17 March 2018


In blogging today, I was going to tell you the meaning of life. Then I thought I might give you tonight's winning National Lottery numbers. I also considered sharing the secret of eternal happiness and how to live healthily to the age of one hundred. Other blogging ideas included how to bring about peace in Syria, how to stop Saudi Arabian aggression in The Yemen, how to lace Vladimir Putin's cornflakes with nerve gas and how to lose seven pounds of excess bodyfat in a week without even trying. 
In the end, I ditched all of the above ideas in favour of sharing three more photographs I snapped last week on my circular walk around Stoney Middleton and Eyam in Derbyshire. These three pictures were all nominated in the geograph website's "picture of the week" competition though in the end I didn't bag a winner. Still, I am pretty happy with these images and I know that some of you out there like to see my various pictures from this region of England.

16 March 2018


Where did Mr Pudding go THIS time?

He went away for two nights with Mistress Pudding - to the heart of West Yorkshire.

Low mists hung over the Pennine hills and valleys. In the darkness of Wednesday night, we sped along the M62 to Junction 24. Thence to Elland, Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd before turning along a "B" road to Cragg Vale.

Then up a steep single track road intersected by drainage channels till we finally arrived at Cragg Hall. We were staying in the barn conversion next door as guests of our old friend Tony and his fairly new lady, Pauline. Tony had booked the barn for a week to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. His daughters had been there at the beginning of this week.

We were there with two other old friends - Glyn and Jackie who happen to eke out an existence in the heathen territory known as Lancashire. There be dragons!

The eco-barn was amazing. Warmed by ground-sourced heating it has a huge wall of glass that overlooks Cragg Vale. The materials and fitments used throughout are top notch and it was a delightful place to stay in spite of the low lying cloud and the hair-raising track up the hillside.
Yesterday we went into Hebden Bridge - a former milltown that is now synonymous with alternative lifestyles. Businesses here are independent - no Starbucks allowed, no Tescos etcetera but there is a small co-operative supermarket. 

We climbed higher into the mist specifically to visit Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall churchyard. It wasn't easy to find but when we did light upon it we noticed that previous visitors had plunged pens into the sod that covers her. Glyn and Jackie had never even heard of Sylvia Plath but I read "The Bell Jar" and her poetry many moons ago and this was a pilgrimage I had often thought of making. 
Sylvia Plath's grave in Heptonstall
"Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted"
She was such a gifted writer. If she could only have suppressed her suicidal thoughts or perhaps sought professional help for possible postnatal depression, she might easily have become a modern day literary great. She was only thirty years old when she left us. I had nothing to put on her gravestone but a ten pence piece with a crowned lion on the reverse. We walked away leaving Sylvia behind us in the swirling Pennine mists. She died in 1963.

Last night we had pints of beer in "The Hinchliffe" before climbing the precipitous track for a late dinner of chilli, rice and jacket potatoes in the lovely barn. It was nice to spend time with people we care for and in whose company we feel very much at ease. The spooky weather didn't really matter.
Ruins of the old church in Heptonstall

14 March 2018


Two English geniuses have died this week. They occupied very different worlds but in their own ways they were both remarkable people.

Legendary comedian and variety entertainer Ken Dodd passed away on Sunday at the ripe old age of ninety. He died in the same house where he was born - in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash.

With his buck teeth, his wild hair and his various costumes and tickling sticks, Ken could keep a theatre audience entertained for hours. Just one man on a stage with a vast repertoire of jokes and a fine singing voice. He was a modern day court jester. Though he starred in several TV shows, his home territory was the theatre and in his seventy year career he delivered shows on virtually every stage in the land.

He once said, "Laughter is the greatest music in the world and audiences come to my shows to escape the cares of life. They don't want to be embarrassed or insulted. They want to laugh and so do I - which is probably why it works."

Professor Stephen Hawking died this morning at the age of seventy six. He was a theoretical physicist with a brilliant mind. In addition to this he had to battle with a terrible handicap most of his adult life - namely, motor neurone disease. His familiar computer-generated monotone "voice" was operated by the blinking of his eyelids.

He wrote "A Brief History of Time" and as a gifted physicist he would most certainly have won the Nobel prize were it not that his work was principally theoretical and not always proven  in practice. Apparently, the Nobel awarding committee appreciate substance as opposed to hypothesising. 

I could not begin to understand the complex solutions to the scientific puzzles that Stephen Hawking unravelled but I loved the film about his early life - "The Theory of Everything" (2015) starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. If you haven't seen it please give it a whirl some time.

Ken and Stephen will now be queuing together outside the pearly gates and Ken will be saying... "Tonight when you get home, put a handful of ice cubes down your wife's nightie and say: 'There's the chest freezer you always wanted'." And this will surely be followed by computerised guffaws of laughter.

13 March 2018


At the weekend we worked like Trojans. Our aim was to get Frances and Stewart  happily settled in the flat that they have bought for a king's ransom. Stewart's parents were there too. His father is a vicar here in Sheffield and his mother is an occupational therapist. They are both at the very end of their working lives.

Everything went according to plan. The estate agent handed over the keys at 1pm on Friday. At 2pm we arrived from the motherland (Yorkshire). At 3pm the carpet fitters arrived. At 5pm we were putting flatpack furniture together. Stewart and his father were in the bedroom working on a massive double wardrobe while I was in the living room/second bedroom working on a designer coffee table with drawers. Frances and Mummy went back to Tooting Bec in South London to finish her packing and cleaning.

It was funny lying on the new carpet with my complicated flatpack instructions. Next door I could hear the vicar and Stewart struggling with their bigger job. I chuckled because I knew that if I had been in the next room the air would have sometimes been blue... "Jesus Christ! Where are the number eight b*****d screws?"..."Whoever made these ****ing instructions wants shooting!" etcetera.

Instead I heard calm and patient endeavour... "Oh my giddy aunt, do you remember where we put the number eight screws Stew?" and "These instructions might have been a little clearer in my view." Yes, it made me chuckle.

At 9pm we went for dinner at the nearby "Westbury" pub. It was very nice and even nicer that the vicar and his wife fielded the bill. Afterwards, I drove to Southgate which is three or four miles north of Wood Green. I was staying in a brand new Premier Inn where I slept like a log. Shirley stayed the night over at Tooting  Bec.

On Saturday, I was up at 8am and eating scrambled egg on toast in a nearby cafe by 8.30am. Then I caught the tube back to Wood Green and by 9.15 I was waiting to get in the flat to carry on working.

Frances's removals van arrived and The Queen and Princess turned up shortly afterwards. It was a day of window cleaning, unpacking, a visit to The Temple of IKEA, swilling, mopping, putting screws in walls (not screwing!), popping out to Wood Green high road for various things until night-time arrived once more.

The vicar headed back to Sheffield to prepare his Mothering Sunday sermon. Stew's mother crossed London to stay with one of her sisters and we went to an amazing Turkish restaurant called Capital. It was on three floors and buzzing like a hive. People of all nationalities were eating there - many of them Turks. We were assigned a table on the top floor and our order arrived pretty quickly considering the number of diners in the place. It was a very efficient operation and the food was deliciously simple Turkish fayre washed down with bottles of "EFES" beer. Oh my giddy aunt it was marvellous!

Is this blogpost getting boring? Sorry. It will soon be over.

Shirley and I headed back to Southgate and on Sunday morning drove back to Wood Green - no parking restrictions on a Sunday you see. 
Our Ian - Mr Bosh!
More work at the flat and a trip to Awful Homebase but not so frantic now. Everything was coming nicely together. Mr Bosh! arrived at midday and at 2pm we were back at "The Westbury" for Sunday lunch with the two mothers on Mothers' Day. Mr Bosh! revealed an exclusive  copy of the cookbook he had picked up in Italy.

Another shopping trip to bustling Wood Green's high street. More work at the flat and at 6pm Shirley and I commanded Clint to take us home. Three hours up the scenic M1 motorway to Yorkshire. Job done... and here's hoping that Frances and Stewart's current joy, love and togetherness endures. It was a privilege to help them. Renting is over. They have their own place.

12 March 2018


On a hillside east of the Derbyshire village of Eyam there is a tiny graveyard surrounded by a drystone wall. It contains the graves of seven members of the Hancock family who died in the summer of 1666. They were struck down by The Great Plague that, according to legend, had arrived from London in a bundle of cloth that happened to contain disease-carrying fleas.

Perhaps surprisingly this little graveyard is known as The Riley Graves and not The Hancock Graves, for the Hancocks were buried in Riley Field - an area of common land between two farms - Top Riley and Riley House Farm.
The story goes that the brave people of Eyam, urged by the local vicar, imposed a quarantine upon themselves in order to prevent the plague from spreading. In the event 260 villagers died from the bubonic plague but surrounding settlements were saved. Various myths have grown up over the past three hundred and fifty years about "The Plague Village".

It had been a good few years since I last visited The Riley Graves but I was there last Thursday as the recent snows were beating a gradual retreat. I parked in the valley near Stoney Middleton's squat church  and hoofed it up the valleyside, at one point tackling the remains of  a long snowdrift that was tucked up against the side of a drystone wall.
The little graveyard is an atmospheric place and as there was nobody else around  I found myself alone with the Hancockes - Alice and Ann, William and two Johns, Oner and Elizabeth. All of them were interred in August 1666 less than a month before The Great Fire of London was sparked in Pudding Lane - just north of London Bridge.

9 March 2018


We are about to travel back to London. This time Silver Clint will be whisking us down. 

We are heading for Wood Green in north London where The Beloved Daughter and her consort are about to move into a humble flat which they are buying at enormous expense. For the same price here in Sheffield they could buy a detached three bedroom property with a  big garden and a drive. But London is where they work and at least for the time being they like it down there - the bustle, the buzz, their network of friends.

Anyway, after helping with the move, we plan to be back Up North on Sunday night. Until then normal blogging activity is suspended.

8 March 2018



We measured our mountains in feet
Edging up them one foot at a time
Until ultimately
We reached their lofty summits
Where sometimes
We found piles of stones or cairns
That added more feet
To those mountain tops.
You could see for miles.
But now it seems
We are required
To measure our hills in metres
Quantify liquids in litres
Their aim being to defeat us
- One of the troubling features
Of this modern world.
Yet I, undefeated,
Still stand
Six feet tall
- Exactly.