31 December 2008


This is my last blogpost of 2008. Outside the ground is frozen "hard as iron" and the thermometer reads minus three. I was the last patient in the doctor's surgery today. Nothing real bad just an irritating cold sore/fungal infection in the corner of my mouth. Just when I think it's healed, I laugh too much or open my big gob too wide for an apple and the corner cracks again and I'm back to square one. Possibly my last act of kindness in 2008 was insisting that a distressed young woman, who arrived in the waiting room after me, saw the doctor before I went in.

I just wish I'd gone down there with the book I'm reading at present - "The Road to Nab End" by William Woodruff. I could have devoured three chapters in the time I had to wait. It is a brilliantly observed autobiography - mostly set in the poor streets of Blackburn, Lancashire in the 1920's. The last chapter gave a child's eye view of the General Strike of 1926 - fascinating.

Wonder what 2009 holds for us all - both in the macrocosmic world that fills our news channels and in the microcosmic worlds that we really inhabit, surrounded by our possessions and the souvenirs we have gathered, affected by our friends and neighbours and the precious ones we call "family". One of my friends - Ian - told me that his mother had died on December 23rd, just six weeks after his father was buried. To lose both parents in such a short time must be really awful. Though he may wish to, I don't think he'll forget 2008 in a hurry.

What do we want for 2009? On the world stage, I want Barack Obama to get off to a good start, I want to see justice and peace in Gaza, I don't want to see any more natural disasters or Japanese whalers pretending to be engaged in scientific research. No more destruction of the Amazon rainforest. No more gas guzzling 4x4 vehicles on city streets. No more second homes sitting empty while homeless people shiver. No more unwatched computers flickering through the night in empty public buildings. No more "terrorism" such as mindless and cowardly suicide bombings.

And on the home stage I want us all to be healthy and bright, making the most of life, enriching our inner selves with interesting experiences. Patience. Goodness. Humility. Laughter. Noticing fundamental things like cloud formations, spring bulbs breaking through the top soil, birds moving across the sky, the sweetness of honey. And I want us to be kinder to ourselves. Less self-doubt, less self-recrimination, less beating ourselves up. To be alive is a wondrous thing. Let's get to December 31st 2009, fully intact, feeling we have achieved some things that are worth acknowledging - if only to ourselves.
Happy New Year Everybody!

29 December 2008


Don't you think that Mother Nature is wonderful? Inspired by Katherine's recent New Zealand fruit photos (Last Visible Dog) I give you some of more of the Earth's bounteous fruits below:-

From top to bottom - The Daphne Pumpkin, The Sweet Katherine Fruit (lovely and juicy), Stunted Clewley Peppers, The Robert Hybrid Brague Carrot and The Pudding Fruit (Grows well in Yorkshire)

27 December 2008


an interruption in the intensity or amount of something [syn: suspension] .
a missing piece (as a gap in a manuscript)

I love Christmastime. It has absolutely nothing to do with Christ, wise men from the East or stars shining above Bethlehem. It has everything to do with the winter solstice and people feasting and drinking - marking time, saying - "We are alive here and now, travellers together. And there is too much stress and misery in the world so let us eat drink and be merry!" I feel some bitterness towards Christians who hijacked our pagan festivities and then had the sheer gall to lambast those of us who choose to overlook the fairytale about Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus born in a stable. Sheer bollocks!

Before Christmas, the excitement builds. You rush around buying presents, crackers and chestnuts. You order a big fat turkey and post cards to far flung corners of the world. You ask friends and work colleagues what they are doing for Christmas. Your wife gets the lights down from the loft and tinsel bedecks your home. And then the great day comes and the streets are quiet and there are no thoughts of work and the humdrum world. You rip open your gifts and stick the turkey in the oven, pull your crackers and watch "The Royle Family" on TV. It's great - Christmas.

Then you enter the hiatus between Christmas and New Year. Over-eating has caused unfamiliar rumblings in your bowels. You sleep late. You gather up empty bottles and cans for recycling. You notice gifts scattered near the fireplace and the carcass of the turkey you assaulted on Christmas Day sits in the kitchen like an offbeat advertisement for Amnesty International. Eager anticipation is replaced by a certain emptiness. You look ahead to the next year looming. There is nothing on television worth bothering with. No cards drop on your mat and nobody phones.

Today I made a turkey stew that Jamie Oliver would have been jealous of. Complete with swollen pearl barley, chunks of celery, carrots and turnip, six fat dumplings floated on the surface. A dash of red wine, a couple of bay leaves, mixed herbs and a rasher of grilled bacon. I served it with flat bread coated with sizzling garlic butter. I might have called it "Hiatus Stew".

Down at "The Banner" tonight, the atmosphere was subdued. Christmas over. The feasting done. Waiting for New Year's Eve and 2009. Not everybody makes it. Some of us fall by the wayside. This gift of life is something we should not take for granted.

I dedicate this post to the displaced Palestinian people of Gaza murdered by the self-righteous Israeli war machine - children and women, the elderly and the poor. Over 230 dead and 700+ injured. Indiscriminate and unforgivable killing that should, by rights, attract fierce international reprisals but of course that won't happen. Words will be twisted and legitimate Palestinian freedom fighters will once again be portrayed as the wrongdoers.

25 December 2008


Chaplin on the shoulders of Douglas Fairbanks at a Liberty Bonds rally in New York (1918).

Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977 at his home in Switzerland. Although he was by no means a "communist", he departed the USA in 1952 feeling bitter and anxious about hysterical accusations that flocked around him. This clownish little man was a giant of the silent movies. His place in American history and the history of film should have been assured but it wasn't until he was an old man, two years before his death that he was finally knighted by our queen. Until then, the question of honouring Chaplin had been a thorny one, given America's post war witch-hunts. Similarly, it wasn't until the nineteen seventies that Chaplin was honoured with a star in the pavement on Hollywood's famous "Walk of Fame".

Clearly, Chaplin always had a social conscience. His famous bowler-hatted tramp gave more than a nod of sympathy to the downtrodden masses and some of his films - including "The Great Dictator" and "Modern Times" had political undercurrents beneath the ribald laughter they evoked. Chaplin once said, "The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish." These were not the words of a clown even though that is how he would often describe himself. There was more to Charles Spencer Chaplin than met the eye.

Chaplin met Ghandi in 1931.

21 December 2008


The Green Man - A mythical winter visitor long before the invention of Father Christmas.
Yesterday was the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. In electrically lit homes with central heating and televisual entertainment, in our pulsing veins we no longer feel the ancient significance of the winter solstice as we return from the supermarket - our cars laden with the pillaged bounty of the earth.
For thousands of years, even from neolithic times, the winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle of time. This is reflected in the very archaeology of Stonehenge in Wiltshire and of New Grange in Ireland. A big part of life was about planning to get through each winter. You stored or preserved food. Cattle were killed to avoid having to feed them and thus at ancient festivals around the time of the solstice, there was often more fresh meat available than at any other time of the year.
Evergreen plants bedecked the primitive hovels and Yule logs became centrepieces in community-based rituals - dancing and singing in defiance of the coming trials and tribulations of deepest winter or perhaps appealing to pagan gods. Starvation was common in a world where there was no fall-back, no safety net. Only by binding together with your extended family and neighbours could you hope to make it through to the spring.
Today the sun is beginning its slow ascent into the northern sky and our days will gradually become longer but there is still so far to go to the vernal equinox on March 21st.
Many of England's oldest chuch sites were selected simply because those places were held dear by our pagan ancestors. Architects of Christianity believed they could plug in to the fundamental powers and beliefs of that mysterious ancestry. But like the supermarkets and the flickering images on our plasma screens, Christianity was only a thin veneer, disguising basic truths such as the rising of the sun, our essential relationship with nature and the cyclical nature of time.
Here endeth the Yorkshire Pudding Xmas Lecture 2008. Please put a charitable donation in the box as you leave - yes, that's right... in the box marked "Pudding Holiday Fund". Now I'm off to find me a Yule log!

Winter solstice at Stonehenge

19 December 2008


It was at Christmas 1987 that The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" first became a Christmas hit in both Ireland and the UK. Twenty years later it is still going strong when other Christmas songs have faded into obscurity. It is a weird and peculiarly evocative song. But what does it mean? In Wikipedia they say this:-

The song takes the form of a drunken man's Christmas Eve reverie about holidays past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank. After an inebriated old man also incarcerated in the jail cell sings a passage from the Irish drinking ballad "The Rare Old Mountain Dew", the drunken man (MacGowan) begins to dream about a failed relationship. The remainder of the song (which may be an internal monologue) takes the form of a call and response between two Irish immigrants, lovers or ex-lovers, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, reminiscing and bickering on Christmas Eve in New York City. The lyric "Sinatra was swinging" has been taken by some to suggest an unspecified period after World War II; however, it is possible that the song is actually set in the early 1980s, when one of Sinatra's last chart hits, his 1980 recording of John Kander and Fred Ebb's theme from the movie "New York, New York", was a fixture of New York City airwaves and a standard singalong record in the city's many neighbourhood bars. The title, taken from author J. P. Donleavy's novel "A Fairy Tale of New York", was chosen after the song had been written and recorded.

For me it is a song about lost dreams, regrets and underachievement. All of us have suffered the buffeting of life's roller coaster ride. We could have all "been someone", just as we could have all ended up in "the drunk tank" on Christmas Eve. Whenever I hear this song, I think of Kirsty MacColl who died so tragically and needlessly in Mexico eight or nine years ago and I think of her father Ewan and the subtle way his lyrical brilliance infiltrated Shane McGowan's masterpiece.

16 December 2008


Christmas and that annual head-scratching anxiety as we wrestle with the eternal conundrum - what to buy for people who have all that they need? Here's a suggestion for useful his and her gifts:-Available from Pudding Enterprises at £33.50 each. Send cash only.

13 December 2008


....Ohhhh! Moooan! Grooaaan! My aching head! I swear that is the last time I ever host an awards ceremony at Pudding Towers! The mess! You should see it. Empty beer cans and wine bottles everywhere! Somebody knocked over our prized giant yucca plant on the decking and though I hate to say it, this morning I found two perfectly formed human turds on the floor of our greenhouse. Who would do such a thing?

Thank God all the bloggers have finally departed clutching their awards and nursing their sore heads. I must say the night was all a blur to me but I keep having vivid and scary flashbacks. In the snooker room, I found Katherine (Last Visible Dog) in a compromising position on the green baize as Arthur Clewley tried, unsuccessfully, to pot the black. In the kitchen, Mr R.W.Plague from Georgia was raiding the fridge with Sam from "The Golden Hill" though we had put on a splendid Yorkshire buffet for our blogging guests. "Ya see y'all we ain't chompin on no hog's trotters nor Pukka pies!" grumbled Mr Plague with a twenty four inch pizza in his hand. Sam was clutching a perfectly formed saveloy sausage.

Daphne was in the conservatory giving a lecture on the nuances of the English language as "The Arctic Fox" ran in from the garden with a pair of pink knickers on his head - hotly pursued by Hadriana from "Hadriana's Treasures!" "Give them back you bounder!" she yelled.

Upstairs, Reidski and JJ were testing the springs on my "Silent Night" kingsize bed as Jenny the demob happy teacher sifted through my vast collection of Hull City programmes with Steve from "Occupied Country" and a couple of other football crazy bloggers.

I was horrified to discover the mysterious Australian blogger Craig teaching Mopsa and Misterwoppit how to snort some strange white powder in my daughter's bedroom. I quickly guessed what it was and frog-marched Craig downstairs. He tried to resist but with him only being an Australian, he was easily subdued and I threw the blighter outside yelling, "When we send you to Botany Bay, we expect you to stay there!"

Around two in the morning we had a live beamback on my computer from Farida and Brad in Seattle. Farida was charming as always, graciously accepting her joint Best American Blogger Award for the fifth year running. Brad on the other hand was running amok, beating his hairy chest with unbridled disappointment. But how can he expect to win blog awards when he doesn't actually blog any more?

David from NZ and the Three Legged Cat from just up the road in Sheffield had sent their apologies citing transport problems. Ah well! Thank heavens it's all over and done with now. Before everybody left this morning we gathered in the ballroom to say our farewells and sing the bloggers' hymn: "Bloggers of the World Unite".
A delighted Daphne (Laughing Horse Worsdmith of the Year Award Winner) receives her coveted award from the dashing Mr Yorkshire Pudding at last night's star-studded ceremony.

11 December 2008


Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fellow bloggers... We are gathered here this evening, at the end of this eventful year, at the luxurious Pudding Towers to bestow the inaugural Yorkshire Pudding "Laughing Horse" Blog Awards upon very deserving recipients.... Excuse me... Ahem! Mr Clewley! MR CLEWLEY! (Aside - I knew we should have never arranged a free bar) Winning an award entitles the lucky blogger to embed a "Laughing Horse" widget within his or her blog. This designer widget was specially crafted by a crack design team based in Grimethorpe between Rotherham and Sheffield - close to the Blackburn Meadows Sewage Treatment Plant.

Laughing Horse Wordsmith of the Year
Drum roll.... This goes to Daphne at "My Dad's a Communist" whose wit and evocative use of English is legendary.
Laughing Horse Blog Design of the Year
Trumpets.... This goes to Steve ArtyFarty for "Occupied Country". Some smashing original photos Steve!
Laughing Horse Cynical Bystander Award
This goes to none other than Richmond's own Arthur Clewley with his homely Dales diary. He makes Victor Meldrew look like Charlie Chaplin!
Laughing Horse American Blog
Ta-dah! We have joint winners this year. From the west coast Ms Farida Dowler for her family and storytelling blog "Saints and Spinners", from Georgia Mr "Rhymes With Plague" for some fascinating slants on life and from Ohio, Sam the king of "The Golden Hill".
Laughing Horse - Best New Zealand Blog. Not much competition so it has to be joint winners - David for the occasionally lonesome but musical "Arcane Enigma" and Katherine for her colourful, artistic and varied "The Last Visible Dog".
Laughing Horse Welsh Blog of the Year
Yes it has to be.... the lovely Jenny with her readable and friendly "Demob Happy Teacher".
Yorkshire Blog of the Year
Should of course go to Mr Y.Pudding of Pudding Towers but as I am not allowed to win an award on my home patch, reluctantly I bestow this award on the six foot skinhead from 'Uddersfield - "The Arctic Fox".
Canadian Blogger of the Year
Dawn at "Far Far Away" - in other words "The Retarded Rugrat"
Northamptonshire Blogger of the Year
JJ (Griselda) at "All Cobblers" - you never know what you're gonna get!
Laughing Horse Sleeping Blogs I Miss Awards
Go to me old mucker "Brad the Gorilla", "Friday's Web" (N. Carolina) and "Shooting Parrots" (Manchester)
Laughing Horse Environmental Award
Goes to "Mopsa" for sensitive improvement of her Devonshire farm buildings.
Laughing Horse Northumberland Blogger Award
Naturally goes to Hadriana at "Hadriana's Treasures"
Laughing Horse Anyone Can Have an Award for £20 Award
These go to any bloggers out there who I have foolishly overlooked (such as Reidski and The Three Legged Cat) or those who simply want one! Cheque or credit card will do.

Right everybody! That's the official part of the evening over, now let's party like it's 1999! Yo! Free bar! Gerroff them sausage rolls Clewley! And here's to blogging through 2009. What better way to avoid the bloody credit crunch!

9 December 2008


A murmuration of starlings over Eastbourne, Sussex.
I thought this post would be fresh - something new - but I was here before in July 2005, thinking about collective nouns. Perhaps the collective noun for blogposts on the same theme could even be a "revisiting"... So where were we? Ah yes - collective nouns. I sometimes wonder who the hell coined the more outlandish of these terms. It is hard to think that country people of long ago might have looked up into an old wintry sycamore tree and upon spotting a group of crows labelled them a "murder". Somehow these varied and attractive group names have the whiff of nineteenth century wordplay...

"Oh I say Percival! It's raining like billyo outside! Let us retire to the drawing room and dream up some collective nouns for our feathered friends. Then we'll post them to my old college in Oxford!"
"Oh jolly dee Godfrey! What a wheeze! Haw! Haw! What about.... a murder of crows?"
"Spiffing Percy! Absolutely spiffing!"

Some collective nouns for mammals:-
A pod of dolphins
A skulk of foxes
A surfeit of skunks
A huddle of walruses
A coalition of cheetahs
An array of hedgehogs
An aurora of polar bears

A quiver of cobras
A rhumba of rattlesnakes

And back to the birds...
A charm of finches
An exaltation of larks
A pitying of turtle doves
A murmuration of starlings
A descent of woodpeckers
A mustering of storks
A bazaar of guillemots
A parliament of owls
A host of sparrows

Don't you think they are brilliant? Now, in the quest for interactivity dear readers, I am going to ask you to suggest new collective nouns for:-
a) Young people working in a call centre.
b) A group of bankers laid off because of the credit crunch.
c) Air travellers queueing in the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport.
d) Prostitutes standing on a street corner.
e) Pub goers standing outside to smoke their cigarettes.

5 December 2008


Let me die a young man's death

Let me die a young man's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommy guns
burst in and give me a short back and insides
Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a young man's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death
by Roger McGough

2 December 2008


Right: Coronation Road
Sunday afternoon I drove down to Birmingham - killing two birds with one stone. Firstly, to meet up with our daughter whom regular visitors to this humble blog will remember is at university there. Secondly, to attend an exam board training meeting at the Novotel on Broad Street. How cunning of me to cause this co-incidence...

Last year, Frances was in "halls". This year she is renting a house with six other students on Coronation Road in Selly Oak, less than half a mile from "uni". And no, I didn't say Coronation Street - after all that is in Weatherfield, a suburb of Manchester.

I had not visited this terraced house before. For a few fleeting moments, I was transported back to my own university days in Scotland. Was it really thirty two years ago? There was youthful energy in her house, a sense of going places and getting on with life. Socks and T-shirts were drying on the banisters. Scattered all over the entrance hallway were takeaway pizza mailings and free newspapers that would have taken around twenty seconds to gather up and place in the recycling bin.

Frances's academically brilliant housemates clustered on the sofas, glued to a little portable TV as they munched unhealthy looking slices of pizza and oven chips. They were delighted with the two folding chairs I had brought from Homebase. It meant that at least they could eat at the table sometimes. The chairs cost me £8 each. Why hadn't it occurred to them to make such a useful investment?

I gave our daughter's room 4/10 for tidiness. The wardrobe appeared to have burst open, spewing clothes all over the floor. The double glazed windows that the "kind" student landlord had had fitted last spring were as draughty as a church bell tower because someone had forgotten to run some sealant down the middle joint. Note to self - remember sealant gun on next visit!

With lovely daughter in car, we revisited The Balti Triangle for dinner. A pre-meal beer in the old-fashioned "George" and then into the superb "Al Frash" for the best lamb balti this side of Bombay. The nan bread threatened to float away again. We spoke about her placement in America next year - at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama. She's so excited about it and I am so jealous.

Back at Coronation Road, the other "stewdies" had no idea where the Balti Triangle was or even that it existed. As "Strictly Come Dancing" flickered on the little box, and student excitement rose, I headed off for the £38 a night Etap Hotel to finish some marking before bed. I remembered the parties, the booze, the intense late night conversations, the emotional ups and downs, the essay deadlines, the women, the unmade bed, the burning of the midnight oil but most of all the faces imprinted on my memory like ghosts from "The Titanic" - friends and lecturers, cleaners and porters - a university library of faces - stored in memory.

28 November 2008


There are lots of pubs in England called "The Red Lion", "The Royal Oak", "The White Lion" and "The Prince of Wales" but there are only two called "The Banner Cross" and one of them is a short stroll from our house. It is my local and I have visited it regularly for twenty years.
The pub has a mock Tudor frontage. No car park because it faces busy Ecclesall Road - the main southerly route out of Sheffield. It has three rooms. Upstairs there's the games room which attracts a younger crowd and downstairs there's the old "tap room" and the lounge. Presiding over this drinking empire are the redoubtable Janet and Roger. Rough as they come, Roger is regularly stricken with painful attacks of gout these days while Janet sees red mists when ever anyone crosses her and she can swear like a trooper. I think she might be described as a "harridan" - a worn out horse or a large gaunt woman. She has put the fear of God into many an unsuspecting drinker.
I was down there this evening. There was Irish Joe who came to England in 1961 to begin his building "career". His Irish brogue remains as broad as it must have been when he stepped off the boat forty seven years ago. There was Bert from Northampton who worked manually in the concrete industry till he was sixty five. He was singing songs tonight - "Burlington Bertie from Bow" and "The White Cliffs of Dover". In spite of his extremely hard life, he is a very nice man who never thinks ill of anyone. Then there was Mick the Plumber (not John McCain's daft Joe the Plumber) - he was very tired after a week working away on a building contract in Blackpool.
Other people I often see at "The Banner" include the perpetually unemployed and unemployable Gibby whose aged mother is racked with rheumatoid arthritis. He keeps saying that he hopes she hasn't fallen over again as he sups his fifth pint of lager beer. Then there''s Derek with his various dogs, tattoos and roll-ups. He can't read or write but he always shakes my hand and asks me about my family. To use a term from Philip Larkin, I think of him as a "loblolly man" - he makes money by painting people's houses when and if he feels like it. He's a very good worker who takes pride in his painting and I have always been rather jealous of his free and easy approach to work. Unlike me, he is very much his own boss.

Big Dave has just got back from a week's holiday in Brazil where he met one of the Great Train Robber - Ronnie Biggs's best mates. They drank beer in a Rio bar and went for steaks that you paid for on the basis of weight. Lonesome Dave is obsessed with money and things financial and has an uncanny knack of turning conversations that way - territory that frankly makes me yawn. He's always advising me about pensions and savings but I don't care about things like that. I like poems and songs and brilliant goals, stunning photographs and beautiful objects - not how much interest I might make on a thousand pounds or how much I will need for a solvent retirement.

There are plenty of others - Irish Pat, Roman the barman and James the son of Irish Pat, the obnoxious Leeds Mick, Jim the Sheffield Wednesday fan who never sits down and the gardener Dave Glossop who is Sheffield United crazy. There's Barnsley Paul and Mr McCraig, Dimitri the Greek jeweller with his English wife Jo, the quiz kings Richard and Jonathan, brothers-in-law Roy and Mike, Welsh Geraint and the Spanish lass Maria who lives on Glenalmond Road. Jamaican Murray whose wife died in July and Tony the Kurd with his kebab shop.
It's an English pub - my local - and a great leveller. Who cares if you are a builder or a lawyer? Who cares if you have travelled the world or made a million, fought in Iraq or fought in a night club? Who cares if you are a secondary school teacher working up to sixty hours a week and stressing out about targets and the stupid National Challenge? Who cares if you are fat or thin, male or female, young or old? The English pub is a national treasure. Nowhere in the world have I found a facility like it, so roll out the barrel and let's all drink to the future of the great English pub!

25 November 2008


Did you ever find something... something that sticks in your memory?

Long ago in 1970, as the Isle of Wight Music Festival was ending, I found a Pentax Spotmatic camera hanging from a beam above a primitive row of toilets - precarious planks with bum holes suspended above a stinking trench. I snapped the abandoned festival site, including sleepy festival goers in polythene sheets as a thin rain descended. It had been quite amazing - Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Donovan and Free... Later I sold the camera for twenty five pounds in a camera shop in Hull.

Around 1991, I was returning from Scotland after attending a university friend's fortieth birthday celebrations. I pulled in to the motorway services on the M6 just east of the Lake District. It was around nine at night and there on the big entrance mat by the double doors I spotted a bundle of banknotes. I scooped them up and headed for the cafeteria area. £65! It was more than enough to pay for my weekend away. If you are the one who dropped it, I thank you ever so much.

It must have been a couple of years earlier, Shirley was working at the hospital and I was looking after the kids. I recall that Frances was in her aluminium framed baby hod, surveying Derbyshire from her vantage point on my shoulders. Holding Ian's little pink hand, we marched across a ragged sheep pasture and there in a hollow we spotted an ancient sheep's skull. It had been abandoned so long that the bone was bleached white and all signals of flesh had disappeared with the passing of several seasons. We still have that skull, a souvenir of a time long gone.

I found many other things: a rare Pacific seashell, stamps commemorating the discovery of Rotuma, an old grindstone and a stoneware Barnsley Vinegar Company bottle, the diary of a woman student at university detailing her life - including several sexual encounters, wartime grocery products in a derelict house in Devon and a strange wooden object the size of a mango that came rolling down the hill as I walked up to Edinburgh castle with a former girlfriend. Carved upon it was the primitive image of a man holding hands with a woman.

What did you find?

22 November 2008


What is life all about? When all the words have been spoken and the dust has settled, what is there left? I am sorry but after we have measured our dreams and ticked the inventory of our experiences and achievements, what it all boils down to is reproduction. Like other creatures and the entire plant world, that is ultimately why we are here - to ensure the continuity of our species. Dear Reader - you had a mother and a father. Through their parenting you became part of the human chain - a link connected with the past. By having children ourselves we continue that linkage and send part of ourselves into a future where we may not travel.The photo above was taken in September 1988 by Shirley's mum at the Nether Edge Maternity Hospital in Sheffield. It's a much younger me and Shirley with our little son Ian and our newly born daughter, Frances. My face is full of joy - not because a hairy caterpillar is crawling across my upper lip - but because I recognise the wondrous nature of this moment that the camera is about to capture. It's why I came into the world. It's the very meaning of life - nothing to do with God or splitting the atom, emulating Shakespeare or painting a masterpiece - but this - a man, a woman, a son and a daughter - a family. Our passport to the future, our living acknowledgement of the past. To be so blessed is something beyond the scope of words. And the woman who pressed the button is herself now gone beyond this earthly life but part of her remains.

20 November 2008


Like John Sergeant, the dancing Yorkshire Pudding finds his career is cut short. Especially for ye swooning devotees of "Strictly Come Dancing" - enjoy!

17 November 2008


Humps or bumps or sleeping policemen? I don't care what label you give them but I hate them. From time to time, it's healthy to have a good rant and speed humps are very rantworthy - if there is such a word.

It's amazing when you start scouring the internet just how much strong feeling there is out there about the humps. Far from being a traffic calming measure they are a source of much annoyance amongst drivers up and down this country. Until writing this post, I hadn't realised that speed bumps often cause actual physical pain to people with back complaints or those who have recently had surgery in hospitals. I had also failed to recognise that the braking and acceleration associated with speed bumps creates extra noxious gas pollution. That's just two powerful arguments against the damned things.

Let's go back in time - about ten years ago. In my home city - Sheffield - there wasn't a single speed bump - apart from those on hospital property. Then somebody at the council thought it would be a good idea to randomly introduce them on nearby Rustlings Road just by Endcliffe Park. Why there and nowhere else is an unanswerable question. Rustlings Road is an ordinary city street and in the twenty years I have lived nearby I can't recall one single occasion when a pedestrian was reportedly knocked down upon it by a speeding vehicle.

Those speed bumps led to a humping industry where teams of road workers would seemingly randomly dig up roads and with no consultation with local residents create the dreaded humps. Sometimes the humps would be in red tarmac, sometimes in black/grey. Sometimes they'd be continuous humps and sometimes intermittent, individual humps. Between these devilish mounds they would sometimes leave a foot, sometimes a metre. The distance between them like the height is variable - with apparently no regulatory dimensions.

When we had a Ford Focus, I could whizz over these individual mounds without much of a bump at all. Like many drivers, I found myself concentrating more on how to drive over the speed bumps than upon more important traffic issues such as who was behind me and who was in front or whether or not there were children playing at the roadside. However, in Shirley's environmentally-sound little Nissan Micra with its narrow wheelbase, there is no way you can whizz over the speed bumps. In a thirty mile an hour zone, you have to literally get down to 15mph in order to avoid damage caused by the jolting that each speed bump creates. This can be frustrating for following drivers in bigger cars who probably don't understand that each speed bump is like a hazard to be negotiated when you are driving in a small car.

Why do some roads have them while others don't? How much does the speed bump tarmac have to crumble before it is repaired? Why do councils make driving even more difficult by creating costly one way "chicaines" at random points on humped roads? How do they decide to have continuous or broken humps? How many lives have been saved by speed humps and more significantly how many lives have been lost because of them? How much damage do speed bumps cause to cars each week and in the longer term?

Send £50 (or $80US) to Mr Y.Pudding if you wish to join the "BASH" organisation - Bloggers Against Speed Humps. Direct action will be important in our campaign so please ensure you have a pick axe, a pneumatic drill or a stick of semtex handy and wait for further instructions from BASH command.

Ugly monstrosity!

14 November 2008


When I was a school student, I absolutely loathed Chemistry. Now The Royal Society of Chemistry have decided with presumptive self-importance that it is their place to make scientific pronouncements about Yorkshire Puddings that are frankly libellous! Take this headline - "Yorkshire puddings must rise four inches or higher, rule the chemists"! What? Four inches! No way! The Yorkshire Pudding must rise seven inches at least! No housewife would be satisfied with a four inch rise. In the picture below - issued by the RSC - you can see a housewife (well I'm praying it's a housewife!) tugging at a Yorkshire Pudding, lasciviously trying to make the poor fellow rise higher. Click on said picture to link to the BBC article on this topic of international importance:-

Personally I think the RSC should stick to bunsen burners, test tubes and copper sulphate and leave the humble Yorkshire Pudding alone or maybe one day the BBC will be hosting an article that reads "Members of The Royal Society of Chemistry will never rise again, rules Yorkshire Pudding".

11 November 2008


These days, being a secondary school teacher on the wrong side of the tracks is no picnic. Unwelcome pressure seems to press down on you in various ways. Firstly, there are the children. Although the majority of them remain lovely, there's a sizable minority who just don't give a damn. It's in their genes as one downtrodden generation of under-achievers produces another, more mouthy and more pig-headed than the last. They arrive at school without pens to write with, spouting foul language, without bags to carry their work in and worst of all without inquisitiveness or hunger for knowledge and self-improvement. Sadly, such losers will invariably have a massive influence upon the general ethos of a school.

Next there's the internal politics. You get innovative headteachers who care more about the latest bandwagons and their personal reputations and next career steps than they do about the children in their charge. Their underlings vie for position like hungry ducks in a pond - spouting the latest jargon, upholding the old managerial philosophy - "Do as I say, not as I do!"

Then there are the various tentacles of government. Local authorities find themselves squeezed to do better - get up the league tables. Their officers visit schools with laptops and serious expressions - confirming targets, demanding action plans and post mortems. In addition there's the dreaded OFSTED with its army of former teachers eager to submit their claims for expenses and feather their retirement nests as they move from school to school making snap judgements in the name of "standards". The National Strategy people churn out documents and ring binders, changing their strategy as they go along, somehow expecting magical things like the cascading of their multitudinous bullet points and Powerpoint slides.

The latest weapon is "The National Challenge" in which schools in areas of deprivation find themselves pilloried for failing to meet the baseline expectation of 30% of youngsters achieving five grade C's including English and Maths. There are no leafy suburban schools in the "National Challenge" hit list - just schools like mine, struggling on the edges of huge council estates to bring out the best from their pupils - poring over spreadsheets, chances graphs and league tables.

So much of it stinks. I have been teaching for over thirty years - the last fourteen as head of department. I cannot tell you the number of extra hours I have put in to the job - in my holidays, late at night, at weekends, during non-existent lunch hours. Today, very typically, I left work at 6.45pm, having started at 8.15am - that's ten and a half hours! And the same tomorrow no doubt. It's pride and my reasonable income that have kept me going this far. Inside, I have often been tortured by the job, waking up in the middle of the night to replay incidents. Most recently I have felt physically affected by it all - as if my essential life force is being sapped away.

There's that saying isn't there - if you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen... Well that's what I have decided to do - make it through to next summer and then out. I have told the Ice Maiden headteacher herself. I don't know what next September will hold but I'll get by. I fancy being the paint man at B&Q or driving a white van around the country but I guess I will end up still stuck in the nightmare world of education - a bit of supply teaching here, some college work there - just to garner more funds to keep life comfortable and continue to support our two kids. But those other pressures will be gone. Surely, I have done my time. I've got to go.

8 November 2008


Just messing about...

5 November 2008


The answer has been "spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled" - the new President of The United States is to be Barack Obama. It felt right to mark his victory in this blog on the day it happened. I wish him personal safety and strength through the difficult years ahead. Outside the fireworks of England's Bonfire Night burst golden in our night sky but let us say that their illumination is also in praise of Obama's election and the hope he has genuinely inspired. Great news.

4 November 2008


...After Fountains Abbey, we drove west to Brimham Rocks and then down into scenic Pateley Bridge before heading back to Ripon. By now the Manchester United v Hull City commentary was underway on Radio Five... and Ronaldo scored after three minutes. Oh no!

We strolled around sturdy Ripon Cathedral, descending into the Saxon Crypt which drew thousands of pilgrims to the city in the middle ages. Shirley bought some sheepskin slippers from The Edinburgh Wool Shop and we had coffees in Cafe Nero overlooking the ancient marketplace. Grrroaaan! She wanted to do some more shopping but I just wanted to get back to the car to listen to the last fifteen minutes of the radio commentary. I was expecting The Tigers to be losing badly but we were only 4-2 down against the European Champions!

As I listened, they described Ferdinand's foul on Mendy. Penalty! And up stepped Geovanni to drive it home. The last few minutes saw the great Man United in a panic as we pushed for an unlikely equaliser. Un-bloody-believable!

That night we paid handsomely for modern English cuisine in Lockwoods' Family Restaurant. For the starter, I had pink pigeon breasts on a bed of caramelised chicory with warm rocket salad, followed by braised local rabbit on a mound of parsley mash with two neatly laid layers of bobby beans. For dessert it was butterscotch parfait with hazelnut praline. Really posh nosh! To tell you the truth, I enjoyed Friday night's cheapo curry rather more.

After Lockwoods we saw the Ripon hornblower emerge from the town hall just before nine. He went to the four corners of the marketplace obelisk where he blew his ram's horn - one long deep and continuous note at each corner. This is an ancient ritual - performed every night for nigh on a thousand years. It is to do with setting the watch - warning townsfolk that it's time to retire for the night as the wakeman does his rounds.

On Sunday morning, we ended up at a stately home near Leeds called Harewood House. It is very grand and was lavishly furnished as the eighteenth century gave way to the nineteenth - mostly on profits the Lascelles family made from the slave trade. We decided to visit the kitchen garden first of all - about half a mile from the main house. There was an old couple with leather bush hats walking ahead of us - nobody else was around at that early hour. We caught up with them in the huge kitchen garden itself. Shirley chatted briefly to them while I retrieved a last lonesome apple from the otherwise bare fruit trees. It was only afterwards that we realised we had been chatting to none other than the seventh Earl of Harewood himself - with his wife The Countess of Harewood. That apple belonged to them! Off with my head!

Harewood House

2 November 2008


And so to Ripon in North Yorkshire on a Friday evening - the night of Halloween. There's heavy traffic on the M1/A1 link road near Leeds so it takes us two hours to get there. The Crescent Lodge Guest House is easy to find. Room Number 1 on the first landing is clean and cared for with an en suite shower room. We drop off our suitcase and wander two hundred yards into the ancient market place.

Beyond this is Kirkgate. I have done my research and there it is - The Bangladeshi Balti House. You can bring your own drinks so I have to go back outside in search of an off-licence ("liquor store" to transatlantic readers). Sainsburys is closed. After a bit of a wander, I'm back with four cans of Kronenborg.

The curry is quite delightful and clearly the place is popular with Riponians. Our table is rather small though - a marble-topped Victorian pub table and there's not enough room for our nan bread, rice, beer and hot plate for keeping the balti dishes warm - but we manage. Later, we're in "The Black Swan" on Skellgate supping John Smiths Cask bitter as fancy-dressed Halloween partygoers parade past us - witches, amber pumpkins, whiter shade of pale zombies.

Next morning, after a wholesome "full English" in the breakfast room, we're out in the November sunshine and on our way to the ruins of Fountains Abbey - Yorkshire's only "World Heritage" site. I was eight or nine when I last came here on a school trip. Begun by a small band of Cistercian monks from York in 1132, this abbey became both powerful and wealthy on the back of the wool trade. It had a hospital and a mill, several chapels and bridges and was home to hundreds of monks in its heyday. As you walk around it, you appreciate the peaceful beauty of the abbey's location by the little River Skell and you wonder about past times - the skill and ambition of the stone masons, the certainty of that lost society's religious belief, how the monks spent their days, the four hundred years in which Fountains Abbey exerted such influence over its immediate region... I took some photographs:-

Famous view of the west tower.

The cellarium beneath the refectory.

Stone soaring to the heavens.

Detail of tiles on the high altar.

Bear with me - I will continue this weekend account in my next post...

30 October 2008


For this post, like Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, I am largely indebted to the BBC -
Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels - and it means "beautiful thinking". It is also the title of Canadian poet Christian Bok's book of fiction in which each chapter uses only one vowel.
Mr Bok believes his book proves that each vowel has its own personality, and demonstrates the flexibility of the English language. The book took seven years to research and write. Below there's an extract from one of Bok's chapters:-
Loops on bold fonts now form lots of words for books. Books form cocoons of comfort - tombs to hold bookworms. Profs from Oxford show frosh who do post-docs how to gloss works of Wordsworth. Dons who work for proctors or provosts do not fob off school to work on crosswords, nor do dons go off to dorm rooms to loll on cots. Dons go crosstown to look for bookshops known to stock lots of top-notch goods: cookbooks, workbooks - room on room of how-to-books for jocks (how to jog, how to box), books on pro sports: golf or polo. Old colophons on schoolbooks from schoolrooms sport two sorts of logo: oblong whorls, rococo scrolls - both on worn morocco.
BBC Website readers were asked to devise their own little pieces using only one vowel. Here's just a small selection:-
I think this is gimmicky! Katherine, Arizona, USA
A Lancs man asks "Can that mad, bad, Yank MacCain catch Barack?" Lancs Man says Yanks want Barack? Fab!
Mike W, Lancashire
Every sheep relent ! Seven enter where'er three entrench. Ten express envy. Better repent eh ? Very deep.... James Upton, London

Dull. Dull, ugly, uck:Tumult upturns, hurls, bursts, Curbs plush hush, Dull murmur gusts -Humdrum duck clucks thus. Laura Redfern, Conwy, Wales
John won't borrow Bok's book - too bloody wordy! Only O's? Noooooo! John W, Sheffield

CHALLENGE! Can any readers of this blog create their own bits of language using only one vowel? Here's my, admittedly, rather pathetic example:-

Even the defenceless yet excellent Exeter eels "eek" endlessly whenever they bend. Y.Pudding, Sheffield

I heard Christian Bok on Radio 4 today, talking about how the exercise of writing his odd little book had caused him to shelve normal creative channels and instead focus on the whims of language. An unusual notion drawn from his favourite word - eunoia - beautiful thinking. I had never even encountered this word until today.

28 October 2008


Prepare to be bored as Yorkshire Pudding again dips his toes into one of his passions - namely, geography - specifically cities. This weekend Mrs Lincolnshire Pudding and I will be travelling to one of the world's great cities. New York? Rome? Sydney? Kuala Lumpur? No, none of these. We are off to Ripon in North Yorkshire. Ripon you say? Yes Ripon which, with an eye on wavering tourists, proudly boasts that it is England's fourth smallest city. So what's the smallest? Why, of course, it is Wells in Somerset, though the city of St David's in Wales is much smaller - with a population of just over two thousand at the last census.

I began some research into English cities and please don't yawn at the back as I share some of my fascinating findings with you.

The Romans arrived in Britain in 43BC and not long afterwards established significant "camps" at London, Colchester and St Albans. When they "left" three centuries later they had developed a whole network of significant and influential townships including Wroxeter and Eboracum - later to become York. By the time of the Norman Conquest, London was believed to have a population of around 10,000 and the other major "city" was Winchester, the old Anglo-Saxon capital with a population of about 6000.

By 1334, the influence of large settlements was growing and in that year eleven of the top thirty places in the country were all in East Anglia - testament to the economic impact of the wool trade - Norwich, King's Lynn, Boston, Great Yarmouth, Thetford etc. . In that list of thirty there was of course no Manchester, no Birmingham, no Sheffield, no Liverpool. These places were then pretty much just little agricultural villages of negligible significance. This remained so in 1523 when after London, the two biggest "cities" were Norwich and Bristol.

In 1662, London had an estimated poulation of 350,000 and by 1750, we see the real emergence of the great industrial centres on the population hit list - Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield - then with a population of some 12,000 souls.

In 1861 London's population had grown to over three million while the second city in the land was now Liverpool with 443,000 residents - half of them pickpockets, horse and cart joyriders and vagabonds (I made the last bit up!). Forty years later in 1901, London's population had shot up to 6.3 million, Liverpool was now up to 702,000 and Hull was also in the charts with 240,000 Hullensians though Hull had clearly been a significant trading place since the middle ages. Below see the cartographer John Speed's map of Hull in 1611:-

Well, moving on with Professor Pudding's lecture, let's finish... you at the back - WAKE UP! .... let's finish with reference to the biggest cities in each continent. I think Paris simply makes the list because of its metropolitan area - including suburbs and satellite towns - but even so - EUROPE = Paris (9.6 million frog eaters), NORTH AMERICA = Mexico City (18 million - that's a hell of a lot of Corona beer to recycle), SOUTH AMERICA = Sao Paulo (17.7 million and they all play beach volleyball), AFRICA = Lagos, Nigeria (13.5 million but I think they missed a few), AUSTRALASIA = Sydney (3.6 million whingeing Aussies) and last but not least ASIA = Tokyo (28 million sushi-eating, pod-hotel-dwelling, karaoke-screeching Japanese).

But when all is said and done do we like cities or do we prefer the countryside or is that a silly question? Of the cities I have visited - here's my personal top ten in terms of their likeability for different reasons:-

1. Hull
2. Sheffield
3. San Francisco
4. Venice
5. London
6. New York
7. Berlin
8. Amsterdam
9. Rome
10. Lisbon

And just missing out by a whisker - Marrakesh, Durban, Boston USA , Birmingham UK, Galway, Oslo, Gdansk - oh what the hell sometimes these favourite lists are a dumb waste of time... It's like asking someone what their favourite drink is. Sometimes you want a nice cup of tea, sometimes a glass of fine wine. Sometimes you want to dip your head in a mountain stream and gulp the crystal water. It's the same with cities. How can you compare the medieval din of the main square in Marrakesh with a stroll through Central Park or Guinness supped in a tiny Galway bar with a walk through The Brandenburg Gate?

24 October 2008


Above. That is "Weeme". I constructed him myself - a sort of mini "avatar". Now in England the word "wee" is not only a synonym for small, it is also an alternative term for urine! Hence small children or "wee" children will often say to their mummies, "Mummy I need a wee!". They wee in their pants and wee in their beds. Small boys wee all over the floor or have weeing competitions with each other as they wee up walls like wee firefighters.
I wish to reassure you that my "WeeMe" has absolutely nothing to do with urine. It's just a cartoon mini version of me. I am playing my guitar in my old supermarket brand blue jeans and my old work suit jacket. I am so good on the guitar that - as you can see from the picture - I don't even need to use my hands! The only thing missing is my Hull City lapel badge.
Look at us flying high in The Premiership! Played eight, won five, drawn two, lost one! However, I rather think that this will be the pinnacle of our season. I am predicting three defeats in a row now - West Bromwich*, Chelsea and Manchester United. Even so the start to this season has been so fantastic that WeeMe could be in danger of weeing himself!
Why not make your own "WeeMe"? Then our little "WeeMes" could have a cyber-party together in WeeWorld! Click on my WeeMe to begin making your own!
*LATER - Hell! I shouldn't have been so pessimistic. We beat West Brom 3-0! And now we sit joint top of The Premiership with Chelsea and Liverpool. Absolutely amazing!

23 October 2008


"Boron is in Kern County, California. The population was 2,025 at the 2000 census. In 1990 the population was 2,904.Boron is a community on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. A unique asset of the location is that within a half day drive you can view the highest and lowest points in the contiguous 48 states of the United States (Mount Whitney and Death Valley), the world's oldest tree (the Bristlecone Pine), and the cities of both Los Angeles and the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Boron is home to California's largest open-pit mine, which is also the largest Borax mine in the world."
We drove into Boron at Eastertime 2005 on our way from Las Vegas to Bakersfield. It was a godforsaken place of boarded up homes, a handful of stores and a fantastic diner where we ate a hearty all-American lunch by the empty Twenty Mule Road. On the edge of the Mojave desert and almost treeless you sensed just how hot this place would become in the summertime. It was miles from anywhere - beyond Barstow and far from the fertile central Californian plain which gave Bakersfield its wealth.

I often think of that place. Another America. Not the America of "Baywatch" and "Miami Vice" but the America of open spaces and hard work and anonymity. It only exists because of the mineral Borax which is used in fire retardants, soap, putty and metal processing. I would rather spend a day in Boron than a month in Disneyland or Hollywood... "All gone to look for America" - it was there in Boron.

Above - Boron High School and the excellent K&L Corral Diner. Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsey!

20 October 2008


The Last Lesson of The Afternoon
When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart
My pack of unruly hounds: I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.
No more can I endure to bear the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks: a full three score
Of several insults of blotted pages and scrawl
Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
I am sick, and tired more than any thrall
Upon the woodstacks working weariedly.

And shall I take the last dear fuel and heap it on my soul
Till I rouse my will like a fire to consume
Their dross of indifference, and burn the scroll
Of their insults in punishment? - I will not!
I will not waste myself to embers for them,
Not all for them shall the fires of my life be hot,
For myself a heap of ashes of weariness, till sleep
Shall have raked the embers clear: I will keep
Some of my strength for myself, for if I should sell
It all for them, I should hate them -
- I will sit and wait for the bell.

by D. H. Lawrence (1885 -1930)

I guess I first read this poem when I was seventeen or eighteen. I "used" it today with a class of eleven/twelve year olds after more years in the classroom than I care to remember. Suddenly, it starts to really mean something to me... "I will keep some of my strength for myself". In this most thankless of jobs, you sometimes really do feel that your life force is burning away instead of being conserved for the future. Working in a council estate school with government and local council targets to meet, A4 ringbinders full of the usual governmentally driven bumf and lots of kids with "issues" caused by poverty, marital breakdown, television and negative role modelling at home - it's virtually impossible to keep going till you're sixty. As I have often remarked, it's like being in a "shit sandwich". Who was it who sang, "I gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing I ever do". Well surely I can't go on much longer. I owe it to myself to get out. As the Hull City returnee, Nick Barmby announced after leaving Leeds United - "Money Isn't Everything!"

*Thrall = slave

17 October 2008


This is an old photo taken, probably in 1961. Before? Before The Beatles. Before computers. Before colour televison and pizzas, punk rock and video recorders. Long, long ago in a time of innocence.

There's Dad at the back. Born in 1914, he trained to be a primaryschool teacher between the wars and then afterwards with Mum - the woman he fell in love with and married in India - he came back to England to be a primary school headmaster from 1951 right through to his retirement in 1978. He died a year later.

And there's mum next to him. Product of a broken home. She grew up in poverty in South Yorkshire but loved to dance and to sing and finally she danced and sang her way into the Women's Royal Air Force, ending up in India as a military secretary and drum major in the airforce marching band. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined becoming the wife of a country headmaster in rural East Yorkshire. She died just over a year ago.

The tall boy is Paul - born in 1947. Paul the violinist. Paul the rock climber and choirboy, the biologist and German scholar. Paul who rode through two major relationships and ended up three miles down a lonesome track in western Ireland under an array of stars with Josephine and their two boys.

The big boy at the front is Robin - he of the dyslexia, the tractors, the motorbikes and the cars. He achieved jack all educationally but made up for it by using his native wit and ruthlessness to become successful in business. Export deals took him to Saudi on a regular basis and South America and Egypt. He is the one who lives up a lonesome track with Suzy in southern France, looking out on the Pyrenees.

The little one is Simon who never left East Yorkshire and still lives alone in our mother's house in the village where I was born. His life has not been easy and he currently works as the trusty maintenance man in a Beverley hotel.

And the other one? The one at the front. That's me. In the bosom of my family. Hair just combed. Not realising, even for one moment, that this simple safe loveliness would not last forever. And 1961 would give way to 62 and 62 to 1963 and almost everything would change in the end.

14 October 2008


Mexican frying an egg
Mexican sheep farmer

Mexican on a bike
Good Mexican

Corona Brewery, Mexico

With apologies to any Mexicans who might be reading this blog.