Older people can remain active and thoughtful and have the potential to grow. There are many role models. Mistakes happen, often hilarious. Join me on an ageing trip to places and moments.


Monday, 14 October 2019

New author and great book about a crooked curate in the Holme Valley

History, crime and a crooked curate in the Holme Valley

The flyer is self-explanatory. Any further queries to the above phone numbers or

visit to browse our publications

Friday, 11 October 2019

Older inspiring role models

These five blokes are referred to affectionately as the Thursday Team. Hence meeting on a Wednesday lunch time. We all retired from the NHS at the same time (late 1990s) and met for a few years at the Clothiers Arms, Netherthong on a Thursday evening. Two finance, two managers and one clinician. One of those fixed points in a week. At a time when a week could sometimes stretch out a bit. We still come together maybe four or five times a year.
  There are common interests: sports, especially soccer and golf; grandchildren; illness, controlled or in remission; medication inevitably; all the stupid stuff ranging from Brexit to why the eye department at HRI cannot organise their appointments.
  I've been in a few groups over the years, at work and in college. Mixed feelings. The meetings for  NHS management to be avoided. We had an excellent rehabilitation team  - everyone signed up to the common purpose which was largely determined by the wants and needs of the service user - the patient. We met twice a week with an extra regular session to check how the team was performing - no one had a private agenda. We had counselling groups at York St John, but by then I had other stuff and I didn't contribute or achieve a great deal. Now groups, meetings and committees are a no.
  The Thursday Team was quite different. Drinks and the quiz were the main activities and some moaning. A support group I guess. Like the leg on a table - helps to keep the thing up and running, solid and reliable. Retirement was the common factor. We all wanted it and we came together to share and listen how we were doing. Today I suspect health is the preoccupation. Not dour or depressing. More optimistic.

This is Eric, en route from Lancashire, Mirfield, Huddersfield to Lymington near Southampton. A twice a year journey. We walked together every week from 1994. And were still walking intermittently up to last year when we did the middle section of Hadrian's Wall.
  Lakes, Coast-to-Coast and Reeth weekends, otherwise Derbyshire and bits around Holme Valley, Airedale and S. Yorkshire. Common threads included books, sports, families and mental health. I had it and a he was a psychiatrist.
  An additional issue we shared was naff organisation. Booking the wrong days and wrong hotels was something we got used to. It always worked out. It was calculating our walking distances that was a serious problem as Eric is 10 years younger than me. I recall two energy-free episodes - one around Grasmere and the other at Corbridge. I made it largely because you cannot bail out up a hill, miles away from anywhere. After a few days I recovered.
  On the C2C, Eric was going through one of his reading programmes. He'd reached Wuthering Heights. While I went to bed and slept 12 hours, he spent a happy evening communing with Cathy and Heathcliffe, first in the bath and then in the bar (clic here for the link).
  We never had a cross word. Still don't. He's worried about his eyesight - a book person would. I'm still grumpy - it masks social and performance anxiety.

Older inspiring role models - we have been knocking about together for over 20 years. Not as fit today, but still active in many other ways. We haven't given up yet.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Wild flowers can be beautiful too - inspiring a review on publication.


   Delia Rotchell gave us a wild flower patch in a tin. It thrived and outgrew the tin. So I potted it on to the now defunct potato raised-bed. It is stunning.

  These are the publications to date for Shalliley Books (began 2011), including one out later this year. Sport, music and local history are our subjects, getting stuff into print that a larger publisher might not touch. They are covered in more detail at Shallileybooks website. I only have one ISBN number left, so the question is do I get some more or do I retire? I don't advertise and the projects keep arriving. It is actually time I converted a couple of my own draft books into something that is printable. What to do? It is interesting to examine how all this came about, as outlined on the website. Websites are a bit static? So maybe justifiable to duplicate. It started as a side effect of Peter Davies massive database on all things West Yorkshire cricket. I can't remember whether I volunteered, but he sent me a load of stuff. I had a basic understanding of what to do from modules at Sheffield Hallam creative writing and a short book on Almondbury Casuals CC. We used the university print shop which didn't work. Sadly Peter had to take a back seat through illness (I saw his dad recently at Lockwood park and apparently Peter is improving). So I rang up the editor of a book I'd written for who said send it to a digital printer which we did and it worked, especially after a professional proof read. Riley, Dunn and Wilson on Leeds Road and brilliant. That morphed into Jotbindery and D&M Heritage in Lockwood. Somewhere in there the asbestos police got involved and everything went quiet - we needed help from a firm in Uppermill who were poor. Today it's Amadeus in Cleckheaton. I never realised what a difficult time print companies can have. A more detailed account of various articles and publications is here, and also here.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

A great wee piece on insecurity about ageing by Fleur Adcock

Not especially high and lonely but spectacular and inspiring

Insecurity about ageing

The Poetry Pharmacy, Daily Telegraph Saturday 28th Sept. The link between ageing and body image or more precisely the link with actual body shape and size - '...  we begin to see evidence that our bodies have been lived in, loved in and lost in'.
  It all pales in comparison with seeing and being in the high lonely places. Those who love us don't see size and shape, they see and hear shared happy times. If we simply let ourselves.

Happy is how I look, and that's all.
My hair will turn grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well

that's little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells,
when simply
to look out of my bedroom window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

What a walk!

It was quite a walk. Starting just off Penistone Road, into Kirkburton high street, visiting the site of an old textile mill. Then a car park and back to Kirkburton high street. The church and a bridleway, back to Penistone Road. Steep decline into Thunderbridge, an effort up into Storthes Hall woods. Visited the football foundation where a penalty shootout was taking place between two young ladies' teams. Dicing with low flying tree branches, sighting an imposing derelict building, scaling a fence which said "Keep Out" on the other side. Crossing to tufted fields and bogs, down to Penistone Road and a welcome drink at The Foxglove.
I remember two pukka paths, otherwise it was make it up for yourself.

Older people maybe have the time to write - it's inspiring and therapeutic

Writing can be inspiring and therapeutic - give it a go with a diaryWriting stuff is not for everyone. Life can be difficult enough. Who remembers the 1950s primary schools and all the mistakes we inevitably made? Red ink from 'Miss' and red faces from us. So there is something to be said for a more flexible style of learning reading, writing and arithmetic. I hope less people today arrive into adulthood, scarred and scared to death of pens and pencils. Anyone recall that crucial transition into ink? I thought it was never going to happen.

 The Outsider   Forever alone.
                          Schoolmiss kept him in pencil
                          When the rest were in ink.

  This is a haiku I wrote in the 1990s whilst studying English at Huddersfield University. I managed one year before I had to return to the real world and earn a living.
  In defence of my primary school, I passed my eleven plus, a devastating lifelong failure for some if they didn't. In addition, Miss Town read to us every Friday afternoon. Treasure Island had us all enthralled. And, incidentally, I played in a great school soccer team. And Miss Town would not forgive me for starting any sentence with 'and'.
  So you survive the obstacle course called adolescence, college, first job and career, marriage and kids (there are plenty of variations on this curve) and if you are not already writing, then you might want to have a go.
  A diary can be a private start. A record of events, a breathing space for opening up concerns and their echoes (Seamus Heaney said he wrote 'To set the darkness echoing'), and a glimpse of what might be different. Many of us have good friends who listen and that can be enough.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Three conversations last Thursday morning - are they senior moments?

It is my habit to attend Pilates at the Holmfirth Civic Hall each Thursday morning. Depending on time, a scruffy neck-hole and the contents of our fridge, I variously call for a haircut and take in the butcher on the bridge.
  This week I walked down early, there was a central empty chair at the sparsely decorated barber and I'm in. "What is it today?" asked a lad in T-shirt and shorts who didn't look much older than my grandson. "A number 4 please." Usually, after the sheet throttling and the unveiling of the clippers, the question is "What are you up to this afternoon." For me, hopelessly disorganised with lack of focus, this question simply muddles me up even further. But it didn't happen today. First of all we got onto the clippers. A tall bald tenor colleague in New Mill Choir has a great barber. It's himself - machine and a number 1, every fortnight. He's persuaded me to buy one. So I mentioned this and fair enough the lad gave me a tutorial on what size was a number 4. I told him I had wimped out. I must have a go, maybe in a couple of weeks. Could be senior moment waiting to happen.
  Then my older brother became the topic. He has recovered remarkably from chemo and radiotherapy, except that his hair has regrown curly. The lad was as pleased as punch - and it was genuine. We skirted around the detail and both flanking twosomes went quiet. We finished with how old he was - 19. "Your frontal cortex hasn't grown yet. You're barmy at that age. Brilliant." Whatever possessed me to come out with that, GOK, and it was his turn to go quiet.
  All that in five minutes. £5 for a haircut and a chat.


Then it was a dozen of Yorkshire's finest sausage and two juicy gammon steaks. The butcher I generally see tends to continue wielding his sharp knife, wearing whites, back facing the customer, speaking toward the interior wall, so I am usually served by a lady assistant who is in her prime. Today there was a second butcher who maybe has a closer association with the serving lady than the first. They both helped me out, particularly when I ordered an additional family-sized pork pie.
  "Have you seen the latest on vegan diets?" I asked.
  "You mean they get more strokes?" said the butcher. I nodded and smiled. I failed to mention that it was an observational study and did not imply cause and effect.
  "Whatever happened to a balanced diet?" he wondered. Precisely.
  "Everything in moderation," said the lady assistant.
  They looked at each other and smiled. She added "I'll be having a few drinks tonight, it's my birthday."
  I wished her well. Didn't ask her age. The pork pie was wonderful.


Stretched and a bit sore, I walked back from the Civic, and having crossed the road, noted a familiar battered campervan in the traffic queuing for the village junction lights - not an inconsiderable distance, such is the daily congestion. Tom Ashworth's. He is a member of a hard core from the choir that sets the world to rights over coffee every Thursday morning. I sauntered up to the passenger door and simply stared. Tom eventually flinched. He featured in a recent blog and wanted to add something. "I tried to put something in about aesthetics, but failed," he told me at choir practice. I'm happy not to moderate my blog, but these computers have minds of their own. The traffic wasn't moving, so I thought I'd mention I'd now added his words in. He moved across to open the passenger door - the window mechanism seemed defunct - and I began explaining what I had done as the car in front began to move. I crashed the door shut and Tom tried to get his tank into gear, not without difficulty.
  No matter, such is the daily congestion that I soon caught up with him and we tried again. I managed to get most of what I wanted to say said before more movement, followed by Tom's laboured efforts to get his motor going. We didn't try again, though we could have.
  No horns, no other signs of road rage. Fellow motorists simply put up with two old farts trying to chat through a wide open van door in the middle of a traffic jam.


Two consultations and a staff meeting. All serious stuff, yet also weird if not frankly comic.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Shallilo's garden glimpse - an overture to secular spirituality

I started with one sunflower from one of the shelves outside Aldi. The working bit went brown so I cut it off, first consulting the net. I then got loads of babies, butterfly magnets.
  Supervised by Statler and Waldorf.
  My wildflower patch is doing okay as well.

Roderick Strange wrote again in the Times recently (Aug 24th 2019) - incidentally a great name for a vicar. He quotes Paul Gifford, an Emeritus Professor, 'one may rail against affluence, professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification ... many no longer feel any pressing need' [to ask the deeper questions]. Rod mentions science as an additional force which has pushed religion to the margins of modern life. 'Are we missing something?' he asks. A definition of spirituality is 'the quality of being concerned with the human spirit ... as opposed to material or physical things'. Or as I have tried to say previously 'personal stuff we value which does not cast a shadow'.
  I doubt many would argue with this. Even neurochemists - pleasure is a transient brain event which needs repeating regularly. Rod then says 'The witness of truly holy people helps'. Holy is defined as 'dedicated or consecrated to God' which might not go down well with non-believers like my pal Clive Hetherington, a bass in New Mill Male Voice Choir. In fairness to Rod, he thinks God might help - the notion of God is not compulsory.
  I don't take a stance against this kind of personal belief. Making sense of the world can be a confusing occupation. Clive, and I have some sympathy, would attest that organising belief into a religious movement can lead to feelings of exclusion. 'They' have hijacked all the best moves, including spiritual experience. Clive is sure anyone can have mysterious and awsome personal moments and he suggests scientific discovery is one such.
  Tom Ashworth is another New Mill bass, well-known local author and lapsed catholic. Aesthetics turn him on. A building or a painting are the things that take his breath away.
  There is the idea of secular spirituality. A search to make sense of oneself and one's personal growth, something discussed here on a number of occasions (see Lent). Clive is a computer specialist and enjoys what that science can say about being human. I have always been muddled by religious language, right from Sunday School. I attended church dutifully, a choir and youth club member. Eventually biology at High School and the study of evolution gave me the information I needed to put my thoughts in some sort of order.
  'Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind' by Tom Holland was reviewed recently in the Times (Aug 24th) by Gerard DeGroot. Whether we are paid up Christians or not we are all heavily influenced by history and the part played by religion. Sadly this includes some less than humane episodes, but these also occur in the name of other religions and totalitarian states. Another aspect of being human.
  Holland argues that tolerance and fairness were not much in evidence before Christ. This, for me, is another hijack and DeGroot agrees. Planning, cooperation and looking out for each other were learned on the plains of Africa by the hunter-gatherers, unlocking our brains in the process.
  Us non-believers can be charitable as well as challenging, part of our personal route. Clive and I tend to plough on alone. Neither of us has many opportunities or willing ears to explore these ideas with others (apart from Tom). It doesn't stop us from trying. We won't be doing much about 'professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification'.

Tom and Clive - thoughtful basses

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Awaydays in Weymouth - Shallilo travels

A week away on the south coast - somewhere we rarely visit and now we know why; it's too far. So the theme for the week was travelling. Topped and tailed by six to eight hours of driving. Down the M42 there was a car on fire and the whole motorway was gridlocked. Then very slow around Bristol. Back up the country, different route, just volume of traffic and overall quite pleasant. Loo and drink stops. Once we had arrived in Weymouth, had a beer and relaxed we determined the journey wasn't going to colour the holiday and it didn't. We were in a far better temper when we got home.
  In between times we went everywhere by bus - why not it's free. There were loads of them - covering all the local destinations and obligingly frequent. Occasionally we needed to change. Once, we transferred instead to a boat to view the Jurassic and Cretaceous coasts. Great views of the World Heritage Site which doesn't allow residential protection - some very expensive houses will eventually fall off the cliff edge. We caught the boat in the working harbour, surrounded by pubs and restaurants. Danny the dolphin swum past as the jet skiers set off. My favourite spot of the holiday. A seaport since 1250s despite modernity you sense the history.

   The bus trip to Weymouth covered a lot of the attractions. All ages catered for. Massive beach, mixed shingle and sand with breakwater and path. They are forever reinforcing the sea defences. Sea life centre which researches seahorses. George III patronised the town's Royal Hotel. He has a colourful statue in the centre next to the bus stops and a chalk horse-rider carved in the hillside at Osmington. There was a pier until 1982. Sand sculptures occupy an odd-looking building on the beach near to a super Punch and Judy show. A couple of fairgrounds and a busy theatre. Plenty of pubs, coffee and chip shops. The Georgian housing along the sea front is the town's signature. Judith and the childbride joined the crowds for a concert in Greenhill gardens - Weymouth Ukulelians - I watched England beat Wales on TV which sadly had injuries, just before a World Cup.

  It gradually dawned that this must be the worst town for traffic we had come across. In the holiday flat we were aware of the constant nose-to-tail swish of vehicles. We recognised how long travel times were for such short distances and from the pavement, the fumes and pollution were pretty obvious. They didn't penetrate the flat which was more than adequate, though the glass conservatory needed rigorous ventilation before we could use it.
  Two wet days. Dorchester has a strange welcome at the museum. It is £17 for a year's subscription and that's it. So we didn't get to mug up on Thomas Hardy, Judge Jeffries' bloody assizes or the Tolpuddle martyrs. Better in Weymouth, down near the harbour and £2 entry fee. Sections on the railway - double track to accommodate the wider Great Western. Several breweries. Black Death arrived here in 1348 - the first port of entry for the UK. Lots on Weymouth's great and good. For example Wren was the MP in 1702. He designed St Paul's Cathedral using Portland Stone, the quarries being under his control between 1675-1717. Don't forget the thousands of American soldiers who left here to go to Omaha Beach, Normandy, in 1944.

  That leaves Portland, harbour and bill, connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, part of which is Chesil Beach - 18 miles long up to Bridport and 50 feet high - a massive natural feature constructed by thousands of years. Tennis ball shingle at Portland, peas at the other end.
  We had our best change of buses on Portland. We asked our first driver to drop us off at Chesil Beach. He preferred us to catch up with the Portland Bill bus. He jumped off and ran across, got the second driver to open up and take us on. "Have an hour at the Lobster Pot," he said. This a cafe on the southernmost tip next to the three lighthouses, only one of which still works. Misinformed about the timetable we had a lot more than an hour - pleasant in the sun overlooking the channel.        
   The second driver was actually a bonus as he was also a guide. Switched the engine off, stood on the stairs and talked, twice. The London Cenotaph is Portland Stone - dug out from an exclusive quarry which shut down straight afterwards. Portland has 14000 residents, many of whom have never been to Weymouth. The roads are all wide to facilitate dragging large pieces of stone about. Used to construct Portland harbour - by convicts. Now the forth largest man-made harbour in the world. It has been a naval base along with Special Forces training, today on ex-Falkland ship Tristam, torpedo testing and lots more too numerous - same with the its use today, though special mention for the 2012 Olympic sailing regatta and regular cruise liner stopovers.
  Janice Turner in the Times August 17th asks the question whether 'Bucket lists are killing the places we love?' Her point being if everyone does it then holidays become a series of queues - eg. Mona Lisa viewing is restricted to a certain duration because of numbers. We experience this in every airport we visit, thankfully getting less often. Weymouth above was overwhelmed by cars and buses. Scarborough over the latest bank holiday was gridlocked both on the roads and the beach. Admittedly different reasons for having a break, but similar outcomes. She concludes that experiences are not about where you've been, presumably so you can compete with your friends and relatives, but how you enjoyed the time with loved ones and the odd stuff that just happens.
  So Weymouth did have its queues and it is a long way to go. Really hot too - a heat wave. Three things for me. The working harbour and a lazy afternoon watching the sea from Portland Bill and listening to a bus driver commentary, in the company of the childbride and our pal Judith.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

senior moments and more encouragement for older person's exercise

just another ageing rocker

Lisa Verrico, the Times Aug 3 2019: 'After a gig; the old-timers just want a Horlicks and get to bed. There are no shenanigans ...'
  Super review of the top older rockers from Clapton and Jagger through Iggy Pop and Grace Jones. All over 70. Touring is in their DNA, but no longer with the excesses of youth. Less, more organised travelling, fewer gigs, better diets and some exercise. Jagger is OTT exercise-wise however and he never stops moving on stage whereas Clapton doesn't move a muscle.
  And they are all nicer as people.
  Whatever happened to 'Hope I die before I get old'.


Last week at Ribby Hall holiday village, Lytham, playing soccer with 6 year old Jenson, I fell over like a sack of spuds. Last year I would have rolled in mid air and landed smoothly on my back.


A bit late - Judith Woods, the Telegraph, 28 June: 'Later-life fitness is a great idea - so what is stopping us?'
  Best start when you are a bit younger - not much good for older exercise first-timers. 150 minutes a week recommended by a recent Cambridge University study (previous guidelines agree; approx half an hour 5 times a week).
  It needs a schedule - '... time spent keeping fit ... should be treated as a precious resource and allocated accordingly.'
  Physical fitness, with attention to diet, makes a major contribution to staying well - '... the most meaningful investment you can make ... '
  Clic here to review the guidelines.


I recently discovered why workers on building sites always seem to be moving rubble from one end of the site to another. It's because legal dumping costs a fortune. My chiropodist said so. Recent articles in the press suggest chiropodists are in short supply and yet are crucial to the planet. I can vouch for foot care.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Summer pics

Scarborough harbour

13th wedding anniversary - Tuscany Too, Filey Road

Sir Cliff, Open Air Theatre
He can still put on a show

White Butterfly (1)                                                      White Butterfly (2)

Friday games - double winner - boules and bowls

A fairy takes a shine to me 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

First Blackpool visit for one and some memories for other less inspired oldies

New Mill sang here in Len William's days. Winter Gardens. To several thousand women who were on a rotary weekend or the ladies' equivalent. (see 2003 concerts)
  The three pronged job is a bungee jump completed by Andrew last year - grey and sick for several minutes.

Jenson wanted to go, so a bus ride, two tram rides, a big bouncy castle, lunch overlooking the sea, a quick look round the tower and grandad really lost it with the pizza. Ordered wrong drinks, wrong pizza - got it all wrong.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Cricket at Scarborough - inspired choice for a sunny Sunday

What does sport mean? Wiki says 'Oxford Dictionary defines sport as "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment"'. I think skill must vary quite a bit, allowing all abilities to contribute. Exertion usually but not always. My boules experience is fairly sedentary.
  Elite, good and also-ran. Contact, non-contact or a referee's mixture. Competitive and aggressive. Or, the result is irrelevant and we're all chums. Posh upper middle class. The workers. Amateur and professional. No one size fits all. Most people will identify themselves somewhere along these pieces of elastic.
  Not necessarily competing against others. Long-distance runners go for personal bests. Or, they do it to escape. Smith, in Alan Sillitoe's book (see wiki) is the archetype outsider from a dire background with little or no life chances. He finds solace and space for reflection in running alone. Sillitoe is associated with the group of writers known as the angry young men, class their nemesis. Sport prides itself however in the fellowship it fosters. Relationships which can last a lifetime.
  Playing or supporting - it gets a bit tribal and tricky just here. I've been on the terraces at The Arms Park and seen Welshmen kick seven shades for coming from the wrong part of Gwent. Who gets upset when rival spectators insist on standing, waving flags and totally obscuring the action? The Welsh rugby fans never lose, they simply score less points. Yet I've met gracious giant defeated Africaaners, in Durban. Drink is often taken, rightly part of the enjoyment, but sadly overdone by some - I'm sure we've all been there. Watching and appreciating is part of getting older for the keen sportsman, though some play on.
 So are we left with an activity for entertainment, a definition which seems to include everything - a definition of life then. It doesn't leave a lot for those who don't. Patrick Kidd in the Times, 27th July, reviews Duncan Hamilton's book on Neville Cardus - The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden age of Neville Cardus. Cardus writes 'to go to a cricket match for nothing but the cricket is as though a man were to go into an inn for nothing but drink'. Duncan summarises 'to write well about sport you should look beyond sport ... It is about the characters and how the game explores the human condition'.
  A mile or so north of Scarborough town centre is a square well-tended field, about the size of four football pitches. Hidden behind a long terrace of boarding houses and small hotels, it sits within a tiered ring of wooden benches which gives way to more supportive seating in front of the coffee room. The view opposite the rear of the holiday accommodation opens out to reveal a hilltop memorial and countryside stretching north beyond the roofs of local housing estates.

  A path surrounds two thirds of the square, space for food and drink outlets - tempting bacon baps, pie and peas, coffee, tea, East Coast ales and fizzy lager. A sure sign of civility is the second hand book stall.
  Then the more formal architecture - two large black and white twin towers either end of the field, easily-visible thin boxes displaying a series of numbers, decipherable only by the initiated on the wooden benches and plastic chairs. And a large imposing red brick house for 'members'.
  In the middle of the large square is a smaller 22 yard track, brown not green, where men in white engage in the gentlemanly pursuit of cricket. This is Scarborough Cricket Club. York was good (see Casuals at York), but Scarborough comes a good second.

  Just down the road is another legend - the North Riding - a must for real ale enthusiasts who like their favourite brewed on the premises.
  Cricket started life in SE England in the eighteenth century and was a national sport by the middle 1800s. One of its attractions was the money to be made from gambling on big matches between teams sponsored by aristocratic patrons. At Scarborough, The Queen's Club played cricket on rough ground up on Castle Hill until Lord Londesborough, the local big match follower, suggested improvements which lead to the move to North Marine Road in the 1860s. This was when Scarborough was a spa town with sea-water bathing, fishing and ship-building - the railway had arrived in 1845.

An annual pilgrimage, since our son Chris was a 9 year old when, in 1994, we saw the touring S Africans. To watch Yorkshire CC play anybody, but mostly in the County Championship. This is competitive professional high quality cricket. Nowadays I go with Greg, a fellow Almondbury Casual (see Casuals' history). The Casuals were a social cricket team from Huddersfield. Same rules, same roles, same spirit of cricket, but a tad different in talent and ambition.
 Surrey were Yorkshire's visitors and our local Honley opening bat, Will Fraine, made his maiden century against no less a quickie than S Africa's Mornie Morkle. He has now signed for Nottinghamshire.
  People pay good money and it seemed like a full house. On sunny days it's shorts and sunhat, a cushion for the bench and a small rucksack for those taking lunch. Twos and threes, chatting, with a scattering of ladies who are more prevalent in the better seats. Then the guys in black blazers and striped ties, hands in trouser pockets, serious, walking purposefully to somewhere, presumably corporate hospitality. Always an idiot or two who make a noise in front of the bar. Interestingly we were the noisy ones at York.
  A massive lad sat and obscured our view, prompting a swift move stage left. Later spotted in the N Riding occupying two stools. We visited during the lunch break, but it seemed most of the cricket lovers had decanted there. So back to the ground where Greg couldn't help noticing the barmaid's rather bored appearance as she poured our pints. "Have you not noticed - we've had a great opening partnership of over 100 runs?" "You mean they've run up and down 100 times?" Who was having who on? I think she won.
  At tea time we perambulated the outfield. 20 or so games of informal cricket. Lads, brothers, cousins, pals, dads. Plastic bat and ball, 10 yard pitches, wickets or upright clothes toward the boundary. Easy bowling, good bounce, cross bat slogs, improbable fielding, outstanding fun. A lot of these guys will graduate to junior club cricket as it's not played in state schools. Different rules, but great coaching.
  Strangely, the following day, we came across two games of junior well-organised cricket on the hard-packed sand by the foreshore, left by the receding tide. Two strips of artificial something, boundaries outlined by cuts in the sand, girls and boys, bowling, batting and fielding, all in their appropriate places. So this was a tournament - a step up from knocking about in the nets or the outfield. We sensed it was organised by the crowds of parents shouting and carrying on up on the roadside and down the slipway. These kids will benefit from having sport as part of their future, their whole lives ahead of them. They will learn the skills and how to behave and be competitive in sports, hopefully transferable into their work and home.
  Back to North Marine Road and by 5.30pm and we were done. Plenty of boundaries and wickets, an appreciative audience and a relaxing 5-6 hours.
  So where do I come in this sporting complexity? First as a participant - they were still playing cricket and rugby at my boys' grammar school (1959-66) where life chances were good for those who went for it. Still had to pass the eleven plus. I gave up cricket in the second form -  the sports master kept picking me for the age above where nobody spoke to me. I returned in the sixth form to supervise the second XI. When son Chris gave up a promising club cricket career at 17 it was a reminder of what might have been (see Chris to 34).
  As a medic, I gradually moved into the officer class, keeping my shoulder chips nicely polished. Retired at 60 and 44, cricket and rugby respectively. Finished in highly enjoyable festive teams, rugby vets and social cricket. On reflection that seems to have been the point. Despite belligerence, I shared the craic with a passion. Talented yes, but full of distraction. And so it continues as a supporter. Intermittent and enthusiastic. With some fellow players from the sixties, but mostly with pals from those later less competitive days. The happy few at 72.
  Sport has been a mirror, the other half of the bumpy ride. As Duncan Hamilton suggests, sport helps reflection on what it is like to be human.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Inspiring advice on writing from a Times columnist - not yet retired, but experienced

good advice for all bloggers from Matthew Parrisposted by Dave Walker 17th July

I'm not sure how old Matthew Parris is, but sounds as though he's been through the mill - an obsolete but interesting reference to many sons of industrialists who graduated to be the boss after years of training on the shop floor.
  He describes his and other newspaper columns (The Times, 13th July), as a prelude to explaining some of the political style of that well-known columnist, Boris Johnson.
  The short version. The point is opinion, the columnist's. You only need research that supports the opinion - no need to confuse people with the facts. Entertaining, performing and grabbing 'our audience's attention' - knowing what they want. How does he know what his audience wants? Who are they and how many read his stuff? Do they have a researcher to do all this?
  Don't have to be right and you can change your mind, but for a short time you are passionate and convinced about an idea, dream, fear, hatred and maybe politics and a politician. Short-term to catch the deadline, then move on. Solitary. No teams in writing.
  And the clincher - 'today's column lines the bottom of tomorrow's budgie cage'.
  Sounds like a blog. A serious blog that avoids social media trivia. It's a trap I have fallen into, thinking that my audience will be agog about my grandchildren. I must stay with the overarching purpose, which I think needs editing. It does include family, but not too much?
  How often? The deadline is very helpful. Hence getting Shalliley's books out proves to be more successful than my personal writing. I've read somewhere blog once a week, so make that a deadline.
  Just who is the audience? I don't know. I distribute through Facebook, so friends and family who have joined the group and otherwise the world. Blog tips suggest Google Analytics and a lot of SEO mystery (search engine optimisation) which straightaway informs me I'm not doing anything right. (See previous is my blog worth it?) You can spend all your life in circular frustration. So primarily I'm writing for myself, but I keep reminding myself of the tips contained behind the help button.
  Content has to be entertaining and attractive, whatever the overarching purpose, and mostly I think it is. Always with an image. I try to write as I speak and tell a story. Coherent. Set up and punchline. Not quite a 'Booker' plot (see wiki). I saw he died recently - great book if you have stamina.
  I do have one gripe which on occasion has nearly put me off doing this. The add-ons when you've finished and proof read. Labels, key words, location, search description and extras with pictures and that tantalising elusive link with a previous blog. Are key words static and apply to the blog overall or do they change for each individual post. I suspect the former, but can I find any reference to that - no.
  A piece of advice - keep your labels manageable - choose ten or so and stick to them.
  I don't know what Matthew would say about my thoughts. Probably do it, enjoy it, be yourself and have a point of view.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Shallilo and some older Almondbury Casuals watch uninspiring cricket - but enjoy the day

Almondbury Casuals is a social cricket club that is asleep. It may wake up one day, but the current membership was worried that it might not, leaving thousands of unused pounds in its bank account. At the mercy of the bank.
  So what was the money best used for? Enabling youth cricket in some way was probably the most thoughtful suggestion. Eating and drinking at a cricket match however was the most popular. So thanks to Marc Davies, we pitched up at Clifton in York to watch Yorkshire play Warwickshire. And coffee with biscuits, a four course lunch, afternoon tea alongside beer and wine or whatever.
  Lovely setting in unexpected bright sunshine. I didn't feel the need for cream so I got burnt.
  When I said 'we', I meant senior surviving and interested Casuals of which originally there were 21. Less on the day accompanied by a few friends to make up two tables. The Casuals started playing in the early 1950s, the brainchild of four Friday Almondbury Woolpack happy hour pals. In no time it became part of Huddersfield textile and supporting businesses at play, alongside rugby, hockey, golf and amateur soccer. So popular they needed a set of rules to allow everyone a chance of selection. Not too successful to start with. Following some judicious recruitment, by the 1960s, they won more than they lost.
  There is no one left from those early days, but we did have Robert Haigh with us, son of one of those happy pals. That early culture ensured a steady influx of players. Family, friends and fellow sports nuts turned out every Sunday well into the noughties. Three or four are still playing and Bill is mostly an umpire. Ken has shed a stone or two and walks a lot. Greg enjoys his garden. Burge kindly takes a drink with our Andrew from time to time. Rupert was concerned at the demise of the glottal stop. Rod was unimpressed by the cricket - none of us were. We wanted something spectacular but we got a damp squib.
  The York team on the Casuals' fixture list was the Retreat. We were about the same strength. There is one surviving match report.
  Michael Henderson of the Times (Sat 22nd June) wrote 'York put on a show after 129-year wait'. In 1890, Yorkshire beat Kent, thanks to a nine wicket haul from Bobby Peel, a left-arm spinner. Lord Hawke was skipper. 1n 1897, he dismissed Peel from the field for being drunk. 'And so began the celebrated cricket tradition of Yorkshire contrariness'. Mmm, really?
  Whilst we were eating, we were asked to be quiet because we were upsetting the cricketers. The previous day 'the man in charge of entertainment' had given a 'blast' of Walk on the Wild Side on the PA system. Whilst Michael appreciates his Lou Reed, the cricketers did not. Apparently Lord Hawke would not have done either. For me, the man on the mic in our marquee made the most noise.
  Warwickshire won despite the best efforts of 'James Logan, Peel's latest successor as a purveyor of slow left-arm spinners' who took four wickets. I must have missed that, or was it the following day?
  So the cricket wasn't uppermost in our minds. We were there to meet 'old' friends and celebrate the traditions of social cricket where the result doesn't matter - much. 1890-1914 is the period said to be The Golden Age of Cricket - the days of the dashing amateur. Maybe not as dashing, but social cricket preserves the non-professional spirit of the game, fostered in public schools and Oxbridge colleges. The apparent gap was bridged by Len Hutton, Yorkshireman and the first professional England captain (1937-55). In 1990, his memorial service was held in York Minster, 'a suitable place to honour the greatest servant to represent the White Rose'.
  Rupert, can I recommend Oliver Kamm's Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage?
  I suspect the Casuals are in for a long sleep. Sadly, since 2014/5 they have not played regularly. The decline began well before then when playing membership decreased precipitously. The various connections outlined above are now tenuous, apart from the rugby club. Today, youngsters have many other calls on their time. The Holme Valley league clubs may have an answer - why not cultivate a social third team to accommodate juniors who won't make first and second teams?

For those who enjoy a bit of history, there is an on-line Casuals presence, alongside several pieces of writing in journals, and a talk. Simply clic on the links in the left hand column..

website                                a casuals history

ageing cricketer                  The Examiner                                   (2010)

wandering cricket              In Gentlemen, Gypsies and Jesters.   (2013)

What's the point?               Journal of the cricket society             (2009)

Cricket in Perpective 2.     random notes about the casuals          (2005)

on publishing                     it can get very difficult                        (2011)

presentation.                      part of Peter Davies cricket society meet held at University of Huddersfield (2009)
                                           (needs audio)

Then there are

cricket in the Bahamas.       Louise, my daughter got married here (2006)
                                             We spent a lot of time at the Lara Oval in Nassau - in Journal of Yorkshire cricket society
all in a days cricket              Cricket on the beach and Upperthong   (2014)

and don't forget

It's Not Lords                      An anthology of W Yorkshire cricket (2011)

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Malta - an inspired choice for a music tour and holiday

The question
It's actually a series of questions. Who emailed me and how did they get my address? Did they know I was interested in singing something different to mail voice repertoire? How would I actually get on with choral singing? Would Malta be okay? With a load of people I'd never met?
  It turned out well. Strangely enough I enjoyed the rehearsals in sunny Skelmanthorpe (clic on rehearsals) and the concerts - Sheffield was my pick (clic on Sheffield concert Wakefield Concert).
  Jane and Dan were excellent. Thanks to them for the music tuition and the organisation.
  Thanks also to the cello player. Despite endless queueing we were never lost - just follow the lady with the big box on her back.
  And so to Malta.

The chocolate factory
The chair of Honley Ladies is related to the chocolatier who runs sessions in chocolate appreciation. She was over on holiday. And the rest of Monday is a bit of a blur. Because we had to appreciate them alongside five cocktails - stiff ones. After all, we had been up all night, catching the plane and whatever.
  It never ends there. A beach bar, several red wines and San Miguels and of course you need to paddle in the sea. I think we then went for a meal.

Valletta and Mdina were tidy and clean with some stunning buildings and great places for lunch. We are not stately home, old building or museum visitors and, given our schedule, hats off to any of our choir who did. Many of us simply sat and enjoyed.
  In Valletta we needed the toilet and discovered we had no change. No worries, a local saw our panic and asked if she could help. Her daughter was unimpressed. It simply pays to look lost. Same in Dublin where traffic comes to a halt and escorts appear whether you want to cross the road or not.
  Contrast the city order with the tourist north west where countryside and walls looked neglected. There were big holes and building sites everywhere. Many buildings were unfinished - bare breeze walls, toothless and eyeless - sinister looking skulls. Hope they all come alive eventually. A bit like my fitness regime - work in progress.
  The gardens and the gun were highlights.

Three churches. Two where there were more singers than audience. They were however excellent dress rehearsals for the final Mosta triumph in front of a good crowd. Stunning sound effects. Standing ovations everywhere. Thanks to our soloists and the band.

Eating out
The karaoke - we joined in with the 'turn', al fresco dining next to the small harbour. A man, a microphone and a keyboard. I think he was actually next door and down a level. He sang stuff our Honley Ladies knew. In English, they added choreography, seated of course.
  One table upped and left within five minutes of our arrival - the diners that is. Another table was even rowdier than us. A Spanish birthday girl plus family and really fired up. They kept peering over at the 'turn', presumably making requests. We all sang Happy Birthday three times. Very loud during the cutting of the cake. As they were leaving I suggested we deserved a slice or two. To cheers, birthday girl gave me half a big chocolate cake in a white cardboard box. Our waitress kindly produced twelve portions on plates with forks. A rich nutty pudding.
  Then the 'incident' at the Plumtree. My so-called choir pals kept asking our hostess what vegetables they could have to accompany their meat or otherwise 'mains' choice. Came to me and I ordered goulash. She said "with rice" and I said "no thanks". She said "no choice". My bottom lip came out with silent outrage. The childbride suggested I ask for chips, but I remained speechless other than explaining that my mother's rice pudding was not a thing of beauty. Appetisers came and went and I guess chips were discussed at some stage in maybe something louder than a whisper. My goulash duly came with chips and the table went into uproar - the diners that is. Apart from me who had gone a deep shade of very quiet beetroot. I thanked our hostess profusely and gave her a kiss. She overcame her camera shyness. At the outset, I could have done the adult thing and apologised for not liking rice and "please may I have chips?" But that would not have been fun.


The Answer
I am still no better at Latin or reading music. The support from those around you jollies you along, especially when my musical director was shifted a row forward for the final concert.
  For a group of mixed ability singers with a handful of rehearsals, we were brilliant.
  I appreciated the opportunity to sing choral - I was good enough. Sadly, I didn't hear the total performance - I was a prisoner of the notes. 
  Cracking experience with lovely companions in an excellent location.

Malta is 50 miles from Italy, so an interesting place for the British to be in WW2.
Made its name as a Naval Base - Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Knights of St John, French, British.
Awarded collective George Cross for bravery in WW2.
Mosta has the third largest unsupported dome in the world.
I think the midday gun was originally an aid to navigation - knowing the time was key - now its ceremonial)