Lockdown40 wet cold sit

 Stay active - it's Christmas

Early Christmas present from the NHS - the other NHS. This has been deleted by the childbride on the grounds of being an insult to all those brilliant people who are trying to save lives.

Garden - moment for a sit 

The other granddad is a dab hand with the birding. So I went for a Simon Barnes' sit.

There is a bird there and it's black but not a blackbird
The other granddad says it's immature or female

The one that got away

I've got a lot to learn

Sitting again - December garden colours

The beds appear saturated. The bushes limp. Limited colour, new and old. Take care down the steps. I haven't cleared the leaves which can be slimy. It's cold, not simply temperature, but a state of mind. Wetness means cold. The 'Kop' on the deck has open flaps which are guarded by sheets. They absorb water and prevent wet soaking the 'Kop' contents. Thanks to the short infrequent sunny mornings, drainage and drying are permitted. Watch out for the steps on your way to the tenter field.
  The 'Kop' is a converted pub smoking area. Four legs, roof frame, green canopy and four cream sides. The name is S. African, but we've pinched it from Anfield. It contains our summer gear - al fresco dining and BBQ - and all-year-round beer-fridge. And anything else we haven't got room for including the cricketers who lurk, anxious for next season. I have an Indian batter recruit who needs a paint job.
  There is a hut at the bottom of the garden, beyond wood pergola and fence, overlooking the funeral parlour. Damp and protected by carpet which also needs frequent drainage. I dreamed of writing best sellers in glorious isolation. It's not going to happen. Just my family story and the blog. It contains chairs, desk, nearly knackered laptop, books, heater and weights.
  The pool is down there. A wood half-barrel. There are frogs which look ungainly but survive somehow and birds which sing and dive. A bench seat, rescued from Storthes Hall. An arbour.
  There are several places to sit. I haven't done them all, content with two. A director's chair no less. Amateur bins and camera. 20 minutes is my maximum in the cold wet afternoons.

Awayday - Winscar

The secret is in the pockets - Raynaud's
Ice-cold Guinness helped and didn't
Very nice get together at Winscar

Random Covid thoughts

winter solstice

So there's new strain of Covid in town - Covid 19b maybe. No surprise. Every cell everywhere is reproducing themselves all the time. Loads of incorrect copies which don't survive. There is a chance that one copy which is wrong might however convey an advantage and survive. Bugger.
Next on the agenda will be vaccine escape. Then it will be like 'flu. New vaccines every year.

Interviewed on the wireless. Two youngsters with severely disfigured faces. New leases and commentless lives from wearing masks.

Also interviewed. British scientists being disarmingly frank. They have adapted to the need for speed. Publishing quickly online. Minimal peer review. Climbing down from British superiority - had to replicate European research when they should have simply accepted. Science and scientists are not in charge. Need to be humble, explain uncertainty, be more open, share with public. Graphs easily mislead, share again.
Huge bureaucracy, especially with funding. Easily bogged down rather than facilitate quick research.


Anyone see Idris and Macca? Did they overdo the shared working class origins? Otherwise great.

Signing off until 2021.


 It's Christmas, I think - stay active

And I have a new phone - recycled and so far it works.

Because of the pandemic, I have not been given a gp surgery appointment for an ear irrigation, formerly known as syringing. So an olive oil drop twice a week each ear. I recommend it.

Christmas messages

Thank you to everyone who has sent us seasonal words, greetings and best wishes.

I was a medic, but I've also made a good living as a grouch. Yes, I wish everyone well. I'm in awe of all those guys who have had to deal with difficulties over and above the pandemic, such as bereavements, medical events and associated interventions, especially if delayed. Respect.

Maybe the vaccines will be the answer. In the meantime, 'Don't Let the Covid in.' I'll spare you the musical version.

Brass Plays Christmas

Hade Edge at Compos

The other grandad

A bird enthusiast and podcaster. 

New Mill Male Voice Choir

Being a grouch, I'm not an enthusiastic Christmas lover. I don't go to church, so it's a winter break and feast for me which should last 2 days not 2 months. Easter is another and I'm a sort of fan of Lent with the theme of renewal. Lambs are nice and I can apologise to everyone.
On the other hand New Mill's 3 Christmas concerts are A-listed in the calendar, whether you go for the music or not. The 2017 schedule was as follows:

We could all use an afterglow

Rhythm of Life

Even a grouch has a sense of the seasons. I am researching my nineteenth century ancestors which is proving both a bit of a chore and a joy. And I am not going any further back. My great great great grandfather was a hand-loom weaver and his daughter-in-law's father (confusing) was one too and a farmer, which was normal then. Cowrakes, Lindley around the time of Waterloo (1815).
  So, only 2-3 generations from agricultural life, before industrialisation got underway. Nothing changed in those days. The population was static, no one went anywhere. The landowners ruled and my ancestors did as they were told. Or, did they? The W. Riding hand-loom weavers were a stroppy independent lot, up in the hills. Lindley would have been remote then. I guess places like the Holme Valley would be typical.
  So, it's in the genes, hurray. As is the sense of the seasons. Back then time was measured in seasons. The rhythms were slow, except when they were rioting or playing that unregulated game of ball accompanied by shin-poising. Honley versus Shat would have been a bloodbath. Also in the genes.
  So, in the later nineteenth century, when the factories were in full steam and the hand-loom weavers had been put out of business, how did we measure time? Easy, more money and leisure, the football, rugby and cricket seasons. When the daffs arrive, and the lambs. I knew it was the end of summer when Friday night saw mum and dad packing a suitcase. Saturday a Hanson's bus to a holiday camp in Scarborough for a week. Back to school and start again. 

Be safe and happy.


Stay active - Take off


On the BBC website this week from Rebecca Seales, 'Letters to kids: why it's a good time to write to your children.'

Apparently the pain and privation of the pandemic has stimulated writing. Personal stuff which could give future generations insight into their ancestors has been especially popular. It's a touch more than recording memories and events. Expressing feelings and exposing other material previously hidden from view. This sounds a bit like bibliotherapy; writing as a means of getting your stuff out so you can have a good look and try and make some sense of it, or not. Why not? 

Many of these pieces of writing are being collected by the Sociology department, Swansea University, for a project entitled 'Corona Diaries'. I've tried to track down this research online and failed.

I recently picked up 'Writing your life story,' by Philip Oke from a genealogy festival. A comprehensive guide to how to do it. Having written for thirty years, pieces everywhere, it's time I got my act together and maybe family stories is an organising principle. But, when writing for myself, I rarely stick to the point, always on a sidetrack.

Oke refers to autobiography, memoir, diary, journal, family history.

I have had a look at family lives - as a result of a present I received from my daughter. I wrote the following introduction.

'This last Christmas gone or maybe for my birthday when granny and I were 70 years of age, your mum and dad gave me a book to write to you about me, so you would have a record of things that could so easily get forgotten. 
The book is called ‘Dear Grandad: from you to me - journal of a lifetime’
Please look after it, for yourself, and for any other grandchildren. 
  There have been a few problems. First is time. Serious writers allocate a daily writing routine which is deliberately selfish and excludes everything and everyone else. It needs your nearest and dearest, granny in my case, to agree. Broadly speaking she does let me get on with it, but things do creep in - like shopping and housework and social time. But as she says “That’s life”. So the project is taking a long time, especially as I like to keep up with my personal blog, but even that is an uphill struggle.
  Second the headlines suggested in the book your mum and dad gave me. They seem to be in the wrong order. For example, the family trees come after my first memories. To make a coherent story, I have arranged the articles in chronological order.
  Third duplication. Writing since 1990, I have a lot of archive material. It can get a bit muddled up. At best it is duplication, which can be no bad thing in a large piece of work. Bill Bryson tells us that no less a writer than Shakespeare made a fine mess of keeping his plays in some sort of order.
  Fourth with pieces from different eras, there are different styles and voices. Factual stuff about family trees and history take on a matter of fact feel. Describing emotional events such as a funeral or illness. Or the pains of growing - either leaving home yourself or watching your own children leave home or struggling with getting old. All these have a different tone.
  Fifth there could be problems with my memory - so a proportion of the writing could be inaccurate, though pieces written nearer 1990 are likely to be more valid than the recent ones.'

More complications, I am currently working on family members from the nineteenth century - the hand-loom weaver, the stoker and the railway porter. These cannot be memories - they are stories of how I imagine they fitted in with local events and national themes.

Oke does mention assistance - it's a thought, I still have a fighting fund.

A commitment? It's a purpose, a hobby, a record .....

It's already been at least a year and more. I'm 73 now.

Family matters


How do they know stuff and behave beyond 
their years?

Lockdown week37

Stay active

 Bottomless sit

Little Anne from pilates tries to recruit me to 'mindful' sessions. They are not for me. Mindless sessions are more to my taste though there is overlap. Sit for long enough and the birds will come, much as Simon Barnes experiences on his wild walks, here or in Africa. Otters and deer are more his thing. Bull finches are more mine. 

Increasing awareness of peripheral vision is mindful I think. Don't forget the plastic bag, to prevent a damp bum. Try to remember your bins and a stick.

Simon Barnes, 'Rewild Yourself', Simon and Schuster. 

Pilates and Zumba

time sit wonder breathe                                               

blue sky high white cloud cold feet                            

bull finch drinks

Christmas decoration

The forget-me-not bottles are everywhere, even in the Black Country. Arthur is my man.

And a cool present for lots, a vaccine. Any antivaxxers out there? Remember small pox - no you can't because it is no longer out there. Because of vaccination. If it's safe, it's safe.

From the archive

Black Country museum 2014

The pub was Andrew's favourite obviously.

Beer was decent, though the outside toilet took a bit of getting used to.

Andrew is going steady with someone from his flats - Clara. Haven't seen him for 5 weeks.

Anyone remember this?

A year in the life - New Mill Male Voice Choir

Organisations have fixed calendar points. Things to work to. Five year plans that are underpinned by monthly meetings and weekly deadlines. Like music, there is rhythm. New Mill Male Voice Choir is no different. Our overarching rhythm lasts twelve months. It is not a business rhythm, being more in tune with the seasons; the ebb and flow of brown leaves, grey skies, crisp dews and fields of rape seed oil, from which we come up for air every month or so to breathe in the heady atmosphere of performance. Or, prosaically, we leave the shelter of New Mill Club to sing in a concert.

Our current fixed points are Christmas, January, Spring Bank, and the Summer break, peaking a the October Town Hall concert with star guests. We have other engagements when we ourselves are the guests. Mostly fund-raisers, these concerts can recur but many do not.

 Christmas is a convenient start. Our annual pilgrimage to Christ Church is an opportunity for the New Mill community to join with their male voice choir in a mix of popular and seasonal musical items. We can all then decant to New Mill Club for eats, drinks and some pretty decent informal singing. That’s shorthand for choir members doing their ‘turns’. These are men who can remember their words and just love the adulation of the mob. It’s our Christmas party.

Almost since our inception we have guested in December at Low Moor, Bradford, once Allied Colloids and now BASF. Our members who spent their working lives with the company provided the original link which, despite the inevitable losses with time, feels to get firmer each year. We usually sing at nearby Holy Trinity, but due to structural issues last year, we had to switch to the works canteen. We share the stage with local primary schools so the audience is substantial, and it’s still pretty good after the calls for bedtime. Anyway, these young choirs give our musical director an excuse to wear a silly outfit. There are two lady vicars, jolly and serious, and there always used to be a bloke from the company who sang Home Sweet Home.

The stuff is all over the place - pdf to another format

Though not a regular competition choir, a recent addition to our touring schedule is the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival, where contesting is shared with more relaxed gigs in great venues such as Tate St Ives and the Eden Project, accompanied by blue cloudless skies and light breezes. Incidentally and proudly, previous forays into competition (2009/10/11) resulted in two wins and a second at the Don Valley festival. 

After the summer break, the lull before the storm, comes the mighty Huddersfield Town Hall concert. Since 2000, firstly every two years, and now every year, we invite a star to share the platform with us. Sir Willard White, Aled Jones, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Alison Balsom have all played and sung with us. Groups also come. Morriston Orpheus, a top Welsh choir, is a high standard to compare yourself against. We gave a poignant welcome to The Band of the Yorkshire Regiment at a time of national and local grief following deaths in The Middle East. Young Opera Venture were simply a delight to help out with the chorus in Bizet’s Carmen.

Our other concerts when we are guests often produce great moments in brilliant venues: Royal Albert Hall, Cardiff Arms Park, York Minster, Sheffield Cathedral, Elland Road, Fountains Abbey, Blackpool Winter Gardens, Scarborough Spa and our own Huddersfield Town Hall. And raising not inconsiderable sums for worthy causes. The Winter Gardens concert was for 2500 ladies of Inner Wheel. The Arms Park was full - well Shirley Bassey was the star guest.

Now forget all the adrenaline and fireworks of the Town Hall. Underneath all the froth of the great venues and star guests, down amongst the muck and bullets is the weekly rehearsal in New Mill Club. You can set your watch by it. Two hours of super coaching to sing in harmony and to perform. Two hours away from your normal duties in the company of Musical Director Allan Brierley and Pianist Emma Binns. Everyone grafts. Drinks and food follow and the bonds continue to grow. We are so lucky to have New Mill Club; a powerful factor supporting the closely knit choir. This weekly foundation is the fuel for those ultimate moments of performance.

Another important factor in our choir fellowship is illustrated by Andy’s piece below. The diversity of member’s jobs and interests is considerable. So strong in some cases, small groups actually want to meet between rehearsals to pursue their passions. A final thought about choir health. Our committee meets monthly; a bit of a headache which they gladly suffer to enable the choir to function at the basic level; essential stuff if we are to thrive and triumph on the concert platform. Behind the broad sweeping movements of the seasons there is a steady beat. All those beats count.

                                                  Caravanners, sun-tanners, ex-pats and gym rats,

Heavy drinkers, heavy thinkers, trumpet players, sooth- sayers,

Organic bakers, micky-takers, runners and joggers, gardeners and loggers,

Teachers and preachers, straight talkers, fell walkers, Writers, right-wingers, folk singers, old swingers, Dropouts and artists, sculptors, conductors,

Ballroom prancers, Morris dancers, computer geeks and techno freaks,

Lawyers, accountants, political wets, the hunting, shooting and fishing sets ...

Andy Johnston