31 August 2023


An American ad from 1917

I have owned  several cars in my life though unlike one of my best mates, I haven't got photographs of them all. 

It all began with a Morris 1000 Traveller that was over ten years old when it came into my possession. That's a car that I should have died in but the gods were looking down on me that particular night. Go here.

The first car I ever bought with my own money was a dark green Hillman Avenger. I needed it to get to work out in the sticks of South Yorkshire. At the time, it felt as though I  was driving to work to earn money to pay for the maintenance of that knackered vehicle with its rusting belly.

When Shirley and I first got together we drove around in her old cream coloured Mini. Then my brother Paul sold us his "reliable" light blue FIat 127 that turned out to be not so "reliable" after all. It inspired us to splash out on a half decent motor - a five year old red Ford Fiesta that never let us down.

We upgraded to a Ford Escort - the first of three. It was red, followed by blue and then silver. We tended to keep them for four or five years. They were great cars and generally trustworthy. You didn't put the ignition key in its slot thinking, "I wonder if this bastard will start today?"

It was probably around 1995 that we bought our first "new" car - a dark blue 1.6 Fiat Brava that had been what they call a "demo" or "showroom" model. I loved that car but its time ran out and we moved on with a silvery blue Ford Focus that was broken into at least three times by scumbags in search of Ford CD/radio players. Only for that reason, it was a relief to part exchange that car for a metallic light green Seat Ibiza.

Finally in March 2016 I bought Clint the sleek silver Hyundai i20. He was new at the time but I only paid £10,500 for him. Car prices have gone up a lot in the past seven years. The Brexit Disaster has not helped in that regard. However, my instincts are now  telling me that it is nigh time to part ways with Clint and put him up for adoption.

For environmental reasons and because the western world is moving that way, I fancy an electric vehicle. We could have a charging point set up on our little driveway and we would probably be able to acquire a car that can manage 200 miles on a full charge. However, in the north of England the charging infrastructure is very limited and there would surely be occasions when we would be panicking. 

Another negative is that electric cars are all very pricey. Even for the most basic KIA you are looking at £24,000.And yet another negative is that the technology behind electric cars is advancing all the time. The vehicle that you buy for £24,000 today could be very undesirable in five years time, overtaken by the improved technology and range of  fresher models.

The dilemma I find myself in is one that thousands of car owners must be experiencing right now. We accept that electric vehicles are the way forward but is this the right time to make that move? I am not convinced.

30 August 2023


Shirley and I went up onto the nearby moors this evening to see the so-called "blue moon" rising. It had a thick band of cloud to negotiate first and then it emerged with an orangey glow that reflected the last remnants of a sunset that had just gone.

My camera was not really up to the job but I tried my best to capture some images of the silvery orb that endlessly circles us.

When you think of it, the moon unites this planet. Unless you are blind, no matter where or who you are you can look up and see the moon shining down in dumb silence, its rhythms seemingly eternal. The moon does not favour the rich and powerful, nor does it seek to give preferential treatment to the poor in their desperation. From harvest moons to gibbous moons and from super moons to blue moons, the moon is equal in its munificence.

In my mind's eye, I still see a newspaper cartoon from July 1969 in the days just before Apollo XI  reached the moon. Two emaciated Biafran boys are on a Nigerian beach looking up at the silver sphere and one says to the other, "If they find cheese up there do you think they'll bring some back for us?" Try as I might, I have never been able to relocate that brilliant cartoon in this age of computer detective work.

When we returned to the city, I snapped this picture of the moon between two nearby houses on Ecclesall Road South...

29 August 2023


Path by the old conduit

Our Ian was on the television this morning - the ITV "This Morning" show with Andi Peters and Rochelle Humes. He and Henry did a grand job - cooking their latest spaghetti sauce while promoting their new book - "MEAT". It's currently number one on "The Sunday Times" non-fiction list and number 14 of all books recently sold via Amazon in Great Britain.Their very first book, published in April 2018 and simply called "BOSH!",  continues to sell steadily like an iconic vegan bible.
A view of Swinglee Farm across the heather moor

After that I had some irritating phone calls to make and e-mail messages to send so it was after half past two when I finally got out of the house and ordered Clint to transport me to Redmires reservoirs  - about four miles away.

I was chomping at the bit - feeling as fit as a fiddle and desperate for a decent walk before teatime (American: dinner) . Walking is both a joy and a privilege and good for us in several ways.
I walked by a long conduit to one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. I call it Oaking Clough Reservoir and I have taken readers of this blog there before. Go here for example.
I met no other humans as I marched along but later, as I was getting back to Clint, I met an old man called Barry. In a very short while I found out a lot about him. He's 87 and he has cancer and he used to be a teacher at Totley College. His wife is disabled so he has to cook her meals. 
The ruinous stone hut at Oaking Clough

Soon after I began chatting with Barry, he asked: "Are you from East Yorkshire?" and I told him that I was. He could recognise my accent even though I have lived in Sheffield since 1978. Such keen observation always surprises and delights me. I never wanted to change my accent.  For me it is a badge of honour and steadfastness.
The black box is a grouse butt - next to Oaking Clough Reservoir

Invigorated, I drove home to prepare salad with a cheese and onion quiche from Marks and Spencers and chips (American: fries) that I  made from scratch before coating in rapeseed oil (American: canola oil) and sticking in the oven for twenty minutes or so. This is one of Shirley's favourite meals.
The sheep said "baa!" but not "humbug!"

28 August 2023


More fun with Microsoft Image Creator though admittedly some might just call it wasting time. Sometimes you have to play around with your instruction wording - refining it till the artificial intelligence gets closer to  a picture that you deem to be acceptable.

Here's Dave Northsider and JayCee from "Nobody's Diary", meeting up for the first time on The Sheep's Head Peninsula...

And here's hospice nurse John Gray taking a well earned break by the sea at Llandudno. He brought his faithful hound Dorothy in to work to cheer up the residents...
Below, it's a slightly spooky image of school librarian Steve Reed wondering where he has put his spectacles...

Dancing on a Florida beach, it's Mary Moon and Jennifer Barlow meeting up for the first time and clearly  having a ball. They may have been drinking wine. The instruction here was "acrylic"...


Bert is back home. Well, he has been back for three weeks now and I have visited him three times bearing gifts, including ready meals, "London Pride" beer and dark chocolate digestive biscuits.

He cannot get upstairs so he has got a hospital bed in the front room and a commode too. He has an aluminium walking frame which he finds hard to use because he has painful hands owing to past surgery upon them. They both contain pins. This is part of the legacy of a lifetime of hard manual labour.

Each time I have been to see him his youngest son Philip (aged 53) has been there with Bert's estranged wife Pat (aged 82) who can talk for England but she is rather  sweet-natured and pretty intelligent too.

Bert has carers coming in every day to attend to basic physical needs and a physiotherapist has also come in to encourage mobility. Some of this extra care will have to be paid for and Bert has received official forms to fill in in that regard.

It's nice to see him at home. I think the hospital was driving him crazy. At least now he has some peace and he seems more like himself. Surely he will make it to his 87th birthday in late November. I hope so.

27 August 2023


“And his kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread.” 
- William Shakespeare "As You LIke It"

The Spanish Hit Parade

  1. “Kiss” by Prince 
  2. “This Kiss” by Faith Hill 
  3. “Kiss The Girl” by Brent Morgan 
  4. “Your Kiss Is On My List” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
  5. “Kiss You All Over” by Exile 
  6. “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal 
  7. “Suck My Kiss” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  8. “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat,
  9. “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa 
  10. “Good Kisser” by Oddball Observations
  11. “Kiss The Girl” by Samuel E. Wright
  12. “Kiss Me” by Dermot Kennedy 
  13. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” by Thompson Square 
  14. “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry
  15. “Last Kiss” by Taylor Swift
Last Sunday - it should have been the greatest day in the history of women's football in Spain. The national team had just beaten England in the final of The World Cup. But  the celebrations were spoilt by one arrogant, entitled man - the head of The Spanish Football Association - a 46 year old fellow called Luis Rubiales.

At the medal ceremony,  he grabbed one of the senior members of the squad - Jenni Hermoso. He rocked her up in his arms and clamped her head in his hands before kissing her full on the lips. If he had kissed her on the cheek there would have been no pushback but he crossed a line with that lip smacker.

With Trumpish arrogance, Rubiales first refused to apologise in an appropriate manner and as the heat of criticism has built up in Spain, he has angrily refused to resign. Incredibly, he has even claimed that the kiss was "consensual" when nobody saw him asking.

That simple stolen kiss has sparked much debate about the Spanish patriarchy in general and very sadly, it continues to distract attention from what Jenni Hermoso and her teammates achieved a week ago. They should be basking in the sunny glow of national pride having deservedly won the coveted trophy. Instead they are at the centre of a massive row.

Rubiales has got to go.

26 August 2023


Two weeks ago a Romanian circus came to our local park. They had a big top and everything. The lights went down  and  introductory music blasted out over the sound system.

"I don't like it!" said Phoebe, lasting around two minutes in the unfamiliar space. 

She wanted to go back home to peace and quiet. In her short life she has never been one for loud noise and has sometimes covered her ears saying, "Noise!". Or if she is in our garden and hears a lawnmower starting up she will ask, "What's that noise?"

Today her parents took her over to The Lowry in Salford which is part of Greater Manchester. There was an exhibition devoted to the works of children's author Julia Donaldson and her illustrator Axel Scheffler. Above you can see Phoebe there in front of a large replica of the mouse in "The Gruffalo".

Phoebe is holding a bright orange dragon called Zog. She was mostly at The Lowry to see a theatrical version of the story of "Zog".

When the lights went down she again wanted to go home but fortunately the opening music wasn't too loud and with her mother's persuasion she soon settled down and enjoyed the show before being driven back over the hills to Sheffield.

She's a funny little sausage, developing a strong character and of course at two years and seven months she's not really a baby any more. I know I am totally biased and besotted with her but doesn't she look so very lovely in that top picture?

25 August 2023


Trump's mugshot - taken at Fulton County Jail in Georgia is kind of scary. The way he is looking into the camera with such venom, such revulsion - it's as if he wants to rip the cameraman or camerawoman to pieces. What lies behind those piercing eyes except self-importance?  There doesn't seem to be much else.

Writing under my pen name - Max Tribulatio, I wanted my new book to remind Trump's misguided and obstinate supporters that he chickened out of the Vietnam War. "Heel spurs" magically appeared and then disappeared at the very  time that he received his draft papers. What kind of true American patriot would wantonly dodge the draft like that when so many of his peers bravely did their duty? 

Thousands did not return but Trump didn't care because  he was okay. Now his vulgar red caps bear the legend "Make America Great Again". Isn't that rather rich coming from a draft dodger?

I expect that his disturbing, defiant mugshot will become part of history and will keep being seen long after he has been dropped into a hole in the ground.

In another twist, just as I am about to press "Publish", I notice with astonishment that Trump's fund-raising team and his most fanatical supporters are already starting to embrace the ugly mugshot as some sort of brand affirmation. This makes me all the happier that I immediately interpreted it in a very different way.

24 August 2023


We are reliably informed that India's successful Chandrayaan-3 mission to the south pole of the moon was achieved with a relatively low budget - somewhere in the region of $85,000,000 US. This is far less than the cost of making a major big budget film.

India has proven itself to be a big player in advancing modern technologies, producing thousands of talented people who have contributed  enormously to innovation and development around the world. No wonder that Indian media outlets are currently bursting with national pride in relation to Chandrayaan-3.

Landing on the moon and undertaking several experiments there is a real feather in the cap of the Indian state - soon to become the most populous country in the world.

However,  was it worth it?  No doubt the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission will lead to increasing costs as further space projects are conceived in its wake.

There are some pertinent truths about India that should probably be reflected upon in the  present excitement. Firstly, a fifth of the population still live in dire poverty - unable to access sufficient food, clean water or  proper healthcare.

Britain gave an estimated £2.3 billion to India in aid between 2016 and 2021. even though India is home to  almost 800,000 dollar millionaires. It is very much a land of haves and have-nots with the poorest of the poor still living in abysmal conditions.

Some might say that this presents a moral dilemma for India. How can so many millions be spent on space projects with the related application of enormous ingenuity and energy when poverty remains rife?

Ask a poor Indian family what they would prefer - food on the table, clean water and a safe place to live or news of a rocket landing on the moon.  Any future benefits of the mission have not been spelt out.

23 August 2023


One of the great benefits of retirement is that one's mornings are not ruled by the clock. I can still remember when I felt like a white rat in a laboratory experiment. Every morning the alarm triggered the same reaction. Doze a little bit longer listening to the radio then "Up!". Ablutions. Get Dressed. Race Downstairs. Swift breakfast including scalding tea. Kiss wife. Grab keys and bag then out into the morning where it was always 7.52 when I turned the ignition key.

Nowadays I tend to get eight hours sleep no matter what time I go to bed. I rise in a leisurely manner, don my dressing gown (American: robe) and drift downstairs to make a pint of tea and whichever breakfast I desire - perhaps mini wheats, porridge, toast with a banana or boiled eggs. Then it's on to the computer  to check blogs and what not. I might not take my shower until ten or eleven.

Today it was different. After waking at six, I went back into the nether land that we call sleep and when I next opened my eyes it was 8:42. 8:42! Oh dear! I was up and into overdrive as in the not-so-good old days of work. Ablutions including shower. Dressed. No time for breakfast then out to my pal Clint who was surprised to be stirred so early. I was parked outside Frances's house at bang on 9.00.

I was driving her to the hospital.

When I dropped her off, I told her that I would be in a nearby pub until 10.30 and if her appointment was short she should come over and join me. The pub in question was "The Francis Newton" - part of the nationwide Weatherspoon chain. I ordered a traditional breakfast and tea which I consumed before dipping back into the book I am currently reading - by Raynor Winn.

Frances didn't arrive. She was in the hospital for almost three hours and as you might imagine she had to have more blood tests and meet with the head honcho in the haematology department. 

Fortunately, the platelet count had risen significantly - almost reaching a "normal" score. Immediate panic over but she will be back for another blood test next week. Platelets are clearly an issue for her in pregnancy and she bled a lot when Phoebe was born.

In the meantime, it was all a big relief for Shirley and I so we took that beloved brave daughter to "The Rising Sun" on Abbey Lane for lunch. It was quite busy in there - mostly retirees - but we didn't mind waiting.

Later, Ian sent over the latest scan of the baby that he and Sarah will be meeting for the first time in October. He really looks like a proper baby now. He was smiling at me with his little fist clenched in the manner of  a revolutionary. He will be called Zachary or more often Zach for short and he will be loved and cherished as all babies should be.

22 August 2023



Not too long ago, I reported exclusively in this blog that I was suffering from back pain - almost certainly caused by over-enthusiasm when starting the business of lifting old decking boards in our back garden (American: yard).

I listened to the warning my body was screaming at me and ceased the work immediately. Gradually, the pain drifted away as I rested and took care of myself - including gentle  back exercises and short country walks. Yesterday, I felt healed enough to get back to the decking project. I lifted a further ten boards and a dozen today - mostly using a crow bar, a big slice of ingenuity and a pair of work gloves. I did not overdo the muscle power I needed to apply.

In total, thirty two boards have been removed. They had been down for twenty years. As half expected, all is not well with the structural undercarriage. Though some of the joists and noggins are in good shape six or seven of them may as well be totally replaced. One or two of these pieces of wood look as if they have just been lifted from the bottom of the ocean - from the wreckage of The Spanish Armada.

Figuring out how to make the renovated structure solid and level without all the desirable tools will prove a challenge to a bookish man like me but to tell you the truth, I have always gained satisfaction from completing practical tasks like this one. I know it needs to be done and that I will get there in the end. Good dry days would help and of course I will be looking after my back.

Moving to a very different, unconnected subject... Our lovely daughter Frances is seven months pregnant and already fit to burst.  It is of course a joyous time but something has cropped up that makes me feel a degree of anxiety.

Her platelet count has plunged very low. Nearly all pregnant women experience a reduced platelet count but Frances's reduction is severe. The count plunged very  low when Phoebe was about to be born but this count is already so low that Frances is being called into hospital tomorrow. There may need to be some sort of intervention. If you didn't know, a healthy platelet count is vital for blood clotting.

Normally, a mother's platelet count will zoom back up soon after a birth but there can be complications if the count is really low at the time of the birth. The good thing is that both the maternity hospital and the haematology department at the main hospital  know about her issue and will be there to support her. I have read quite a bit about the condition and possible interventions - courtesy of our good friend Dr Google.

Frances herself seems quite relaxed about the matter so I guess that I am doing her fretting for her - silly old fool that I am.

21 August 2023


Look again at that title word. It's Worldle and not Wordle. Worldle is an online quiz game that tests geographical knowledge. New games appear every day but the logging of results is not as  exacting as with Wordle.

If, like me, you get off on geography then you may well enjoy testing your geographical knowledge via Worldle.

This is how a typical game goes. You are given the silhouette of a country. You have to guess the name of that country. If you get it wrong, Worldle will tell you how far away from the correct country your guess was and it will also provide an arrow to tell you the direction of the answer.

You are allowed six guesses. Next you may be given silhouettes of neighbouring countries and you have to try to name them. After that, you may be asked to identify the country's flag, the size of its population, its capital and its currency.

After that first phase, you can move on with either "WHERETAKEN (USA)" or "WHERETAKEN (World)". This begins with a random image and you have to guess which state or country it is in. Again you get six chances and the game will tell you how far away you are.

Other questions linked to the solution state or  country will follow and if you get them right  you earn stars that will improve your star rating. I am sure that I do not have to tell you that the photo above was taken in Tajikistan.

I enjoy Worldle and if you would like to try it, you will find it here. Have fun!

20 August 2023


My son and his Bosh! mate Henry have got a new cookbook out. It is titled "MEAT" which seems an odd name for a book filled with vegan recipes. I guess the title is deliberately provocative. It's saying that there's nothing wrong with vegans replicating meaty textures and flavours in their diets.  Being a herbivore does not mean that you are only entitled to eat lentils and salads with brown rice and the occasional potato. Some traditional vegans may bridle at the idea of vegan dishes that unashamedly seek to imitate meat but for our Ian and Henry being vegan is not a religion and just as much as anybody else, vegans have the right to eat tasty, varied meals.

The "BOSH!" phenomenon continues. They keep riding the wave. Their first plant-based recipe book came out in  April 2018 and was a huge success - the best-selling vegan cookbook in British history. Since then they have been on many TV and radio shows and even had their own ten part TV show called "Living on The Veg". They have now got various products in supermarkets including cakes and ready meals.

Their latest book, "MEAT" is their seventh cookbook. I don't know how long this "journey" will go on because nothing lasts forever but so far Ian and Henry have kept riding that surf  like Olympians. Needless to say, Shirley and I are immensely proud of our son. He has worked incredibly hard to get this far and has done a great deal to push veganism into the mainstream.

By the way, we sometimes eat vegan meals even though we are omnivores. That is allowed. You can eat vegan without being vegan.
Billboard (British - hoardings poster) in East London with Ian and Henry

19 August 2023


In Manchester, England this week the woman pictured above  was found guilty of terrible crimes. As a paediatric nurse, she had taken the opportunity to murder seven vulnerable babies on a neonatal hospital ward in the  city of Chester. She had also attempted to murder six others. There may have been other similar crimes that we do not know about.

Her name is Lucy Letby. The photo at the top of this blogpost was only released in the last four days. I think it shows her emptiness. A slightly twisted mouth and hollow eyes. She was caught and the game was up.

I think that this is the picture that we should see from now on - whenever  her case is reported. Previously, we had become used to a very different image of her. A pretty and devoted paediatric nurse sparkling in  her uniform but this is not who she was . It was just a disguise...
Letby will be sentenced on Monday and of course it is firmly expected that she will spend the rest of her life in prison. She broke the hearts of several families and broke the trust that had been placed in her. Above all she stole away the lives of seven tiny children who had uncharted paths to follow. Lives of hope and dreams and ups and downs and love and tears and laughter. She had no right to do that. No right at all.

Letby has already said that she will not attend her sentencing. I think that it is so wrong. You many not agree with me but I would have her dragged into court and be forced to face the music - including the statements from bereaved parents. She should not have any choice in the matter in my humble opinion.

18 August 2023


I was speaking to my brother Robin a few days ago. Of course it was over the telephone as he lives way down in the south of France about an hour from Andorra and the Spanish border.

Whenever we talk, the conversation can go on for ages even though we are different in so many ways. However, I am sure that  there are more things that bind us than what divides us. 

We were talking about our dear old Dad who died in 1979. Robin said that he always remembered a piece of  advice that Dad once gave him and this had stuck with him through the decades. It was - "Never procrastinate. Make sure you do the things you have pledged to do." 

Even though Robin has been retired since he was fifty two years old, he is a man of action and always has practical tasks to work on around the country property he shares with Suzie. He's also always working on vehicles including motorbikes and agricultural machinery. He's certainly not one to procrastinate.

The reminiscence made me chuckle because I remember one Sunday morning on the campus of The University of Stirling. I was walking between the students halls of residence when a woman's voice yelled out from an open window - "Procrastination is the spice of life!"

I don't know why but I have always remembered that.

Procrastination can I think be pretty healthy in limited doses. It's to do with resting, manana and not feeling guilty because you are not currently working on a task. Sustained hyperactivity is arguably not good for humans. We need downtime, time to process and behave like  potatoes. There's nothing wrong with that.

The trouble is when one's procrastination begins to expand to a point where things are just not getting done and whole days are being frittered away. I confess that this is sometimes a danger for me - most likely on grey days when I feel no magnetic pull from the outside.

Have you got some thoughts on procrastination or maybe you just can't be bothered?

17 August 2023


Yesterday I walked up to the medieval packhorse bridge shown in the picture above. I was with my old friend Tony. We were in the upper reaches of the Derwent Valley beyond the three reservoirs that were constructed there in the first half of the twentieth century ‒ Howden, Derwent and Ladybower.

Now the thing about this bridge that many passersby might not realise is that it is not in its original position. Six miles downstream, it used to link Derwent Hall with the little village of Derwent before the valley was flooded. It was disassembled stone by stone and then re-erected in its current location in 1959.

Below is a line drawing of the bridge in its original location but all of this lies under the waters of Ladybower Reservoir.  Very occasionally, in periods of drought, what is left of that old village is revealed again ‒  perhaps once in a decade.

Driving back down the valley, we stopped near Derwent Dam where famously RAF Dambusters bombers rehearsed bombing missions they would later carry out upon German dams during World War II. Near the visitor car park there is a charming woodland trail that includes oversized carved animals, including this hedgehog܃‒
And there's also this great big mole climbing up from his hole...
Of course Tony could not resist the opportunity to briefly ride upon a nice big beaver. He lives in the town of Beverley that includes beavers on its coat of arms.  I make no comment upon his questionable action. After all, who am I to judge?
Later, we walked to the village of Bamford where we enjoyed a late lunch in a  community‒owned pub cafe called "The Anglers".

Usually, I walk on my own but I have always enjoyed walking with Tony. We walk at the same pace and we know each other so well. We don't converse all the time for we do not feel obliged to fill the void with words. We have nothing to prove. It's great to have a friend like that. I have known him for 44 years.

16 August 2023


Christian Maynard as Chris and Desdemona Cathabel as Kim

Shirley and I went to see "Miss Saigon" at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield this evening. It's not a musical I had ever seen before and I only had half an idea about its plot.

It's mostly set at the time of the American retreat from Vietnam in the mid-1970's. For me, the show was like the proverbial curate's egg - good in parts. I wasn't knocked out by it and partly that was to do with the quality of sound. In my opinion,  it needed to be crisper and probably a little louder.

There was some clever stagecraft and a  long metal staircase dominated the acting space. It was multi-functional  but at it its dramatic best during the airlift from Saigon with Vietnamese citizens clinging to the structure desperate to get away as helicopter blades whirred noisily overhead. Very well done.

Written by by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr., the songs that progress the plot are not as catchy and memorable as one might expect in a top tier musical. Even so it has its moments and at The Crucible there were some very good individual renditions most notably by Joanna Ampil  as The Engineer and Desdemona Cathabel as Kim.

While watching "Miss Saigon", I couldn't help thinking of the pointlessness of The Vietnam War, the personal tragedies that were caused and what the hell America was doing there in the first place. What on earth did they hope to achieve?

It is of course very tragic that 58,300 members of the American military died  in Vietnam but it is more tragic that 0ver a million Vietcong fighters were killed,  230,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died and over two million Vietnamese citizens lost their lives. And all for what?

15 August 2023


And so then my South East Asian sojourn was over and I was back in England. It was still 2013 and there were plenty of days for long walks in good weather. It was the year that I reached the age of sixty. The six images I have selected to accompany this blogpost were all taken in the second half of 2013.

South Anston

In Alnwick, Northumberland - the original "Keep Calm" poster

"The Travellers Inn" near Penistone

Monsal Dale


14 August 2023


Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka

Only some photos tonight. It's ten years - a seventh of my life back in time - that I was last in Thailand. It was 2013 and I had returned to Bangkok for an unexpected second stint of teaching at St Stephen's International School. During the Buddhist equivalent of the school's Easter vacation, I met up with Shirley in Sri Lanka and when my short teaching contract was over, I spent a week in the far south of Thailand before flying home. I remember the first part of  that year with much fondness. Mostly, I felt tranquil and  healthy. All was good.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Temple decoration in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Shirley at Jungle Beach, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

My feet by the pool in Ko Lanta, Thailand

"Robinson's" - an abandoned beach bar, Ko Lanta

"Same Same But Different" cafe bar, Ko Lanta

13 August 2023


Suzie Quatro    ©The Irish Times

In the early nineteen seventies, Great Britain imported a young Detroit woman called Suzi Quatro. She was destined for stardom in the fickle world of pop music. I would say that absolutely everybody in my generation here in The British Isles knew of Suzie Quatro even though we might not all have appreciated her style of music.

She often appeared on "Top of the Pops" and she was a rock chick, a songwriter, a competent guitarist and a band leader. She became as big in Germany as she was in these islands. Her career embraced acting but rock music was and remains to this day - her first love. It's funny that Suzie Quatro gained far more prestige and merit on this side of the Atlantic that she ever did in America. But take it from me - she was big.

As it happens, it was our Ian's birthday today. Born in 1984, he appeared long after Suzie Quatro's busiest years in the limelight. In fact, until yesterday morning he had never even  heard of her. 

Yesterday he had to travel to Wales's capital city - Cardiff to appear on a Saturday morning magazine programme called "Saturday Live" on BBC Radio 4. It was a great opportunity for him and his "BOSH!" partner Henry to talk about all matters vegan and to promote their latest vegan cookbook which is called simply, "MEAT".

Appearing on the show with them was none other than the legendary Suzie Quatro - now aged 73 and still mainly living in England. Perhaps she was wondering why there weren't some flashes of recognition and a little well-earned reverence for she had survived a tumultuous period in the history of pop music and had come out the other side. 

Fame can blossom like a field of tulips and just as easily it can wither and die. This is perhaps the greatest hit she ever had in Britain...

12 August 2023


I have had a  hard  day of sport today. Fortunately, I was able to handle it as I have been in training to make sure I was ready for the travails ahead.

After a hearty breakfast of porridge and tea it was time for kick off. England Women were playing Colombia in one of the World Cup quarterfinals down under in Australia. Sitting there on our sofa, I had to be at my best to make sure that our women were fully supported.  I needed to will in goals by Lauren Hemp and Alissia Russo but finally England came out on top by two goals to one. The semi-final match against Australia should be a breeze.

After a session on the physio's table and some chicken flavoured noodles, I was back in position once again this afternoon but this time to watch the men's Rugby League Cup Final from Wembley Stadium in London. Hull Kingston Rovers were playing Leigh Leopards. The last time Hull KR were at Wembley was in 1980 and I was there too to witness the victory over local rivals Hull FC by 10-5 in front of 95,000 supporters.

Today the two teams were all square after eighty minutes (10-10) but the vital golden points were scored by Leigh in extra time from a drop kick. A hard pill to swallow for Rovers but it was a damned good game and fair play to Leigh. They had not won the trophy in fifty years.

Fatigued by the earlier sporting  vicissitudes, I staggered to our PC to see how Hull City were getting on in the derby football match against Sheffield Wednesday. In spite of going behind, we came out on top by four goals to two. We had given them a damned good beating and of course for me such victories are all the sweeter because I have lived in Sheffield for 45 years. In fact, I know there are three or four shy Wednesday supporters who read this blog so I would just like to say to them - Hard luck lads! (Hee-hee-hee!)

Health agencies frequently promote the importance of sport in maintaining good levels of fitness. With the amount of sport I have participated in today (i.e. watched), you can tell that I have heeded this useful advice. One further point I would make is that through watching sport from your sofa you are far less likely to cause yourself serious physical injury.

11 August 2023


That was Phoebe on our back doorstep this afternoon. Wellies on, Monty the Sloth by her side and a bag of "Pom-Bears" in her hand. On the bench a choice of milk or water. What could be better?

Tonight I was in the mood for a good film. On Amazon Prime, I was delighted to find "Till" - released just last year and telling the true story of Emmett Till - a fourteen year old Chicago boy who was murdered in Mississippi in  1955. It was a very famous case in the continuing struggle for racial equality in America.

To a large extent, the film isn't really about Emmett, it's more about his mother Mamie Till who reluctantly became a fierce champion for civil rights. Her part is played beautifully by Danielle Deadwyler.

She insisted that her son's body should be brought back to Chicago. It was swollen and corrupted and yet she insisted on time alone with his remains. It was a very moving and tender scene.

Later in the county court in Mound Bayou,Mississippi the defending lawyer raised doubts that the body that was found in the Talahatchie River even belonged to Emmett. However, in a moving testimony, Mamie  insisted that as his mother she knew every inch of his body. Naturally, the white killers were let off by the all-white jury, taking less than an hour to reach their verdict.

I guess it depends on what you seek in films but I thoroughly enjoyed "Till" and am very happy to recommend it. A small part was played by Whoopi Goldberg as Emmett's grandmother. Finally, I might ask - why did it take so long for Emmett's story to reach the silverscreen?

Emmett Till and his mother Mamie

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