30 November 2022


Before the doors opened

It has been a while since I mentioned my son Ian. As a number of visitors to this blog will remember, he is one half of the successful BOSH! duo who, in the last six years, have helped massively  to put vegan cuisine and vegan cooking into mainstream consciousness. 

Vegans are no longer tree-hugging pasty-faced hippies who dine on lentils and carrot soup. Besides, Ian and Henry have no big issue with the suggestion that it's okay  to be a part-time vegan because veganism isn't a religion. If you can't go the whole way, maybe you can just go part of the way.

Personally, I am an omnivore but on days that happen to be meatless without dairy products or eggs, I am being vegan. Perhaps I used to but nowadays I never bristle about the term.

Today and tomorrow, BOSH! have a swanky trade stall in the Olympia exhibition hall in Kensington, London. It is hosting the Plant Based World Expo Europe! Ian sent us the photos that illustrate this blogpost.

By all accounts, everything at BOSH! continues to tick over nicely. This year's book was titled "BOSH! On A Budget" and next year yet another recipe book will be published but I am currently sworn to secrecy about its title and contents. It may cause some ripples in plant-based circles.

Meantime, I thought I would have another look at the BOSH! Wikipedia page. It is now much more informative than it was two or three years ago and if out of curiosity you would like to know more please go there

To access BOSH! channels go here. For BOSH! TikTok go here.

Exhibition in full swing earlier today - Ian on the left, Henry on the right

29 November 2022


Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford in Qatar tonight

Well - that was a nice way to spend two hours. England deservedly beat Wales by three goals to nil at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.in Qatar. It was our last game in the group stage  of The World Cup and now we have qualified for the second stage along with fifteen other teams. One of them will be The USA who beat Iran by one goal to nil at the very same time that we were beating Wales.

Our lads looked really good tonight. After a patient first half, there was some zippy, creative football in the second half with two goals from Marcus Rashford and one from Phil Foden. They are both Manchester lads but there were also four Yorkshire-born players in the team - Walker, Stones, Maguire and Phillips.

Compared with England, Wales is a small country with a population of only 3.1 million whereas England has a population of 56 million if you don't count the boat loads of asylum seekers and economic migrants who have come to join us this year. In Wales, rugby is a very popular sport and in some schools it still takes precedence over football.

I feel no animosity whatsoever towards the Welsh. They have a proud history, an ancient language, great singers and writers and when it comes to sport they are very passionate about their nation. It is also a land of hard work and natural beauty - the homeland of three of my personal heroes - the poet  Dylan Thomas and Aneurin Bevan - the architect of The National Health Service - plus the famous blogger and hospice nurse John Gray. 

Trouble was that though Wales players may have the hearts of dragons, their skills generally fall far short of the talents that England's manager can call upon. Wales now bow out of the tournament but not in disgrace. They did their best and you cannot ask for more than that. Meanwhile, England go on to play Senegal in the Round of 16.

Finally, you may be wondering who the hell Ahmad bin Ali was. He was the fifth ruler of Qatar - between 1960 and 1972. "He was noted for his solemnity, wisdom and careful discretion in tackling issues". Oh yeah? That's him below:-

28 November 2022


Milton Jones is a well-known comedian here in England. His style is rather different from the rest. He specialises in silly one-liners that often  include witty word play. Here's just a sample of his "work". By the way,  a P.E. teacher teaches Physical Education - sports and suchlike. The job may have different labels in other countries. Loughborough is a town in Leicestershire, England - often associated with sports education.

27 November 2022



In the summer of 1974, I made a grand tour of Ireland. It took me six weeks. Mostly I slept in the tent that I carried upon my back but sometimes I shelled out for youth hostels and three or four times I paid for B&B accommodation. I got around by simply walking or hitch-hiking. I didn't have much money.

I remember reaching The Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry and though I don't recall my exact route, I left  the town of Dingle, heading north for two or three miles. That's when, purely by chance, I came across the structure shown above - Gallarus Oratory.

This enigmatic building was more or less overlooked by scholars until the mid-eighteenth century. It is likely that it was once  a simple church - exquisitely built perhaps as early as the tenth century. It may have been part of a monastic settlement.

I was alone but then I saw another figure tramping along the lane. He was a Canadian visitor - also a university student of a similar age to me. I don't recall his name but we shared our reactions to the oratory and I remember he became my intermittent travelling companion until we reached Cork City in the next county.

It was a balmy summer. I hardly felt any of the rain that gives The Emerald Isle its name. This was the first time I had ever visited Ireland and I loved it. Though it was just next door to the island of Britain, it seemed so different. 

The people spoke English but they were different from the English. They appeared to have more time for strangers and were arguably more attuned to ancient notions. At least it seemed that way. One-upmanship was pointless and they enjoyed the "craic" - people getting on happily with each other.

I still have many memories of that tour. They endure after almost fifty years and one of them is of my unplanned visit to  Gallarus Oratory - so perfectly constructed, like an overturned boat made with carefully placed  stones - like a 3D jigsaw puzzle.

26 November 2022


Something beautiful today. It's "The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli. He painted it in Florence, Italy when he was around forty years old. That would have been in the mid-1480's. The exact year is unknown.

The painting is on canvas which probably indicates that it was not intended for public display. Almost certainly it was commissioned by a member of the powerful and wealthy Medici family. They were great patrons of the arts.

Botticelli did not pluck his plans for this painting from thin air. It reflects many things about art in the Early Renaissance period and harks back to classical mythology from both the Greek and Roman eras. Botticelli was well-informed.

Venus is the Roman equivalent of Ancient Greece's Aphrodite. She was born out of the sea fully formed and appears upon the shore on a gilded clam shell where three figures await her. To the right there's one of the goddesses of the seasons or "horae". This goddess is clearly connected with springtime and she is holding out a cloak with which Venus may hide her modesty. To the left there's the Greek god Zephyr who has blown Venus to the shore. He is possibly accompanied by Aura - a goddess associated with breezes.

Venus's body is somehow elongated and she stands unnaturally in a pose we might associate with classical representations of the female form in Greek sculpture.

The left of the painting is lighter than the right and the sea stretches out far behind Venus giving the composition a strange depth.

Much has been written about "The Birth of Venus" and what I have said here is but the tip of an iceberg of investigation, speculation and appreciation. This priceless work of art is housed in The Uffizi Gallery in Florence where I  stood before it in slack-jawed awe in February 2007. 

Closer detail

25 November 2022


©Reuters 2022
TV News keeps reporting a significant new space project devised by NASA and funded by American taxpayers to the tune of $93 billion by today's estimates. No doubt as years pass by that figure will increase exponentially. Vaguely interested in what this project is all about I read up about it on Wikipedia and also read an opinion piece from "The Observer" newspaper. It was headed thus:-

The Observer view on the Artemis deep space project: $93bn? Worth every cent

...and this was the concluding paragraph:-

Anders, Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts had a profound impact in changing our perspectives of our world. Their observations and experiences underlined the fragility of the Earth and played a key role in the birth of the environment movement in the late 1960s. From that perspective, lunar travel can be seen to have provided value for money and suggests there is still something to be gained from continuing to put men and women into space. Working out the exact price tag is more problematic but the placing of human beings on the surface of another world should be looked at as an act that is generally beneficial to our species.

Most happily, I question several of these remarks - clearly made by a space enthusiast. For example, I am flabbergasted by the suggestion that the Apollo astronauts played a key role in the birth of the environment movement! The so-called environment movement goes back much further in time than the 1960's and also there are many who would argue that space missions have generally been very unfriendly to the environment. They burn up precious fuel and leave masses of debris floating around in space. And why should we accept the assumption that space missions such as Artemis are "generally beneficial to our species"?

Perhaps they are the opposite, taking focus away from the many issues that beset us here on Earth. We could do so much direct good here in our troubled world with $93 billion.

Anyway, when they build the moon station with its little rough terrain buggies, spacemen and spacewomen will be able to collect plenty more lifeless grey dust. Furthermore, when they make a similar community on Mars, they'll be able to collect lots of lifeless red dust.

And I'm sorry but those buckets of dust and all those scientific observations will not put food in children's bellies nor tackle climate change nor find a cure for malaria. To me it all seems like a massive distraction but no doubt NASA, space enthusiasts and countless scientists in an array of universities around the world will continue to promote the notion that it is all for the good of mankind and only ignorant fools like yours truly would dare to question their holy mantra.

24 November 2022


My pub friend Bert  was 86 years old today. He is a great one for singing and though he's forgetting a lot of things now and worrying that he might be "losing it", he still remembers a bunch of songs all the way through.

On Tuesday night, he sang "Walking My Baby Back Home" once more. It is a lovely song, made famous by Johnnie Ray (1927- 1990). It paints a picture of a sweet and innocent relationship - nothing salacious or suggestive - just a guy and a gal out on a date.

Written in 1930 by Roy Turk  and Fred Ahlert, Johnnie Ray's version of the song reached number 4 in the American charts in 1952 and number 14 in Great Britain. In 1953 it appeared in a film of the same name.

Many notable people have recorded it - including Ella Fitzgerald, Van Morrison, Dean Martin and  James Taylor but it is Johnnie Ray's version that we know best...

Well now, gee, but it's great
After staying out late
Walking my baby back home
Arm in arm over meadow and farm
Walking my baby back home

We go along harmonizing a song
Or I'm reciting a poem
The owls go by and they gave me the eye
Walking my baby back home

We stop for a while, she gives me a smile
And cuddles her cheek to my chest
We start in to pet and that's when I get
Her powder all over my vest
And just when I try to straighten my tie
She wants to borrow my comb
One kiss and then we continue again
Walking my baby back home...

I made Bert a card for his birthday and bought him a special scotch egg from "The Banner Crust" and because it was raining I transported him in Clint's sleek silver bodywork to the nearby Sainsbury's supermarket where he had a couple of jobs to do including drawing pension money and renewing his lottery ticket. Then I took him home.

He was going out with his family tonight for a slap-up celebratory meal. It's not every day that humans hit eighty six. Happy Birthday Bert!

23 November 2022


Between 1969 and 1972, when music was ridiculously important to me, it was entire albums that I craved. In truth, singles really only touched me in a peripheral manner. If you were serious about music it was the LP's that really grabbed you.

Recently, I shared some of my favourite singles from 1971 and 1972 but tonight it's the turn of the albums, three for each year:-


"Blue" - Joni Mitchell:-

"Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" - The Moody Blues:-

"Tapestry" - Carole King:-


"Harvest" - Neil Young:-

"Jackson Browne (Saturate Before Using)" - Jackson Browne:-

"Eagles" -  Eagles:-

In the previous "Albums" post I published for the years 1969 and 1970, I suggested a track from each of my favourites to make up a compilation album and so here we go again:-

"The Last Time I Saw Richard" - Joni Mitchell

"One More Time To Live" - The Moody Blues

"Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" - Carole King

"Heart of Gold" - Neil Young

"Song for Adam" - Jackson Browne

"Take It Easy" - The Eagles

And like last time, just before you go, here's just one of those songs to listen to. It's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" recorded by Carole King at the BBC in London - back in 1971. New York City born Carole  is now eighty years old and lives out west in the state of Idaho:-

22 November 2022


A tower of Yorkshire Puddings

Things are happening in Pudding Towers. We had the living gas fire replaced and then today we had a new window fitted at the top of the stairs. The old one was almost certainly put in place  when the house was built in 1925. It was what they call single-skinned  but the new UPVC plastic window is double-glazed so it should help to push back the winter chills that await us.

On Monday, our leather Lay-Zee-Boy sofas were taken away to be reupholstered and in the interim we shall have a new carpet fitted in our small front room. Also, before the sofas return, we will need to decorate the front room.

I went out this very evening to the giant B&Q store on Queens Road to purchase pots of paint  and other decorating essentials. I spent over a hundred pounds but I didn't mind that too much as the labour will be free. I hope to have the ceiling painted by this time tomorrow in spite of having Little Phoebe with us most of the day.

Of course the fly in the ointment remains the damp issue we first noticed last week - right next to the bay window.  I have done three things to address it - including cutting back the privet hedge that used to touch the wall right next to the bay window. However, I am by no means sure that I have identified the source of the dampness. After our incredibly dry summer we now seem to be getting rained on most days and that does not help my detective work.

In relation to houses, water can be a very fickle phenomenon. It may be really difficult to locate the sources of problems and leaks may travel from unexpected spots. I guess we are just going to have to hold back from decorating that corner of the room until we nail the issue.

At least we are not in Ukraine, Somalia or Java in Indonesia. I guess I have little to moan about in the grand scheme of things but still...

21 November 2022


I watched too much television today. 

At lunchtime, I switched the devilishly hypnotising instrument on to watch England play Iran in their first World Cup group game - beamed live from the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. England played really well and managed to beat their opponents by six goals to two. 

Before the game kicked off, the Iranian team refused to sing their own national anthem - presumably in solidarity with the brave men and women back home who continue to protest against their right wing Islamic fundamentalist government. 

Earlier there was controversy about certain team captains wearing rainbow-coloured armbands in support of LGBQT+ rights. The international governing body of football (FIFA) had just warned that any players wearing such armbands risked sanctions - including yellow cards. In Qatar, being gay is against the law and if proven, acts of homosexuality may result in upto three years in jail and heavy fines.

At 5.15 I watched the quiz show "Pointless" hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. It's such a gentle, well-mannered programme delivered in good humour with much respect for the contestants.

Then I made my stir fry meal in the wok that was given to us as a wedding present forty one years ago. Shirley was at a social gathering with former nursing colleagues so I  had to fend for myself. I sat in front of the television once again at seven o'clock to watch Wales's first World Cup game against the USA. It was a tight encounter as the result suggests  -  a one-one draw.

By the way, may I tell you just out of interest that the population of Wales is bigger than that of Qatar!

There was more television to come. For the very first time, I tuned in to "I'm A Celebrity Get Me out of Here!" which is a kind of reality show set in a jungle in north eastern Australia. Celebrities have tasks to do and live together in a camp. One by one they are voted off the show by the watching public. This year much controversy has surrounded the presence of a serving Member of Parliament in the camp. 

He is the former Health Minister. Mathew Hancock. He is paid to represent and serve the people of West Suffolk here in England and yet there he is in a faraway reality show from which he will earn around £400,000. He certainly isn't the life and soul of the party in the jungle and seems very much on the fringes of things.  By rights he should be shouting. "I'm an M.P. get me out of here!" because in my opinion he should not have been there in the first place.

Yes - too much television - and now I'm looking at another screen as I tap out this blogpost.

20 November 2022


In August of 1972, I boarded an aeroplane for the very first time. I was bound for the Fiji Islands via New York City, Los Angeles and Honolulu. It was the start of a year away from home - teaching under the auspices of Voluntary Service Overseas on what is probably the remotest of all the Fiji Islands - Rotuma.

So my recollections of the year's singles relate mostly to the first eight months of that year though I must say that over the weekends on Rotuma,  I often listened  to an hour or two of Radio Fiji which included music programmes. I was not entirely cut off.

As I previously did for 1969, 1970 and 1971, here are three of my favourite singles from 1972:-

Don McLean - "Vincent":-

Derek and the Dominoes - "Layla":-

Roberta Flack - "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face":-

19 November 2022


Phoebe is twenty two months old now. The picture above was taken this very morning before she stepped out with her mama for a walk through the woods and down to  Millhouses Park. Below - that's Phoebe on the day she was born  - January 15th 2021.
How did that magic happen? That transformation I mean - in twenty two short months. I think of that piece of writing that I believe we have all encountered - "Desiderata" - ostensibly found in St Paul's Church, Baltimore and dated 1692 but actually written by Max Ehrmann from Terra Haute, Indiana in 1927 or so. I happen to have a copy of it on my desk right now - it was  amongst the things my brother Simon left behind..."With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy." A good message for our special little girl as she treads along the very start of her path through life.

18 November 2022


You have probably never heard of Kelley Swindall and neither had I until five o'clock this evening. Ian's girlfriend Sarah got in touch from London to say that her American friend Kelley would be playing at The Alder Bar in a former industrial area of downtown Sheffield called Neepsend.

It was a very unusual thing for us to do on a Friday night but at eight o' clock Shirley and I rocked up at The Alder Bar - somewhere we had never been before - to see Kelley perform. She specialises in what you might call Americana and her split set included one or two well-known songs from that genre including "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson and "Wagon Wheel" by Darius Rucker. In between there were several of Kelley's own songs including the example below - "You Can Call Me Darling If You Want To" - courtesy of YouTube

She was alone on stage with her acoustic guitar and harmonica and though there wasn't  a big crowd to see her, we were all very appreciative. She is a seasoned performer, comfortable in her own skin and confident about her abilities.

Kelley hails from Atlanta, Georgia but spent most of the last eighteen years living and working in New York City. That's where she met Ian's girlfriend Sarah who spent five years at drama school there. They became good friends - both of them a long way from home.

Shirley and I enjoyed the show and we chatted to Kelley  during the interval. She had just flown in from New York this very day. The world of music is crazy. Like many other very capable semi-professional performers, Kelley Swindall deserves to be better known. Cream doesn't always rise to the top. Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time and getting some lucky breaks.

Visit her website here.

17 November 2022


Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield

MND stands for motor neurone disease. It is what killed Professor Stephen Hawking and it is what is killing Rob Burrow who, in spite of his short stature,  was a tigerish rugby league player. 

He played for England and Great Britain but he spent his entire club career with Leeds RLFC. He is only forty years old but his body and indeed his life are ebbing away because of MND. He can't talk without technical assistance and he is wheelchair bound, requiring hoists for bathing and for getting in and out of bed. He remains in his own home with the support of his angelic wife Lindsey and their three children.

One of Rob's teammates at Leeds was the legendary Kevin Sinfield who captained both his club and his country and remains the highest scorer ever in  Superleague history. They were always close friends.

Two years ago, realising Rob's dilemma and better understanding what MND does to its victims, Kevin Sinfield was determined to raise a significant amount of money for Rob and various MND charities. He set out to run seven marathons in seven days, planning to raise £77,777 - seven being Rob Burrow's shirt number.  In the event, Kevin raised over £2 million!

Currently, Kevin Sinfield is in the middle of another physically challenging attempt to raise yet more funds for his old mate and the national battle against MND. This time the target is £777,777 but already he has raised £647,724.30. His aim is to run seven ultra-marathons in a row from Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh to The Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester - where the Rugby League World Cup Final between Australia and Samoa will kick off this coming Saturday.

Kevin Sinfield's admirable charity running and its worthy cause have inspired  Shirley and I to donate before and tonight we donated again. It is the least we can do. If you would like to donate too - go here. I am not sure how this might work out with visitors from other lands with different currencies.

"I’m proud to be supporting five charities with this challenge, charities 
which support people affected by MND and invest in research taking 
us closer to effective treatments and a cure for the disease."
- Kevin Sinfield
Kevin and support team approaching York (Friday)

16 November 2022


Until last week, I had never before encountered the term "ziti". I had heard of zits but not "ziti". Consequently, I was obliged to look it up - "pasta in the form of tubes resembling large macaroni". Further to this, in Italian it apparently means "macaroni of the bride" because it traditionally appears at wedding feasts - especially in southern Italy.

I came across the word on Catalyst's blog that comes to us from Prescott Valley, Arizona. Catalyst (i.e. Bruce) had created something called baked ziti which is probably familiar to most North American visitors. However, though many British supermarkets boast fairly wide ranges of pasta, I have never before seen any ziti for sale. Penne yes, macaroni yes but no ziti.

Earlier today I bought some pasta spirali that I guessed would be a good substitute for ziti. Spirali is essentially little curved tubes. I had it mind to replicate Bruce's dish. I had made a nice bolognaise sauce on Monday afternoon which we ate with spaghetti that evening but there was plenty left over to mix  through my boiled spirali.

One of the things that struck me about baked ziti recipes was the use of dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the meaty pasta before smothering with grated cheddar and placing in the oven. It was said that this would add a nice creaminess to the topping and indeed it did

We ate it with a little side salad and Lady Pudding approved saying on Trip Advisor, "Mmm... I liked that! Very nice!" ★★★★★. Thanks for the idea Mr Catalyst.

15 November 2022


Just before the Berlin Wall came down I was working in Hungary - teaching English to students from The Technical University of Budapest. One evening, I was walking through the city with Ferenc - one of the students. We came to a small marketplace and I noticed twenty or so people in a row holding various items in their hands  - batteries, combs, bottles of shampoo, hair slides, screwdrivers etc.. Their arms were extended and they were calling out.  It was clear that they were trying to sell these items. It was like a market without tables or stalls.

I asked Ferenc what was going on and he said, "Oh, they are Poles!" Later he explained that they were very used to seeing Poles in Hungary - rather desperate people trying to get their feet on the economic ladder in Budapest. A couple of weeks later, near the southern border of the country I came across a similar "market" but here the sellers were Romanian.

These experiences illustrated that, in terms of identity and belonging, central Europe is not at all like England. As history has marched on, the borders of central Europe have been pretty fluid. There are ethnic Hungarians living in Romania and ethnic Romanians and Poles  living in  Hungary. It is a complex web of languages and cultures, not necessarily defined by the borders we find in modern atlases

Click on the map to expand it slightly

All this year we have been hearing the name "Ukraine" - over and over again though perhaps a little less so in recent weeks. I was wondering how old is this country we call Ukraine? 

To really get to grips with that question you would need to unravel many threads from history but what we think of as Ukraine today is arguably only a hundred years old and for more than half that time it was absorbed within The Soviet Union.

The map of Ukraine shown above is divided into its "oblasts" or administrative regions. Four of those oblasts are coloured dark blue for here Russian is the dominant first language. Take the Donetsk oblast for example - there 93% of citizens use Russian in the home.

Over in the west you have eight oblasts in which Ukrainian is spoken by 99-100% of the residents.

Not all of the people who speak Russian have a Russian heritage. Very many are ethnic Ukrainians who adopted Russian in order to fit in with their communities and get by in everyday life - including education and commerce.

I am only touching the surface here. Language use, cultural identities and episodes of note from history have all conspired to create the map of central Europe that we know today. 

It might be convenient to see a cartoon picture in our minds in which the evil tyrant Putin marches into Ukraine to steal land on behalf of his renewed version of The Soviet Union but  maybe it's not quite as simple as that. I'm just sayin'.

14 November 2022


Trees in the murk  north of Doncaster Road

Well, I was looking forward to Sunday morning because the weather people promised sunshine after a misty start to the day. Purely for exercise. I needed another long walk and of course it would allow me to gather another batch of photographs.

Former coal mining villages south of Barnsley were my goal - almost twenty miles from here. I planned to mostly walk in the nearby  countryside. The villages are named Darfield and Wombwell and because of past housing developments they now sit so close to each other that they are conjoined like Siamese twins.

Autumn leaf on the shattered glass of a bus shelter at Darfield

In the early nineteenth century they were both peaceful, thinly populated settlements focused upon agriculture but then coal took over and their populations advanced rapidly. Railway tracks and sidings surrounded the pitheads and terraced streets were thrown up to accommodate battalions of coal miners and their families. 

They remain tough places that rather lost their way when the once powerful coal industry was brought to a shuddering halt in the mid-1980's. In the intervening years, they have gradually been reinventing themselves. Wombwell is now home to 12,000 people and Darfield has a population of 11,000. They share a brand new secondary school called Netherwood Academy. Its lofty motto is "Inspiring  Beyond Measure". Good luck with that guys!

Trans Pennine Trail heading away from Wombwell along an old railway bed

Clint parked himself on Belvedere Drive to the north west of Darfield. It was ten o'clock and I was having my doubts about the weather forecast. Could the murky mist that clothed the district really lift before eventide?  It seemed unlikely and as it happens my pessimism was well-founded but at least it didn't rain.

Bracket fungus on a silver birch tree

I walked for almost three hours in the November greyness before Clint sped me back to Sheffield to prepare yet another Sunday dinner that complemented a tender joint of basted pork loin.  Outside darkness descended on a day that had not witnessed even the tiniest shaft of sunlight or a fragment of blue sky.

Old milestone in a Darfield hedgerow

13 November 2022


Regarding singles that I listened to  in 1971, I have distilled my favourites and arrived at these three songs. For me they represent that special year in my life when I was in the sixth form at school, fell in love with red-haired Pamela and found myself in a rock and roll band with four other East Yorkshire lads. I was the singer, the frontman and I felt very comfortable in that role. Though I say it myself, I was bloody good at it and things might have worked out very differently had I not chosen to become a volunteer teacher with Voluntary Service Overseas - rather like the American Peace Corps....

Carole King - "It's Too Late":-

Buffy Sainte-Marie - "Soldier Blue":-

The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again":-

12 November 2022


I must confess that I am not a big fan of tattoos. Perhaps it's to do with my age and maybe I have become the old fuddy duddy I  swore I never would be. In my defence, let me say that in my youth hardly anybody sported tattoos and the few who did have them were always male - usually with experience of prison or working at sea.

Often when I see younger people with tattoos up their arms or legs, I think - What the hell have you done? Don't you realise that tattoos are permanent and when you grow old your tattoos are bound to look hideous as you gradually  grow flabbier  or more wrinkly. You don't stay twenty one forever. Normally, I keep such thoughts to myself and if there are any  tattooed bloggers or blog visitors reading this then I apologise for my perceived ignorance.

Frequently tattoo enthusiasts are motivated by special family moments including births and deaths. Favourite animals, pop groups and film stars may also feature on the skin of tattoo adherents and some people like to express their political allegiances on their bodies. Why they can't instead do all of this in a notebook I have no idea. After all, those of us who remain steadfastly un-tattooed also witness births and deaths and have favourite bands, places, animals and sports. It's just that we feel no urge to declare such things on our bodies.

In America over the last few years, a  fellow called Donald J. Trump has become a hero to many Republican voters. You may have heard of him. A surprising number of  such folk have declared their hero worship with tattoos of the great man himself. To illustrate this point, here's a small selection: which co-incidentally demonstrate the artistry of  gifted tattooists:-

11 November 2022


It occurred to me that visitors from other lands might like to get a sense of where I am writing from. 

We live at the top of a long road - the house numbers go from 1 to 204. Our road runs parallel to Ecclesall Road which is the main artery leading out of the city of Sheffield to the south west.

In less than five minutes I can walk out to that main road where I can catch buses or visit the post office, local shops, a pharmacy, a Chinese takeaway, a fish and chip shop, "The Banner Cross" pub, two smaller micro-pubs, various hairdressers, a cobbler's shop, various estate agents, a newsagent's shop and a Persian bakery etc.. This afternoon I needed to renew my "Lotto" ticket at the Sainsbury's local supermarket so I took my camera along.

It was a mild but grey November afternoon with no sign of rain. For a change, I decided to present these photos in black and white apart from the picture at the top which I took when looking  in the window of Blundells estate agency.

My road's junction with Glenalmond Road

"The Itchy Pig" micro-pub

Sign in the tattooist's window

"The Dark Horse" micro-pub - formerly a bank

One of several hairdresser's salons

In the window of The Persian Bakery

East side of Ecclesall Road - including Pat O'Brien's butcher's 
shop and Neptune's fish and chip shop

Sainsbury's Local where I bought my Lotto ticket

10 November 2022


I love football (American: soccer). Every four years, The World Cup comes around and the top national teams battle for glory. Host nations are chosen by FIFA - The Federation of International  Football Associations. In 2010, they chose Qatar for 2022. Football fans around the world were extremely   puzzled by the choice. Qatar is a tiny and very hot country without a footballing tradition. How could such a country merit the opportunity to host such a prestigious event ?

Anyway - it happened and since 2010 oil-rich Qatar has worked tirelessly to build eight stadiums - employing 30,000 foreign workers in the process. All this cost around US $8.5 billion.  Nobody knows exactly how many migrant construction workers have died in order to make sure Qatar is ready for The World Cup. Amnesty International say up to 15,000 have died but others say up to 7,000. It is a huge death toll just to stage a sporting event. There are still lots of questions about the amounts of compensation  Qatar has actually paid out.

The prize should never have gone to Qatar. Soon thousands of football fans from around the world will be flying in to support their teams. As the population of Qatar is less than three million, there will presumably be few home-based football supporters to fill the remaining seats.

The carbon footprint of the tournament will be as big as The Persian Gulf and there's another matter that should concern us.  Being a conservative Islamic state, Qatar will not be welcoming members of the  LGBTQ  community who will surely be wise to watch their step in such a hostile environment.

I plan to watch World Cup matches on TV as usual but with resentment. Even the ex-chairman of FIFA, the odious Sepp Blatter admitted this week that the tournament should never have been awarded to Qatar. It is a crying shame that he did not speak out much earlier when the Qatari government were courting him.

9 November 2022



On Monday, I received a letter from the Teachers' Pensions organisation telling me that they had made a mistake when first calculating my occupational  pension. They were very sorry but as a result of this error I owed them just shy of £100.

On Tuesday, I received a letter from the NS&I (National Savings and Investments) telling me that I had won £100 on the Premium Bonds - inviting me to confirm my identity and secure the prize.

"The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away"  - Book of Job (Chapter 1). Or in my case "The Lord taketh away and The Lord giveth" - Book of Pudding (Chapter 13).

Pressure from her ladyship has resulted in me agreeing to update our small front room. We have already paid out almost £1000 to replace our old inefficient living gas fire with a new glass-fronted, and infinitely more efficient fire that we might actually use this winter instead of always relying on the central heating radiator.

We have also arranged for our leather Layzee-Boy sofas to be reupholstered. They should have served us far longer but two of the armrests have disappointingly worn out in just five years. The new covering will be of a lighter coloured, good quality fabric.

On Monday, we went to "Atkinsons" department store to order a new carpet and we have plans to decorate the front room when the sofas have been taken away but before the carpet is fitted. As you can imagine, there's a bit of juggling and finger crossing to do before (hopefully) it all comes together.

But then...

We have never had any significant damp problems in this house. It has been  pretty water tight. But two weeks ago we discovered a possible damp issue on our bedroom ceiling. Maybe the flashing around the chimney has been compromised. And then yesterday in the very room we are updating I discovered certain damp on the pillar wall adjacent to our bay window. Oh no!

It is not rising damp. It is rain water that is somehow penetrating the brick wall but where is it coming from? It can be very hard to determine the source of such problems but we really need to solve the matter before decorating the room.

Today I was up our tall stepladders removing the silicone that sealed the gap between the external brickwork and the UPVC bay window we had installed over twenty years ago. I could not see any glaring gaps or cracks in the sealant but there's a good chance that this may be where the water has got in. 

Tomorrow morning I will be up that ladder again with a sealant gun re-filling the gap with fresh silicone but with very limited confidence that this work will solve the problem. I just can't figure out where else the water might be coming from.

To finish, here's another wise quote from The Book of Job: "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward". He must have been thinking about our damp problem.

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