"O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." - Hamlet Act II scene ii
31 March 2023
30 March 2023
Only 128 pages in length, the first thirty two pages address "ladies" and the following ninety six pages address "gentlemen". There are sections that advise on manners to be shown at ballroom or dinner events, travelling on trains, "Street Salutations", "Morning Visits", relationships between the sexes and even how to carve a range of meats including a calf's head. Although the author is unknown, he was clearly a zealous man on a mission.
Being a rough, unpolished kind of fellow, I desperately needed guidance about etiquette ahead of my wedding speech. After all, I wanted to make a good impression upon Shirley's extended family. The little book provided me with useful directions and I even quoted directly from a chapter titled, "Domestic Etiquette". Here's a taste of it:-
"It is and ought to be the anxious wish and study of every wife to render her husband's home agreeable and happy; let her always consider this her first and paramount duty every time she beholds her wedding-ring, remember she has sworn on holy ground to "love, honour and obey," and let her regulate her conduct accordingly.
Never let your husband have just cause to complain that you are more frequently abroad than at home, or that you keep your smiles for company and your frowns for him; many a marriage has been rendered unhappy by such conduct...
...Never pry into your husband's secrets, if he has any; if he seems a little out of the way, do not annoy him by asking questions, be sure, if it is necessary you should know, he will tell you."
Throughout the book, women (i.e. ladies) are referred to either as subservient appendages to the more important lives of menfolk or as dainty goddesses to be cherished and treated with enormous respect but not really listened to.
Needless to say, there is no reference to homosexuality in "Etiquette - On The Perfect Lady and Gentleman" and come to think of it there isn't even any reference to rearing children or relationships with servants. I was also looking for guidance on riding horses or riding in horse-drawn carriages but there was none.
I think the book proves that in some ways life has changed for the better in the last 160 years - especially with regard to the place of women in British society. Now we know that there is no such thing as a "perfect lady" just as the idea of a "perfect gentleman" is quite absurd.
29 March 2023
It was back in September of last year that their offer on a semi-detached house just a stone's throw from us was accepted. They were due to move in during the week before Christmas but delays happened for one reason or another, including the death of a spouse higher up the buying chain.
At one point it seemed as though the whole thing would collapse but this week they got the keys. Shirley and I had not seen the place before but we were pretty delighted with it when we got inside the house just two days ago. The previous occupants did a fine job of modernising the first two floors. The bedroom floor is a little tired but re-decoration and new carpets up there will work wonders. The attic looks ripe for conversion into a fourth bedroom. We think they have chosen wisely.
The house cost £460,000 ($566,000US, $847,400AUS). That's the kind of price you have to pay these days for a modest but nice property in the south western sector of this great northern city.
We have all worked like mules today, trying to bring the home together. Putting up beds, assisting removals men, cleaning, emptying boxes etcetera. There was so much to do that by the end of the day it was decided that the little family would sleep at our house.
I made them a tasty chicken curry with aubergine (American: eggplant) , lentils and coconut milk and they are now snoring upstairs ready for another day of house moving activity. Hopefully, they will sleep there tomorrow night.
The house enjoys great views to the east and north east right down into the bowl of Sheffield city centre. It is good to know that from now on their hard earned money will be going into their own property and not into the pockets of a greedy landlady and landlord who had put the monthly rent up to £950 just before Christmas ($1,169US, $1749AUS).
28 March 2023
27 March 2023
26 March 2023
I don't speak English like Hugh Grant or Hugh Bonneville or Michael Caine or Prince Charles. I speak English with a distinctive Yorkshire accent. Not the Yorkshire accent but a Yorkshire accent. There are several Yorkshire accents ranging from The Yorkshire Dales to Middlesbrough and from South Yorkshire to Leeds.
My own accent which has hardly changed over the years is from East Yorkshire and it is very different from the urban accent which you will hear in Kingston-upon-Hull which is East Yorkshire's only city.
I am proud of my accent. It is a big part of my identity and I have never sought to change it. The way I speak English is clear and easily understandable.
When I was at university one of the English professors I was attached to was A.Norman Jeffares. He was a published expert in the poetry of W.B.Yeats. Once he told me that he admired my accent and urged me never to change it, saying that it had weight and sincerity and it would serve me well in my future life. I always remembered those words though I had no intention of changing my accent anyway.
Just the other day, I came across a poem by a comedienne from Hull called Lucy Beaumont. She is married to a well-known English funny man called Jon Richardson.. In her Instagram poem, Lucy displays an attitude to her accent which is very much like my own. Proudly and stubbornly she refuses to change her manner of speaking.
Here it is:-
25 March 2023
Of course I often think of my oldest brother Paul who departed this life in June 2010. He went to bed and never woke up.
24 March 2023
Bloggers live in an endless variety of places. Having shared the drone footage of my birthplace village, I wandered off looking at more drone imagery.
Here's a drone video of the suburban area I live in nowadays.The film does not show our house but it takes you from the Banner Cross area right down Ecclesall Road to the Hunter's Bar roundabout. It is all very familiar territory to me and the footage reminds me just how many people live in this district and how tightly packed together many of the houses are. This is an overpopulated country and in our cities the majority of citizens don't get much space:-
23 March 2023
I stumbled across this drone footage within YouTube. There's no music or commentary. The imagery was collected on Easter Sunday 2019 by a drone user who is clearly experimenting with his new toy.
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
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
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.
19 March 2023
18 March 2023
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."
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.
15 March 2023
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.
Of building Bob
Where the clothes dryer usually stands
I rolled a big snowball down the slope
With gardening gloves on my hands.
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
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
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.
10 March 2023
Last night, we lay down on sunbeds and watched Mrs Moon rise like a tangerine over The Aegean Sea. To capture the beauty of the scene fa...
Chavs being chavvish. Just the other day, I spotted a male "chav" down by the local Methodist church. He was wearing a Burberrry ...
So there I was standing in the kitchen of our son's terraced house. Something caught my eye outside in his little urban garden. It was a...