31 January 2023


Door to a subterranean reservoir 
by Ringinglow Road

Frequently, my walks involve jumping into Clint's cockpit and driving north, south, east or west before the walk can commence. I am always seeking the thrill of new territory and new photo opportunities. However, today was different.

I left Clint in his resting place by our front bay window and set off from home. Along Gisborne Road to Dobbin Hill and then along Greystones Drive to Greystones Road before dropping down into The Porter Valley.

Previously unnoticed house
on Greystones Road

Sheffield has five rivers which in past centuries were all important to the development of metal-related industries. They provided water power. The River Porter is really just a stream and it runs for little more than five miles into the city centre.

Walking by The Porter up to the cafe at Forge Dam has become a required route for ramblers, families, cyclists and dog walkers. Everyone who lives in the S11 postal district is familiar with the route and during the worst times of COVID it was like a superhighway.

Whiteley Wood Road Bridge
over The River Porter

Waterfall in the upper reaches of The River Porter

I didn't stop at  Forge Dam. Instead, I kept ascending the valley as the river became even narrower and more of a "V" shape close to the source of The Porter. Up to Fulwood Lane - thankfully on level ground and along to the tiny village of Ringinglow where I had already decided to treat myself to lunch and a couple of beers in "The Norfolk Arms".

As it was a very windy day, smoke from the pub's  log fire was refusing to be drawn up through the chimney and some of it was hanging about in the bar room. I rather liked that old-fashioned aroma.

After lunch, I had a mile and half more to walk down to Bents Green and by that time internal alarm signals were telling me I needed to visit a toilet. I planned to nip into "The Hammer and Pincers" but it was closed for the afternoon. As luck would have it a No.88 Stagecoach bus appeared so I jumped on it and arrived home ten minutes later before experiencing that private magical relief that is familiar to all human beings. I won't go into details.

View over Sheffield's south western suburbs from Fulwood Lane
Bar at "The Norfolk Arms"

30 January 2023


A number of years ago I had to select a new template for this humble Yorkshire blog. I was drawn to a green format - the colour of nature and environmental campaigning. Though I have only ever voted for The Labour Party (red), it pleases me that green pressure groups have gained more traction over the years - not just on this island but around the world.

In the chart above, there are twenty greens each with their own names though some greens are very similar. If I went for a walk in woodland or across meadows and then by a river, I might observe all of these greens...


Deep in an army green forest
The undergrowth had an asparagus hue
Turning to emerald in shafts of sunlight
Or fern and forest green by my leafy path.
Up ahead, a clearing appeared harlequin
Against hunter green shadows.

Departing from those verdant woods, jade
Turned to kelly green then lime
And mint as sunlit meadows came into view
Reaching to a moss coloured river
That oozed between olive banks
And over  pine green river weed
Dancing in shamrock shallows.

All along that sea green way I rambled -
Spring green grasses swaying 
Against teal coloured hillocks rolling
Under an almost turquoise sky -
Leaving the viridian forest far behind.

I was just playing around with those colour chart names. It was merely a poetic exercise to see what happened. Sage, khaki and bottle-green are examples of green words that were not included in the chart.

29 January 2023


I always go for the domed ones (American: thumbtacks)

Some readers may recall  that last August Shirley and I spent an inordinate amount of time clearing out my late brother Simon's rental cottage. We tried to be ruthless but even so a few boxes of his rescued stuff were brought back to our home in Sheffield.

Largely those boxes have remained untouched as I wait to see Simon's financial affairs brought to closure. The process has been incredibly slow and frustrating. Amongst the rescued items were things that belonged to my mother, father and the rest of our family.

Anyway, today I addressed two of those boxes and managed to reduce them to one. It was a success measured against the past five months of my procrastination. Something of a psychological nature has been going on here though I can't quite explain it.

Here are some of the items that surfaced today. Remnants of the departed...

A commemorative tin from 1981. Charles and Diana were married in the same year as us.

My old school badge - I hated that institution with a vengeance. The three crowns 
echo the city's coat of arms - Kingston-upon-Hull

My father was a proud trade unionist within the teaching profession and 
these badges acknowledge his terms of office as President of The National 
Union of Teachers in East Yorkshire

In this old pill jar I discovered a full set of brass RAF 
buttons from World War II - in desperate need of polishing. 
I believe my mother cut them from her old WAAF  uniform.

A box that in truth contains a stop watch though it was clearly meant to 
contain studs for old shirt collars that must have often got lost. I hope you 
didn't think that the term "stud" referenced  sexually proficient gentlemen. You 
can see a fellow under a bed searching for lost shirt studs.

My father was a pretty good cricketer and I suspect that this was his post-war cricket cap 
when he must have represented The Old Maltonians Association. Malton is a little 
Yorkshire market town east of York. and that is where Dad went to school - Malton
Grammar School in fact. Should I just throw it away?

28 January 2023


Hull City were playing the London club Queens Park Rangers today. I set off far too early in my silver chariot, Sir Clint, because I wanted to make a short detour in order to undertake a walk north of the village of Welton. It is situated at the southern end of The Yorkshire Wolds.

I especially wanted to snap a neo-classical mausoleum  that is partly hidden by the woods that surround it. It was erected by an early nineteenth century banker called Sir Robert Raikes. Why he and his family couldn't be buried in the village churchyard like everybody else is beyond me. Perhaps he had more money than sense. Alternatively, he thought he was more important than he really was. Another possibility is that he wished to outdo his father who had established a much smaller family mausoleum in a churchyard in Woodford, London three decades earlier.

Anyway I found the mausoleum and soon afterwards carried on with my journey to the "Park and Ride" facility at Hessle on the west side of East Yorkshire's only city.

I bought a coffee,  a ham and cheese sandwich and a curd tart from a branch of Cooplands on Anlaby Road. It is  near our football ground. which was recently renamed The MKM Stadium. I consumed this lunch on a bench next to the skateboarding corner  of  West Park. I would like to say that there were some talented skateboarders in view but they were mediocre.

Once again my friend Tony sat with me to watch the match as he has often done. It was an enjoyable game. Our lads played with more self-belief, urgency and togetherness than usual They deserved their three-nil victory and each time The Tigers scored Tony and I were up out of our seats, lost in the moment. After all these years, the thrill has never gone away. 

In a corner of the stadium there was a contingent of about a thousand QPR fans who had travelled up from London. As the full time whistle got close, some of our supporters sang rather tauntingly, "Back to your shithole! You're going back to your shithole!" English football is not like cricket or The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race you know!

Raikes Mausoleum erected in 1818

27 January 2023


The hollow cooing of pigeons on a chimney pot. In the middle of the school week, the animated conjoined noise of  children's voices in a  playground half a mile away drifts up the hill. On a still night down in the valley, the clackety drumming of occasional trains heading north or south - muted by a mile of  distance.

The humming of bathroom fans before their timers call time - abruptly. Similarly, the churning and spinning of our washing machine and the gurgling of the dishwasher before it bleeps three times like a heart monitor by a hospital bed.

Occasionally when Atlantic winds surge over this island, you hear slates straining on our roof and the creaking of rafters, whistling windows and a kinetic roaring that falls and rises in gusts. Best heard at night.

These are our familiar sounds but sometimes I miss the sound of the sea. Waves grumbling on a barrier reef or bursting on sands . Chattering over pebbles, sucking at rocky promontories. And when swimming I hear the water's mellifluous lapping  as I push it away - rhythmically moving  over the deep.

And perchance in my dreams I hear familiar human voices from the past in the echo chamber of my skull.  Never to be heard with my ears again. And I hear curlews and sheep and tropical birds and the acclamation of football supporters in a stadium - rumbling.

Music to lift you, reflect your experience, entertain you so that sometimes you lost yourself in it.

And in silence I hear my own pulse, insistent, beating. The internal sound of blood and indeed life itself. How many beats in a day? How many beats in a lifetime? Duh-duh, duh-duh. duh-duh, duh-duh but not forever. Only for a while.

26 January 2023


 "All Quiet On The Western Front" (2022)

This excellent anti-war film based on the 1929 novel "Im Westen nichts Neues" by Erich Maria Remarque is currently available on Netflix. At two hours twenty eight minutes in length, it is an epic watch yet I must admit that I was gripped throughout it.

Unusually, it considers World War One from a German viewpoint and from there it looks just as ugly, just as pointless and just as inhuman as it has variously been seen from the opposite angle.

It mostly revolves around the last weeks of the war and focuses upon a group of school friends who have joined up with boyish notions of what being a soldier will be like. Their fantasies are quickly dashed as they enter a living hell of mud, blood, noise and confusion. What is it all for? Nobody seems to know.

One of the school chums almost makes it to The Armistice  at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of 1918.  He is Paul Bäumer played by Felix Kammerer and as witnesses we have watched  him all the way, through the trenches, the killing  and the camaraderie. Dialogue is sparse and Bäumer seems to be in a permanent state of terror.

As I say, words are few. This film relies heavily on imagery. It's hard to talk when you are surrounded by brutality and the obvious futility of war. There's a starkness about it all - little colour in an endless winter. It could so easily have been filmed in black and white were it not for the orange flame throwers and the scarlet puddles of blood.

You may prefer films that you can skip away from having been lightly entertained - an "ooo!" here and a chuckle or a tear  there but conversely, "All Quiet On The Western Front" grabs you by the throat and tells you that it is something more than mere entertainment. 

Looking at what is currently happening in Ukraine, we may reflect upon why  humanity has still not learnt vital lessons about the absurdity of war.  We carry on as though there was no yesterday.

25 January 2023


New micropub round the corner from our house

My drink of preference is beer. I might have a glass of wine with Sunday dinner but mostly it's beer. In our drinks cabinet I have six bottles of whisky (Scottish) and whiskey (Irish). Four of them have never been opened. Months will pass by before I have another shot of that fiery liquid. Though I like it, I can live without it.

Nowadays I have at least three alcohol-free days in a normal week. During national  pub closures in the time of  COVID, there was a period of three months when I didn't have a single drop of alcohol. It just didn't appeal to me  any more and I didn't miss it either.

I am glad that I  have a more healthy relationship with alcohol than I did in my student days. This is partly down to my wife Shirley who arguably reined me in like a cowgirl training a wild bronco. Decades have passed since I last lost it under the influence of the demon drink. I hardly ever drink in the daytime and if I visit a pub at night, I will usually only go for the last hour knowing that if I went any earlier I would be tempted to exceed the three or four pints I usually guzzle.

Here's another alcohol story I want to share - about a woman of our acquaintance who was a senior academic nurse - working with nursing students in a university. She had done so well to get there. 

Two years ago she attended a posh dinner dance in a pretty exclusive venue. She had donned her best gown and put on her new high heels. Like many people there, she had taken full advantage of the free bar and was more than a little tiddly. Holding a glass of fizzy wine, she began to descend  a wide stone staircase but tripped on her heels and tumbled down those unforgiving steps, fracturing her skull and causing herself a serious  brain injury.

At the age of sixty she now lives in a dementia unit, her personality disordered and it seems certain that she will never get back to being the successful professional woman that she once was. You might say that it was the high heels that did it but I have a feeling that if she had avoided alcoholic drinks that fateful night she would have coped with those heels just fine. It was the drink that did it.

This afternoon I went out to a pub with my old friend Bert. I hadn't seen him since before Christmas and as prearranged I drove him to "The Rising Sun" at Nether Green. A dozen draught beers were available at the bar - nearly all of them expertly brewed in Sheffield. Bert had three pints of "Daily Bread" but because I was driving I only had one pint and a coffee. We also had fish and chips with mushy peas for our lunch.

Bert is 87 and he's been drinking beer since he was a boy. It doesn't seem to have done him any harm. It was good to enjoy each other's company - helped by the ambience of a nice pub that has plentiful stocks of well-kept local  beers. Happy afternoons like that are also part of the tale of alcohol consumption.  It's not all  about danger signs and watching the number of "units" you pour down your neck. It's also about companionship, community  and relaxation.

24 January 2023



There's so much one might say about alcohol. The subject can be approached in different ways. For example, one could address it coldly like an academic, supplying bald facts and figures or one could dramatise it - deliberately stoking emotional reaction like a storyteller. However, I want to start this blogpost by asking a simple question: Why do people drink alcohol?

Leaving aside the fact that there are many countries in this world where drinking alcoholic beverages is very uncommon, I think there are six principal  reasons why drinking alcohol is quite common in The West.

  1. Enjoyment of it may be inherited from previous generations of one's family. We may have grown up with it - observing role models consuming it and so it seems natural to make the step up.
  2. Advertising and sponsorship by alcohol brands can be very hard to ignore. It is meant to be persuasive and it works. The notion that it is cool to drink is put about and it figures in films as well as on pretty much every restaurant menu.
  3. Addiction. It is easy to get hooked on alcohol - rather like a drug addict getting hooked on heroin.  Not everyone is susceptible to alcoholism but it can creep up on you to a point where you crave it every day as the rest of your life begins to fall apart. Untangling yourself from this physical and mental dependence is almost always exceedingly difficult.
  4. Social pressure. Meeting places like pubs and parties invariably involve alcohol. It brings people together and loosens them up. It's there at weddings and even when little ones are born. "Wetting the baby's head" means celebrating their arrival with alcoholic drinks.
  5. Fun times. It is easy to focus upon the evils of the demon drink but it should be remembered that alcohol can act as a social lubricant. It makes jokes funnier and songs louder. Inhibitions are relaxed. Who doesn't want a good time? Alcohol, can take you out of yourself and help you to create happy memories.
  6. Antidote to worries. Drinking alcohol can help you to forget your troubles so that for two or three hours your cares appear to fade away even though you might realise they'll be back with a vengeance in the morning.
I could join my personal and most noteworthy memories  of alcohol into one coherent story but instead I choose to voice them without connection.

For part of my time at The University of Stirling, I lived in an on-campus flat with five other guys who all happened to be Scottish. One of them was called Hughie and he came from Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. He was twenty when I first met him and even then he had big problems with alcohol: his main problem being that he could not get enough of it. Cans of lager beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pints of lager at night and then home with what Scots used to call a "carry oot" to drink in his room before slipping into unconsciousness.

Often when he reached that stage inside his locked room, he would have left a record on his turntable at a loud volume and with the arm over it would keep repeating itself well into the early hours. No matter how much we hammered on his door, we could never rouse him. He was highly intelligent and could dash off a required 2500 word essay in an afternoon. After leaving university, I heard that he became a street drinker in Glasgow and died there in the late nineteen eighties. Such a waste.

Though I wasn't in the same tragic category as Hughie, I had some awful alcohol-fuelled episodes at university.  There was a lot of forgetfulness when I woke from the night before with terribly vague notions of what had happened or had been said.

Once I must have collapsed on the grass by one of the campus paths and a kind young woman helped me to my feet and took me back to my flat. On another occasion with my Icelandic girlfriend - who was also very drunk - we were in such a passionate clench that we began to partially disrobe right there and then on the lawns that led down to the lake, overlooked by the best campus restaurant. It was in the middle of a sunny afternoon. Two uniformed members of the university security force arrived to disunite us and I vaguely recall looking up at them and advising them they were"just jealous!"

When I entered the noble teaching profession my drinking reduced  considerably and it was rare for me to have a skinful or lose control. However, I recall the night of my twenty sixth birthday with a residual sense of horror mixed with shame.

I visited "The West End" pub where I had become friendly with few hospital porters and a couple of nurses. It wasn't a wildly excessive night of quaffing ale. I might have had four or maybe five pints. At closing time, one of the porters  - his name was Martin - invited me back to his family home for a final birthday drink. That drink was Pernod.

I was pretty clear-headed when I left Martin's house where I had charmed  his mother for half an hour. She had lent me a rare copy of a book called "Letters To A Golf Club Secretary" which she assured me was very funny. I was clutching it as I made my way on foot through the suburb of Broomhill.

After that everything was a blank until about three o'clock in the morning. I woke up on a sofa in an unfamiliar flat with a blanket over me having no idea who had kindly provided this accommodation. I found my way to the exit door and went down the brightly lit stairs then back out into the October night. I still had no idea where I was. I didn't even know if I was still in Sheffield.

I came to a main road which at that time of night was deserted. Should I go left or right? Fortunately, I decided to go right down the hill and after a  few hundred yards things began to look familiar which was quite a relief I can tell you. Soon I was back in my own bedsitter but to this day I still have no idea what happened or indeed what happened to that precious copy of "Letters To A Golf Club Secretary". Incidentally,  I have never drunk another drop of Pernod since that lost night.

And that's alcohol for you. I can sense a third instalment coming.

23 January 2023



Even before I started to write about alcohol, I guessed that it would take more than a single blogpost. Here, before I start, I  would like to pause for a moment to remember all of the thousands of victims of alcohol. You may have known some of those people. They died in car accidents, fights, suicidal leaps, drunken rages, tragic domestic accidents and mostly they died in hospital beds of alcohol-related conditions like liver disease, pancreatic cancer, obesity, strokes, weakening of the immune system, internal bleeding and so on.

Yes, let us remember them for there are no stone memorials nor special remembrance days.

Just as an example -  one young man I knew got tanked up just before Christmastime many years ago. Snow was beginning to fall and the pavements were icy. A taxi dropped him off on the estate where he lived. Being drunk, it seems that he went up the wrong passageway between houses and upon realising his error he decided to cross the low wire fence between the two houses. It was a fatal mistake because he tripped or slipped over the wire and banged his head on their concrete coal bunker. He was not found until the sun had risen - lying outside his back door as dead as his ancestors. Much of what had happened was written in the snow. I believe he was nineteen or maybe twenty.

My parents were never big drinkers. My father hardly ever went in one of the two village pubs and the only alcohol we ever had in the house always seemed to be connected with Christmastime. Between Christmases it would sit in the little glass-fronted drinks cupboard untouched. And there was never any wine on the table at mealtimes. Besides, back then wine drinking seemed to be the preserve of the rich and powerful and it was hard to locate.

Sometimes when I walked past the vents of "The Hare and Hounds" after playing football  up on the village playing-field, I would smell a repulsive odour of stale beer mingled with cigarette smoke. It was horrible and spoke of a mysterious adult world to which I did not belong. In those days children never went in pubs.

The first time I got drunk I was eight years old. Our parents had driven off to the nearby town of Beverley to do some shopping leaving me and my three brothers behind. I can't remember where Paul and Robin had gone but there was only me and my youngest brother Simon in the house. He would have been six at the time.

Some bottles of "Babycham"  were sitting in the drinks cupboard. We probably didn't even know it was alcoholic. It was fizzy and sweet like non-alcoholic "pop". We removed the bottle tops and guzzled the "genuine champagne perry".  I think we consumed four bottles - maybe six and when our parents returned we were giggling and swaying around the kitchen - as pissed as delegates at a Tory party conference. My mother often laughed about that scene and  confided in me that she blamed herself for what had happened. That's why we weren't really scolded.

I am well aware that three  regular "Yorkshire Pudding" visitors have lost loved ones to alcohol.  It's not just something you  read about in newspapers or witness in hard-hitting TV documentaries. It can creep stealthily into anybody's life and wreak havoc before the final heartbreak. The name on the bottle is "Harsh Reality".

22 January 2023


The old Haxey Gate Bridge

Well I have just got home from the Sunday night pub quiz up at "The Hammer and Pincers" and you will be pleased to learn that for the second week running we were the highest scorers and therefore took all the loot. It's a nice feeling when your general knowledge and your hunches hit the mark. Once again we scored twenty three out of twenty five.

I have had four pints of Stones bitter tonight and so my brain is now slightly addled. How can you expect me to compose a cogent blogpost? Instead, I will simply reveal a few  more of yesterday's photo-images for your interest.

In other news, our darling Phoebe came to see us this afternoon but she was not her usual lively and mischievous self.  She normally wolfs down the little Sunday dinner I have prepared for her but today she just wasn't interested.- the reason being that on Friday afternoon she received the chickenpox vaccine and is now experiencing adverse effects. She just wasn't herself and spent a good amount of time in her grandmother's arms. Grandpa was out of the equation. We are hoping she will be greatly improved after a nice, long sleep. It seems that many small children have no after effects but for a few the chicken pox vaccine causes short term health issues.

Abandoned Langholme Manor

Track by The River Idle's embankment

21 January 2023


Abandoned cottages at Langholme Manor

Saturday morning. Sheffield was bathed in gorgeous sunshine and there wasn't a cloud in the blue winter sky. Our garden was still sheathed in frost. 

Shirley went off to her aquarobics session at a nearby gym but not until after I had let her know that I was planning to drive over to Misterton in north Nottinghamshire to take some pictures and walk four or five miles. She said she would join me on the drive over if I could wait till eleven thirty. Several of her blood relations live in Misterton, including three cousins, so it was a good opportunity to spend time with them.

When we drove east from Sheffield we soon hit a bank of fog in  the valley of The River Rother. Then we were through it and back into sunshine but when we reached Bawtry there was more fog. Roadside vegetation, hedges and trees were all coated in thick hoar frost. Up above teasing sunshine kept threatening to break through the murk.

I deposited Shirley at "The Rookery" which is where her cousin Margaret lives with her husband Steve and then I drove straight off towards the flat carr land to the west of the village down single track lanes. "What the hell are we doing here ?" asked Clint as we bumped along into the mist which was as still as a scene in a holiday postcard. Unmoving.

I was out and about for three hours before returning to "The Rookery". The fog never did truly lift but I rather enjoyed the country excursion which produced some interesting images. Of course Shirley enjoyed her afternoon of conversation, tea and biscuits with Margaret, Jenny, Karen and a couple of other family members.

It was getting dark when we left "The Rookery" but I didn't see any rooks. Clothed in mist all day, it turns out that Misterton is well named 

By The River Idle

20 January 2023


Tonight we went to see the double Olivier and Tony award-winning West End and Broadway hit show "Girl From The North Country" at Sheffield's Lyceum Theatre. Our daughter Frances had given me the tickets as a birthday gift last October.

Created by celebrated playwright Conor McPherson, the show boldly reimagines some of the legendary songs of the great Bob Dylan - weaving them into an emotionally touching and universal story about family and love, hailed by "The Observer" as the "No.1 theatre show of the year".

It’s 1934 in the heartland of America - Duluth in fact -and there we meet a group of wayward souls who cross paths in a time-weathered guesthouse. Arriving at a turning point in their lives, they realise nothing is quite what it seems. But as they search for a future, and sanctuary from the past, they find themselves facing challenging truths about the present.

The singers were all very competent and it was refreshing to hear stylish re-interpretations of some of Dylan's most noteworthy songs including "Forever Young", "I Want You" and "Idiot Wind". Surprisingly, the plaintive song "Girl From The North Country"  which appeared on the album "Nashville Skyline" did not feature. in the musical. I was slightly disappointed about that.

We both enjoyed it but were not truly knocked out as we were two weeks ago when we  went into town to see "Standing At The Sky's Edge" in The Crucible.  After the show we made a quick exit through a side door and then jumped straight on a Number 82 bus.  Back at Banner Cross, we even had time to nip into "The Itchy Pig"  for post-theatre drinks.

19 January 2023


I went to Dave's funeral today. I knew him for over thirty years. For many of those years he was a regular at my local pub.All his working life was spent with Sheffield Council's Parks and Gardens Department. He even lived in the Victorian park keeper's house by the entrance to one of Sheffield's most popular parks. That is where he and his wife raised their three children.

Dave spent all of his working life outdoors and he was not religious in any way so it was fitting that the funeral farewells were said at Apperknowle Natural Burial Ground just beyond the southern limits of this great northern city.

It was a beautiful winter's morning with yet more blue sky and sunshine, the air as still as a painting. The view from Apperknowle over the hills of Derbyshire was so spectacular that I wished I had brought my camera along but of course taking photos at funerals is generally frowned upon.

There were around a hundred and fifty people there to say goodbye. His mortal remains lay in a beautiful basket coffin with an equally beautiful  arrangement of flowers on top. One of his sisters delivered a simple eulogy with calm dignity and sororal love.

And all of this was out in the open air before his body was taken to its final resting place - a grave that had been dug in the top corner of the burial ground where an orchard is gradually forming around and from the dead.

Along with "Largo" from Dvorak's New World Sympathy, there were three songs . "Annie's Song" by John Denver, "The Circle of Life" by Elton John and one I did not know - "Something to Someone" by Dermot Kennedy.  Have you ever thought about which music or song you would like at your funeral?

Farewell Dave. It was good to have known you my friend.

18 January 2023


One Bonfire Night, perhaps thirty years ago, I hammered a spare tanalised fence post into the ground near our kitchen door. The intended purpose was simply to set off a few Catherine wheels on a couple of nails I knocked into the post. The morning after the fireworks, I thought to myself, "I'll turn that into a temporary bird table".

I got a circular shelf from  an old portable barbecue and nailed it to the top of the post. That very day I put birdseed on my primitive new bird table and this feeding habit continued for the next three decades. At first I had thought, "That table might only last three or four years and then I'll have to replace it."

The table started to keel over a month ago -just before Christmas and then in a high wind this past weekend its useful life was over. Below ground level, the wood had finally rotted away. In the photo above you can see Phoebe's automobile,  Clint Junior, surveying the tragic scene.

Fortunately, when Frances asked me what I wanted for Christmas I had had the foresight to say a new bird table from The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The box duly arrived but remained unopened until this afternoon.

I took all the parts out and laid them on our old dining room table along with the dreaded instructions. I hoped it would all be plain sailing - simply screw it all together and voila!  But of course it wasn't. Some holes were pre-drilled but others weren't and I needed my own electric drill and a hammer to complete the job.

What should have taken an hour to do  took almost three hours and it was dark by the time I finished. I had been hoping that the last picture in the sequence would show a gang of sparrows christening the new bird table but instead all I have got is the finished table waiting for tomorrow. If it lasts another thirty years, I will need to be 100 years old to  witness that particular anniversary. 

17 January 2023


Monday's promising weather forecast did not start to come true until about two in the afternoon. I had been looking forward to a long walk but in the event all I got was an hour in The Hope Valley between Hope and Castleton. Above - Hope Cement Works illuminated effectively by the sinking sun and below a tree that caught my eye by a sheep farm track.
When I pulled the curtains back this morning (Tuesday), our garden was frosty below a cobalt blue sky and laser yellow sunlight. It was just after eleven when I headed out in my trusty South Korean chariot, aiming eventually for the village of Scrooby which has long been associated with The Pilgrim Fathers and "The Mayflower" that famously set out from Plymouth, Devon for Massachusetts in the late summer of 1620. There were "Geograph" squares I still needed to bag in that vicinity - including this one:-
Near Scrooby, by a bridge that crosses The River Ryton, I came aross this memorial stone dedicated to two young women - Emily Haith and Lizzie Ternent from nearby Retford. On the night of January 16th 2010, their car came off the road and ended up in the river below. The circumstances will forever remain mysterious. It was not icy and neither of them had consumed any alcohol. At that point, the well-maintained A road  is as straight as a die.
Scrooby's only remaining pub is called "The Pilgrim Fathers" in recognition of the village's historical links with the episode I referred to in the opening paragraph. However, at the end of the nineteenth century the same pub was called "The Saracen's Head".
Close to the pub is this signpost which tells us correctly that the distance to Boston (Lincolnshire) is fifty miles but the distance to Boston, Massachusetts is 3200 miles. By the way, I  am sure they got the wrong mileage for Plymouth, Massachusetts! How could they do that? Didn't anybody check?
It was a nice day out and Clint and I were back home for three thirty. I had successfully  bagged all the squares I needed. Being a simple minded kind of fellow, I rather like days like this.

16 January 2023


Well, I haven't received any birthday photos from Phoebe's mummy yet but her Uncle Ian snapped these two gems. All the small children in attendance had gathered round to witness the ritualistic blowing out of the candles following the choral singing of "Happy birthday to you". Phoebe's Grandma had baked the cake and  Mummy had decorated it.  

Phoebe Harriet had never blown out birthday candles before so the helpful little boy on the left kindly stepped in to do the job for her.  By the way, there are three candles on the cake because the middle one is just a waxen number two.

The inflatable bouncy castle was a great hit with the children and one or two parents too but grandparents were not allowed on as they may have caused themselves injuries requiring hospitalization. The bouncy castle cost just £90 (US$110) to hire for the afternoon but the back room of the pub was free of charge. It all worked out nicely.

As Phoebe had not received any lunch, she persistently sneaked along to the buffet table to purloin healthy snacks. Even so, later at Grandma and Grandpa's house she still wolfed down the Sunday dinner that Grandpa had chopped up for her on her familiar tiger head plate. By the way, one of her favourite things is a small Yorkshire pudding - of course!

Here's Phoebe coming down the bouncy castle chute happily demonstrating her most ladylike posture...

15 January 2023


Plastic in the ocean. To me this is the very symbol of modern man's disregard for the natural world we all inhabit. For more than half a century, we have been dumping waste plastic in our oceans - not caring one iota about what it might be doing to sea creatures, sea water or to the futures of our oceans and our children's children.

Maybe I am wrong to blame ordinary people. Arguably, most of the blame should be directed at governments that stood idly by watching the horror unfold and to plastic producers whose financial greed subsumed their environmental responsibilities. Marine biologist Professor Edward Carpenter now of San Francisco State University was the first scientist to start ringing the alarm bells back in 1971. His significance is trumpeted in a current BBC video "story" shown at the bottom of this blogpost.

Here in Sheffield, Yorkshire you may be pleased to learn that Phoebe's second birthday event in "The Greystones" public house went really well and everybody had a nice time.

On three or four occasions, Phoebe slid off the bouncy castle and came running to the arms of her besotted Grandpa or marvelled at his ability to knock balloons up to the ceiling. I was hoping to post pictures but I am reliant upon smartphone snaps gathered by my son and daughter. They haven't sent them yet. Maybe tomorrow.

14 January 2023


Ever since I beheld "Standing At The Sky's Edge" in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, one of the songs has been echoing in my head, replaying itself like a stuck record on a turntable. The song is "Tonight The Streets Are Ours" and here's Richard Hawley singing it back in 2007...

It is an odd but tender song I think and to me it's about going out on a weekend night and having fun, feeling free without the usual restraints of everyday life.

In other news, our front door opened at four o'clock on Friday afternoon and  a familiar voice called out, "Hello! It's me!". The visit was most unexpected. It was our son, Ian. He had just driven up from London on a journey that had taken him almost exactly four hours. The prime reason for his visit was to be here for Phoebe's second birthday party. She will be two years old tomorrow morning and there will be a gathering in the back room of one of our local pubs - "The Greystones" - where Richard Hawley has often played his guitar and drunk alcoholic beverages.

In place of would-be musical heroes, there will be a bouncy castle in the concert room tomorrow and a big copper-coloured  balloon in the shape of a number 2.

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