19 April 2018


It's Thursday April 19th, a day that my family and I have been excitedly anticipating for quite a while. This is the day on which our son Ian's Bosh! cookbook is launched at an event in Borough Market , London called "Bosh!Fest". All being well, my trusty steed Silver Clint will be whisking Shirley and I down to the capital later this morning.

Here's our invitation...
"We’re delighted that you’ll be joining us to celebrate the publication of BOSH!, the debut cookbook from Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, at the first all-plant festival to be held at Borough Market!

BOSH! FEST takes place from 7- 11pm on Thursday,19th April at Borough Market’s Market Hall and Green Market.

The GUEST entrance/exit to the festival is in Market Hall, on Southwark Street. On arrival you’ll receive a Guest pass and a BOSH! goody bag.
We’ve got a full programme of talks and cookery demos lined up for you with special guests Anna Jones, Dr. Rupy Aujla and The Happy Pear, and some awesome DJs will be playing throughout the evening.

There will be plenty of delicious all-plant food and drinks to enjoy, with cocktails and soft drinks from Lemonaid, beer from Red Church Beer and food from Club Mexicana, Spice Box, and Young Vegans. There is one cashpoint within the festival perimeter and retailers will have card-readers, but please do bring cash if possible to avoid queues.

Don’t forget to share your BOSH! FEST experiences @boshtv @HQStories #boshfest #boshbook

Looking forward to seeing you at Borough Market this Thursday 19th April at 7:00pm!"

18 April 2018


A list of animals that became extinct because of human beings, all now as dead as the fabled dodo....

Atlas wild ass
Bali tiger
Barbary lion
Atlas bear
Big-eared hopping mouse
Caspian tiger on a postage
stamp from Azerbaijan 
Bulldog rat
California grizzly bear
Cape lion
Caribbean monk seal
Carpathian wisent
Caspian tiger
Caucasian wisent
Cebu warty pig
Chadwick Beach cotton mouse
Chatham bellbird
Chatham fernbird
Eastern elk
Falkland Islands wolf
Formosan clouded leopard
Saudi gazelle
Goff's pocket gopher
Great auk
Guam flying fox
Gull Island vole
Haast's eagle
Bubal hartebeest
Hemigrapsus estellinensis
Japanese sea lion
Madeiran scops owl
Martha - the last passenger pigeon in 1912
Mexican grizzly bear
New Zealand owlet-nightjar
Northern Sumatran rhinoceros
Laughing owl
São Miguel scops owl
Carolina parakeet
Passenger pigeon
Piopio (bird)
New Zealand quail
Rocky Mountain locust
San Martín Island woodrat
Schomburgk's deer
Sea mink
Small Mauritian flying fox
North Island snipe
South Island snipe
Dusky seaside sparrow
Steller's sea cow
Stout-legged wren
Syncaris pasadenae
Syrian wild ass
Wake Island rail
Western black rhinoceros
Lyall's wren

The list is not comprehensive and it grows with each passing year. Just look what we done.

17 April 2018


The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Drax
Parts of this Grade I listed church date back to the 12th century
On Saturday, in the village of Drax, two boys of about nine or ten were ambling along the opposite pavement as I drove slowly by. One of them made the famous and vulgar two-fingered salute in my direction, not realising that I was about to park Clint. When I opened the driver's door, the boys scooted off, perhaps imagining that they were about to be chased by a madman. Instead, it just made me chuckle.

Drax is a village with an ancient history. It once had a castle and an Augustinian priory. It sits in flatlands just south of The River Ouse and north of The River Aire. The landscape is crisscrossed with drains. Half a mile away on the opposite bank of the Ouse is Barmby-on-the Marsh where my family lived until 1952 - the year before I was born. There was no bridge to connect the two villages. Instead, a twelve mile round trip was required via Boothferry Bridge Lord knows what people did before that was built.
Drax Power Station
Seen from fifteen miles away in 2014
In the early 1970's something happened to really put Drax on the map and bring the old village's name to the nation's consciousness. A massive coal-fired power station was built on the edge of the place by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It has a generating capacity of 4000 megawats - the most productive power station in the nation and it looms over the landscape. You can see it from miles around.

I tootled round the area for an hour or so having never been to Drax before. With my curiosity salved it was time to continue with my journey over to Hull where I am sorry to say that in spite of dominating the game, The Tigers lost 0-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. Boo-hoo!
Drax Power Station
Seen from Drax Abbey Farm last Saturday

16 April 2018


                                                                                                                   Hover and click to enlarge

It's finished! I am talking about my football crowd picture. In fact it was completed a week ago. 

The idea for this picture wafted into my head a few years back but I only got round to starting it last June. I worked on it intermittently when I was home alone with nothing else to do. That's really why it took so long but in any case, I was in no rush.

I want to thank my real life friend Mick Greaves for remembering the idea I once shared with him. Occasionally, he would enquire if I had started the picture yet and this had the effect of spurring me on. I also want to thank my blogging friend Donna in Colorado who gave me the idea of using different shades of "payne's grey" to colour in the figures. Thanks also to Briony (Brenda) in Brighton, England and to Jennifer in South Carolina for showing genuine enthusiasm for the project and for asking to have cartoon images of themselves in the crowd.

Ever since I was a bored schoolboy frequently enduring lessons that failed to interest me, I have doodled. Usually the doodling came back to cartoon images of people's faces. And at the end of my teaching career, sitting in tedious meetings, I frequently found myself still doodling faces. Consequently, this crowd picture is a celebration of all that aimless drawing - at last it has come to something. Simultaneously, it is also a homage to The Tigers - Hull City A.F.C..
 Briony and Jennifer
 Friends Mike and Mick & Tony
 Son Ian and Daughter Frances
 Stew (Daughter's beau) and Shirley
 Leonardo da Yorkshire (Me)

15 April 2018


Foot binding happened in China for a thousand years - right up to the start of the twentieth century. Apparently, small arched feet were considered beautiful but the practice caused much pain and ultimately - disability. Foot binding was only practised on females from certain social strata. Thank heavens it has been resigned to history.

When it comes to footwear, my prime interest is comfort. I would never for a moment think of wearing high heels as they must surely be incredibly uncomfortable. And yet, here in the western world many women choose to wear outlandish high heels when they have evenings out and some even wear them for work. There is a shared sense that they are stylish and feminine. Some of the heels we see today are very high, narrow and sharp.

Linked with this, hundreds of women each year find themselves in hospital accident and emergency rooms with sprains, broken bones and dislocations  attributed directly to the wearing of high heels. Meanwhile there are still image-conscious businesses that insist that female reception staff and office workers wear high heels as part of their corporate "uniform".

I would be interested to hear what you think about high heels. My view is that they are a modern day echo of Chinese foot binding and that they are a cultural phenomenon in which mostly young women find themselves unconsciously trapped. Arguably, they are a continuing emblem of the subjugation of women and I applaud all women who refuse to subscribe to this ludicrous footwear fashion.

14 April 2018


I just finishing reading a novel. It was "Reservoir 13" by Jon McGregor. My feelings about it are quite conflicted.

On the plus side, I liked the fact that it was set in my backyard - The Peak District. I also admired McGregor's close observations of nature from mating foxes to returning swallows and I liked the sense of a community evolving over a decade. The style of writing is uncomplicated.

A vital thread that runs through the novel concerns the disappearance of a teenage girl called Rebecca Shaw. There are echoed references  to her in every chapter. We are tantalised by possibilities. What did happen to her? Will we ever know?

I know that I am not the only reader who found it difficult to keep tabs on the various villagers who inhabit the novel. None of them ever receives a physical description and there is no dialogue. To me there was something of a cardboard cutout quality about them - they often lacked depth and genuine emotional investment. However, I was prepared to tolerate them because I was keen to find out what had happened to Rebecca Shaw.

The narrator is all-seeing. He sees the bats and details about footpaths, bedroom antics, reservoirs and the botany of the region but he refuses to reveal what happened to Rebecca Shaw. Of course, I accept that neat resolution is not always the duty of  a novelist. Sometimes an open, ambiguous ending is the most appropriate choice, leaving the reader to speculate and wonder. However, in this instance, I felt that I had been the victim of sustained teasing. Rebecca Shaw's life deserved a solution or at least a powerful hint about what had transpired thirteen years beforehand.

When interviewed by Alice O'Keeffe for "The Bookseller", Jon McGregor was asked if he had spent time observing badgers in the wild - perhaps staking out a sett - to which  he laughed, replying, "Um. No. The internet."

In the final analysis, I am glad I bothered to read "Reservoir 13" in spite of my misgivings about it. The language was carefully crafted. Arguably, it was trying to do something different - perhaps shaking up complacent notions about what a novel should be and what it should do...

“Her name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She'd been wearing a white hooded 
top with a navy-blue body-warmer. She would be twenty-three years old by 
now. She had been seen in the beech wood, climbing a tree. She had been 
seen at the railway station. She had been seen by the side of the road. She 
had been looked for, everywhere. She could have arranged to meet somebody, 
and been driven safely away.She could have fallen down a hole. She could 
have been hurt by her parents in some terrible mistake. She could 
have gone away because she'd chosen to, or because she had no choice. 
People still wanted to know.”

13 April 2018


Perhaps you are like me. When writing, I sometimes find myself wanting to use an alternative word to the one that first springs to mind. Perhaps the initial word has been used already or perhaps it is not helping to create the intended effect. I rack my brain trying to think of a different word.

The facility I am about to advertise is not available in "Blogger"  but it is available in "Word". I am sure that some of you out there have known about it for ages but I am equally sure that there will be many visitors who have not yet stumbled across it. It is very useful.

Let's say you have just typed a sentence. Let's say it is this one:-

The wind howled through the trees.

But a voice inside your head says you are not happy with all your word choices. You put your cursor over the word wind. Then you do a right click. You go down the little menu that has appeared  and you see the word "Synonyms". You go right of this and you find "breeze, airstream, gale, squall, gust, storm". You click on the alternative word you judge to be best and the word "wind" is automatically replaced.
Then you look at "howled" and "trees" in the same way, considering alternatives and you might also think about adjectives that could be inserted, till you finally come up with..

An arctic squall wailed through the skeletal saplings.

Okay, I know this is a slightly artificial OTT sentence and sometimes simplicity is preferable but I am just trying to promote the use of the "Synonyms" facility. It's there at your fingertips when using "Word" and I know that many computer users are not aware of it. It can save a lot of brain scratching as you try to come up with replacement words. It is simply a quick and potentially very helpful  aide memoire though naturally it also requires good judgement as you weigh up replacement auxiliary standby additional emergency other possibilities.