30 March 2017

Hockney

Last Friday night we had tickets for the Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain. There was me, Shirley, Ian, Frances and Frances's boyfriend Stewart. Beforehand we enjoyed a great Indian meal at a restaurant on Vauxhall Bridge Road - "The Millbank Spice". Yummy and not too expensive for central London.

And then Mr David Hockney was waiting for us. Born in Yorkshire in  1937, he has spent sixty years creating art and is still doing it. The exhibition demonstrates the different phases Hockney has been through - forever evolving, finding new things to "say" through his artistry while sometimes pausing to explore favourite themes such as Californian swimming pools or little travelled lanes in the Yorkshire Wolds.
"Going Up Garrowby Hill" by David Hockney (2000)
I remember a BBC interview in which Hockney declared that throughout his career as an artist he had only ever "done" what he wanted to do. He wasn't a follower or a conscious mimic and nobody ever controlled him. He only accepted commissions that he felt enthusiastic about. Not many artists can honestly claim such independence and creative integrity after so many years of making art.

I loved it all - the pencil drawings, the use of crayon, the charcoal, the pastels, the swimming pools, the homo-eroticism, the faithful portraits of friends, the pop art, the acrylic perfection, the masterpiece that is "Going Up Garrowby Hill". the i-pad sketches, the photographic mosaics. You were looking at reflections of our post war world seen through the eyes of a fallible genius.

It's fascinating that well into his seventies Hockney became absorbed by The Yorkshire Wolds - a subtle rolling chalk landscape with which I am very familiar. The icing upon the exhibition's cake was arguably in the penultimate room where the four walls hosted banks of video screens upon which images moved gently - images of Woldgate Woods in the four seasons. It was hauntingly beautiful and somehow spiritually  therapeutic. 

Though a few of his finest pictures were missing, I felt that Tate Britain had done a brilliant job in showcasing David Hockney's work, providing more than enough evidence to confirm his greatness.

28 March 2017

Pictures

A selection of photographs I snapped during our very long weekend in London. Actually, it's also a kind of quiz for your delectation. Each picture is numbered. At the bottom there are five captions - all lettered - but can you work out which picture goes with which caption? It is an intellectual challenge that might have even defeated Albert Einstein!
Picture 1
Picture 2
Picture 3
Picture 4
Picture 5
Captions
A Egyptian geese and goslings by Tooting Common Lake
B Refreshing and expensive drinks on the 33rd floor of The Shard
C Ian and Shirley at Leicester Square tube station after we had been to see "The Lion King"
D Tourist writing home in the courtyard of Somerset House
E Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben) seen through The London Eye

27 March 2017

Drama

Conleth Hill and Imelda Staunton as George and Martha
Four days in London. Sorry I was out of action in blogging terms for I just couldn't get on with my daughter's Apple laptop. Anyway, suffice to say I am back in Yorkshire with various blogging ideas I could develop in order to bore you to death. Be warned.

For this post, I am just going to report back on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woof?" by Edward Albee. It is currently being staged at The Harold Pinter Theatre off Leicester Square. It's a play I studied and wrote about when I was eighteen years old but I hadn't seen a live performance of it until Thursday night. It was definitely worth waiting for this production. I had a great seat in the second row of the stalls. 

There are only four characters in the play - Nick, Honey, George and Martha. The latter role was played by Imelda Staunton. It would be easy to summarise the plot but you can find such  information elsewhere. Let me just say that it is a late night/early morning drama in which tongues are loosened as the four characters confront notions of truth and illusion. It is both intense and powerful.

At the end of the show, I was out of my seat applauding the faultless performance I had just enjoyed. Imelda Stanton and Conleth Hill (George) had both been brilliant, so engaged with their parts, appreciating the significance of every word they voiced. I got lost in the play, my inner thoughts reduced to naught. Bravo!

...But something else was happening. Just two seats further down Row B but also involving a group of theatregoers in Row C. Next to me in Row B were four men in the late thirties or early forties. As soon as the curtain went down for the interval an unholy row broke out between one of the men and the Row C people. 

It seemed that in the first half of the show some annoyance had been caused. I had been totally unaware of this but  one of the men was up out of his seat, bending his head towards the occupants of Row C, raising his voice and threatening them with physical violence. Reasonable protests emerged from Row C but they only added fuel to the angry man's fire. He sounded Russian or Eastern European. At one point he spat at two of the Row C people. It was rather shocking.

I deduced that the people in Row C had tried to shush this man during Act One. Apparently he had coughed a few times but I never heard this. I certainly wasn't aware of it. Even as the curtain went up for Act Two the angry man was still being loud and threatening but he went quiet as the show continued.

There was a short curtain break to alter the set between Acts Two and Three and again the nasty public row fired up. As I joined in the standing ovation after the final curtain it all kicked off once again but fortunately, as the audience departed, the Row C people sensibly went for a different exit, avoiding further confrontation. 

All of this was really quite bizarre. Luckily it didn't spoil my experience. It was almost as if the dramatic soul searching up on stage had spilt out into the audience. I was so glad that that angry man hadn't been venting his flame on me. I would probably have lamped him, yelling "Who's Afraid of Yorkshire Pudding?" before my inevitable arrest.

23 March 2017

London

Shirley and I are off to London this morning. We are going to see our children and to visit theatres in the West End. I have also bought tickets for the Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain. My mobility remains a problem because of my knee so I am somewhat anxious about  hobbling around. I will be looking to limit the amount of walking I have to do. Yesterday's visit to the doctor led to the collection of some heavy duty painkillers and the promise of an appointment with a physiotherapist.

But how could I tell you we are visiting London without reference to what happened yesterday?  As I sit here, the running BBC News programme is all about the Westminster attack by a wicked madman who no doubt saw himself as an Islamic martyr. May he rot in hell and may his name - soon to be revealed - be forever associated with evil. 

We go to our nation's capital, proud to be English and proud to be citizens of the free world. We shall not be cowed by vile nobodies like him or by others of his ilk. 

22 March 2017

Robocalls

Rrring-rrring! Rrring-rrring:! Rrring-rrring!

I pick up the phone.

"Hello,"

Nothing.

"Hello?"

Again nothing. Just an empty cave and the ghosts of electronic crackling.

There's nobody there because this is a typical robocall or what some people call a bot call.

I got one this morning at 8am and I received a similar call at a similar time on Monday morning. Generally speaking, I am a night owl. To use one of my late mother's expressions, you will often find me "raking around" in the early hours - painting foxes, watching "Democracy Now", reading books or blogs etc.. Consequently I often get up late  - around eight thirty or nine so you can imagine that  I am not at all happy about being disturbed by robocalls. After I have leapt out of bed to take the intrusive phone calls,, it is just about impossible to get back to sleep again. I wouldn't say such days are ruined but they certainly begin on a very unpleasant note having been deprived of my desired allotment of refreshing sleep.

It used to be that unsolicited phone calls and robocalls happened in the evening and it was rare to be hit by them in the morning but over the last few months I have noticed a growing incidence of morning calls. How long will it be before the scumbags who oversee these disrespectful systems start disturbing us in the middle of the night?

Please don't blame me. Like thousands of other people I am the innocent victim of robocalls. I have blocked several numbers and I signed up with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) years ago. It's not my fault these calls keep coming.

You can't help wondering what on earth "they" are doing about robocalls. You know who I mean - telephone companies, governments, GCHQ, the FBI, The United Nations, the police, Interpol etc.. Surely in this day and age it should be possible to pursue the perpetrators of robocalls, rogue telemarketing outfits and other phone-line crooks - to stifle their unwarranted intrusions into law abiding citizens' lives.

21 March 2017

Vogue


People in high places with pressurised and important jobs need release valves if they are to stay sane. President Obama and the current occupant of The White House - whose name evades me - both like to play rounds of golf. Vladimir Putin lets off steam by wrestling bears or playing ice hockey. One former British prime minister, Edward Heath, liked to go yachting while another, Yorkshireman Harold Wilson liked to cheer on his beloved football team - Huddersfield Town or relax in his holiday home on The Isles of Scilly.

The late Colonel Gadaffi of Libya was interested in football, Beethoven and interior design while Adolf Hitler spent hours bouncing up and down on his pogo stick . (Pregnant pause)... Err, I must confess that I made the last bit up. The present political leader of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull likes to walk his dogs. Justin Trudeau of Canada likes a workout in the boxing ring or occasionally a visit to the local tattoo parlour

And so we come to Britain's current (unelected) leader - Theresa May. There she is in Westminster wrestling with the fallout from last year;s EU referendum and ostensibly trying to steer our country to the best deals she can. But of course, like all other leaders, she needs her escape activities. What does she pick? Perhaps a whist drive in the village hall or a game of bowls on the green?

Not on your nelly! Theresa chose to do a fashion shoot with "Vogue" magazine. Charitably, she was probably thinking - why should my husband Philip (a banker) be the only one to enjoy my modish fashion sense? As a British voter it warms the cockles of my heart to know we are now being led into the Brexit abyss by a fashion model. As  Madonna sang:-
Oooh, you've got to
Let your body move to the music
Oooh, you've got to just
Let your body go with the flow
Oooh, you've got to
Vogue
The delectable Theresa May posing for "Vogue"

20 March 2017

Lay-by


Please don't judge me but sometimes I like to drive out into the nearby countryside to find a quiet spot. There I will simply sit in my car for an hour or two and read which ever book I am on. I need silence and good light for reading - with no distraction. 


Yesterday afternoon, I was parked up in a remote lay-by under Stanage Edge reading "Shakespeare" by Bill Bryson. Finally, I finished it! Hurrah!  It was, after all, a fascinating, readable and well-informed look at The Bard's life, claims that have been  made about him and the very small amount of evidence for his existence that remains four hundred years after his death at the age of fifty two.

Bryson scorns ridiculous notions that Shakespeare was in fact someone else like Francis Bacon or Ben Jonson or even Queen Elizabeth I, pulling these self-indulgent and spurious arguments apart, like dandelion seeds. The book finishes with this sentence: "Only one man had the circumstances and gifts to give us such incomparable works, and William Shakespeare of Stratford was unquestionably that man - whoever he was."

As I as sitting in my lay-by, another car pulled up behind me. I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed that the front seat passenger had a huge red ball on his lap - either that or he was heavily pregnant. 

The occupants of the car - three men and a woman - clambered out with bags and coats etc.. Soon they were walking off along the drizzly country lane. It was then that I realised the red thing was actually a huge Angry Bird mask - you may have seen images of that popular computer game character.

They proceeded through a gateway and trudged three hundred yards or so across rough pasture to some rocks beneath Stanage Edge. As I had now finished "Shakespeare", I got out of my car and went over to the boundary wall with my camera. Using it's full zoom facility I snapped several pictures, including the two that follow this paragraph. What the hell was going on? Have you any idea?
P.S. I have at long last  made an appointment at the local health centre to see a doctor about my gammy knee and have stopped putting artificial sweeteners in my tea and coffee after reading that there may be a link between regular use of aspartame and the development of arthritic conditions.

19 March 2017

Masterpiece

Masterpiece? Well - it is to me. I have tried my best to produce passable pictures of foxes and this is the very summit of my ability. After all these foxes I shall move on to painting other subjects - like landscapes, human faces,  buildings or water. No more foxes. Actually, I have only been painting one fox - namely Fred Fox who was a regular visitor to our suburban garden as long time visitors may recall. I hope that this final picture has done him justice, capturing something of the plaintive, quizzical look he would often give me.

18 March 2017

Retrospective

Ten years ago on March 18th 2007, I published the following blogpost which I titled "Waiting". I was of course much younger then. Our son and daughter were still living at home. The term "Brexit" did not exist. I was still slaving away as Head of English in a secondary school - like a hamster on a treadmill. Hull City fans were still only dreaming of Premier League status - never thinking it would happen. My mother was still alive and so was Shirley's.

Times change. Things move on.

I rather like the punchline of this post. The idea that what truly matters in life is activity - the doing, not the waiting. I seem to do a lot of waiting these days. Perhaps we can't avoid it. Perhaps a life that was all doing and no waiting would lack contemplation or comprehension. Anyway, I hadn't looked at this post for ten years until this morning. Time to share...

____________________________________________________________
Waiting
Sunday afternoon – waiting for Shirley to come home from her trip out to Lincolnshire to see her mother on Mothering Sunday. Saturday night – waiting for the lottery results to tell me I’m free, waiting for a pint of ale at The St Patrick’s Night Party. What party? And why did Guinness boast that they’d produced three million green badges specially - along with one million of those dumb felt Guinness hats. Would St Patrick have admired such pointless waste of Mother Earth’s resources.? If put side by side in a line - those badges would reach from our house seventy five miles – right out into the North Sea.

Waiting for the years to pass. Counting the years on your mortgage, the years to retirement. Waiting for the weeks to pass – till the next holiday, the next birthday, the next anniversary. Waiting.

At the football waiting for the bus to come, waiting for the players to come out and at half time , waiting for them to return and waiting for the goal that sometimes never comes. Waiting for a season when we shine. Waiting.

Lying in bed listening to the wind, thoughts swirling in your head as you wait for sleep to come. And at work waiting for the clock to tick on to lunchtime or to the end of the day. Waiting for Easter. Waiting for Christmas. Waiting for a parking place. And we have sayings – Guinness again – “Good things come to those who wait”, “Wait a minute”, “Wait a little bit longer”, “Waiting for Godot”. And we have waiters and waitresses, people who wait on us.

But the best of life is when we are not waiting but doing. Living the moment, happy in the here and now, not wishing our lives away and waiting for something else, something beyond this moment. I’m a waiter and that’s my tip of the day.

17 March 2017

Background

How nice that some of you enjoyed yesterday's poem - "Daffodils".  It was inspired by the sight of a border of daffodils in our garden - all sunny and bright yellow in the sharp spring light of Tuesday morning. I wanted to write a joyful, celebratory poem in honour of those familiar heralds of spring. They remind us about renewal.

Of course it has been done before. I think everyone is familiar with William Wordsworth's  "I wandered lonely as a cloud" which was inspired by a walk he took by Ullswater with his sister Dorothy in the springtime of 1802. It is a poem I have read and considered many times. There is a sense in which Wordsworth's poem was not really about daffodils at all but about humanity's relationship with Nature. In the last verse, Wordsworth looks "upon the inward eye" where he finds contentment in his memories of Nature. This was a recurring theme in his work.
Picture used to accompany yesterday's poem
In comparison, my poem was far less profound. All I wanted to do was applaud the daffodils and note their welcome return. I had gone out into the garden with a bowl of seeds for the garden birds when I was suddenly captivated by our little border of yellow trumpeters beneath the privet hedge. How healthy and proud they appeared. I went inside for my camera.

It was Shirley who planted the bulbs there a few years back, just behind a clump of ferns which of course remain dormant till the early summer. The daffodils like it there, sheltered from northern winds in a little suntrap and by the time the ferns are pushing through, the daffodils are dying off, their goodness being sucked back into their subterranean bulbs. I suppose it is a symbiotic relationship.

In the poem, I deliberately used the word "fluttering" as a nod to Wordsworth's "Fluttering and dancing in the breeze". Near the end, I echo a joyful line from "Get Happy" famously sung by Judy Garland in the 1950 musical film, "Summer Stock". Popular culture and poetry have an uneasy relationship and I like to play around with that tension by referencing modernity. After all, this isn't 1802.

15 March 2017

Outskirts

Down south in London and thereabouts, most of the inhabitants have little appreciation of The North. They probably think of our great northern cities as sprawling, smoky hives of industry. Places where men wear flatcaps and walk whippets along cobbled streets while women peg washing on clothes lines strung between endless terraces of cramped houses and barefoot children play hopscotch or aimlessly kick balls against walls.

But UpNorth has delicious secrets.

Take this city for example - Sheffield. Once it was the world's biggest producer of steel. In the nineteenth century, its population grew from 46,000 to 350,000 as workers flooded in to work in the foundries, factories and finishing shops. But throughout that expansion the western outskirts of the city remained as beautiful as they are today.
Just a stone's throw away there are farms, babbling brooks, green valleys, drystone walls, wooded hilltops and country lanes that lead to wild moorland where grouse cackle and falcons soar. If you live in Sheffield it's easy to get away from things and be in Nature's soothing company. To reach such countryside would be a major mission for Londoners - involving long car journeys or public transport. But here in Sheffield it's right on our doorstep.

For your interest, here's a list of the city's western districts - Whirlow, Bents Green, Ecclesall, Fulwood, Crosspool, Lodge Moor, Nether Green, Broomhill, Loxley, Stannington and Middlewood. They all lead to the delightful outskirts of the city - sometimes referred to as Sheffield's "golden frame". 

The pictures were taken yesterday by your faithful correspondent on Brown Hills Lane just beyond Fulwood.

14 March 2017

Food

My meal at "The Rhubarb Shed"
Almost everybody in the world loves eating. Whenever I hear statements like "I love my food" or "She loves her food", I think - so what? It's hardly worth saying. For almost everyone, eating good or tasty food is simply one of life's great pleasures.

Trip Advisor doesn't only collate hotel reviews, it also encourages independent reviews about restaurants and other eating places. Then, using calculations of ratings received, it ranks these eateries in order of popularity for just about every town or city in the western world and beyond.

On many occasions I have referred to Trip Advisor before visiting restaurants and almost always I have found this guidance both accurate and extremely helpful. If Trip Advisor tells you a place is brilliant then it very probably is and if other reviewers say it's awful then that will also be true.

With regard to the city of Sheffield, Trip Advisor lists 1,196 eating establishments.  Currently, at the very top of the pile comes a humble cafe called "The Rhubarb Shed". It has attracted 147 reviews of which 132 have been "excellent" while the other 13 reviews were "very good". 
Approaching "The Rhubarb Shed"
I had been curious about "The Rhubarb Shed" for a while. It is located in one of the poorer parts of the city known as The Manor Estate but it is also close to the ruins of Sheffield Manor where Mary Queen of Scots spent a large period of her incarceration - from 1570 to 1584. 

Finally, Shirley and I visited "The Rhubarb Shed"  for the first time last Thursday lunchtime. It was very much non-corporate with a friendly, slightly chaotic atmosphere. As the cafe's name suggests, it was once a rhubarb shed where rhubarb was forced. There are seven tables downstairs and seven upstairs in the loft.

Shirley ordered a chicken wrap with salad and chips while I ordered a beef brisket sandwich on toasted ciabatta with salad and chips. It was simple fayre but very delicious, The chips (french fries) were especially yummy. We had a pot of tea with our meal and the final bill was only £15.50 ($19 US).

It was easy to see why so many other "Rhubarb Shed" visitors have submitted five star reviews to Trip Advisor even though this certainly wasn't what you would call fine dining. I think that the place's "rough and ready" character is part of its charm. Shirley and I will be very happy to return in the not too distant future.
Shirley's meal

12 March 2017

Labyrinth

Yesterday, on my way to watch Hull City beat Swansea in The Premier League. I made a special detour to the North Lincolnshire village of Alkborough. It is situated on an escarpment overlooking Alkborough Flats and the confluence of the rivers Humber, Ouse and Trent.

The day was rather overcast so I must apologise for the dull quality of the accompanying photographs. One day I hope to return to take better, brighter pictures that do justice to Alkborough.

There has been a settlement at Alkborough since pre-Christian times. I imagine that the escarpment was a fine place for stone age folk to live - overlooking the river valley from hollows carved out of the chalky cliffside.

At some time in Alkborough's long history a strange  circular turf labyrinth or maze was created to the west of the village. The selfsame pattern may also be seen on the floor of the entrance to the village church which is dedicated to  St John the Baptist Church. During my visit, I also noted that the labyrinth design was replicated on the sign of the village's Coronation Club.
Locally, the turf maze is known as Julian's Bower. Legend says that Julius, the son of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who appears in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid, brought the idea of turf-cut mazes to Italy from Troy after it was destroyed by the Greeks. 

Some believe that it was The Romans who brought the idea of turf mazes to Britain but other learned observers suggest that they were a medieval invention. Perhaps the labyrinth was connected with penance or possibly it had a leisure-time purpose - some sort of game or puzzle perhaps. No one is quite sure but surely the presence of the geometric design at the church suggests some religious connection.
In past times there were many more turf labyrinths in Britain and other nations of north western Europe. To find out more, go here.

10 March 2017

£50

This is a heartwarming tale. Perhaps a happy contrast to yesterday's post about poor Vince the Rhino.

On Wednesday afternoon, after I had hobbled up to the bank with the Oxfam shop's takings for the day, I had to spend a couple of hours on the till. Halfway through this time, a gentleman came through the doorway holding a brown leather belt.

He plonked it on the counter and said that he had bought it on Monday afternoon. For a microsecond, I thought he was going to complain about the belt and ask for his money back. Perhaps it didn't fit. Perhaps the stitching was loose. I noticed that the belt had a little zip along the edge, concealing no doubt - a narrow pocket.

Then, like a magician the man produced something else. It was a neatly folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and explained that he had found it hidden in the belt. It was an old style  £50 note with the first Governor of the Bank of England's ugly mug staring back at me.

The man was giving the £50 note back to Oxfam! Such honesty is unusual these days. I am sure that many people would have simply  viewed that banknote as treasure trove and kept it for themselves. It's worth sixty  American dollars or eighty one Australian dollars. 

Sometimes... people can be so good they surprise you and make you proud to be a human being. Not all of us are rhinoceros killers.

In other news Leonardo da Pudding has completed yet another fox picture. I swear I am becoming a rabid vulpophile. And perhaps these fox paintings are not over yet...

9 March 2017

Vince

Vince
What happened to Vince was appalling, unforgivable, heinous, heartbreaking, vile, brutal. cruel  and a dozen other judgemental words. I can only shake my head in disbelief that a bunch of sub-humans broke into Thoiry Zoo near Paris on Monday night and killed Vince. He was a four year old white rhino.

And after killing him, the murderers used a  chainsaw to cut off  Vince's front horn before fleeing with their booty. What is wrong with such people? Have they no compassion? No humanity?

And what is wrong with those who revere rhino horn and treasure its presence in eastern medicines? They must be utterly stupid and in dire need of education for of course rhino horn has no value whatsoever in any medicinal concoctions. Quite simply, it does not work! Why can't they grasp that?

If that message could be driven home in China and Vietnam, demand for rhino horn would gradually disappear and the wicked men who kill rhinos would find that their market had entirely evaporated. Then the rhinos could graze in peace or sleep soundly in their zoo enclosures.

I am so sorry Vince. So very sorry..

8 March 2017

Space

Homeless man in Santa Monica, California
Perhaps I am ignorant. Perhaps I lack vision. Perhaps my view of things is narrow and parochial but I don't really care much about outer space or what lies in the vast and endless universe beyond the atmosphere that envelops our world. 

What I care about is here on Planet Earth. I care about our trees and our oceans. I care about our fellow creatures and about my fellow earthlings. I care about the future for those who follow us.

America's space agency NASA currently has an annual budget of $18 billion. Russia spends over $5.6 billion. Europe  spends $4 billion, Japan $2,5 billion,  China $1.5 billion and India $1.2 billion. That's an awful lot of money..

You could do a lot of good with $32 billion dollars a year.  But it's not just about money. If the ingenuity of men and women employed in space programmes was instead directed to earthly matters, it could surely help a lot. 

They could focus upon environmentally friendly transportation, upon stabilising the world's population,, upon eliminating starvation, upon ways of homing the homeless, upon food production, upon providing work and incomes for people in spite of the impact of new technologies, upon caring for the elderly, upon addressing division based on religious differences, upon access to clean water, upon diseases, upon preserving wild places and animals. The list of good things that might be addressed goes on and on.
Starving Somalian child 2017
These are the things that I care about. Not the surface of Mars or the remote possibility that there may be life on distant planets that are impossible to reach, And I don't care about building pioneer communities on The Moon in biomes with hydroponic plants. And just who are these wealthy idiots who are buying tickets for flights into outer space?

I want a home for the man in the picture at the top of this post and food and a future for the starving Somalian child in the second picture. And I want the continual reduction of The Amazon  rain forest to cease and polar bears to have an icy environment in which they can thrive. 

Space - the final frontier?  To infinity and beyond?  No. Stuff that. It's earthly matters that need addressing, not comic book fantasies spawned by science fiction and notions of military dominance. Space programmes may have given the real world a handful of beneficial by-products but  if the focus had been upon what goes on here, the benefits  would have surely been multiplied a hundred times or more.

Well. That's what I think. How about you?
The surface of  Mars

7 March 2017

Hobbling

In the last five or six years, I have occasionally suffered from knee pain. It hinders my mobility so that each footstep is accompanied by discomfort or outright pain.Mostly the pain has been caused by kneeling down on hard floors and a couple of times it has arisen after falling down when out walking in the Derbyshire hills.

Usually the pain evaporates after a week or two and normal mobility is resumed. However, my current knee pain - almost entirely in my right knee - has been with me for more than a month now. Each day I wake up and get out of bed hoping that today will be the day when the pain has finally crept back in its kennel. But it's still with me. Pain killers help a bit but I am reaching the stage when I think I shall have to visit the doctor. Not something I do very often.
Lord knows what the problem is. There are various possibilities but I wouldn't want to bore you  by listing them. This self-pitying post has probably got you yawning already and besides when all is said and done I know that the knee trouble is connected with my advancing years. These poor knees have suffered some hammer in the last six decades. I guess it's payback time.

On Saturday, I managed to hobble on to the moor above Upper Burbage Bridge and snapped the accompanying pictures of two cows that had strayed up there from the valley below. They looked bemused. In all the many times I have been in that location I have never seen cows there - only moorland sheep.that are much better at finding nourishment in rough pastures.

6 March 2017

Yesterday

"Moonlight"
This morning there's blue sky and sunshine but yesterday was rainy and miserable. I went to The Showroom to watch this year's oscar-winning best film - "Moonlight" directed by Barry Jenkins. The cinema was packed and irritatingly there was a fellow behind me who guzzled food and drink continuously during the first hour of the screening with associated sound effects. Damned annoying.

I wanted to be wowed by "Moonlight" but I wasn't. Admittedly, it had its special moments and some adventurous cinematography but in the end I was underwhelmed. The plot didn't grab my interest and I just couldn't warm to the extremely reticent and damaged central character - Chiron who we observe at three stages of his life. 

No. It wasn't my cup of tea. I like films that absorb me - films I can get lost in so that when "The End" is reached I am surprised to return to everyday reality. That's how it was with "Manchester by the Sea" but not "Moonlight". Disappointing.

Shirley was away in Budapest with a bunch of women friends this past weekend. When I got home from the cinema, I baked a steak pie and then got on with my latest picture of Fred Fox. I had been planning to leave the background more or less blank but in the end I decided on a green background. 

This is my fourth picture of Fred Fox. I keep learning techniques and do's and don'ts as I go along. There's a sense in which I am not fully in control of the picture I am painting. Each one has a mind of its own and what I visualise when I set off is never quite the same as what emerges in the end. Bedtime was just before 2 am as a gibbous moon was setting in the west.

5 March 2017

Crazy

Patsy Cline died too young. She had a wonderfully evocative voice as is demonstrated in her heartfelt rendition of Willie Nelson's timeless song - "Crazy". Treat your ears:-
She was only thirty years old when she died in a plane crash fifty four years ago today but in her short life she had married twice and had two children with her second husband - Charlie Dick. The children were called Julie and Randy. Yes. That's right. Her son is named Randy Dick.

Over here in England, if you were unfortunate enough to have the surname Dick, the last Christian name you would ever choose for a boy would be Randy - though you wouldn't want to call him Red or Floppy either. Over here, "randy" is used in exactly the same way as "horny" is used in North America.

It seems that Randy Dick used to earn his money as a drummer in Nashville but unlike the rest of us he doesn't have much of an internet trail. I searched for him but just couldn't track him down. However, I discovered that there are plenty of other fellows in America called Randy Dick. In fact there's an army of them. Randy Dicks everywhere and here's just four of them courtesy of Google:-
Currently there's  even a Randy Dick in The White House! Crazy!

4 March 2017

Bellmouth

For some reason, I like the word "bellmouth". It is a technical term in the water industry to describe a massive stone plughole in a reservoir. In times of flood, the bellmouth allows water to overflow whence it is channelled to the original river valley beyond the dam. Sometimes dams are constructed so that excess water simply flows over the dam wall but where earth and clay embankment dams are concerned, the bellmouth method has been widely used.

The biggest reservoir near Sheffield is in The Derwent Valley. It is called The Ladybower Reservoir. Its construction was finished in 1943 and required the inundation of two little villages - Ashopton and Derwent. Physical evidence that they existed still lies below the water. Near the dam wall there are two massive bellmouths into which excess water plunges thirty metres before joining spillways that lead down to the course of the old river.

I took this picture of the eastern bellmouth in August 2012. As you can see the water level is well below the edge of the great stone hole:-
But on Thursday afternoon, water was cascading into the same bellmouth:-
And this was the scene at the western bellmouth looking to one of the reservoir's two road viaducts:-
Yes, "bellmouth" is a good word but it is a scary proposition. Every time I stand by one I get the jitters, half-imagining plunging down to Hades. Just for good measure, here's another smaller bellmouth in the conduit that joins the upper reservoir at nearby Redmires but even that one gives me the willies:-
I think that "bellmouth" would be a useful term for certain human beings. People with big hollow mouths who in fact  have little of value to say. Numerous politicians and radio DJ's come to mind.

3 March 2017

Ian

This is a photograph of our lovely son, Ian:-
I copied it from a website called "Vegan Food & Living.com". It was embedded in an article about veganism and linked to the work Ian has been doing with "Bosh" over the last seven or eight months. It's all about the promotion of tasty plant-based recipes. "Bosh" has received an incredible number of hits and there is now even focussed talk about a book deal ready for Christmas sales.

A year ago, Ian was in a difficult place regarding work and love. He had broken up with his long time girlfriend and then the music-related internet start-up company he had joined went to the wall. He had to come back and live with us in Sheffield for a few months. But now, back down in London, things seem to be on the up again. With his business partner Henry, he is working like a trojan to make "Bosh" successful and that effort is beginning to pay off. Naturally, we are very proud of him.