15 April 2024

Triangulation

Roseberry Topping

Triangulation pillars, are columns made of cast concrete or cemented stone. They are typically four feet tall, with a large part of each pillar commonly buried below the earth's surface. They are also known as trig points.

There are more than 6500 of these pillars located throughout Great Britain - often in pretty inaccessible places. They were mostly erected in the 1930's and were vital to the process of accurate surveying. The iconic trig pillar was designed by Brigadier Martin Hotine in 1935.  Hotine designed them to assist with triangulation - separating our country into a network of triangles, allowing precise mapping of  the landscape.
Burbage Moor

In modern times, better surveying techniques have been developed - to such a point that the little pillars are now redundant. However, they still dot the country and appear in "Ordnance Survey" mapping. They are often a focus or indeed a diversion for walkers. People will frequently pause by them to lean and look around.

Bagging trig points is a passion for some country lovers and there are even websites devoted to this hobby. Every pillar has its own unique reference information usually shown on a metal flush bracket secured to the base of the trig point.
Birchen Edge

Over the years, I have visited dozens of triangulation pillars - not because I am a crazy trig point enthusiast but just because they happened to be on or close to my walking route. Some pillars sit in very prominent positions while others are hidden  away in hedgerows.

Accompanying this blogpost, I have picked five of my images of triangulation pillars to share with you.
Mam Tor

Stanage Edge

14 April 2024

Quiztime

Naturally, quizzes at "The Hammer and Pincers" have a British bias. That's because we are in Britain and the pub quizzers are all British. However, here in the blogosphere, quizzers come from all over the world though I must admit I have never had any visitors from Nyasaland - called Malawi since 1963.

Seeking fairness, I wanted to find a quiz theme that would not be biased towards any particular country. Suddenly, in a flash of celestial inspiration, I thought - I know - the human body! After all we have all got human bodies haven't we?

So here goes...

  1. How many chambers are there in the human heart?
  2. What is the medical, latinate term for the kneecap?
  3. Which sense organ allows us to smell?
  4. What is the name of the pipe that takes food from the mouth to the stomach?
  5. Where is your achilles tendon located?
  6. Which organ of the body secretes insulin?
  7. Where in the human body will you find a liquid called aqueous humour/humor?
  8. With reference to adult humans, if stretched out in a line, what is the average combined length of the large and small intestines?   (a) 5 feet  (b)20 feet   or (c)37feet
  9. Where in the human body will you find the  incus or anvil bone?
  10. What is the pollex commonly known as?
As usual, answers are given in the "Comments" section.

13 April 2024

Art

The untitled still life above was created by David Hockney in the attic of his mother's old house in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. I believe it was made with the aid of an i-pad and probably produced during the first decade of this century. For a few years, Hockney loved to work in and around Bridlington. He enjoyed the peace and the fact that it was difficult for people to bother him there.

The picture below was created by L.S.Lowry in his own inimitable style.  It is simply called "Industrial Landscape (Ashton-under-Lyne" and was produced in 1952 before being purchased by the city of Bradford in 1957. Lowry was always drawn to images of life and industry in northern cities - most commonly to the twin cities that he knew best - Manchester and Salford. If put up for sale today, this picture would certainly fetch around £5,000,000. I would be very happy to have it on my wall.
The next picture was painted by George Clausen in 1908. The old man is focused on the present and the work he must endure but the young man is looking far off into the future. It is called "The Boy and the Man" and was very much of its time - wrestling between old certainties and new opportunities. The paint must have been applied in a fairly dry state which adds to the interesting texture of the canvas.
In a semi-circular apse near the front entrance to Cartwright Hall there is a powerful white marble statue which was commissioned by the city of Bradford to mark the end of World War One. Fashioned by Francis Derwent Wood (1871-1926), it is called "Humanity Overcoming War" and depicts a scene suggested to the artist by a line in The Book of Revelations that speaks of an angel binding Satan in chains.

The last piece of Bradford art is not to be found in Cartwright Hall but in a corner of Centenary Square. It was given to Bradford by the city of Hamm in Germany in memory of those who lost their lives in the terrible Bradord City fire disaster which occurred in May 1985. Fifty six football fans died that day and  265 were injured.  It happened at Valley Parade - the home stadium of Bradford City F.C..

12 April 2024

Bradford

Light fitting seen from below in Cartwright Hall, Bradford

Shirley dropped me off at our railway station and I journeyed north to Leeds. There I climbed aboard the connecting train at Platform 11d and twenty minutes later I reached Bradford Interchange Station. Though it didn't rain today, there was very little of the sunshine and blue sky that the weather folk had predicted.

After loitering in the city centre for a while, I headed north to Manningham Lane which is a major route out of  Bradford - heading to illustrious satellite towns like Bingley and Shipley which are both associated with the mass murderer Peter Sutcliffe - usually known as The Yorkshire Ripper.

Manningham Lane was once a prosperous thoroughfare of grand stone mansions and solid businesses but in any city neighbourhoods can experience dramatic demographic and commercial change as decades pass by. In the 1960's the Manningham area began to attract waves of South Asian immigrants so that now white Bradfordians are very much in the minority there.

Local council elections are coming up in May

Along Manningham Lane there are Muslim takeaways, grocery stores, clothing and book stores and with it being a Friday, I saw many men and boys in their mosque clothes - garments that would not look out of place in Islamabad or Karachi.

Lister Park was partly given to the city by an industrial magnate called Samuel Cunliffe Lister. The park opened in 1875 and to this day it is well-maintained. In the heart of the park is Cartwright Hall which houses the city's premier art gallery.

Bronze stag in Lister Park

There were perhaps less paintings than I imagined there would be but even so some were of excellent quality. I especially liked the gallery that was devoted to Bradford-born David Hockney - an artist I have admired for many years. He is now 86 years old and by all accounts still producing his art like a man possessed.

Leaving the park, my  left heel was smarting once again so I curtailed my walkabout and caught a bus back into the city centre. There I sat on a bench in Centenary Square, reading a book in the shadow of Bradford's magnificent city hall before heading back to Leeds and thence to Sheffield. Mission accomplished.

Humble saree business on Manningham Lane

Bronze business plates in the city centre.
The third one underlines Bradford's important historical connections with the wool trade.

11 April 2024

Cities


There are eight cities in Yorkshire - more than in any other English county. They are, in alphabetical order, Bradford, Doncaster, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Ripon, Sheffield, Wakefield and York.

Naturally, I have been to all of these cities but the two I know best are Kingston-upon-Hull which is commonly called Hull and Sheffield where I am currently writing this blogpost. Hull was the city of my first eighteen years and I even went to school there for five years. It is the home of my beloved football team - Hull City. 

Sheffield is just my adopted city. Home to almost 600,000 people, I have lived here since 1978. I know it like the back of my hand.

Of all the Yorkshire cities, the one I know least is Bradford. I have been there just three times. Firstly, it was to play rugby against Bradford Grammar School. Another time it was to see Hull City playing Bradford City at Valley Parade and once it was to take a party of schoolchildren to visit what is now called the National Museum of Science and Media.

Bradford has a sizeable South Asian community - previously linked with labour in the woollen industry. Most of those people claim Islam as their religion. They make up 27% of the total population of greater Bradford which, like Sheffield, is nestled on the eastern edge of the Pennine hills.

Anyway, I am going to Bradford tomorrow morning. I will be heading up there by train and returning in the evening. My plan is to walk through the city centre and then two miles north to Lister Park where I hope to visit the city's main art gallery - Cartwright Hall.

It will be an adventure and one that I shall no doubt report upon when I get home. The weather looks set fair for tomorrow and I have printed off a map to guide me. I feel that I have been languishing within these four walls for far too long. Time to get out and see the world again... well Bradford anyway

10 April 2024

Flags

Every country in the world has its own flag. A flag is something that you can rally round or sometimes burn. In Great Britain, our flag - The Union Jack - is not displayed as widely as The Stars and Stripes are displayed in The United States. Over there, you will find flags aplenty. Many homes even have their own flagpoles where residents like Bruce and Judy in Arizona and Bob and Carlos in South Carolina, assemble each morning to pledge allegiance to their flag.

A nice thing about The Stars and Stripes and The Union Jack is that they are both very distinctive flags. Everybody can recognise them. However, this is certainly not the case with all national flags. Playing "Worldle" most days, I often struggle with some of the flags of West Africa . Colours and designs can seem so similar that its hard to differentiate. 

Look below. Do you see what I mean? :-

The eagle-eyed among you might point out that Ethiopia is not located in West Africa but it seems that  the green, yellow and red symbolise Pan-Africanism and that idea was first nurtured in Ethiopia with the other former colonial states aspiring to be part of that Pan-African movement - separate yet joined together.

Those flags do not help quizzers at all. I prefer distinctive flags - another of these is the flag of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. Formerly known as The Gilbert Islands, Kiribati became independent from Great Britain in 1979. Consisting of thirty three inhabited islands and with a total population of 126,000, Kiribati's flag shows a fierce sun rising above ocean waves in a red sky with a frigate bird flying by. Now that's my kind of flag:-


⦿

FOREWARNING
Next week's quiz will be on the human body.
I suggest you do some revision or get to
know your own body a little better!

9 April 2024

Waterfront

You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda 
been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.

Earlier today, I checked to see what was on at The Showroom cinema. It was a nice surprise to see that at 3.30 there would be a screening of "On The Waterfront" (1954). Over the years, I may have seen snatches of this iconic film but I am sure I had never previously watched it from beginning to end and certainly not from a cinema seat.

"On The Waterfront" first came out  seventy years ago to rave reviews. It won oscars aplenty - including "Best Film", "Best Director" and "Best Supporting Actress" for  Eva Marie Saint.  Marlon Brando's masterful performance earned him the "Best Actor" award.

Film techniques have come a long way in these past seven decades but sitting in the darkness of The Showroom, I was still enthralled by the story that unfolded on the screen. Set in New York and focusing on what we in Britain call dockers, the film explores shady practices amongst the longshoremen.  Union leaders control the labour scene and men are advised to be "d & d"  - deaf and dumb, even keeping schtum about questionable deaths.

Supported by Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint) and Father Pete Barry (Karl Malden), Terry Malloy (Brando) manages to find the courage to fight back against the thuggish, controlling union bosses  and to lead New York's longshoremen towards a happier, less fearful future.

The imaginative musical score was entirely by Leonard Bernstein and it added greatly to the overall atmosphere of "On The Waterfront".

If more great films from the past were screened at The Showroom, I would love to go and see them - including "Rebel Without A Cause", "Citizen Kane" and "Gone With The Wind". Watching them on television sets could never be the same.

8 April 2024

Quiztime

We came close to winning last night's quiz at "The Hammer & Pincers" but failed on the tie break question which was "In what year was the Australian Air Force first formed?" Of course all Australians - including Andrew, Kylie and Elsie - would know the answer to this question straight away but we were not sure. I knew that Australians were involved in flying war planes during World War One so we put down 1917 but unfortunately the solution was 1921. The Australian Flying Corps had earlier been formed in 1912. It was a shame to miss out on the top quiz prize yet again.

For this week's quiz in the blogosphere, I considered different themes. Not that it was ever planned this way, but the vast majority of visitors to this blog have been  westerners. However, even within that blanket category there are many different shades. What might we expect a Canadian to know with regard to general knowledge? What about an Australian?  In recent weeks I have been receiving a lot of "hits" from Singapore and Hong Kong. What might we expect residents from these locations to know?

By the way, by far the greatest number of visits to "Yorkshire Pudding" come from The United States and Great Britain (often referred to as The United Kingdom).

Okay, what about a theme for this week's quiz. I have decided to make up one question for each of this blog's top ten visiting nations which are in order:  United States, United Kingdom, France, Singapore, Canada, Russia, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong and Sweden.
⦿
  1. In what year was the American Declaration of Independence signed?
  2. What is the name of the big river that flows through London, England?
  3. Who is the current elected President of France?
  4. There are three alcoholic ingredients in a Singapore Sling cocktail. Name one of them.
  5. By population, Toronto is Canada's biggest city but what is the country's  second biggest city?
  6. What is Vladimir Putin's middle name? (a)Elvis  (b)Howard (c)Donald  or (d)Vladimirovich
  7. In what year was The Australian Flying Corps first formed?
  8. What are the three colours on the national flag of Germany?
  9. What does Hong Kong literally mean?   (a) trading port  or  (b) fragrant harbour
  10. In Swedish, what name do Swedes use for their country?
Answers are given in the comments section. How did you do?

7 April 2024

Wow!

Through the medium of this blog, I felt I had to give a big shout out for another crazy Englishman - namely Mr Russell Cook (aka "Hardest Geezer"). Today he reached the northernmost tip of Africa having run from the continent's most southerly tip down in South Africa. He is the first human in  history to have achieved this remarkable feat.

He has run the equivalent of 360 marathons or 10,000 miles in less than a year on a journey that took him through sixteen countries, several pairs of running shoes and also saw him attacked and robbed and hospitalised. He was supported by a small back-up team run on (please excuse the pun) a shoestring budget.

At the time of writing this blogpost, he has raised £733,000 for his two chosen charities which are Sandblast Ltd and The Running Charity. The first of these supports the Saharawi people of the western Sahara - many thousands of whom currently live in refugee camps.

The Running Charity delivers mental health support and innovative youth work programmes to young people aged 16-25 who are dealing with homelessness or have complex personal needs.

In awe of what Russ Cook has accomplished, I donated to his charity appeal earlier today. You can find a link here at givestar. Leaving the charities aside, one cannot help simply applauding the audacity of the man, his strength, his courage and his single-mindedness. Just - Wow!

6 April 2024

Cherub

 
Margot was five months old this past Tuesday. What a little darling she is. We hardly get a peep out of her but on Thursday evening she was lying on her mat experimenting with her voice - seeing what it could do. However, normally she is very quiet with her hypnotic blue eyes surveying the changing scenes and faces in front of her. I think of her as The Baby Buddha for she exudes tranquility mingled with joy. One can learn a lot from a helpless baby - the education is not all one way.

Still reliant on her mother's milk, it won't be long now before she's introduced to more solid foods. Her first tooth has already appeared from her lower gum. Being a chubby dumpling of a baby, the folds of skin around her neck are often reddened though this never seems to trouble her. She is so sweet and very special and her song keeps changing...
Margot, Margot, Margot
The stars are all aglow
Let's play out in the snow
Margot, Margot, Margot
It doesn't make a sound
Settling on the ground
Drifting all around
Margot.
As northern winds they blow
More than you'll ever know
We love to  see grow
Margot.

5 April 2024

Poem

 

Days

Days go by
Churning churning
And I can’t stop them
Turning turning.
It’s like riding rapids
Down a precipitous gorge
And I just can’t stop
Going with the flow.

They are sewn together
These ceaseless days -
Fluttering like Tibetan flags
Dancing in the Himalayan wind
Or so it seems to me
As I withstand
Their endless flapping

Signalling messages
I struggle to decipher.
Yearning, yearning
For still waters
In which to pause a while
Discerning
Semaphoric meanings in
The passage
Of days.

4 April 2024

Thursday

"Grandpa! Grandpa!" sang my three year old human alarm clock.

Little Phoebe was shouting up from downstairs as I surfaced from sleep.

I donned my stripey dressing gown, stumbled to our landing and looked down the staircase. There she was at the bottom still in her coat and floral wellington boots. It was half past eight this very morning.

"Haven't you got dressed yet?"

"No I haven't! You just woke me up and now I am coming down to see you!"

After a hug and a cuddle, I was soon fulfilling her second breakfast order. She wanted malted wheats with hot milk - just like grandpa who also made his habitual pint of tea in "The Big Mug". Perhaps that is who I am these days - just the big mug.

After the breakfast, our lovely princess wanted me to read "Chicken Licken" with her. It's funny how I never tire of reading that book. You know the one I mean - containing Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, Cocky Locky and Turkey Lurkey amongst others as well as the cunning Foxy Loxy who just wanted to make a big poultry pie. Phoebe now knows this story so well that she could almost recite it by heart. Funny there's no Trumpy Pumpy or Bibi Wibi (Netanyahu).

I also read a second, longer version of "Chicken Licken" and a book about a little yellow star that fell to earth - specifically into a zoo in which fortuitously the animals did not attack or eat each other. Thank heavens for the ants who through co-operation and teamwork built a tower so tall that they were able to put the little star back in his rightful position  in the heavens above. Take that Lion! Take that Giraffe!

I also read a book called "Peppa's Holiday Cruise" starring the worldwide children's literary superstar - Peppa Pig. What a phenomenon she has become with dozens of books, clothing items, confectionery,  toys, games, jigsaws and of course the endless videos. Peppa Pig's world is always nice and friendly with hardly any upsets and of course no school shooters, drugs or social media trolling. Nothing like that. Life is all hunky dory in Peppa Pig World.

All too soon, it was time for Phoebe to go to Dronfield swimming pool with Grandma. In the meantime Grandpa Pig had a shower, got dressed and drove Clint to the recycling centre at Gleadless Valley. He was already filled with severed planks of old decking wood. I also took some redundant electrical items including our deceased "Sage" kettle and "Dell" monitor.

Back home the swimming party returned at one fifteen. We had some lunch and tired Little Phoebe then wanted to do  some binge watching of Peppa Pig. "Another one! I just want another one!... I promise - last one!" Oh yeah!

Later Grandma Pig took Peppa Pig to Chelsea Park for an hour while Grandpa Pig got on with preparing the evening meal. A homemade chicken bhuna with coconut milk, boiled basmati rice, mini peshwari nans and onion bhajis with mango chutney.

Mummy arrived with the still thriving Baby Margot and Daddy came along at five thirty. He had been working in the city centre office today. Before six thirty the satellite family were ready to leave but Little Phoebe would not give Grandpa his customary big smackeroo of a  goodbye kiss. The glint in her eyes was like that of Foxy Loxy just before the end of "Chicken Licken".

3 April 2024

Collateral

John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby - three British men who were killed in Gaza on Monday. They were working for The World Central Kitchen (WCK) which has served thousands of meals to the desperately needy and beleaguered citizens of Gaza. They were killed in a targeted Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attack as they travelled in clearly marked white aid vehicles.

"This happens in war", said Israel's compassionate political leader - Benjamin Netanyahu. I guess he meant they were collateral damage.

There has been far too much "collateral damage" in Gaza. 33,000 Palestinians have now died - including 11,000 innocent children and a further 200 aid workers. The IDF seem to see HAMAS in every apartment block, every hospital, every rudimentary refugee shelter, every face. There is a convenient excuse for every  atrocity they commit.

And the truth remains as it was at the start of this brutal revenge, they can never eliminate HAMAS for you simply cannot obliterate an idea. When the IDF went into the Al-Shifa hospital seeking members of HAMAS, how did they interview suspects?  Were they carrying membership cards? Were international observers present to monitor the assassinations? Some of those victims were lying injured in hospital beds.

But shhh! I have probably said too much for there are some out there who still chant - "Israel good! Gaza bad!" and see none of the blurriness between.

I suspect that John Chapman and the two Jameses shown above were not the kind of aid workers we might imagine - saintly people voluntarily risking their lives to give help to the needy. The three men were probably very well paid to give the WCK vital security protection for they each had a lot of military experience. Sadly it did not save them.

The horror goes on.

2 April 2024

Herons

We have lived in  this suburban house for thirty five years but never before have we spotted a heron on one of our apple trees. But there the creature was this very evening. Thirty feet off the ground with his/her neck outstretched, looking for something.

Perhaps he or she was looking for another heron or more likely a garden pond from which a nice evening meal might be snatched. Herons are such skilful spear fishers. It is what evolution designed them to do.

I had spotted the bird as I passed through our kitchen so grabbed my camera and hoped it would not fly away - the bird I mean, not the camera! Herons are such skittish birds with a keen sense of possible danger. The photo was taken through the glass of our kitchen door. I knew that if I opened that door, he/she would zoom off.

Below there are two more heron pictures I have taken in past years. The first one was taken at Garlieston Bay in south west Scotland as night was approaching...
This second one was taken by the old mill pond in Bingham Park which is less than half a mile from this keyboard. That's where I expect to see herons - in or by watery places  - not up in a suburban apple tree. I wonder if the heron will ever come back. Somehow I doubt it. It was most likely a once in thirty five year event.

1 April 2024

Quiztime

I just might make "Quiztime" a regular feature of this humble Yorkshire blog. My quizzes seem to have gone down pretty well so far. Last night I was up at "The Hammer and Pincers" quiz and brought home my quiz answer sheet intending to adapt it for today's quiz. Instead, I decided to ask ten questions connected with blogging. You could easily use my sidebar to work out the answers but it might be nice to have a go from memory. Good luck!

As usual, the answers will appear in the "Comments" section and also as usual - no peeping!

  1. Which well-known female blogger resides in Ludwisburg, Germany?
  2. With which Welsh blogger do you most associate the village of Trelawnyd?
  3. Name the South Carolinian blogger who is the mastermind behind "Sparrow Tree Journal"?
  4. Name a blogger from The Isle of Man who has recently been on holiday to Bermuda?
  5. What is the first name of the fellow who produces a  frequently political American blog called "I Should Be Laughing"?
  6. Dave on the north side of The Sheep's Head Peninsula in Ireland has created a blog called "Northsider" but what is his all time favourite band?  (a) The Bay City Rollers  (b) Take That  or (c) Kansas
  7. Steve Reed in London puts out a blog called "Shadows and Light" but from which Canadian songwriter did he borrow his blog's title?
  8. Name the blog that is produced by Mary Moon in the village of Lloyd several miles east of Tallahassee in the state of Florida.
  9. Brighton in England and the Perigord region of south west France contain the homes of one particular senior male blogger but what name does he go by?
  10. Which blog or blogger won the Yorkshire Pudding Overall Blogger of the Year Award for 2023?

31 March 2024

Sweethearts

Gracie Fields left and Vera Lynn right

Back at Bert's house yesterday afternoon. I knew that his younger son would be stewarding at the Sheffield United match. I stayed for two hours until his older son Paul arrived on his motorbike. I took him a chocolate Easter egg and a bottle of "Timothy Taylor" beer.

Conversing successfully with Bert is becoming more difficult. He forgets so much - like names and dates and even vital words in sentences. He sits there day after day, sideways on to his television and he cannot mount his steep stairs without assistance. That is what Paul was going to do yesterday - help his father up the stairs in order to have a shower.

Bert's shocking appearance - caused by an attack of shingles is now little more than a horrible memory. Sometimes he will even forget the term "shingles" but his face is now cleared up. For some bizarre reason, he always has a vile right wing news channel on on his television and I have to ask him to turn it down or better still - turn it off. He isn't really watching it anyway.

Yesterday I played around with "YouTube" on the TV set and found him two wartime songs that he would sometimes sing in the local pub. He couldn't possibly do such a search by himself. He sang along to them and asked me to play them twice. I am sure this was the highlight of his day or perhaps it was the shower that was to follow..

Bert was born in 1936. Hopefully, he will be 88 years old later this year so these old wartime songs played in the  background of his wartime childhood in London and Northamptonshire. Everybody here in Britain knew them and I can recall my mother singing them occasionally in the kitchen of my own childhood home. I feel connected to them even though I was born eight years after World War II.

First comes Gracie Fields singing "Sally" in what was I think her last public performance in 1978 and then there's Vera Lynn singing "We'll Meet Again". Both women went out of their way to entertain troops during World War II. Another world... another time...

30 March 2024

Statuary

Statue of tragic British singer Amy Winehouse in Camden, London. I 
took this picture in 2018. Amy was only 27 when she died.

Back to statues. Of course you get statues of known people but you also get more general  representative statues. Known people might include Winston Churchill or Queen Victoria while representative statues might depict coal miners or suffragettes.

A fairly recent study of American statues of known people revealed that only 7% were of women while over here in Great Britain it was not much better - with only 13% being of women. Children could easily get the wrong impression for the statue arithmetic suggests that men are inherently more important and have achieved more noteworthy things.

To accompany this blogpost I have picked six photographs of women's statues. It was pleasing to discover that there are several statues of Rosa Parks but in my opinion, the best one is in Essex County, New Jersey outside the courthouse. Rosa is clearly sitting on the bus during her famous attempted ride home on December 1st 1955. On the empty seat next to her, some of her words are inscribed: "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right". She was very brave.

The most famous published sisters were born here in Yorkshire - Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte. Their statue stands in the garden of the old parsonage at Haworth which was their family home. To tell you the truth, I am not impressed by this statue. It seems a little amateurish to me. I think these remarkable sisters deserved something finer placed in a more prominent public  location:-
I rather like the exuberant statue pictured below. It celebrates the life of the Liverpool singer Cilla Black who was a contemporary of The Beatles. Later she was to become a much loved TV host on British television:-
Near to the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam there is a statue of Anne Frank herself. It is rather unprepossessing in my opinion. Anne was only fifteen years old when she died in the dubious care of The Nazis at the Bergen-Belsen death camp. It is wonderful that her salutary story continues to be heard:-
Finally, here's another American statue depicting a key figure in the suffragette movement. She was Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) and the statue is located in her childhood home town - Adams, Massachusetts. Though she petitioned for equality throughout her adult life, she never really witnessed her dreams come true. White women were finally enfranchised in The United States in August 1920 but remarkably  it wasn't until 1965 that all black women were finally granted the vote:-

29 March 2024

Noise

 
Recently, here in the blogosphere, I have noticed three people complaining about noisy electric leaf blowers. In the summer, council contractors go up and down our road cutting grass verges as though it was an Olympic event. Then they are followed by others with petrol powered leaf blowers. They blow the cut grass around in a seemingly  pointless manner while making a hell of a din.

I must confess that I own a leaf blower which I purchased twenty five years ago. However, I have not used it in over ten years, preferring to use a grass rake and a sweeping brush to create piles of leaves in the autumntime (North American: fall).

Until last week, we had a £100 stainless steel electric kettle by "Sage". We used it for around five years. It boiled water very quickly but very noisily too. It got so loud that I had to turn up the volume on our kitchen radio or if there was a conversation going on, voices had to be raised.

The dodgy electrical connection finally came to a halt and I was instructed to purchase another kettle toute suite. Our new Russel Hobbs kettle cost just £39 and though it is less powerful than the "Sage" kettle, it boils much more quietly. No need to turn up the radio any more. It's like willows whispering in the background.

Microwaves and bathroom fans can be pretty noisy too but regarding household appliances, the most annoying items in my opinion are vacuum cleaners and washing machines. They both make so much noise that they may stop you from thinking clearly. 

One would think that through the passage of time, since these appliances were invented, someone would have been able to come up with silent vacuum cleaners and  noiseless automatic washing machines. Instead, they continue whirr and blare away making you feel as though you are in the engine room of some great ocean liner.

Our "Bosch" washing machine has an extra annoying feature. When the washing cycle is over, an orange light flashes away as the machine bleats out a "Finished" signal every three minutes. The light and the alarm keep doing their thing until the operating dial is turned to "off". Surely the machine could do that itself! Would that have really been too much to ask?

There's a lot to be said for sweeping brushes and for taking baskets of laundry down to the river to wash. Much quieter.

28 March 2024

Statues

On BBC Radio 4 the other day, I listened to an item about public statues. The main nub of it was that there is a dearth of statues that honour women.

I thought to myself - Well that's no surprise! Let me explain why. In past times, women had far fewer opportunities than men  to become famous by leading armies, exploring the planet, making scientific discoveries, composing symphonies and becoming political leaders. Women invariably played supportive domestic roles - running households, raising children. There was little time left over to do anything else.

Besides, the way that societies were structured meant that men were the principal breadwinners. A woman's place was usually in the home. Here in Great Britain, ordinary women only got the vote in 1928 - less than a hundred years ago - which is like the blink of an eye in our history.

In World War One, my grandmother Phyllis White joined the war effort by working in a Sheffield munitions factory alongside hundreds of other young women. It was a dangerous, dirty occupation and yet it sent out a message to the British establishment. It said women are not stay-at-home wallflowers, they are vital players in our society and deserve equality. The times were indeed a'changing. 

Next to Sheffield City Hall there is a statue called "Women of Steel" that recognises the key role that women played in munitions and steel production during the two world wars. See the picture at the top which I snapped in 2017.

Generally, I much prefer statues that honour ordinary working people rather than specific famous individuals. The domestic duties that women undertook and continue to undertake in the majority of homes should not be sniffed at. Such work enabled societies to develop, allowing men to fight wars, build houses, make political speeches, sail ships across the seas and till the soil. Without women quietly plugging away in the background far less would have been achieved.

Rather than scraping away trying to find individual women to honour, it might be better to make statues that memorialise the underpinning but unsung domestic roles that women have played through the centuries. Here are four possibilities - thanks to A.I.:-




27 March 2024

Dropout

 
Well since yesterday's blogpost, I have now whizzed through all eight episodes of "The Dropout" starring Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes. I guess that some visitors will have already seen it as it was released in the summer of 2022.

You have probably heard of Elizabeth Holmes. She dropped out of Stanford University in order to pursue a dream that would incidentally make her fabulously rich. That dream was of a blood testing system which, with one drop of blood, would diagnose health issues such as cancer, sepsis, diabetes, HIV and host of other conditions.

In one visit to a wellness centre, a member of the public could get answers almost immediately. The drop of blood would be on something like a credit card which would be popped into a fancy machine and - hey presto - the result would be displayed. Holmes's company was called Theranos - a combination of the words "therapy" and "diagnosis". Between 2003 and 2013, Theranos garnered a lot of investment and a lot of prestige too. It was scheduled to become the next big thing.

The trouble was that the system never worked. It was all a big lie and ultimately Holmes and her inner circle could not hide that fact. They had tried desperately to create a system that would match the dream but they always fell short and instead resorted to deception.

In the series, Elizabeth Holmes emerges as some sort of manic depressive with strong narcissistic tendencies. She comes to believe in her own hype and bubbles with hidden anger and frustration whenever anybody tries to cross her or ask searching questions.

The Theranos offices and labs are ultra-modern but also a hive of secrets and unsaid words. People get sacked and head chemist Ian Gibbons played by Stephen Fry commits suicide. The Holmes effect may bamboozle some but it riles others.

By the end of the series, the Theranos bubble has been burst and Elizabeth Holmes must at last face the law.

One of the morals of this recent commercial tale is that if you are going to build a great business you must build it on solid ground. The centre should not be hollow and internal connections should certainly be characterised by integrity, mutual understanding and a shared vision. "Follow my leader" may be a fun game for kids in a school playground  but in the working world of adults it can seem like the blind leading the blind.

In 2022, Holmes was sentenced to 11+1⁄4 years in jail for fraud. After various appeals, she finally began that sentence last November and is not expected to be released from prison until 2032. She made a lot of influential people look very stupid.
The real Elizabeth Holmes

26 March 2024

Updates

Surprise, surprise - Rotherham Council have no information about me in their archives. From the school where I worked, the records only date from 2008. The council correspondent suggested that I should get in touch with the school where I worked but it will be a miracle if they have any evidence whatsoever of my employment. forty four years ago. Acquiring the required P45 will be like locating The Holy Grail.

I can see what is going to happen. I will have to wait a further fifty minutes on the phone to get through to an HMRC adviser once again  only to tell him or her what I knew in the first place - that getting the P45 will never happen. I am pissed off because who ever was in error in the past, it was certainly was not me. There must be some way of waiving this ridiculous and historical anomaly.

Regarding my foot and the pain I was in ten days ago, may I say that the condition is most certainly not plantar fasciitis! As I indicated before, it is gout and though it has not entirely disappeared, the pain has altered its location and is much reduced. I am not limping any more. However, every morning I wake up and wonder how it will be today. Thank you for all your kind suggestions. Much appreciated. One day I hope to walk again - beyond the horizon up ahead.

Getting back to Sunday's "Quiztime" - when you are in a pub quiz you usually  have to go along with the quizmaster's answers - even though very occasionally you know for sure that you have been given a wrong answer. That doesn't matter. In Britain, I never heard of the young of foxes being referred to as "kits".  However, research tells me that although the word is not as common as "cub", "kit" is still acceptable. In other words, I am relenting and you can have a belated mark for "kit"! I am so generous - it hurts.

Moving on to television... Tonight I watched the international friendly match between England and Belgium. England were the better team but it looked as though Belgium might win until the very last seconds of the game when our star player - Jude Bellingham - steered in an equalising goal to save England's blushes in the pouring London rain.

Also on television, I am currently watching an eight part series called "The Dropout" which dramatises the growth of the failed blood testing company Theranos and its slightly deranged founder Elizabeth Holmes who currently resides in a Texan jail. I am enjoying this so far and will blog further when I have seen it all. In fact, I may watch another episode tonight after publishing this blogpost.

There - updates completed!

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