Category Archives: Journal

2021 In Alphabetical Review

So here’s my 2021 alphabet review.

Anna’s Birthday

Anna lost her landmark birthday celebration of 60 in 2020. A trip away was cancelled. However we eventually got away to Bakewell to rent a property avec les enfants et hommes. We had a splendid weekend eating and drinking. I managed to drag Harry out on his bike around the Peak District, which is not an easy bike ride for someone not expecting the odd hill or two!

Barrier

A small stream that runs past the end of my sister’s little Welsh garden. It switches between a summer trickle or a winter torrent. It’s been eroding the bottom of her garden in an alarming fashion. We needed a strong barrier to stop the erosion. It was difficult to find a contractor for a residential project. After a few false starts, mainly to do with the weather, it was started and finished in July. Ann Marie is now looking forward to heavy rainfall to maximise the return on her investment!

Chafer Bugs

Much to our dismay we woke up earlier in the year to find the lawn was ripped up. After more visits and damage it was shortly tracked down to hungry badgers that were searching beneath the turf for chafer bugs. The solutions to eliminating the desirable bug or deterring badgers were bordering on comical and old wives tales. We did consulted far and wide and then decided to build a fence around the garden to stop access. It’s worked so far!

DIY

Alongside Matt (son-in-law) we managed to do a decent job of sanding his dining room floor. Other DIY at their house involved some pointing of their long brick wall. Back in Acaster Malbis I did some fencing and fence painting at the front of the house to keep out the pesky badger. After all this I decided to retire for the year and bask in the glory knowing that next year had a long list of jobs.

Eric (Father-in-law)

A difficult time for my father-in-law was made easier as lockdown easing meant there was access for relatives into his care home. More importantly his three daughters could make pre-arranged vsits to sit with him. For them it was a great relief to be able to get into his company. He’s remained in terrific spirits and it was super when we could take him out the home and bring him to York to join in Katrina and Matt’s wedding celebrations. For those in homes this pandemic has and continues to be awful.

Ferragudo

Our one escape abroad was to Portugal. This was initially delayed from October to November, when I caught Covid. We stayed on the Algarve toward the west just outside Portimāo at Ferragudo in an apartment. With a car we drove around including a memorable lunch at Salema and popping along to Quinta do Lago to meet a friend who was also over there on holiday. Some warmer weather was a delight and taking my bike enabled me to get out and see around us whist Anna when running. We also found some lovely sunsets.

Galloway

A trip to Dumfries & Galloway was one of our staycations. We took a house on an estuary near Kirkcudbright and either cycled or drove around. This part of Scotland is beautiful, green (wet) and dramatic. Despoite the vistas the level of tourism is restricted to a few caravan parks. As a complete pleb I did eventually yearn for a bakery with sourdough and maybe a deli.

The Ives

After being prodded by sister I had converted to a digital format cine films and photograph negatives from the late 1940s and early 1950s. This revealed people at times in their early lives that I saw in a different light. The quality of my grandfather’s photography was exceptional in composition and inclusion. We now have an easily accessible treasure trove.

Jurassic Coast by Bicycle

A cycle ride along the UK’s southern Jurassic coastline took place in September. The expedition started in Devon and then climbed and climbed to Dorset. I cycle every year for a few nights with a pal from my University days, Tony. Along for the ride this year was Martin, an old work colleague. I chose the coastline from Plymouth to Southampton (and then onto Abingdon with Martin).) It was possibly a mistake!  The coastline is terribly hilly and the traffic can be busy. Martin cycled with the wrong set of gears and Tony, an irregular cyclist, manfully went about every day but finished in darkness twice. I worry they’re daft enough to be back for more next year. 

Katrina & Matt

In 2020 the Favourite Eldest Daughter, Katrina, married Matt. Due to Covid restrictions we couldn’t bring all the family together. Eventually in our garden the weather held up and we brought everyone together for a belated celebration. It was a lovely day that will be remembered for a long time for the great company and not least for the egg and spoon race!

Lands End to John O’Groats by Bicycle

Bicycles feature in my life and with no long overseas bike ride in prospect I decided to do the iconic British ride: Lands End to John O’Groats. That is, from the tip of Cornwall to the far top of the island in the Scottish Highlands. It was a hard ride of 1,000 miles riding with Peter, an old friend. It has a memorably brutal start but eventually things got easier. The weather was kind until the last day. The last night of the trip we celebrated with malt whiskey and the day after was a groggy and leaden affair getting back by train to York! I blogged everyday.

Moving (Keep)

The lockdowns meant lots of time for walking around the local area drinking in the scenery and seasons. We’re blessed with lots of fields and leafy paths. This was a great opportunity to have my headphones plugged in to listen to new albums or podcasts. After all these years I started to notice how transitory nature is. Other regimes to keep fit included pilates every week and occasional trips to the gym. When added to the 5,200 miles of cycling then I think I did a good job on trying to keep fit.

Norfolk

The holidays this year were mainly short breaks and we went down to Walsingham. Here we stayed in a property near the coastal harbour town of Wells-Next-The-Sea. It was wet but very delightful. Further east is the splendid Royal Palace at Sandringham. The house is set in beautiful grounds and after visiting here we went for lunch in nearby Hunstanton with some local friends. Norfolk could do with a road system to get to it but it is truly a lovely part of England.

Old Friends

I think we all became more social as lockdowns became part of our lives. I certainly put quite a bit of time into seeing friends. Some of these I had known for over 50 years. A special night was organised with old work colleagues, many I hadn’t seen for over 10 years. The list of old pals included Tim J, Mark D, Lyndon B, Tony, F, Brian E, Tim S, Mark G, Andy W, Tim M, Martin A, John V, Jim B, Steve & Sharon J, Mark S, Greg S, David C and Robert H.

Pensionable Age

Despite having not worked for a long time my state of antiquity was finally confirmed when I started to receive my State pension every four weeks plus a free bus pass and my Winter Fuel Allowance (£200.) What a time to be alive! Despite my excellent environmental cycling credentials I’ve not managed to use the bus pass yet and also slightly embarrassed by the Winter Fuel Allowance I have donated that to a more worthy cause.

The Queen

The Queen has had a rough year (in fact it’s one the Royal Family will want to forget.) I came to respect and like the Duke of Edinburgh more as I got to know more about him. I think his past had its blemishes, some of his comments are quite rightly unacceptable today, but there was a gritty self sacrifice that garnered him a lot of respect and his departure was the first tangible sign that the old order was moving on. I hope Her Majesty has a lot more years in her.

Reading

I subscribe to a Morgan car magazine, plus MoJo, Record Collector and Country Music People. My consumption of books is modest . This year I mainly read history ‘The Mallon Crew’ (WW2 Bomber crew), ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ (the demise of Native Americans at the hands of the US Cavalry), “Fatal Colours’ (The War of The Roses machinations leading up to the Battle of Towton) or biographies about Martin Luther King, Reggie Maudling or Tammy Wynette. I’m currently reading a book about the war in East Africa in WW1. It’s always non-fiction for me.

A Life in the Age of Steam

I embarked on what I thought was a simple bit of typing but it turned out to be a massive document of 166,000 words telling the early life of Eric Blackburn. A lad who left school at the age of 13 during war torn Hull and found his way onto the locomotive footplate. An interlude of National Service took place before he moved to then Tanganyika to work on the East African Railway. It’s a wonderful, event strewn, story and hopefully it will make it into published print.

Tideswell, Derbyshire

In December Anna found a property back in the Peak District at Tideswell. With our daughters and Sophie’s partner’s mother, Tracey and sister, Annabelle. We spent a couple of nights walking and seeing the sights. The ladies went to look around Chatsworth House decorated for Christmas, it looked magnificent. I popped to Bakewell to look around a record shop; then on the Sunday managed to get out on my bike. Log fires, hot soup and umbrellas were de rigeur.

USA

In 2019 we had some flights booked to Singapore (and back from Cambodia) in 2020. This quickly got shelved as the Far East went and stayed in lockdown. Next we used a voucher to fly to Miami for next February. This was weirdly compromised when British Airways cancelled some connecting flights with no solutions offered. So yet again we took a voucher. We still plan to get over to the USA in 2022. The thought of all those wide open spaces, eggs over easy and amazing parks call us. However, we’re not counting any chickens yet.

Writing

My journalism continued with mainly scribing for Country Music People. A selection of Country or Americana music was sent to me to listen to and then I had to pen 3/400 words and send back to the editor. As if by magic I was then in print every month. My blogs continued albeit they were a bit spasmodic. I blame the pandemic for limiting my ability to write something interesting or ridiculous! Added to this was Eric’s journal that saw my often looking through Google Maps to find the spelling of a remote railway station in 1960s Tanganyika.

A Glimpse Of The Past – Week 43 : 2021

Languishing in the loft of several houses for over 70 years were a selection of cine films my grandfather and father shot. The films’ survival was probably down to being allowed to grow dusty in the recesses of these dark spaces rather than being repeatedly moved and their worth of retention debated. In fact I probably have the projector that can show these films but the wiring is also at least 70 years old and may make it a safety hazard.

Of the 52 cine films we found then 36 date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. I was amazed by the quality and the fact my grandfather was an early adopter of technology. Some of the quality as well as composition are better than my father’s Super 8 cine films and I cringe to think of the several days of camcorder footage I took mainly of the daughters in the late 1990s and early Naughties. (Never let a man get on a steam train with a camcorder and an hour to kill is sound advice.)

My grandfather shot 16mm wide cine film and to get this converted to a digital format meant some hunting around to find a company to convert it. I found a one man band (plus part time assistant) operation in a three story one room per floor building in the market town of Otley. I never met the owner but rumour has it that he now frequently jets to Hawaii on what he charged for the work.

The whole exercise was in someways a leap into the dark as to what we’d find or if the films were even intact. What I got was moving footage of my parents as millennials, a lot of relatives I never knew or could recognise, wonderful old pre and post war cars all painted black, street scenes of places that seemed so empty and sedate by today’s standards and a level of dress that was so formal and smart (!) compared to how we all slob about today.

Ann Marie, my sister, by the company van

However, more illuminating and emotional was an insight into the lives lived. The looks people gave each other, the fun shared, the mutual affection or hierarchy. Who always took the lead when walking or came across as bossy, even without audio? The way they handled a toddler with affection and delight, the deference to the old and the emergence of the best china even for a cup of tea. I learned of my grand parents surprising devotion to Catholicism with the local priest going from Leeds to Bournemouth on holiday with them (and countless other photos). Any fervour for religion was never passed down the family and we have no connection today. The Christmas lunch setting that now seemed so sparing compared to how our tables groan with food and decorations nowadays. The number of folk who smoked: a classic way to relax and often a shared pleasure between members of the family. Lastly my thoughts migrating from how they all appeared here to how they eventually became when I knew them and, in the case of my grandparents, I only knew them as old people with much of that mobility and energy gone.

Two sets of paternal great grand parents with my mother on the top step and my paternal grandmother sat down

One of the major projects now is to identify all the people in the cine films. There’s no audio and neither is there a lot of identification of people and places on the boxes or tins. Some, I or my sister Ann Marie, know. Some seem obvious when say, you have a mother with a child ie. the child belongs to her and it’s male etc. A lot has been found by Anna, the Queen of ancestry.com, who has followed lineages to build a magnificent ‘tree’ of both sides of my family. In the cines you can eliminate people by the date of the cine film and what age people were or, sadly dead, by then. 

In addition to the cine footage was the small matter of 1,500 still photographs. All black and white and many featuring the people in the cine films. These are the images in this blog. Most are family scenes but there are many holiday snaps including the beach hut on the front at Bournemouth. I actually cycled within feet of this on my saunter along the front with Martin and Tony in early September on our bicycles. How lovely it would have been to stop at the hut and talk with the current occupants about it’s history of 70 years ago.

Grandmother with her watchful grand daughter at Hut 729.

Some of the shots are of dramatic ships and aeroplanes.

The Queen Mary (and a seaplane, note the one circling above)

We have an ambition is to try and contact some of the relatives of these people to share these films. I expect many are scattered across the globe and have tenuous connections to my family. However, this is a history that is unrepeatable and a wonderful insight.

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 webuyanycar.com  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?)
Continue reading Dumfries & Galloway – Week 33 : 2021

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.

The Last Couple of Weeks (as an Alphabet) – Week 8 : 2021

You’ll maybe not be surprised to learn that life hasn’t taken a dramatic turn from Boredom Boulevard to Liberation Lane, however, we are getting there I think. So stirring through the ashes of the last couple of weeks I thought I’d report as an alphabet..

Africa

For those who’ve stayed awake through my blogs you’ll remember I’ve been typing up the story of Eric Blackburn. His unique life started as a farmer’s boy in war ravaged Hull at the age of thirteen. We progressed from him becoming an orphan, through to firing steam trains, completing National Service and then back into the depressing clutches of post war British Railways. After 126,000 words I’m now writing up the adventure of his going to work for East African Railways in Tanganyika in 1954. There are some wonderful stories contained within. I shall be sorry when we get to the end of this remarkable journey

Birthday looms

I’m a long time past celebrating but being surrounded by females means that cards and felicitations will abound. If there is anything of interest in this decrepitude then I am officially about to become and Old Age Pensioner. Rishi Sunak hwill cough up my State Pension at the age of 66. I promise not to spend it at the first shop (as they’re still all shut.)

Car washing

The weather has been desperate, which has undoubtedly helped the R rate to fall but it has stopped me washing the cars, not least the Morgan. However after a long spell of zero degrees I was able to get out there and wash them. I even noted a woman on the street washing a car as Anna and I were walking past. I did remark to her that it was unusual to see a woman car washing to which I was quickly reminded that “you said that to her last time.” (Repetition holds no fear for me.)

Daytime TV

It would be disloyal to point out that the present Mrs Ives is quite a fan of iPlayer and Netflix during daylight hours but I couldn’t possibly incriminate her. However, it is a sad option for lots of folk given the lack of alternatives. Instead I slip upstairs to compose this type of brilliant missive (cough).

Esther Rose

This New Orleans resident’s latest album turned up in my inbox from Country Music People and it’s a a super record. You can check out my considered thoughts on this American Country confection by clicking the link.

Flat refurbishment

After the departure of the last tenants our inspection revealed they had irretrievably damaged the carpets we installed only 20 months before. There were seven such separate marks and were impossible to remove (as I think the food was oily, which doesn’t work well with a wool carpet.)

Other parts of the property were in need of upgrade eg. heating, shower enclosure and hob. So we have been energetically spending horrific sums transforming the property to something superior. Not all the work was acceptable, see below! Can you believe you’d fit a radiator that would stop the door shutting? Needless to say after a discussion it was moved!

The market is quiet as a result of the time of year and lockdown. We hope it’ll not be too long before we get new, more considerate/careful, residents.

Grower’

The Favourite Eldest Daughter is lucky to hold the prestigious (unpaid) job of being my sub-editor on my album reviews (that make it on line or into the Country Music People magazine.) Her grammar is first class and is an invaluable help. On one album this month I suggested that several plays made the album more familiar and all the better for that: it was a ‘grower’. At her insistence I was instructed to delete the word and Google the phrase. Apparently this colloquially now refers to men’s genitalia. And worse now that the internet algorithms have kicked in and I receive unwanted adverts for natural enhancing supplements!

House buying

The Favourite Eldest Daughter (her again) and husband (Matt) have got onto the ‘ladder’. After the haggling, surveys and compromises it’s theirs. Anna and I hope we’ve been helpful, albeit at a lockdown distance to Manchester, with some advice based on understanding properties and human nature. Frustratingly we’ll not be there to help them move in.

Jab

Yup, I got a text and took the first opportunity to receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They are getting on with things very efficiently in York, the organisation for parking, queuing and then stabbing was exemplary, I even got a sticker, what more could you want? The only reaction was a sore arm the next day but otherwise great.

Lainey Wilson

This time served Country chanteuse has paid her dues and eventually found a big record label and a top notch producer who’s fashioned a terrific contemporary Nashville Country album. I loved it and the link to my review is here.

Mac Leaphart

A good question might be how come so many ‘Records Of the Week’ after none for so long Tony? I still keep getting quite a few albums and I may even write a review but they’re not good enough for my site. However like the others above this is a fabulous discovery of John Prine meets Boo Ray. The link is here.

News Coverage

As a news junkie then even I’ve had my fix for a long time to come. Coronavirus is the only story but what is there to left to tell? Vaccines, mental health implications, quarantine regimes, schools opening/shutting, illegal gatherings etc. on a never ending loop. A lot of folk are ‘incarcerated’ in their homes living in fear, I know some and a contributory factor to their mental state must be this diet of media misery. The real ‘story’ is that the vaccine is being brilliantly rolled out and that an end is sight. Of course we’ll have to live with the disease (forever?) and some will continue to be desperately vulnerable, but there again isn’t this something we knew all along?

Out Of Towners’

We have a daily exercise regime that saw yours truly jogging the other day plus we both like to get some steps in and stride out around the village. Being rural there was never a lot of folk to bump into. Now we have people driving out into the country in considerable numbers with push chairs and dogs. Of course they are entitled to do this but we’re finding car parking jams, dogs off leads chasing around and ‘private – no entry’ areas being entered and footpaths being turned into quagmires.

Dogs off their leads can be a threat to the local deer or hares. Let’s hope they forget our village when this is all over and they can stroll nearer their homes.

Old Photos

I’ve tidied up my digital photos on my computer, I had thousands of duplicates. However we’ve reached into the loft and Anna has been sorting through the older non-digital types of photo. There are some gems like the, grumpy, Favourite Youngest Daughter with her mother.

An old school friend, John Graeme Varley, dug out a couple of me from the late 1970s. I was quite good looking once wasn’t I! The bloke under the flat hat reading the broadsheet is the former Member of Parliament for Thurrock, Tim Janman. As I remember we’d attended a party in Camden then slept overnight outside the flat in my car before going back in for breakfast in the garden the next morning. Kids eh?

Queuing

With our general forbearance during the pandemic we’ve got used to the protocols of social distancing that delay our everyday lives. Posting a parcel at the Post Office can see you on the pavement whilst limited numbers are only permissible inside the shop, the same for the Chinese takeaway in Copmanthorpe (but in the dark and cold), the artisan bakers in the centre of York with a line of, say, 15 folks in front of you where the millennials are out for a morning coffee and croissants, the central York household waste site where they seem to ‘come and go’ about enforcing social distancing so that you can either drive straight in or hang about for 20 minutes whilst someone empties a Luton van in front of you. The one queue I didn’t mind was the one at the vaccination centre.

Recycling a bike

The Favourite Youngest Daughter briefly worked at Decathlon at Surrey Docks in London about 10 years ago. She espied a discounted folding bike and rang to see if I wanted it. I did and she lugged this 15kg bike on the Tube and onto the train for me. How she carried this block of iron, and survived I will never know. Sadly, despite her heroism, it lurked in the garage for most of this time and I decided in a world of bike shortages to give it away to a shop in York that calls itself ‘Recycle’.

Spring weather

The snowdrops and daffodils are out and there are other buds starting to sprout, the days are getting noticeably longer and the weather occasionally hits double figures. Every bike ride, and there’s been a few, has been done on wet and muddy roads, this means you and the bike get filthy; warmer weather dries the road. This really uplifts my spirits and despite not trusting the fact that we are past the worst I’m starting to feel happier times are ahead.

Twitter

There’s quite a debate on line about black footballers being racially abused. It’s awful. Twitter allows people to post vile abusive comments anonymously. I don’t think any footballer or politician is to be protected from criticism, cynicism or mockery, that’s life and free speech. However, steps to reveal these abusive people by preventing anonymity is the first step. From here they can be pursued for breaking the law eg. race hate speech.

Porky Upton

I’ve taken one of Eric Blackburn’s anecdotes and created a blog about his exciting night in Withernsea with this veritable fireman and his dancing feet. It’s a great story and insight into 1950s Hull. Follow the link

Viewing

Amazon Prime gave me ‘The Professor and The Madman’, a plot that involved an English language dictionary, a schizophrenic 19th Century US Army surgeon and Winston Churchill. Yes quite! It was an engaging two hours. Sadly Netfix’s ‘Call My Agent’ Season Four was only six episodes long and ended in a bit of a shambles but pencil me in for the spin off whenever it comes. ‘The Dig’ was based around the true story of finding some Viking treasure in Suffolk. The ‘true’ bit stopped at the relationships between the protagonists, the main female character’s age and, oh yes, the outdoor sex.

Sara Watkins

Yet another Record Of The Week. I was a bit unimpressed when the magazine sent me this children’s album. However quality will out and it’s a beautiful affair of tunes you’ll know and dreamily performed for your delectation and delight. The link is here.

Zoom (and me)

Winter involves going to York University to complete an evening class. Over the years I’ve done the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Irish history, creative writing etc. This winter I plumped for “Writing about the World: Contemporary Forms of Creative Non-Fiction”. Given my blogging and album reviews I thought it relevant. I only lasted two nights was, basically, reading up some passages of different types of non-fiction and then discussing them with other course members on Zoom and then reporting back. Every week a group would read out, in front of the whole class for a critique, something you’d written as homework. Oh dear, what a drag. The course members seemed homogeneous serial course attenders, some were bores who wouldn’t shut up and others were away with the fairies about what they hoped to do with a future project. In other words there was little or no meaningful instruction just a talk shop. I decided I’d wasted my money but I might as well not waste my time.

The Ballad Of Porky Upton

I am typing up Eric Blackburn’s hand written notes of his life. Eric lives in East Yorkshire with his wife, Shirley. Eric’s nicely into his 90s. He started work at the age of 13 as a farmers boy during WW2 in ravaged Hull. Pursuing a love affair with steam trains he managed to change job and start on the railways as a porter and eventually progressing to the footplate as a fireman and sometime driver. On this ‘journey’ he endured all that Hitler could rain on him in blitz bombing raids (and collecting the spent ordnance!), rationing, the loss of both of his parents, completing National Service before emigrating to East Africa to work on the railways in Kenya and Tanganiyka (Tanzania). His story is very much a joy for anyone interested in the detail of steam trains but some of the stories about American soldiers posted in Hull, his first day on the footplate experiencing a suicide on the rails, derailments and the odd wonderful insight into the everyday life on the railways is a delight. Here is an extract, enjoy.

“For many years after the war a popular Saturday evening entertainment was a dance held at Withernsea, for which a special train was provided, and to which many of East Hull’s young flocked. So as to not fall foul of strict Sunday entertainment laws, the dance ended at 11.55am. By which time many of the young men, fuelled by alcohol, had gained a reputation for some rowdy, but usually good natured, behaviour, often wishing to climb aboard and drive the engine. And whilst the train was in motion, for a bit of fun, frequently pulling the communication cord, bringing the train to a halt. A trick especially prevalent when arriving on the outskirts of Hull. This gave them the opportunity for a short cut home and extended the running time considerably.


One of the perks of the job was free entry to the dance, and whilst I have never learned the pleasure of dancing, I had no intention of missing an evening’s free entertainment. Also tell me, what else is there to do on a Saturday evening in post war Withernsea? To that end, by wearing a clean white shirt, clean blues, and a pair of polished leather shoes, I made myself presentable.

I had a trouble free run to Withernsea with an London Midland Scotland style 4MT and on arrival ran around the train and in preparation for our eventual departure, ran down to Withernsea’s solitary and rather distant water column and filled the tender tank. Whist this engaged I noticed the fireman’s injector water valve leaking half a pipe of water. Jiggling the valve handle failed to cure the defect, and this was to have serious consequences later that night. Returning and coupling to the train I settled the engine down for its long wait by screwing the hand brake hard on. Fixing the reverser in mid gear and opening the cylinder drain taps. At the same time I instructed my fireman, one Porky Upton (so called for his rotund figure) to let the front of the fire to die out, but build a substantial back end, ready to push down and spread before our departure. With our duties fulfilled, the dampers closed and the jet shut off, we left to sample the delights of the nearby dance venue.

Now Porky, unprepared for the dance floor, had come in his stout working boots. And before long was making his mark on the dainty feet of whoever dared to dance with him. Inevitably the supply of girls dried up, and Porky came and sat beside me, complaining of his boots and the damage they were inflicting. I cannot now remember now who’s idea it was, his or mine, but in next to no time he had expropriated my shoes, and though they were several sizes too large, was, not without some difficulty, but with gay abandon, happily steering them around the dance floor.

And so, lost in a world of music and jollification, the evening wore on until by 11pm my thoughts turned to preparing the engine for our return trip. With these thoughts came a memory of the leaking water valve and its drain on the tender tank. In particular I dwelt on the probable long delays inflicted by mischievous passengers on the way home. “Come on Porky”, I called. He was in possession of my own shoes remember, and without them I was helpless. Porky in the meantime, getting on famously with a bit of hot stuff, who in turn seemed to fancy a bit of rough, chose to ignore me, until in the end I had to turn nasty. By which time it was approaching train time. Swapping footwear we dashed to the engine to find it slumbering away with only a half a glass of water, and less than a 100 on the clock. A quick check showed a significant loss from the tender tank, and with the probability of a long delay looming, and a lack of water points between Withernsea and Hull, I decided to ‘lowse off’ and arrange a run down to the water column for a top up. In the meantime Porky, having pushed the back end down and spread it around the grate was, by taking advantage of a tender of good quality hard steam coal, busy shaping up a sound and serviceable fire.

Back on the train I found the Station Master in full uniform, as if to emphasise authority, demanding to know what the delay was about? I had a ready answer in the two delinquents wishing to climb aboard and drive the train. At the same time pointing out neither he nor I knew when we might finally arrive back in Hull, and in those circumstances, every drop was precious. In any case I had decided to leave before the Station Master made further enquiries. It was a bold, and on the face of it a mad insane decision which would put all the passengers at risk. For because a low steam pressure, when I blew the train brakes off, I could only raise three inches of vacuum against a working minimum of eighteen. Leaving me with little or no braking power. To work a train with less than 18 was against the rules, and might seem just about as foolhardy an action as was possible to undertake, and if discovered would surely cost me my job, if not a charge of serious criminal negligence. But as a young man made of stern stuff, I weighed things up with a cold calculating and confident eye. And without further preamble I left.

The return trip had only two booked stops. The first Marfleet, a small urban station on the eastern extremity of the city and then Southcoates Station serving the busy Holderness area. Except on the most congested lines, the most humble of freight trains could expect a clear run through, and I anticipated no less from the signalmen. Giving Porky and myself ample time to raise steam and water levels, and restore full braking power before our first booked stop. And if, as expected, we experienced out of course stops, these would give Porky more breathing space.
Praying the brakes had improved during our stay, I opened the regulator. My luck held, and with a clean bright fire to raise steam quickly, I left Withernsea behind. Before long the fun and games commenced with some joker pulling the communication cord. This occurred several more times between Withernsea and Marfleet. To the accompaniment of raucous laughter and discordant singing, and though this was Sunday, they were definitely not hymns. I made a perilous journey in the dark each time, to identify which tell tale disk was turned, followed by an equally perilous climb to return it to its running position.

Between Marfleet and Southcoates Stations the railway skirted the eastern edge of the city. It was along this stretch that most of the communication cord applications occurred, when the east Hull worthies applied the brakes. Giving them a golden opportunity of a short cut home across the tracks. After a night of high drama, the curtain fell at Southcoates Station. Here a long delay took place, and whilst peering down the dimly lit platform for the ‘Right Away’. I became aware of a young lady, although I use that term with some reservations, being escorted along the platform draped in railway overcoat. It transpired later she had been discovered in a state of undress. Many of her outer garments being thrown willy-nilly out of the carriage window as the train progressed. Whether this was the result of that iconic game strip poker, heavy petting, or a hot flush, remains a mystery. She seemed to take it in good part, so all’s well that ends well.”

Cat flaps, Laptops and Rain – Week 3 : 2021

As my cycling pal, Tim, said ‘You’ve not posted a blog in a while?” “Well Tim, there’s not been a lot to blog about at the moment has there?”

In fact as my first wife commented in all sincerity this morning as she scuttled down the landing – “You’ve got a busy day ahead, there’s a light bulb that needs changing.”

A busy day ahead

Unavoidably we all have to agree that in the UK it is a dreary time being locked down in this wet and very cold weather (if it rains much more I’m going to start gathering animals in pairs.) Even if you do venture out for a walk then all the walkers and dogs have turned paths, over fields, into something resembling the Somme. Cycling is still very important to me but the weather has been treacherous let alone unpleasant. It’s either snow and ice or flooding. In fact it got so difficult to find a way across the various overflowing rivers in North Yorkshire that Anna was called to pick me up during one spin from Pocklington. However by this stage I’d cycled 60 miles and climbed 900m, bear in mind Snowdon is 1,085m high.

Another road impassable in North Yorkshire

In fact, things have got that bad that I was even prepared to answer a long and pointless questionnaire from a Geordie on a dodgy phone line about the exciting (not) Pension Protection Fund. I nearly envied people who worked for a living but thankfully that quickly passed when I realised that now entailed going into your spare bedroom at 8.30am and firing up a computer and only emerging a limited number of times during the day to resolve the need of bodily functions.

Talking of Stupid O’Clock then the cricket is back on as England tour the sub continent. The Sky coverage remains immaculate but the BBC’s Test Match Special on the radio has degenerated into something as trivial as bored housewives chatting on WhatsApp with an occasional mention of what’s happening in the middle. Banal chat includes UK weather (southerners were very excited about snow), various breakfast treats to sustain them through the early hours, had they walked the dog yet? And encouraging the public to Tweet in stupid questions for the scorer eg. when was there last an international century partnership with batsman with the least number of characters in their surnames? ‘Click’’… off.

‘Bants’ with les enfants on WhatsApp

Mrs Ives has various lockdown activities, one of which has necessitated me fitting a lock to the knife drawer: I’m worrying about Anna developing ideas. She’s binging on Scandi Noir from morning to night. Who knew they could make detective series in Iceland or Finland? The regular formula involves a dysfunctional policeman (existing on a secret diet of pharmaceuticals), lots of snow and ice, exclusively operating at night or dusk, clambering over a growing pile of mutilated bodies. All this is understood by subtitles. I breeze in to the lounge thinking it’s the Swedish chefs from The Muppets having a loud argument to find a Volvo driving at high speed toward an empty warehouse, in the dead of night, to rescue a child hostage, a Greta Thunberg lookalike with pigtails, being suspended from a beam just before an elderly lunatic, unsuspected, sub post office mistress intends to lower her into a vat of acid. I turn on my heels.

My search continues around the various TV streaming networks and terrestrial channels for something to watch. Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small is tremendous but was only seven episodes. These were quickly consumed. Call My Agent has had their fourth season uploaded onto Netflix and so not all is lost.

When Anna’s not doing this I am receiving her expert advice. This irritatingly extended to guitar tuning, who knew? To kill some time I dug out an old guitar to reaffirm how hopeless I am at playing it. The first task was to tune it. Despite changing a string I couldn’t tune the bottom E. My electronic tuner just couldn’t hack it and I contemplated buying a new device, to which the ‘font of all knowledge’ casually said ‘there must be an app for doing that’.  Disappointingly she was right. Yet something else I can do with an iPhone.

You hum it and I’ll play it

If you’re house bound then it seems timely to get to those chores you’ve put off forever; I’ve been editing and slimming down my photo library on my PC hard disk. This ran to 23,000 photos and I’m down to just over 19,000 and falling.  The library has documented my cycling trips but the size of the library reflects the benefits of digital photography. That is, you can take a picture of something five times to get the best shot knowing that all you are doing is ‘expending’ megabytes. A more worthy task has been the digging out of an old work laptop and sweeping it of documents and files. I plan to pass it across to a former co-worker who’s a teacher now. He worked in IT and spent some of last year restoring laptops for use schoolwork for children now at home. I know the government’s been chuckling lots of money into resolving this but there are apparently still children without.

Lastly, despite the weather I trust you’ve kept up your vigilance for men in shorts. They still abound in York, although I suspect they’re escaped Geordies breaking lockdown by migrating further south. This unnecessary shank exposure is usually explained by a desire to display a large tattoo they’ve had doodled down their calf and shins. Pray for them.