25 March 2015


I discovered this walk twenty years ago and have plodded it many times. When I was teaching, it was good to jump in the car and travel five minutes out of the city for a good vigorous hike that always seemed to take exactly one hour. It cleared my head and showed me other things, better things than piles of exercise books to be marked or minutes of meetings to type up or the latest official A4 ring binder to rifle through - containing yet more changes to the way we worked. It seemed to be what my Sundays were all about.

Shorts Lane stables are the buildings just east of Quarry (dis). I always park there and set off westwards to the big green area which is Blacka Moor. You have to cross the stepping stones over Blacka Dike thaen it's a long climb up to Lenny Hill. Turn eastwards over FB (Foot bridge) till you look down on to Hallfield Farm. Then along the beautifully named Strawberry Lee Lane to Totley Bents.

That is where you will find "The Cricket Inn". Then north to Avenue Farm and the path soon takes you by a delightful little stream called Redcar Brook where in the early springtime there are great swathes of snowdrops. When I got there yesterday, it had started to rain and the snowdrops were past their best so I didn't bother to get my camera out again.

There is much more I could say about this walk. I have witnessed it in different seasons and different weather conditions and with different people too but here are some pictures of it from yesterday. The sequence begins with my Seat Ibiza parked by the stables and ends back at the stables with a view to Dore which is a well-heeled suburban village on the south western edge of Sheffield. As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them.
All political leaders need time out to gather their thoughts and the charismatic leader of The People's Popular Pudding Party is no different...

24 March 2015


Britain's General Election is getting closer. It will be held on May 7th. Though I am happy to see that The Labour Party's star is rising, it may be time for a new contender - The Pudding Party. Here's my rough draft manifesto. In the "Comments" section please suggest another possible Pudding Party commitment.

1. Every worker will be entitled to a paid day off on his/her birthday. Schoolchildren will also be entitled to a day off.
2. Grouse shooting will be banned.
3. Cigarette smoking will become illegal on the day that the Pudding Party sweeps into office.
4. All rail fares will be halved and frozen for five years.
5. Bankers will not be allowed to receive any bonuses. Like most other workers, they will have to be satisfied with their regular salaries.
6. A committee will be set up to assess the feasibility of banning all religious garb.
7. The building of new mosques, temples or churches will not be permitted.
8. In schools, creative subjects will be central to the Pudding School Curriculum - including art, music, writing and design.
9. There will be far less Maths taught in our schools. Instead, every child will be issued with a free calculator. One hour of Maths a week will be enough for everyone.
10. Children aged ten to thirteen will be entitled to free swimming sessions each week of the school year.
11. The NHS will be one of the Pudding Party's priority zones but there will be some significant changes. Non-UK citizens will have to pay the market price for any treatment - either through medical insurance or from their own pockets. Drug companies' charges will be determined by the Pudding Party itself ensuring that gross profiteering is reined in. A fee will be introduced for any appointment with a doctor at a health centre. This fee will be linked to the patient's income so that unemployed patients pay £5 per appointment whereas the wealthiest patients will pay approximately £250 per visit to their doctor.
12. Any non-Yorkshire people who plan to make Yorkshire puddings must first pass a competency test overseen by a team of Yorkshire-born assessors led by former England and Yorkshire cricket captain Geoffrey Boycott.
13. The following people will be executed without trial - Jeremy Clarkson, Jeremy Kyle, all  members of Take That, David Cameron, John Terry, Noel Edmonds and Jordan (aka Katie Price).
14. Lancashire will be encircled with barbed wire along with guards preventing exit and entry.
15. Any new bikini or brassiere designs will need to be personally approved by the leader of The Pudding Party.
16. Tetley's bitter will be reduced in price to £1 a pint.
17.  All parking fees on public streets and in public car parks will be abolished and all parking enforcement officers will be sacked without compensation.
18. Tattoo parlours will not be permitted and anyone who is unfortunate enough to have any tattoos must keep them covered at all times when out and about in public.
19. There will be no more daytime television. TV channels will only be allowed to operate between the hours of 5pm and 1am.
20. Personalised number plates on cars will no longer be allowed.
21. Premiership footballers' wages will be limited to a maximum of £100,000 per annum.
22. Anyone found using mobile phones while driving will have their driving licences permanently revoked.
23. The BBC Radio 2 Sunday Morning "Love Songs" programme with DJ Steve Wright will be permanently abolished.   
24. Anybody found guilty of child sex abuse will be dumped on the uninhabited Atlantic  island of St Kilda and left to fend for themselves with no possibility of return to the British mainland. 
25. Bloggers who don't post for months on end will be hauled before The Bloggers Tribunal to explain  their laxity and if found wanting will be excommunicated from the blogosphere.

Any other ideas?

23 March 2015


In an idle moment, I typed "funny blogging cartoon" into Google Images and this was the best one that emerged:-

22 March 2015


Medieval stump cross on the edge of Stannington
Sheffield is a hilly city.We are on the eastern edge of the Pennine Chain which is the spine of northern England. It is sometimes said of Sheffield that, like Rome, it has seven hills. Having visited Rome a few years back, I can say without question that our hills are not only  bigger but have exerted a greater influence on our urban development.

Between the valleys of the Loxley and Rivelin rivers, upon one of the seven hills you will find the suburb of Stannington. Once a small farming community on the edge of town, it was finally absorbed by the city's tentacles in the mid-twentieth century. When you go up to Stannington, the air temperature drops a degree or two and it is invariably windy up there even when the air down in the valleys is still. 

Close to each other there were once five pubs at Stannington - "The Crown and Glove", "The Rose and Crown", "The Peacock", "The Hare and Hounds" and "The Sportsman". It was sad to see that the last two have closed their doors forever and "The Crown and Glove" now has an ominous estate agent's sign on its gable end world - "For Sale or To Lease". The kiss of death.

Not long after Friday's eclipse, the skies cleared and sunshine broke through to illuminate the seven hills. I had a wander around Stannington. Typically, there was a stiff breeze. People who choose to live up there must be hardy folk. It wouldn't be for me. Gimme shelter.

Stannington pictures -  "The Rose and Crown", Knowle Top Chapel, "The Crown and Glove", Christ Church, war memorial, VW camper van on Highfield Rise.
Click photos to enlarge

20 March 2015


A partial eclipse of the sun was predicted for today and indeed it happened. Here in Sheffield we had 90% coverage - with just a thin smiley sliver of the sun left behind as the moon moved across the great fiery orb on which our lives depend.

The weather forecast had been promising but as it turned out, our city languished under a blanket of cloud with only occasional breaks in that greyness. On the television, we had tantalising wobbly live coverage of the eclipse as an aeroplane chartered by the BBC flew over the Faroe Islands.

Back in 1999 when we experienced a total eclipse of the sun in south western England, I was all set to drive Ian and Frances down to St Michael's Mount in Cornwall to witness it but cancelled the crazy mission at the last minute because of an unpromising weather forecast. 
This morning, as optimum coverage approached, I went out into our garden and hoped for the best. If the sky had been clear and blue there is no way I would have been able to take any photos of the moon crossing the sun but as the cloud blanket thinned a little I was able to snap the shots that accompany this post. 

It will be eleven years till we next experience any kind of eclipse in Great Britain and I may well not be here then. Astronomers calculate that there'll be one in America in 2017 but of course our ancestors of long ago  never had any idea when they would happen or what if anything they might mean:
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in
palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son
and father. 
William Shakesperare - "King Lear" (1606)

18 March 2015


Before the internet and the National Lottery, in those far off black and white days of yore, five o' clock on a Saturday evening was significant in most ordinary British homes. This was the time the football results were read out on the television:  "Blackburn Rovers 0 Bolton Wanderers 2, Leyton Orient 1 Crewe Alexandra 1, Manchester United 1 Hull City 7..."  James Alexander Gordon's intonation went up or down according to the scores.

And from Exeter to Edinburgh, people - mostly men - checked their pools coupons. The Football Pools represented the slim possibility of escape.from the humdrum world of work and bills and financial worries. With eight score draws you could join the world of the rich and  famous. Those people who lived in big houses and drove shiny new cars. Those people with intercoms at their gates and kids in private schools. Those people who were not like us. People we never met for they occupied a different world. Like Martians.

The football pools are far less popular than they used to be. Nowadays we have the National Lottery with coloured balls rolling tantalisingly  across our screens every Wednesday and Saturday night  - promising that other life in the magical land of The Rich. But the football pools never disappeared. Some people continued to do them.

Like me. I have been entering the pools for forty one years, never missing a week - even in football's off season when the pools companies utilise Australian rules football results. Long ago I occasionally won money through forecasting ten home wins but with regard to drawn matches I had never won a penny...until a week ago.

A letter arrived from The Football Pools and there was a little window in it. I noticed the colour of the document within - a certain off-white and I recognised that colour. It promised a cheque... and here it is:- 

£1043.70 is not a life-changing amount of money but it was enough to put a smile on my face. For all my blog visitors there will be drinks all round at "The Banner Cross Hotel" this evening. Hope you can make it!

17 March 2015


Higger Tor viewed from Carl Wark
It was a grey* day yesterday with a blanket of cloud obscuring the sun over northern England. Increasingly, I have tended to avoid rambling on such days as the light is not conducive to good photography. Everything appears washed out and dull. (*American "gray")

However, I was keen to get some exercise so I drove up to the moors about  three miles from here  to Upper Burbage Bridge. There I parked up and donned my walking boots before setting off down the valley. 

There are millstone grit edges on both sides of the Burbage Valley and many rocks are strewn around - some placed there by nature and some discarded by quarrymen who once worked the edges - producing building blocks, kerbstones and grindstones. 

A mile down the valley, at the little stone bridge that crosses the stream I talked to two women who were walking their border collie. The bridge was once on a packhorse route that crossed the spine of England long before paved roads and motor vehicles came along. How delightful that it remains.

At the old packhorse bridge
Up to Carl Wark which I have mentioned previously in this blog. It is a rocky moorland plateau that once functioned as an Iron Age hillfort - 2500 years ago. Nature provided it with three rocky sides and at the exposed western side they built a wall and ditches. It is believed that the hillfort was also used by Romans though archaeological evidence to support this theory is very thin.

The western defensive wall - Carl Wark
There were some schoolchildren around. Some were holding clipboards and others were in helmets and red overalls learning rock climbing techniques. I heard the instructor saying,  "Listen will you!" with a touch of annoyance in her voice. Naturally I put my camera back in its case while the kids were nearby as I had no intention of being accused of  vicarious paedophilia. "Miss! Miss! That man took a photo of us!"

Up on to Higger Tor. Similar to Carl Wark but larger. If I had been an Iron Age chieftain I would have picked Higger Tor for my hillfort instead  - but maybe he had two fortified places. They are quite close to each other. 

Back along the path that skirts the valley and there ahead was the little car park. I sat in the car for a while reading my book. I am up to page 265 now. A thin rain was squeezed from the cloud blanket and soon I travelled home to prepare the evening meal. Roasted onions, peppers and tomatoes. Steamed salmon and fresh tagliatelle in a green pesto sauce. Parmesan grated over and a few sprigs of rocket then a wedge of lemon for the salmon. Traditional wholesome Yorkshire food.
Carl Wark's rocky edge  under a grey sky