Odd

Oh Yorkshire. You are such a beautiful county. Ok a bit cold, wet and windy. But definitely beautiful.

Beautiful, cold, wet, windy and a tad ODD. Look at me… Ok I’m not beautiful but the other 4 things most definitely do apply.

I think the weather has a tendency to make us a little odd here. You can tell by some of the things you here. Let’s go through a few Yorkshire words which stick in my mind. There are others but many spectacularly fail the decency bar.

I remember my school teacher announcing to the class. “Tomorrow 3C you get new classmates joining you. Brother and Sister. They are called Esmeralda and Oscar. With names like that they must be from Lancashire…..”. The funny thing was that they actually were born in Lancashire. The other funny thing was that our class was called 3C, which was ironic as the school only had two classes.

I remember going on a secondary school trip to The Yorkshire Dales. As we got off the bus the Teacher went though the safety rules. No mention of the nearby cliffs, caves or army firing range. “Right you need to climb that mountain and come back here. I would normally join you but I’ve forgotten my boots so I’m going to sit with the bus driver and listen to the cricket on the radio. Don’t get lost. Don’t go further than the mountain cairn as beyond that is Lancashire. Venture in there and you will be a lost soul forever….” Lancashire is our neighbouring county. Yorkshire is on the East and Lancashire is on the West of England. Both counties have been basically hurling abuse at each other for centuries. It has descended into Civil War and bloodletting over the English Throne. Thankfully it’s just verbal abuse and a couple of annual mad cricket matches these days.

I remember hearing a tourist ask a local in York how to get to the train station. The locals response was spectacularly helpful “Well Lad I wouldn’t start from here”. He then walked off….

I was stood on a Yorkshire Train Platform when the station announcer called out the next train to arrive. She finished off with the following helpful words. “The train on platform ….. will be departing in two minutes for London and the South, my thoughts are with those passengers at this difficult time for them as they head off into the badlands. There is still time for you to change your mind.”

As a kid my next door neighbour was a bit of a character. He would sing to his Rhubard patch every day. Usually things like ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘We will meet again’. It was an experience as he had a singing voice equivalent to a misfiring tractor engine reversing over a long line of exposed toes. Anyway one day I picked up the courage to ask him why he sang to his Rhubard. His response ‘They have feelings ya know’. Apparently he would wee on them as well. Clearly not that bothered about their feelings.

I remember my Dad often telling me that “this was the wrong type of rain for the plants”. “The rain has far too much water in it….”.

When I was at Uni I had to program a robotic arm. For a joke I decided to change all the user input instructions away from English into Yorkshire slang words. As you do! Unfortunately when I tested it for the first time eckie thump wasn’t the instruction to lower the arm cradle gentle to the table. I should have told the robot to wazzock. Eckie thump basically sent an expensive piece of robotics smashing through the table causing untold damage. Yorkshire was banned from the laboratory, probably still is.

I had been Rock Climbing in deepest Yorkshire and had popped into a remote pub for some lunch. Looking at the meat full menu I asked the Landlord if he had a vegetarian option. This clearly perplexed him. He scanned the menu board for a few moments and then asked “The best vegetarian option will be the Pork Sausages. They won’t have that much Pork in them most days….”. He did deliver as he made me one of the worlds greatest chip butties.

Final mention has to be left with out very own Yorkshire born Hawklad. He had been pestering me to take him to the KFC Restaurant. Finally I succumbed and took him. As the helpful assistant asked him what variant of southern fried chicken he would like. Hawklad responded “Have you got anything else to eat rather than chicken. I’m not keen on CHICKEN…..”.

So yes Yorkshire is most definitely ODD. But it is staggeringly beautiful.

Argument

One leaf in the corner of the garden. It definitely has a story to tell.

I was looking at a Social Media exchange about a secondary school in another part of the country. Parents were discussing how good the place was or wasn’t. Clearly it was quite a heated exchange. On one side you had comments like

It’s a great school…

Look at the grades the kids get…

It gets fantastic OFSTED ratings…

My daughter is likely to get straight A’s thanks to the teaching…

I love the school. It has discipline and look at the results it gets…

My daughter won an award for Drama because the school pushed her…

Fantastic teachers,

You always get a minority who are never happy…

Well if your not happy take your child to another school

Well homeschool then, miss out on the special treatment you son gets then…

And on the other hand you got comments like…

My child has just been dumped in the bottom class,

The teachers don’t care,

My daughter is getting no help, just left to fall behind,

My son keeps quiet and doesn’t cause any trouble in class. Wish he did as the teacher might start spending some time with him,

I’m not sure the teachers even want to know that he has ADHD,

School is not bothered that my son is scheduled to get no grades,

It is useless at helping kids out who have special needs.

That last line gives the basis of the argument away. The English School System provides one model of teaching for all pupils. It works for some kids but unfortunately a few too many are left behind. Increasingly special education is seen as a distraction to the main school function. An unnecessary drain on resources. You see articles in the Press basically talking about those children getting funding to cover additional needs as a gravy train for parents. That approach mirrors government thinking. Yes schools are given some targets for educational need but a school that fail in this area can still be seen as Excellent. The key is hitting the limited exam, performance management, how well they stick to the curriculum and the financial targets set for them.

I bet you can guess what side of the argument I would have been on. But I would add one important thing. All schools have good, dedicated teachers. Teachers who care. But they can’t provide for those children with additional educational needs when they are hamstrung by government. Where they are undervalued and trying to teach classes with up to 30 children crammed into them. With a set and unwieldy curriculum which must be strictly followed. I remember a conversation with school about computing. The teachers shared my frustration at having to teach Hawklad so much coding. Coding is a nightmare for dyslexics and some on the spectrum to learn. But they had to teach him that because it was a key part of the national curriculum set by government. Surely we can find a way of teaching all kids which offers the change to offer different learning routes depending on the individual.

A school can be excellent and at the same time fail to many of the next generation.

Terry

A while back I started talking about my two favourite authors. The first was Carl Sagan and now it’s time for the second. Many guessed correctly.

The wonderful and sadly missed Terry Pratchett.

Back in 1983 my mum bought me a book for Christmas. She would always buy me a book as a present. I had no idea who Terry was. Mum had heard him on the TV and thought maybe I would like his new book. I loved it….. He became my favourite author.

That was it. A tradition. Every new Terry book would be given to me at either Christmas or on my Birthday. She never missed a release. Apart from one. His last book. She never got round to buying that one, she would have if she had more time.

The Shepherds Crown was a tough read. Memories of mum and Terry. I decided to not read the last page. I can still say I’ve still not finished reading all his books….

Terry now has his own international day. April 28th. Let’s indulge in a bit of Pratchett wisdom a bit earlier than that.

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they haven’t forgotten this.

Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

Evil begins when you start to treat people as things.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

And what would humans be without love? RARE said Death.

If cats looked like frogs we’d realise what nasty, cruel little b*****s they are.

Always be wary of any helpful little item that weighs less than its operating manual.

The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.

The presence of those seeking truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they have found it.

So much universe and so little time.

Children going hungry

Sometimes photos just don’t fit the message. Fit the mood. Fit the anger. Fit the shame which I feel towards my country and it’s government.

This week over 320 Government MPs stopped a proposal to extend a free school meal scheme to help thousands of our young ones. Just for a few months during these troubled times. Many families are struggling. Over 2 million children in our supposedly rich country are living in poverty. A significant proportion of those are frequently going hungry. Yes our so called government voted against ensuring our children don’t go hungry this Christmas. Let that thought just sink in.

How could they do that…. They trotted out carefully managed soundbites

**********

We want to return to good old British Values (Victorian)

It’s not our responsibility

Why should we nationalise children

It’s up to the parent to take responsibility

Parents would only spend the money on cigarettes and alcohol

Why are you questioning us, our way is right

Poverty doesn’t exist, it’s all a conspiracy

**********

Let’s not forget that this comes from MPs who didn’t have any hang ups about giving themselves a generous pay increase just a few weeks ago. From a PM who complained that he struggled to maintain his lifestyle on his £150000 a year salary. From MPs who are in no financial need, some have net worths of over £120 million. From the likes of one Cabinet Minister who can afford to send 5 children to an £18000 a year per pupil exclusive private school.

Thankfully we still have good people here. A young Premier League footballer who went hungry as a child is leading the fight back. Scores of individuals and businesses are stepping up to try and help. They care. Doctors and Teachers are backing the campaign. Even the Government’s own Children Commissioner calls the fact that children are going hungry as ‘horrific’ and ‘the attitude is like something from an Oliver Twist novel’.

Sadly our Government do not care. They have no morals. This is the same Government that has slashed the overseas aid budget which tries to help those in even deeper poverty around the world. They bring shame on our country. The hope is that one day a reckoning does come and we then find leaders who care.

Remember

Sadly I won’t be able to visit here today. Its 50 miles away and currently just so out of reach. My mind will wander there today. Not for too long as my mother would give me a stern talking-to for fussing too much. So I will make myself a cup of tea and take a few moments to remember some mum memories.

  • Her famous meat and two vegetables Sunday lunches. She even amended that to Quorn and two vegetables for an awkward son. Followed by the best ever apple crumble and custard.
  • How she would call everyone (including the pets) Pidge so that she never forgot a name. You knew you were in trouble when she called you by your real name,
  • Going to her house and hearing Sinatra or Cash singing as you went through the door,
  • Walking into her living room and her first words being, Do you want a cup of tea and a biscuit,
  • Sat on a plane at Heathrow Airport with her and she started eating toffees to stop her ears popping. She finished all three packets of sweets before the plane had even started taxiing. And yes her ears popped,
  • The day she went into a small shop for a paper and she ended up being smiled at by one of Europe’s best footballers, who had come in for a prematch chocolate bar,
  • Every year asking me to put a 10p bet on the big horse race. I never told her that I always made the bet up to a £1,
  • Her refusing to be called Granny or Great Granny, so she became little Nan,
  • Every time I would take Hawklad round to see Little Nan on a Sunday and she would somehow have managed to find another Mr Men book which he had never read,
  • Mum with my oldest sister running out of the Dracula museum in a fit of giggles when a man dressed up as the Prince of Darkness had unexpectedly appeared behind them,
  • On a morning finding various little garden birds stood patiently in her kitchen waiting to be fed.

And so many more memories from a truly wonderful mum. So it’s time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Time to remember. Days like this that photographs from so many years ago become treasures.

Pond

A brief moment of colour before the next band of rain arrives. And yes it’s still two jumper (sweater) weather.

As a child my Dad created a reasonably large pond in the garden. He filled it with little goldfish. It was a haven for wildlife. A protected haven. It had its very own guard dog. Our large family dog called Mick. Mick was lovely but he had issues. He took his guarding the ‘family and the garden’ role very seriously. He bit a postman. He then bit a policeman. It’s amazing how quickly some people learn to understand the meaning of a garden gate sign. Do not enter – Dog who will bite strangers beyond this gate……So he was not a chap to be messed with. And the garden pond fell under his care. Fish, small creatures and small birds were most welcome. He would even let the small birds drink from his water bowl. Unfortunately the same privileges were not granted to larger creatures and large birds. So strangely they quickly learnt that Darwin might have a point and they had better quickly adapt. Adapt meaning give that particular garden a wide berth. A policy which was also observed by the postal and police services.

That garden pond is a long time ago. Since then I have never had a pond. That is until last week. Bad weather interrupted a garden tidy up session. So the wheelbarrow contained a few pulled up weeds. However the rain has transformed the scene. The weeds are doing rather well in the slightly damp conditions. I’m calling that a pond. Just lacking some goldfish and a guard dog called Mick.

Not finishing

Every few weeks this rose blooms and every three months we get a large envelope

One thing life doesn’t prepare you for is dealing with the admin side of bereavement. It’s a seemingly never ending slog. Trying to wade through treacle. Form after form. Call after call. Ever decreasing life circles of bank, utility firms and lawyers. Eventually you end up losing the will to live. Which is rather ironic when you think about it. But finally you just about get there. Most of the stuff is sorted. Yes there are a few loose ends but they can either wait or just be left dangling there.

One of those dangling things here is the regular large envelope. An envelope still addressed to my partner.

When she was much younger, my partners parents bought her a life time membership to a national heritage trust. The type of thing which gives you free access to many sites across the country. If you can afford the one-off lump sum they are a great idea. Unfortunately not a great idea if you die young. No argument here as the condition is crystal clear

Rights and benefits shall cease on death and no refund shall be made….

So I really should have phoned up and started the process of cancelling the membership. I can’t transfer it to our Son. But then a thought. Ok Son won’t be able to use it to get into any places for free. But every three months they send out a magazine all about history and nature. Every year they send out a members handbook listing many of the countries best sites and a comprehensive list of what’s on for the year. That’s something. Son will get some some benefit from his mum’s membership. So we are leaving this one dangling. Once the large envelope makes it out of the week long garage quarantine then son will get a free history magazine. Curtesy of his mum and his grandparents. Which is so nice.

Yes not finishing a job is sometimes the best strategy.

Herd Immunity

Ok social distancing may have gone out of the window in my country but really. In the farmers field as well. Boris Johnson wants to go for the herd immunity approach. Well here it clearly is in operation.

Spain have deemed it’s not safe to open schools up until September. On Monday Boris Johnson is trying to force some English schools to open. According to him – it’s safe. According to an increasing number of the scientists who advise him – it is not.

Over the last three days Spain has has 3 Covid related deaths. The UK has had over a 1000 covid deaths in the same period. Let’s put that further into perspective. The UK total covid deaths yesterday was more than the combined numbers across most of Europe. Adding together the covid related deaths in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland and Poland and the number is still much lower than here in the UK. This is a virus which has not yet been contained. Yet our Government tells a different story.

Johnson is not fit to lead. He is not my PM. I will ignore him and we will chart our own course. This is one household where schools are most certainly NOT reopening in June….

Many other people are now completely ignoring this shambolic government. People are making their own rules up.

  • When to go out and when to stay in.
  • If they use a face mask (if ever) and what type of mask to use.
  • How close to stand next to someone.
  • To self isolate or not. What symptoms to look for and what symptoms to ignore.
  • When to go to work and when not to.
  • When to stockpile and when not to.
  • Whether they limit travel or are free to travel as far as they like.
  • To use the incomplete contract tracing system or not.
  • Using public transport or not.
  • To go to a packed beach or not.
  • And yes to send kids back to school or not.

I can’t blame people for doing this. I’m doing it. That’s what people do when you give clowns and charlatans the keys to power. My worry is this

Yes many will be cautious and act responsibly. But how many will be reckless and endanger the wider population. From the photos and videos the answer appears to be – far too many.

Parents

I was listening to ‘Tommy’ while ironing when for some reason I tried to remember the music my dad liked. This suddenly developed into the realisation that I know so little about my mum and dad. This just kept nagging at me. So I have decided so start a little journal and when I remember stuff (or find out new details) it will be recorded. This will give our son a really important source of information about his grandparents.

On the first few pages we have

Favourite Music

Dad – Kathy Kirby I think.

Mum – Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Freddie Mercury, Runrig

Favourite Tipple

Dad – Beer. Later in life when he was ill he used to say that the doctors said it was ok for him to drink a couple of cans of Hemeling Lager – that must have been an interesting prescription.

Mum – Snowballs

Favourite Movies

Dad – Can’t ever remember him watching the TV (except for England games). Can only ever remember him twiddling with his radio to pick up overseas radio stations.

Mum – Sinatra, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, James Stewart. Can even remember her quite enjoying the occasional Van Damme, Bruce Willis or Chuck Norris movie.

Random Stuff

Dad – He once called a Status Quo song ‘just a load of racket and they will never last’ that was many years ago.

Dad – Remember he would often take me to the mouth of the River Tees where it meets the North Sea. There was a small lighthouse on the South Gare. One day he just walked up to it and knocked on the door. Two minutes later we were in the lighthouse and I got to sound the horn.

Dad – Didn’t have a favourite football team but would support which ever team was playing Middlesbrough (he hated them – never worked out why)

Dad – I vividly remember him watching an England game which resulted in the team not qualifying for the World Cup. Over the 90 minutes his face turned purple and I heard my first (second, third, fourth ….) swear word.

Dad – Died when I was young so never got to see his grandson.

Dad – When I was really young we had a pet dog. Lovely dog but he decided to bite the postman. When the policeman came round to investigate the dog bit him as well. Dad had a real go at the policeman telling him he was trespassing in our garden. Somehow he got the dog off without even a warning.

Dad – On a family day trip to the seaside we bought fish & chips and decided to eat them on the train coming back. Unfortunately when Dad decided to shake the tomato ketchup bottle up, he didn’t count on the lid not being actually on the bottle. Most of train carriage and train conductor ended up covered in the red stuff.

Mum – She had a really bad stroke, the doctors told us to expect the worst. Three days later the first thing she said was “I wish that noisy bugger in the next bed would just sod off”. Back in her house 3 weeks later.

Mum – Always wanted a pet Tiger.

Mum – She would babysit our son’s pet hamster. The hamster was rabid and clearly psychotic – my hands still carry the scars. But mum could happily stroke and handle the psychotic one without even slightest sign of a nibble.

Mum – Got to spend quality years with her grandson.

Mum – When I was young she took me to visit my sister living in Africa. I remember us buying a load of sweets to suck on as we took off (apparently to stop your ears popping). Unfortunately after two abortive takeoffs the sweets were all gone by the time we actually took off.

Mum – Watched the Bruce Willis film ‘The Sixth sense’, she sussed the ending out after 5 minutes and turned it off.

Mum – could never remember family names that well. So everyone was just called “Pidge”.