23 January 2018

Celebrity

The pictures that illustrate this post were snipped from Channel 4's "Sunday Brunch". There's our beloved son hobnobbing with celebrity guests such as the comedian Ross Noble and actress Kara Tointon - both very well-known to British TV viewers.
Ian and Henry had spent the previous day preparing a series of vegan desserts ready to transport to the Channel 4 studios early on Sunday morning. Apparently, one of the production team managed to knock their entire tray of cupcakes onto the floor minutes before the Bosh! boys went live. Even so their eight minute slot went well and there is every chance that they will be invited back to this programme later in the year.
Now I guess it is just a question of time before tabloid newspaper reporters knock on our door, digging for dirt. I shall send them running for cover with the same curtness I apply to the endless fake telephone callers who interrupt my peace claiming to be representatives of "Talk Talk". Besides, there is no dirt to dig on our lovely son unless you include the time that I was changing his nappy. 

I was distracted by a telephone call and came back to  his changing mat to find that he had stuffed his little paw into a tub of "Sudocrem" and was happily consuming it like Winnie the Pooh filling his face with marmalade. I wonder if "Sudocrem" is vegan-friendly?

22 January 2018

Faces

It occurred to me that I don't know what regular visitors to this blog look like.  Ah-ha, I thought, I can use Google to find pictures of them! Simples! Knowing both first and second names was helpful. Here are some of the results of my "research". It's always nice to put a face to a name.

 Here's Graham Edwards - author of "Eagleton Notes" on his Hebridean estate:-
Here's the famous North Wales blogger and all round good egg - John Gray - creator of "Going Gently":-
This is Jennifer Barlow from Florence, South Carolina - the brains behind "Sparrow Tree Journal":-
 Below there's a picture of Keith Kline - often known as "Red" from "Hiawatha House":-
And here's Lee George, Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year in 2015 and the sassy cat-loving lady behind "Kitchen Connection":-
 This foxy lady is Meike Riley who has just stepped out of her "Mental Library":-
 And here's Long Island socialite and best-selling author Vivian Swift:-
Below you can see Steve Reed whose blog is called "Shadows and Light". He was the Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year in 2016:-
This is my surrogate Colorado sister Donna - also known as "Peace Thyme":-
Unfortunately my research didn't throw up any secret pictures of Robert H. Brague but I found this road in Canton, Pennsylvania where there is a house for sale:-
Finally, here I am:-
LATE ADDITION.... Here's Jenny O who blogs from a remote galaxy called Nova Scotia. She reported an episode of severe pouting when she discovered that her image was missing from this gallery...

21 January 2018

Mistakes

We all make mistakes. In my life I have made many mistakes. I wish I could just swat them away like irritating little flies but my mistakes tend to remain with me. I replay them over and over again, berating myself for my stupidity, for not saying or doing the right thing, for allowing the mistake to happen in the first place.

We cannot help who we are. Someone like me who mulls over mistakes and allows them to upset my equilibrium, I cannot suddenly turn into the kind of human being who brushes mistakes away as if they were just bits of fluff on a jacket.

It's easy to say - just forget it - but if blotting things out is not in your nature then "just forgetting" is not really  an option.

I think of that song by Edith Piaf  - "Je Ne Regrette Rien" ("I Regret Nothing") and I wish that I could be that way - moving on without regrets. It sounds quite blissful but speaking for myself I have many regrets. Small ones and big ones. It is easy to feel haunted  by them as they are replayed in my mind's eye.

How about you? What is your relationship with the mistakes you have made  and the mistakes you continue to make?

20 January 2018

Frustration

The Stanage Road
It has been wintry up here in northern England these past few days. Snow and ice and wind and little sunshine. As a consequence, it hasn't been easy to get out to snap more of my endless photographs.

However, yesterday - with sunshine predicted for midday - I tootled over to Castleton in The Hope Valley and tied Clint up to the railings of the former youth hostel in Market Square. Boots on I was heading for Buxton Road when I saw two pubs beautifully illuminated in the promised sunlight. I had my camera out in a jiffy and was just lining up the shot when wintry clouds dulled the scene before me. Damnation!

The weather forecasters had got it wrong. 
Lone walker on Mam Tor ridge - using a lot of camera zoom
I spent an hour rambling outside Castleton - just up to Winnats Pass and the Treak Cliff Road and then I popped in the Peak Park Visitors Centre where I checked out the museum exhibits and watched a couple of short environmental videos.

Although great photographs can obviously be taken in dull conditions, I prefer the earthly stage before me to be lifted by sunshine that brings out the colours and shadows too. 
Western entrance to Winnats Pass

Sheep and a field barn by Buxton Road
It was frustrating so after checking out the jewellery in a couple of blue john* shops I headed home via North Lees and Stanage Edge. 

Belted Galloway cattle huddled together in a biting wind and the icy road up on the tops was treacherous. However, Clint was being steered by an advanced driver - across the Derbyshire border and back into Yorkshire, Ironically, as I descended the moors, I could see ahead of me that Sheffield was basking in glorious winter light. Perhaps the forecasters had got it right after all.
Belted Galloways
*blue john - a rare form of quartz that is only found in the hills around Castleton. See this link.

19 January 2018

Brunch

This is a shout out to British and British-based bloggers and commenters. Our lovely son Ian will be on Channel 4 TV this coming Sunday. He will be on a chatty magazine programme called "Sunday Brunch" with his Bosh! accomplice Henry. The programme is set in a kitchen environment and they will be preparing at least one vegan dessert for the hosts and perhaps the other guests to enjoy.

It is a live show and  it commences at 9.30am on Sunday morning.

This TV appearance is all part of  Ian and Henry's drive to bolster forthcoming book sales. All being well, their Bosh! cookbook will hit the bookshops and Amazon's online store in mid-April of this year.

If you have the opportunity to do so, please watch "Sunday Brunch" on January 21st. And remember you don't have to be a vegan to enjoy vegan dishes.

18 January 2018

Billboards

Frances McDormand as Mildred
One of the films of the moment is the oddly titled "Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri" written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Shirley and I went to see it on Tuesday afternoon.

Starring Frances McDormand as Mildred, the film is set in small town America where everybody knows everyone else. Long before the film opens, Mildred's teenage daughter  Angela was raped and murdered. Mildred is filled with both grief and anger for she feels that the local police department have neglected their duties, failing to pursue the killer with due diligence.

She rents  three disused billboards on the outskirts of town and uses them to embarrass the police into action.

It is a quirky film that has been described as a "dark comedy". McDonagh also directed "In Bruges" and seems to have a gift for embroidering seemingly tragic plots with strands of humour.

There's a clownish police officer called Dixon - played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell - in "Three Billboards".  He lives with his mother. Near the end of the film he prepares to head out of the house while she is snoozing on the sofa. Bizarrely, there's also a tortoise on the sofa and he crawls into the old lady's lap. There is no other reference to this tortoise. It's just an unremarked and quirky moment that stayed with me after we left the cinema.

Pictorially, it is an eye-catching film. By the end you feel that you know Ebbing and its environs quite intimately. By the way, Ebbing is actually a fictional town. The real location was Sylva in the Plott Balsam Mountains of north western North Carolina.

There was another assured performance by Woody Harrelson as Police Chief Willoughby and Lucas Hedges - who I first saw in the excellent  "Manchester By the Sea" played the part of Robbie - Mildred's son - in an appropriately restrained manner.

It's a good film and well worth seeing in my view but be warned - if you are of a delicate disposition - that Mildred is quite foul-mouthed and in her "cussing" shows little restraint.
Woody Harrelson as Chief Willoughby

17 January 2018

Sequoia

Continuing the story of our 2005 family holiday in America...
Joshua tree by the road to Boron
With many miles to go, we headed out of Las Vegas straight after breakfast.

Instead of driving all the way back to L.A. , we took Highway 58 near Barstow. It cuts across the desert landscape to Bakersfield. On the way over, we stopped at Boron, a dusty godforsaken small town in the middle of nowhere. It is named after the mineral boron or borax which is still extensively mined in that area. I blogged effusively about Boron before. Go here. 

After a hearty lunch in The Corral Diner, we carried on to Bakersfield where I filled up with petrol (American: gas) and then we motored northwards along The Central Valley. I thought of the Joad family in "The Grapes of Wrath" and their onerous journey from Oklahoma. The Central Valley was to be their salvation - their Canaan - but all they found was more hardship.

When I was twelve, our geography teacher set us a homework task - to draw a detailed map of California but that weekend I did something else. Instead of drawing a map in my book I made a huge  papier-mâché  model of The Golden State  and painted the mountains and deserts, before labelling the major cities. In the middle was the green swathe of  The Central Valley which I imagined to be a land of plenty with rich soils spawning all manner of vegetables and apple orchards and orange groves.

My relief map was almost as tall as me and I struggled to transport it on the school bus. In my mind's eye I can still see the face of my geography teacher when I presented that crazy labour of love and geographical enthusiasm. His jaw dropped visibly and he didn't know what to say.

And now I was riding along through the same valley all the way to Visalia where we took a right and headed east towards the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. I had booked a hotel at Three Rivers, planning to drive into The Sequoia National Park the following morning.

The road up to the sequoia forest had only opened up the previous week after the annual winter snowdrifts. We saw a deer edging nervously from the trees and noticed that the snowy sides of the mountain road were banked up. A week before the park had been closed.

Finally, we arrived in the land of the giant trees and the greatest of them all was The General Sherman Tree - the biggest living organism on the planet. The ground circumference of the trunk is 102 feet and it is calculated that the entire mass of the tree  would weigh over 2000 tons . Furthermore, it is believed that the tree is about 2500 years old. It really is an awesome sight and I use that word deliberately. Awesome!
My family in the sequoia woods and below
Frances in front of  The General Sherman Tree

A couple of hours later we descended from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and headed for Fresno on our way to San Francisco where of course people wear flowers in their hair.