Category Archives: Journal

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Week 40 2021

I’m a couple of weeks past Covid-19 and pleased to have emerged feeling fine albeit with a bit of a cough. With the double vaccination I never felt that I wouldn’t be well afterwards. If I learned anything then this virus is very easy to catch and quite indiscriminate. I was amongst family who had the same exposure to the infected strangers I was with yet they were unaffected. No one knows why this is the case. I assume I’ll get called for the third jab soon along with the flu jab. I’ll happily be in the queue.

At long last Anna and I attended our first concert since the pandemic started. It was in Salford at The Lowry where we saw The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (check out this clip, beyond epic). Seven very talented ukulele players played a selection of modern covers by AC/DC, ZZ Top, Wheatus, The Cranberries, Willie Nelson, Pharrell Williams, Lady GaGa, Kraftwerk, Jackie Wilson, George Formby, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and, my favourite, Hawkwind. The renditions are brilliantly played but there’s lots of humour interspersed.  For example  the Blockheads lyric migrated from ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’ to ‘Cakes and buns and sausage rolls’.

We stayed over near the venue and the next morning went to put some luggage in the car before going into Manchester for the day. At the car park pay machine we identified two members of the band who I gushed over. One of the chaps was inserting his parking ticket into the machine followed by his debit card. I always find this needs the closest attention and concentration so I can well imagine, in retrospect, what he thought about some garrulous bloke gibbering on about the set they played and where were they playing next etc. Rock stars eh? It’s a hard life.

As we were in the locality where the eldest daughter and husband live I continued a job that reminds me of painting the Forth Road Bridge. The property is surrounded by a very high brick wall and as it was first built in the 19th Century the mortar between the bricks is of variable condition, but mainly bad, around the house and yard. Applying replacement mortar to a vertical surface is not easy but it kept me out of harm’s way for a few hours and will for many more to come.

So I was barrelling into Barwick-in-Elmet on my bike when I saw a phone fall from a passing car. I was on a 40 mile circuit from home and had found a delicious tailwind. I reckon the driver had set off from home with the phone on the roof and when traversing a speed bump it fell to the ground. With the car long gone I stopped and picked it up hoping to stop a car driving over it and to find details about the owner. I found his name as well as his Driving Licence, credit and debit cards, Leeds United season ticket and other membership cards. I was surprised that someone carries so many important items in one wallet.

Anyway I found someone with the man’s surname in his phone directory and rang them. It was his brother. I obtained his home address, which was about half a mile from where the phone was found. When I got there I checked again with his brother that this was his house. He wanted my personal details to allow his brother to thank me but whilst not being evasive I gave him only my name and the fact I lived in York. I was happy just to complete the task without any thanks. I posted the phone through his letter box and got on with the remaining 25 miles to home. 

I bring you news about Christmas. The last 20 years have seen the festivities at our house. This year it has been out sourced and the Favourite Eldest Daughter and Matt are hosting the feast and present swapping in North West England. (Note, she would give me a reprimand over a GDPR compliance breach if the disclosure identified the town she lives in.) To take over this responsibility brings several critical considerations that mustn’t be overlooked. This includes the starter (The Favourite Youngest is insisting on Yorkshire puddings with cauliflower cheese: I like the way she’s thinking), what type of Christmas crackers? (Oh no not the usual detritus of key fobs, miniature packs of cards and bottle openers?), the appropriate vegetables (carrots, sprouts, parsnips and maybe peas…obvs) and lastly the ‘lubrication’ for the Christmas Pudding (call me revolutionary but I’m a thick double cream type of boy.) This serious project has merited a PowerPoint and (without fouling GDPR) here are a few slides…

Lastly on ‘Morrisons Watch” apart from their disposal for £6.3 billion I note the students are back in earnest. As I was cruising the aisles in central York a badly dressed oik approached a member of staff and enquired as to where the hot dogs were? After grabbing a large glass full of them he headed for the checkout. I used to eat this stuff when I was 19, maybe some things don’t change?

Health Care Special – Covid in Acaster! – Week 38 : 2021

So there was I looking for something to write about in a blog when I struck unlucky: I got Coronavirus. 

As a man who spends a lot of time avoiding people by riding a bike or hiding in a back bedroom writing about Country music I can count myself unlucky to cop for this. On Friday after about three hours outside power washing the drive (living the dream) I was knackered. I felt truly zonked and I wondered why but put it down to the tasks I’d be doing. Later I slumped to bed with a few snuffles. I’d be all right in the morning I thought.

A restless night saw me wake up to a full blown heavy cold. ‘Quelle surprise’ I thought, who did I know had a cold that I could have caught it off? No one. A bike ride was out of the question (highlighting the severity of my lethargy) and eventually the household sleuth, the present Mrs Ives, suspected foul play and that I should take a lateral flow test. It was positive. Oh no. Next I made an appointment at a York Testing Centre for a PCR test. So what does PCR stand for? Polymerase Chain Reaction (obvs stupid.) It also stands for a git, dressed as if he’s about to walk into the ruptured Chernobyl reactor building, sticking a swab stick into the back of my throat in three places; stopping when I’m convulsing and about to gag on each occasion. Warming to the abuse at hand he then, with undisguised delight, asks which nostril I wanted him to stick the swab up  for 10 seconds? Still gasping for air I had thoughts of telling him to stick it up his fundament but then volunteered the nearest nostril to the car window, By way of small consolation I had the car door handle to hold onto as I endured this attack. If there’s an incentive not to get Covid then this regime should be implemented at every nightclub and football ground.

Which brings me to where I thought I got it. The Favourite Youngest Daughter had arranged a brilliant day out with epic hospitality and a top class football match at Leeds United. I was sat next to a stranger at the lunch table and the staff fussed closely over us with food and drinks. I think this was my downfall and don’t mention the football, we were annihilated 0-3. Needless to say companions, Anna, Sophie and Harry have not caught the virus as I write. My father-in-law volunteered my frailty lay in have having depleted reserves due to the cycling. This appeals to my ego that as a finely tuned athlete, in peak condition, I have fallen prey to this misfortune as opposed to being a vulnerable and decrepit old sod. Whichever way then the Delta variant is a highly contagious phenomena and not to be treated with anything other than the utmost respect.

Given my lack of a social whirl meant that I inflicted myself on few people between the date of catching it and having it confirmed. However Steve (he of Vixen 101) and Sharon laid on a marvellous afternoon involving a grand stroll, a visit to the pub and then an early evening tea with lots of care and thought in splendid weather. My unhappy task was to text Steve on the Saturday advising I may be the carrier of the plague. I hope they continue to  avoid my gift.

As I write then I am still drained and heady. My sense of taste dropped off this morning. Quite strange to all of a sudden find a cup of tea tastes like someone’s using old cardboard as flavouring. The family has rallied: Mrs Ives brought breakfast in bed, something she’s scheduled to repeat, if it follows a pattern, after Prince William accedes to the throne. The Favourite Eldest Daughter made herself available to facilitate her aunt mastering her iMac to load the Zoom meeting software. Not a task I was up to, Covid or no Covid. After showing such patience and skill I think Katrina could now be hired by Chester Zoo to teach primates to save the nation by obtaining HGV licences.

So I’ve only 6 days to go. I’ve had a couple of official calls, one to check I’m staying put and the other to ask if we need any shopping. I did establish that I will still be positive after 10 days but not infectious. A troubling question is how long do you remain infectious? I think it could be over a month which means our pre-holiday PCR Test for Portugal in October would show me up as being positive and initiate another lock down period as well as excluding me from travelling. Clearly another PCR Test is something to therefore avoid. Anna, as I write, is on hold with Jet2 trying to reschedule the holiday.

Stay safe.

Pak Choi, Cricket Balls & Where to pitch your tent – Week 35 : 2021

I used to joke that my father spent his retirement days, on the Algarve, worrying about where he could get the cheapest tomatoes. This was after a comment he made about a local greengrocer. Clearly the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree as we must discuss Morrisons. The present Mrs Ives and myself procure preferred items from either Sainsbury (decaffeinated coffee beans, energy bars and yoghurt), Tesco (fishcakes, salads and vegetarian sausages), Waitrose (any chicken product, wine and bread), Marks & Spencer (hummus and treats) and then Morrisons (meat pies, potato salad and pittas). We don’t visit each emporium weekly but we’re now programmed to seek out these items on entering the premises. However Morrisons is epic for people watching and crime. Located in the centre of York it attracts the less wealthy and upstanding amongst us all.

You have to laugh…

I do like the large number of students. Usually it’s a diligent young female attended by a gormless male who’s turn it is to pay for it all. (Obviously the rota on the shared house kitchen wall had detailed them to do the weekly shop.) The Chinese students have baskets groaning with pak choi, cabbage, avocados and anything green and healthy. I’d happily to be invited to dinner at their Hall of Residence. The, presumably British students, prefer sliced white loaves, anything that constitutes a meal if you add water to it and absolutely everything that’s processed.

A hot air ballon directly over the house!

The other clientele can be random. I well remember a punter putting down a basket full of spirits on the ground near the children’s clothes before loading them into his rucksack and sprinting out of the store, he was a millennial lad. Security is slack or non existent at the store and shrinkage must be terrible. Next was an elderly lady who surreptitiously, she thought, ran her hand over some packaged cherries in the fresh fruit department, she ripped back the packaging and was loitering feeding her face with the fruit. I was surprised at the audacity of it all. Lastly only in Morrisons would the tannoy ask whoever left a tied up dog in the foyer return to it. It was going ballistic barking at anyone who entered or left the foyer. Why would you do this to the animal and the store? Expect more reports from Morrisons…

Bus Pass! Not sure when I’ll use it but it’s a very big concession to have throughout England

As a fan of Test match cricket the commentary follows me around during the year. I can be around the house, in the garden, on my bike or in the car. I prefer the focus to being on what’s happening on the pitch but it seems banal banter about what the commentators ate last night, fancy dress and any topic that sets in train all sorts of surreal conversations populate the hours the match is on. Elevated to celebrity status is the scorer. At his finger tips (on his laptop) he can access complete trivia, often requested by the commentators. However, a laugh was emitted by yours truly when a question came up of “what’s the longest shot in cricket’s history? Without missing a beat he said “72 miles!” This happened in Settle, North Yorkshire. Apparently a batsman launched the ball onto a passing train which eventually came to rest in Carlisle, 72 miles away!

I’m thinking of buying a car. Not an easy pursuit those who follow my blog will note. I’ve decided to buy a Mercedes C Class. The new release was meant to appear sometime in the middle of the year but as we speak the dealership seem clueless as to when they’ll have a demonstrator or delivery. Another dispiriting discovery was that my ‘old’ car was not worth what I’d hoped when I checked last year. However, idly, I visited our friend  to find that it had increased in value by over a grand in the year, not the usual trajectory for second hand cars. On top of this I have had six communication from the website exhorting me to follow through with a sale and they even increased their offer! The general shortage and delays of new cars have boosted all markets. If you were thinking of unloading that motor then now might be the time price wise.

Coming out of the lockdown we‘ve booked our first concert for many months. Blessed, by our visitation, will be The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at The Lowry in Salford. That’s not until October. Growing in importance, and certainly news coverage, is Leeds Festival. This takes place on the east side of Leeds in the grounds of a grand house. The line up is mainly stuff I wouldn’t walk to the end of the street to hear! More significantly the festival is a rite of passage for older teenagers. We know a few parents waving off their offspring worrying that several nights under canvas, probably approaching a unhygeinic comatose state through alcohol, no sleep and possibly illegal substances will not be a good thing. Our nephews used to attend and my lasting memory was the advice to pitch your tent toward the outer limits. Occupants toward the front or centre of the site were prone to be caught short in the night and directed their unwanted fluids liberally around their accommodation and onto the nearest tent. No wonder these tents are all abandoned as they depart.

During the week I make my way south to Plymouth to cycle along the coast to Southampton. Coming along for the brutal climbing on the Devon and Dorset coast are Martin and Tony. Expect a full report, and lots of bacon sandwiches, on my return.

Dumfries & Galloway – Week 33 : 2021

Anna is booking a number of staycations and the latest adventure took me back to Scotland and to Dumfries & Galloway. I say ‘back to’ as it isn’t more than a few weeks ago that I was trundling a few miles to the east of here wending my way from Gretna to John O’Groats on my LEJOG trip.

She booked a house for four nights just outside Kirkcudbright, or as the natives pronounce it ‘Kirkcoobry’! The house’s location was fabulous on the banks of the River Dee estuary and could sleep six. It was therefore very spacious!

This was one of a few homes in the area not covered in the ubiquitous grey Scottish pebble dash wall covering (why do they do it?)
Not a bad view from the front garden with the tide in
View from a bedroom window
A view back to the house at low tide

The first observation was that the area made its living from tourism and livestock farming. There was no industry or major settlements. The tourism is very low key with lots of discretely hidden sites for caravans and camper vans. There are attractions but they come in the form of forests, beaches and walks. Dog walkers abounded and if there were children they were all young and enjoying the beaches and simpler pleasures.

I say simpler because the 4G reception was patchy throughout the area and our property didn’t have wi-fi; this was a considerable bind. Everyone uses Google to establish, say, opening times of attractions or the nearest cafe. You’ll be unsurprised that the present Mrs Ives received a severe reprimand for this inconvenience and was told to ensure it never happened again or it would unfortunately have to go on her file.

A ‘Beltie’

Famous residents of the area are the Belted Galloway cattle. This chap or chappess has the distinct white band around its middle. Anna made me stop on a dangerous busy road so she could capture the above photograph. In fairness most fields of cattle were not Belted Galloways; you had to stop when you found one. They are not common throughout the area nowadays. Just as you might entertain a small child with a car journey game I found Anna was easy to occupy with the task of reviewing every field full of cattle, of which there were many, for the Belties. (Google tells me that their beef is top quality, something unlikely to endear the animal to my vegetarian wife.)

We visited beaches, other than the one across the road, and they were all fairly empty. Water sports or BBQ’s were often underway. Below is Bayhorse Bay which was shallow for a long way out.

Bayhorse bay.

I was allowed to take my bike and clocked up 120 miles over the three days. Up toward Galloway Forest the views and tranquility were sublime. Cycling was popular whether road cycling or mountain bikes. This is a snap I took as I laboured up a track.

Anna was lured out one evening for a route she picked. Sadly, she didn’t work out the amount of climbing she’d elected to do. However, after 270 metres of severe climbing, it seemed to meet Baby Jesus, she was allowed to turn her bike around and quickly descend toward a pub in Kirkcudbright where she was rewarded with a gin and tonic.

(This image was vetted for approval prior to inclusion by Anna)

It has to be said that the road traffic was light to non-existent on this night and on my other jaunts. The Scots can have a very unattractive road surface in places, this consists of a thick gloopy tar that is very uneven and peppered with large chunks of aggregate. On a later ride I lost the feeling in my hands through the vibrations over such roads. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that being a hero I battled on.

Scallop fishing boat in Kirkcudbright. The estuary was tidal and exit to the open sea was by a very specific channel.

Kirkcudbright was an attractive settlement at the top of the estuary. We had a wander around and used the supermarkets. Most of the area hasn’t started to cater for the idle elite who want artisan bakeries unless this type of Snickers bar and shortbread combo is big in Islington. I must admit a shop with a loaf of sourdough would have been a treat but what you lose in sophistication is gained in peace, quiet and exclusivety.

We drove about and visited the local towns including Gatehouse of Fleet, Wigtown, Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas. We did drive into Dumfries but it was busy and didn’t seem to have a lot of charm; so we drove along the Solway and out toward Dalbeattie. All the towns were ‘working’ small settlements with their own character but little to detain you. Wigtown has a reputation for books and there were several second hand book shops for those attempting to find some old mighty tome.

The weather was always mild and up until the last day it was dry but there again you don’t go to Scotland for the weather. I’d like to go back and head further west to Stranraer next time and then have a look up the west coast.

Wedding Anniversary – Week 31 : 2021

It’s a year since our Favourite Eldest Daughter got married to Matt in Manchester. The reception was lovely in bright sunshine at the top of a swanky city hotel but the numbers attending were limited due to Government Covid-19 restrictions. We wanted to correct this and say thank you to the wider family and friends who, not least, had been enormously generous with gifts and well wishes at the time.

So a date was put in the diary for 2021 and folk were invited to the House of Ives in Acaster Malbis. We were expecting rain and overcast conditions but the sun often appeared and it was warm despite the odd shower. Shelter could be found in a borrowed marquee but lunch was inside.

Guests came from Wales (Ann Marie & Pat), London (Helen, Laura & (Young) Dave, Georgia & Edward and James), North Yorkshire (Ellie & Chris and Ted), Manchester (Sophie & Harry and Cath & Jeff) and Gloucestershire (Tracey). A couple of speeches were made, with the best by far coming from young Matthew Gray, and after toasts luncheon was taken.

The food came from many places including a special patisserie in Garforth on the outskirts of Leeds called Dumouchel. How this authentic French run bakery ended up in the middle of a housing estate in suburban Leeds is a mystery. Scrumptious pork pies were brought over the Pennines by Cath and Jeff along with home made piccallilli; with this the father of the bride was enormously happy. Anna, Katrina and Sophie pulled it all together.

Family and friends
After having been in lockdown, at his care home, since early 2020 it was wonderful to ‘spring’ the bride’s grandfather, Eric, to join us. Here he’s with his three daughters

Some entertainment was devised and Screwfix provided the paint!

The start of the egg & spoon race

The egg and spoon race was a terrific success with 16 ‘runners’ with ages ranging from 75 to 8 years old. The final between Chris Reed (bride’s cousin) and Harry Fuoco (Favourite Youngest Daughter’s partner) ended up in a hilarious wrestling match. After VAR (as it was caught on video) Reed was disqualified!

Another party game was ‘pass the parcel’ with an epic prize that Cath will treasure for ever (we suspect).

A lovely day and thanks to all the helpers who tidied up! And Look who got the bride’s posie!

Kicking People in the Head, Medals & Farming – Week 20 : 2021

I imagine everyone is taking an interest in the Olympics. You’ve got to feel for the Japanese: they’ve spent all this money and even attendance at the events is prohibited or limited yet they’ll be paying for it all for decades. It seems the IOC and global television companies get the benefits. A mystery is the pleasure we all get from simply accumulating medals irrespective of what the sport is (and being ahead of the French and Germans in the league table.) It’s simply a competitive scrabble irrespective of what they’re competing for.

Many of the events are truly mystery: take taekwondo. As I write we have a chance of another medal. Our athlete who I’ve never heard of despite a lifetime of devotion (by her and her parents) to raising her feet above her head violently whilst standing. The sport is nearly unwatchable as clad in a helmet and wearing a padded mat around your middle you try and kick the opponent in the head or thump them in the stomach. The event also ‘enjoys’ several minute time outs whilst the competitor’s coach seeks to have points deducted off the opponent via a type of VAR scrutiny. The last bout I watched saw the British girl (sorry Katrina, woman) lose in the last second. How the hell do you cope with the disappointment?

Last time Beach Volleyball got ridiculed (apart from the kit!) I think Street Skateboarding is running it close. The sport involves jumping on your skate board and then propelling it whilst spinning so you can slide down a staircase handrail in outside spaces. We used to caution youngsters for doing this in town centres?

I have enjoyed all the cycling whether Tour de France or Olympic. The Olympic schedule has coincided with the mornings and I did sit riveted to the road races and the Otley lad, Tom Pidcock, who won the Mountain Bike Cross Country race. At Le Tour I was so delighted for Mark Cavendish, a real fairy tale slightly tarnished by not getting the 35th Tour stage victory. However, knowing what Eddie Merckx achieved, and how he did it, then maybe a tie is apposite.

The God that is Mark Cavendish

Cavendish may have got the green jersey but an unexpected delightful prize dropped through the letterbox from Jude and Peter up in Edinburgh. A fitting medal for the Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride. Thank you.

Ann-Marie, my sister, has been reinforcing the bottom of her garden. It backs onto a stream that sadly becomes a brutal rushing river when there is heavy rain on the local Welsh hills. The result is the washing away of about five feet of an already small garden. I helped with the contractor selection and costings. I rushed down on Tuesday to be on site early for discussions.

In my haste I left without money. Not ideal if you need to fill up your car with diesel when nearly at her home near Conwy for the return trip. I have a payment solution on my Apple Watch and so no problem, that is, if I had chosen to wear it on the trip! So I then recollected I could install it on my iPhone and this I did. This isn’t an ideal emergency solution in case there is a problem.

The problem might be that if I filled up the car with £50 worth of fuel to find the App didn’t work? I had hoped to find a sympathetic cashier I could do a trial run with by buying something cheap that they could refund if the phone didn’t work. I entered the busty petrol station hoping for a young person who would understand the technology and help me establish if it worked. Brilliantly I found a teenager who calmly ran through the trial purchase: it worked! (I felt that I had also won a Gold Medal with this small technological triumph.)

If you haven’t watched Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime then you’re missing a treat. Clarkson’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he nicely gets out of his comfort zone as a farmer. We spend a season with the man, and his workers, managing the arable lands and livestock (sheep). It’s quite instructive about the rudimentary nature of farming and predictably there is considerable slapstick and hilarity. Check it out . Below are the local crops I see on my constitutional.

Tattoos, Flying Lunches & Hugs – Week 19 : 2021

So I’m sat on a bench in Skirpenbeck, a small village just outside Stamford Bridge. I’ve been cycling in the Wolds when I stop to eat an energy bar and have a gel. As I cycle through the village toward the the bench I pass an old bloke walking his Jack Russell. He’s five foot nothing wearing a tweed sports jacket, a flat hat and has a small silver moustache. If I’d bothered to wonder how he’s spent his life it’d have been on the railways, in a factory or maybe on a farm.

Anyway he ambles up to me to comment on how chilly it is whilst his dog looks up to me awaiting a scratch on his head. He tells me that he used to ride a bike but the talent resides with his 45 year old son who was a Yorkshire champion. Impressed I ask if living out amongst the hills had helped him. “Oh no, we lived in Hull at the time, I’ve just moved here.” So engaged he regaled me with his moves and said that he’s lived for over 20 years in Turkey. Now this isn’t obvious! So I asked “if she was pretty?” “Oh no, the wife was English!” It transpires he’d made a few quid on a house sale and went travelling and obviously didn’t get past the Turkish coast. “So how did you make a living?” “I was a tattooist.” He was warming to recounting all this life story and was about to probably regale me with some derring do in Marmaris. However, in my lycra I was getting cold and had a large forecasted rain downpour to beat and made my apologies. I now wonder what else I missed in his life story.

The daughters came to York to celebrate their mother’s birthday and we went for Sunday lunch on the river. As we approached the restaurant it was cold but sunny. On sitting down we found ourselves under cover in something that British Cycling could use as a wind tunnel. In minutes the sun had gone, the nithering wind picked up and the rain started to lash down. Folk took cover literally as they worried about wearing their roast beef and trimmings and their table mats and coverings took flight. We sat tight clutching our drinks praying for our lunch to arrive shortly so we could bolt it down and return to some brick shelter. Welcome to spring.

Other adventures involve taking the Morgan to a garage down south in June to have much of the front suspension replaced. The ride is very harsh; thesaying goes that if you drive over a coin in a Morgan you can tell whether it’s heads or tails. I’m hoping this upgrade will make the car less bone jarring. When I first owned cars in the 1970s it was accepted that cars wore out and if you kept a car over 40,000 miles it was likely to be ultimately an expensive decision. Nowadays cars will happily continue over 100,000 if serviced and cared for. Sadly the design of the Morgan is such that there is a very short life for a number of components beneath the car.

Other activities include riding the iconic bike ride of Lands End to John O’Groats. This is planned and booked for the end of June until early July. Unusually I’ll be completing this with long time buddy, Peter. I’m looking forward to a cycle tour but I would want to warn you this two week ride will herald biblical rain and a downturn in temperatures. I shall write in greater detail nearer the departure date.

Lastly, I must be amongst a large number of men who are appalled at the opportunity to hug people as the pandemic recedes. I shall not be changing my arms length approach to affection. I would however like to add that I have been known to moderate this rule as regards the Favourite Youngest Daughter where we share a brisk and business-like handshake on meeting. (I kid you not.)

Partners, Pills & Princes – Week 17 : 2021

The Favourite Eldest and Youngest Daughters often get a mention in the blogs but their partners seldom do. T’other weekend in Manchester saw some time being spent with the chaps. Matt probably got the best value out of me with my helping to sand the dining room wooden floor. There were several coats of stain and varnish patchily covering a large area that needed to be removed. This took us a day and half of application and I was delighted with the results. Matt then varnished the planed floor. Katrina is still dealing with the dust.

(I’m holding a sander not a table tennis bat!)

Harry indulged me in something a bit more pleasurable. A fabulous spin just south of Manchester in the countryside and through the expensive satellite towns containing footballers’ multi million pound properties. We were even passed by a wonderful vintage (about 1928) supercharged Bentley… if only I could have got my phone out in time for a snap.

It looks like, that despite the partial relaxation of the lockdown, we’ll not be getting abroad quickly on holiday. However I can recommend a trip to Waitrose to partially satisfy your desire for sun and exotic places:

Truth be told then I’m happy that there are a lot of poor farm hands making a living planting and harvesting these vegetables and then packing them onto airfreight. But let’s be frank that these imports are stupid if we’re trying to save the planet. (All supermarkets import vegetable not just Waitrose.)

I was amassing 17,000 steps by delivering a leaflet for a candidate in the election for the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner around our sleepy village. You’ll be unsurprised to learn this imminent event hasn’t lit up the locality into an excited frenzy. I think most of the leaflets will probably make it into recycling fairly swiftly. A couple of folk engaged with me on the topic. One noticed that the candidate was committed to ‘targeting county lines drug dealers’ and observed that some of this pond life had been spotted in the local pub carpark. I expressed genuine astonishment. I commented that the village had too many old people to be interested in all this stuff. Another person quipped ‘that may be true but there’s lots of folk taking drugs in the village but mainly in tablet form on prescription!’

I was sorry to note the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. He never had delusions about his importance but brought great authority, leadership and energy to his role of supporting the Queen and the various good causes he was the patron of. As I sign off I thought I’d repost, from an earlier blog, an episode concerning a letter he sent to my workplace…

“About 25 years ago I sat atop of a large department of employees at Moores Furniture Group who’s job was to deal with customers quotations and orders. It was an era before the internet and we lived in a sea of paper. I saw this daily forest after it’s opening and sorting. One morning as I’m perusing the letters and forms I came across a small letter on something like blue Basildon Bond. This was not the way most contractors, in Co Durham, communicated when seeking replacement hinges for a damaged wall cabinet. On closer scrutiny it was a personal letter to our former owner, George Moore, from Buckingham Palace.

Mr Moore following his disposal of the company for about £70 million had devoted himself to various activities including charitable ones. Such beneficiaries included one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s causes. The letter said little other than thank you and was simply signed ‘Philip’. This was how he signed all his letters!

I studied this letter and instructed it to be redirected to Mr Moore who resided elsewhere on the estate and did reflect that it was a little unfortunate that this letter, that he would no doubt be delighted to receive, had a date stamp, thanks to the mail room, plonked right across HRH’s moniker. If nothing else then Mr Moore could be confident in telling friends and family the date on which it was received.

Hot Shot, Mint Sauce & Dead Donkeys – Week 12 : 2021

The badger is back. Clearly not a cause for celebration but a cause for more expenditure. Additional fencing over tens of metres of up to three feet high, in places, has been erected. This solution was decided on after our garden lawn man said you can’t remove the bugs that entice the animal into the garden. In fact he demonstrated their prevalence by digging up the turf randomly and exposing these little blighters. Apparently we just have to wait for the bugs to go, it could be years.

In sharing this update with neighbours we heard that the male urine strategy is being widely pursued. One lady has been diluting her husband’s urine and pouring it copiously around the perimeter of their property. If we’d read about this activity in a remote African village we’d assume the women lived in a mud hut, ate missionaries and had a bone through her nose! Her husband was all for shooting the beasts (or was he taking the p***?). I could subscribe to this management technique but they’re are a protected species.

I completed the transposing and copy editor job with Eric’s life story and am missing it badly. It was an unfolding story of 20th Century history as well as a personal journey of an interesting life. He’s not yet finished the story and I await the next instalment with interest. I worry that my own life story would include too many long afternoons spent in dreary meetings talking about Y2K , computer upgrade improvements, the roll out of health and safety initiatives etc. Such was a corporate life.

Leeds United have been a lockdown tonic. Of course I am remorselessly pessimistic about every game but we have accumulated enough points to survive this season in the league and go into the next with hopefully a bigger squad of players and options off the bench. As LUFC flourish in the top league after 16 years of ‘hurt’ (as the song goes) then another former player has passed away. Peter Lorimer was a wonderful winger with a remarkable, hard shot. I well remember the crowd chant of ’90 miles an hour’. I noted with some pride that his loss was so profound that the national news headlines included this sad event and social media lit up with lots of footage of epic strikes from outside the penalty area.

I’m still fascinated by the local WW2 history which is so evident in the surrounding areas of where we live. The RAF had many airfields accommodating heavy bombers that flew nightly sorties to mainland Europe. I’m reading the following book pamphlet.

Amongst many things it covers it recalls the high jinx that went on on the bases to keep up morale. These cohorts were made up of young men who spent much of their time frightened, frozen, wrestling unreliable and dangerously unwieldy aircraft or probably or when on the ground, in a foreign country, far away from their homes, bored. An extract from the book truly astonished me. There was a camp donkey at RAF Pocklington which grazed in the corner of the airfield and was fed titbits from the cookhouse and NAAFI. The extract goes:

“Sadly one morning, one morning word got around that the donkey had died during the night. The problem now arose as how to dispose of it. It was finally decided that one of the crews would, that night, take the unusual additional payload and dispose of it over the Third Reich… ours was the lucky crew who drew the short straw. As I recall it was the navigator and engineer who, with much heaving and pushing, dispatched it as soon as we were over German territory. I’ve often wondered what were the thoughts and comments of those on the receiving end 16,000 feet below.” 

Anna, when I read this out to her, worried that the falling carcass might have killed somebody. As the Halifax bomber was already carrying nearly 3 tons of bombs then the odd falling dead donkey was the least of the problems for the population I suspect.

Talking of yet more four legged creatures the lambs are back in the fields near us. I think I’ve said that I wasn’t aware of a lot of nature until, thanks to the lockdown, I started to walk around. These delightful gambolling creatures soon lose their fun and will follow their mothers around the grassy fields eating for a few months until they nearly get to their mother’s size and then we all know what happens next, especially to the male of the species. I don’t eat lamb, as it seldom comes up on a menu, or buy many woollen goods so I wonder who they’re being bred for? Answers on a postcard please.

My Yorkshire – Week 9 : 2021

Reading the weekend Yorkshire Post newspaper I came across a popular feature where they interview a local worthy and they pronounce on the following questions. Here’s my go…

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

I suppose the first awareness I had of my surroundings, outside of the home in north Leeds, was going into town, down Scott Hall Road, with my mother on the bus. There we’d visit Leeds indoor market for meat and vegetables before going on to Lewis’s on the Headrow for other groceries. I remember the counters where things were sold by weight including broken biscuits. All this was the very early 1960s.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why?

Gosh, there are so many beautiful parts to choose but it’d probably be the Wolds (although an honourable mention goes to the sumptuous Dales and the coast). On the Wolds at Garrowby you can see endless farmland and when at the very top receive a brilliant view to the west. It’s breezy, open, free from traffic, undeveloped and the perfect place to escape on a bike ride.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire?

Taking the top down on the Morgan and heading over the rugged North York Moors to Whitby with Anna, or maybe to Saltburn-by-the-Sea where I spent a year away at boarding school in the year England won the World Cup.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea Pier

In Whitby we’d have fish and chips and if we’re staying over maybe a pint at The Endeavour or The Elsinore. The contrast with the city of York and the salt air, squawking seagulls, small steep lanes and beaches is marked and only an hour’s drive from home. If I were lucky I’d slip off on the Sunday morning for a bike ride on the local 20% gradient climbs!

Do you have a favourite walk or view?

A walk on the beach at Sands End is always a treat, especially if you can find an ice cream van for a cornet. However we’re blessed around York with the rivers Foss and Ouse to walk along or a dip into the several woods to see deer, hares and a plethora of different birds.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what or where would it be?

There is a remarkable stately home in East Yorkshire called Sledmere House, between Norton and Driffield. It’s a beautiful period house with wonderful rooms and large landscaped estate. The history of the aristocratic owners over the centuries and their exciting lives is remarkable and captured brilliantly in one of the descendant’s books (Christopher Simon Sykes) The Big House.

Sledmere House

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub?

Now I’m not a foodie and if it’s fresh, well cooked and presented nicely I’m happy but a trip to the Veggie in Ilkley works very well for Anna and myself with everything completely delicious. A pint of bitter in a pub is a treasure and without doubt The Blue Bell on Fossgate in York is my ‘go to’ boozer.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

I love bread and bakeries are my favourite shops. Little Arras on Goodramgate in York has exceptional sourdough bread and a wide selection of cakes to help you add to your waistline. As a simple man then I must doff my hat to that large Yorkshire, head quartered in Bradford, grocer Morrisons, what would life be like without their meat pies?

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

I once heard Dame Judi Dench talk at my daughter’s speech day and she is a wonderful raconteur, however, Michael Palin is genuinely hilarious and has had a wonderful career in comedy and travel that would keep me engrossed. If he were busy then Bob Mortimer would be a terrific deputy.

Which Yorkshire sportsperson, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

It’d be hard not to invite Geoff Boycott, Howard Wilkinson or Joe Root but I would have been honoured to sit down with Jane Tomlinson. After she was diagnosed with terminal cancer she embarked on many fund raising activities including running marathons and, lastly, riding a bike across the USA in 2004. That is Yorkshire grit. I would have a great time sharing our joint experiences of the route. Her charity today has now raised over £10m and that is a wonderful legacy for a very determined and brave woman who checked out at only 43 years old.

The Golden Gate Bridge behind her before her ride to New York. (I cycled from the east coast toward it in 2014)

Do you follow sport in the county and if so, what?

From the age of 10 when I saw my first match sat on the shoulders of my future brother-in-law, Bill, in the Scratching Shed of Leeds United versus Blackpool (we lost!), I’ve been a lifelong Leeds fan having had a season ticket for several years and hiring a corporate box when I worked at Moores Furniture Group in Wetherby. 

What do you think gives Yorkshire it’s unique identity?

I think the image is of self-contained dogged (bloody minded?) determination allied to an often no nonsense, no frills approach to life. The rugged, sweeping and hilly landscape with some hard weather surely is the reason for these characteristics.

How do you think Yorkshire has changed, for better or worse, in the time I’ve known it?

The whole world is now more global (not least thanks to Captain James Cook) and cultures mingle and dilute. Given that faith, ethnicity and economic circumstance can create ‘silos’ of separation then it’s a good thing that we can’t always retreat to where we were 50 years ago. So yes it has changed and hopefully with tolerance we can have the best of the ‘new’ and the best of the ‘old’.

Who is your favourite author/ book/ artist/CD/ performer?

My bag is music and I was delighted after thinking about this question to be back in my dormitory at Ashville College in Harrogate acquiring an LP by a Yorkshire legend that still sounds brilliant today. Arthur Brown’s 1968 The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown is a classic and he was born in Whitby. “I am the god of hellfire and I bring you fire”….

If a stranger to Yorkshire, only had time to visit one place. It would be?

Impossible! However, probably the largest cathedral north of the Alp: York Minster. It stands dominant and magnificent in the centre of York. It took 300 years to complete in the 15th Century; the structure is imposing and majestic. Apart from the awesome building it contains a book that lists the 18,000 men and women who died while serving in the Royal Air Force in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Durham during the Second World War. This includes many from the then British Empire and I can never fathom the bond that drew these people from thousands of miles away to fight and die in a war that must have seemed remote, say, on a sheep farm in New Zealand.