Monday, 30 November 2020

Feeling restricted.

Nicola Sturgeon says she is not having Christmas dinner indoors with her parents this year. As for us, we spoke to our son yesterday and together decided that he and his wife and daughter will not be travelling north this Christmas. With a vaccine around the corner, it seems silly to risk messing things up.

In this time of restrictions, feeling the world sort of closing in around us, I have been reflecting on a wider, freer world.

I fell in love with foreign languages when I was eleven or twelve, or maybe even before that, when my older sister came home from her first day at secondary school showing off the French that she had learnt. And I could not wait for the chance to do the same. When the time came I was fortunate enough to have a bright young teacher who made it all lively and fun. A year later I changed schools and had the chance to learn Spanish as well. All the interconnectedness intrigued me, the two languages helping each other along as I learnt them. When our Spanish teacher, who by the way was a huge Esperanto fan, found us Rumanian penfriends I discovered that I could also understand bits of Rumanian on the postcards they sent. There was a whole world of interesting stuff out there.

By the time I was in sixth form I found I could read books in foreign languages too. Watching the film “A Bout de Souffle” without subtitles on a poor cine camera screen in the school hall and finding I understood less that 10% of it did not put me off. I knew I could understand people speaking because if I heard French speakers on the bus, for example, I could follow their conversation. Indeed, I was in danger if becoming a serious eavesdropper, staying on the bus beyond my stop to earwig a little more! 

Applying for university, I looked for courses that would give me the maximum time in the countries whose languages I was studying. It was all part of the adventure. I had no special ambition to go and work in those countries but I did want to be able to travel around freely and understand the countries and their people. 

So I find it more that sad that the home secretary, Priti Patel, was moved to tweet her “delight, after many years of campaigning,” that free movement between the EU and Britain would at last end on 31 December. As if this was some great triumph! As this article explains this doesn’t just prevent people from the EU coming and working here, or people from the UK going to work in the EU, but it causes all sorts of problems for people who have married EU citizens. Many of them, probably most of them, have had children, dual-nationality children and most likely bilingual children. If these people with UK passports were to want to return to the UK their spouses might not be able to accompany them. If the children choose to attend a university in the UK, assuming they actually can do so, their parents could probably not resettle and work in the UK to support them. In some cases their dual-nationality children have studied here, married a UK national and had children, children whose grandparents cannot return to the UK if they want to do so. All because of financial restrictions. It’s a great big mess. But Priti Patel is delighted!

We don’t need the virus to prevent travel, we have the Brexit nonsense!

On a lighter note, it seems that certain creatures might not have travel problems. I have never watched “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!” I’ve never understood the appeal of seeing people eating insects and avoiding insect bites. I thought it took place in jungly place but apparently it’s in Wales and they have imported cockroaches, whip scorpions, mealworms and crayfish, not native to the Welsh countryside. And there are fears that some of them may have escaped. TV presenter Chris Packham said: “If any of these species were to naturalise, we could have severe problems. And we do have a history in this country of invasive species which have caused enormous ecological damage.” 

Modern problems!

Today is dull and grey again. I managed not to get wet, however, when I ran round the village this morning, but it’s raining again now. Today might see no adventuring. Yesterday we ventured up the hill towards Dobcross, only to find that someone had stolen the view.  

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Fact or fiction? Documentary or drama? A bit of a rant!

 It seems that there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on because some people think (or some people think that some people think) that The Crown is a kind of documentary about the royal family. Not a scripted story at all. There are suggestions that Netflix should put out some kind of announcement to let viewers know that this is a fictional series, based on real events but with the gaps in the story line, the bits that went on behind closed door, made up to keep things moving along nicely. Just as films involving animals have a disclaimer: “No animals were hurt in the making of this movie”, so films and series based on real life people and events should have a disclaimer: “No attempt has been made to show the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. 

I’ve not seen any of it so I am going on hearsay but I understand that the Diana storyline is a little biased in her favour - innocent young girl exploited by older man - or at least that’s one of the things that some of the controversy is about. But, hey, not even the television and radio news or the printed media can be said to be truly unbiased nowadays!

As I said, I have not seen any of it. Not the earlier series, nor this latest one. I am told that the acting is very good, the sets and costumes lavish and full of verisimilitude, but I know the story, I lived through it, and I don’t need to relive it. I am surprised whenever I find out that someone of my age is watching it, but surely they know that it’s not a documentary! No, I think the worry is that younger people, who may not even have been born when the Charles and Diana story began, might be convinced that the royal family are a collection of selfish, manipulative, exploitative rich people who like to get their own way. Well, it is supposed to based on the truth!

No, I am sure the royal family has a sense of duty to the country and that they do good works, some of them anyway. The fact remains, however, that they are rich people who almost certainly are used to getting their own way. And until very recent times naive young girls from noble have been married off to older princes to cement political ties. That’s the way it worked when we had absolute monarchs. At “lower” levels of society it happened to cement business associations, or to ensure that stately homes were maintained. That’s just the way it was.

However, I don’t need to watch it on my television set. On the occasion of Charles and Diana getting hitched, we went to a stuff-the-wedding party. We got very annoyed when our daughter’s primary school class spent an afternoon watching the wedding of Andrew Windsor and Sarah Ferguson.  We declined my mother’s invitation go to a party she organised in her garden for the queen’s jubilee -whichever colour it was! And while I am sure Kate Middleton, or Cambridge as I suppose I should call her, takes excellent photos of her children, I am not terribly interested in seeing them. 

Okay, that’s a little rant almost over. One last point: of course, a fuss about this is another way to take our minds off Coronavirus tiers, what’s going to happen about Christmas, the whole Brexit debacle and the price of the weekly shop going up!

There we are! 

So here’s something else. This article asks if Gavin Williamson is the worst education secretary ever. My first reaction is to shout out: Don’t forget Gove! And Stella Morris! And Margaret Thatcher! The opening paragraph, as far as I am concerned, sets out part of the education secretary problem:-

“Since 1900, 44 men and nine women have had charge of English education. They included one duke, two marquesses, two earls, two viscounts and three hereditary baronets. Eight were old Etonians; four were old Harrovians; 10 went to state schools but only two, including Gavin Williamson, the present incumbent, to comprehensives. Only four had ever been schoolteachers; about twice as many were barristers. One (you know who) went on to be prime minister.”

Too few of them had any experience of ordinary state schools! Mind you the same sort of criticism could be levelled at the appointments for health secretary - how many of them have been doctors or nurses? - and other such posts. 

And Williamson has had a pretty poor deal, coping with schools in a time of pandemic restrictions. This does not stop us, I hasten to add, from throwing our hands up in horror whenever we hear him speak about education, or indeed just hear his name mentioned.

That’s another, shorter, rant out of the way. 

Today is another dull day. Like yesterday, I think adventures will be limited to a brisk walk round the village. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 28 November 2020

What a difference a day makes! Adventuring. Being best mates. New walking routes.

Today is damp and chilly. It was not too bad first thing when I went out running but it has gone seriously downhill since then. It’s a good job we went adventuring yesterday, which was bright and crisp, as today is one of those days when really you feel like going back to bed to curl up with a good book.

In the crisp and bright weather of yesterday we had another family adventure, another Diggle Chippy Hike, with my brother-in-law, our daughter and her two small people. The four year old had apparently decided that I was her best friend again. On the last few adventures she has been rather shy, possibly as a result of having been asleep in the car just before reaching our house and waking up on the wrong side of the carseat, possibly as a result of simply not spending enough quality time with us over the last few months; going out for walks is not quite the same as being together indoors. And so maybe we bonded anew when she spent Wednesday morning at our house. Whatever the reason, I was her mate again and she prattled away to me as we walked the few miles to Diggle. She is a good little stomper. And now I know all about Poison Ivy, a cartoon character not the plant, and her companion Giganter, and how they acquired their names and their super powers. 

I also found out how she plans to have her hair cut, when she is grown up, when she is (counts on fingers) one - two - three - four - five, yes, when she is five! They grow up fast these days. When she is five she will have a asymmetrical cut (not the terminology she used - she explained it to me with lots of gestures) and she will have blue highlights! Hmm! They DO grow up fast these days!  I checked with her mother later and she has had the same description of the desired haircut. At the moment the child has very long, glossy, dark hair. There might well be a fight about cutting it short! We suspect this haircut plan is the consequence of having older sisters who both dye their hair odd colours. And then, one of the sisters has a “hairstyle” app on her iPad, which the small fashionista likes to look at with her! Such is modern life!

After we had eaten our fish and chips by the duckpond, throwing occasional scraps to a very tame robin, we spent a little while in a nearby playground - all except for Phil who decided he did not want to hang around but set off for home, ostensibly to put the coffee on! One of our neighbours was walking past as we were in the playground. Like us, she walks miles and miles around the area. She suggested an alternative route home for us, up a lane opposite the chippy and eventually bringing us into the centre of Dobcross village. Phil told us later that he too had walked that way and knew it of old, but I had no memory of ever walking that way. How nice, to discover a new place to wander, seeing the same views from a different perspective!



I doubt that we’ll venture as far afield today in the gloomy damp but we shall see. Maybe things will brighten up a little.

We have just received our first Christmas card! Is it time I started to get organised? 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 27 November 2020

Traditional activities?

A young friend of mine, a former student, has been complaining about the Christmas songs being played in the office where he works. I thought it was just shop assistants who had to put up with non-stop Christmas songs in the weeks leading up to Christmas. But apparently office workers have to suffer it as well. In the last college where I worked it wasn’t the songs but the tins of Cadbury’s Roses and other such chocolates that got to me. Day after relentless day they appeared and were emptied. Loads of sensible teachers with no willpower moaning about putting on weight. I took to avoiding the staffroom as much as possible.

In this strange year all the humbug is self imposed as people put their trees and Christmas lights up early. And eat their Cadbury’s Roses at home. Here’s a little something from an article about it: 

“Across the country, artificial trees are being brought down from lofts, and tinsel and lights are being untangled. “We decided to start now. Let’s bring in that magic, that joy, that hope into the house as early as possible,” says Natalie Miller-Snell, a personal and business coach, whose house now has two trees, as well as other decorations, including stockings by the fireplace and a festive display in the bathroom”.

“A FESTIVE DISPLAY IN THE BATHROOM”? What’s that all about? Who puts Christmas decorations in the bathroom? Mind you, having said that, I expect that somewhere you can buy loo roll with holly leaves and red-nosed reindeer printed on them. I’ve already seen festive face masks, child sized apparently, perhaps intended for when children see the grandparents they are still being told not to hug.

In another article, on the best film villains this time, I found this:

“The Sheriff of Nottingham

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

For pure thespy, campy naughtiness, Alan Rickman excelled himself as the heartless Sheriff of Nottingham, livid at the altruistic thievery of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. He rages: “Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!””

Maybe that’s what we should do: call off Christmas ... or at least postpone it. 

Actually I am quite prepared to let it go ahead in reduced form. And there is a sneaky bit of me that will miss the last minute rush around the shops with my daughter as she tries to do all the stuff that work has prevented her from accomplishing to meet her own self-imposed Christmas traditions. And, yes, it would be very nice to get all the family round the table for a Christmas dinner! We shall see!

Thinking of traditions, here’s something else:

“The National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday named Alys Tomlinson as winner of the 2020 Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize. She wins £15,000.

Tomlinson, frustrated at not being able to travel for work, decided over the summer to take pictures of local teenagers whose proms were cancelled. She persuaded them to dress up in what they would have worn and photographed them in their back gardens or local parks.

She titled the series Lost Summer. “I feel that there is a vulnerability and sadness to the portraits, but also a resilience,” Tomlinson said.

“The school year ended abruptly, with no opportunity to say goodbye to friends and nothing to mark the occasion of leaving school. I wanted to photograph each teenager framed by nature, merging their inner and outer worlds.

“There is a quietness to the images and they represent a loss and longing, but also celebrate each teenager as an individual, navigating this extraordinary time.””

Now, while I can understand the feeling that this year’s school leavers had their school career ended very abruptly and without a chance to say goodbye to that part of their lives. But I can also remember a time when all we did to mark the end of school was run round with an autograph book, collecting autographs, and if we were lucky some clever and entertaining comments, from classmates and teachers we might not see again. I can also remember less than 30 years ago, indeed maybe only 25 years ago, when a young colleague at the college I then worked at suggesting we should organise a “prom” for our upper sixth leavers. It was something we had heard about from America, something from songs about “day dream believers and homecoming queens”. Nobody had done it before in our country, or at least not in our bit of England. Universities had balls and schools had discos, but the discos were a Christmas thing. 

We were on the the social committee and had organised social events for staff, the Christmas “do” and other such get togethers. We had also organised similar “do”s for students - really a glorified disco. What my young colleague wanted now was for the girls to be persuaded to wear formal evening dresses and the boys to turn up in tuxedos. Something special and different. And the kids went for it in a big way. They were 18 years old and excitable. We didn’t have a homecoming queen but we had awards. Teachers nominated students for various achievements, some serious, some less so. Students also nominated staff for awards. 

It worked like a charm and it became our college tradition. We like to think we were the first but within a few years everyone was doing it. Then high schools started doing it for their sixteen year old leavers. And now even primary schools refer to their leavers’ parties as “proms”. But then, even nursery schools have “graduation” ceremonies, with tiny people in mortar boards. 

Thus are new traditions started. And I am about to turn into an old misery-guts, like Scrooge or the Sheriff of Nottingham, and say it’s all happening too soon. What will they have to grow up into? But hey, I do keep harking back a simpler time when life was less complicated. Things have to move on.

Life goes on.  Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 26 November 2020

What happened to Wednesday? Lifting lockdown ... or maybe not so much!

Well, my Wednesday got a little muddled yesterday. Our daughter has some childcare problems on a Wednesday. The nursery has no room for her small people - fully booked! As a rule this is not really a problem as her partner is able to arrange his work schedule so that he has Wednesday morning free. Every once in a while, though, he has to work on Wednesday morning. As his work involves a lot of time spent on the telephone or online, looking after two small people becomes difficult, if not impossible. 

Yes, I know some people will turn around and give examples of the many working from home folk who manage to juggle childcare around that. And yes, I know that many of them are women, some of them single mothers. And yes, I acknowledge that they are doing a fabulous job of multi-tasking. But it doesn’t work for everyone.

So every once in a while the small people spend Wednesday morning here. And it’s nice to see them indoors for a change. I get up an hour earlier than usual and organise myself to entertain them. Mostly craft activities yesterday! Apart from a prolonged period of broken-hearted crying from the smallest  of the two, who has not had chance to get used to being in our house with all the restrictions that have come and gone since he was about six months old, all mostly went messily well.

Now, on a Wednesday I usually cycle to the market on Uppermill. Well, that was a no-go. The weather promised to be reasonable so a mid-morning walk to the market was not out of the question: smallest person in the buggy, second smallest mostly trotting along and occasionally hitching a lift on the “buggy board”. Mummy could meet us at lunchtime for a picnic in the park. The weather let us down! Rain, and rain, and rain until until lunchtime. So no market trip yesterday.

In the midst of all this rather well-organised chaos my replacement iPad was delivered. Hurrah! So later in the day we spent some time, with assistance from our daughter, making sure that all my stuff was transferred from the old and unreliable machine to the new one. 

At one point our daughter suggested that sometimes iPad charger ports get dusty and that a puff of air in the port could be the reason for my old machine’s failure to charge. That did not explain why it could tell me it was empty one moment but fully charged the next, only to be without charge five minutes later. However, we had a try at artificial respiration for iPads and, lo and behold, it charged! This facilitated the transfer of stuff from old machine to new. But just in case it proved to be fickle once again, we got on with the transfer as quickly as possible and here I am, re-established!

Maybe, when all this isolation business is over, we’ll consider taking the old machine to an Apple shop to see if an overhaul is any use. No doubt someone in the family can make use of a refurbished machine!

Will the isolation be over soon? Well, the messages are still mixed. I stood in a queue outside the baker’s shop in Uppermill this morning, earwigging on other people’s conversation. (I had transferred my Uppermill trip to this morning - no market but the good Italian green grocery and the deli were available. Not to mention the bakery, although I had to stand in a longer queue than usual as it was almost lunchtime and local workers were queueing to buy bacon sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches and pies and pasties!) One queueing lady was reading news out loud from her phone: remote areas like Cornwall and the islands off Scotland were going back into tier 1 - almost no restrictions - various places, including London and Liverpool, were going into tier 2 - no indoor mingling - and a lot of places were remaining in tier 3 - more or less still in lockdown! And Greater Manchester? At that point it was not in any list at all. 

We joked that they might be inventing a tier 4 or 5 for us. Or maybe they planned to build a wall round Greater Manchester and leave us to fend for ourselves, like the village of Eyam during the plague. Some time in the future a new “ring a ring of roses” nursery rhyme would be written about us. 

Then it was my turn to go into the shop and the conversation was over!

We remain in tier 3. It’s official. I heard it on the radio. Plus ça change and all that sort of thing. Lots of people on social media have been saying that Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, is being punished for being an awkward so-and-so, especially as Liverpool is now in tier 2. However, we do still have a very high infection rate. Once again I say, plus ça change!

I understand it’s all up for review in a couple of weeks. We shall see. In the meantime ...

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Christmas trees. Lights. Pubs and cafes. A bit of nostalgia.

Suddenly the village is full of Christmas trees. Every shop and every place that used to be a shop (too many of them!) and is now a house, every pub and every place that used to be a pub and is now a set of offices for rent has a small tree pinned to the wall on the upper level. Some are already lit up. Others wait to be decorated.


For the last I'm-not-sure-how-many years, this installation of trees has taken place at the end of November, waiting for the "Light up Delph" ceremony in early December. Usually this involves crowds of people filling the village centre, waiting for the a-a-a-h-h!! moment when everything is switched on. Traffic is stopped, buses that go through the village are diverted and the place belongs briefly to people with children, seeking magic. And it doesn't really matter if it rains - it usually does. And to finish things, fireworks are set off!


I don't think it's going to happen like that this year but slowly, slowly the decorations are going up, the lights are being switched on and Christmas of sorts is going to happen.


"Light up Delph" is one of those occasions, like the Whit Friday Band Contest (which didn't happen either this year) that give the village centre pubs a boost. No boost this year. When we first moved to Delph, a rather frightening 45 or so years ago, there were at least six drinking establishments in the village: the White Lion, the Rose and Crown, the Swan, the Band Club, the Bull, the Old Bell, and on the edge, the Cricket and Bowling Club. I was about to comment on the demise of many of these but it's not actually true. Some may have reduced hours but only one, the Rose and Crown, has in fact changed into a set of offices for rent. And what used to be an actual bank has turned into The Bank, a supposedly trendy wine bar. Whether they all, or indeed any of them, will survive into 2021 is a different story.


What used to be Edna's Cafe has now become Crumbles. Back in March, when we returned from Spain just in time not to be locked down there in a small flat, Edna's Cafe was closed "for bereavement". And I never discovered whether it was frail-looking Edna heself, a lady I used to chat to as she sunned herself outside the cafe, or Edna's partner/husband(?), a gentleman who regaled me with stories of his travels to Spain as some kind of salesman, who had passed away. Suddenly we were restricted as to how many people at a time could go into the co-op store and somehow gossip about Edna's Cafe got lost along the way.


The cafe serves as a community craft shop as well. A group of local artists meet there to paint. Other people make items to sell in the shop. I investigated joining in but my to-and-fro between here and Galicia life style got in the way, Maybe some time in the future when/if life gets back to normal.


Anyway, the cafe/craft shop remained closed. Life there, like elsewhere, was put on hold. And then, when we were able to a limited number of things once again, it reopened as "Crumbles", with an old treadle sewing machine on display and what look like dressmakers' dummies bedecked with home-made aprons for decoration in the side windows. The front craft-shop area remained the same-old same-old. Just as they were getting going nicely Greater Manchester went into renewed restrictions. Then came "tiers" and Greater Manchester was in tier 3. And finally there was national lockdown mark 2.


And yet, they seem to keep going with take-aways; take-away bread to order, take-away cakes and pies, take-away coffees and teas. And one morning I came across a group of people, nodding acquaintances of mine, sitting, socially distanced after a fashion, on the wall opposite the side entrance to the cafe, eating sausage and bacon sandwiches and drinking cups of coffee. Take-away breakfast! They said they do this regularly, keeping a local place going. And I hear of other similar places here and there over the collection of villages that make up Saddleworth.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 23 November 2020

There were frost patterns on the skylight windows this morning. On the outside, I hasten to add. None of that 50s 60s childhood nonsense of frost patterns crawling up the inside of the window panes! But there were frost pattern nonetheless. And there was frost on the grass and on the rooftops when I went out for a run first thing. The mud puddles had a slight "skin" of ice, not enough to be properly frozen but wrinkled like a pan of milk when it's heating up.



There was also mist over towards Marsden but otherwise it was a fine morning here in Delph. 



We wait for an announcement from our prime minister later today about what will happen when the current period of lockdown comes to an end. There are hints of a continued but stricter regime of tiers. What tier will our place fall into? Oldham's infection rates are still frighteningly high but seem to falling noticeably every day. Yesterday I saw pictures of Oldham's B & Q hardware stored crammed full of DIY people, or maybe people just looking for an excuse for a day out. They didn't seem bothered by lockdown. This provoked debate on social media about whether hardware stores should be open. Are they essential? The daughter of a friend of mine, a good and loyal civil servant (the daughter, that is), explained to her mother just why hardware stores must stay open because all sortsof household emergencies can come up. Yes! That would explain the crowds!


I have been reading Don Delillo's strange, and huge, novel "Underworld". It switches time frames all the time. The current chapter is back in the 1950s and describes a school scene. Now I knew that American school children had to go through practice drills for what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. What I didn't know was that they also wore dog tags so that children who were lost, maimed, killed in an atomic attack could be identified. Boy, did they take it seriously! Pearl Harbour really shook them up, didn't it? Otherwise they were never invaded, unlkess of course you take the First Nations' point of view, in which case they were seriously invaded and taken over long ago.


That's all for now. I am still iPadless and intend to borrow Phil's iPad, formerly known as THE iPad back in the days before I acquired the iPad mini, so that I can read the newspapers, etc. I think I might be going through withdrawal symtoms!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!


Sunday, 22 November 2020

I have always been a bit sneery about people who depend so totally on their mobile phones and other electronic gadgets that they simply cannot imagine doing without them. And then this morning my trusty iPad decided it was going to play up. Basically it was refusing to recharge. First it said it had no charge. And then it claimed to be fully charged. and then it went to no charge again. Uh! Oh! Battery problems! 


And I had a moment of panic. So many things I depend on the iPad to provide for me: the notes programme on which I compose my blog; various other writings I have saved onto the machine; the photos I call up to copy and paint; a pile of recipes - not to mention catching up with news, email and Facebook.


So here I am, having "borrowed" the computer. It's nominally "our" computer but really it's more Phil's as I do most things on my iPad. So just a shortish blogpost today.


Today has been mostly fine and dry for a change, I ran along the still soggy Donkey Line first thing and later, as the sun came out, I suggested a bit of a walk. At that point our daughter phoned and suggested a family "adventure". Of course, as we set off it started to rain, although not for long fortunately. But the sky remained grey and heavy until we got back home again, having visited a rather treacherous Dobcross churchyard - warning: old grave stones are slippery when wet! - for the small people to look down on the neighbouring field of ducks and geese and chickens. So here are some photos.



There were some interesting reflections in Dobcross houses.



The sun always seemed to shine in other, slightly farther off places.



And as we got back to Delph, the blue sky started to return.



Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Playstation. Delivery problems. Scalpers. Being useless at computer games.

Everyone seems to be going crazy about the new Playstation 5, only recently made available to buy. So many people have ordered it that there is a shortage. And now Amazon is investigating increasing reports that consoles have been stolen in transit. As you now get a “ping!” text message to tell you a delivery has been made, some people are getting the message when no delivery has actually taken place. Others receive a delivery, open the box with glee, and then discover it contains some electrical gadget they did not order, or, possibly even worse, it is full of rice! Well, I suppose that means that they have a good contribution to their post-Brexit, post-No-Deal stockpiling but at £450 pounds it’s rather expensive stockpiling!

As well as getting complaints about failure to deliver, Amazon is having to defend itself against accusations about not doing enough to prevent “scalpers”. What are “scalpers”? You may well ask. I did. I looked it up. The only association I made was with Red Indians (they didn’t call them First Nation People when the old films were made) in the old cowboy films. This 21st century version is different.

In the world of finance, I read, “Scalpers enter and exit the financial markets quickly, usually within seconds, using higher levels of leverage to place larger sized trades in the hopes of achieving greater profits from relatively small price changes.” But at a level more common to the rest of us, “scalpers” buy goods en masse, creating a shortage, and sell them on at inflated prices. Some people are re-selling very recently acquired Playstation 5 consoles on eBay or similar for £2,000!!

Another definition informed me that a “scalper” is:

1) A random person selling tickets to an event (sporting games, concerts, etc.) on the side of the road. Usually this person is normal and just trying to sell an extra ticket. 2) Inversely, a scalper is also the term used for a person who is trying to buy a ticket from someone on the side of the road. 

Personally I am not at all affected by this Playstation problem. I am completely hopeless at that kind of activity. My teenage grandson went through a period when he was a bit younger of trying to persuade me to play the FIFA game with him. I was so bad and the football kept going in such random directions that the poor child would fall off his chair laughing! 

I am not alone in this. TV and radio presenter Adrian Chiles wrote about it recently. Having read that playing computer games was good for your mental health, especially during these trying times of lockdown, he asked a friend for advice on a game to help him get started. He had had several goes in the past and had given up. Perhaps this would be different. His new try was no more successful though. His friend gave him advice, helped him along the way, chivied him along but poor Adrian Chiles found it all so frustrating that he decided that playing was BAD for HIS mental health, no matter what the general opinion was about it. 

I am in total agreement. 

I guess I’ll just stick to my normal anti-stress activities: reading, writing, drawing, painting, knitting, going on adventures (aka long walks), finding interesting recipes to try out, and even doing the occasional bit of housework. That’s just a selection. The list is quite endless really! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 20 November 2020

The fickleness of weather. Cycling adventures. The wider world.

Yesterday, in the late morning, we decided we really should go out for a walk and benefit from the continued sunshine, absorb a bit of vitamin D and stretch our legs a little. And off we went. Inevitably, in that fickle way weather has, within minutes of our setting off the clouds rolled in. No rain though, so I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies. 

We returned from our walk, without having absorbed any vitamin D, and made coffee. 

Not more than half an hour later the blue sky and sunshine came back! Typical! Consequently some time later we decided that this might be a good day to cycle to Greenfield and suss out the supermarket situation. Phil needed to put some air in his bike tyres. His pump was playing up and the operation took longer than planned but eventually we set off. Then he almost came a cropper with his front wheel sliding about in a mud-puddle on that approach to the Donkey Line so churned up by local youngsters on their stunt bikes. Time was going by fast. The fates were clearly against. 

We continued along the bridle path, however, Phil complaining about the sogginess and commenting on how bad it was to the numerous walkers we kept having to circumnavigate. Everyone and their grandmother seemed to be out walking their dog or pushing a child in a buggy and saying, “I should have worn my wellies instead of these shoes!” Thank heavens for my really good bicycle bell! It worked beautifully to warn people of our presence, except for the lady with her earbuds in and her music clearly so loud that she was quite oblivious until we were almost on top of her! This is another thing I fail to understand, the need to listen to music and podcasts while out walking - it’s dangerous and you miss all the birdsong ... and you risk being run over by a cyclist, even one with a bell!

On top of everything else, the air was really cold and our fingerless cycling gloves were offering seriously inadequate protection. By the time we reached the end of the Donkey Line we both had frozen fingers. So we weighed up our options. We could continue to Greenfield, freeze our fingers even more thoroughly, maybe have to stand in a queue to get into Tesco, do our bit of shopping and then cycle home, probably in the growing dark. Or we could call it a day, turn round and cycle back along the Donkey Line and go home for a cup of tea. 

The cup of tea won.

But I got a nice photo of the winter sky! 

We now need to seek out and order winter quality cycling gloves and venture out on a supermarket foray another day.

Today is grey and damp again. My early morning run took me round the village, past the millpond. The heron had posted himself on one of the designated fishing spots for the local angling society - for some unfathomable reason called “pegs” - looking for all the world as if he was preventing a human fisherman from using it. And I swear the weatherman promised us if not really warmer than at least less cold conditions today but my phone app tells me it’s 7 degrees and the damp makes it feel chillier. I doubt we’ll go adventuring much more today.

Out in the wider world, Georgia has had a recount and confirmed that they did choose Biden over Trump for POTUS. Maybe Mr Trump will have to accept the fait accompli. Watch this space!

Here in the UK the Labour Party continues to tear itself apart over the Jeremy Corbyn question. My brother -in-law tells me the Welsh branch has just taken a vote of no-confidence in Keir Starmer. What a mess!

The Tories largely manage to stand together. There may be rumblings of dissent but it seems that they are mostly refusing to take notice of rulings about Priti Patel’s bullying of minions. Somehow the right is always better at closing ranks. ‘Twas ever thus!

But, hey! Christmas is coming! There are mince pies on sale in the co-op store! No Christmas songs yet though!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Squelchy runs and walks. Where you can go. Local wildlife. Being a coffee snob.

At six o’ clock this morning it was raining cats and dogs! Hammering down on the roof as if it was preparing for another Noah’s flood. When I went out running at around eight thirty, on the other hand, it was fine and bright, washed clean, sun shining, sky blue! It was very soggy underfoot in places where the leaves had gathered and the approach to the Donkey Line bridle path was a positive quagmire. Throughout the summer local children have ridden their bikes up and down, constructing ramps and obstacle courses and this has contributed to making the surface very messy.

That bit of track goes past an old mill building which was badly damaged in a rather suspicious fire a few years ago - an insurance job? who knows? The owner of the land had already put up barriers across what many of us regarded as an established right of way, declaring it to be private land and denying public access to it. You could still get onto the Donkey Line path but you had to do a detour to circumvent the “private land”, somehow taking a bit of pleasure away from your walk. The barriers didn’t last long. Quietly they were pushed aside and everyone went past old mill building once again. 

I have sometimes wonder if the local horse riders had something to do with the removal of barriers. The alternative access to the Donkey Line, at least from our end, is up a series of wooden steps from the main road. I can’t imagine it would be easy to get your horse to go up those steps. It’s certainly not easy with a baby buggy and not impossible but rather difficult with a bicycle. 

After the fire, fencing of sorts went up around the now ruined mill building, which must be quite dangerous. Nothing more has been done with it. Before the fire it might still have been possible to convert it into flats or offices but now it is just a rather sad mess. Maybe it will be knocked down eventually and something else built there but for the moment it’s a bleak, fire-blackened ruin. And the path that goes past it is a churned up mess of muddy puddles with soggy grassland alongside it. And I doubt that the owner will resurface the path as he does not really want us to use it. A bedraggled “Private Land! No Access!” sign still lies on the ground.

The Donkey Line itself, although squelchy in places, was quite usable, although the puddles in and around the old train tunnels were quite spectacular. Returning home I decided to avoid the muddy quagmire in front if the old mill building and ran along the main road, something I prefer not to do. 


However, serendipity struck and I was rewarded with a view of our regular heron fishing in the river. All good!

Most days we have tea for breakfast. That sentence sounds like nonsense but I know what I mean. We used to have coffee but for some reason decided, a few months ago now, that we were perhaps drinking too much coffee and should start the day with a cup of tea instead. So there it is. Later in the day, end of the morning / start of the afternoon, we stop whatever we are doing and have a “pause-café”, occasionally with a little something, as Winnie the Pooh might say, a toasted tea cake or the like.

Having coffee got me thinking about our various coffee makers. For years and years we have used a moka pot to make our coffee. I have to confess that we are coffee snobs. It must be decades since instant coffee disappeared from our household. My Italian class has been watching clips from a film about Southern Italians going to work in Milan, Benvenuti al Nord, in which the Southerner orders a coffee and is overwhelmed by the range of possibilities offered to him by the Milan waiter. I know just how he feels. Give me a nice straightforward coffee - but well made! 

One year I bought Phil a fancy espresso maker, milk frother and everything, for his birthday but really it was too much fuss and bother. The moka is so easy. I looked up the inventor, an Italian engineer called Alfonso Biatelli in 1933, and  his company still makes the machines today. Our first was a present from my Spanish sister. I swear she got it free with some coffee at her local supermarket. Or maybe it was the other way around: she saw the coffee maker, thought of us, bought it and got some free coffee. Anyway, we now have a selection: teeny, tiny one which makes one tiny espresso, a smallish one, good for two small after dinner coffees, a medium sized one which does for two or three white coffees, four if your really stretch it, and a huge moka which we use when the family comes round - not used much at the moment!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone?

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

At the Wednesday market again. Troublesome politicians. Comics.

The Wednesday market was a much reduced, sorry-looking place this morning. Only the fruit and veg man and the fish-man were there. The slipper seller can’t be there as he is “non-essential” and the cheese and biscuits lady is apparently not well. As she was not there, neither was the lady who sells scarves and face-masks, who I think travels with Mrs Cheese’n’biscuits. In fact I am not sure that scarves and face-masks really count as essentials but she does not seem to have been banned. 


On the other side of the road was a flower and plant stall. Maybe that is allowed to be there as garden centres are allowed to remain open. Usually there are a lot more plant stalls on that side of the road but they too are reduced. From a distance his display looked really bright and colourful on this yet another dull Wednesday. However, when I got closer I could see that the really bright section was all artificial flowers. Do they count as essentials!

Once again I had to go walkabout while waiting for the deli to open at 10. It’s a good job Uppermill has a good park to go walkabout in! And at least it didn’t rain on me. 


Ans once more I was lucky with the weather. The rain began not long after I arrived home.

Leading politicians having problems with their minions continue to be in the news. I read that Donald Trump has just fired the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Why? Seemingly because he wouldn’t back the president’s claims of voter fraud and vouched for the reliability of the election. The language of the headlines to that piece of news is interestingly dramatic, something along the lines of “Christopher Krebs is terminated”. Maybe it’s a consequence of too much Doctor Who in my youth but that word “terminated” always makes me think of Daleks rolling around croaking “exterminate!”

Poor Mr Krebs! Telling the truth does not always serve you well!

I watched a young man telling the truth about the cladding used on Grenfell Towers. He said he watched his bosses fiddle the testing so that the cladding could be passed as safe to use. He was only 23 at the time, in his first job, and thought that this might be standard practice. Maybe he was correct. But it was good to see someone come out and say how things went so tragically wrong.

Then there is the Jeremy Corbyn business - now reinstated in the Labour Party but denied the whip, a decision that is upsetting both sides of things. And on the BBC last night a spokesperson, a Jewish spokesperson, who tried to stand up for Corbyn and explain what he said about numbers of cases was constantly interrupted and even prevented from finishing sentences. So much for balanced reporting.

But to cheer us all up it seems that the Beano comic is producing a pull-out section of their next edition, a section for adults called “BeanOld”. 

“The 82-year-old comic will this week publish its first ever version aimed at grownups with a story that revolves around Sandra and Dennis Sr Menace, parents of Dennis, and the dastardly Wilbur Brown, father of Walter the Softy.

The cast list also includes Captain Tom Moore, Marcus Rashford, Greta Thunberg and, like an adult Dennis and Gnasher, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.” 

I need to find a copy. 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!