with spices and two freshly made parathas (a kind of Indian bread). It was simply delicious and here it is:-

30 August 2022


Ben Bank Farm

This morning, I was disturbed from my slumbers by a telephone call from South Africa. Yes - it was "Motorway" calling once again. They had received the extra photos and they wanted to know if I wished to proceed with the sale of the van. "Yes", I said.

Ten minutes later they phoned back. Where was the van service history? I pointed out that I had dealt with this question before and had only e-mailed them on Sunday to confirm that the van has an incomplete service history. "Oh, no problem!" said the woman at the other end of the line. "You still want to go ahead with the sale?"

Ten minutes later they phoned back. Is it my name on the V5C document proving ownership? "Yes it is". Did I say that the van belonged to my deceased brother? "Yes it did". Have you got a copy of the death certificate and the will?  "There is no will and why do you want these documents anyway as I am now the official registered keeper of the vehicle?"

In this area The Trans Pennine Trail follows the course of an old railway

I was put on hold for five minutes, listening to jarring music and then they came back to me to say that the sale was off. They would not proceed. At this point I should say that in my very first contact with this organisation I had explained carefully the circumstances surrounding the van's sale.

It has been two weeks of exasperation and annoyance and now I am back to square one. I told the "Motorway" lady in Johannesburg or Cape Town or where ever it might be that the decision was absurd and they had greatly inconvenienced me these past two weeks. But no doubt my words fell on deaf ears.

It was a nice morning but by the time I got to Dodworth Green near Barnsley, the sky was clouding over.

On The Trans Pennine Trail approaching Hound Hill I met a man with a walking stick. He was smoking a cigarette and wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend "ZERO GIVEN"  and the image of a fox in the middle. Apparently it's to send a clear negative message to street beggars. He seemed quite obsessed with these people and directed a ton of anger their way. I wondered why that bad feeling wasn't targeted elsewhere - to the doors of our political leaders for example.

He was born in the same year as me. He told me he had a lot of pain in his legs because of blood flow and blood pressure problems. He had had two or three operations and he further told me that if things don't improve, he will have to have both legs amputated.

I told him that my destination was a civil war tower on Hound Hill Lane, erected by a local landowner and royalist - Richard Elmhirst. My new best friend said he had never heard of it though he lives less than a mile from the tower in nearby Gilroyd. Anyway, he walked along there with me, pausing two or three times for breath. I don't suppose I will ever see him again.

English Civil War Tower on Hound Hill near Barnsley

29 August 2022


Almost a decade ago I planted a  small plum tree up our garden near the vegetable plot. It is still only a moderate size but in the past ten years the tree has produced many pounds of plums. This late summer is no exception. The variety is prunus domestica 'Victoria'.

When left to ripen the plums are plump, juicy and sweet. Only a few of our plums ever seem to get spoilt by creepy crawlies but the other day. after biting into a plum I encountered a small plum-coloured caterpillar waving back at me.

I can always tell when we are going to get a good crop. It is all to do with the blossom that appears in April. If the blossom has chance to hang about for a few days in settled, dry and sunny weather then pollinating insects have a chance to do their magical job.  But if the first appearance of the blossom is followed by rain, cold and wind then very little pollination will happen.

One summer there were only three or four plums on the tree but this year I would estimate we have already picked two hundred and fifty plums and there's still more to come.

We have given little bags of plums to our neighbours and on Sunday Shirley made a plum crumble for dessert after our Sunday dinner. Today she took over the kitchen in order to make several jars of plum chutney. The air was filled with the rather acrid aroma of bubbling  red wine vinegar and spices, including mustard seeds, green chilli pepper, ginger and paprika.

So that's all I have to say tonight on the fascinating subject of plums but before writing this blogpost I  trawled back in time to find this picture of the upper part of our garden in April 2014 when the tree was still very little  - just on the other side of the vegetable plot:-

28 August 2022


I think that seatbelts  in motor vehicles are a damned good idea. In the event of a collision, seatbelts can stop you or your passengers from  catapulting through the front windscreen  (American: windshield)

When I began driving, wearing seatbelts ( or seat belts) was not compulsory in the eyes of the law and besides, most cars  did not have seatbelts installed. I freely admit that it took me a while to get used to wearing seatbelts. I am grateful for bleepers in cars that admonished me whenever I had forgotten to put my seatbelt on. Like one of Pavlov's dogs those bleepers eventually  taught me to comply with the law.

Taxi drivers, delivery people, emergency service drivers and drivers of public buses  do not have to wear seatbelts. I would ask - why not? And I would ask the same question of passengers on public buses. Why don't they have to wear seatbelts? Okay there are usually no seatbelts fitted but why not?

Tonight I was the only passenger aboard the 10.48 Number 88 bus home  from Bents Green. The young driver was racing along like Max Verstappen while I gripped the grab rail in front of me. I would have clicked a seatbelt but there wasn't one.

If I had been driving a car, the police could have charged me and I might have received an automatic fine of up to £500 ($US 585).

What is the point of seatbelts from a  governmental point of view?  One would think that it's to save lives. Saving people from themselves. It's in the public interest.

Okay if that really is the case, then why are people allowed to ride around on two-wheeled vehicles? I am mostly thinking about motorcycles but also bicycles. Obviously it would be verging on the  technically impossible to fit seatbelts on such vehicles but if that is the case, shouldn't they simply be banned? 

In 2021, 280 British motorcyclists were killed in road accidents and 14,690 casualties were  recorded overall. None of them were wearing seatbelts.

Another point I reflect upon is the absence of seatbelts on British railways.  You can thunder along at 170mph but no one in your carriage will be wearing seatbelts - because, of course, there aren't any! How can the law insist on seatbelt wearing in cars but not on trains?  It seems so contradictory  and therefore so wrong. But one day we shall reach The Promised Land.

27 August 2022


Evidence of a Friday evening stroll along Stanage Edge. How many times have I photographed those abandoned millstones? In different seasons and different times of day and different weather conditions. On Friday I noticed the golden quality of the evening light with the sun sinking at Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Just above the millstones - another familiar photo subject - the triangulation pillar at the southern end of Stanage Edge. In case you are interested, it is Trig Point 6150. The high number may give you an indication of just how many such pillars exist in The British Isles. 

It wasn't the most dramatic of sunsets but as you can see others were up on the rocks to witness the nightly spectacle. You never know what you are going to get.

And then today, Saturday, I was back over in East Yorkshire. I spotted this lovely stained glass window in St Mary's Church, Elloughton. The church itself was built from local stone in the second half of the thirteenth century...

And here's the church itself in all its summer glory. Well cared for and well-maintained in an affluent village on the southern edge of The Yorkshire Wolds.

Two miles to the north, there's another lovely wold-land church. It's All Saints Church, Brantingham, built in the twelfth century but greatly restored and improved in the nineteenth century. I was just driving past and didn't have time to check it out properly.

After all, I had photos of a white van to take and a football match to watch. Visitors will be pleased to note that Hull City beat Coventry City by three goals to two with a hat-trick from our new Colombian striker - Oscar Estupinan.

26 August 2022


At Rivelin Valley Park this morning...

Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swinging in the park till it's dark
Swinging in the park till it's dark
We shall have such a merry lark
Swinging in the park
Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swing! Swing! Swing! Swing!
Swinging in the park.
©Yorkshire Pudding 2022

And here's Phoebe with her mama and papa on Thursday night and the sunflower she has grown from the seedling she brought home from nursery school in June. Not the tallest sunflower but one of the happiest.

25 August 2022


Currently, I am trying to sell my brother's Mercedes van. It is worth between five and six thousand pounds. One problem is that the van currently resides behind a shed close to Simon's old cottage - seventy five miles from this keyboard.

There are web-based organisations in Britain that specialise in selling motor vehicles. Perhaps the most famous one is "webuyanycar.com" but I have been attempting to set the sale up with a different organisation - "Motorway.co.uk". They advertise regularly on our commercial TV channels

It has been a bit of a nightmare so far. They require a series of photographs but initially they did not spell out exactly what pictures they require. They told me that I need a picture of the back seats but twice I have had to explain to them that it is a van and vans do not have rear seats! 

Another problem is the call centre. I have worked out that it is in South Africa and it is staffed by South African women with exotic South African names like Londiwe Maphumolo. Their pronunciation  of basic English down an eight thousand mile long phone line leaves much to be desired and it becomes clearer each day that the staff have had little guidance about the nature of British society and how people operate over here.

I am going to have to drive over to the van on Saturday to take more photos - hoping I do not have to go back again. Clear initial instructions in understandable English would have avoided this inconvenience.

As it happens, I am going to see my first Hull City match of the new football season on Saturday afternoon. We are playing Coventry City. I also have to deliver a camper van wheel to an owner who lives west of Hull. He's heading off to France on Sunday and he's taking the wheel with him as a favour to my brother Robin who lives beyond Toulouse in the south west of the country.

The thing about the van sale is that I shall not profit from it one iota. The process has been just as painful as dealing with Simon's bank and the insurance company with which he set up a private pension plan and, God help me,  The Probate Registry with its difficult to obtain forms written in fluent gobbledegook. Never mind - there's a helpline number! Only trouble is it takes forty five minutes before you hear a live  human being's voice. It has all cost me a lot of precious time - even more than I had predicted and the end still seems a long way off.

24 August 2022


This time last week, hardly anybody had heard of a little girl called Olivia Pratt-Korbel. She was just nine years old and lived on Kingsheath Avenue in the Dovecot area of  north Liverpool.

Her relative anonymity evaporated on Monday night of this week when she was killed in a tragic shooting incident.

When the news first filtered through I imagined a scenario rather like this one. An older relative, perhaps a sibling involved in gang crime in the city had been messing about with a handgun. Maybe showing off to Olivia and somehow the gun had gone off - accidentally killing her. It wasn't supposed to happen.

But as it turned out the truth was worse than that - much worse.

Hearing a commotion out in the street, Olivia's mother  Cheryl had gone to the front door and opened it to see what was going on. That was a fatal mistake that will live with her for the rest of her life.

A local criminal on parole from prison was being pursued by a gunman. Seeing Cheryl Korbel's door open and perhaps in a panic, he burst into the house quickly followed by the gunman who was allegedly dressed in black and wearing a balaclava. It all happened so quickly. Cheryl tried to keep them both out but her efforts were futile.

Bullets were fired hitting the pursued man whose name is Joseph Nee and also hitting Cheryl and Olivia. Presumably the hitman fled away and also I guess that Nee used his smartphone to call for support. 

Very soon Nee's mates arrived to pick him up in a black Audi car before  whisking  him away to hospital. It seems they just ignored little Olivia's plight as they helped their mate out of the house.

Later Olivia herself was transported by ambulance to Liverpool Children's Hospital where she tragically died.

One could speculate and pontificate about this terrible incident, perhaps reflecting on the nature of evil and the parlous state of law and order in one of England's greatest cities. One could theorise, rage or condemn but I leave that up to others. 

At the heart of all of this is a sweet and innocent nine year old girl who had her whole life ahead of her. She did not deserve to die and besides, why did her life end on Monday night? It all seems so pathetic, so pointless. Somehow it feels far more tragic than if she had been killed in a road accident.

We are so very sorry. Rest in peace Olivia Pratt-Korbel (9)

23 August 2022



In my humble opinion, one of the daftest sayings in the English language is "Don't judge a book by its cover". Essentially, it is very similar to "All that glitters is not gold".  Many great books have excellent covers that fit perfectly with the words within. Talented book cover designers strive to make their artistry  speak truly for the writer.

I mean, it's not all about marketing and sales. There has to be a degree of integrity too. If you were panning for gold at some remote stream in northern California and you finally saw something glittering in your sieve, it probably would be gold! Same with books. Okay, there may be occasional instances where the book cover and what is within just don't go together but on the whole there's much correlation.

Now why did I start detouring with thoughts about book covers when this blogpost is meant to be about a painting? I shall call the painting, "Somewhere" or "Somewhere in The Netherlands". It is the first painting I ever bought. I paid a handful of guilders  for it at a Sunday morning flea market in Amsterdam in 1964 when I was eleven years old.

To my eyes, it seemed so un-English, so peaceful and timeless - just a place by the waterside, somewhere in The Netherlands. I re-discovered my watercolour picture when sorting through the detritus at the tideline following Simon's death. I decided to rescue it even though we were trying to be ruthless.

It was still in its original frame and old cardboard mount. I have no idea when the picture was painted but it was quite old in 1964. It probably arrived at the market after a house clearance. It's very likely that it was created between the world wars. There's a woman on the embankment in traditional dress and of course the boats are propelled by the wind - not engines.

Oh, now I remember the connection with the saying about book covers. I have had the picture professionally reframed with a new light grey card mount as you can see at the top.  And it seems to me that this process has given the picture a new life - made it more pleasing to look at. The new framing is far more sympathetic. Nonetheless, I would like to donate this new saying to the English language free of charge - "Never judge a picture by its frame". Previous sayings I have donated include, "Never judge a rabbit by its burrow" and "Never judge a banana by the angle of its bend".

"Somewhere in The Netherlands" will now hang in our upstairs art gallery (i.e. the bathroom).

22 August 2022


"The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch" 
(The Skating Minister)
by Henry Raeburn (c. 1795) 
In the possession of The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

I first saw this painting when I was a university student up in Scotland. When killing time before catching trains south or up to Stirling, I would sometimes visit The National Gallery and this rather quirky  picture impressed me though I couldn't explain why.

He's like a silhouette as he moves effortlessly over the ice. He knows how to skate but he's very nonchalant about it. There's something of a tension between the staid formality of  his vocation and the  freedom of travelling smoothly over a frozen lake. He appears to cast no shadow.

There's a wild and slightly brooding fluidity about the background but Reverend Walker himself is rather  statuesque - frozen in that moment.

The picture stayed in Robert Walker's family for over a hundred and fifty years before it was brought to the attention of the public and art historians alike round about 1950.  It is now much treasured and the image features on postcards, ceramic mugs, posters, tea towels and T-shirts.  The Reverend Robert Walker  and Henry Raeburn would have both been astonished.

Duddingston Loch is a small fresh water lake in Edinburgh, close to Holyrood Park. I think the background suggests somewhere more remote than that.

21 August 2022


Why did the dyslexic Yorkshireman get funny looks?
Because he was walking around wearing a cat flap.

A Yorkshireman walks into a vet's office and says "Ay up, can tha tek a look at our cat? It's not bin its sen lately."
"Sure.'" says the vet. "'First things first, is it a tom?"
"Nah" he replies "I've got it 'ere wi me."

A Texan ranch owner was on holiday in Yorkshire. He visited a local pub in a sheep farming area of the county. He struck up a conversation with a sheep farmer in the pub. After a bit of chit chat, the Texan asked the Yorkshireman a question. The conversation went thus:
Texan - “So, how long does it take you to go from one end of your farm to the other?”
Yorkshireman – “About three hours to walk from one end to the other.”
Texan – “If I get in my car to drive from one end of my ranch to the other, it’ll take me a day.”
Yorkshireman -  (after some pause for thought) – “Aye, I used to have a car like that.”

A man was spotted at a farmers market in a coastal town in Yorkshire, kissing a girl who was not his wife.
Turns out he was having a Scarborough affair.

Wrigleys have launched a new website where you can order chewing gum online. It's called ebuygum.com!

A farmer in Yorkshire sees a bloke drinking from his stream & shouts,"Ey up cock! Tha dun wanna be drinkin watta from theer, it's full o hoss piss an cow shite".
The bloke says "I'm from London can you speak bit slower please".
The farmer replies, "If - you -use - two - hands - you - won't - spill - any!"

20 August 2022



Late August is the most popular time for village shows in England. Today Shirley and I drove out to the nearby village of Grindleford in the valley of The River Derwent. It was a small show without animals.

There was a large awning under which the Hathersage Brass Band were seated - including our next door neighbour Tony who plays the french horn. See above. 

There were various stalls representing good causes and village groups. We bought tickets for tombolas and just as we were leaving we managed to win a bottle of mulled wine. There was also a puppet show for small children run by an elderly man called "The Great Davido". It had not started up by the time we left.
In the  main marquee various prizes had been awarded in different categories and they were displayed on tables. The winner in "A Table Centre" display is shown above and below believe it or not is the winner in the "Animal Image" category  for the under fives. No help from mum or dad.

Below is the winner in the "Organically grown vegetables" display category.

There was another marquee where Shirley and I bought lunch with beakers of  tea. Freshly baked items included fresh scones with clotted cream and homemade jam plus rhubarb cake and sausage rolls.

Village shows are, I think, a peculiarly British affair. The weather stayed nice at Grindleford which I am pleased about because the organising committee must have worked hard to pull it all together. 

On the bric-a-brac stall, Shirley spotted a little plastic push-along car occupied  by Peppa Pig, George, Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig.  Phoebe is delighted with it. Below, you can see Tony  blowing his horn, right in the middle of the picture. We often hear him practising and have never been irritated once. He's a lovely man and we admire his dedication to the band.

19 August 2022


Phoebe had two grandmothers to tend to her today so, feeling surplus to requirements, I persuaded Clint to take me over the hills to  Brierlow Bar south east of Buxton. There were a couple of ordnance survey squares I needed to bag.

In that limestone country there are a  few long clefts in the earth including Deep Dale, Horseshoe Dale and Back Dale. They are somewhat hidden from neighbouring roads. It would be easy to speed past them and not know they were there.

The aptly named Deep Dale appeared to be a haven for wildlife with unusual butterflies  dancing above undisturbed beds of nettles, thistles and wild grasses.. I climbed up to a cave and even went inside. I am not sure how natural it is for there is much evidence of historical lead mine working in north  Derbyshire. Later I discovered that it is called Thurst House Cave.

Christ Church, King Sterndale

At Christ Church in King Sterndale the grass cutting contractor was hard at work strimming the graves and we soon got talking. He had a bee in his bonnet about university education - suggesting that it isn't worth it for most people. You're better off doing something practical like plumbing, painting and decorating or presumably cutting grass in churchyards. I didn't have the heart to argue with him.

It wasn't the longest walk - no more than four miles. I didn't see another rambler and the paths I walked seemed little trodden. Where I parked at Brierlow Bar there is a bookshop and cafe. I had seen it but I had never ventured inside before. Considering how isolated it is - way out in the countryside - it was surprising to see what a wide range of books it sells - including  "How To Live Vegan" by Bosh!

Descent into Deep Dale and the cave entrance

18 August 2022



I discovered this old school magazine  when sorting through the detritus of death. It was published in the autumn term of 1971. The school was Beverley Grammar School in the heart of East Yorkshire. It is where I pursued my A level studies in the sixth form. The school was founded long ago and is believed to be the oldest grammar school in England.

I joined the school in September 1970 and left in June 1972. They were happy days. At the end of my first year I designed the school magazine's new front cover shown above. Within the pages of that particular "Beverlonian"  there was a prize winning essay I had written titled "Trees" about the future of the natural environment and also this rather enigmatic short poem:-

I was just seventeen - well you know what I mean...

In the past few days there has been talk in the British media about the ownership of Manchester United  football club possibly being transferred to Britain's richest man - Jim Ratcliffe. His massive wealth has grown out of the company he founded in the nineties - the Ineos Chemicals Group. He is the same Jim Ratcliffe who attended Beverley Grammar School at the same time as me, leaving in the summer of 1971 and listed, as I have just discovered,  in the same "Beverlonian":-

And this is Jim Ratcliffe today, looking rather happy. Well who wouldn't be with a reported fortune of $30 billion (US)? He now lives in Monaco most of the time to avoid paying millions in taxes each year.

17 August 2022


At my brother Simon's cottage, I came across a couple of A4 ring binders. They contained dozens of handwritten songs often with accompanying guitar chords. I rifled through those binders hoping to find a few original  songs but if there were any there they eluded me. I was also hoping to find original poetry and I managed to rescue this....

A Poem

Sitting in a room all by myself
Studying woodchip and books along a shelf
Making faces and mountains out of clouds
Living in a vacuum moron!
Drinking cups of coffee and smoking cigarettes
Pissing it up at nighttime just so I might forget .
On the dole got no soul
Got no goal in a hole
A boring little village in the boring countryside
Could take a walk, it's all the bloody same to me
Oh! It's raining again - what a turn up for the books!
Out on the road the sound of boring cars and trucks
Boring little men with boring little wives
Boring bloody jobs boring bloody lives
Boring little kids making too much bloody noise
I'd give em all thick ears if I had the bloody choice
Or lock em in the garage and play Motorhead full blast
Poke em in the eyes just for disturbing my
Friday night again, wonder what I'll do
Down the pub again to drink until I spew
Least I've got some beer tokens 
Or I wouldn't know what to do
I'd just say Fuck it
But it doesn't rhyme

It wasn't dated but I guess it was written a good few years back. There was a time when his weekend night ritual was very familiar.  Down to "The New Inn" at eight o'clock. Two or three pints there. Then up to "The Hare and Hounds" for two or three pints before moving on to the village social club for three or four more pints before waddling home for another  joint and unavoidable sleep.

There was a lot of loneliness in his life, a lot of aimlessness and frustration and though the poem I have typed out isn't brilliant by any means, I think it captures something of the man he was and how he seemed to live palpably in the shadow of who he might have been.

16 August 2022


You must have seen parents on their smartphones when they are meant to be looking after their beloved children. I don't know about you but it really gets my goat. It's as if to say, "Hey, it's great having a child but what is on the internet is much more interesting! Don't bug me kid cos I'm checking out my Facebook page!"

Just in case some of these neglectful parents stumble across this grumbly old blog,  I have created a list of reasons why one should not be on a smartphone when escorting or pushing children round and about. There could be many extra reasons:-

  • A wasp might land on your child's face and sting him/her. If you weren't on the phone you would be alert to the unwanted attack
  • Your child might suddenly stiffen up and have his/her very first epileptic fit or nose bleed  but you would miss the start of it being too engrossed in Lady Gaga's Twitter feeds.
  • A cyclist on the road might lose control and come careering onto the footpath but you would react more slowly than necessary as you chuckle about an Instagram posting. Before you know it, the child is flying in the air with the cyclist's helmet. If only you hadn't been distracted.
  • Your beloved son/daughter points to a passing fluffy feline and says quietly "C-at!". His/her very first word but you miss it because you're checking something out on Wikipedia - like the history of the doughnut (American: donut).
  • You can't sing nursery rhymes or made up songs to your little child when your eyes are glued to your smartphone so bonding with your child is reduced.
  • A beautiful butterfly lands on your child's arm. He/she is mesmerised by the sight - having never been so close to a butterfly before. But by the time you look up from your little screen, the butterfly has flown away. 

What could be more wonderful, more magical, more special than your own living, breathing, developing child.? It is a time to treasure and a time when you have the privilege and responsibility of helping your child to grow. Whatever is on your smartphone is worthless compared with your child. So don't go on the smartphone until someone else has taken over the child-minding or your child is safe asleep in his/her cot or bed. Learn to cherish and not to ignore. Though smartphone makers have designed them to be addictive, you need to be bigger than that and pull away.

Being distracted by a technological device when in charge of a child should count as a crime in my humble estimation.

15 August 2022


On Saturday night, just after ten o'clock, I drifted down to my local pub. It had been a hot day and I just fancied necking three or four pints of my favourite brew - Tetley's bitter.

Over the years, I have seen many barmen and barmaids come and go. Oftentimes they are university students seeking extra income to pay off loans or to fund travels or just to put food on their tables.

There's a nice lad working there just now. He is called Luke and he is from Liverpool. Whenever I have met him we have enjoyed what the Irish call a good "craic" together, happy in each other's company.

On Saturday he talked of his mother who is a hospital nurse and he explained her key philosophy with regard to other people.

"My mother says you meet two types of people. Drainers and Radiators. Drainers draw the lifeblood out of you and radiators leave you feeling lifted."

The notion resonated with me and perhaps it will do with you too. In my life, I have met many people who are naturally judgemental - seeking weak spots and loopholes in others. Digging away and maybe if you report something you have done or experienced they will leap on it, keen to outdo you with their own tales. They are the drainers.

Equally I have met many other  people who take you as they find you, listen to what you have to say and show interest with follow up questions that are not intended to bring  you down.  They are people who make you feel warm inside  and better about yourself. They are the radiators.

Which are you? A drainer or a radiator.?

To tell you the truth, when I reflected on this idea  as I was preparing Sunday's barbecue, it seemed to me that in reality most of us have our feet in both camps. Sometimes we might tend to boost other people and at other times we chip away at their foundations. 

The dichotomy is not as clear cut and rigid as Luke's mother might have suggested. Even so, as a social being, I thought it was an interesting way of looking at other people and there's probably a vein of wisdom in that particular cheese.  We seem to spend our entire lives trying to make sense of everything, especially the people who  enter our orbits.

" 'Drainers' are the people that absolutely suck the energy, drive and enthusiasm out of us, whilst the "radiators" bring joy, happiness, fulfilment and drive into our lives." - HuffPost (2016)

14 August 2022


I finished reading this book out on our decking this morning - before the August sun had climbed over the rooftop. It has been a good read.

It is factual and describes day by day the long walk that a forty nine year old Englishman made back in 1997, ahead of his fiftieth birthday. He had set himself the ambitious target of walking from Sangatte near Calais on The English Channel to  St Tropez on France's  Mediterranean coast.  A thousand miles in  total though not of course as the crow flies.

John Tagholm was already an unashamed Francophile, having holidayed and worked in the country on several previous occasions.  He spoke reasonable French. However, he wasn't really a seasoned walker and he had never tackled anything like this before. You might say that he was having something of a mid-life crisis.

The journey took sixty five days and he had very few rest days. He averaged some twenty miles a day in what was an especially hot summer. Sometimes the paths were hard to find and he travelled up hill and down dale, by busy autoroutes and rivers always looking ahead to his next destination.

Of course John Tagholm carried a backpack all the way but because he always stayed in small hotels and ate locally, he did not need to carry any camping equipment. Obviously, this would have reduced the weight of his pack quite considerably.
There is a matter-of-factness about the writing - concerning the weather, the terrain, the villages he passes through, the places where he stayed and the meals he consumed. At times there are references to his self-enforced solitude and his thoughts about his wife and family back in London but it is not what you would call a soulful account.

It doesn't really suggest that the walk has changed him -perhaps becoming a better man than he was when he set off. However, he is often enervated and quite rightly feels an enormous sense of pride in seeing the imagined journey through to completion.

When I walk , I just go out for the day. Twenty miles would be a big distance for me. I have often thought about  tackling a long distance path over several days but the idea of having to carry everything I might need in a heavy backpack is a notion that I find quite off-putting. Consequently, I sit here typing in awe of John Tagholm and people like him who cover great distances, plodding day after day until they reach their destinations.

13 August 2022


Okay so let's be clear about this. In any war it takes guts to be a conscientious objector. This was as true of The Vietnam War as any other.

Yesterday as I wrote about Trump's draft dodging I was not implying by any means that when a young man is called up he should go blindly to war, doing what his country asks and not what his conscience says. No that wasn't it at all.

But if the young man in question is part of the establishment and has distant eyes upon the presidency, then he needs to be respectful of the status quo. At the very least he should be open and honest about his reasons for avoiding the draft. Not lying. Not making stuff up. There were no bone spurs and there is no evidence that Trump wished to dodge service in Vietnam because his conscience was troubled.

Many who received draft papers fled to Canada. Others signed up for The National Guard or alternative military organisations that would exempt them from service in Vietnam. Plenty of others - just like Trump - feigned mental or physical conditions that would get them off the hook. This seems to have been more common within affluent families where there was financial and legal weight. Far less straightforward and achievable for young men from poorer backgrounds.

By the way, it wasn't just Trump. Three other presidents  managed to evade service in Vietnam and some unanswered questions remain for George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.

Early in his presidency, Trump's alleged philosophy was clear, "America First! America First!" but he wasn't saying anything like that in 1968.

When I was first intoxicated by popular and progressive music, the period coincided with The Vietnam War and the protest songs it spawned. To accompany this blogpost I have chosen two of the songs that grabbed me back then and still have a certain resonance even though the disastrous war reached its ragged end almost half a century ago: "Moratorium (Bring Our Brothers Home)" by Buffy Sainte-Marie  and "To Susan on the West Coast Waiting" by Donovan.

12 August 2022


In the summer of 1968, The Vietnam War was reaching its bloodiest phase. Young and healthy American men were being called up in their thousands - drafted into military service. When the final arithmetic was done after the war, it was determined that over 58,000 had died. Many more bore injuries both mental and physical that would affect them for the rest of their lives.

But this was not an issue for Donald J.Trump. As a student at The Wharton Business School in The University of Pennsylvania, Trump had been able to defer the draft on four previous occasions but in the summer of 1968 he graduated and so the old excuse he had used was no longer valid. Instead, supported by his father, Trump claimed that he was suffering from bone spurs and should not be enlisted on medical grounds.

It worked. But the truth of the matter is that he never suffered from bone spurs. It was all made-up. Perhaps it was fear or a self-preservation instinct but Trump was not prepared to fight for his country. Like many other rich kids he dodged the draft - plain and simple. Trump's peers at The University of Pennsylvania hardly remember him and it is clear that he lit up no lights with his modest academic performance.

The family of the doctor, who provided Trump with a letter to obtain the medical deferment, stated that their father, a podiatrist, often told them that he issued the letter as a favour to Trump’s father. At that time, Trump’s father was the landlord of the podiatrist’s office building.

I recognise that nearly all of the above will be familiar to well-informed Americans. It will come as no surprise to discover that what Trump said he was and what he did is invariably at odds with  historical reality. He is what in this country we used to call a romancer. Truth isn't top of his agenda and it never has been.

What I find quite flabbergasting is how a blatant and unashamed draft dodger could ever consider running for the highest office in America. In his position how could he even consider running to be mayor in some hick town in The Mid West. Wouldn't it be an automatic insult to all those boys who came home in body bags? And what about Trump's core supporters in their "MAGA" caps and pick-up trucks, how can they still cling blindly to their draft dodging hero? What could be more un-American than refusing to fight for your country?

By the way, as far as I can deduce, having a heel spur must be a rather painful condition  but Trump never had one. He was athletic and as fit as a butcher's dog when he was twenty two years old. The truth is that he just didn't want to go to Vietnam.

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