A very polite dog

A few weeks ago I was helping a younger  family member in a house move. As we all know, the more moves you do, the more stuff you accumulate each time.

I recall my early house moves where it literally all could be done with a few suitcases, some boxes and a hired taxi or minicab for one trip across town.

Then as time progressed this process morphed in to needing somebody with an estate car (that’s station wagon for my North American readers), then fast forward a few years and houses more  and then  it’s small vans, then larger vans and so on!



Anyway this move was at the large van stage…… plus some car loads.  So we did our first trip of about an estimated four more  for the day and soon discovered that parking  at the new house destination was best achieved by unloading at the adjacent leisure centre car park rather than squeezing in to a small parking space immediately outside the property.

So after a tiring day with  four trips done it was time for a quick meal break in the evening  with some  pizza before Ikea furniture re-building! We had soon discovered that Billy the bookcase was not keen on this concept of moving …anyway that’s a tale for another day.

Boxing day

So we just relaxed for this quick meal break and I used the opportunity to look at my phone and check for messages.

I was a little surprised that Google had become aware I was right next to a gym and wanted to know how I rated my visit!!

Thorough and efficient as ever,  she  asked me the same question, three  more times. Did I enjoy my visit and can I write a review? Dare I say it , a bit abrupt in its tone and approach with me…especially as this is just my phone in dialogue with me!

It reminded me though of the opposite situation…our dog in his letter years was becoming a regular visitor to the vet particularly in his latter years for various boosters, dental issues and so on. We had a very kindly, softly spoken a Scottish vet in our Yorkshire veterinary surgery thst we had attended (No, it wasn’t James Herriot, but it was that kind of place).

Tool kit ready

On lifting Geoffrey our dog onto the bench and sticking yet another needle in him and just getting compliance and tolerance from the dog…the vet was heard to comment ” you know, I am sure if Geoffrey could speak, he would be a very polite dog”. So Google….please do take note of how to behave and learn some manners!

Sleeping dog is a happy dog

Dummies guide to?

As I write this, its the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend in most of the UK …..but not Scotland…they are holding out until September for theirs. And theirs is known as the September Weekend…no Marketing consultants or focus groups for naming things required here folks!

Unfortunately, so far it is actually the coldest August Bank Holiday weekend for 20 years according to the weather statisticians. Forget any ideas of picnics, walking in the moors, trips to the sea or al fresco dining of any kind. What the weather did invite however was a trip to our nearby independent bookshop.

Our local town Holmfirth (known to many 40+ year olds in the UK and perhaps beyond, for the Fictional TV Series ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) has a good mix of craft shops, eateries, cafes, independent stores and a recent addition of a small bookshop.

As covered in a previous blog, Bank Holidays are a somewhat curious quirk of the uk and yet another example of our use of the English language using a term that is blindingly obvious to us native speakers, but very confusing to others.

Yes for sure the bank staff get a holiday on these days but so do many other people in industry , commerce, education and government but of course not those in essential services or indeed shop workers who rely in some ways on the rest of us not being at work to give them some added footfall through their shop doors.

So on the subject of shops, back to this one. There is actually not a moments doubt as to what is sold in this shop….. it is books …its called Read. Holmfirth is a tourist destination so even for non native speakers you will know what the offering is here.

Its a great little bookshop with well selected fiction (and many of the books are signed) The only downside is, you may have to queue to get in…its not a huge shop, and with current social distancing rules, if one family enter the store that’s it…until they vacate to make a space for you

It did strike me that actually very few shops in the UK have such a simple and obvious name. We rely on tourism in many parts of this country so why not make things a bit easier for visitors?

Ok, for those of you who are UK residents or at least familiar with the UK High Street you are now reeling off a list of names and brands that provide ‘what it says on the tin’, so as to speak. Yes, I too can think of a few UK examples past and present : ‘eat’ is a chain of outlets that sell …yes, eat in and take away eats; Toys ‘r’ Us, (sadly departed) , ‘Patisserie Valerie‘ (ok, of course Patisserie is a French word, but you get the idea) , The Perfume Shop and so on.

However the ones that may confuse a non native speaker are far more commonplace: ‘Curry’s’ are not a restaurant selling Indian food, but are an electrical goods retailer; ‘Boots’ are a chemist with not a chance of any footwear being on sale other than perhaps a Dr Scholl sandal; ‘Lakeland’ – garden pond accessories? …sorry, its a cookware retailer; ‘Jigsaw’ – not a single children’s puzzle for sale here. You get the idea……

Anyway, this is just nothing compared to what we at least historically named our pubs (and our beer!) …but that’s another story for another blog for another day.

I’m off to the Bulls Head for a Pint of Old Peculiar now……….

A nice mini break, shame about the aliens

This last week we had planned to be in Holland and Germany visiting family. Quarantine rules however meant that trip has had to be postponed so we rather rapidly formulated an alternative of a few days away in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, England.

Like many things that are on your ‘doorstep’ one does just not appreciate them as they are so near and always accessible. We live in the neighbouring but rival county of Yorkshire and are just only an hour or so away. away.

The War of the Roses might have ended in 1485, but as far as many locals are concerned, it might as well still be going on today. Certainly in terms of Sport and pride about who has the finest countryside, notable persons and so on.

The Ribble Valley really has it all. Beautiful countryside, lots of walks and plentiful pubs and tea shops.

Any downsides? None other than we were convinced we were being followed home by Aliens one night as we drove back from dinner at the wonderful Inn at Whitwell.

Strange lights were illuminating the sky and appeared to be chasing us. You may be assuming this was just the effect of too much red wine, but our designated driver consuming only water also experienced the same. Having seen the Northern Lights, I knew it wasn’t that (although it was similar, but only white light, not the wonderful colours of the Aureora Borealis). So we were genuinely mystified.

Fortunately our Air bnb hostess was able to help us as we shared our bizarre experience with her on returning that evening. She too had observed the same one day earlier that week and likewise had the view that aliens were following her home. She did however have the answer once she had shared the experience with local friends. It seemed there was an outdoor music event nearby with a strange lighting system of an array of searchlights that were literally lighting up the clouds above us! So no close encounters of the Third kind!

Voles, holes, bats and hedgehogs

Today, June 1st, is the first day of meteorological summer for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. I am assuming there are other measures of when summer starts, although don’t ask me what they are! I imagine it may be related to the retail world and start when the shops want to sell new school uniforms . So a little guidance towards parents reminding them that their little darling will soon be in need of yet another uniform for the new school year in September!

As I child I used to really enjoy my long summer holiday and hated seeing TV adverts by about week two of that break promoting back to school!

But school and school holidays are a long time ago for me now…

For now I just embrace the seasons! Here in the UK we are experiencing a bit of a heatwave and have just had our driest May on record.

This evening’s sunset over my local reservoir

Now as I mentioned a few weeks ago in this blog, I am avoiding writing specifically on the subject of Covid 19 and the personal impact of it. I do realise many people are impacted but much has already been said and I don’t feel I can add to this.

However one of the side effects of our different way of living is the change to our environment and our human perspective on it and each and everyday I see the impact of this.

Many more of us seem to be embracing nature and finding a new appreciation for what is around us. Some of this is just having our eyes open to what is already there. But there are also scientifically proven reductions in pollution, increased opportunities for wildlife to prosper and present themselves to us at closer quarters than normal.

The humble garden vole has now made a significant comeback in our area to the extent that part of our garden is now criss crossed with numerous moles tunnels closely resembling the Spaghetti Junction motorway interchange in Birmingham. Hedgehogs too are having a good season due to reduced road traffic, but are actually suffering now from water shortages. My last gardening job of the day this evening was to create a semi submerged hedgehog drinking vessel, suitable for hedgehog access but not one it can drown in!

And finally bats…maybe not everyone’s favourite animal…although really it’s just a flying mouse that helpfully eats lots of insects. The bats seem to be thriving too and not needing any human intervention.

Life at the moment is hard and very challenging for many, but for those who can embrace it, nature is giving us all a bit more love at the moment, we just need to open our eyes to what is out there.

The Wheels on the bus go round and round

The wheels on the bus was a very popular song for my children and their generation.In fact it seems equally loved by the next generation , as our our prime minister during electioneering for his current post some 6 months ago decided to do a quick verse of it when visiting a primary school in a vote garnering exercise.

Three important lessons – one: only sing a song if you know the words; two: only sing if you can sing and three: (the relevant bit now) …be careful what you wish for. Boris, did you really want to become Prime Minister? To be fair, he probably thought the worst demons he would have to face would be Brexit (both the remainders and the leavers), angry Northern Ireland Unionists and even more angry Scottish Nationalists.

He most definitely didn’t get the memo saying there would be a pandemic.

Boris actually has quite a history with buses. Being a keen cyclist he got rid of bendy buses when he was mayor of London, and then had a new jump on, jump on bus designed to replace the old iconic routemasters that had the open platforms. Very convenient but not very high on health safety…or warmth.Anyway, back to the wheels on the bus……We live quite near a senior school and we see the school buses trundling by at the beginning and end of each day and it reminds me of my school days…or at least the travel to and from.I was fairly ambivalent about school, not really falling into either camp of ‘best days of my life’ or ‘worst days of my life’, but I did enjoy going on the school bus.The school bus was the place where you caught up with homework on the way there; caught up with the gossip, used it as a taxi service to get you to other places you wanted to be after school such as friends houses, shops or wherever.Homebound it was generally a journey where you let off steam and had fun, be that playing stupid games, flirting (actually, that perhaps also was in the stupid games category) , or even fell in love. I went to a catholic secondary so many of the pupils were from Glasgow’s large Italian community, and being an impressionable 13 year old boy with an eye for the girls, my heart was broken a few times by the blossoming beauties in my midst…but just for the record Francesca, I’ve got over you now!In the UK we don’ t generally have the specific purpose built school buses, normally yellow in colour, that are common place in the US, Canada and some other countries, but would just get any vehicle that a local bus opertor could provide.When I say any vehicle, I really mean that!Somewhat unusually, my secondary school was completely newly and opened with an intake year one and therefore only 1 years worth of pupils initially, we only needed one coach from my local area.The contract was awarded to a ‘one man and dog ‘ operation with an ancient coach, but a very personable driver Henry Crawford (aka the owner of the company).The bus didn’t even have radio, but after Henry learnt the hard way from a few noisy journeys that a radio would drown out the noise of the pupils, he found an old car radio and fitted it to the charabanc.Designed for a car , it needed amplification so he rigged up an old record player loudspeaker in the bus to assist in amplification.As the school added a new intake each year, so did demand for the buses and Henry grew his business to become a sizeable and respected Bus and Coach hire company .Many years later, I remember seeing a sleek, modern, very new , state of the art coach parked on London’s Park Lane opposite the Dorchester Hotel bearing his name….I am sure Henry is no longer with us, but it seems the next generation have really developed the business to a new level.Conversely, my own children have a habit of seeing their school buses in unexpected places. One of the more unusual locations was high up a mountain in the Austrian Alps when it pulled into the car park alongside our car!It is a small world!

I’ll send you a postcard…

At one time sending a postcard was an integral part of the holiday routine.

Smart phones and instant messaging have played a big part in the demise of this activity. Nowadays entire holidays are captured on Instagram and Facebook with intermittent updates also available by text, e-mail or Instant messaging .

It was therefore quite a surprise earlier in the week to have an actual postcard drop through the letterbox. It seems postcards are now specialised enough to be designed for a target audience………….In our house however we don’t do things ‘half measure’ and actually as well as having our in laws dogs whilst they travelled, we took a third dog into our care for some of that time as well. Dogs of this size come rain or shine need and enjoy a lot of exercise.…and yes, for those of you reading this who live in this part of the uk (Yorkshire) will be very aware that some of the last few days have been somewhat wet! Don’t be fooled by these photos I took a week or so back at the start of their visit……Anyway back to the subject of postcards.I am hoping the next one I get reads….’Thanks for looking after the Porshe Cayenne “……I live in hope!

The biggest gift, the lowest price

This is not my first post about Parkrun, and normally I might be a little wary about focussing on this personal interest of mine too frequently ..but for this particular post..I make no apologies.

Parkrun, for those not in the know is a weekly timed run in literally hundreds of locations across the UK and beyond where those of every ability from first timer to experienced athlete can walk or run a 5k timed event in their local park and measure their personal progress week on week. It also has a huge band of volunteers and provides a unique opportunity for particiption and social interaction. Unlike a race which has only one winner, in this event everyone achieves from it.

My local Parkrun in Huddersfield, Yorkshire also from time to time acts as a platform for other organisations to spread the word on what they do. Yesterday my own running club were providing volunteers for the event

and we were joined by a group from Organ Donation who help promote this vital service.

This wasn’t a PR person doing a recruitment campaign..we were honoured to have several people with first hand experience of how life changing organ donation is.

We had the personal story of Lydia Beckett. Lydia shared with us how a literally life changing decision made by somebody else changed her life and that of her family.

Click on the hyperlink highlighted to read her story..but don’t just read it, please commit to being an organ donor and most importantly tell your family. The UK moves to an opt out system from 2020 so this means it is even more important to make your family aware of your wishes to ensure these are fulfilled.

The greatest gift anyone can give is life…I sincerely hope that none of you reading this will end life prematurely….but one day for all of us life will end, and before this happens we can commit ‘at no cost to us’ to give the greatest gift of all when our time is over.

If you only ever share or repost one of my blogs…please make it this one. Not for its artistic style, prose or any such reason, but that this one single action could change somebody’s life. See links to social media at the bottom of the page.

Your action in encouraging others to sign up could change a life. Now how wonderful a thing is that to be able to do today!

Click here for UK info.

I appreciate that many readers are from outside the UK, so please check on the internet for how you can pledge in your country.

Thanks for reading my blog…

Unicorn in a big park……..my kind of art!

Sculpture was never top on my list of things to be excited about on childhood visits to museums and art galleries.

An 18th bronze reproduction of some meaningless person did nothing to excite me or generate a love of this art form.

Well fast forward 40 or more years and it’s a different story. In keeping with the tradition of ‘if you have something good on your doorstep don’t bother visiting it as it will still be there next week ‘, I had still not got around to visting the Yorkshire sculpture park despite it having been in existence for all the time I have lived in ‘God’s own county’.

A recent visit opened my eyes to this place and made me wonder, why never before?

It is 500 acres of magnificent parkland in pleasant rural West Yorkshire. Sheep are grazed on the land and they seem to successfuly co-exist with thousands of daily visitors and quite a few dogs (on leads).

The sculpture and array of other exhibits is amazing and often on a grand scale..at the moment there is a Damien Hurst exhibition on with some truly giant and slightly haunting exhibits.

Some of the images are a little haunting…this image below of the child with polio was a familiar sight in the UK in the 60′ and 70’s. A best intentioned way of trying to raise awareness and collect funds, but even so…maybe not the best approach.

You will find it hard to see everything in one visit. We combined walking in the parkland, enjoying refreshments on the outdoor terrace, and photographing this array of images ..although really you have to be there…!

It’s a definite one to return to repeatedly to see the changing exhibits and I look forward to experiencing it in different seasons. Might substitute the cold drinks with hot chocolate on our forthcoming planned winter visit!

Oh and by the way, it is completely free to visit, just a car park charge.

Just add salt…

The town of Saltaire just north of Bradford in Yorkshire was founded by philanthropist and mill owner Titus Salt.

Salt had mills in the city of Bradford but decided to build a large new textile mill, known as Salts Mill and create an entire model village on the banks of the River Aire, near Shipley.

This allowed him to provide much improved accommodation for his workers away from the slums of the city.

The name Saltaire derived from his name and the name of the local river, the River Aire.

Salt created a village of stone houses for his workers with running water, bath houses and even a hospital and an institute for recreation and education.

The village also had a school for the workers children, allotments for the families to grow fresh vegetables, almshouses and a park.

In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

So what now…rather than just be a preserved relic of past Victorian ideals, Salts has a vibrant new life.

The mill is home to art by way of permanent exhibitions of Yorkshire artist David Hockney’s work, a truly amazing book shop and some other specialised retailers.

This is no ordinary bookshop..on the ground floor of the mill it has a cathedral like feel, grandeur and ambience.

On the higher floor, a more esoteric style where presentation and space is the emphasis.

Every window provides a backdrop of Salts vision..rather than a shopping mall, retail park or mundane high street.

I can’t think of many bookshops adorned with fresh lillies!

Everywhere in the building there is evidence of both Hockney and the original purpose of the building and this just adds to the magic of the place.

Salts mill draws the crowds for its history, the books, the art and even the restaurant and tea shop.

I visit regularly – its a great place on a winter sunday, a rainy summers day or whenever the mood draws you.

If you are visiting West Yorkshire it’s a “must do” visit. A great example of getting preservation just right.

Salts is very alive with many one off events and opportunities to embrace books, music and art in a wonderful setting…oh and yes it’s completely free other than special events.

Sure you have to buy books if you want to take them home..but otherwise it’s there to enjoy!

Why this blog? Click to find out more about me and why I write the blogs

Time for an embrace…take #2

We had dogs visiting and I had time for an early morning walk prior to setting off on a work trip.

Our local reservoir is a mirror of the season and looking in the mirror what I saw was waves on the water whipped up by the stiff breeze, a hint of brown on some of the leaves and a little chill in the air.

Now it’s only August, but here in the UK as we encounter global warming we see a shift with warm weather spells from as early as April or May so in some way it’s no surprise in August to get a hint of the autumn that is waiting for us when we turn the calendar page at the end of the month.

My natural response to this is to bemoan the end of summer but on this walk accompanied by my daughter I was reminded to embrace the seasons for what they are….so true, and indeed we in the UK are fortunate to live in the land of distinct seasons…even though occasionally we experience all four in one day!

Enjoy each day for what it is.

Why this blog? Click to find out what started the blogs!