26 June 2017


Heading to Over Owler Tor
Twas Saturday night and Shirley was off to a salmon and strawberry "do" for practice nurses. I jumped in the car and headed west for an hour long  ramble up to the rocks of Over Owler Tor from where there are good views down The Hope Valley. There was nobody else around.

A bank of dramatic grey clouds were threatening from beyond Mam Tor. I sensed the possibility of rain so headed back to the car through budding heather and down to a track that would have once been trodden by stone workers. In the event, the rain stayed away.
Over Owler Tor
Back in Sheffield there was no salmon and no strawberries for me. Instead, I pulled up outside Neptune's for mini fish and chips with a carton of mushy peas. Not bad value at only £2.50 (US $3.20). Then I watched some of the BBC's superb live coverage from Glastonbury before heading to the pub for another infusion of Tetley's bitter.

Oh, it's a hard life. And okay I admit that this blogpost is just an excuse for sharing some more photographs.
View to Hope Cement Works
Millstone outcrop near Over Owler Tor

25 June 2017


A few weeks ago I bought a very big sheet of drawing paper. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it and on Friday morning I got started after putting "Unhalfbricking" by Fairport Convention on the CD player.

Most of my life I have been doodling little cartoons of people's faces. As a schoolboy, when I was bored in lessons - which was pretty often - I would be drawing little faces in my rough book. It was the same at university in lectures and the same in teachers' meetings over thirty five years.

Very often the doodling has helped me to concentrate more intensely. Part of my brain  works almost unconsciously on the doodling, allowing a different part of the brain to focus more fully on the main subject matter of the hour. Doodling may give the appearance of  disengagement but for some people it can be a creative tool which aids concentration. Different minds approach things in different ways.
Anyway, I have the big sheet of paper. It is going to consist of many different faces. In fact, it is going to be a football crowd. Every figure will be wearing a football scarf. Later I shall colour in the football scarves. All will be black and amber. I haven't decided if there will be any more colour washed into the figures yet. We'll see.

It is going to take a long time to do. An hour here and an hour there when I am in the mood - slowly adding to the crowd till they are all done.

I would like to send thanks to my friend Mick. I shared this idea with him three or four years back and frequently he has nudged me, asking, "Have you got started yet?" Without that nudging it might have just remained as a crazy idea, never fulfilled. I know he sometimes drops by this blog without leaving any comments so once again - if you are reading this -  thanks Mick!

There's a long way to go but finally I have got started. Roll on 2018!

24 June 2017


My late brother's daughter Katie still resides on the west coast of Ireland. Like  her father, Katie loves to make music. As well as possessing a fine singing voice, she plays whistles, flutes and pipes with skill and feeling.

Recently, she made a studio recording of a song by Finbar Furey. He is well-known in traditional Irish music circles. The song is called "I Remember You Singing This Song" and when I first heard it I was blown away. Katie sings it so perfectly in my view. She is now entering middle-age and so brings her experience of life to this song. It's there in every phrase and every note. Please see what you think:-
The song is available on Apple i-tunes. Go here.

23 June 2017


I know that several old codgers visit this blog. Not all of them are as adept at computer usage as young whippersnappers like me. In an effort to boost computer literacy in the blogosphere, I am considering producing a series of instructional articles. This post is designed to simply test the market as it were. A feasibility study.

Okay. Now my computer platform was kindly designed by dwarves and nerds under the kindly guidance of billionaire William Gates in Seattle USA. Currently, I use Windows 10 but what I am about to tell you is also relevant to earlier versions of Windows. My apologies to members of the mysterious Apple Clan who may wish to exit this post immediately. Perhaps go and cut your toenails instead or bake an apple pie. It's likely that Apple have a similar facility.

Look to the top righthand corner of your Windows page. Go to the end of the top bar just below the little cross. You should see this or something like it:-
Now those three dots are not decorative. Click on them and a dropdown menu will appear. It should look like this:-
Halfway down  the list you will see the word "Find..". Click on it and a little search box should appear. It's like this:-
I typed in the word "banana". Afterwards, quite faintly you can see this written - "0 of 0". That means that on the page of writing I had open at the time, the word "banana" was not present.

Then I accessed a BBC News article about the Duke of Edinburgh's most recent hospital visit. This time I put the word "hospital" in the search box:-

Now in the bat of an eyelid, the search box is telling me  that the word "hospital" is used seven times in the article. Here's the beginning of the news item. Helpfully, the computer has highlighted all occurrences of the word "hospital":-
Do you get it?

This "Find" facility can be very useful in lots of situations. An example might be when you have accessed a long page of writing on the internet and you are looking for someone's name in the text. Another example might be that you yourself have produced a lengthy document and you are looking for a reference to say "2014" or "accident". You don't have to plough through the whole document as "Find" will do that for you.

Here endeth the lesson. You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher... err, something like that anyway. 

22 June 2017


In times when the news is bad, it's nice to think of nice things. Be it the bonfire of a block of flats, the suicide of a sixteen year old girl, the stupidity of a hapless prime minister or the cowardice of urban terrorists - it's easy to get sick and tired of all the bad stuff. Better to think of nice things.

So I am going back to the many photographs I snapped last week up there on the North Yorkshire coast in order to find a bunch of random pictures to share with you. Nice pictures of nice things untainted by the bad stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I keep on tuning into the news. Invariably, it just fills us with despair.
Me with my family
Seagull at Redcar
England Coastal Path
On Saltburn Pier
Purple orchids on Easby Moor
Saltburn Pier

21 June 2017


Shirley has lots of cousins. They mostly reside in north Lincolnshire and north Nottinghamshire, staying close to their agricultural origins. One of her cousins had four children but in the early hours of yesterday morning that number was reduced to three. Her sixteen year old daughter had disappeared into nearby woods where she hanged herself from a tree.

She was found at daybreak. Some people from the village had been combing the area with several police officers right through the night but it was all to little avail. Maisie was dead. On the Nottinghamshire Police Facebook page, a school friend wrote this:-

You left us far too early Maisie, you had so much more to give and you will 
be so sorely missed. What is our loss is God's gain. Fly high sweetheart, 
I hope you are now at peace.

To die like that at the age of sixteen - it is of course so very tragic. Those left behind will be torturing themselves with thoughts about what they might have done and why they didn't notice the signs that were flashing - pointing to suicide.

She was in the middle of important exams and rumour has it that she was sometimes the victim of bullies but who knows what was going on her head as she tied that rope to the overhanging branch and slid the noose over her head? What a terrible, terrible waste.

I believe that everybody contemplates suicide at some point in their lives. I know that I did when I was a teenager but thankfully most of us successfully banish those terminal thoughts from our minds, climb out of the darkness of our self-pity and seek happiness once more. It's like a learning phase. You weigh things up. You realise that life is a much better option than death. 

But now it's too late for Maisie. She's lying in a mortuary awaiting her funeral and the tears that will fall in puddles and the flowers and the failure to understand. Kisses and embraces. "Sorry for your loss". A wreath from the school. Biblical verses from the vicar. "The Lord's My Shepherd". Shiny black cars. Grim faces. A buffet in the village hall. Tea cups and sausage rolls.

She squandered the precious gift of life but I guess that it was her right to do so. It's only three weeks since we saw her at an afternoon family birthday party in Pudsey near Leeds. She was holding her big sister's new baby lovingly and swaying to the music.

Such tragic news to wake up to this morning. My heart is broken for her family 
and friends. Such a lovely young girl. Rest in peace sweetheart -
you will be greatly missed by many xxx

20 June 2017


We went to Hartlepool last week. This meant crossing The River Tees in Middlesbrough. Rather than travelling on the A19 over a modern road bridge, I decided we would cross the river on the town's famous Transporter Bridge. It opened in 1911 and there are very few bridges like it anywhere in the world. It is certainly the only one of its kind in Great Britain.
Essentially there's a very tall iron structure over the river. It was so high that any masted boat could easily pass under it. Slung from this structure was a gondola or cradle upon which a few vehicles at a time could be carried. The gondola was suspended on wires from a series of rollers that were designed to carry it to the opposite bank.

The bridge still works fine a hundred and six years after its construction. At 1pm last Friday "Clint" was the very first vehicle aboard. The ticket cost £1.30 and in less than five minutes we were on the other side. We had left NorthYorkshire and now we were in County Durham tootling northwards to Hartlepool, home of the monkey hangers.

On the way we passed the Brent Delta oil platform which spent forty years pumping oil from the bottom of The North Sea. Now it is being dismantled having reached the end of its serviceable life.

19 June 2017


If you scour this blog you will find very few pictures of me. I tend to lurk in the background like a predator or a secret agent. Out there in my beloved country, I have taken  thousands of pictures but I am always behind the lens, surveying the landscape with my eagle eye.

On Saturday night, just after eight o' clock, Shirley, Frances and I drove out into the Peak District so that I could lead them on a little walk through the bracken to Bamford Edge. Neither of them had been there before and it seemed so right to make use of the last couple of hours of such a long hot summer's day. I love this time of year for the light that stretches from half past three in the morning to half past ten at night, leaving around five hours of proper night-time.

Up to Bamford Edge as the sun began its descent into the Pennine Hills. Little did I know that behind me the beloved daughter was aiming her i-phone in my direction. I was stepping into the sunshine like a religious convert or an early man ascending from the apes, I love that picture - at the top of this post. I am Heathcliff marauding across the moors by Wuthering Heights.

We looked over Ladybower Reservoir and they were both stunned by the view which we absorbed for a few minutes. Then we descended the edge and jumped in "Clint" for a short drive to "The Anglers Rest" in Bamford. This is a pub that is operated by the local community following a buy-out from the previous commercial owners. It was nice to quench our thirsts in such a place.

18 June 2017


Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
Oh dear - I didn't get round to blogging yesterday. After our delightful three night stay on Coral Street in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, we headed southwards. Soon we took a detour towards Great Ayton which was the boyhood home of Captain James Cook but before we got there we pulled into the car park at Newton-under-Roseberry so that I could climb up Roseberry Topping.

It was already hot and sunny by nine thirty in the morning. Shirley didn't fancy the challenge so she headed into Great Ayton while I donned my boots and set off despite my dodgy knee. It has been holding up well of late.
View from the summit to Newton under Roseberry
I huffed and puffed up to the top of the hill. It took me about forty minutes and by the time I got there I was sweating like a Roman Catholic priest at a youth club. The route was quite steep with rough and irregular stone steps that challenged my knee but just like Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tenzing in 1953 I made it to the top.
Marcus with his three sons and dog
At the summit I met three young brothers from Middlesbrough. Their names were Thomas, Daniel and Harry. Their dad was called Marcus and their little black dog was called Bobby They were delightful boys - happy to chat and a credit to their parents. Most of the way down little Harry, who was only four, held my hand.

And then it was back home. Driving across Yorkshire is to the English what driving across Texas is to our American cousins. The only differences are we don't have gun-toting cowboys or restaurants that sell massive barbecued beef steaks and we don't say "Howdy!" - we say "Alright?"
The triangulation pillar on Roseberry Topping

16 June 2017


Above - that's the Victorian pier at Saltburn-by-the-Sea. I took this picture as Shirley and I were riding on the funicular railway to the top of the cliffs just as thousands of other visitors to this little Yorkshire seaside resort have done through the past one hundred and thirty years.

Of course we strolled along the pier. The weather was mild  and we saw sea anglers cast their rods from the very end of the iron structure. Something we did not expect was the marine-themed yarn-bombing of the local women's institute on a section of the pier's rails. I took several pictures of these quirky creations. Here are just three:-
 At the end of the pier this fisherman was doing his impression of a seal basking on some rocks or perhaps he was thinking about all the fish and all the girls that got away.
It has been very lovely up here. We have been to Staithes and Guisborough and Redcar. The people are very friendly which isn't surprising as they are all Yorkshire folk and as you probably know, Yorkshire folk are the salt of the earth.

15 June 2017


Grenfell House before the fire
Here we are holidaying in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. I could tell you about the funicular railway or our walk along the old Victorian pier. Perhaps I could tell you about the Indian meal we had in "Spices" or quiz night in the "Back Alex" public house. Perhaps I could tell you about our walk up to the Captain Cook Monument on Easby Moor or the lovely sandwiches we ate in the sunshine on the green in Great Ayton.

Yes I could tell you all about those things but it wouldn't seem right. Not now.

All I can think of is Grenfell Tower in West London. At first one was declared dead then six, then twelve. By lunchtime today the number will no doubt have risen. They just don't know. There could be so many.

I think of those people trapped in their flats. Faces at windows. The heat. The screaming. The confusion and of course I think of the mistakes that underpinned this horror. It's a Hollywood terror film forged in reality. It's a living nightmare.

Let us bow our heads in silence for all the lost ones and all the injured, for their friends and families and for the firefighters too. What more can we say? What more?

14 June 2017


An old railway poster. There's me and Mrs Pudding sitting on the clifftop. And that's where we are bound an hour from now via York and Thirsk - but not by train. We shall be travelling in "Clint" - our luxury Hyundai vehicle. Perhaps I will be able to bring you a blogpost or two from Saltburn-by-the-Sea before coming home on Saturday.

13 June 2017


After twelve years as a regular blogger, it is easy to forget blogposts one created in the past. Fortunately, we have that blog search facility up on the left of the top bar. You can use it to check past content.

Late last night I began to write a post about English pubs, bewailing their decline. Half way through writing it, somewhere in the murky depths of my brain a little voice asked - "Haven't you covered this before?" I went to the search box and discovered that I have indeed made three previous blogposts all titled "Pubs". In two of them there was enough bewailing to raise the dead from their graves. Consequently, I abandoned the new post feeling like a lemon.

It can be very odd looking back over past posts one has written. They can read like someone else's blogging. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of certain posts or particular sentences I wrote several years back. The business of writing - it's one of the main things that led me into blogging in the first place.

Repeating oneself can seem like the start of a slippery slope that leads all the way downhill to senility. Last year I blogged about a severe case of repetition by one of my old university tutors - a revered Scottish poet called Norman MacCaig. The polite quietness that hung over his identical second telling of the same story was pregnant with wonder about his declining mental state.

I guess it is inevitable that we will fall back on pet subjects, strong memories, the things that matter to us, the things that made us but repetition can be most embarrassing. The decline of the English pub is a fascinating subject but you don't need to be reading about it every couple of months. From now on I shall use that search box more habitually as a useful aide-memoire when creating new blogposts. Otherwise, men in white coats may arrive to take me away in an unmarked van.

12 June 2017


Sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet seat in our bathroom, I look down on the vinyl flooring and notice a tiny red spider making its way across the room. It is as big as half a grain of granulated sugar. It seems to know what it is doing, so purposeful and focused is its journey.

I got to thinking about insects and spiders.

Did you know that there an estimated ten quintillion insects on our planet? That's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them. But please do not forget spiders. There are lots of  them too - an estimated  21,000,000,000,000,000 or 21 quadrillion. These numbers are mind boggling. There are an estimated 950,000 species of insects on our planet and 40,000 species of spider - at least that is what my googling told me but to tell you the truth I suspect that there's a lot of guesswork in these numbers. After all, many thousands of species remain to be identified.
Giant weta
Size-wise, I have discovered that the smallest known insect is a fairyfly. Often they float around unnoticed by human beings as they are as small as this comma> , . In contrast the biggest known insect in the world is the giant weta. This formidable but rare creature can be found in parts of New Zealand. When fully grown it will measure four inches from tip to toe and can weigh almost three ounces. But the giant weta is quite small compared with the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider of South America that can measure twelve inches across and as the name suggests has the ability to trap and eat unsuspecting birds.
Goliath Bird-eating Spider
Where ever the land isn't permanently covered with ice and snow there are insects and spiders. They graft away as they have done for millions of years, surviving, reproducing, defending their territories, communicating with each other and disposing of enemies. Every species is fascinating and each has its own story to tell. There are so many of them you could say that Planet Earth belongs to them. Humans are recently arrived interlopers, gaining a foothold in a world of creepy crawlies and flying insects.

I have never understood why many humans are so enthusiastic about killing insects and spiders.  The vast majority of them cause us no harm whatsoever and many are beneficial to us. Of course mosquitoes are little bastards and it would be amazing if we could wipe them from the face of the planet - they have caused so much misery - but perhaps we should remember that even they were here first, long before we ascended from the apes.

11 June 2017


Prior to Britain's very recent General Election, PM Theresa May was interviewed by an experienced ITV journalist called Julie Etchingham. Attempting to delve deeper to find out more about the prime minister's personality, Miss Etchingham asked "What's the naughtiest thing you ever did?"

Theresa May squirmed visibly in her seat, her mouth twisting nervously. It was a question she hadn't anticipated and obviously not one her advisers had prepared her for. There was an uncomfortable pause before Theresa May admitted that when she was a girl, she and her friend used to run through a field of wheat. It was the best she could come up with.

Still grinning uncomfortably she conjectured that the local farmer would have been most unhappy if he had witnessed this terrible behaviour.

There were other ways in which Theresa May could have dealt with this question. For example, she could have bounced it back at Julie Etchingham  saying you tell me yours and I'll tell you mine. Alternatively, she could have said that she found such a question irrelevant ahead of an important election. Instead, she gave her excruciating response that simply added weight to the growing perception that Mrs May is very prim and proper and has a poor connection with ordinary people's lives and is out of her depth. Far from being "strong and stable" she is clearly terribly self-conscious, lacking the common touch. She has been exposed. Not a bad human being but not a natural leader either.

If I was being interviewed on television and an interviewer asked me what was the naughtiest thing I had ever done, many things would flash through my mind. However, I wouldn't wish to share any of them with the watching television audience. Hell, I wouldn't even share the majority of them with Yorkshire Pudding blog visitors. How about you? What's the naughtiest thing you ever did?

10 June 2017


At the start of this month I made a blogpost called "Edge" in which I reported a little ramble I had undertaken to the southern end of Bamford Edge. 

Following the expedition I was inundated with messages from all over the world urging me to investigate the northern end of the ancient millstone edge that overlooks the valley of The River Derwent. My Twitter account was burning bright with all the requests and my e-mail inbox was full to bursting.
Old stone fence post in the middle of Bamford Moor
Not wishing to disappoint I set off yesterday, parking my trusty vehicle "Clint" near Cutthroat Bridge on the A57. Boots on, I set off through a pine grove to Jarvis Clough, along an old grouse shooters' track. Grazing sheep and their growing lambs were suddenly disturbed by my advance and darted off into the fresh green bracken or down the slope towards the moorland stream that runs at the bottom.
At Great Tor looking down to Ladybower Dam
Up the track,to the top ridge of  Hordron Edge, puffing and panting till I could see the escarpment of Stanage End far across Moscar Moor. To the west I noticed a line of grouse butts squat against the horizon and a long broken wall. Up on to Bamford Moor and then a mile over that slightly undulating plateau. At one point the deceptive ground became boggy and I found myself squelching along, hoping not to sink any further. I had gone too far across this area to turn back. As I am now writing this blogpost you will realise that I survived and am not still stuck in the middle of the moor shouting "Help!" to the empty void.
Two views of  Ladybower Reservoir
showing Ashopton Viaduct

Before too long I was back at Bamford Edge, looking down on Ladybower Reservoir. What a delightful view! Then I headed south to Great Tor and from there I could look further southwards to the section of the edge that I visited on June 2nd. The dots had been joined up.

I made it back across the moor without squelching through The Indiana Jones Bog challenge. Back to Jarvis Clough and along the track that led through the pine grove to trusty "Clint". There I swallowed half a litre of cold water in one gulp - like a human syphon. I had been out three hours and hadn't seen a single soul. Fortunately I had some dry socks in the car.

9 June 2017


Here's Paul Theroux writing about the Mississippi River near the end of "Deep South":-

Some days in the Delta the river was the only vivid feature in a landscape that seemed otherwise lifeless - no leaves stirring, no people in motion, cattle like paper cutouts, hawks as black as marks of punctuation in the sky; the monumental stillness of the rural South in a hot noontime, all of it like a foxed and sun-faded masterpiece of flat paint, an old picture of itself. (page 434)

The book is a travelogue but it does not involve a faraway journey to a an exotic land. Instead, Paul Theroux rides about in his car, exploring a part of his own country with which he is unfamiliar -  the so-called "Deep South" including the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia. Mississippi and Arkansas. There he finds poverty the likes of which he had only previously seen in Africa.
Lester Carter in Cotton Plant, Arkansas
Though this is still The United States of America, it is a very different country from the world he has known up in the Yankee north east. Old industries have died and once proud towns are in decline. Black and white exist in different circles  There's a stillness and a certain melancholy in the landscape as if everyone is waiting for something to happen, something that will change things for better or worse.

On his travels, Paul Theroux meets civic leaders and farmers, bosses of well-meaning social enterprises and people who seem to have simply been left behind by the tide of modern times - like rotting rivercraft on the shores of the mighty Mississippi itself. He comes to appreciate the humility and friendliness of The South even though he is pained by the disturbingly obvious deprivation.

Over the years I have read several books by Paul Theroux, including "The Old Patagonian Express", "The Great Railway Bazaar", "The Happy Isles of Oceania", "The Kingdom by the Sea", "The Mosquito Coast" and "Hotel Honolulu". For years he has been a great observer of human activity and is perhaps best known for his travel books rather than his fiction.

Down in America's southern states, during months of travel, only two people he met had heard of him or had read any of his work. He found this immensely humbling and appreciated the freedom to look and learn that his anonymity allowed him. In "Deep South" he had a way of looking at things that might not have been my way if  I had zigzagged through that same countryside but I found the book informative and insightful, taking me to places I will probably never visit, meeting people I will never know.
Paul Theroux