25 October 2016


There are some aspects of my life that I like to keep quiet. Not least is the fact that I am a landlord. Not the landlord of "The Red Lion" or "Ye Olde Bull's Head" but a domestic landlord. I achieved this position, not through ambition but by default, when our son departed the city of his birth to live in the den of iniquity we call London. We took over his house.

For the past year the house has been occupied by two young men. They have been perfect tenants - even though they refused to doff their baseball caps to their landlord. They have kept the house nice and tidy and paid their rent on time every month.

Yesterday they reached the end of their tenancy so I went over to check out the house and collect the keys. No problem whatsoever.

One of the young men said he was moving back to his parents' house. Twice he muttered something about a medical procedure for which he'd need a lot of cash.After his third reference I lowered my voice an octave and asked what his problem was. Well, you could have struck me down with a feather when he replied he was hoping to change his gender! In other words, a sex change operation!

Growing up in East Yorkshire, I had never even heard of people opting to change gender and the idea of a sex change operation would have seemed like a notion from some twisted science fiction novel. 

Immediately, I felt a wave of pity for this pleasant and well-mannered young man. Of course all of us want happiness in our lives and need to feel comfortable within our own skins. But is a sex change operation with all of the associated medicines, gradual  physical changes and counselling sessions really going to lead him to the gates of happiness? I very much doubt it. And what will his grandparents think... and his old schoolmates? I rather fear there'll be hell to pay.

Long ago, on my South Pacific island, I taught a teenage boy called Susau. He lived in the westernmost village - Lopta. He had never seen a television or any media images of transvestites or cross-dressers. and I am sure he had never read a word about blurred gender boundaries or ladyboys.

In the school, Susau only mixed with girls. He had a strong and funny personality and was popular with all his classmates. You couldn't miss him. Back in Lopta, he spent much of his time playing with the small children or giggling with the womenfolk while other teenage boys went off into the  bush with machetes or clambered into dugout canoes with fishing spears.

Susau was accepted for who he was. How this latent femininity arose in him, I have no idea but he certainly wasn't imitating anyone else. He was just being Susau.

With our young tenant I cannot say where the drastic notion of a sex change operation came from. Such medical procedures arrived pretty recently in the great span of human history so I think it is worth considering how gender-confused people got on in the past - people like Susau. Surely they learnt to live within the bodies they had been given, allowing their hidden female or male qualities to emerge naturally or suppressing them.

It's hard to know what to think. I just know that my gut reaction was to feel very sorry for the tenant when he broke the news. Poor lad. I hope he finds happiness...one day.

24 October 2016


Welcome to "The Yorkshire Pudding Guide to Blogging", available in all good book shops for only £9.99. Today we will be looking at some technical blogging terms in order to avoid possible future embarrassment during late night conversations about the blogging business.

If you are sitting comfortably, then I shall  begin.
Let us first look at the term "blog". It is an abbreviation of an earlier term, namely "weblog". Twenty years ago, during  the infancy of the internet, a few intrepid users began to create online diaries or "logs". Through the passage of time these "weblogs" often transmogrified into something more interesting than dull diaries of daily happenings and in May 1999 the term "blog" was first coined.

It is an umbrella term for a collection of blogposts that are commonly composed on a regular if not daily basis. Usually a "blog" has just one author. For example "Hiawatha House" is a collection of regular blogposts composed by a charming fellow called Red who resides in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada with his wife - Micro Manager".

But now I can hear you asking - What is a "blogpost"? Okay, I will try to help.

A "blogpost" is a particular entry within a blog. It is normally dated. For example the blogpost you are presently reading is dated October 24th 2016  which is, incidentally, my thirty fifth wedding anniversary.

The important thing is not to confuse the terms "blog" and "blogpost". This is a common mistake. For example, Paul Hudson the lead weather presenter on the BBC Look North early evening local news programme will often announce that he has "made a new blog today". Of course he never has made a new blog - he has in fact "made" or posted a new blogpost. Silly fellow!

So that's it for today folks. Please remember that "blog" and "blogpost" have distinct and different meanings - just like chalk and cheese or Trump and Clinton. In the next chapter of "The Yorkshire Pudding Guide to Blogging" we will be delving even deeper into the forest of technical jargon that surrounds blogging, including "Compose", "Preview" and "Sign Out".  I bet you cannot wait.

23 October 2016


Marjoie was sited at The Kelham Island Museum through the summer
Being a fellow of limited means, I didn't have a cat in hell's chance of buying my wife an elephant on Thursday night. Not a real elephant you understand but a member of the 58 strong and very delightful "Herd of Sheffield" which I have blogged about before.

I did go along to the auction. It was held in The Crucible Theatre - home to World Snooker and many excellent theatrical productions. The event was introduced by BBC sports and morning show presenter Dan Walker who is the patron of Sheffield Children's Hospital Charity. There were two auctioneers - local lass Lucy Crapper ( I swear I have not made the surname up) and Charles Hanson who makes frequent appearances on BBC antiques programmes such as "Bargain Hunt".
Peace Elephant - attracted the lowest bid
The night was very well-organised but it took a long time to get through fifty eight lots and there was an interval in the middle. Successful bids greatly exceeded expectations. The cheapest elephant, one I rather liked,  cost somebody £3500 and the most expensive one - "Marjorie" by local artist Pete McKee went for £22,000. It was named after his late mother and celebrated the hard graft of Sheffield's cohorts of industrial workers - both men and women.

Altogether the auction raised £410,600 - way beyond the target sum and enough to buy the desired Multipurpose Fluoroscopy System. The director of the children's hospital charity said, “Tonight has been an absolutely spectacular finale to the Herd of Sheffield. We really can’t thank everyone enough for their generous bids; we have been overwhelmed by the amount raised and are absolutely delighted the trail will leave a lasting legacy for Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”

When I got home I discovered that a couple who live on our street - just a few doors down bid successfully for an elephant called "Holi". He or she will be delivered in the next few days and cost them £4700. Of course, I am insanely jealous.
Marjorie at Meadowhall
Top Photo of Marjorie.
© Copyright Graham Hogg and licensed for reuse under the "Geograph"Creative Commons Licence.

22 October 2016


Another visit to Houndkirk Moor on the southwestern edge of Sheffield. This time I was heading for Houndkirk Hill where rocks of millstone grit appear through the moorland vegetation. Dark clouds and sunbursts battled for supremacy but the forecast was for a dry afternoon. Over the years I have paid homage to many rocks in the Peak District. Some of them are like natural sculptures and others speak of Bronze Age habitation or historic quarrying activity.

In the changing light, I snapped several photographs up on Houndkirk Hill. Far away I could see rain moving across the landscape so perhaps I should just have returned to "Clint", parked up on Whitelow Lane. But half a mile away to the south I saw another unnamed hill and there were distant rocks that I hadn't seen before so I made my way up there along a sheep track through the dying heather.
On the unnamed hill before the rain
On the way back, the rain came. I was not dressed for it. By the time I reached sleek-silver Clint, my leonine locks were plastered to my skull, my fleece jacket was twice as heavy as normal and my trews needed hanging out to dry. Fortunately no paparazzi were around to create incriminating pictures of this bedraggled beast. 

I came home and stripped off to my red and blue striped M&S underpants, watching "Escape to the Country" with a mug of hot coffee.  What a sexy scene! Good job the BBC hadn't just filmed my own "escape to the country" or even worse, my escape from the country like a drowned rat.
50x camera zoom on The Ox Stones - over a mile away.
Other ramblers are there - no doubt in rain gear.
The depressions in the rock catch pure rainwater
which moorland grouse seek in preference to
brackish and  rather acidic drainage water.

21 October 2016


You are doing something peaceful. Perhaps reading a newspaper, watching "Escape to the Country" on the television or listening to "You and Yours" on Radio 4. And then all of a sudden you are rudely disturbed by the horrible noise of continuous mechanical suction. The vacuum cleaner has been turned on again! Oh no!

It was the same when I was a boy. There I would be happily playing with my Dinky toys on the carpet or buried in "Look and Learn" and our mother would start up the old Hoover. She would come swishing over the carpet with the thing and above the whining din I would hear her commands to move my little cars or lift my legs. I swear that in a slightly malevolent way she loved to observe the discomfiture that was caused by her frequent vacuuming.

In comparison, sweeping brushes are far quieter and more in tune with the human psyche. But a vacuum cleaner - it's like an instrument of aural torture. Over the years, they haven't got any quieter. It seems we can send men to the moon or eradicate smallpox, send Coca Cola to every corner of the planet or develop smartphone technology but we can't produce a silent vacuum cleaner.

If an inventor ever comes up with an efficient, reliable and silent vacuum cleaner, he or she should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. In the meantime I guess we must continue to suppress the annoyance we feel whenever a vacuum cleaner is switched on, waiting for the heavenly feeling that returns when the power is cut.

20 October 2016


Yesterday, London-based CIA agent Steve and The Yorkshire Ambassador to Germany - Frau Meike in Ludwigsburg separately applauded a photograph I snapped in one of the gift shops at Tate Modern. There was a sepia photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe on top of a display case. Through the window behind this piece of shop furniture, I could see St Paul's Cathedral across The River Thames. It seemed as if the artist was also glancing across the river. If she had been facing the opposite way, the picture would not have "worked".

As it happens I took two photographs at the time and I think this one is better...
Miss O'Keeffe seems a little wistful. If a thought bubble was emerging from her skull it might well say, "I don't belong here in Europe. In this bustling human-infested city, looking across this mud-coloured river to Christopher Wren's great cathedral. Take me home to El Rancho de los Brujos, to Abiquiú and Taos, to my white place and my black place, where desert winds whisper and lizards dart across ancient rocks under  skies so pure and blue you might swim there, where the bones of long dead creatures turn white in the desert and days pass slowly like shadows moving across my beloved  hills..."
A view of Pedernal Mountain, New Mexico
where Georgia O'Keeffe's ashes were scattered in 1986

19 October 2016


In photographs she rarely smiles
On  October 8th, I walked through bustling Borough Market then along the south bank of The Thames, passing The Globe Theatre to reach Tate Modern. Once it was Bankside Power Station but the generators within that vast facility ceased their humming in 1981. Thank heavens the powers-that-be behind The Tate Gallery had the vision to realise that Bankside could one day become Britain's premier modern art museum.

There are permanent exhibitions there and if you have ever been sceptical about modern art, Tate Modern will open your eyes. That doesn't mean you will appreciate all artefacts that fall into the extremely broad  and convenient category known as "modern art" but certain prejudices and presumptions will fall away. You will begin to see and perhaps to connect.
Pelvic Series
All summer, Tate Modern has hosted a temporary exhibition of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and I was keen to see it. Georgia O'Keeffe was born into a Wisconsin dairy-farming family in 1887. She died in Santa Fe, New Mexico ninety nine years later. In between she had a passionate, all-consuming love affair with art as she strove to express wonderment and beauty, seeking a world that she sometimes referred to as "The Far Away".

Most of her youth was spent in New York. There she grew as an artist, finding her "voice". She painted evocative pictures of Manhattan's canyons and played with light and shade, always experimenting, forging relationships with other artists, trying to take the next step.

By 1929, when she was in her forties, she found the place where she really belonged - the countryside of New Mexico. It had a harsh and simple beauty with echoes of Native American culture. The mountains changed with the sun's migration and in the desert lands there were more bones than flowers. They lay there bleached white so she gathered them and brought them home to her simple ranch house.
Black Mesa Landscape
She drew with pencil and charcoal. She studied and she painted several subjects over and over again - such as "the white place", "the black place", "the ghost ranch", "the road" and pelvic bones with a dazzling blue sky seen through the holes. Her art was both furious and patient for she was thrilled by the world she witnessed and she never lost her childlike wonder.

At Tate Modern I saw her journey unfolding in thirteen gallery rooms. How I would have loved to be alone there, absorbing that story without distraction but there were other visitors - lots of them from all corners of this planet. I was probably getting in their way too. This wasn't like the stillness and the solitude that Georgia O'Keeffe knew as she carried her easel to secret places in the New Mexico hills.

But it was a remarkable exhibition. Testament not just to a life lived in Art but to our world and to the fundamental delights we might all find within it as we take our own journeys to "The Far Away".
"Ranchos Church New Mexico" (1930 or 31)
I saw her image on some bookcases in the gift shop
with St Paul's Cathedral visible through the window
- on the other side of The River Thames
From the Faraway Nearby (1937)
New York "East River" (1928)