31 October 2023
30 October 2023
Once Great Britain
Where battles were fought we hear no sound
Just imagined echoes of clashing swords
And the rumble of hooves moving towards
Victories upon famed battlefields
Banners raised high as the enemy yields
Now crows peck there where went the plough
And barley waves in silence now.
That hummed the summer long
You could hear the jaunty whistling
Of soldier boys in song
Of bravery and parted love
And the manliness of war
All hideousness was hidden
In the days that went before.
As bulbous tumours grow
This cannot be the land
Our forebears used to know
And yet the way the lane still bends
To the church with its ancient yew
Harks back to all our yesterdays
And the glories that we knew.
With empty lines that whine when
Delivered to the gods on high
Hypocrisy to make you cry.
For years after the fair left town
And trudged up streets on rising slopes
Where townsfolk forged their secret hopes.
You could hear lone cuckoos sing
As swifts above yon rolling hills
Cavorted on the wing.
Where old St Faith’s once stood
New burials there have long been barred
Like the bones of grave falsehood.
Carved in stone the endless names
Love me forever and I’ll be true
What on earth are we going to do?
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
To whom shall we sing our timeworn songs
Now that there’s no one else?
28 October 2023
I must share this with you before I forget it.
On Thursday morning, Shirley brought Little Phoebe back to our house before I was even up. I heard her downstairs so donned my dressing gown (American: robe) and descended the stairs.
She was in the front room checking out her Gruffalo jigsaw. There are sixteen big pieces but that's surely enough of a challenge for a small girl who is just two years and nine months old.
I decided to provide a bit of help and successfully clicked in another piece.
Seeing what I had done, Phoebe clapped her hands with glee and cried "Good girl Grandpa! Well done!"
She hears that particular praise quite often but sent my way all I could do was laugh.
Amongst the things I received on the occasion of my birthday was a helium balloon with "Happy 70th Birthday!"printed upon it. Phoebe was the one chosen to present me with it, saying, "There you go Grandpa!".
The balloon is still inflated after three weeks. The helium hasn't entirely leaked away. Since my birthday Phoebe has been to our house a further seven or eight times and each time she has found that balloon and brought it to me saying, "There you go Grandpa!"
In other Phoebe news, two weeks ago after Sunday dinner she had a big drawing pad on the table. She drew a rough circle with a marker pen and I said to her, "Do two eyes!" and she made two little marks in the middle of the face. Then I said, "Do a nose!" so she did. Next I asked her to do a mouth and she did.
Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandpa all praised her with "Good girl Phoebe! Well done!" You should have seen the resulting look upon her little face. She was positively beaming with pride.
It's amazing how far she has come in two years and nine months. And now she waits for her sibling who will change her little life a lot. The baby's due date was last Sunday but apparently nobody told him... or her. Phoebe was "late" too.
26 October 2023
25 October 2023
24 October 2023
Welcome to the world! This is your Yorkshire grandpa calling. You have so much to learn in the hours, the days, the months and the years ahead. This world that we share is filled with interest, beauty and potential. Always remember that when the naysayers seek to tell you a more negative, joyless story.
To develop as a little human being you need love and you will be blessed with plenty of that. I, for one, will love you for the rest of my days and when you are older I hope to read to you and keep you safe in children's playgrounds. I will show you lambs and sheep and name birds for you and I will help you to draw and to giggle because I will sometimes tickle you!
Living down in London, they will try to make you talk like a Londoner but in the life I have left, I promise to teach you how to talk like a proper Yorkshire lad. For example, "Nah then ow's tha goin' on?" means "Hello! How are you?" and you will also become an ardent Hull City supporter just like me. Forget Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur!
Be kind to others. Treat them as you would wish to be treated. Find joy and satisfaction in learning. Live with honesty and dignity. Laugh till tears run down your cheeks. Sing. Respect Nature. Be the best version of yourself that you can be but do not be afraid to seek help or advice as your journey through the years proceeds.
P.S. Don't take drugs and don't get a tattoo.
23 October 2023
Though I say it myself, I think the image shown above is a good one. I have walked along that path a hundred times or more. It leads to Lenny Hill on the edge of Blacka Moor, close to the suburban village of Dore where the Laitner murders took place in 1983.
I took the photograph at around midday yesterday having decided to grab some exercise before preparing yet another Sunday dinner. Once again, I drove Clint out of the city, past Whirlow Brook Park, "The Dore Moor Inn" and the Sheffield Tigers rugby ground. Then I turned down Whitelow Lane before taking a right to the end of Shorts Lane and that's where I parked Clint. He has waited there many times.
Having been rather unwell for a few days, I was not going to rush the circular walk which usually takes me just over an hour so I simply plodded along steadily taking occasional rests. I arrived in the hideaway hamlet of Totley Bents where I took yet another picture of "The Cricket Inn" across the council-owned recreation ground. Sunshine was playing hide and seek with drifting cumulus clouds as you might tell from the front shadow.
22 October 2023
I know a man who was once a senior policeman here in South Yorkshire. Last week, at my birthday lunch, he reminded me of The Dore Murders that took place forty years ago in October 1983.
Let's call him George Dixon.
Fugitive criminal, Arthur Hutchinson, was on the run. In fact, he had escaped from the court building in the Yorkshire town of Selby and then after several days he turned up in Sheffield where he was not previously known.
In the early hours of October 23rd, 1983, he entered the palatial home of the Laitner family. The Laitners had three living children and the day before they had been celebrating the marriage of their older daughter Suzanne. The reception had taken place in the family home. There was a marquee in the garden.
When Hutchinson first got into the house, he mercilessly stabbed 28 year old Richard Laitner to death. Hearing a commotion, Richard's father Basil - a 59 year old solicitor - came to the top of the stairs where he was also fatally attacked with the same knife. Next 55 year old Avril Laitner was cruelly stabbed to death in her bedroom. Unbelievably, Hutchinson then turned his attentions to the younger daughter - 18 year old Nicola. He raped her but spared her life before fleeing.
After this terrible event, South Yorkshire Police set up an inquiry base in the village using a large mobile unit. Apparently George Dixon was based there for two weeks - well into November and played a significant role in gathering evidence, interviewing possible witnesses etcetera.
I undertook some online research, trying to solve the mystery of why Hutchinson had picked that particular night at that particular house.
It has been strongly suggested that after the wedding celebrations had wound down, Nicola and some other young guests travelled to a late night bar in Sheffield city centre. There was more dancing and more drinking and when this fun was almost done, she invited everyone back to her family home and announced the address so that even revellers who had not been at the wedding could travel to Dore to keep the party going.
In her tipsy munificence, it seems that Nicola had not paid much attention if any at all to a 42 year old man with a bad knee and a north-eastern accent sitting at the end of the bar. He was Arthur Hutchinson and this was the most regrettable party invitation ever. Most official accounts of the tragedy fail to remark upon how Hutchinson came to be at the Dore house but the theory I have cited seems very plausible. I must remember to run it past George Dixon next time I see him.
Another theory is that Hutchinson had been lying low since his escape from the court building in Selby - travelling by night and sleeping by day, stealing whatever food he could along the way.He may have arrived in Dore by pure chance.
Nicola died young at the age of 48 in Greystones, Ireland. I thank Debby in Pennsylvania for guiding me to that information. For the last thirty years of her life not a day would have gone by without her thinking of that terrible night. Meanwhile, now 82 year old Hutchinson keeps trying to appeal against his thoroughly deserved life sentence. Let's hope that the wicked bastard never succeeds.
21 October 2023
I don't feel like blogging tonight. Unusually, there's nothing much I have got to say.
Storm Babet has left South Yorkshire and the city is drying out. Those flood waters that spread across Endcliffe Park yesterday have drained back into The River Porter.
The congested headachey condition I have been experiencing for the last three days seems to be running its course now. I bought a lateral flow test this afternoon but after self-administering as instructed, I was relieved to see that the "test" line remained blank. I hadn't done one of those tests in over a year.
This evening, courtesy of our television, I watched the second semi-final of The Rugby Union World Cup from Paris, France. England put up a really good fight against the reigning world champions - South Africa and lost the match by a single point. Our lads were a tad unfortunate but good luck to South Africa in next weekend's final against New Zealand. It will, I am sure, be a great game.
I am pretty confident that I will have a grandson in the middle of the week ahead. The attached obstetrician in London has already indicated that he wants to speed the baby boy's birth along for reasons I don't fully understand. Meanwhile, up here in Sheffield, Frances and Stew's second child is fully cooked but presently showing no signs of wishing to emerge from my daughter's belly. Of course, in that baby's case the problem of the low platelet count continues to cause significant concern. My anxiety will only evaporate after the birth and mother and child are both declared to be well.
But as I said at first, I don't feel like blogging tonight.
20 October 2023
Earlier this year a Dutch woman visited the headquarters of her country's national weather agency and put a storm name suggestion in the appropriate box. It was her own name - Babet and that's what this current event is called - Storm Babet.
Our house is on a hillside so we can never be properly flooded. It has rained all day and it is still raining now as bedtime approaches. Sometimes the rain has battered down in a biblical manner as if we had accidentally attracted the wrath of Almighty God and I watched as a stream surged down our road on its way to Endcliffe Park at the bottom of the hill. Already feeling "under the weather" if you will excuse the pun, I didn't venture outside all day.
The River Porter flows through Endcliffe Park, draining water from the nearby hills. Usually, it is nothing more than a gentle stream where small children paddle in the summertime but today is was a raging torrent. Its overlapping waters surrounded the statue of Queen Victoria and covered the main field. Even Phoebe's favourite children's play area was under water.
Though our house could never be flooded because of the geography of our area, we have experienced a leak in the corner of our kitchen. The rain water has found its way between the kitchen's sloped roof and the joint with next door's wall. We had the same problem a few years back and if we get a dry spell in the next few weeks I will be up on that roof again with more waterproof sealant.
Of course our small rain-related issue is as nothing compared with the upset that is caused when a house is truly flooded and in the past thirty hours numerous homes across this kingdom have had to be evacuated because of rising flood waters.
If your house is invaded by muddy flood water you know that you are in for weeks or months of associated hassle. The clean-up, replacement of plaster and electric wiring, throwing carpets out and finding somewhere else to live for the duration. You might also have to deal with an awkward insurance company if indeed you have sensibly taken out home insurance.
Finally, I ought to mention in passing that Storm Babet has taken at least three British lives in the past two days. Very sad indeed.
19 October 2023
Google Streetview even got to Puerto Toro in 2015. Situated on the east coast of Navarino Island, Chile, it is the southernmost permanent settlement in the world. Okay there are a few research stations in Antarctica but these are not proper communities as their populations are forever changing with polar researchers and support staff always coming and going.
Puerto Toro is a little fishing port with a population of 36. It was established during the Tierra del Fuego Gold Rush of the 1890's but now it focuses upon the "centolla" or southern king crab. Like Longyearbyen, Puerto Toro's environment is defined as "tundra" with an average temperature of 2.7C throughout the year. However, unlike that desolate little town in Svalbard, there is a lot of greenery around Puerto Toro.
The Streetview photographer appears to have hiked around the place and in one of my chosen "snips" you can see his shadow with the camera rising from a backpack. It's funny how Streetview will sometimes throw up strange images like that one.
To be frank, there's not much to Puerto Toro. and there isn't even a road to connect the settlement with Port Williams - the largest settlement on Navarino Island. It seems like the end of the world and I suppose it is. I would love to go there but I guess that this blogpost is the closest I will ever get...
18 October 2023
17 October 2023
It is easy to conceive of a system that harnesses AI, stock market patterns, cryptocurrency expertise and clever algorithms to generate easy money. When I apparently stumbled upon such a system within the internet just yesterday, I was momentarily wowed. Maybe I could also get rich quick with a simple investment of £250. After all we could afford to lose that but I needed to know more.
There are so many scams out there that wise people always do their due diligence. Many times I have googled addresses, phone numbers or company titles only to find that they belonged to dirty rotten scammers. Besides, linked to the very idea of easy money there are two old sayings that we should always remember: "There's no such thing as a free lunch" and "If something seems too good to be true then it probably is."
The online "company" that captured my interest was called "Immediate Alpha" though on other days it might be called something else like "Immediate Edge" for example. Searching for true information about this scam business proved more difficult than any other search I have ever done.
There are supportive videos and rafts of other trickery including cunning reference to several well-known and trusted celebrities who appear to endorse the scam company's claims. This practice has angered many of these people including Britain's famous "money saving expert" Martin Lewis who has legally battled with Facebook over misuse of his image and his reputation.
Usually, it is pretty simple to confirm scammers - just a few intelligent clicks of your mouse and you have got them but as I say, this was very different. It was as if I was driving a car in a strange city and which ever street I turned down was blocked so I had to reverse out and try another avenue and another till I finally arrived at the damning evidence I expected to find in the first place.
If they do hook you, everything might appear to go swimmingly well at first as your investment profit margin leaps like a scalded frog but it won't be long before they are phoning you every day and applying pressure to make you shell out more cash or provide your bank details or make pretend investments on your behalf.
I guess that "Immediate Alpha" or whatever they are called may not approve of this blogpost and given the depths of their internet cunning, it wouldn't surprise me if they try to block or attack it. But the truth must out.
16 October 2023
We have a pretty long garden - 43 metres in fact. I know that because I once measured it - from our kitchen door to the little white gate that opens onto the back lane. 43 metres is 47 yards.
In the depths of winter, when it's cold and often dark and wet, I hardly venture out into the garden at all - maybe an occasional trip up to the compost bins with kitchen waste - vegetable peelings and the like. But at other times of the year, good weather will often draw me out and I get on with jobs like cutting the grass, trimming the privet hedges, digging, weeding or just pottering about.
Two or three hours in the garden does me a world of good. I return to the house feeling somehow energised and with the satisfying knowledge that I have done some jobs that needed doing.
Since the episode with that horrible antibiotic - nitrofurantonin, I have remained in gradual recovery mode and just have not felt magnetised by the garden even though there were jobs that needed doing. Ours is not a neat, manicured garden. I am happy that it has an obvious element of wildness though it will never be as wild and unkempt as when we moved into this house in 1989.
The previous owners had done nothing to the garden during the decade that they lived here. They were national "Scrabble" champions so I guess they needed to spend time checking obscure words in dictionaries rather than trimming the hedges or cutting the grass. There was no fence at the bottom and no garden gate but they had made a well-trodden path to the rotary clothes airer that stood in the middle of their mini-savannah - an oasis for neighbourhood cats and butterflies.
You could say that I made our garden from scratch - taming and cutting back the jungle, creating borders, building a path, erecting a greenhouse, planting greenery and making a vegetable plot and a wall and a fence and the little white gate that is now in dire need of replacement. It has served us well for thirty years but nothing lasts forever.
Anyway, today I was drawn out there. I put my old fleece on and my fingerless gloves and got cracking with the right hand hedge. It will be the last time I trim it this year. One of the plus points of a Yorkshire wintertime is that grass and hedges stop growing so you can put away your lawnmower and your electric hedge trimmer till the following springtime.
Though sunny, there was a definite chill in the air today. Leaves are turning colour and starting to fall. I could detect the distant odour of a bonfire. A robin hopped around as I raked up the hedge clippings and a pair of magpies quarrelled in a nearby conifer tree - cacophonous and raspy. Yes autumn is here.
15 October 2023
Another Sunday dinner with Frances, Stewart, Phoebe and Shirley. I roasted pork loin and we ate its tender slices with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, savoy cabbage, stuffing balls, homemade gravy and Yorkshire puddings with apple sauce. This was followed by Shirley's special chocolate pudding with custard.
Frances's baby is due next Sunday though as we all know, "due dates" are rarely correct. Her blood continues to shout out: "Low platelet count!" and God knows how many blood tests she has had to endure. Thank heavens we are just a ten minute drive from The Royal Hallamshire Hospital and the attached Jessop's Maternity Wing.
Her platelet count is so low that a drip transfusion may occur on Tuesday ahead of the impending birth. It's a worry but we still hope and expect that in a short time there will be a healthy new grandchild and a daughter whose platelet count is rapidly shooting up. We don't know if the new baby will be a boy or a girl and to be honest we don't much care as long as he or she is okay.
Down in London, Ian's girlfriend Sarah has sailed through her pregnancy without any real concerns and little Zachary should also arrive before the end of this month. His "due date" is Tuesday 24th but who knows? Again, we just hope for a healthy, "normal" baby.
At tonight's regular pub quiz we tried our best but again didn't win. Maybe we are losing our touch but we did know that Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum recently broke the world marathon record in Chicago and we also knew that the current BBC drama about sex abuser Jimmy Savile is called "The Reckoning".
Though the weather outside was lovely today - bright and sharp - I just didn't have the motivation to get outside and do something in the sunshine. Being lazy isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a dose of idleness is good for you and besides I attempted a few drawings using the new pens that Mike gave me for my birthday.
14 October 2023
Regarding yesterday's blogpost, BBC-newscaster-voiced Thelma in Todmorden, Yorkshire queried why I had sought out my searching questions from an American blog. I agonised about this for several minutes and realised that Thelma had made a good point so today, after a lot of contemplation, I have come up with ten Yorkshire-themed questions for you to ponder where ever you may reside - from Washington D.C. to Adelaide and from Ludwigsburg to County Cork.
Please answer as honestly as you can so that we can all better understand who you are and what makes you tick apart from your heart pacemaker....
- How many eggs do you put in your Yorkshire pudding mixture?
- What is your whippet called?
- How many ferrets have you got in your shed?
- What is your head size if I decide to send you a traditional flat cap as a present? (a) XL (b) XXL (c) XXXL
- For a seaside holiday do you prefer Scarborough or Bridlington? Why?
- Who in your opinion is the greatest living Yorkshireman? (a) Arthur Scargill (b) Geoff Boycott (c) David Hockney. And why him?
- (To avoid being accused of sexism) Who is the greatest Yorkshirewoman who has ever lived? (a) Betty Boothroyd (b) Emily Brontë (c) Judi Dench (d) Hannah Hauxwell (e) Jessica Ennis-Hill (f) Barbara Hepworth. And why her?
- How much money have you got stashed away in your house and where exactly do you keep it?
- What's the biggest number of pints of Yorkshire bitter you have guzzled in one night?
- What aroma of air freshener do you currently spray in your bog? (American: bathroom. Australian: dunny)
13 October 2023
- What's your favourite scented candle?
- What female celebrity do you wish you were related to?
- What’s one thing you own that you should probably get rid of, but just can’t?
- Can you do a split? (English: the splits)
- What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight?
- Would you rather have an American accent or a British accent?
- What would your parents have named you if you were the opposite gender?
- Do you have any weird phobias?
- Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees?
- If you have a nickname, what is it?
- A plain candlewax scented one.
- Taylor Swift because she is so bloody rich she might give me a wad of banknotes.
- The well-thumbed copy of "Playboy" that I hide under our mattress.
- You must be joking. I would end up in hospital if I even tried.
- I just wore my normal clothes as we never "did" Halloween in England back then.
- I would rather have a Yorkshire accent - in other words, the same accent that I have now.
- Honeysuckle Melody Rose
- Yes. I am afraid of dentists so I am a dentophobic.
- I would rather be attacked by a big bear that is itself being attacked by that swarm of bees. I might be able to escape. Fortunately we don't have big bears in The Peak District but we have got sheep.
- Big Boy.
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