22 March 2023


Here are two numbers to juggle with. They are 81 and 152. 81 is the number of  comments I found in my spam folder yesterday and 152 is the number of  comments I have found there today.

90% of the comments were originally posted by me in response to visitors' comments. They dated back to 2007. None of these comments were offensive  and none were written to promote dodgy businesses.

You can imagine how irritating and time-consuming it is to plough through a folder packed with alleged spam comments. You have to re-publish each comment individually and what I do not know is what tomorrow will bring. Will my spam folder be annoyingly refilled by mindless Blogger bots?

Although Blogger has been a pretty kind and efficient host through the years, there seems to be no way of complaining to the service or explaining user problems to them. It's the same with a lot of big businesses these days. They just don't want us talking to them or even finding ways and means of contacting them. It is very frustrating.

Still thinking about numbers. This old Beatles song contains a number which indicates precisely my wife Shirley's birthday age tomorrow. It is hard to believe that she was just twenty years old when we first met and fell in love over forty three years ago.  I was her Paul and she was my Linda.

21 March 2023


Lamb's Ears

My younger brother Simon would have been sixty seven years old tomorrow - March 22nd. For months I have been wrangling with the pensions company he entrusted with his savings. On his pensions plan I was named as the sole beneficiary in the event of his death. It was very clear and Simon had no dependents.

Almost on his death bed, he told me what he wanted me to do with his money and probably died believing implicitly that the well-known pensions/assurance company would do the right thing in a professional manner. For my part, I promised Simon that I would fulfil his wishes.

There have been regular phone calls, e-mails and most recently a strongly worded letter which I posted to the Customer Relations department of the pensions company at their head office in Edinburgh. I have found the whole experience to be both infuriating and stressful. The quality and efficiency of their communications have both been dreadful..

Now, eight months after Simon's death, it seems that the agony is about to end. They requested my bank details and though they say payouts are currently taking ten working days to process, I expect to receive the money before the end of April. Then I can distribute the funds as my brother instructed.

We should not speak ill of the dead but as I said in my eulogy last August, Simon had his demons and his difficulties as he travelled through life. I won't go into details but he caused both of my parents a lot of anguish and sleepless nights. 

Amongst his things, I discovered a letter I had sent to him in the summer of 1978 during a phase when things were pretty bad. I was crying out to him, tying to bring back the Simon we once knew:

"I don't hate you - nor will I ever do. I will always send you birthday cards and presents. Always love you, even if I am a thousand miles away. Always open up my arms for you if you need help. Always.....

...We have moved and grown in different  ways but you are still Simon and I am still Neil and I still want the best for you. I want to be sixty six with you my little brother at sixty four, still touching lamb's ears by the pond where we once played. And we'll be looking back upon our lives. Weathered and weary, still wondering but smiling all the same.

It is for all of this and more besides that I have shed tears for you. Tears which rolled down my cheeks, surprising me - tears for you. In the month of July 1978.  I am Neil - your brother and I am here for you."

I was twenty four years old and he was twenty two. At the time, he was detained in a mental hospital under what is called a police "section". It is true what some say about cannabis. It really can trigger psychotic episodes and utterly change someone's character.

20 March 2023


A rattail teaspoon

It is Mrs Pudding's birthday this week. I had a brilliant idea to buy her a voucher for the massage of her choice. However,  when I  asked if there was anything she wanted for her birthday she told me she would like some new teaspoons.

Several years ago and at some expense we bought a full set of Sheffield-made cutlery in the famous rattail design.  Only three of the original eight teaspoons have survived. Who knows what happened to the other five - probably accidentally tossed into the kitchen waste bin or taken out of the house in lunchboxes - never to return.

Anyway, over in the Hillsborough suburb of the city there's a business called The Sheffield Cutlery Shop. They have a website - see here. This morning I phoned them. Though they normally sell their goods through online orders, the respondent at the other end checked his spoon stock and said that they did have six rattail spoons in and I could come over to buy them directly.

As I drove over there in Clint, my luxury South Korean automobile, I expected to soon be standing at a shop counter, whipping my bank card out and simply paying for the six spoons. But it wasn't like that.

First of all, there was no actual shop. It was a workplace dedicated to cutlery with machines, lathes, boxes, polishing instruments and different types of cutlery at different stages of preparation all over the place. The owner was a man of around fifty called Lee. His father and grandfather had owned the business before him.

Lee made a very positive impression upon me. He was infectiously passionate about cutlery and very much a hands-on boss. In half an hour I learnt so much more about making and finishing cutlery as Lee whizzed me around the premises randomly pointing things out including packages containing knives and boxes of  cutlery that were about to be dispatched around the world.

He told me that he has recently taken an order to make six thousand serrated table knives to be sent to Irish embassies and consulates around the globe. He also showed me an antler bone handled carving set to be sent to a customer in Minneapolis. Wistfully, I told him that I had been there and thought of it as a beautiful city with its lakes and spacious suburbs. Maybe George Floyd saw it differently.

You might say that the work environment was chaotic but everything had its place. In one room, Lee showed me boxes of antlers - some from Scotland, some from the Woburn Abbey estate in Bedfordshire and some from Scandinavia. I wished I had taken my camera but the last thing I was expecting was a guided tour. It was utterly fascinating and I would have happily spent the rest of the day there.

One of the rattail spoons had not been "stamped" so Lee did it there and then using an amazing laser machine. I reminded him that I needed to pay for the teaspoons and he said I could do it online when I got home. He didn't even know my name  but he trusted me to do the honest thing which of course I did this very afternoon.

Oh and shhhh! Please don't tell Shirley that I have bought her spoons as requested. Being the perfect husband can be quite demanding I find.

Inside R&R Polishing Ltd premises at Jericho Works, Malin Bridge.
This was the only picture of the place I could find online.

19 March 2023


Earlier today on Mothering Sunday morn, we went out for breakfast at a popular cafe called "Made by Jonty" on Sharrowvale Road. There were three mothers there and one small girl who might well be a mother one day - Frances, Cheryl (Stewart's mama), Shirley and Little Phoebe.

Shirley has begun working at a charity shop that raises funds for for Age Concern. After the breakfast, she went off to work and I drove Clint to the southern edge of Sheffield for a bracing three mile walk that took me up to the moors above Totley.

At the top there's a panoramic picture of the view from Moss Road and just above there's the driftwood sculpture of a horse's head at Hallfield Farm. Who ever owns that lovely, secluded property is obviously obsessed with horses.

Below - whenever I take that particular walk, I always seem to spot  wild deer and  so it was today. I was circling  the pleasantly named Wimble Holme Hill and there in the woods below I spotted this doe. Of course, I wanted to shoot her but not with a shotgun containing lethal bullets like some guys. I just wanted to shoot her with my new Lumix pocket-sized camera. She was perfectly safe...

And here's another image shot from Moss Road which climbs up to Totley Moss. I snapped it before heading home to make the Sunday dinner - roasted chicken, roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips, stuffing balls, tenderstem broccoli. succulent Yorkshire puddings, homemade gravy and cranberry sauce. All followed by lemon curd cupcakes  that Shirley made from a recipe issued by a company called "Bake In". It was a subscription gift I bought her for Christmas and it has been working out very nicely.


18 March 2023


Why has Trump declared that he expects to be arrested next week with regard to the Stormy Daniels scandal and the hush money he paid her before the Presidential election of 2016? Surely, most people who expect to be arrested by the police keep such information as secret as possible. The vast majority are remorseful but not Trump. Perhaps he's trying to wind up his base supporters and get them out on the streets just as he did in early January 2021.

Has Mr B.Johnson got no shame? First he successfully  makes his younger brother Jo Johnson a member of The House of Lords and then he nominates his father Stanley Johnson for a knighthood. Neither of these close family members have done anything to deserve such honours but it seems that Mr B. Johnson does not care a fig about such minor details. This blatant favouritism and misuse of the honours system is an utter disgrace but I guess not at all unexpected given Mr B.Johnson's track record.

Why is China's President Xi Jinping visiting Vladimir Putin next week? Doesn't he realise that a warrant is out for Putin's arrest - for countless crimes against humanity? Xi Jinping ought to appreciate that having a powwow with a tyrannical  criminal who kidnaps children and encourages the brutalisation  and killing of Ukrainian citizens is definitely not a way to improve your reputation in the eyes of the wider world.

17 March 2023


Time for a song I think. I confess that most songs that float around in my head are rather deep or heavy or poetic - call them what you will - but there are a handful that are just light, "feel good" songs. Such is the case with "Daydream" by John Sebastian.  Formerly of The Lovin' Spoonful, Sebastian wrote this song in 1966. He performed it at both Woodstock (1969) and The Isle of Wight Festival of 1970. It seems like a good song for a sunny afternoon and it was once I think accurately described in this manner: "an easy-going, funky blues-soaked happy-go-lucky item with a real infectious chorus portion."


John Sebastian was born in New York City in 1944 and as far as I can determine he still makes music. The tie die shirts and jeans have gone but the kindly smile remains as this post-pandemic photograph shows:-

16 March 2023


Not much of note has been happening in my life these past few days so I have nothing of any significance to report. I am desperate to undertake more long country  walks but recent weather has been uninviting - with greyness to the fore and vibrant colours back in the paint box.

For tonight's blogpost, rather than rabbiting on about nothing in particular I have decided to simply raid my past photo files and share with you three photographs from 2008 - fifteen years ago. We were in Olu Deniz, Turkey...

Lounging on sunbeds by our hotel pool, we kept seeing paragliders descending from the nearby mountain. Not only that, we noticed that they were tandem jumps - two for the price of one.

My scaredycat instinct was to mumble to myself, "I would never do that!" but Shirley was thinking different and near the end of the week we found ourselves in a battered all-terrain vehicle bumping up twisting pine forest tracks to the summit of Mount Babadag - the father mountain.

You received basic instruction from your allocated flying partner and then you were strapped to him. Taking deep breaths, we ran together down the gravelly slope above the trees  before the parachute "caught" upon the thermal breeze. Suddenly, my feet were lifted off the ground and we were flying. Up, up we soared and it was so quiet - no engine sounds or anything. You felt like an eagle.

Expertly, the flier controlled the gradual descent of the chute. We could look over the ridge to a deserted Greek village called Karakoy and then we seemed to circle above the lagoon with its defensive spit of sand. Eventually, we landed gently on a grassy lawn by the seafront promenade just outside the paragliding company's kiosk. There was no rolling over or anything like that - you just walked.

It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience for both of us and even now Shirley and I can hardly believe that we really did do it. Here are my big size elevens above the lagoon at Olu Deniz:-

15 March 2023


I was looking back though the annals of this blog and stumbled across a true story from my professional life. The memories of that afternoon remain quite clear in my mind even to this day.  Back in 2011, twelve years ago, I tried to convey what had transpired in a blogpost titled "Gorillagram". By my calculations, the incident itself must have happened in the summer of 1990 or thereabouts and that was, rather astonishingly, nearly thirty three years ago. 

In 2011 only three visitors commented on the post. They were John Gray from the infamous "Going Gently" blog, a lady called Pat from Arkansas and Bob Brague from Canton, Georgia who is still the mastermind behind "Rhymes With Plague" - even though it is "off air" for a little while right now. Through the years, blog commenters come and go and so that's why I thought it would be perfectly acceptable to edit and recycle the old post....


This story from a summer's afternoon some twenty years back sticks in my mind. Listen...

All week I've been working in the Hicks Building of the University of Sheffield. I am part of a team of twenty five English teachers. We are Review Panel A and it is our job to scrutinise English coursework from two hundred plus secondary schools to ensure that examination standards have been accurately applied during internal assessments of candidates' coursework assignments.

It is laborious work. Piles and piles of students' scripts from all over the north of England. We beaver away all week in a large psychology lab where normally herds of psychology undergraduates would be accommodated. At the front is the formidable team leader, Tom Firkin, who cracks his whip intermittently to ensure we all maintain a good pace in our communal effort to erode this daunting mountain of writing. I work at the far side of the room near the window.

After lunch on Friday, we are all relieved to see that the mountain is now just a tiny hillock and the end is very close. Tom Firkin calls the assembled twenty five to order and conversation ceases. After all, this is the most important session of the week - we're discussing our expenses! Tom passes out copies of Expenses Form 17a (Yorkshire and Humberside Examinations Authority). No longer beavers but now gluttonous hogs, we see ££££ signs before our eyes.

Suddenly and without warning, the double doors in the far corner open and in barges a hefty six foot gorilla! Well it isn't really a gorilla, it's a man in a full length gorilla suit. I sit grinning broadly at the surreal incongruity of this moment. In those days kissograms, stripograms and yes - gorillagrams were fashionable at certain events - hen nights, stag dos, fortieth birthday parties etc.. So here is a gorillagram in a serious exam meeting. Bizarre! But who is he here to embarrass?

Other examiners are grinning too. Even Tom Firkin is smiling nervously, not knowing how to react. Meanwhile, the gorilla, swinging its arms and producing throaty noises like the sound of boxer Frank Bruno laughing, circumnavigates the lab and moves along the line of examiners by the window aisle. When he reaches me, he stops and looks down. Then in a moment which I have little opportunity to control, this damned gorilla picks me up and literally flings me over his shoulder in a version of the fireman's lift. Hell, I was almost as big a guy then as I am now - at least sixteen stones of pure Yorkshire Pudding.

Up there on the gorilla's shoulder, smiling stupidly at the other examiners who are now guffawing in unison, I puzzle as to what this is all about. It's not my birthday. Have I won a jackpot on the football pools? And where is he taking me?

Then the door opens again and in bursts a posse of examiners from Review Panel B who have been working in a different part of the building all week.

Their leader sees what's going on and yells to the gorilla: "No! Not him! Him!" pointing to an examiner of similar handsome appearance who was also wearing a blue shirt and was also stationed near to the window wall.

The gorilla dumps me and then descends on the quarry he had really been hired to humiliate. As I recall, it was indeed his birthday. But the intended funny scene has been distorted by the gorilla's poor hunting instinct. After all, gorillas are essentially vegetarian leaf munchers!

When the sweaty gorilla takes his head off, I compliment him on his sheer strength and he in turn is apologetic about my embarrassment. Two minutes later, the intruders, including King Kong have departed and Review Panel A returns to the important business of claiming expenses.

It was certainly one of the strangest incidents from my entire time in teaching and I remain eternally grateful that the gorilla did not drop me.

14 March 2023


I have terrible news to share with you this evening. It's hard to find the right words so I will just come right out and say it - Bob is Dead! Kapput! Deceased! Over! There. I have said it.

Perhaps there are snowmen that live forever - in Antarctica or by some hidden bay in northern Greenland - some place where ice and snow is everlasting - but here on the edge of western Europe in our changeable maritime climate, snowmen never last for long and that's the truth of the matter

One day they stand tall and proud with their eyes of coal or 2p pieces or small potatoes and four days later they are just slushy piles of the white stuff with their bits and pieces grounded on green lawns. That's how it was for Bob. He came into our lives last Friday morning and this Tuesday evening, as I look out into our night garden, all I can see is half  a bucketful of snow under the rotary clothes dryer. By the morning there'll be nothing left. Inevitably, Bob will just be a memory. That's all.

The last picture of Bob


I  took on the job
Of building Bob
Where the clothes dryer usually stands
I  rolled a big snowball down the slope
With gardening gloves on my hands.

Another ball for his thorax
And another for his big head.
For his arms, I sourced two twiggy sticks
From the pile round the back of the shed.

Phoebe brought me a carrot nose
And potatoes, not coal for his eyes
Then Shirley gave me a hat and a scarf
So Bob would appear in disguise.

He stood out there a  too short while
For by Tuesday night he'd departed
Gone to where all snowmen go -
The land of the broken-hearted...
It's what becomes of them Jimmy.
The good old days - last Friday afternoon

13 March 2023


I have always liked a good film - a film that tells a good story perhaps or a film in which you lose yourself - enchanted by the cinematic artefact that a team  of our fellow human beings have lovingly pulled together for us - creating a kind of on-screen magic. 

Last night at The Oscars in Hollywood,a film called "Everything Everywhere All at Once" won  several of the awards including "Best Picture". Knowing nothing about this film I thought I would give it a whirl this afternoon courtesy of Amazon Prime. 

I wanted to be enthralled and to appreciate why it had won so many plaudits. I settled down with a mug of tea and a cold pork sandwich hoping to be transported in the next two hours. However, it wasn't long before boredom began to set in and after an hour I dozed off for ten minutes. That did not make a ha'p'orth of difference and I didn't even bother with a rewind to catch up. The film was still churning along, failing to touch me in the slightest.

In cooking you get dishes called a bouillabaisse and a melange. They are similar in the sense that you throw just about everything into the pot and stir. To me, that is what  "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is like - a bouillabaisse of random imagery and sound in which time is elastic. It's all over the place and though you are sometimes at the Chinese laundry or the tax office, mostly you don't know where the hell you are. 

In the background to the action, sometimes leaking into everyday reality is a popular construction known as "the multiverse" - "a hypothetical space or realm consisting of a number of universes, of which our own universe is only one". I understand that this concept has been present in various action hero films that I of course avoid watching at all costs.

I did not care a jot about the characters in  "Everything Everywhere All at Once". "Best Actress" Michelle Yeoh played Evelyn Quan Wang, a dissatisfied and overwhelmed laundromat owner; and as several other versions of Evelyn in alternate universes. She was central to it all and within the constraints of the project she probably played her part quite well.

It was a kaleidoscope of imagery but what the hell was it all about? It did not seem to relate naturally to the world as I see it. I found it to be superficial, silly and frankly a load of trash complete with plenty of king fu style fighting.. I was relieved when the final credits came up but that was over two hours of my life that I will never get back. Needless to say I would not recommend this film to anybody apart from teenagers who are obsessed with superheroes and enjoy continuous action. Yes- as we say in England - not my cup of tea at all.


12 March 2023


What do you do when someone's head falls off?  In my opinion you don't try to re-affix the old head, you simply make a new head. Of course it is possible to recycle some of the features of the old head including eyes and nose. Creating a new mouth requires a screwdriver but why bother with ears? Hearing is an overrated sense in my opinion. Three regular visitors to this blog get by very well indeed even though they are essentially deaf.

The reason that Bob's head fell off  is that the temperature was rising outside. Water was dripping everywhere. Those of us with hearing listened to the drips as the previously crunchy snow began to turn to slush. Before Bob's head fell off he lost his nose and one of his potato eyes. He looked a right mess.

Little Phoebe was coming here in the middle of the afternoon and I was a little worried in case she suffered some kind of trauma upon seeing a now headless Bob. That's why I did the swift surgery - no anaesthetics or anything. I suspect you will agree with me when I say that a child's mind could be permanently scarred by the sight of a decapitated best friend.

Being a transplant surgeon is not as hard as it might appear. I have had zero training in the field and discovered that all I needed  was a modicum of common sense, a screwdriver, gloves and a garden spade.

As I was operating on Bob, I wondered why all snowmen are white. In this age of multi-culturalism and political correctness, it is surely time that we saw black and brown snow people in our midst. If there is to be a next time, I must investigate food colourings that I could spray onto the surface of the snow or would non-white people find that offensive?  It is so hard to do the right thing.

Finally, I have confession to make. My idea for a story based on Bob The Snowman and Little Phoebe was 99% plagiarised and based entirely on the comic book "The Snowman" by Raymond Briggs - first published in 1978 and later turned into a very popular Christmas film with a memorable theme song sung by Welsh choirboy, Aled Jones. Well done to Frances and I think Thelma for spotting this crudely attempted  deception!

11 March 2023


Gary Lineker is in limbo. He is or was the BBC's most highly paid presenter - anchoring the "Match of the Day" football highlights programme for twenty years but with what has transpired this week, his time at the BBC could very well be over.

Before I carry on, I would just like to explain that before his TV career began he was a professional footballer and a stalwart of England's national side - scoring forty eight goals for his country in eighty appearances. Famously, he was never booked or sent off in his entire career. He was and still remains football's Mr Nice Guy.

Earlier this week, the country's Home Secretary announced that rebooted plans were afoot to halt the flow of illegal immigrants arriving on our southern shores in inflatable dinghies. These dangerous voyages are invariably arranged by criminal gangs to which the desperate migrants have paid large sums of money. 

It is a very complicated problem involving international law, the huge cost of temporarily housing would-be asylum seekers, arrivals from peaceful countries like Albania, children arriving on their own, absence of documentation plus the long-winded legal processing of asylum applications complete with the possibility of appeals.

Referring to government plans in his  private Twitter account, Gary Lineker said this:-

Largely as a result of this tweet, Gary Lineker has been forced to "step back" from his "Match of the Day" role. This follows pressure from the Tory government and its agents such as Tim Davie - The Director General of the BBC who was an ardent member of The Conservative Party before taking up his current position in 2020.

This is meant to be a free country so why can't Gary Lineker express his opinions about evolving government policies in relation  to  illegal immigration?  He has in effect been censored. 

In support, several pundits and sports reporters have pulled out of their jobs this weekend showing sympathy with Gary Lineker and clearly the BBC under Tim Davie  have managed to get themselves into a very difficult situation with the way forward now appearing most uncertain.

Gary Lineker is fabulously rich but he has put a lot of his money where his mouth is. I understand that he has quietly given funds to several needy charities  and housed some refugees in his own home. At the age of sixty two he never needs to work again.

I don't entirely agree with all of his views on the asylum/migrant issue but as the famous quote often ascribed to Voltaire says: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That notion is surely one of the hallmarks of freedom

10 March 2023


There was even more snow last night. It was knee-deep this morning. Possibly the deepest we have known in the thirty four years we have lived in this architect-designed bijou house. This of course proves that global warming is a lie created by woke lefties and layabouts like climatologists, the BBC and David Attenborough. 

Anyway, I built a snowman today - especially for Little Phoebe. I hadn't built one since our kids were little. As we didn't have any lumps of coal, I instead used small potatoes for the eyes - applying black marker pen for the eyeballs. He has, I believe,  the look of Marty Feldman about him but Phoebe wanted to call him Bob.

When my creation was finished, the idea of a children's story based upon a snowman came into my mind like a shaft of sunlight in a shadowy pond. Here goes...

After a night of heavy snowfall, a young girl named Phoebe wakes up and plays in the snow, eventually building a large snowman with her kindly grandpa. At the stroke of midnight, Phoebe sneaks downstairs to find the snowman has magically come to life. Phoebe shows the snowman around her grandparents'  house, playing with appliances, toys and other bric-a-brac, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake Phoebe's snoring grandparents. The two find a sheeted-down motorcycle in the house's garden and go for a ride on it through the woods. Its engine heat starts to melt the snowman and he cools off luxuriating in the garage freezer.

Seeing a picture of the Arctic region on a packet in the freezer, the snowman is agitated and takes the little girl  in hand, running through the garden until they take flight. They fly over the Yorkshire Wolds towards the coast, seeing Flamborough Head and Filey Bay, and north along the coast of Norway. They continue through an arctic landscape and into the aurora borealis. They land in a snow-covered forest where they join a party of snowmen. They eventually meet Father Christmas along with his reindeer; he gives the little girl a card and a scarf with a snowman pattern. The snowman returns home with Phoebe before the sun rises and the two bid farewell for the night.

The following morning, Phoebe wakes up to find that the snowman has melted, leaving only his hat, scarf, potato eyes, carrot nose, and stick arms in a pile of melted snow. Phoebe kneels down by the snowman's remains while holding his scarf, mourning the loss of her friend.

That is the core plot but I think that if the show was ever filmed it would require a theme song - sung by a choirboy with an angelic voice. It would begin something like this:-
We're striding through the air
We're floating in the starlit sky
The townsfolk far below are sleeping as we fly...

9 March 2023


Sheffield tonight from the BBC website - picture by "Emily"

Outside the snow is around eight inches deep. Weather systems conspired to dump a whole heap of the white stuff on this region in the past twenty four hours. 

We thought ahead and got Phoebe over here as soon as we came back from York. We look after her every Thursday and Friday so having her here on Wednesday night meant that Shirley would not have to skid around in snow this morning in order to pick her up.

Phoebe has been out on a sledge in the garden - laughing about it but none too pleased when she fell off into the soft but "crunchy" blanket of snow. This is the first time in her life that she has ridden on a sledge and it's also the first time she has thrown a snowball. I should have built her a snowman but I was too lazy to do that and preferred to stay snug and warm inside our house - apart from the short sledging session this afternoon..

Maybe I will build a snowman in the morning -  even though we have no coal for the eyes. I recall that the worst thing about building a snowman is getting cold hands. We have some spare carrots.

I am pleased that I went to our Lidl supermarket at around nine o'clock yesterday night - even though the snow was already beginning to fall. I managed to stock up on groceries to a degree whereby we can easily survive extended snow problems till next week. Besides we have a little Sainsburys store and a Co-op shop within easy walking distance of this house.

For us, the winter of 2022/2023 has been very mild and mostly green but there's always a chance of late snowfalls even into April. It is not especially cold out there. My electronic thermometer with an outside sensor tells me it is exactly 0℃ right now as midnight approaches.

8 March 2023


"Yorkie Goes to York"
Those damned weather forecasters got it wrong today. It was meant to be cold and sunny up in York but it was cold and grey. There were even a few snow flurries but not sufficient to make me put my hood up.

At the last moment, Baroness Pudding decided to accompany me on my train journey - not for the lengthy walk I had planned but to mooch around the city's shops and have lunch somewhere. Above - York railway station soon after we had alighted from the Sheffield train. Below - by The River Ouse - two of York's most famous offspring are celebrated:-
The River Ouse is prone to flooding and Clifton Ings north of the city is a wide grassy area that captures millions of gallons of flood water when levels get worrying. There I spotted this egret with its long neck tucked in:-
By the river a couple of miles out of the city I spotted rowers from St Peter's School on a training session:-
I am not sure why I took this picture of a parked van. Possibly I was thinking about New York City and wanted to show that there's a much older city that bears the name of York:-

Joseph Rowntree was a great man of York. See the second picture. His far-seeing charitable legacy continues to this day. I spotted this plaque on the wall of a grand house just outside the old city walls:-

York's skyline is still dominated by a magnificent medieval cathedral called York Minster. It requires continuous maintenance. I spotted this tarpaulin on the south side of the building today:-

Just before I dived into a Middle Eastern cafe to buy a delicious chicken shawarma with a can of Diet Coke, I noticed this brass marker in the pavement (American: sidewalk). York was an important northern settlement for The Romans. They called it Eboracum which  possibly meant - place of the wild boar though there are other etymological  theories. In contrast, the title of this very blog means - place of the old bore! Namely, me!

7 March 2023


Oh! Oh! I almost forgot to blog tonight. A few things have distracted me including making our evening meal, preparing to visit York tomorrow, listening to the radio commentary of Chelsea's match with Borussia Dortmund and trying to get to grips with the new camera I bought this afternoon.

The meal centred around the remains of Sunday's beef joint. I chopped it into chunks and left the pieces simmering in leftover gravy with chopped onions and mushrooms. The pan was on the gas hob at the lowest setting with the lid on for about four hours. The stew was served with mashed potato and steamed broccoli. Though I say it myself - rather delicious.

I will be taking trains to and from York. With off-peak saver fares I have only paid £12.80 for the return trip. I will only be there for four and a half hours but I plan to walk a few miles. It's not really about going to see sights like York Minster, Clifford'a Tower, The Shambles and the old city walls. I realised that I haven't been into York for twenty years since my friend Chris came over from Ohio to pay us a visit back in 2003. How time flies. And obviously with my Geograph photo mapping passion the trip to York is partly about ticking off squares as I take notice of what is around me.

There's a great camera shop on London Road, Sheffield. It's called Harrisons and I went there to buy a used Panasonic bridge camera in excellent condition. It was only £80 but when I discovered it was twelve years old I decided to pay a couple of hundred pounds more to buy a smaller, more compact camera - a Panasonic-DC-TZ90 - shown at the top of this blogpost. Obviously, I hope it gives me great results. We'll see.

York is the ancient capital of Yorkshire and of course it gave its name to America's biggest city - New York. It was the birthplace of Guy Fawkes and Dame Judy Dench and where my father attended teacher training college  before World War II. It was home to big confectionery companies like Rowntrees and Terry's and remains the home of The National Railway Museum. It's also where I was first frisked by cops at a football match - York City v Hull City  in the 1970's.

Naturally, I hope to post pictures from my York trip if I can come to terms with the new camera. Watch this space.

6 March 2023


"Brylcreem" was first created in Birmingham, England. Consisting of an emulsion of water and mineral oil mixed with beeswax, it took off as a male grooming product just before World War II. You rubbed it into your scalp and your hair became easier to manage. With sufficient "Brylcreem" upon it, it tended stay put in a gale.

My father Philip applied it to his head every morning and at the age of eleven , when I started secondary school, I also joined the "Brylcreem" club. Unless I played sports during the school day, my parted hair  remained unchanged till I got home. I left the "Brylcreem" fraternity at the age of fourteen. By 1967, I was keen to have longer hair like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but my school's rules must have been developed in  Edwardian times. Having anything other than a "short back and sides" was considered to be a heinous crime but with several other rebellious boys I kept pushing the boundaries.

In the 1950's "Brylcreem" was very popular in this country. Heralding a future trend in advertising,  a great cricketer, Dennis Compton, was employed to promote the product:-

"Brylcreem" became popular in other countries too - including the USA, Canada and Australia. It featured in early TV ads where the slogan"A little dab will do ya!" was adopted. There are two ads contained within this video clip:-

The heyday of "Brylcreem" may be long gone but the cream is still produced. When I worked in Thailand I saw it for sale in my local pharmacy. There are still many men with unruly hair who could benefit from daily dabs of the product. I created the meme shown below to demonstrate that very point...

5 March 2023


Phoebe has slept at our house for the  past four nights and she is asleep in her cot  right now for the fifth night in a row. Her mum has also slept over through the weekend. Phoebe's daddy - Stewart - will be back from France tomorrow afternoon so mummy and daughter's little holiday is almost over.

I guess that most western families face the dilemma of screen-time for little children. Should they have any screentime at all? How should it be rationed? What should they be watching? Does screen-time cause any harm?

Phoebe has two little cousins residing in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. They are called Alexander and Florence - never shortened - and for them watching screens is absolutely forbidden. That seems quite harsh but who knows what the best way forward is? Certainly not me - but what I do know is that screens are not going away and they will feature in every child's life as they move into the future.

It was different for me and my generation. Many of us didn't have any screen-time at all because there were no computers or smartphones and television was only just catching on. It's so different now.

Phoebe loves Peppa Pig and Trotro (thanks to Andrew in Melbourne!) as well as Mr Tumble and  "Twirlywoos" plus film versions of wonderful children's books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler - "The Gruffalo", "The Smeds and The Smoos", "The Whale and The Snail", "Superworm" etcetera. It can be hard to drag our little girl away from screen-time. She always wants more and "one more" doesn't usually mean that. As I say, it is something of a dilemma for us and countless others.

Anyway the main purpose of this blogpost is to share three pictures of Phoebe taken in the last week. She continues to grow physically, mentally and emotionally and remains a constant joy. It is getting hard to remember life without her.

4 March 2023


One of England's best-loved TV sports pundits is a fellow called Ian Wright. He played for Crystal Palace, Arsenal and England. Earlier today, via live TV coverage,  he was watching his beloved Arsenal play Bournemouth in The Premier League. It had been a surprisingly tough match for table topping Arsenal but in almost the last minute of the game, substitute Reiss Nelson came up with the winning goal. This was Wrightie's  reaction:-

To those who are not passionate about football, the reaction may seem puzzling but I get it completely. I feel just the same way when my beloved Hull City achieve victory in the last minute of a game. It is quite orgasmic and briefly you forget yourself - such is the explosion of joy.

3 March 2023


"The Cricket Inn" in 1957

"The Cricket Inn" is a pub-restaurant  located on the southern perimeter of the city of Sheffield - in a small suburb called Totley Bents. Passing by it is a pleasant feature of my regular suburban circuit - the circular walk I made up over thirty years ago. Usually it starts at Shotts Lane and half way round there's "The Cricket Inn" seen across a grassy recreation ground. Once it was just a drinks- led public house but it has kept pace with the times and transformed itself into a food-led gastro-pub.. It appeals to affluent inhabitants of the south west section of the city - Dore, Totley, Ecclesall, Fulwood, Nether Edge and Whirlow and it is busy every weekend.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to explain the game of cricket but simply to share with you six pictures of "The Cricket Inn" I have taken over the years...

2 March 2023


"Detectorists" is a triumph of beautiful writing and characters with 
real depth and humanity to them. - Rotten Tomatoes

Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in "Detectorists"

I was aware of the first series of "Detectorists" when the show was first screened by the BBC in 2014 but I never watched it. The same was true for the second series (2015) and the third series (2017) as well as the Christmas special (2022). For whatever reason I did not run with it. Television does not rule my life and nobody had nudged me by saying, "You must watch it!"

However, in the last month I have managed to watch every episode of "Detectorists" and I must say that it has been a thoroughly enjoyable  marathon. The show is brilliantly innocent and gentle, focusing mainly on two middle-aged men who enjoy nothing better than surveying the local countryside with their metal detectors. They are Lance played by Toby Jones and Andy played by Mackenzie Crook - who rather incredibly wrote the entire show and directed it too.

Everything is intricately woven together. There is a real sense of community and not a gun, a murder or a detective in sight. The sun always seems to shine in the fictional village of Danebury. The humour is delivered like wafer biscuits at a  garden party - not slapped in your face.

As detectorists, Andy and Lance are always hopeful of striking gold but they are also very aware of local history and the business of archaeology.  To a large extent, they are social misfits so their absorbing hobby suits them well.

There is a strong supporting cast too including Lucy Benjamin as Lance's ex-wife and Rachael Stirling as Andy's girlfriend Becky. The members  of the DMDC (Danebury Metal Detecting Club) feature importantly in every episode - more social misfits.

When it comes to comedy and TV drama, we all have different tastes but for me "Detectorists" was magnificent. To see every episode in a relatively short  period of time was a real joy. It contains wise and well-observed understanding of how ordinary humans get along, noting their idiosyncrasies and their weakspots without mocking them. TV drama at its best in my opinion and so very English too.

Lance What you got?
Andy  Matchbox car...Chevrolet Corvette. How in God's name does that get into the middle of a field in Essex?
Lance Dunno.
Andy I mean, who's been playing with cars up here?
Lance Dunno.
Andy You know a Roman coin I can understand but a Chevvy Corvette? It doesn't make sense.

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