16 August 2017


Regarding  Saturday, August 12th....

Last Friday night, I reached The Cumbria Park Hotel in Carlisle exactly three hours after setting off from Sheffield. After a hearty breakfast, I had a little stroll round the neighbourhood and took a photograph of  a nearby pub - "The Crown" where I had enjoyed a couple of late pints. Back in the hotel car park I noticed a statue with an adjacent sign. It seems that I was standing on the site of one of the largest Roman forts that was built along the course of Hadrian's Wall during the first century BC -  Uxelodunum.
Then Clint took me back to the M6 motorway and into Scotland. I turned left just past Gretna Green and drove along the A75  under grey skies towards Dumfries. As Clint's windcreen wipers swished away the rain I was cursing the BBC weather service. Had they got the weekend wrong?  It was the promising weather forecast that had spurred me into action. However, by the time I got to Phoenix Dumfries the grey was giving way to the blue.

I headed south onto what I shall call The Desnes Ioan Peninsula as that was the medieval name for this secret corner of Scotland. You might also say that I was travelling along the East Stewartry Coast. The weather was improving all the time and I made several stops along the winding road taking several diversions and snapping lots of pictures. The roads were quiet and the sun was shining. 

One of my first stops was in New Abbey where you will find the ruins of the pleasantly named Sweetheart Abbey. It was founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in  memory of her recently departed husband. After his death,  Dervorguilla apparently carried his embalmed heart everywhere she went - in a casket made from silver and ivory. I wonder why this practice isn't followed in modern times. It shows true love. She was even buried with said heart.
Sweetheart Abbey rising above the houses in New Abbey
The John Gray scarecrow in New Abbey
Down the coast, I took a detour to the village Carsethorn which was once a medieval port. There's a pub there, a telephone box and a few houses that look out over The Solway Firth. At low tide, the waters recede significantly leaving sand banks, mud flats and occasional quicksands. It's paradise for seabirds and waders but challenging for sailors and watersports enthusiasts.
Tidal flats at Carsethorn
And then I travelled on to the hamlet of Overton. At the junction with the main road there's a quirky bus shelter which local children have vandalised decorated while waiting to travel to school in Dumfries:-
Onwards to Southerness with its lighthouse. Close by there's a holiday site with static caravans, a pub, an amusement arcade and a fish and chip shop. I ate golden chips from a polystyrene container and drank tea from a cardboard container before visiting the "table top sale" in the pub. Most of the stuff displayed belonged in a rubbish bin so I didn't stay long.
Southerness Lighthouse
This blogpost could easily stretch as long as as a roll of toilet paper but I'm trying to reduce it down to a few sheets. After Southerness, I headed west through Caulkerbush and Heughs of Laggan to Sandyhills Bay and  Portling. Images from these places are shown below:-
At Sandyhiills Bay
Portling House enjoys magnificent views across The Solway Firth
Clint and I then travelled inland to Dalbeattie but we didn't stop there. We cut south into what was now the old county of Kirkcudbrightshire. I was conscious of the time as I travelled around the next peninsula, arching round towards to the county town but I made a few more stops. For example:-
Orchardton Tower
The ruins of  Dundrennan Abbey
Even though I hadn't travelled far and had taken my time over the journey from Dumfries I realised that I had missed so much along the way. For example, I didn't even drive into Rockcliffe and as I say I missed Dalbeattie entirely. But it was now late afternoon and I had to press on to Kirkcudbright - my Shangri La, my San Francisco - the place I had been dreaming of for several weeks.
A view of Kirkcudbright from Toll Booth House
 Finally, I made it there - Kirkcudbright - "the artists' town" and joy upon joy there were no double yellow lines, no parking machines in the car park and no parking enforcement officers strolling around like stormtroopers. It was indeed a modern day Nirvana. I treated myself to a pint of shandy in The Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel and then strolled around the little town for a while before heading to my B&B accommodation in the hamlet of Girthon. 
Church ruin by Kirk House in Girthon
I was staying in Kirk House by the ruined church. After an hour's rest, I headed into the old mill town Gatehouse of Fleet for more exploration and my evening meal which was ordered in a busy pub called "The Masonic Arms" - just off the high street.
A window  in Gatehouse of Fleet
It had been a wonderful day. So many lovely sights. I was already looking forward to Sunday August 13th which will be the subject of my next blogpost.

14 August 2017


By The Weaver of Grass's home near Bellerby this afternoon
The weekend's weather forecast was encouraging so on Friday evening I headed north to Carlisle, Then on Saturday morning I crossed over the border into Scotland and headed west to Dumfries before cutting south along the coast, meandering and stopping occasionally to explore what to me was unfamiliar territory. And beautiful it all was as I  followed the twisting road to Kirkcudbright.

At five o'clock I reached my B&B in the hamlet of Girthon. It is run by an artist called Sheena. Her paintings filled the walls of the old Kirk House. That was my base. And on a bright and summery Sunday,  I continued my tootling around Galloway with various stops for photographs.

Such a lovely corner of this great island. So green. So peaceful and with so many wonderful coastal vistas. I didn't return to the B&B till ten thirty. Sheena had left a little note on the door asking me to lock up. It had been a brilliant and memorable day.

Some future blogposts will report this weekend in closer detail. I snapped more than two hundred pictures but don't fret, you won't have to suffer all of them!

Today, after lunch in England's highest pub - "The Tan Hill Inn" I thought I would pay another well-known blogger a visit. I sped into the  North Yorkshire village of Bellerby. That's where Pat, The Weaver of Grass currently resides. Unfortunately, she wasn't in but I peered through her windows and saw some of the boxes she has been filling ahead of her impending move to the nearby market town of Leyburn.

I left her a tin of salmon rather than flowers. If you read her blog you may have also deduced that Pat is seriously addicted to salmon. Lunching out regularly, she just can't get enough of  this particular fish species. It would have been nice to spend an hour with her and I would also have got to meet her trusty hound - Tess.

Instead, I headed back down the A1 towards Sheffield.

11 August 2017


"Our republic is a responsible nuclear state that, as we 
made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first 
unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to 
invade upon our sovereignty,"
- Kim Jong-un speaking at The House of Culture 
in Pyonyang. North Korea May 1st 2016

10 August 2017


"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power - the likes of which this world has never seen before..." 
- Donald Trump speaking at The Trump National
 Golf Center. Bedminster N.J. 8/8/17

9 August 2017


Is it Art?
No - it's my designer decorating trews.
While George and Amal Clooney are snuggling up on their sofa, watching "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" on their mammoth TV set, I very much doubt that Amal cajoles George to re-decorate their bedroom. I just can't visualise George donning old decorating clothes and shifting the furniture or heading off to the local branch of B&Q to purchase paint, wallpaper, filler and all the other stuff you need for a domestic decorating project.

It's something that rich people never experience. When's the last time that Mick Jagger wielded a paint roller? When's the last time Donald Trump got barley white emulsion in his eye when painting a ceiling? When's the last time Queen Elizabeth II had to use white spirit to clean up her hands and brushes while standing over the kitchen sink?

All of this preamble is leading to the confession that I have finally succumbed to the psychological pressure cleverly applied by Lady Pudding to achieve her target - the redecoration of our bedroom.. 

For three days, I have been a virtual prisoner, crawling about, up and down the step ladder. scraping, sanding, pasting, glossing, re-coating, wiping down. These are practical actions unknown to The Kardashians or Kim Jong Un. And at sixty three I begin to feel various aches and pains connected with decorating. I especially dislike having to lie on my belly on the floor, simply because it's bloody hard to get up again. I need to keep protecting my right knee from injury.

My unwelcome incarceration and the slavish drudgery have been slightly relieved by BBC Radio 4. It has taken my mind away from the bedroom of punishment. I wonder if Nelson Mandela listened to Radio 4 on Robben Island. Perhaps that's what got him through quarter of a century of unjustified imprisonment. He might have broken rocks there but I doubt that he ever glossed any skirting boards.

The job is still not done. The final act will be to wallpaper the wall at the head of our bed. I have already put good quality lining paper up on that wall. The top paper we chose cost £39 a roll and there are blue peacocks on it. In months to come, I will probably experience nightmares in which I hear the late night alarm calls of peacocks from my dingy cell before waking up in a fevered sweat.

Today I am being allowed out on parole so the papering will have to wait till tonight or tomorrow. As usual on a Wednesday, I shall soon be off down to the Oxfam charity shop to do my bit for an organisation that has done so much great work around the world through the past seventy five years. I just hope that the manager - Catherine - doesn't ask me to paint anything.
Our peacock paper.

8 August 2017


You might recall that I was recently  lucky enough to win my third "Picture of the Week" over on the geograph website. As usual my reward was to pick the next winner from a shortlist of fifty images. Below is the photograph that I picked as the bronze medallist. It was taken at Nostell Priory which I visited just last Friday:-
 In second place, I picked this picture of an oak tree up in the Scottish Highlands. It's near a small lake called Lock Achilty which is not too far from Inverness:-
And the next picture was my favourite so it was the overall winner. It was taken by a gentleman called Alan. The location was just east of Ilkeston in Derbyshire. Alan was standing on a footbridge that crosses The Erewash Canal. I admired the geometrical symmetry of Alan's image and how this was assisted by the reflections on the water.
 Sorry that I forgot to take Yorkshire Pudding visitors through the voting process this time.

7 August 2017


In this mad world, we put certain people on pedestals. Mostly, these people, these stars, are engaged in activities that shouldn't really matter. They are separate from real life. Real life is the channel that the rest of us swim along - farmers, engineers, nurses, teachers, factory workers,  shop assistants, dockers, lorry drivers, soldiers and all the rest.

Without these people doing the real work, living the real life, there would be no pedestals for the famous.

I am thinking about film stars, actors, pop artists, best-selling novelists, TV people, sports stars. They are only there to distract us, an embellishment - like the travelling circuses of yore that were set up on village greens to entertain the local populace. With a few spare pennies jangling in one's pocket one could afford admission to the big top. But it didn't really matter. It was not the real life. When the acrobats and the clowns were gone, normal life resumed.

You might say that we have all been signed up - willingly or otherwise to join the cult of celebrity. They have become modern day gods from Lionel Messi to Meryl Streep and from Stephen King to Little Mix. We are meant to bow down before them, follow their stories, compare the glorious light of their exciting  lives with the anonymous shadows of our own drudgery.

When quizzed about their ambitions, many kids are magnetised by the sideshow. They want to be famous footballers, reality TV stars, actors.  But those people - the ones we see in magazines and tabloid newspapers - they represent such a minuscule proportion of humanity that it ought to make them irrelevant.

Adulation, admiration and aspiration should really be reserved for the everyday people we see around us. They are the real heroes - our fellow citizens including family members. It is far more heroic to swim in the river of reality than to dance like a moth  in the deceptive limelight of fame.