25 May 2017


Yesterday - May 24th - was such a warm and beautiful day here in the north of England. After our evening meal, enjoyed out on our decking, Shirley gathered her sewing materials together and went off to her pattern making class. 

After watching the TV news and weeping about the details of Monday night's innocent murder victims, I jumped in the car and headed out into the countryside - to Higger Tor. It's a rocky plateau that in ancient times was inhabited and used as a defensive position.

Looking east the evening light was warm like honey - colouring trees and rocks alike. Looking west there was a milky mistiness. All of the pictures in this blogpost were taken between 8.30pm and 9pm. In a month we will have reached the longest day.
I saw a group of BMX enthusiasts practising their techniques on the weathered rocks. I also saw a young man with his dog. He kept filming himself and I overheard him reflecting angrily on ISIS, terrorist outrages, the Manchester Arena murders and suchlike. Maybe he didn't realise I was observing him and listening to his animated outpourings. He was a British Muslim.

I just wanted him to shut up and enjoy the peace and the soothing warmth of the evening, instead of filling the air with his endless ill-considered ramblings. The dog looked on, wondering what the hell was happening. I usually feel the same about smartphone use.

24 May 2017


Did you think that poetry was irrelevant? Did you think it was the preserve of ivory tower intellectuals? Did you think it had nothing to say to the people?  Did you think it was just clever words knitted together? Here's Longfella aka Tony Walsh in Albert Square, Manchester yesterday evening....
This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.
Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth
But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.
And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world
And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride
And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delivered it all
Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations
So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.
And this is the place Henry Royce strolled with Rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul
And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance
And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.
And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.
And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. That Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and Greater Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.
And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but they all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets.
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit, and Greater Manchester’s lyrics.
And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.
Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever.
And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.
Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”
Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way.
And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?
Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones.
Because Greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back.
Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester.

23 May 2017


Georgina Callander (18) who was murdered last night. Seen here with
her pop heroine -  Ariana Grande
To devise a jerkin made from explosives and nuts and bolts with a detonator. To walk into the entrance lobby of a concert arena. To see the excited young concertgoers descending the staircase on their way home. To make the electrical connection that would activate the deadly suicide jerkin. To do all this.


What is the point of it? What can it possibly achieve? What does it say about the perpetrator's view of human life, of the world, of other people? Why did he fail to see the obvious truth that such actions are wicked and unforgivable? Why could he not see that if there was such a thing as an all-seeing God, he would massively disapprove of any such evil.


Until last night I had never even heard of Ariana Grande. She is an act that had completely passed me by. This morning  I looked at the lyrics of her songs, perhaps hoping to find a line or a verse that would somehow accidentally or prophetically reflect upon what happened in Manchester last night. Saying something of significance. But all I could find were the usual pop song themes of love lost, love enjoyed or love desired. Innocent shallow stuff. The sort of music that your average fun-seeking teenage girl seems to like.

In a sense that makes the bombing seem all the more cruel. More vile. This wasn't a pre-election political rally. It wasn't even a concert aimed at adults. It was aimed at young teenyboppers. Kids.

You don't need to worry about making me crazy
Cause I'm way past that
And so just call me, if you want me
Cause you got me, and I'll show you how much I want to be
On your Tattooed Heart

R.I.P. Saffie Roussos aged 8.

22 May 2017


Yesterday, Shirley and I drove up to our local garden centre. It's a small business tucked behind the houses at Bents Green. We have been there many times and even though we could buy plants more cheaply elsewhere, we like to support this independent nursery albeit in a small way.

There was a lot of rain on Friday and a fair amount on Saturday too but the land needed it and now there's a feeling in the air that winter has entirely gone. No more frosts. Warm weather is predicted for the days ahead. You sense that this is  the right time for planting.

I have been growing runner beans from seeds in what we still call Frances's bedroom. Yesterday I planted them around their bamboo wigwam. At the garden centre we bought tomato plants, a tray of lollo rossa lettuces and a number of border plants for our flowerbeds.
Up in the vegetable patch, the potatoes are well through and the the pea and broad bean seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago are also starting to peep through the soil. I should have put some courgette seeds in pots a few days ago but only got round to this yesterday afternoon. Hopefully, in ten days time they will also be ready to go in the ground.

After the garden work I made a traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef, new potatoes, cabbage, roasted carrots, beef gravy and of course the piece-de-resistance - Yorkshire puddings. This was happily washed down with our customary glasses of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

Just past 8pm I drove out into the countryside for a little walk and snapped the accompanying photographs near Bamford Edge as the sun sank over the Derbyshire hills.

21 May 2017


Actresses: Ria Zmitrowicz, Molly Windsor and Liv Hill

In the middle of last week I was gripped by the BBC's mini-series: "Three Girls". This was very powerful drama built upon awful real life events in Rochdale, Lancashire. All involved in this series from the actors to the writer, director and production team deserve enormous credit for lifting the curtain on something so dark and terrible.. 

What am I talking about? The sexual exploitation of vulnerable white teenage girls by predatory British Asian men who purport to follow Islam. This was happening in the streets of Rochdale in 2008 and 2009 but it wasn't until 2012 that the main perpetrators were brought to justice.

The girls, and there were many of them, were plied with alcohol and cigarettes as the predators sought to cynically entangle them in an exploitative web of abuse that stretched way beyond Rochdale. The "three girls" in the drama were at the centre of the legal cases that were finally brought to court even though initial complaints had been squashed or ignored by the police and other authorities.

What happened in Rochdale was sickening and cruel but it has happened in other British towns including Oldham, Bradford, Rotherham, Oxford, Telford, Birmingham and Cardiff. Invariably, the paedophile criminals are older men with a Pakistani heritage and always the victims are vulnerable white working class girls. There can be little doubt that the grooming and sexual abuse continues to this day and in the future there will no doubt be yet more extremely tricky cases to unravel.

I cannot begin to imagine what sexual abuse in childhood does to people. The horrible  memories and the emotional scars must be terrible burdens to bear affecting all  future relationships, self-esteem and the very quest for happiness. 

I applaud the BBC for grasping this nettle. Hopefully, "Three Girls" will help in improving awareness of the issues. It goes without saying that the majority of British Asian Muslim men are decent, law-abiding citizens who would not dream of preying upon vulnerable teenage girls. Clearly, they have their part to play in bringing the predators in their communities to justice, demonstrating that there are better ways to live in a country that has given them a new home and the prospect of a better future. Kindness and respect for others and the rule of law are vital in any civilised society.

For fuller details about the Rochdale child sex abuse ring go here.

20 May 2017


"The Bull's Head" but the pub does not exist any more
If you head westwards from The Hope Valley you will travel along the long straight road that clings to Rushup Edge and then after four miles you will arrive in a small Derbyshire town called Chapel-en-le-Frith - population circa 8,800.
The old stocks in Chapel marketplace
Chapel-en-le-Frith is a very odd name. It dates back to Norman times when that area of Derbyshire was a vast hunting ground owned by the Norman nobility. In the twelfth century, permission was given for a small chapel to be built within the forest in the very place where the little town now stands. In fact "en-le-Frith" means "in the Forest".
Thomas Becket church, Chapel-en-le-Frith. On this site
the original chapel once stood.
On Thursday, I mooched around the place and ate a small portion of fish and chips in the Chapel Chippy. As my right knee was feeling quite comfortable I walked out of the town along a lane for a mile and a half to Eccles Pike which overlooks both Chapel-en-le-Frith and nearby Chinley. Then I walked back. Sadly, on Friday my knee complained about the previous day's exercise and the limping returned.
I met a grizzled farmer on the road to Eccles Pike and we chatted for a while. He described his anger about local dogwalkers who have allowed their animals to defecate on his land. Their faeces have infected several of his cows with neosporosis triggering several spontaneous abortions and the associated loss of income. That's why he had bedecked one of his gateways with a warning banner - close to the point where a public footpath crosses his land.

19 May 2017


It's Friday but I mustn't let Monday go. Gotta nail it before the memory dissolves and other things take over like the impeachment of Donald Trump and Theresa May's vicarage sex scandal..

Shirley and I went to the theatre. In fact we went to "The Lyceum" in the centre of our adopted city. It is a beautiful and typical old Victorian theatre that has been restored to its former glory - complete with dress circle, upper circle, boxes and plenty of gilded plaster adornment.

But surprisingly, we weren't there to study the architecture. We were there to see a performance of  "The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time" based on the novel by Mark Haddon.

The stage had been turned into a kind of giant black and white electronic cube and it was in this that we examined the tortured life of young Christopher Boone played brilliantly and empathetically by Scott Reid. Christopher suffers from Asperger's syndrome and attends a special school even though he is mathematically gifted.

When he discovers that it was his father who had killed next door's dog - Wellington - with a garden fork, he decides to travel from his home in Swindon to London to seek out his estranged mother. You can imagine how challenging that might be for an autistic teenager.

The electronic box set comes into its own and effectively conveys the confusion of this journey - the motion of the train, the thronging crowds, the underground stations flashing by. It is a kind of madness from which a breathless Christopher is ejected on to his mother's doorstep.

Christopher struggles to understand things because the people around him don't see the world his way but he does understand mathematics and when he discovers he has passed A level Maths with flying colours the possibility of a path through the jungle of the future appears clearly in his mind.

The performance was greatly entertaining and in spite of the subject matter often very funny. "The Derbyshire Times" said it was "an intelligent, dazzling, humorous, moving show" and Shirley and I would certainly endorse that summary.