31 March 2016


Some fellows are petrolheads but I am definitely not. "Top Gear" always had me looking for the remote control. I would rather watch a documentary about chocolate rabbits than a bunch of overgrown schoolboys racing around aerodromes, excitedly heehawing like donkeys. 

No. To me a car is something to transport me safely from point A to point B. It is best when that car is efficient and resistant to breakdown. Fuel efficiency is also a desirable factor. Oh and I don't like black or white cars because they seem to become dirty too quickly between car washes.

All of this is just a preamble before the following news bulletin - We are getting a new car today! My current car is a Seat Ibiza in a rather nice shade of marine blue-green. I have had Bertie since 2009 and on the whole he has been a good servant. He recently carried us to The Isle of Man where he travelled up hill, down dale and on to the headland at Point of Ayre. See below:-
But today I shall say goodbye to Bertie. He had one or two issues and will soon need a couple of new front tyres and a cambelt as well as his annual service. It was time to get rid and besides I had been holding back a suitcase filled with cash ready to purchase his successor.

The new car is "sleek silver" and it's a Hyundai i20 with a 1.4 engine. I wasn't planning to get a brand new car but the deal on this one was a no-brainer as they say. He hasn't got a name yet. Hyundai is a South Korean company but I notice that the new car was manufactured in Turkey so I might call him Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after Turkey's first president... or possibly Clint in order to raise awareness of a certain little chocolate rabbit's ongoing predicament out in the colonies.

29 March 2016


How would you like to be imprisoned in a refrigerator for years? No? Well this is what has happened to a dear little chocolate bunny called Clint. The poor little fellow's warden is The Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year (2015), none other than Mistress Lee located on Tamborine Mountain in southern Queensland, Australia.

Each night poor little Clint shivers and cries himself to sleep while Mistress Lee gorges herself on bakery products, chuckling at the latest episodes of "Home and Away" or re-runs of "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo". What drove her to imprison Clint is anybody's guess but the motivation is probably deeply psychological going right back to her childhood in Gympie.

I have already been in contact with the office of The Governor of Queensland, urging him to send a task force to Tamborine Mountain to free sweet little Clint but have so far had no reply. Perhaps Paul de Jersey has more important matters in his in-tray but in my view of things, the enforced captivity of a small chocolate creature is an affront to civilised people everywhere.

May I urge bloggers across the world to pressurise relevant authorities in order to achieve Clint's release? Do what you can. But in the meantime please chant with me...

28 March 2016


In the East Yorkshire village where I was born and raised there was a canal. Cutting across farmland for three miles, it linked my village with The River Hull which in turn headed down to The Humber. For over a hundred years the canal served two main purposes. It took agricultural produce down to Hull and brought coal, lime and building materials into the village. When the canal was cut in 1805, local roads were unpaved and goods were moved by horse and cart so the expense of creating this new waterway would have seemed like a worthwhile investment.

By 1960, when the photograph at the top of this post was taken by my father, Leven Canal was no longer used for commercial barge traffic. The lock gates that used to link it with The River Hull were in a sorry state of repair and no longer operational and the canal was becoming a little back water for leisure. There were several houseboats - at least two of which you can see in the picture - a couple of rotting wooden barges from the canal's trading past and anglers who would come from far and wide to fish for pike, roach and perch.

For village boys and some girls too, the canal was a tempting playground. We fished there, observed nature and "borrowed" rowing boats. Sometimes we swam amid the lilypads, hoping not to be attacked by those legendary monster pike fish. And when we became teenagers we romped there with our current sweethearts, hidden by the reeds and it was down by that old canal that I first tried cannabis that had been sprinkled in something called a "reefer". It made me feel very spaced out and slightly queasy.

The photo shows me on the right, big brother Paul rowing and next oldest brother Robin acting as the cox. Brother Simon is not present. He would have been three or four at the time and probably back at home helping Mum to beat her latest cake mixture. The picture reminds me of how fortunate we were to live such a happy, secure childhood in the heart of the East Yorkshire countryside. There were adventures to be had and the world seemed a joyous, explicable place. Just like the old canal, it appeared that we had far to go.

26 March 2016


The good ship "Benn-My-Chree" was like a little cork bobbing across the Irish Sea. Rain was tumbling down like an endless series of waterfalls and the sky so thick with greyness that it felt that night was arriving far too soon. Aboard the little ship every single seat was taken in the passenger lounges so one naturally thought of the Atlantic slave trade and how terrible it must have been for those poor souls shackled below decks in cramped quarters, wondering if their voyages would ever end.

I am sure that several unkind bloggers with warped minds were praying that the "Benn-My-Chree" would sink to the inky black region where Davy Jones's locker is to be found - far below the salty waves where octopuses dwell. Such an event would have meant no more tedious Yorkshire Pudding blogposts to plough through!

To those unkind bloggers I have a news bulletin. We made it home safely! True there were traffic snarl ups in Heysham, Lancaster, Mottram and Glossop but I managed to keep control of my frothing temper - even when we were following a horse transporter over The Snake Pass. It was travelling so slowly I thought that horses were in fact pulling it.

Home now in Merry Olde England where (Mrs Meike Riley please note!) through the magic of television, I have just watched our football team beat Germany by three goals to two. We enjoyed our week on The Isle of Man but it is unlikely we shall ever go back. There are so many other places to see before we die but I am sorry to inform those unkind bloggers that such a morbid event is not planned for the foreseeable future.

25 March 2016


Snaefell Mountain Railway (1895)
Thirty six extra hours on The Isle of Man. Fingers crossed we should be on the Saturday morning ferry to Heysham. When we came over a week ago, The Irish Sea was like a millpond but now the wind is up and the waves are whitecapped. We are expecting the ferry to be packed to the gunnels and have seasickness tablets at the ready.

Today we climbed up Snaefell a second time but on this occasion we were aboard The Snaefell Mountain Railway which recommenced carrying passengers to the top on Thursday. It doesn't run in the winter season. We stayed at the summit for half an hour and had hot drinks and scones in The Summit Hotel which also reopened on Thursday.

After the railway trip, I walked a couple of miles to the redundant Snaefell Lead Mine while Shirley pottered about in Laxey. Then we went down to Laxey Harbour before visiting the site of the original Lanan parish church which is dedicated to St Adamnan and sits in splendid isolation high above the coast.

For our evening meal we visited The Terrace Fish and Chip Restaurant on Prospect Terrace. Often I think that a traditional British fish and chip dinner is the best meal known to mankind. A crispy battered piece of seafresh cod, a fistful of  golden chips cooked in good quality oil, mushy peas, a slice of bread and butter and a mug of tea. Add a splash of malt vinegar and a sprinkling of salt and you have heaven on a plate.

Afterwards - drinks in the down to earth Rosemount pub and then home to our lovely holiday apartment for a good night's sleep. Surely we will be home tomorrow. Watch this space.
In The Snaefell Summit Hotel

24 March 2016


I imagine that that was the noise that the Steam Packet Company catamaran ferry "Manannan" made when she hit the Victoria quay in Douglas last night. It was the 7.30pm ferry from Liverpool. When she clouted the immobile concrete wall, several standing passengers aboard tumbled over and later five of them had to be transported to hospital with minor injuries. The ship itself had some full frontal damage and it remains unclear whether or not this can be fixed on the island. She may have to go into dry dock in Liverpool.

There is no truth in the unpleasant rumour that "Manannan" was being skippered by a certain Captain Adrian Ward of blogging fame. Nor is it true that he was three sheets to the wind following an onboard drinking competition involving half a dozen bottles of Lambs Navy Rum and a women's hockey team from Warrington.

Anyway, I digress. To cut a long story short "Manannan" is now out of action and the only way we can get off the island is on the ferry that operates between Douglas and Heysham. It is called the "Ben-My-Chree". We were meant to be leaving at 3pm this afternoon but we cannot get on the "Ben-My-Chree" till Saturday morning!

We are marooned. Will we ever see home again? I have thrown dozens of plastic bottles into the Irish Sea each containing identical S.O.S. messages. Fortunately, the owners of our holiday apartment are happy to let us stay two more nights. The holidaymakers who were meant to follow after us were also booked to come across on the "Manannan".

That's life.
Ship's underside after last night's collision

23 March 2016


Birthday girl
Five days on The Isle of Man but home tomorrow afternoon on the 3pm ferry to Liverpool. Today was Shirley's umpteenth birthday and I was the perfect husband. Soft boiled eggs in bed with a mug of Yorkshire tea and buttery toasted soldiers to dip into the golden yolks.

Then when we were ready, I drove milady along the TT motorcycle route to the slopes of Snaefell - the island's only mountain. There's nothing like scaling a mountain on your birthday so that was a special surprise I had planned for her. I know that all the huffing and puffing and complaining on the way up was but a funny pretence.

Later, for lunch, I led her to the convenience store in Kirk Michael where she picked a chicken and sweetcorn roll for lunch with  a bottle of Fanta Orange and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. We consumed  our chosen victuals on a sunny bench overlooking The Irish Sea. 
Kirk Michael Beach looking south
and below - looking north towards Peel
But in the evening we headed out to a restaurant on the Douglas seafront. Trip Advisor lists it as the fifth best place to eat in the town. It's called Jaks Bar. I have no idea what happened to the "c" or the apostrophe. Anyway, we enjoyed perfect rump steaks, chips and salad before heading off to "The Manor Hotel" for a couple of drinks.

I had a pint of the local beer - OKells. It's a lovely brew. I wanted to purloin a beermat as a souvenir of our time on The Isle of Man but the honest angel inside me said that I should ask the landlord first. I went to the bar and asked if I could buy the beermat. He was astonished that I was even asking.

We were about to leave when he dashed from the store room with a brand new OKells beer glass which he presented to me and then as we were getting in the car to leave he came rushing out with a second, smaller OKells glass which he described as a "lady's glass". What wonderful kindness and he didn't even know it was Shirley's birthday!

By the way, I bought her a new handbag, a small bottle of wine and a box of chocolates as birthday presents and it was a nice day for both of us. I first met her when she was twenty years old. We have shared so many birthdays together but this was an especially nice one.
Farm ruins in the centre of the island

21 March 2016


At Peel on the west coast of The Isle of Man. I have come to the conclusion that Donald the seagull in the first picture - who is joined by his friend George in the last picture - was indeed one-legged. He may have lost his missing leg in a fishing line incident. The second picture shows two adult seagulls with two of this year's newcomers. It may have been a family outing. And in the third picture you see a cormorant drying its wings ready for take off from the rocks. That's how it was in Peel today.

20 March 2016


Ramsey Beach
Yes. Some of you guessed correctly. We are holidaying on The Isle of Man in the middle of The Irish Sea. Famous for motorcycle racing, tax dodging millionaires and cats without tails, The Isle of Man, like most islands, is like a world of its own. I am sure there are people here who do not leave their island for years on end. Perhaps there is still a handful of old timers  who have never left it.

Weatherwise, today was rather like yesterday. A thick layer of cloud was shoved out of the way by mid-afternoon and the sun shone from a blue sky. 

In the morning we went to visit The Laxey Wheel - the biggest working water wheel in the world. It used to pump water from the associated lead and zinc mine but that closed forever in the nineteen twenties.
The Laxey Wheel
After Laxey we went on to Maughold Head and then into Ramsey for lunch and a little stroll around the coastal town. The sky was still a thick fluffy blanket at that point but when we drove northwards towards Bride and The Point of Ayre sunshine began to illuminate the land and bright colours appeared once more.

It was beautiful at The Point of Ayre. A large Asian family were playing cricket amidst the gorse and I met a man I had chatted to on the ferry over here from Liverpool, The beach was a mass of flat stones, smoothed and made round by wave action over several millennia. There were billions of them - making a wondrous marine mosaic.
Shirley at The Point of Ayre
And between the two lighthouses was a squat concrete building topped by large foghorns. Accidentally, it seems to have become a monumental art form - at least in my eyes.

Then home along the winding coast road to our spacious and rather lovely apartment in Douglas where I made an evening meal of YP Spaghetti which involves onions, lardons, a field mushroom, a sliced courgette and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese... oh, and spaghetti of course.
Foghorn housing at The Point of Ayre
The east coast
Station on The Electric Railway
Point of Ayre

19 March 2016


Can you guess where Shirley and I are now holidaying for five days? Somewhere we have never been before. Here are two clues.

1) This is a picture I took when the sun broke through this afternoon:-
2) And this is a curious symbol, commonly associated with this place:-

18 March 2016


Amish traveller on State Highway 87 near Russell, Ohio
As an Americophile, I have lots of  memories of times spent on the other side of the Atlantic. Back in the seventies, I met numerous people in inland states who had never seen the ocean, people who dreamt of visiting California or New York one day. Given that America is essentially a land of immigrants, I found it surprising how unworldly many of its citizens have become.

I remember having a rather awkward and slightly heated conversation with a fellow in Skip and Ray's bar in Newbury, Ohio. He insisted that the language he spoke was American and was affronted by any suggestion that he in fact spoke English. He seemed to have no idea about the first English immigrants or The Pilgrim Fathers - none of that stuff. He was American and therefore he spoke American and damn anybody who said any different! It's possible that he was Donald Trump in disguise. It was a long time ago.

Anyway, moving on with those stock stories I was talking about. Here's one that I have often trundled out to illustrate the surprising parochialism you may encounter in America even today. Each time I recount this tale the listener has the illusion that it has never been told before... but it has, many times...

"It was when I was a camp counsellor in Ohio. My friend Chris who was the art counsellor had kindly lent me his Ford Mustang. It was a Sunday morning and I was heading east on Highway 87 though I can't remember where I was going. Anyway, just outside Russell I saw a young man at the side of the road. He was hitch-hiking so I pulled over to give him a lift.. He was obviously a biker with a worn black leather jacket, grimy jeans and lank hair. In fact he was on his way to a moto-cross meet the other side of  the oddly named township of Mesopotamia.

There was little traffic around and as we followed the road through Burton we chatted away about this and that. A couple of miles before I was to drop him off, he said:-
"Hey man, you've got a funny accent."
"Yeah, that's because I'm from England," I said, smiling across at him.
He paused and thought for a minute.
"England? Ain't that somewhere over near Maine?"

Well, you could have hit me with a wet haddock. He was confusing England with New England! And before I dropped him off I had the humbling experience of explaining to him that there is a country called England on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I said, "You know. The place where The Beatles come from".

But as he closed the passenger door and thanked me for the lift, the expression on his face proved that he was none the wiser. In fact, he probably thought he had just had a ride with a deranged lunatic."

Addendum  Fortunately, the American bloggers who visit "Yorkshire Pudding" are all cultured citizens of the world. We should be very wary about  generalising from the particular and of course  I never intended to imply that the young hitchhiker was somehow typical of your average American.

17 March 2016


Norman MacCaig
Many moons ago, when I was an undergraduate at The University of Stirling in Bonny Scotland, one of my tutors was a relatively well known poet called Norman MacCaig. Born in 1910, he had a way with words and was unlike the typical career academics who staffed the Department of English Studies. His complexion was that of a lifelong whisky drinker and he had a faraway look in his eyes - as if longing for another place, another time.

One semester, along with a dozen other students, I had to visit his office every Thursday morning for a tutorial in which we would discuss the previous week's reading tasks. Norman MacCaig was of course the chairperson - leading, provoking, querying and generally pushing the debate along. However, he was not averse to sidetracks and once related a long and  funny story from his youth which had the entire tutorial group in stitches. It was a story with pauses, poetic turns of phrase, highs and lows and descriptive colour.

The following week we were all back at his office for the next tutorial in which once again he sidetracked and told us a long and funny story from his youth. But the thing was this - it was exactly the same story he had told the week before - complete with the same pauses, the same poetic turns of phrase and the same descriptive colour. Naturally, our response was muted on this occasion. We wondered how many times he had trundled the old story out. It was like a learnt monologue that had been honed and polished over the years. It made him seem even sadder.

But if the truth be known,  we all have stock stories that we roll out from time to time and perhaps we are all in danger of repeating Norman MacCaig's faux pas. Not every tale we tell as we journey through our lives is a once only account, never to be heard again and in the next blogpost I will relate one of my stock stories.

By the way, Norman MacCaig died in 1996. Here's one of his poems:-

16 March 2016


Watchdog in Misson
Misson is a substantial village in northern Nottinghamshire. It sits by The River Idle amidst rich arable land. By car you reach it via one of two country lanes - either from Bawtry two miles to the south west or from the Haxey/Doncaster road - three miles north of the village. 

Misson is a very peaceful settlement - like a forgotten village. Once it was much more self-contained than it is today - with three shops, two pubs, a parish church, two methodist chapels, a school and a proud, independent spirit. There was an annual fair and a ferry service that took villagers on the short trip across the Idle. Nowadays some of the houses are owned by commuters and other incomers but in past times the village was very insular.

As your intrepid reporter explored the mean streets of Misson, he came across a young artist at work. He was standing on a street known as Gibdyke looking towards the church. We chatted for a while. He was a very pleasant young man and someone with whom I felt an immediate connection. It turns out that he spent a year as an Art teacher in a Doncaster secondary school but could not bear it. "It was sucking the life blood out of me," he admitted. And so he decided to follow the yearning in his heart, becoming a professional artist - albeit one who is fortunate enough to be married to a full-time nurse.

His name is Andrew and he asked me to snap a couple of pictures of him for possible inclusion in his website which you can see here. Perhaps you would like to help a destitute artist by purchasing one of his paintings or even arranging a commission?

Soon I left Misson, heading northwards to Misson Springs and the Haxey road, feeling glad that like Capatain Cook  I had discovered the place but also somewhat envious of those who have always called Misson home. What a splendid village to come home to. Peace and community and the sound of the wind buffeting across the fields.
The River Idle west of Misson
St John the Baptist Church in Misson
River Lane, Misson

14 March 2016


The Beck at Barrow Haven
The Humber is a mighty river. Various smaller rivers run into it including the Ouse, the Trent and the River Hull. Though only forty miles in length, The Humber was once an important defining line between the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. It drains almost 10,000 square miles of northern and central England.

Crossing The Humber was always challenging. It is almost a mile across and subject to the tides. Beneath its treacherous muddy waters there are sandbanks and moving mudflats. Nowadays, crossing the estuary is easy because of The Humber Bridge that elegantly links East Yorkshire with northern Lincolnshire but once folk had to rely upon little ferries that were sailed, rowed or later powered by steam.

Leaving Yorkshire, the ferries nearly always embarked from the city of Hull but on the Lincolnshire side there were several tiny ferry ports, including Goxhill, New Holland, Barton and Barrow Haven. I visited the latter port on Saturday morning. Essentially, it is the place where Barrow Beck joins The Humber. From there you can see Hull across the river.
On October 5th 1541, a ferryboat docked at Barrow Haven and a corpulent, gout-ridden king alighted. It was King Henry VIII. He had been to Hull with the Privy Council to conduct one of his infamous royal visits that were largely connected with maximising taxation, organising the nation's defences and crushing the power of Roman Catholicism. At the time he was in the middle of his two year marriage to his fifth wife - Catherine Howard who would  be executed the following year.

From Barrow Haven, Henry rode into nearby Barrow-upon-Humber and then onwards to Thornton Abbey, an influential  Roman Catholic monastery that had been dissolved at the king's command just two years earlier. Perhaps Henry was checking to make sure his instructions had been followed or possibly he just wanted a bed for the night along with a few roast suckling pigs and several flagons of wine.
 Barrow Haven. Below - where The Beck meets The Humber.
When I was a schoolboy in Hull, I once played truant with a friend called Lee. This was well before The Humber Bridge was constructed. We boarded the morning steam ferry at Hull's Corporation Pier. It was "The Tattershall Castle", now marooned on The Thames in London. We headed across The Humber to an exotic faraway land called Lincolnshire - the place where The Yellowbellies resided. And we strolled around New Holland for an hour or two. We bought crisps and fizzy drinks from the village shop and then we went back, back to our painful reality - a chalkdust world of chemistry formulae, the conjugation of Latin verbs, teachers in black capes and a vague but persistent  odour of  pine disinfectant.

That was not the life we sought. We wanted to be free. Perhaps, like King Henry VIII we should have continued heading south that day.

13 March 2016


In two spells, I spent almost a year working in Thailand. As time passes, some of my memories of South East Asia are dissolving. Other memories remain. I contend that we have no control over the things we remember. The reasons for cerebral selection are mysterious. They always have been.

When some people think of Thailand the term "ladyboys" will frequently arise - often with a little titter and raised eyebrows. Personally, I have got nothing against ladyboys. Like those memories I just spoke of, effeminate young men have little control over who they become.

Thailand is not awash with ladyboys. It's  not as if every other fellow you pass in the street is proudly walking along, swinging his handbag and happily displaying his feminine side. In fact, most Thai men are like Yorkshiremen - masculine, their veins coursing with pure testosterone - like Clint Eastwood in "Pale Rider".

When school photographs were taken at St Stephen's School, a team of professional people arrived with their equipment. They were all in the company uniform and the leader was an elegant,  shapely, coiffured and expertly made up ladyboy. He or she was good at his/her job and comfortable with his/her ladyboy identity. It wasn't fancy dress. It wasn't a joke.He/she was being who he/she needed to be - accepting the hand that life had dealt out.

Acceptance. In some respects you might say that the Buddhist values  that underpin everyday life in Thailand make it easier to come out as a ladyboy. With a few reservations, Buddhists are better at accepting differences, better at accepting disaster and better at living in the moment. You don't get many ladyboys in Saudi Arabia.

Anyway, all of the above was just a preamble to sharing the following memory of a particular ladyboy.

It was just after midnight one weekend when I was walking home to my little apartment, by the side of one the main arterial roads that heads for central Bangkok from the north of the city. In the daytime the road is choked with traffic but that midnight it was relatively quiet. Ahead of me was a concrete footbridge over the road and at its base there was a lone figure.

He/she was a ladyboy but unlike any other ladyboy I had seen before. He/she was built like a Welsh rugby player. As tall as me, with forearms like Popeye the Sailorman and thighs like tree trunks. Whereas most ladyboys are experts at applying make-up, this one appeared to have had his/her make up applied by a chimpanzee. It was heavy and badly smudged. He/she was wearing a shapeless but sparkly gold sack and size eleven high heels.

There was nobody else around. When I reached the footbridge this Ladyboy from Hell sought to engage me in conversation. There followed a tirade in the Thai language - delivered at Volume 7 and he/she simply ignored my protestations that I was English and didn't speak Thai. He/she appeared mentally disturbed or crazed by mind-bending drugs. It was hard to tell. He/she pushed me and then attempted to grapple with me. She/he  was wearing an aroma called I believe SBO - Stale Body Odour.

I just wanted to get away. I was not in the mood for being raped by a crazed Welsh tighthead prop in a glittery sack. I pushed back and yelled  my own tirade of English expletives. The Ladyboy from Hell was suddenly startled and stepped back against the fence. I marched away, leaving the confused lone figure behind. Rejection can be hard to suffer.

So it seems that not all ladyboys are demure, girlish figures, preened and plucked like catwalk models. Whenever the word "ladyboy" crops up in the future I will surely recall that feisty midnight encounter by the concrete footbridge. And thankfully, I lived to tell the tale...

11 March 2016


In Great Britain, the news is all about the forthcoming referendum on Europe. In or out? Out or in? That's what we have to decide on June 23rd. Why we need such a referendum now and why it all boils down to such a simple question, I have no idea. Personally, I would like to see more questions on the ballot paper - a string of questions connected with Britain's membership of The European Union. 

For example - Should the European Supreme Court have power to override judgments made within the established framework of Britain's legal systems? And here's another one - Should the enormously costly European Parliament be consolidated within one location - Brussels or Strasbourg? And there are plenty of other searching questions it would be worth asking.

Even the main question proposed  - "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"  would be better if one of the optional answers was "Not Sure" instead of just "Leave" or "Remain".

Looking ahead it is highly likely that millions of eligible voters will not vote for a variety of reasons on June 23rd. Many young people moving around in the rental sector seem to fall through the net of the electoral register and there are many intelligent, well-informed people whose decision not to vote should not be dismissed as pure apathy. In or Out may well be decided by a a few million voters when our country has a population of some sixty three million.

There are loud voices for staying and equally loud voices for going. None of them know what the future might hold. It's not about logic, it's about gut feeling. One of the things that I have always thought about the European Union is that it seems to be driven by big business and financial institutions. The well-being of the people can seem like a secondary consideration. You only have to look at the awful situation in Greece to see how much The Europe Union really cares about its citizens. Voting for big business does not come naturally to me.

In or out? Whatever happens on June 23rd, Great Britain will still be connected with Europe. If the vote is to leave, total disentanglement will be frankly impossible. Trade will continue and so will cultural exchange. The British people who now live on the European continent will not suddenly be coming home and our Polish builders will continue to lay bricks and plaster our walls. We will never have the ability to "go it alone".

The question on the ballot paper may at first appear straightforward but this is by no means a straightforward issue. That is why, for the time being at least, I shall continue to sit on the fence.

10 March 2016


Here is my personalised "geograph" map. The red splattering effect reveals where I have taken photographs for the project since my very first contribution back in September 2009. There are other drips of red paint elsewhere - Cornwall, South Wales, Fife, Sussex, London and Essex for example but these are off the main map.
As you would expect, the biggest red splash is centred on my home. I have taken pictures in every square kilometre of The City of Sheffield and like a blob of red ink that central splash has leaked out over most of The Peak District and into Nottinghamshire and various parts of Lincolnshire.

Taking pictures for geograph is a hobby that I find very enjoyable and it suits me down to a tee. It involves map reading, walking, historical research and posting pictures on the internet for all to see. Mostly I hope to take good pictures that will interestingly represent any particular square kilometre but occasionally I snap dull pictures  that are just about "bagging" a square. Of course I have blogged about this hobby before. Here for example.

So far I have uploaded 8004 photos to geograph but that is less than 20% of the total number of pictures I have taken whilst out rambling. It's slightly shocking to estimate that I have in fact taken over 50,000 pictures in the last six and a half years and of course many more during my two working stints in South East Asia and on various holidays.

Taking pictures can be like writing poems or songs. You're looking to make the best poem you have ever written, the best words n the best order or you are looking to capture an image that is special - perhaps in its simplicity or in its quirkiness or because the weather and the light conspired to perfectly enhance the scene in front of you.

If my currently sore hip or a future debilitating injury or the creakiness of old age prevented me from getting out there to explore the world around me I should feel like a bird without wings but at least there'd be all those photos to remind me of the wonderful places I have been and the splendid things I have seen. 

England is a fantastic and beautiful country, rich in history, filled with surprises and any fellow countrymen or women who dispute this must be stupid, blind or both.

9 March 2016


Tissington Hall
No wonder we English talk about the weather a lot. We never know what we are going to get. This morning, as I sit here in my fluffy designer dressing gown it's grey and miserable outside. Raindrops on the windows and wind whistling down the chimney. But on Monday - oh Monday. How lovely was that?  A clear cobalt blue sky and sharp sunshine that made the whole world vibrant and  photogenic.

Yesterday's post concerning Wigber Low was but a glimpse of my circular ramble. I parked in Tissington near Tissington Hall and after a mosey around the old church I headed northwards along The Tissington Trail, a former railway track, for half a mile before striking out east to Wibben Hill. Then along the lane to Bradbourne Mill before ascending to Wigber Low. Onwards to Kniveton where I sat on a bench and guzzled my bottle of water with a fine lunch that consisted of a banana and a juicy apple.
Wibben Hill
The ford crossing Bradbourne Brook
Kniveton Church
Across slippery fields that had been decimated by horses' hooves to Rowfields Hall Farm where an entire flock of sheep came to greet me. On to Bank Top Farm where I chatted with a solitary farmer trimming hawthorn hedgerows. Then down into the valley and the curiously named village of Fenny Bentley. St Edmund's Church was open and there I snapped a picture of The Beresford Tomb. Two medieval figures carved in marble, but bizarrely covered entirely by their funeral shrouds. I have never seen a tomb like it before.
Sheep attack at Rowfields Hall Farm
Bentley Brook Valley
The strange Beresford Tomb, Fenny Bentley
Ever onwards. across more slippery fields. Gingerly, I edged down the grassy  bank to Wash Brook but in spite of my caution I slipped over - as Mr J. Gray of Trelawnyd, Wales  might say - "arse over tit". And now, as a result,  my right hip remains sore. Damn! I must have walked a few hundred miles since I last fell down like that. Any fall can have activity changing consequences. That's why I tend to be very careful. Naturally, I got up with muddy trews and a few curses.

On to Thorpe and then along The Tissington Trail over the A515 trunk road and back to Tissington, reaching my car five hours after I had set off. How good it was to be alive, tramping over the surface of the earth on such a diamond day.
Back in Tissington - St Mary's Church