31 December 2022


Some people mark the passing of time through the turning of seasons but for others it's all down to the annual  Laughing Horse Blogging Awards. This year there was to have been a massive party at Bantry House in Ireland with invited guests being flown in from all over the world. The champagne would have flowed and lady bloggers in chiffon gowns would have tittered behind their lacy handkerchiefs. Luxury accommodation had been booked for all with spectacular views over Bantry Bay and the promise of a full Irish breakfast in the morning - despite the inevitable hangovers.
Bantry House - What might have been

The Committee noted that 2022 has been another great year for blogging.  Special mention was made regarding Mr S. Reed of West Hampstead , London  who has blogged every day for the last eight years  in his excellent "Shadows and Light" blog. He illustrates his blogposts with his own high quality photo-images. The star of the blog is undoubtedly his pet staffie, Olga. He was The Blogger of the Year in 2016 and continues to maintain superb standards. Consequently, this year he receives  a "special award" widget. Here we are Steve:-

There are people out there in the so-called "real world" who regularly visit favoured blogs but do not manage blogs of their own. They are in effect supporters of the blogging community and their esteemed presence is much cherished but rarely acknowledged. This year The Laughing Horse Awards Committee has decided to recognise six of these unsung heroes: Ellen D from Naperville, Illinois - Melinda from Brooklin, Ontario, Canada - John Haggerty from Glasgow, Scotland - ex-teacher Margaret from The Pacific North West, USA - Christina from Blackburn, Lancashire and last but not least Carol (Coppa's Girl) from Spain.

All of the above are permitted to print off a 2022 "Special Award" widget. It should then be cut out and carefully mounted on card before a safety pin is secured to the back with tape. The new badge may then be worn on their lapels - a true badge of honour and something to boast about with friends and family.

Another special award goes to Andrew de Melbourne. Of course he was the Overall Blogger of the Year for 2021 but in late September 2022, something terrible happened. His esteemed "High Riser" blog was suddenly pulled by Google Blogger. Andrew had been managing this blog since I believe 2004 and its disappearance came as a huge surprise. There was no debate or forewarning - it was just blasted away like a Ukrainian electricity sub-station. Something to do with "terms and conditions".

Andrew had to pick himself up and dust himself off before picking up the blogging reins again. He launched a "new" blog - "From The High Rise" which to all intents and purposes looks just like "High Riser".  And now he is happily back in his stride. The Laughing Horse Awards Committee felt that his resilience in the face of adversity deserved a "Special Award".

And now we reach the moment you have all been waiting for - the announcement of  The Laughing Horse  Blogger of the Year for 2022.  There were six nominations  in all but sticking with tradition,  I have been instructed not to name the five also-rans - one from Canada, two from the USA, one from Australia and the other from England. Understandably, The Awards Committee  never wish to prejudice next year's selection.

Drum Roll. 

"And The Overall Winner and Blogger of the Year for 2022 is none other than Bob Slatten from Camden, South Carolina for "I Should Be Laughing"!"

Loud cheers. Thumping of tables. Someone shouts, "Go Bob!"

Bob beams with delight as he proudly displays his award

The Committee said that Bob's blog is well-maintained and well-designed. There are regular features such as his mouthwatering architectural posts and his collections of current political cartoons. Bob has a healthy Democratic view of  both political and celebrity life in the USA. He tells it like it is - often providing readers with quotations that unmask hypocrites and idiots alike. He can't even bring himself to use the name "Donald Trump", instead re-branding him as "Thing 45". Sometimes he writes about his pet cats or his spouse - Carlos who occasionally makes funny mistakes - but mostly Bob's blog is outward looking, seeking justice, fairness and common sense in this often crazy world.

Bob is now entitled to display this special widget in his sidebar or use it in a blogpost announcement:-

To visit "I Should be Laughing", go here. Congratulations Bob!

30 December 2022


One woman made it big in the world of fashion. The other woman made it big in the world of historical fiction. They both died this year. What is little known is that they were born within a mile of each other, twenty five miles west of this keyboard near the Derbyshire town of Glossop.

The red arrow points to the birthplace of Dame Vivienne Westwood at Millbrook near Hollingworth and the blue arrow points to Number 20 Brosscroft where Dame Hilary Mantel was born in 1952. I doubt that they ever met each other for they moved in different circles and Vivienne Swire (later Westwood) was born eleven years earlier.
Above, Dame Hilary Mantel who died at the age of seventy following a stroke. Her physical health and well-being was blighted by endometriosis. She won The Booker prize twice - first for "Wolf Hall" and then for "Bring Up The Bodies". Below - her childhood home at 20 Brosscroft, Hadfield.
Above - Dame Vivienne Westwood who was not only a fashion trendsetter and designer but also an activist who addressed a range of causes and remained a rebel to the end. She was 81 years old when she died in her London home just yesterday. Below - Number 6 Millbrook between Hollingworth and Tintwistle where she spent her formative years
Meanwhile, The Laughing Horse Awards Committee remain in a huddle as they thrash out the merits and indeed the weaknesses of nominees. They have asked me to convey their sincere apologies for the late cancellation of the New Year's Eve Ceremony/Party. It was supposed to be held at luxurious Bantry House in south west Ireland with music supplied by Van Morrison and his band. An Italian American comedian had also been booked for the amusement of assembled guests - Sebastian Maniscalco. Compensation for the late cancellations runs into many thousands. The fault lay squarely with Bantry House who double booked. Their manager - Mick Shenanigan  got their 2022 mixed up with their 2023! Can you believe it?

29 December 2022


The image above was supplied by Walter Baxter of Galashiels in The Scottish Borders. I commissioned a photograph of a laughing horse and Walter duly snapped this one on a hillside near North Berwick in the Lothian region of Scotland. It will form the design basis for Laughing Horse Awards widgets due to be distributed once again on the last day of the year.

Sponsored by The Yorkshire Pudding Company, The Laughing Horse Awards have become the most prestigious awards in the blogging calendar. Most readers of this blogpost will be aware of Laughing Horse's history - stretching way back into the mists of time.

Each year special blogging awards are distributed before the overall "Blogger of the Year" is announced. Previous winners are listed below. Several are still with us, blogging away in a  dutiful manner while others have fallen by the wayside. 

The  Roll  of  Honour...

2008 – Arthur Clewley for “Arthur Clewley”

2009 – Daphne Franks for “My Dad’s a Communist”

2010 – John Gray for “Going Gently”

2011 – Ian Rhodes for “Shooting Parrots”

2012 – Kate Steeds for "The Last Visible Dog"

2013 – Tom Gowans for “A Hippo on the Lawn”

2014 – Meike Riley for “From My Mental Library”

2015 – Lee George for “Kitchen Connection”

2016 – Steve Reed for “Shadows and Light”

2017 - Keith Kline for "Hiawatha House"

2018 - Mary Moon for "Bless Our Hearts"

2019 - Jenny O'Hara for "Procrastinating Donkey"

2020 - Cro Magnon for "Magnon's Meanderings"

2021 - Andrew de Melbourne for "High Riser" (Now "From The High Rise")

These are the last days of 2022 and soon this challenging year will peter out. For those of us who  inhabit Blogworld  and gain pleasure, sustenance, interest and even friendship from it, it is good to look back and evaluate the journeys we have taken over the last twelve months. Often blogging and the reading of other people's blogs have proven to be welcome distractions from the woes of our planet.

From time to time, we all need encouragement and The Laughing Horse Awards seek to provide some of that precious commodity.  Winners and The Overall Blogger of the Year will be announced on New Year's Eve.

28 December 2022


The River Thames on Boxing Day. Looking towards Hammersmith Bridge

Sometimes I have driven down to my destination in London in three hours. Everything goes smoothly and there are no hold-ups. However, this time, getting there took four and half hours and getting back took the same.  Going down, there was heavy rain and motorway spray followed by a sluggish crawl on The North Circular Road. Coming back, it was just the sheer volume of traffic heading north. Mysterious but brief stops then back up to 40mph. Congestion. Clint had to keep his wits about him.

Down there at Ian and Sarah's house in the west London district of Fulham, I didn't have access to a computer and of course I am not in possession of nor possessed by a mobile phone. The way that Ian and Sarah view television is different from ours. They rarely look at terrestrial channels and they have little appetite for the daily news.

Consequently, some of my established habits were effectively blocked. It was cold turkey time in a vegan household. No blogging. No photo checking. No visits to news channels or football updates. No BBC teletext service. Yes I was out of it and you know what? I enjoyed that. Being off grid in England's sprawling metropolis. Five days of heavenly peace.

The new Riverside Stand at Fulham F.C. and Boxing Day oarsmen

It was a lovely time with Ian and Sarah, Shirley, Frances, Stew and Little Phoebe. Together we watched Disney's "Moana". What a beautiful film - visually, musically and narratively. On the big sofa, Little Phoebe curled up in my warm embrace. Ian worked hard to make a wonderful Christmas Day vegan feast and on Boxing Day we all went on a family walk  in the sunshine.

Down to The River Thames then up to Hammersmith Bridge and down the other side to Putney Bridge before heading back to the Christmas house. At one point I asked the others to gather for a riverside family photo. Phoebe had fallen asleep in her pushchair. I considered the fact that many thousands of such images are missing a key character - the photographer. He or she will forever remain invisible - the hidden one who pressed the button. And time will move on and things will change but the photo will remain as the evidence of a lovely day, frozen forever. Something to look back upon and remember.

22 December 2022


This is my 341st blogpost of the year making this my best annual tally. I have overtaken 2020 - The Year of the Covid. However, there won't be any more blogposts for the next few days as we are heading down to London on Friday morning. We will be spending Christmas there and not returning until the day after Boxing Day.

For the past few years, I have made an online Christmas card using one of the photographs I took in preceding weeks. I e-mail that "card" to a range of acquaintances, past friends, distant family members and even some bloggers I have known for years.  There are several closer friends and family members plus neighbours  to whom I still post proper cards in the traditional manner.

This year's online card picture was only taken last week as I walked above Fernilee Reservoir in Derbyshire. You may recognise the image.

I have not been feeling well this past week - ticklish cough, leaking nasal passages, pink eyes, headache - that sort of thing but I think I am over the worst of it and hoping to enjoy a good night's sleep before the long drive to west London.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all regular and occasional visitors to "Yorkshire Pudding" a Merry Christmas and much health and happiness in 2023.

21 December 2022


 Accompanying this year's Christmas cards...



Dear Friends,

2022 has been an eventful year for The Pudding Clan so I thought I would bring you bang up to date with our news.

  • In January our Ian was arrested down in London when he was caught flashing on Putney Bridge after a night out in Battersea. The judge ordered him to undertake a  hundred hours of community service which involved cleaning graffiti off public buildings. He has also been placed on some sort of register.
  • In February Frances sat an exam connected to her Human Relations course. She failed it miserably as she was always distracted by reality shows on the television.
  • In March, I got into a fist fight outside "The Banner Cross" pub.  I knocked the other bloke's block off. Well - he shouldn't have attempted to get in front of me at the bar! I avoided police action by promising to pay for his remedial dental work.
  • In April, Shirley finished knitting a colourful jumper for our granddaughter. Strangely she had forgotten to add any sleeves or a hole for her head. It was a disaster.
  • In May we travelled down to London by train to see our Ian. The train broke down just outside Watford and it took four hours before we were rescued. I complained to East Midlands Railways but have still not heard anything back. Later that first day I was mugged outside Fulham Broadway tube station. They took my camera and wallet. The police weren't interested .
  • In June, Little Phoebe was suspended from nursery school for repeatedly attempting to gouge out the eyeballs of her assigned nursery teacher - Ashleigh who has now resigned from her post saying, "The experience has put me off young children for life".
  • In July our pet dog Tyson died when he was run over by a double decker bus. It was a distressing sight I can tell you and to add to the tragedy the council charged us for the "clean up" operation.
  • In August we were meant to go on holiday to Benidorm in Spain but  had to cancel our arrangements at the very last moment as we had both contacted COVID for the second time. Our holiday insurance did not cover the cancellation.
  • In September, our son-in-law Stewart was caught speeding on Sheffield Parkway - doing 95mph in a 50mph zone. He has since been banned from driving for twelve months and ordered to pay a fine of £1000. Also Liz Truss was elected by The Tory Party as our new  Prime Minister.
  • In October I roasted a chicken for Sunday dinner. I thought it smelled a bit funny. Anyway, we all contracted salmonella poisoning and had to  receive antibiotics intravenously at The Royal; Hallamshire Hospital. Also Richie Sumak became our latest Tory Party  Prime Minister.
  • In November it was grey and rainy and nothing happened of note. I was very bored and down in the dumps the entire month - anxious about my mental health and short-tempered with everyone. A mysterious damp patch developed in our front room and I still haven't got to the bottom of it.
  • In December I set off for the post office with all my Christmas cards clutched in my right hand, Unfortunately, I slipped on some wet leaves and dropped them all in a puddle. I couldn't be bothered to buy any Christmas presents - partly because in the fall  I fractured half a dozen ribs.

So that was 2022 for us. How was your year?  I hope it was somewhat better than ours. All the best for 2023!

Best wishes,

The Puddings


I used this term in my last blogpost. One-upmanship. It was coined in 1952. I think it is a useful term but I dislike the concept it unveils.

I don't know if this has ever been true for you but in many social situations I have encountered people whose raison d'etre seems to be to score points and win one over on others. Like this:-

Where did you go on holiday this year?

Oh, We drove down to Cornwall and stayed in a cottage just outside St Austell. It was lovely.

Well we went to California. We picked up a hire car in LA. and drove up to San Francisco via Big Sur and Salinas. It was stunning. You wouldn't believe it! By the way, how's your son getting on?

He's fine thank you. He completed his degree and he's thinking of doing a masters at Sheffield.

Oh my son has already got his masters and he's applied for a PhD at Oxford. He should get a full scholarship. And he's met a gorgeous Italian girl related to Silvio Berlusconi. Her family has an amazing villa in Tuscany and we have been invited over for the summer. Has your son got a girlfriend?

Err no. He's gay.

Well I'm sorry to hear that. My son is like a stallion by all accounts. A real chip off the old block if you know what I mean! Ha-ha-ha!

This famous British comedy sketch was first performed in 1966:-

19 December 2022


I almost forgot to report this. Last Tuesday I went out for a pre-Christmas meal with a bunch of men I hardly know. Let me explain.

Every Sunday night  I go up to "The Hammer and Pincers" to participate in their weekly quiz. I join with my regular quizmates - Mick and Mike and Danny. Whenever we are up there there's another regular team - also all men and in the same age bracket as us. There are usually six to eight of them They are our main competitors.

Back in October, the leader of their team kindly asked if we would like to join them in December for a meal. We all said yes but then each of my three mates dropped out. Danny moved thirty miles away to Buxton, Mike developed a serious muscle condition called  myasthenia gravis and Mick simply didn't like the idea of going to a Turkish restaurant where of course they serve "foreign food".

And so it came to pass that I was our sole representative at the "Mavi Rüya" Turkish restaurant on Abbeydale Road. We had beers in "The Broadfield" before heading to the venue which opened earlier this year.

I ordered barbecued  lamb shish which included sides -  Turkish salad, rice and toasted flatbread. It was very good but pricier than similar Turkish restaurants I have visited in North London in recent years.

After the meal, we went back to "The Broadfield" for more pints of beer before calling a pair of taxis to bring us back to our neighborhoods a couple of miles away.

Potentially this could have all been rather uncomfortable for me but the other fellows were  very nice. There was no oneupmanship or snide remarks. It was just a bunch of  gentlemen getting on pleasantly together  and feeling easy in each other's company. I didn't suffer any kind of grilling (like a kebab skewer!)  and came home happy that I had not dropped out.

18 December 2022


There are many different reasons why we might read a particular book. For example, it may have been recommended to us. We might have spotted it in a bookshop. It might have been required reading on a school or university course. We may have heard mention of it on the radio.

In the case of "Dragon Thunder: My Life With Chögyam Trungpa" I read it for one simple reason - namely that the author, Diana Mukpo, was born on the very same day as me in the very same year.  I ordered the book via Amazon and it arrived three or four days later. The subject matter had some appeal for me as it concerned Buddhism and its establishment in The West.

Chögyam Trungpa or Ripoche as he is usually referred to in this tome was born in Tibet in 1939 and was heir to a line of Buddhist meditation masters. He was a special, chosen one but had to escape Tibet in 1959 when he was twenty years old. The Chinese were advancing. Eventually he made it to Great Britain where he studied at Oxford before establishing a Buddhist spiritual centre in south west Scotland.

He met his wife to be  - Diana Pybus in London. She was a rebellious teenager and they married in January of 1970. Soon she was a vital player in his educational projects. It wasn't long before they moved to America where they had four sons together.

It was as if she was bewitched. Many people who came into contact with Ripoche found him magnetic and inspirational. As years went by the influence of his teachings and his very presence saw his movement flourish. He died in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1987 at the age of 48.  For years his health had been troublesome - not helped by heavy drinking, a serious car accident and irregular hours.

Chögyam Trungpa and Diana Pybus around the time of their marriage

It has taken me a long while to read "Dragon Thunder: My Life With Chögyam Trungpa" but I got there in the end. Previously I had had a vision of Buddhism as a simple faith rooted in nature and simple living but the book points to laborious teachings, academic  lessons and intricate internal politics. There is money to be made, houses to be bought  and there are plane tickets to be booked.

Diana and Ripoche's boys lived rather strange lives - often separated from their parents for weeks or months on end - as for example during the long periods when Diana trained in Europe to be an expert in dressage. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna and all that.

Just as Ripoche had affairs with a string of his students so Diana Mukpo struck up with Mitchell Levy. a Jewish doctor who had attached himself to the Buddhist Shambhala International group. They even had a child together. Her marriage to Ripoche was unusual to say the least.

There is much more that I could say about this book that has lived we me for many weeks - always asking to be read. I felt rather distant and removed from the contents, not finding signals to the Buddhist equilibrium I had been hoping to sniff out.

Diana Pybus was born at the same time as me but the life she has lived has been very different. It was as if she joined a club all those years ago but I don't think that  I ever did. I have always resisted the temptation to join anything and ultimately I am afraid that I would have probably viewed Chögyam Trungpa as a bit of a charlatan in spite of the fact that he undoubtedly played a large part in establishing Buddhism in The West.

17 December 2022


Above you can see a word cloud. It has  been created on the Geograph website to tell me which words crop up the most in the titles I have given to the 17,162 pictures I have submitted to Geograph. You may have played around with word clouds yourself at some time in the past few years.

Just as a little writing exercise, I gathered those words and with just a few extra words I made an intelligible piece of writing that included all of the above. You don't have to be mad to manage the "Yorkshire Pudding" blog but it helps:-

Near the top of the moor edge road
A brook runs north off through a wood
By a lane and under a bridge
To the reservoir in Rivelin le Valley
Before rushing on east
Down the hill to Sheffield -
Joining the river by an inn
Close to an old water mill
Up at the end
Where a path from above Edale
Heads west along a street with a view
Looking over to the park
At St John’s School
By Fox Tree Hall pub
And a farm house south of a tor
From which a silvery beck might be seen
Far away

An interesting exercise but I guess I could do better if I spent longer working on it.

16 December 2022


Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in "The Banshees of Inisherin"

I had heard and read some good things about "The Banshees of Inisherin", written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Consequently, I visited "The Showroom" cinema to see it on Tuesday afternoon.

Described as a black tragicomedy, it has received almost universal acclaim from the critics but I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. There were certain aspects of it that impressed me - such as the island setting on Ireland's Atlantic coast and the absurd nature of the relationship between the two main characters - Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) but at times it was downright silly. Did it belong to the real world or to some strange fantasy version?

One day Colm says he does not want to be friends with Pádraic any more. There's no particular reason for this. He just finds Pádraic boring. Colm is working on a fiddle composition called "The Banshees of Inisherin" - a title he has come up with simply because he likes the sound of it. He tells Pádraic that if he continues to bother him, he'll cut off his fingers one by one. Of course fingers are pretty useful for Irish fiddlers. Colm keeps his promise and ends up with a fingerless left hand.

It all left me feeling rather  flat. I was unconvinced by the island community and how it all fitted together. What did people do and why was the pub so isolated - far from a village or any houses? 

Perhaps the fault is with me and my expectations of depth and believability for it seems that "The Banshees of Inisherin" is destined to receive many prestigious awards. I went with an open mind, wanting to be thoroughly entertained but the truth of it is that I wasn't. Another of Martin McDonagh's films - "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" (2017) was quite brilliant in my view, striking a happier balance between reality and the absurd while providing emotional meat to chew upon.

15 December 2022


Above Fernilee Reservoir
Since the snow fell early last Sunday morning, it has been bitterly cold up here in the north of England so any frost and snow has kept hanging about like an awkward guest at a Christmas party.

Today's forecast promised bright winter sunshine so I planned another long walk over the hills, just south of Whaley Bridge in the valley of The River Goyt. There there are two reservoirs that serve the town of Stockport (pop. 294,000) One was completed in 1938 and the other in 1967.  I wasn't so much walking in a circle as in a sausage shape.

It was about nine miles in total and I was dressed fashionably for the occasion. This time - as well as my red thermal hat, fingerless gloves and Hull City manager's coat - I was also wearing my lined walking trousers. A stylish combo I'm sure you will agree.

There was a lot of frost and light snow around so I am proud to report that I did not fall over once. As I plodded along the east side of Fernilee Reservoir, I stopped at a memorial bench to eat my cheese and pickle sandwich with a well-earned beaker of hot coffee.

I walked for almost four hours today and was back home for three thirty. Another grand day out. I hope you like the pictures.

The church at Taxal
Five bar gate in the frosty Goyt Valley

14 December 2022


Ukraine December 14th 2022

An unnamed girl aged  five or six,
Polina Kudrin aged ten,
Photo-journalist Macs Levin...
Irina Tsvila and Marina Kalabina
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.
An unnamed pregnant woman and child
The Fedko family and a lad called Ilya
Serge Zevlever and Yevheniy Sakun...
Naveen Shekharappa Gyandagoudar
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.
An actress aged 67 named Oksana Shvets ,
WWII survivor Mr Romantschenko aged 96,
Artem Pryimenko and Pasha Lee...
How many more deaths must there be?
“There are no threats to the civilian population”.


See previous poems in this series:-

13 December 2022


It is not uncommon to have a morbid fear of dentists. I am amongst those unfortunate sufferers. 

I don't know what it is about dentists. Perhaps it's how close they get to you -  prodding around in your mouth with mysterious instruments including wailing and grinding devices that you never even get to see properly. As a child and later I had some unpleasant experiences with dentists which I don't wish to elaborate upon just now. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that.

Anyway for the past ten years I have felt pretty comfortable about visiting the dental surgery just round the corner from our house. My dentist was called Samantha and she was always very pleasant and gentle too. She had looked after my children's teeth since they were toddlers.

When I had an appointment with Samantha she would greet me kindly, sometimes asking after our kids. She explained what she was about to do - if anything and although I never enjoyed the experience it was always tolerable  in comparison with past times.

Sadly, Samantha retired at the end of October. Just after that I lost a big filling from a molar and rang up the surgery for an appointment. To my surprise, they could not fit me in till yesterday morning - six weeks after the filling came out. A big hole had been left behind and I imagined that they would fill it - but as it happens they didn't.

My new dentist was as tall as me and not that this matters one iota but he probably has an Arab heritage. He didn't even introduce himself and there were no niceties or explanations. There was no discussion about the problem tooth. He just decided not to fill it and said he would extract it if I wanted it out. I had to point out that the edges of the tooth were sharp and with a huge sigh he agreed to smooth it out.

After the treatment was done, he didn't even ask me to wash my mouth out as Samantha would have indicated. There followed something of a tirade about dental hygiene - how I must floss after every meal and when I brush my teeth I should just spit out the toothpaste - not rinse it out with water. In 69 years no dentist has ever  instructed me to floss and indeed I never have flossed  or failed to rinse out toothpaste.

He said that if I followed his guidance my teeth would serve me well for the next fifty years. Fifty years! I protested that I would not be alive in fifty years time but he was unapologetic about his ridiculous  claim and found no humour in my protest. He also said that if I followed his advice I would avoid bad breath when I have never ever suffered from this as my nearest and dearest can happily confirm.

Before I left the surgery, I said to the fellow, "By the way, you didn't tell me your name" and it was almost with another sigh of irritation that he surrendered the precious information but I could not make out his swift pronunciation so I am still not much the wiser.  It begins with an "R".

I am not looking forward to seeing him again. Some of the old dentophobic anxiety  has returned and I am still not sure that it was right to leave the tooth unfilled. Was he fobbing me off and saving time because I was having my treatment on The National Health Service? I paid for it in advance through a lifetime of National Insurance salary deductions - just as my parents did. 

I think this guy needs to have that explained to him. And furthermore it is surprising that his training clearly  did include how to deal nicely with patients and put them at their ease. Samantha could teach him a lot.

12 December 2022


Over at the "Geograph" photo-mapping project to which I have submitted 17,142 images, many of the tracking possibilities of computers have been fully exploited to benefit members. For example, through the clicking of a couple of keyboard buttons I can see that I have captured 218 images of farmhouses, 1092 pictures of churches and 2455 photographs of paths.

However, today I am going to focus on sheep. The algorithms tell me that I have banked 371 pictures of sheep in various locations and weather conditions. Sheep on snowy fields, sheep in flocks, sheep grazing, sheep running, sheep alone, wooden sheep, stone sheep and cute baby sheep (i.e. lambs). I tried to find out the term for a lover of sheep and the best I can come up with is an "ovinophile" but I am not 100% certain that such a term has been approved by those who guard the gates of the English language.

Though I confess to being an ovinophile, my relationship with the woolly quadrupeds is entirely platonic and any smutty counter-suggestions will be ruthlessly squashed by my legal team!

I give you the heads of seven sheep from my collection...

And finally, my favourite sheep picture of the lot - taken at the roadside near Stanage Edge in June 2016. This sheep seems so haughty or perhaps it is simply very chilled out...

11 December 2022


Our bedroom is on the west side of our house and we have blackout curtains so we never quite know what mornings will be like until those curtains are pulled back. Some days the sun is shining and concealed birds are all a twitter. On other days, droplets of water cascade from the sky or - as we exclaim in Yorkshire - "Bugger! It's pissing it down" which is surely more evocative than merely noting the presence of rain.

And this was this morning's view on December 11th - our first snow of the winter. No more than two or three inches. We thought it might hang around all day and freeze over tonight but the temperature rose above zero and by the middle of the afternoon the roads and pavements (American: sidewalks) were more or less clear.

You can see our sheep - Beau and Peep still grazing in the snow. Beau has been with us since October 2011 but Peep arrived at Christmastime that same year. The curtains are pulled back and there they are - as faithful as the rising sun.

10 December 2022


Harry Kane after missing his second penalty

Tonight, England departed The World Cup Tournament in Qatar. France beat us by two goals to one and in football-speak  I now feel "gutted" and "as sick as a parrot". We lost at the quarter final stage. On a different night and with different luck, we could have come out on top. It wasn't that France were so much better than us. Our captain - Harry Kane - scored one penalty and skied another. He is normally so very reliable but not tonight when we needed him the most. Oh woe is me! Woe is England! Woe! Woe! Woe!

Back in the summer of 1966, I followed The World Cup religiously. I had sticker books, a wall chart and knew every player who would be playing. I was only twelve years old and my brain had room for lots of football stuff. That year England famously went all the way to the final where we beat West Germany by four goals to two and lifted the golden Jules Rimet trophy.

What a summer that was! Bobby Moore lifted on his teammates shoulders, toothless Nobby Stiles dancing a merry jig and Kenneth Wostenholme commentating, "They think it's all over!...It is now!" as the fourth goal went in.

Since that day, 30th July 1966, disappointment has followed England's men's team  like a curse. So many nearlys, false dawns and might-have-beens. Promising so much and coming home empty-handed.

I suppose our lads have had a good tournament . They gave their all and came together as a squad. There's no doubt we have some very gifted players but it's not the same as winning the trophy is it? That is what England really wanted and needed right now - more than ever - yet the final prize has eluded us once more.

I shall climb up the stairs after midnight feeling as miserable as sin and no doubt that mood of disappointment will remain with me for a  few more days. Somehow it's more than "just football". It's part of our national psyche and how we see our ourselves. Once again - football is not coming home after all.

9 December 2022


Sometimes you just know when you have taken a special photograph. That is how I felt yesterday morning as I  walked away from New Mills. There was thin ice on the surface of The Peak Forest Canal and stoves aboard any occupied narrow boats were pumping out steam.

A young woman with a dog checked me out before proceeding along the tow path. After all, all men are potential assailants even when it is three degrees below zero and the sixty nine year old man in question is dressed like an Arctic explorer. I was following her and I could see how her breath was turning to steamy condensation just like the smoke from the boat chimneys.

It was all looking pretty dramatic. I was aware of the dog and the different positions it was taking up.

Perhaps I should have taken multiple pictures in those ten seconds but I didn't - I just took two. I shared one of them with you yesterday. We will call that Picture A. It pleased me greatly that Steve, Dave and Carol were amongst the visitors who complimented  me on that image. It was confirmatory.

I will call the other image Picture B. And here they are next to each other. There are subtle differences. In a moment an image can look so different even though the composition is more or less the same. Is there anything you can say about the two pictures and how you respond differently to them?

Picture A

Picture B

8 December 2022


By The Peak Forest Canal

If you have been popping round to this blog for a good while, you will know that I harvest much pleasure from a long photo walk in unfamiliar territory. There's the map reading, the exercise, the history and the photo-taking. They combine like a chemical formula.

This morning I got up with the sun for a change, took a shower straight away and then came downstairs for breakfast with my habitual pint of tea. I made a ham roll and a flask of coffee to take with me on my latest adventure in the December cold. It was nice not to have to rush. 

I filled  my backpack and checked that I had everything I needed. I had made sure that my camera battery was fully charged and I had printed off a map that would guide me south from New Mills Central railway station and round in a big circle.

Though short as all days are at this time of year, it was nonetheless destined to be as sharp and bright as a new pin. I had my red "Thinsulate" woolly hat, my fingerless gloves and my big Hull City manager's coat.

My train over the hills left Dore and Totley Station at 09.21 and I arrived at New MIlls at 10.02. It can be hard to estimate how long a circular walk might take but I hoped to catch the 15.16 back to Sheffield. If I missed that one I could always catch the 16.16.

Well I did manage to catch the 15.16 after five hours of walking - stopping only for coffee and my ham roll. I saw many things and had a lovely day out. It was good to be fatigued and by the time I got back to Clint - parked on Dore Road not far from the station - the December sun had disappeared - beckoning another early  Arctic night.

On days like these I feel truly alive and grateful that my body is strong and pain-free. It might not always be this way.

The River Goyt

Frozen cuddly crab in Disley

The Dipping Stone - Scheduled Ancient Monument

Ruined barn near Cock Knoll

Walkway by The River Goyt in New Mills

7 December 2022


For a while, a language point has been keeping me awake at night. I have tossed and turned, just wondering what the difference is between "crossroad" and "crossroads". My dreams have been filled with crossing roads and this has made me cross.

Well it turns out that the place where two roads cross is a "crossroads" but as you approach the crossroads you will see a "crossroad" ahead of you. It is the road that crosses the one that you are on.

If I say, "Let's meet at the crossroads",  I mean at the place where the roads cross. But if I say "Let's meet at the crossroad" I mean actually  on the road that crosses the other road which is possibly more familiar to both of us.

I don't suppose anybody else has ever fretted about such a thing but I am afraid that that is how my brain is wired. Words have always mattered to me.

Earlier today, I took my camera out to gather pictures of a typical suburban crossroads here in Sheffield. I thought that visitors from other lands might be interested. It's nowhere special. We call it "Millhouses traffic lights" or "the crossroads at Millhouses" It's where Abbeydale Road - the   A621 - crosses Springfield Road and Archer Road. By the way, Frances and Stewart and Little Phoebe have been living further along Archer Road since COVID brought them back to Sheffield from London. However,  they will be moving out of that rental house before Christmas.

Close to the crossroads and specially for Ms Moon in Florida, here's a traditional fish and chip and what a great one it is too. It's purely takeaway with no seating...

Also close to the crossroads there's a pet shop and a seasonal advertising poster from Cadburys -  Britain's favourite chocolate producers... 
And set back a little way from the traffic lights there's an Ember Inns chain pub called "The Robin Hood". I have enjoyed a few meals and a few drinks in there. When Frances was pregnant with Little Phoebe, we had several meals there during the time of tight COVID restrictions

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