2 September 2015


The other night, as sunset approached, I drove out to the local moors along a "B" road that runs to the north of Burbage Moor and heads into Derbyshire. Our house looks westwards but because of the topography and the houses and trees in between we never get to see sunsets properly - just swathes of colour, pink-washed clouds, golden sunbeams - tantalising glimpses of what we would be seeing if we were perched at the top of a ridge.

So sometimes I drive up to that lonesome moorland road or carry on  to Stanage Edge. A good sunset is a much better viewing experience than the most popular TV show or the best film ever made. And it is a once only show. Tomorrow night it will be different. As the sunset time approaches you never know how it will turn out - the position of the clouds, the way that light will be refracted, the moisture in the air. 

Surely all of our ancestors also gazed in wonder at sunsets. There is something vaguely spiritual  or worshipful about watching sunsets. It is like gazing upon the handiwork of the divine.

As I waited up on the moors, I observed the changing light and how it was illuminating wooden fencing adjacent to a cattle grid. I crouched down for a more interesting angle and waited for a vehicle to approach. As luck would have it, that vehicle was a Land Rover - a very suitable moorland machine. To the right - on the horizon- you can see the southern end of Stangae Edge. I have christened this picture "Crossing the Border":-
By the way, this was the sunset as the golden orb sank behind the Derbyshire hills:-

1 September 2015


Burl Ives (1909-1995) was a man of the people. Not just a singer, entertainer and minor film star he was a fellow with a political conscience and was even blacklisted as a potential communist in the nineteen fifties. He supported many causes connected with the pursuit of liberty and justice. And he sang many memorable folk songs. In the picture above he was playing Big Mac McCreedy in "Alias Smith and Jones".

It is sometimes said that we all have doubles somewhere in the world and I think that I have spotted Burl Ives's double. A fine keyboard player, grandfather and resident of America's Peach State he is the mastermind behind the infamous "Rhymes With Plague" blog! 

Because that blogger is a fairly  bashful  man who does not like to blow his own trumpet, I decided not to post his picture for comparison with Burl Ives's image. But if you wish to see what I mean about the doppelganger just head over to   Rhymes With Plague and check him out. Spooky or what?

30 August 2015


Though I am an orphan of long standing, I sometimes experience a strong urge to speak with my parents. Dad died of a heart attack in 1979 and Mum died in an old folks' home in 2007. They were both good people and I loved them dearly as they loved me. It was mutual and natural but when I reached the lofty plateau of adulthood my relationships with them evolved beyond the loving condescension and forebearance that colours parenting in the early years. We were now much more equal and could talk together as sentient adults.

Dad was still alive when I began my teaching career. He was the headmaster of our local village primary school and enormously proud that one of his sons had followed in his professional footsteps. When the going got tough during my vocational baptism of fire at Dinnington Comprehensive School on Doe Quarry Lane, Dinnington, Dad was there to listen and to proffer advice. He gave me several useful tips even though there was a world of difference between a sweet country primary school and a secondary school in a tough mining village that accommodated over two thousand pupils.

He also taught me about growing vegetables and working with wood and he took me to my first ever Hull City football  match and he bought me my first ever bell bottom trousers and let me wear one of his old rugby shirts when I was a part-time hippy.

Mum's early journey through life was very difficult. At the age of eleven she was more or less abandoned by her hapless parents and had to walk four miles to my great grandparents' humble terraced house in Rawmarsh, holding her brother's hand. And there she lived till she was nineteen. Inspired by  a recruitment notice in 1940, she signed up with the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Airforce) and was soon posted to India where she met Dad who had left teaching the moment that war broke out to join the Royal Airforce as a meteorologist.

Mum was always on my side. No shrinking violet, she had a combative spirit. It is sometimes said that the English characteristically hide their true feelings, living in a nether world of coded messages and politeness. But that was never true of Mum. Though enormously kind, when anybody crossed her or behaved stupidly or arrogantly they met her unbridled wrath like a full broadside from "HMS Victory". She said what she meant and meant what she said.

She often said that when I was three years old I came downstairs one evening and said "Mummy can you teach me to read?" I sat on her knee for an hour or so and she taught me the rudiments of reading. After that I hardly needed any further instruction. Before going to school I could read quite fluently and was way ahead of my five year old peers when I finally joined Miss Readhead's infant class. So much for the car sticker - "If you can read this thank a teacher"!

As an adult, I could talk to Mum about relationships, politics, injustice, cooking, antiques, wallpapering, village matters, memories and our shared loathing of Margaret Thatcher and all that she stood for. When times were tough she was there at the end of the phone (Mum not Thatcher!) or in person  to listen and reply. She was a very empathetic person and it was so nice to know she was there for me.

It's not easy being an orphan. Though it is thirty six years since Dad died and eight years since Mum left us, if I close my eyes I can still hear the sound of their voices. But there is no conversation any more. There are things I want to say to them both but the words seem to shrivel inside me and turn to dust. It is so frustrating and so unfair.

29 August 2015


More pictures from my Thursday walk west of Wakefield. Please click to enlarge:-
View to Ossett from Netherton
 South of Middlestown
Disused phone box - Middlestown
The River Calder at Horbury Bridge
Horbury Bridge - "Onward Christian Soldiers"
St Peter and St Leonard's, Horbury 
Trotting through Horbury
Weir on the Calder at Horbury Junction
That corridor again
 Above and below - Broad Cut on the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal.
"The Star Inn", Netherton
That's All Folks!

28 August 2015


Above - a rather eerie walkway over The River Calder at Horbury Junction west of Wakefield. It is an integral part of the girdered railway bridge that crosses the river at this point. To me it looks as if it would be an ideal venue for a physical assault or a music video but the still photograph suggests the cover of a novel - perhaps "1984" by George Orwell.

I took over a hundred photos yesterday as I strolled out of Netherton towards Middlestown then up to Horbury Bridge and Ossett before curving back through Horbury towards Calder Grove. It was all virgin territory to me - just west of the M1 motorway. At Horbury Bridge between the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal and the River Calder itself, I spotted this fine public house - "The Bingley Arms". Naturally I thought of John Gray's recently departed old turkey over at "Going Gently" and that is why I have included this picture. Rest in peace Bingley - now gobbling in heaven.

26 August 2015


YouTube can be very helpful with regard to DIY jobs. There are thousands of short videos covering activities like wallpapering, tiling a bathroom, laying concrete etcetera. Studying them can provide helpful tips to make one's own attempts at DIY more successful.

Now over the last month I have been in DIY mode as I have sought to attend to various practical matters at our son's terraced house in Sheffield 2, near Sheffield United's football ground. Yesterday I set about sealing the edges of the bath with white silicone. It is a job I have undertaken before and it always ends up unpleasantly with silicone all over my hands and my stress level rising like the pressure gauge on a steam train.

Consequently, before returning to the house for the umpteenth time I checked out a few YouTube videos about sealing baths. A great tip I picked up was about using parallel lengths of masking tape near the joint to avoid getting the silicone on to the bath or the surrounding tiles.

I came across two Australian videos. Previously, I had thought of Australians as carefree, "can do" people with a healthy disrespect for authority and rules but watching the two videos rather altered that perception.

To remove the hard plastic top of the silicone tube, one DIY instructor donned safety gloves before taking her sharp "Stanley" knife to do the one second job. Why she held the tube in mid air I have no idea. In the other video, the fellow put safety glasses on before squeezing the silicone round the edge of the bath. Safety glasses! Was he planning to squeeze the stuff into his eyeballs? He also wore gloves when using the silicone gun (see picture).

Safety is usually a good thing. It is best not to drive the wrong way along a motorway. When scaling ladders it is best to have a heavy human being at the bottom and on building sites it is surely wise to wear hard hats. However, wearing gloves to sever a plastic top and putting on safety glasses before using a silicone gun seem very much OTT (over the top). Perhaps the pioneering Aussie spirit is transmuting into self-absorbed safety consciousness. No wonder my favourite Aussie blogging ladies have been  yelling at me not to climb the ladders! But I am Yorkshire and we are brave. I shall go up!

25 August 2015


Have you ever climbed high up a ladder? Perhaps I should change that question to - Have you ever climbed high up a ladder to do some work? It's not the nicest thing. To be thirty or forty feet above the ground holding a paint pot and a brush or leaning over a gutter to clean out leaves. It can give you the heebie geebies.

When we lived on Leamington Street in the Crookes area of Sheffield, I clubbed together with some young neighbours to buy a pair of extending aluminium ladders. The first job I planned was to paint the pebbledashed rendering on the front of the house. We weren't happy with the original pale pinky colour and decided to turn it a deep brick red. 

This was the very first time I ever worked up a ladder and I can tell you that when I reached the guttering to dab away at the rendering beneath I was almost frozen with terror but gradually my confidence grew and before too many days had passed I was scaling those ladders like a seasoned fireman. 

Soon after we left Leamington Street, I heard that a fellow who lived round the corner on Warwick Street had fallen from his ladder while painting and was now wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. My own brother - Paul fell about twelve feet from a ladder whilst at work in his mid-fifties and broke his hip. I believe that the complications with blood clots caused by that fall may well have killed him a few years later. 

We moved into our current house twenty six years ago - hell, it seems like yesterday! Soon after moving in I opened up the front room fireplace to discover the original 1925 fire behind - still intact! We could have coal and log fires! But one problem. The chimney had been capped.

Instead of paying somebody to do the job, I hired a roof ladder and hoisted it up to the eaves. Then I pushed it on its handy little wheels right over the ridge tiles before somehow clambering over the wooden guttering to get on our roof and up to the chimney. When I think of it now it makes me deduce that  I must have been stark raving mad. The neighbours were out watching the daredevil lunatic and I was determined not to have wasted my money on hiring that roof ladder. I took the cap off the chimney and five minutes later I was back at ground level. Job done. Disappointed neighbours retreating indoors.

I was much younger then. In six weeks time I will be an old geezer of sixty two. Maybe I shouldn't be going up ladders any more but at the weekend I was up those same aluminium ladders at our son's house near the Bramall Lane football ground painting the messy cement rendering at the back of the house white. I found myself getting higher and higher till there is now only about a metre more to do under the wooden guttering.

Surely I can do it - just three more rungs up the bouncy ladder but I must have somebody at ground level standing on the bottom rung. Shirley will be at work. Any volunteers? This may be my last post. Gulp!