31 December 2023


Leaving Heathrow

I am blogging to you live from The Virgin Airlines Laughing Horse World Superjet. For the past twenty four hours, it has been circling the planet picking up bloggers and blog visitors from across the globe. Thanks so much to Sir Richard Branson.

There has been no need for the huge aeroplane (American: airplane) to land. Heralding a new era in aviation, Laughing Horse Awards guests have been ferried up to the huge superjet on smaller planes. A big corrugated tube has been repeatedly attached between the two aircraft and guests have been suctioned down into our midst. They arrive unceremoniously with legs akimbo in a foam rubber landing box at the back of the VALHWS  before the corrugated tube is then retracted.

All has been going well though we did lose a bunch of Californian bloggers over Los Angeles. Ah well! With innovation in flight technology there are always going to be a few casualties. I hope they were insured.

Party Deck on the World Superjet

The lower deck of the fuselage looks more like a concert venue. It does not contain any regular aircraft seats - just bistro tables with bamboo chairs and a small glittery stage with a microphone and a massive robotic model of this year's laughing horse.

Over the sound system, The Beatles' greatest hits are playing on a loop and the champagne is already flowing as grinning bunny girls bring round hors d'oeuvres - including ricotta and roasted grape crostini.

"Got any Newky Brown Ale?" yells Dave from "Northsider".

"A small dry sherry for me please," says JayCee from "Diary of a Nobody".

It seems that everybody is now assembled and it will soon be time to move on with the subsidiary awards - known as the special awards.


RICKY GERVAIS  Order! Order! SHUT UP AT THE BACK! Welcome! Welcome everyone to the fifteenth annual Laughing Horse Blog Awards!

(Whistling. Whooping & Wild Applause)


The show is now over. Bloggers and blog visitors are making their way back up the spiral staircase to the upper deck where their assigned airline seats await them. Some of them will need to sleep off their alcohol-fueled party excesses - including Bruce Taylor from Arizona and John Gray from North Wales who engaged in an ill-advised drinking competition with lady blogger encouragement. Oh dear, those guys are going to have sore heads when  they are sucked back into the collection jets!

And there's Meike Riley heading up the staircase with Kylie Tai. They have been chattering all night long in their sparkly cocktail dresses about philosophical matters and cake recipes. I might have reported on the sights I have just seen by glancing up from the bottom of the open steel staircase but I am a gentleman.

Owing to a technical hitch, the overall "Blogger of the Year" for 2023 will not be announced until tomorrow but what can be reported right now - hot off the press - are the three "special awards" announced so far:-

Bruce Taylor "Oddball Observations " - BEST SENIOR AMERICAN BLOGGER. Blogging from Prescott Valley in Arizona, Bruce is actually from North Dakota where he grew up close to the Canadian border. Every Friday, regular as clockwork, Bruce brings joy to the planet with his "Friday Funnies" - a clever collection of cartoons, memes and other silliness - just to put smiles on visitors' faces. He also blogs about his wife Judy, his life, cookery and memories that include the time he interviewed the iconic American film actor - John Wayne. Bruce has been blogging since 2008 and this is his first international blogging award. Many congratulations Bruce!

Elsie River  "Drifting Through Life" - AUSTRALIAN BLOGGER OF THE YEAR.
Blogging from Adelaide, South Australia Elsie has been been working on her blog since May 2010 when she decided to stop being just a reader of blogs but a producer too. She is a feisty lady who speaks her mind truly when commenting. Her blog has some regular features including "Wednesday's Words on a Friday" and "Sunday Selections" which is mostly concerned with photo imagery. Elsie is good at responding to comments showing that she values her visitors. Diplomatically, she is a fine representative of South Australian womanhood. Well done Elsie!

Blogging from Leyburn in North Yorkshire, Pat is much respected in the blogging community. The Laughing Horse organising committee  received solicitations from four bloggers urging that she should be honoured. One of them, who wished to remain anonymous,  said this: "Pat is 91, near-housebound, and is now very ill, but throughout the year has consistently produced thoughtful, intelligent, inspirational posts about the state of the world, occasional days out, her carers, memories of her Lincolnshire childhood, her garden, and what she sees from her window, full of the joy of life even in the most limited circumstances. Until very recently she wrote every day. Comments show how she inspires so many people." What more is there to be said? Blogging since July 2008, Pat has shown how blogging can enhance an older person's life. It provides a window on the world, making connections, making friends and taking us away from the four walls that surround us. Richly deserved Pat!

Bruce, Elsie and Pat are now permitted to copy one of the 2023 widgets shown below and to paste it into their sidebars or into  new blogposts. Best wishes to all three of the special award winners!


30 December 2023


Old millstone below Stanage Edge, Derbyshire-Yorkshire border
I could not sleep last night. For hours I tossed and turned thinking about a remark left on this blog by a resident of Prescott Valley, Arizona. Referring to my blogpost of  December 28th, he said and I quote - "Your selection of photos seem to me to be a rather grim collection". This judgement was of course valid and delivered without malice but it surprised me. Knocked me back on my heels - me being such a sensitive fellow and all.

Today as 2023 reaches its tail end, I once again looked back through my 2017 photo files to find a more cheerful or benign bunch of pictures that I hope will prove more appealing to the aforementioned resident of Prescott Valley and others. The images are more light-hearted, more "fun" and less artsy. The last thing I want is for this challenging and often grim year to end on a visually "grim" note. 

We need more cheeriness in our lives and that is of course what the resident of Prescott Valley provides every Friday with his weekly "Friday Funnies". Go here for a sample.

Spring lamb in a Derbyshire field

Curious cow by Fulwood Lane, Sheffield
Seaside tat in Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Cat in a drainpipe in Foix, France

Toilet seat in "The Princess Royal" pub, Sheffield.

Swan ride in Millhouses Park, Sheffield

Portrait of Bruce Taylor* , Mile End, London 
*Bruce Taylor being the blogger from Prescott Valley

29 December 2023


When I first began this blogging lark, I cared not a whiff for my blog's vital statistics. This is probably because eighteen years ago there were no blog stats to peruse.

Blog visitors who choose not to publish their own blogs will probably be unaware that behind the scenes every blogger can check out  a range of statistics. There are even associated graphs. For example you can find out how many "hits" each blogpost has received. You can see lists of your most viewed blogposts in the last twenty four hours, the last week, the last month, the last year and throughout the life of the blog.

You can see how many comments each blogpost has received. I am not obsessed with these stats but I do occasionally glance at them - just because they are there. Perhaps this makes me a sad old git - I don't know.

Some bloggers are very prolific - churning out over 365 blogposts a year while some others might only post monthly. 2022 was my most prolific year because I published 345 blogposts in those twelve months. This year I wanted to surpass that number and I am happy to report that as 2023 dwindles away, this is my 353rd blogpost of the year. Back in 2005, when "Yorkshire Pudding" began, I only published 42 posts.

Another goal I wanted to achieve was an average of over 200 visits for each post and this has been achieved too. I know there are much more popular blogs than mine but I find it pretty motivating to get 200+ visits every time. They are visits from around this country and around the world but with 89% of my visits now coming from The United States. It used to be that 40% of my visitors came from The States, around 40% from Great Britain and the other 20% from the rest of the world but things have changed.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my regular readers. It is an honour that you come here to check out what I have written and observe the imagery that accompanies my posts - including photographs I have taken. 

Another feature of blogging stats is "Followers". Now I have never investigated this phenomenon and nor have I striven in any way at all to achieve more followers. In fact I don't know what it is all about but I note with some curiosity that I currently have 58 "followers". Whoever you are, welcome to my party!  

Onward to 2024 - but before then - the annual Laughing Horse Blogging Awards

28 December 2023


Yarnbombing on the pier at Saltburn, North Yorkshire

As we reach the very end of December 2023, there are two aspects to this blogpost. Firstly, the thorny subject of Gaza and secondly some pictures that I have stored away in the bowels of this computer's memory. I have thousands of them.

Okay then - Gaza. I can't help pondering about what is happening over there. It breaks my heart to think of the 9,000 children who have already been killed and the 7,000 women and the thousands of innocent law-abiding men. The present total of fatalities is 21,423. It's as if the vengeance of The Israeli Defence Force has already achieved a payback of twenty Gazan lives for one Israeli life - following the brutal Hamas terrorist attack upon innocent Israeli citizens on October 7th. I wonder - how many more innocent Palestinians must die before this awfulness ends? Surely twenty for one is more than enough.

What is happening is not a "war". It is an act of unbridled revenge. The victims are trapped within their compound unable to escape by land or sea. Some other commenters simply call it genocide. And of course the conflict is very uneven. Israeli weaponry is sophisticated, costly, lethal and seemingly inexhaustible. It makes me wonder who is supplying the armaments and where are they made? The suppliers of the military hardware themselves have serious questions to address about what is happening. There can be no more claims of "surgical" strikes when you see the devastation that has been caused.

So yes - I'm sorry. I know that was heavy stuff and my words won't change a thing but I'm glad to get some of it off my chest because I fret about Gaza every day. And now to the photos.

As I say, I have got thousands of them. Digital photographs are easily stored. You don't need shoe boxes or biscuit tins. This afternoon I was seeking a particular photo that I took in 2017 and in that process I looked at dozens of old pictures that I had not returned to since I first filed them away. It was like looking at someone else's images.  And I have picked five of my 2017 photos to share with you this evening. Arguably, a nice counterbalance to the painful subject of Gaza...

The Wash - east coast of England
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
The Solway Firth at Southerness
Rural bus shelter by the A170 in Galloway

27 December 2023


Months and years roll by and our world seems increasingly troubled. However, one thing remains solid and enduring like a well-built lighthouse upon some rocky islet on the edge of The Atlantic Ocean. We are talking about The Laughing Horse Blogging Awards.

I am sure that bloggers and blog visitors from across the planet are now counting down the days until 2023 ends with the announcement of the annual Laughing Horse Awards sponsored this year by Sir Richard Branson who of course leads the Virgin organisation - including Virgin Airlines.

Possibly because of staring at screens for hours on end, many blog enthusiasts suffer from memory loss and for that reason the organising committee have instructed me to remind everybody about past winners of the coveted main "Blogger of the Year" award.

Here's the list...

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")

2022 -  Bob Slatten for "I Should Be Laughing"

Very soon, another blogger will join this illustrious list as Mr Slatten relinquishes his crown. 2024 will then roll on by like a Japanese bullet train . The war in Ukraine will cease just as the annihilation of Gaza comes to a sublime halt and the climate change tragedy will be turned around like an ocean liner heading home. Well, we can still dream can't we?  

26 December 2023


The cafe in Endcliffe Park November 2017

Boxing Day here in Sheffield. It was dry, quite mild and quite sunny so in the early afternoon we set off down to our local park with Frances, Stew, Phoebe and Margot. It is called Endcliffe Park and it's much loved by residents of the S11 postal district.

There were plenty of people around - at the cafe, by the duck ponds and in the children's play area. I guess they had all had the same idea - to get outside while they could after the excesses of Christmas Day feasting.

Phoebe is now a connoisseur of children's play areas and enjoyed this visit as much as all the previous ones even though she has recently been a bit under the weather.

Walking back past the cafe, we bumped into John and Irene - two friends from way back. They were sitting at one of the outdoor tables cradling hot coffees. I have known John since 1978 - over 45 years. It was I believe in that very year that I rode on the back of his motorbike all the way down to Earl's Court in London to watch Bob Dylan in concert.

Whenever I meet him and his wife Irene who I have known for over 40 years, we natter away like there's no tomorrow - as if the conversation had just been paused. Before parting our ways again, John said he was going home to make  "bubble and squeak" from yesterday's leftovers and admitted that he usually enjoyed the Boxing Day dinner more than the Christmas Day feast. I laughed because I was going back to Frances and Stew's house to do just the same.

If you don't know what "bubble and squeak" is, I will tell you... Put all of the uneaten Christmas Day vegetables in a large bowl and mash up. Ideally there will be some mashed potato there. Roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots etc may require some extra chopping with a knife or crinkle cutter.

Then put all the mixture into a baking dish and flatten down. A couple of knobs of butter on top and perhaps seal the dish with kitchen foil for half the oven time. Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 200C - depending of course on the volume of your leftovers.

We ate ours with cold turkey, gravy from Christmas Day, leftover stuffing and garden peas. Waste not, want not as they say - but very tasty too.

Dylan at Earl's Court June 1978

25 December 2023


Near Monyash, Derbyshire - December 2017

Reaching the end of my 71st Christmas Day, I wish to share my favourite carol with you. With words by Christina Rossetti and music by Gustav Holst, it is the timeless and forever poignant, "In The Bleak Midwinter".

I have chosen a piano version with lyrics provided especially for you to sing along to with the aid of whichever device you are currently using.

Please don't be shy. Just sing along to the best of your ability. Sing out loud and proud and if others around mock you or beg you to shut up, just ignore them and motor on through. You may need a couple of rehearsals before delivering your best version. What have you got to lose?

24 December 2023


Fulham, London December 23rd 2023
Frances and Ian with Zach, Margot and Phoebe

Christmas Eve. For the first time in forever it was just the two of us.

I had booked a table at "The Wildcard" for six thirty. Neither of us had been in there since, in its old life, it was "Napoleon's" Casino. We didn't know what to expect - especially on a Christmas Eve when things can go a little crazy.

However, we needn't have worried. The place was fairly busy but not oppressively so and the music was not so loud. Shirley had tacos with pulled pork but I had a "Slam-Dunk Deluxe Burger" with smoked bacon and cheese sauce plus chips (American: fries). And scrumptious it was too - the best burger meal I have had this side of the pandemic.

We walked back along Ecclesall Road to "The Dark Horse" bar for one extra drink before heading home. Gone are the days when Christmas Eve was a booze fest though it probably still is for many younger citizens of this fair city.

Tomorrow, Frances, Stew and their little girls will be driving back up north from London. Hopefully, soon after they arrive home they will be tucking into a nice Christmas dinner that Shirley and I have agreed to prepare in their house. This is so they don't have to uproot themselves and the two little ones again after a four hour car journey and Phoebe can open her gifts in her own time in her own home.

On Christmas Eve, many of us think of Christmases past and the nostalgia may ache like mental arthritis. I look at the joyous meeting at the top and feel pangs of sorrow that my parents never got to see it, nor Shirley's parents, nor my brothers Paul and Simon. Life goes on. You are on the bus or you are off it.

Happy Christmas Everyone

23 December 2023



Across this kingdom, countless families will settle down for their Christmas dinners on Monday afternoon. On almost every table there will be a Christmas cracker by every place setting.

Inside each cracker there will be  a paper hat, a small novelty gift and a little piece of paper with a joke printed upon it.

There is a long tradition in Great Britain that Christmas cracker jokes should be very corny. They are not meant to elicit belly laughs. Instead they are supposed to make listeners groan or titter politely. Yes Christmas cracker jokes are rubbish and deliberately so.

Here are some more examples:-

  • What do Santa’s little helpers learn at school? The elf-abet!
  • What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney? Claustrophobia!
  • What do you get if you cross Santa with a detective? Santa Clues!
  • What do you get if you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite!
  • What happened to the thief who stole an advent calendar? He got 25 days!
  • What does a snowman eat for breakfast? Snowflakes!
Surely such "jokes" cannot be terribly hard to make up can they? Anyway, I put my thinking cap on and came up with these three fresh Christmas cracker jokes...

  • What do Eminem and Fifty Cent like best at Christmas time?  Rapping paper!
  • What is the source of our Christmas traditions?  Cranberry!
  • Why did eleven pipers piping arrive on the eleventh day of Christmas?  To fix the plumbing after a heavy frost.
I am proud of the groanworthiness of these new jokes but I must warn any Christmas cracker manufacturers reading this blogpost that my jokes are copyrighted and may only be used following the payment of a large fee.

Please share a Christmas cracker joke you recall or better still - make one up!  Note that they must be clean without lewd reference to snowballs, stuffing or Santa's sack.

22 December 2023


When it comes to the English language, there's always going to be something new to learn. It is impossible to know an entire dictionary and besides, with each passing year, new words enter the language and adaptations are made. In relation to usage, established words rise or fall.  English is forever evolving.

I can't remember why this happened but the other day, I wondered if there was a cover-all term that might explain the names that are given to inhabitants of particular places. You know what I mean. In The Netherlands we find The Dutch, people from London are known as Londoners and people from Los Angeles are called Angelinos. "The Dutch", "Londoners" and "Angelinos" are all good examples of demonyms.

The word came into being in English in around 1860 being used mostly in academic circles where it had a certain niche popularity for about twenty years before falling into virtual disuse. Then in the mid nineteen-eighties its use began to rise again.

We find the prefix "demo" in "demographics" and we find the suffix "nym" in, for example "pseudonym", "synonym" and "antonym". "Demo" is to do with population and "nym" or "onym" concerns names or words.

Residents of Sheffield are known as Sheffielders while people from Hull are called Hullensians.  Folk from Leeds are Loiners or Leodensians and those from Birmingham are called Brummies.

Blogger Andrew who creates "From the High Rise" in south eastern Australia is a Melburnian while Elsie (River) in South Australia is an Adelaidean.

It seems that not all settlements have demonyms attached to them. This is, I think, mostly true of villages.

Which demonyms might be accurately attached to you?

21 December 2023



Fortunately, Sheffield is home to two of England's best regional theatres. They sit next to each other in Tudor Square. Frequently, months can go by without me visiting either The Crucible or The Lyceum but this week I have visited both.

On Wednesday night, Shirley had great seats for the evening performance of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" in The Crucible. It was slick and endearing  in all regards - a great combination of singing, dancing and  spoken dialogue without a single error that I  could detect. There was also plenty of skilful stagecraft to admire. It's wonderful when a gang of humans can work together  to produce  really magical theatre. And of course most of Irving Berlin's songs are familiar even when you can't pin down exactly when you first heard them. 
"White Christmas" at The Crucible & below - poster for "Beauty and The Beast"

Then today Shirley I attended The Lyceum with Frances, Phoebe and Baby Margot for a matinee performance of the annual pantomime which this year is "Beauty and the Beast". We were up on the balcony, high above the stage.

Phoebe clung to me for security for she is not fond of loud noises but she was never visibly upset and seemed to enjoy the entire show - as far as a small girl can do just before her third birthday.

I hadn't seen a pantomime in years. Throughout the country, pantos are very popular at this time of year. It is a tradition that goes right back to the eighteenth century. They provide light-hearted family entertainment built around  simple and predictable plots but laced with popular songs, corny jokes and topical references. There's never anything very serious about a panto and maybe that's why ordinary families are quite fond of them. Often major parts are taken by pretty well-known celebrities.

Afterwards we went back to Frances and Stewart's house for a curry and to be around with the children while they packed stuff up ready for a long drive down to London tomorrow morning. They won't be returning to Sheffield until Christmas Day.

20 December 2023


The annual end of year awards ceremony for blogging is fast approaching. Who will win? Only eleven days to go until The Laughing Horse winners are announced along with the overall and much craved "Blogger of the Year" award.

This year bloggers were of course encouraged to submit equine images upon which the prestigious winners' widget for 2023 might be based. The committee received dozens of entries from across the world and these  have been filtered down to this shortlist of five...

"Trigger" from Mrs J.Barlow of Florence, South Carolina, USA

"Dobbin" from Mr D. Northsider of County Cork, Ireland

"Shergar" from Ms M.Riley of Ludwigsburg, Germany

"Beauty" from "Anonymous" of Sheffield, England

"Bonnie and Clyde" from Mr Andrew Tramrider of Melbourne, Australia

After hours of deliberation, it was decided that the anonymous entry would be the best for this year's widget.

Of course, The Laughing Horse Awards go right back in time to 2008 when the first "Blogger of the Year" award went to the legendary, late and much missed Arthur Clewley. Last year's winner was another blogging legend - Bob Slatten from South Carolina who recently commented in an article in "The New York Times": "I never realised how becoming The Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year would change my life. It has opened doors for me and I have met so many brilliant people including Kim Kardashian, Eric Trump  and one of my personal heroes - Mike Johnson who is now speaker of the United States House of Representatives. It has been an amazing year!"

Following long-established tradition, Laughing Horse winners will be announced on New Year's Eve.

19 December 2023


Cigarette smoking is a horrible, smelly and unhealthy habit. I am glad to note  that this vile pastime has declined markedly since I was a lad. However, what were the British government and its agencies thinking of between 2007 and 2009 when they more or less gave a big thumbs up to the vaping industry? Naively, they seemed to think that vaping would be a useful aid to wean people off cigarette smoking.

It is as if they never imagined what might happen. Vulture-like businesses and entrepreneurs spotted a way of making money through manufacturing and selling vaping products. Now there are vape shops all over the country and thousands of young people and schoolchildren are hooked on their favourite vapes. In 2021, the vaping industry in Great Britain was said to be worth £1.3 billion.  Worldwide in 2023 it is estimated to be worth $28.7 billion or £22.8 billion.

Those who gave vaping the green light did not set up proper controls to monitor the safety of  vape products. Though our pubs are now free from cigarette smoke, occasionally one might have to suffer the sickly smell of vape smoke when a user exhales at the bar. I have no idea what is in that vapour and I guess the user is largely ignorant too. All I know is that I do want any of it in my lungs thank you very much

Vape comes in plenty of different flavours from bubble gum to watermelon and from American red tobacco to absinthe. I very much doubt that the vape profiteers give a damn about what might be happening to young people's lungs with excessive use.

Another thing that riles me about vaping is all the plastic and the batteries etcetera that are part and parcel of  this parasitic and opportunist industry. Aren't we meant to be saving this planet?

We should be encouraging young people to enjoy inhaling fresh air and not wasting their money on vaping which seems to be just as hard to break away from as cigarette smoking has always been. Mind you, we should not blame the users too much because it is the so-called "authorities" who opened the door to vaping - foolishly seeing it as an easy way of leaving tobacco behind. What idiots they were.

What are your thoughts on vaping?

18 December 2023


This humble Yorkshire blog is proud to receive visits from all North Americans. Of course, Canada was once part of The British Empire and since gaining full independence in 1982, it has remained in our Commonwealth of Nations. I suspect that Canadians, at least those whose first tongue is English, generally have a better appreciation of British English than the majority of their neighbours in the USA.

For the purposes of transatlantic understanding, I often find myself having to clarify words and phrases for American visitors to this blog. Since the sixteenth century when British settlers began their new lives in The New World, the English language evolved both here to the east of the Atlantic Ocean and over there to the west. Many differences have emerged.

The list below is meant to be generally helpful for those who live in the shade of the star-spangled banner...


chips  =  fries
crisps  = chips
rubbish   =    garbage
trousers  =  pants
biscuit   =  cookie
aeroplane  =  airplane
nappy   =   diaper
catalogue   =   catalog
football   =  soccer
caravan   =   trailer
dummy  =  pacifier
lift  =  elevator
pocket money   =  allowance
vest   =   undershirt
tea towel   =  dish towel
boot (car)  =  trunk
sweets  =  candy
shopping centre  =  mall
urban footpath/pavement = sidewalk
arsehole   =   asshole
trump  =  fart
Trump   =  asshole
I am an arsehole  =  covfefe
Please may I have some salted peanuts?  =  Gimme some nuts!
pissed  =  drunk
pissed off  =  pissed

I realise that this is not a comprehensive lexicon but in its small way it should be a useful  aid to residents of the fifty states who seek better understanding in international communication.

17 December 2023


Once upon a time, when professional footballers upon this island were virtually all born and raised here, a certain congratulatory chant was always easy to adapt. To the tune of the Cuban patriot song , "Guantanamera", it went like this:

One **** ******!
There's only one **** ******!
One **** ******!
There's only one **** ******!

Yes, one Bobby Charlton, one Jimmy Greaves, one Norman Hunter or over at my beloved Hull City - one Ken Wagstaff, one Chris Chilton and one Ian Butler - after whom my son Ian was named (even though I never told the wife!).

Nowadays, the names of players in the English Premier League and in the English Football League may not be anything like the simple and familiar British names of yore. It might be more challenging or even impossible to adapt the old "Guantanamera" tune.

Take Chelsea for example. They have a player called Carney Chukwuemeka and Liverpool have a Hungarian player called Dominik Szoboszlai. Arsenal have  Oleksandr Zinchenko and Amario Cozier-Duberry but the most challenging player name of all time must belong to a Dutchman who played for Hull City - Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink. Imagine the crowd chanting that...

One Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink!
There's only one Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink!
One Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink!
There's only one Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink!

Fortunately perhaps, Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink, now forty five years old, hardly ever played well enough to attract such acclaim, scoring just three goals in thirty one appearances.

By the way, the mighty Tigers (Hull City) beat Cardiff City by three goals to nil yesterday afternoon and now sit fifth in the Championship table after twenty one games. Furthermore, and for your utter amazement, I have written about football chants before - go here.

16 December 2023


As I have held my new granddaughter in my arms and gently rocked her, a new song has emerged from the depths of me - a song never sung before. 
Margot, Margot, Margot
The stars are all aglow
Let's play out in the snow
Margot, Margot, Margot 
Falling  all around
It doesn't make a sound
Pure white upon the ground Margot
Margot, Margot, Margot
The stars are all aglow
Let's play out in the snow
Until it's time to go...
It's a good thing to sing to babies and one should not be bashful about it in my opinion. Just look down upon them and in suitable moments  sing as sweetly as you can  in the full knowledge that it comforts them and assists the early development of their language skills.

As the weeks pass, new verses may appear to extend my "Song for Margot". Ideas have already  crossed my mind but I have not worked them up yet. There are many possibilities.

Margot herself is six weeks old now and a very calm and contented baby with bright blue eyes - just like her mother before her. Margot is beginning to smile and make some sense of the world around her. If she emits one of her piercing cries, it's just because she feels the gnawing of hunger in her belly and mummy's special sustenance service is required.

15 December 2023


My quiz team friend Danny from Buxton sometimes drops into this blog. Probably on days when the weather is inclement and he is bereft of things to do. He says to himself, "I am bored as hell. I have emptied the dishwasher, made the bed, checked the progress of my shares, read the newspaper  twice, taken the lapdog round the block and now I have got nothing to do. Zero. Oh I know - I will visit Yorkshire Pudding!"

I saw him again on Wednesday night this week. He suggested that this blog was getting too serious and that I should perhaps lighten up. Maybe he is right. We were out at "The Rising Sun" at Nether Green for a pre-Christmas meal using quiz winnings from previous months to pay the bill. It all made a nice change and we were joined by our main rivals - Quiz Team Aguillera. You may be pleased to learn that there was no fighting.

Meanwhile Little Phoebe has been spending a fair amount of time with her Australian cousins. They are the progeny of Stewart's brother and his Australian wife. The children are aged five and two. Last weekend the two young  families rented a house together in the village of Mickleton in County Durham.

It was, apparently, a lovely house but I am afraid the weather up there was most unkind - with rain lashing down most of the time. Still they got to visit nearby Raby Castle - seat of noble families for a thousand years. They were mostly there for the Christmas attractions and a visit to Father Christmas.

I have been told that I should not name the children or show pictures of them on this blog as it attracts a lot of seedy, untrustworthy visitors. Maybe you are one of them? It's so sad that we have to be very guarded about such things these days - suspecting vultures round every corner.

However, I have been a little naughty. The face-in-hole board at the top shows Phoebe as Father Christmas with her anonymous male Australian cousin crouching down as a foot servant or something. I did not know where the "blur face" button was. In the picture below I have cropped out both of Phoebe's Australian cousins - when they visited Santa's grotto at Raby Castle.

14 December 2023


Gaza - Precision bombing?

"The current indiscriminate killing in Gaza, in which two-thirds of the dead are women and children, bears little resemblance to surgical strikes and reveals little apparent distinction by Israel between legitimate Hamas targets and innocent civilians." - "L.A. Times" Editorial December 14th 2023


Letter to the editor of "The Los Angeles Times" from Anne Hormann  in Pasadena  December 11th 2023...

To the editor: There’s got to be a better way. How did we come to the point of thinking that more than 17,000 deaths, the vast majority civilian, are acceptable even in the face of a terrorist atrocity?

And the number climbs daily. How many will be enough? 18,000? 20,000?

My heart aches for the Israeli families of hostages. My heart is also in agony for Palestinian families, thousands of whose loved ones are held hostage under mountains of rubble. No amount of negotiation, no prisoner swaps will ever bring them back.

We are all harmed by the ghastly number of lives lost and homes turned to piles of debris. We cannot come out of this, even as observers, without being diminished as human beings, our souls sickened by the callous acceptance of thousands of lives snuffed out.

There’s got to be a better way.

Anne Hormann, Pasadena
Current death toll in Gaza: 18,600
An estimated two thirds of these were women and children
Number of people seriously injured - unknown but in a typical war
the ratio is usually around 3:1 so that's 55,800 injured.

13 December 2023


I am sorry. I wish I could be more positive about international climate conferences. No doubt most of the attendees are well-intentioned and genuinely desirous of  meaningful actions that might save this ailing planet but the end declarations are often extraordinarily wishy-washy. Besides, any commitments that are made are dependent upon what happens back in the delegates' home countries. 

Arguably, the city state of Dubai should not exist. It was built with steel, concrete and glass in a relatively short time period with monies accrued from oil industries. It has hardly led the way in energy conservation either. It would be virtually impossible to live in Dubai without air-conditioning or motor vehicles. One might even say that Dubai is a monument to excessive use of fossil fuels. And yet this is where COP28 was held. The irony could not be more startling.

People flew in from all over the world, staying in sumptuous hotels. They consumed fabulous food - also flown in from all over the world. Our beloved prime minister, the future Lord Sunak of Southampton, flew in for a few hours and then flew straight back to Britain. He was just showing his face and ticking a box but did he pause for a moment to consider how much that one return flight had enlarged his already enormous carbon footprint? Irony upon irony.

Back in 2021, Greta Thunberg referred to these COP conferences as all "Blah-blah-blah", adding, “This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.” I tend to agree with her.

One of the key factors behind climate change is surely population growth. Every extra million people increases the environmental stress upon this aching world. And yet the issue hardly features at all in agendas at international climate meetings. It's as if straying into  that territory is like entering an agreed no-go zone. Best to stay quiet on that one. Shhh!

Did you ever hear the expression, "fiddling while Rome burns"? It concerns the emperor Nero and his alleged disregard for  his people and his imperial city. However, it is a  saying that might as well be attached to our current world leaders. They don't seem to care overmuch about the truth of climate change and what is already going on. It's much easier to pay lipservice to these matters.

One COP28 attendee I do quite admire is the current UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres. Unequivocally, he said,   “The science is clear: The 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce, not abate. Phase out, with a clear timeframe.”

But do short-termist politicians listen? Not really. They are drifting onward both to another COP jamboree - next time  in Azerbaijan of all places - and ultimately to the end of Earth as we know it.

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