31 July 2013


Yorkshire Day gets closer and we are now in effect at Yorkshire Eve. How will you be celebrating Yorkshire Day? I have just ordered my Yorkshire Pudding Appreciation Society T-shirt. It should be with me before this week is through. Remember if you are feeling down or distressed....
Or you could amuse yourself by reading this book,,,,
Amongst the many possible uses of a Yorkshire Pudding I shall mention - The Yorkshire Pudding Hat, Yorkshire Pudding frisbees and the Yorkshire Pudding brassiere that involves the stitching together of two Yorkshire puddings. How about a Yorkshire pudding sex slave? Large Yorkshire puddings may be used as dog bowls or night-time potties. While below, there's an image of a Yorkshire Pudding pillow. No home is complete without one...
Fame? It's a hard thing to live with. Everyone has heard of the mighty Yorkshire Pudding but I like to live as ordinary a life as possible. Not for me the bright lights, night clubbing or growling Italian cars. I prefer the simple life, an oven full of rising Yorkshire puddings and a pair of walking boots in my boot (trunk). After all, money isn't everything.

30 July 2013


A Morris 1000 Traveller
There's been a lot of death around recently. Train crash in northern Spain. Coach plunging off a viaduct in Italy. And of course those obligatory fatal explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan - the maiming of ordinary people. The death list goes on and on. I won't even mention the countless babies in The Third World who keep dying from diarrhoea as nobody else seems to care a fig about them.

Dicing with death. I guess all of us have stared death in the face at some time or other and lived to tell the tale. Those near misses. Health issues and ugly what-might-have-beens. Here's one of my near-death stories.

It's early 1978. I have begun my first "proper" teaching job at a godforsaken comprehensive school in South Yorkshire. Dinnington - where the sun don't shine but  the shadow of a slag heap slides across my classroom wall in thin wintry daylight. Classroom? It's more like a builders' hut - as temporary as life itself. They call it a "terrapin"- which I had previously thought was an amphibian creature. Unlike a terrapin, I feel like I'm almost drowning but I survive, making it to the February half term. Hurrah!

I travel back to Scotland in the Morris 1000 Traveller I have inherited from by brother Paul. Back to the dreamy days of university, back to "procrastination is the spice of life", back to my Scottish girlfriend - Pat. But Pat rebuffs me. I didn't know why though I do now - she believed a tale that wasn't true. A tale that surely altered the course of my life.

One night I get drunk with my old mate John from New York State. We're at the disco in the Pathfoot building but we're not dancing. I am feeling bad about Pat - confused. At 2am, John invites me back to his place in the Perthshire village of Doune. I don't know the way so I have to follow him in his red Cortina.

We take the back road and I am having to proceed faster than I would have liked in a car with wooden struts that was manufactured in the mid-sixties. It's pitch dark and there are no other vehicles about. I see the lights of the Cortina disappearing round the bend ahead. There are stone walls on either side.

And then it happens. In the blink of an eye. A screeching, a tumbling, a death moment. The car has flipped over a couple of times and it is now sideways on in the country road. I am half lying on the ceiling. Remember that  this was in the days before seatbelts. Incredibly there appears to be no blood or broken bones, no grey throbbing brains exposed. I wind down the driver's window and crawl out into the Scottish night, remembering to sensibly switch off the ignition.

My first thought is - oh my God - somebody could come round the bend and smash into this thing! I have got to move it! So I heave with all my might and push the car onto its side and then with another mighty heave I have pushed it back onto its wheels. There is a little pneumatic bounce as the vehicle rights itself. Then I reach in through the side window to the steering wheel and direct my old car to the verge.

It is at this moment that John returns, wondering where I had got to. We leave the Morris 1000 Traveller and zoom back to Doune in his Cortina. When I wake in the morning, my arms and shoulders hurt like hell and it is only then that I realise the illogical nature of my superhuman shoving in the middle of the night as the image of those stone walls on the bend come back to haunt me. How I cheated death that night I shall never know.

How about you - when did you get close to death?

29 July 2013


The flag of the East Riding of Yorkshire
Following an exhaustive survey in an unnamed British Sunday newspaper supplement, we are now able to definitively rank order English counties in terms of their beauty and sheer loveliness. Here's the top fifteen:-
1. Yorkshire (East Riding)
2. Yorkshire (North Riding)
3. Yorkshire (West Riding)
4. Derbyshire
5. Shropshire
6. Cornwall
7. Northumberland
8. Cumberland
9. Devon
10. Dorset
11. Staffordshire
12. Sussex
13. Herefordshire
14. Lincolnshire
15. Somerset
Please note that the list completely ignores any county boundary changes unlawfully endorsed by Westminster politicians in the early nineteen seventies. For your further information, at the bottom end of the list come Surrey, Middlesex, Rutland and finally Lancashire. My condolences to any Lancastrians reading this post for your county certainly contains many beautiful views - mainly eastwards into your friendly neighbouring county - Yorkshire.

28 July 2013


Carol in Cairns bemoaned the fact that when I post pictures, I always seem to be out to impress. Why can't I post some bad pictures? Some "shockers"? I think it was a back-handed compliment. Well, hidden within the bowels of this computer, amongst all my jewels are some very poor pictures indeed. I tend not to look at them - they'd surely be liable to make me not just blue but deepest navy blue!

Anyway, in for a penny in for a pound. Without investigating the entire pile of photographic detritus, I have picked out these crap snaps for you to chuck eggs and rotten tomatoes at though I am sure if I had looked harder I could have found some worse pictures even though the very worst normally get deleted upon first viewing.
Our lovely daughter Frances after her graduation
ceremony in Birmingham in 2011. "Timber!"
Blurred Las Vegas scene in 2005
Riding in a motorcycle tuk tuk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The "scenic" A616 and a layby north of Langsett
Downtown Otorohanga, New Zealand
N.B. Taking on board a reflection by Mr David Oliver from the strangely named Alabama town of Phil Campbell, I have decided to remove the colour inverted photograph that first appeared here and apologise for any unintended hurt this may have caused:-

27 July 2013


From Thurlstone to Ingbirchworth, thence to Royd Moor and down to Hazelhead Hall. Along the Transpennine Trail that once carried steam engines over to The Dark Side (Lancashire), passing the site of what was once Bullhouse Colliery and then back to Thurlstone. After four and a half hours of hot plodding, I thought I might treat myself to a pint of bitter shandy but "The Crystal Palace" was closed. It had been another lovely country work in this loveliest of all English Julys. I headed back to Sheffield for that belated pint in "The Greystones". 

Thanks to all visitors for their thoughtful reflections on feeling blue. In England when somebody says - "How are you?" or "How's it going?" we tend to say "Fine thanks" even if we are wallowing in sorrow and hurting badly inside. Chin up. Keep calm and carry on and all that. It has never been culturally acceptable to admit you are feeling a bit miserable. Mostly people just don't want to know. Field Marshal Gowans's suggestion that I should write a 1200 essay on whether or not Margaret Thatcher should be beatified is less attractive than peeling a bucket full of spuds behind the NAAFI but I appreciate the suggestion all the same. And Aussie Helen's reminder that teaching was filled to the brim with social interaction seemed most insightful to me.

Walking gallery from yesterday:-
"The Thimble" cottage in Thurlstone
Landscape west of Scout Dike Reservoir
From Ingbirchworth to Fall Edge Farm
Wind turbines and sheep on Royd Moor
View from the Transpennine Trail to St Saviour's
Methodist Church in Thurlstone
The blueness hasn't gone but it's like the summer sky - light blue now.

26 July 2013


If the truth be known, I have been feeling a little blue these last few days. I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it's to do with the work we have recently had done in our little downstairs shower room. Our cheque could have bought a serviceable small car but there have been "issues" with the work - not least the fact that the new toilet is seeping water while the bathroom fitter has gone on holiday. "Oh no, don't worry about that. It'll soon dry off, There was just a bit of leakage as I was fitting it." Oh yeah!

I had really wanted to tackle the job myself but whenever I half-suggested this, Shirley's silence would become dishearteningly stony so I relented and we brought in a "professional".

Feeling blue isn't really me. Mostly I trundle along from day to day, quite happy with my lot. I have much to be grateful for. Maybe my low mood is connected with the fact that I shall be sixty years old in the autumn. This is confusing as many years ago I decided to stay eighteen for the rest of my life. I wasn't ever meant to be sixty. And reaching sixty will kind of emphasise the fact that I'll never be the lead singer for a rock band after all or forge a new career in advertising.

It's still hard to get my head around the reality that our children have grown up and left home. We enjoyed such a happy family life - the four of us together. Lovely holidays. Hundreds of family meals. Taking Ian to the park to play football for the cub scouts. Picking Frances up from the "after school club" at the primary school they both attended. Birthday parties. Father Christmas. Sleep-overs. Lots of love. So many images and memories of a life that has gone. Years of it.

Mum dead. Dad dead and Paul dead too. And I wonder what's next. What shall I do? Pick up my guitar and make songs again. Finish the novel I was halfway through writing. Make plans to visit The Isle of Man and Guyana. Paint the hallway and the stairs. Find a job - paid or voluntary. Help somebody. Get busy.

Feeling blue seems to well up from the pit of your stomach. You feel the corners of your mouth turning downwards. You are more conscious of your breathing. You start to notice that some of your habitual zest for life is diminishing. 

It has always been my belief that one of the best therapies for feeling down is physical exercise. Instead of moping - get out and walk or cycle or run. Getting the heart pumping and some sweat on your brow - seeing things other than your blue mood - that's a good thing to do. After a long country walk, it's amazing how invigorated you can feel so that is what I have prescribed for myself - another long country walk. The weather forecast is promising for Friday so I'll be off - walking the blues away. Watch this space.

25 July 2013


This 1920's seaside postcard had direct precedents that appear to have stirred before the first world war. At first glance you might think it is simply knocking the alleged tendency of women to nag or to babble endlessly. But there's more to this image than meets the eye. It is sometimes called an "anti-suffrage" postcard - poking fun at the suffragette movement and probably suggesting that women should be seen but not heard. Look how far we have come in a hundred years. The more you think about it, the more unfunny that postcard appears.

As desperately unfunny as this American one from the same era:-

24 July 2013


A Syrian girl at a refugee camp in Jordan
Is it just me? Earlier this year, news bulletins were constantly and continuously informing us about the awful events unfolding in Syria. Reporters crouched in body armour and helmets while rebels peered round street corners with machine guns. Diplomats squirmed about why the rest of the world was just standing by while weeping families crossed borders to become refugees. The night skies of Syria were filled with deadly fireworks as bombings imitated thunder in the far distance. We heard about it all. After a while it seemed as if nothing else was happening in the world - just the internecine troubles in Syria.

But now...test matches and royal babies have taken over. Cameron squirming about plain cigarette packets. Labour's relationship with the trade unions. Beyonce's hair caught in a fan. Where is Syria? It seems to have vanished. You might imagine that peace now reigns in that troubled land . Bashar Hafez al-Assad in exile in Dubai while the freedom fighters sing songs of victory, rebuilding their shattered towns and villages, calling the refugees back home to build a new Syria. But no - that hasn't been the way. Day after day the strife continues. Assad is still looking at his weasely face in a palace mirror each morning and the refugees are still living like tinkers in tents, queueing for water.

It's as if the world media got bored with it all - telling the same old stories, over and over - so they decided to move on and leave Syria behind to stew in its own lethal body juices.Or was the decision to massively reduce coverage taken elsewhere - by politicians and Arabian kings in faraway places? Perhaps they thought the 24/7 coverage was inflaming the Syrian situation. Who knows?

This kind of thing seems to have happened many times before. Afghanistan? Very little reporting nowadays. Egypt? Let's put it on the back burner. Suppression of Muslim minorities in Myanmar? We've done one big news splurge - let's move on. 

The selection of news items has a random quality to it. Like strolling through a supermarket without a shopping list - just filling up your trolley. Editors probably talk about it in planning meetings - "Syria? Oh God is it still going on there? We've done it to death. May I propose we just move on. The last news crew we had out there were scared shitless anyway and refuse to go back and there's virtually no internet coverage any more...So what about Wayne Rooney? Do you think he'll move on from Manchester United? And what's the latest on the new prince's name?"

Syria - it's not over. The little girl in the top picture is accusing us all with her eyes.

23 July 2013


Have you ever used the "Snipping Tool" that is available in modern versions of Windows? It is not for dressmaking or vasectomies. Instead you can use it to make your own screenshots or capture images that are not easy to save such as those we find in Google Streetview. 

In my last post - "Property" I was rather mischievous. I included an image of Earl Gray's country estate in Trelawnyd and of Jennyta's mansion on the outskirts of Wrexham. Earl Gray even asked how I got the image of his land. I sensed annoyance and puzzlement in his response. Well, here's the answer...

I used the Windows Snipping Tool! First of all I went into Google Maps - located Trelawnyd and then its little church. In Google Streetview, it was easy to find Earl Gray's quaint corner cottage and his field which I then snipped and saved for later mischief. I did the same with Jennyta's house but I won't tell you how I discerned her actual address.

So that's it - The Snipping Tool - give it a try! Please don't confuse with the Snapping Tool or the Slapping Tool which have entirely different effects!
Snipping Tool used on BBC website - birth of Prince of Cambridge


You know how it is. Money doesn't seem to make money these days  so I have recently decided to try to make my retirement fund work for me by "going into property". I have snapped up a couple of properties in North Wales in the hope of making a quick buck or two. If interested, please get in touch via the "Comments" facility.

The first property is located along a quiet lane in  the quaint village of Trelawnyd. It's right next to the church and is essentially half an acre of wasteland fit for development. I have outline planning permission for a five bedroom detached house on this site - complete with double garage, stables and swimming pool. Offers are invited in the region of £75,000 and the land will be sold to the highest bidder - assuming financial regularity.
The next property is a semi-detached house in New Broughton - a suburb of Wrexham. The house is crying out for modernisation, decoration, a full refurbishment and rewire. Currently there is no bathroom as the residents prefer an old tin  bath by the fireplace.Round the back there is a conservatory extension which could be used as a consultation room or a place to keep bicycles. Prospective buyers are warned that the house is currently guarded by two vicious watchdogs. Best to bring a bone or two from your local butcher's shop.

22 July 2013


Remember little Alexa - born in Bangkok at Christmastime? Well yesterday was a special day for her - a welcome into the Baptist Church - something like a Christening but without water. This happened in the Birmingham suburb of Bearwood. It was nice to see the little princess again - see how she's growing with her parents, friends, family and church congregation around her. Such events predate Christianity.

On Saturday night I stayed in the "Holiday Inn" near Junction 7 of the M6 following another marvellous  walk. This time I had been rambling over Cannock Chase south of Stafford. It is an area of mixed countryside - heathland and woods covering thousands of square acres. It has a rich history - once a royal hunting ground and much later a vast military base containing training camps and hospitals - linked to both world wars.

Shall I recall the grave of Freda the Dalmatian - mascot of the New Zealand Rifles in 1918, or the Polish Katyn Memorial to those thousands of soldiers killed by Stalinists in a Polish forest in 1940? Or shall I recall the deer I surprised in a quiet glen near Coppice Hill? Perhaps the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Broadhurst Green or the huge manmade sandbanks where soldiers trained before heading off to be slaughtered in the trenches of northern France?

No, I believe I'll remember the German Cemetery where the remains of thousands of young Germans lie - brought to Cannock Chase from all over the British Isles - victims of both World War I and World War II. Forgotten parachutists, prisoners of war, enemies who died in military hospitals, spies, men washed up on beaches, the crews of two Zeppelin airships etc.. They lie together in a quiet corner of Cannock Chase - far from any houses or villages, far from Deutschland silently sleeping with their unrealised dreams, their lost years. And for what? Wars are made by leaders who hardly ever fight or die in action. It's ordinary people who bear the brunt of the lunacy:-
Grave of two unnamed soldiers in the German Cemetery at Cannock Chase
General view of the German Cemetery
The shared grave of  Musketeer  Robert Huhner and Sergeant
Willy Petersen - randomly chosen  German victims of World War One.
May they all rest in peace and help to remind leaders of nations that there must be other ways to solve conflicts. War is not the way.

20 July 2013


Recently, intellectual blogger Mrs Lettice Leaf has been broadening my appreciation of English sayings. For example, yesterday she called me "a broth of a boy" and not so long ago she introduced me to the saying "No names, no packdrill" - I'd never encountered it before. Anyway, this has set me thinking about other sayings we have in the vast treasure house that is the English language. With Lettice firmly in mind, I would just like to pause to investigate this well-known saying - "A woman's place is in the home".

Back in 467BC the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote "Let women stay at home and hold their peace."

In 1732 after researching proverbs and adages, Thomas Fuller recorded this one - "A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried."

It seems that it wasn't until the early nineteenth century that the ancient notion began to be preceded by "A woman's place..." - whereby in  1825 The Edinburgh Magazine recorded this version - "A woman's place is in the bosom of her family; her thoughts ought seldom to emerge from it".

Now there may be some male dinosaurs out there who are smirking and nodding their heads in agreement with this proverb and its historical predecessors but I am not one of them. No siree! I am an ardent and unashamed feminist, happy to live in times during which women around the world have been steadily acquiring increasing measures of equality.

In contradiction, we are advised that living in a multi-cultural society means we must respect the beliefs and traditions of other cultures. But how can I, as an ardent feminist, accept the subjugation and side-lining of women that is characteristic of several branches of Islam? In this country thousands of Muslim women are still trapped by the belief that "a woman's place is in the home", playing second fiddle to their menfolk. Many hardly speak any English even though they may have been born here. In spite of myself, whenever I see Muslim women wearing headgear that hides their faces, I want to unveil them and say "No! We are not in medieval times. Claim your equality! Remove this material that hides you from the world. You are in England now!" But I realise I'll never say it because (yawn) we must respect other people's beliefs even if they are steeped in bigotry.

I think of sixteen year old Malala Yousafzai who has come to symbolise a new kind of feminism - growing away from the straitjacket of Islamic fundamentalism. Perhaps the times they are a changing after all:-

19 July 2013


Yesterday, I managed to escape from the house. We are having some work done to our downstairs shower room and I have pretty much been trapped for a few days. I had arranged to take a friend to his sister's wedding at Hassop Hall near Bakewell and after dropping him off, I drove to Stanton in Peak between Bakewell and Darley Dale ready for a ten mile walk in the hot July sunshine.

Here's a small and rather typical terrace of stone houses in Stanton with delphiniums in the front garden:-
There are many ancient sites in Derbyshire and this stone circle is known as "The Nine Ladies". Perhaps not as physically impressive as Stonehenge but still a neolithic site that is heavy with mystery and meaning. It is up on Stanton Moor:-
This ancient site is known as "Nine Stone Close" but long ago, five of the tall standing stones must have been removed - perhaps by local farmers constructing walls before we began to venerate the works of our distant ancestors:-
I spotted this sign high on a wall in the hamlet of Alport. It must date back to the nineteenth century when I have no doubt that "vagabonds" roamed the English countryside, scrumping apples, sleeping in hedgerows, pestering country workers. It's not a word we seem to use much nowadays - vagabonds:-
After four hours I trudged back to the car. It had been a lovely summer's walk - tiring and hot but physically and psychologically fulfilling too. There was time for a little more. On my way back to Sheffield, I parked in the village of Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate. I had come to visit the graveyard of St Peter's church where Kathleen Kennedy's grave is located. She died in a tragic plane crash in France in 1948 and was the younger sister of John Fitzgerald Kennedy who visited this grave in the same year that he was to meet his own tragic end:-

18 July 2013


Pam Ayres, was born in 1947 and first came to prominence in Great Britain via the TV talent show, "Opportunity Knocks". Usually, but not always, there is a folksy simplicity about her cleverly observed poetry which is best heard recited by the poetess herself. Her accent is some distance from Queen's English, speaking as she does in the dulcet tones of rural Oxfordshire. She might be described as a comic poet but occasionally she turns her hand to "serious" subjects, pondering intelligently in deeper avenues of human experience.

A few years ago, the BBC conducted a survey to find the country's most loved comic poems and this one, by Pam Ayers, came out on top:-

Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

I wish I’d been that much more willin’
When I had more tooth there than fillin’
To give up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers,
And to buy something else with me shillin’.

When I think of the lollies I licked
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My mother, she told me no end,
‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin’
And pokin’ and fussin’
Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!

If I’d known I was paving the way
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fillin’s,
Injections and drillin’s,
I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine
In these molars of mine.
‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’

How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s me they are beckonin’

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

17 July 2013


      I am sure we are all aware of the dangers of alcohol for health and mental well-being. Last night your affectionate correspondent ventured out to the local hostelry to quaff a few quarts of foaming ale. The Tuesday evening quiz was on and with two other fellows - Jonathan and Mark (Richard is on holiday on a faraway desert island called Australia) - we managed to win a famous victory over the seethingly jealous opposition. Later your correspondent staggered home, sometimes leaning on lamp-posts and  parked cars for support. Arriving home, he flopped in the computer chair and wrote the following nonsense which this morning I was tempted to delete. However, we must face our demons and I have retained it as a warning to all bloggers - Never blog when inebriated! You might produce some tripe like this:- 
This afternoon I went down to the local DIY superstore to purchase a bunch of sturdy blogposts. When I got home, I hammered those blogposts into the ground with my ten pound sledgehammer. It was sweltering work in the 30 degree heat but finally the blogposts were in situ and miraculously all standing vertical. Then I rolled out the barbed wire and wearing heavy duty protective gloves nailed it into place - blogpost by blogpost. Finally my corral was finished.

Next I had to herd the blogs. They were running all over the place. I grabbed Going Gently by the hind legs and chucked him into the enclosure. Rhymes With Plague was bleating and kicking off but with a little brute force, he was also over the barbed wire fence. Carol from Cairns was looking rather sheepish so all I needed was a handful of high protein "nuts" to get her into the fold along with prize-winning Helsie's Happenings and coy Demob Happy Teacher.

As the evening arrived, I was dead beat having cajoled and tethered over twenty blogs. Hippo on the Lawn's friskiness convinced me it was almost time for the nutcrackers while in the far corner of the paddock Lettice Leaf was prancing like a thoroughbred - probably a mating ritual aimed at alpha male Shooting Parrots. Just then, all in a panic, Cosumne Girl burst through the fence sending a couple of blogposts flying. Soon almost all the blogs escaped - Tannu Tuva, My Dad's A Communist, Adrian's Images, D-Scribes - all running off down the lane like prison escapees.

I knew I should have made the blogposts myself and used concrete to fix them in place. They  just don't make blogposts like they used to do!

This is surely proof that, inebriation apart, I must be stark, raving mad!

15 July 2013


Vegetable plot burgeoning
Mid-July in an English heatwave - like the ones we used to have in "the good old days" of rationing, Gracie Fields, Stanley Matthews and Winston Churchill. Weather like this draws you outside and we are fortunate enough to possess a garden that is forty five metres in length. Plenty of work to do. Plenty of pottering. Plenty of insects buzzing around. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves in order to remember that we don't live very far from the centre of a big northern city. We could so easily imagine we live deep in the countryside if it were not for occasional sirens and the distant humming of traffic . So here are some Sunday afternoon snaps from our garden which hasn't featured in this blog for ages:-

Shirley lazing while Yorkshire Pudding grafts
Victoria plums forming
Green lane at the bottom of our
garden - beyond our bramble hedge
Wiggly worms emerging from a compost bin
Little girls from next door riding on Beau and Peep
The stone girl under the cherry tree

14 July 2013


Give or take a few thousand there are now 7 billion people on this tiny planet. When I was born I was the 2,687,150,676th person alive on Earth and I was the 76,006,063,340th person to have lived since history began. Deliberately mixing my metaphors, the rate of world population growth has speeded up like a truck without brakes, careering downhill. What about you? Check out your vital statistics with the help of the BBC. Click here.

13 July 2013


The hottest day of the year so I decided to confirm Noel Coward's theory that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. I planned to plod around Carsington Water which is a huge reservoir south of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Though I usually display the geographical certainty of a homing pigeon, yesterday I got slightly blown off course and found myself driving through a delightfully cut off village called Kirk Ireton - beautiful old pub "The Barley Mow", squat little Norman church and no main roads passing through. No mosques. No taxis. No kebab houses or advertising hoardings. No litter. A village out of time - how England used to be.

Then it was on to Hopton where I parked up  near Hopton Hall, tied the comfy new boots I recently bought at "Decathlon" and headed down towards the reservoir with a little backback over my shoulders containing an apple and two small bottles of water. At first, it was as if I was heading to a rock festival with so many day trippers clogging the paths - dogs in tow, fingers texting on mobile phones, whingeing kids. They were putting me off my marching rhythm so I just barged past them sending them flying into the brambles.

I took a detour to another delightful village called  Hognaston which is from the same mould as Kirk Ireton - squat church, "Red Lion" pub - but the school, the schoolmaster's house and the two chapels are now private residences and the village shop has gone the same way. 

Back to the reservoir, plodding along. Not so many visitors at the southern end. Numerous small yachts or sailboats were out on the water trying to catch what little breeze there was. Occasionally, cyclists whooshed or heaved by depending on the path's gradient - up or down. I kept walking past the same little family - all a bit chubby, sensibly taking regular rests. And as they panted on their benches, regretting all those pizzas, potatoes and cakes they kept looking up with a degree of puzzled irritation to see me plodding past them once again. Not Yorkshire Pudding,but Yorkshire Plodding, heading back to Hopton with another eight miles on the mileometer....
"The Barley Mow" in Kirk Ireton
RAF Quadrant or Bombing Tower - overlooking  the reservoir
Life is a beach. Chilling in the sun by Carsington Water
"The Red Lion" in Hognaston
Draw off tower rising from the reservoir
Eastern shore of Carsington Water
Elizabethan window back in Hopton