16 December 2017


I wonder when I will die.

Just the other day as I was strolling through Ecclesall Woods, it occurred to me that eight years have passed since I walked away from my teaching career. It seems like yesterday.

If I project the same number of years into the future I will be 72 years old. But will I even get that far?

My dear father died at the age of 65 - just one year after he had retired and my oldest brother Paul died in his sleep at the age of 62. I have often thought that I will be lucky if I make 70. So it's very possible that I don't have eight years left. One day when I am least expecting it an invisible iron fist will surely squeeze the life out of my heart muscle and I will die.
And linked to these morbid thoughts is the harsh realisation that some of my dreams will never be achieved. I was meant to be a rock and roll singer. I was meant to write a novel that thousands of other people would enjoy. I was meant be a songwriter. I was meant to compile a selection of the poems I have been writing since the age of six and get it published too. I was meant to bounce grandchildren on my knee. I was meant to create great paintings and carve bowls from chestnut wood.

But I have done some things. I have travelled. I have raised a family. I stuck at the teaching grindstone for as long as I could bear it. I have walked over the landscape and taken photographs of wonderful scenes. I have been kind and above all I have been me. Never seeking approbation. Just being myself. I could never follow the flock. Independence runs through me like the name "Scarborough" in a stick of  seaside rock.

For a fellow of 64 I guess I am quite healthy. I don't smoke and I walk regularly. I am not a drunkard or a drug addict. I eat well - maybe too well. Perhaps I could do with losing a stone or two. Perhaps I could make the effort to go swimming once or twice a week. Things like this.

Death is not something that obsesses me. I shall accept it when it happens in the full knowledge that that will be that. There will be nothing else. But still...

I wonder when I will die.

15 December 2017


Do you remember a post I wrote in July titled "Norma"? It concerned an elderly neighbour who had lived on our street since the early nineteen thirties. She's now over in Lancashire living in a residential care home for the elderly not far from her only son's home. This morning I received a surprise Christmas card from her:-

Dear Master Pudding,

It was so kind of you to send me the card of Winnat's Pass and your good wishes hoping I would settle okay at Longridge.

It has taken a long time getting used to being cared for. It will never be home to me but am looked after well although now I have begun to walk again with two sticks. I insist on looking after myself - i.e. washing, dressing, toilet etc.. It has been hard work with the help of the physios but I was determined to walk again and have managed it!

I see my son every day so that is nice and he has been a wonderful help. Had a time in Preston Hospital but now apart from having to run to the loo a lot I am much better. Of course at 92 body parts start wearing out.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and hope that 2018 will be a happy year for you all.

Again thanking you for the card and good wishes.

Fondest regards,

In the unlikely event that I ever reach the ripe old age of 92, I hope that my mind functions as clearly as Norma's still does. I plan to send her some questions that will tease out her earliest memories of this Sheffield suburb. I know that when she moved here at the age of just four, nobody on our road owned a car and milk and coal were delivered by horse and cart. She has seen a hell of a lot of changes in her long life and I think she will enjoy my planned task.

14 December 2017


He shuffled into the Oxfam shop. Lean, with bloodshot eyes and a salt and pepper beard, he was well wrapped up but I recognised him as the homeless man who is often seen sitting on his haunches outside the bank at Hunter's Bar roundabout. Before the Conservative Party took a hold of  this great nation's government we never saw any homeless people in south west Sheffield which has always been a pretty affluent area.

I was adding more books to the shelves. He came into the heart of the shop and asked me a question. "Av ye gorreny ******?" The last word was lost on me. I thought he was saying "clothes".

"Yes sir. Over here. We've got shirts, jumpers, trousers, jackets. What are you looking for?"
I could smell stale alcohol on his breath.

"No, not ******, I want ******!"

And then I thought he was saying "cloves", imagining that he was planning to make mulled wine. It seemed unlikely but I said "I think you'll be able to get some cloves in Sainsburys - just up the road!"

"No, not ******, I want ******! Dunt anybody speak Inglish in ere?" he slurred. "Spect  you can all talk African. I want ******!"

And then a female customer piped up with, "I think he's saying gloves!"

The homeless man was relieved. "Yeah! Yeah! ****** (gloves). That's what I want but they av to be real cheap. Bout a quid. Me 'ands are that cold and I brock this 'un in the summer. I can't feel it."

I looked in the basket where gloves are normally displayed but there weren't any. I apologised and he went on his way probably thinking he'd just been talking to a moron. Perhaps I should get my hearing checked. In the meantime I am going to see if I can find him some old gloves and take them down to Hunters Bar as an early Christmas gift. He'll probably say "No! Not ******! I wanted ******!"

13 December 2017


Here's a story for you to continue...

Once upon a time a beautiful couple were married in a beautiful church. After their beautiful honeymoon in a beautiful country faraway, they moved into a beautiful house on the edge of beautiful countryside.

They lived a beautiful life. He had a fantastic job - often jetting first class around the world and she was a beautician with her own thriving business. They made lots of friends and were very popular in the local community.

With the passage of time they had two beautiful children. The baby boy was called Adonis and the little girl was called Bella. They were both healthy, happy and clever – just like their beautiful parents.

The years continued to hurry by and the beautiful couple’s love for each other matured like a good French wine. They never argued and they were besotted by their beautiful offspring. Adonis achieved four A starred grades in his A levels and won a place at Cambridge. Bella was already studying medicine at University College London.

The beautiful couple felt truly blessed. Life could not have been better. All was so wonderful until….

You can either write the next paragraph or provide a thumbnail sketch of where you see the story going.

12 December 2017


Less than two miles from this house there's an area of ancient woodland known as Ecclesall Woods. It covers 350 acres. Nothing has ever been built here apart from a couple of charcoal burners' huts but the woods have been "managed" since the middle ages.

I have walked there many times. It's very nice to see those woods in bluebell time which is usually in early May, But yesterday it was equally lovely to walk there as snow had turned the entire area into a winter wonderland.

Some people were out and about exercising their dogs. I said hello to one woman who had no less than seven dogs in tow and for some reason she replied with "Hello my love" but I couldn't remember any previous encounters with her so I was a little puzzled. Perhaps she says "Hello my love" to everyone she meets.

I snapped twenty photographs or more - trying to capture the essence of  such a beautiful winter's day. The picture at the top of this post was the best I could come up with. Those two faraway figures really make the composition in my view. Without them there would be no focus and no hint of a story. They also provide a sense of scale. Yes - I am pretty happy with that image.

11 December 2017


Beau and Peep
Last evening in "Blue Planet II", David Attenborough told us about the effects of global warming upon our oceans. However, here in South Yorkshire we appear to be suffering from global freezing. 

There's snow on the ground and the weather people have painted their map icy blue. Brrrrr! Last night I almost slipped on my arse as I walked down to the pub for a drink and a chat with Old Bert. He's eighty one and has a cheerful, upbeat attitude to life. He can remember wartime London quite vividly and also his two years of National Service in the mid-fifties. They sent him to a godforsaken army base at Warcup in Westmorland but he remembers that time with his usual cheeriness.
Apple hollowed out by blackbirds
This morning, the tarmacadam on our north-facing  road looks surprisingly clear and I can see that a gritting lorry must have spread salt on it in the middle of the night. In our back garden, blackbirds peck at the apples we have cut open for them. Meanwhile our pet sheep - Beau and Peep continue to shiver in the snow.

Yes folks. It's wintertime.  The sun is meant to burst forth in an hour or two to illuminate the whitened suburbs of this city so later on I might clear the snow from Clint's windows and drive over to Ecclesall Woods for a slippery walk and some wintry  photo snapping. We'll see.
Our house from the back garden

10 December 2017


Dear Charlotte,

I am writing with regard to an unpleasant discovery I made after returning from shopping at Waitrose last night. Namely - I had lost my wallet for the first time in my life. Panic stations set in. 

As my wife phoned Waitrose, I sped back to the store which had just closed. I searched the car park and trolley area to no avail and then a night worker at the staff door said he would ask inside the shop about the wallet. Two female workers came out to speak to me saying they had had a good look round but hadn't found it.

I went back home most anxious about the whereabouts of the wallet and associated inconvenience. Half an hour later, my wife's mobile phone rang. It was your night shift manager - Andy Beaver. He had found the wallet and if I returned to the shop he would hand it over. Apparently, he had spotted it on a side bench near the checkout area.

When I got back to the store, I attempted to give Andy a £10 note as a reward but he would not take it in spite of my insistence. I told him that I would be writing to you to sing his praises and to thank him for his honesty, kindness and prompt customer service.

Sometimes people might imagine that the world is filled with dishonest, self-seeking folk but it isn't. Most people are like Andy Beaver - decent, hard-working, kind and very willing to help others. Please pass on my sincere thanks to him.

Yours sincerely,
Yorkshire Pudding (Esquire)
Hi Mr Pudding,

I just wanted to let you know that I have passed on these comments to Andy, his line manager and our branch manager.

Thank you again for your kind words, Andy was very touched.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Warm Regards,
Charlotte Sidebottom
(Deputy Branch Manager)