It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on menstonvillagewharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

View original 821 more words

It’s a while since I managed to write a post here, and even longer (about a month) since I was able to pay close attention to the many excellent blogs I follow. The same has been true of my other (photo) blog, grumpytykepix. It’s been due to a combination of diversions:

  • getting a new website/blog ‘live’ for my employer;
  • getting embroiled in a campaign fighting inappropriate development in the village in which I live, which has revealed at best incompetence in the local (Bradford) council, at worst possible corruption – all this as part of authoring a WordPress blog for my village;
  • being commissioned to author a column in a local weekly newspaper covering forthcoming events in my village and a nearby small town, Otley (yesterday was the fifth appearance);
  • being diverted by a wonderful 88 year old lady who telephoned me to ask whether her family history might be interesting for an article in the paper (it’s fascinating!).

Fewston (Washburn Valley, Yorkshire) Marriages

I’m not ready yet to reveal the identity of my octogenarian or say much about her but so far the story has taken me to a local museum, a local cemetery and consumed hours of searching archives, such as the one pictured, on internet. As a result I’ve managed to identify some of her ancestors back to 1829, which has been a delight to her. But I still have many leads to follow up.

She is concerned that her memory is failing and as she is ‘last of the line’ the family history will die with her unless it is set down. Being last of the line and living alone she is also rather lonely, so an excuse to visit her once a week with the latest ‘tidbit’ is just what was needed, not to mention the glass (or more) of ‘Croft’s Original’ she insists on plying me with; fortunately she lives only a few minutes walk from me, so no driving.

Eventually her story will certainly make a post, or more, on this blog; a page, or more, on the village blog; possibly a feature in a local paper or magazine; and even maybe a book which I’ll gladly ‘ghost’ for her.

There is nothing wrong with the Media Museum except that it is in Bradford. It’s a wonderful museum which I used to visit frequently. As a very keen photographer but also someone fascinated by photographic history I would visit it several times a month – it’s a pleasant 20 minute train ride from where I live – if I didn’t have to cross Bradford’s depressing city centre to get to it.

Of course it should not be closed; it should be moved. As one of the three museums of which it is said one must be closed, its low attendance figures compared to those of the other two, the Railway Museum in York and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, have nothing to do with the museum itself; they result from where it is.


I have a solution. Move the museum to Leeds, a vibrant, bustling Yorkshire city of which West Yorkshire can be proud. We’d then see the attendance figures rocket. In fact, if I won one of the multi-tens of millions on Euromillions I’d offer to finance the move myself.

Why has Bradford been allowed to self-destruct? The politicians can answer that but I believe that it is now beyond redemption. It is not the ‘multi-cultural city’ as often claimed, it is a collection of cultural ghettos so that it has little Yorkshire left about large swathes of it and all the demographic projections show that in a very short time it will become an imitation foreign country in the middle of Britain. Parts of it are that already. What is worse is that now the immigrants who arrive with little English and few if any skills are being packed into these ghettos too. It’s a chain reaction which is now beyond control. The immigrants who have something to offer – and there are many of them – go elsewhere.

Before I’m accused of racism you should know that I’m firmly of the opinion that a big factor in what makes Leeds such a great place is the strong Afro-Caribbean community. They have had a major effect on the city but have not imposed an alien culture on it. It is still very much a Yorkshire city and they, while retaining the many valuable and exciting aspects of their culture and allowing us to share it, have become ‘Yorkshire folk’. In no way is this true of Bradford.

Wasted £30 million – a year?

Someone on the tv this evening gave as a reason that the museum should not be closed was that it brought £30 million a year into the city. If that is true it is a disgrace. What happens to that £30 million? There is no sign of it in the increasing slum that the city has become. So move the museum to a place where this substantial sum would not be wasted.

But any reasonable sales or marketing man could tell this idiot that arguing how much the museum does for Bradford will not save it, what would is what Bradford does or could do for the museum. Put fountains on the forecourt and flood it on demand? Stage a Bollywood buggered-up Carmen in the IMAX theatre instead of the real thing it the Alhambra (where I first saw the original some 65 years ago)? I don’t think so. The answer is “zilch”.

So I say again, don’t close it. Move it!



to you all

may your year be full of rainbows


I’m about half way in drafting the promised post on my disappointment with what Britain has become – basically since Tony Blair became prominent on the scene (until which time I was a life-long Labour supporter). I guess it’s going to get me into quite a bit of trouble with many people, but perhaps not as it’s likely not that many people will read it.

I’m prompted to find time to complete it by many recent events, among which:

  • being told I could not take photographs of my teenage nephew playing football;
  • my subsequent weekend in Germany where I freely took pictures in a children’s playground full of children and their parents without complaint (I have put just one, of my grandson on my classic camera/film ‘photo’ blog – grumpytykepix);
  • children taken away from foster parents because they were members of UKIP (I am not, by the way, a UKIP supporter in general);
  • looking through a recent GCSE maths paper and finding I could do the first five questions in my head in less than a minute (I haven’t ‘done’ maths for over 50 years);
  • Bradford metropolitan council’s insistence on allowing hundreds of new houses to be built in an area which simply cannot support them (in fact almost anything Bradford Council has done in the past two decades);
  • the appalling treatment of elderly people in the NHS;
  • the increasing ‘regulation by tick box’ in vital areas like care and education;
  • the appalling fall in journalistic standards, in general but particularly at the BBC (and the schoolboy antics introduced into many otherwise interesting and ‘serious’ programmes);
  • … there are a few more.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll succeed to do a post or two on more enjoyable things, like food and cooking – especially as I’m really keen to try a couple of recipes (onion soup and a chocolate cake) on one of my favourite ‘cookery’ blogs (actually more than that), ‘My French Heaven’.

I spent yesterday evening watching the Olympics opening ceremony and, at the same time, sorting out my blog-related emails. Today, I have to settle down to getting everything ready and packed to leave for Romania tomorrow.

I’m not a great sports fan, neither as participant nor spectator, but the Olympics has done something – something good – to Britain. I originally set up this blog to moan about how I found my country on returning after more than ten years absence. Yesterday I went into my nearest city, Bradford, 8 miles away; so depressing – the people in the street look depressed, the main shopping street full of empty shops – and I thought of writing a post about it, the sort of post I envisaged when first I created this blog more than four years ago.

Of course it’s not the fault of the people of Bradford, but that of the politicians – both local and national – who have allowed it to happen. The vast metropolitan authority needs breaking up to allow the local communities to have the local decision-making democracy which David Cameron seemed to promise but now clearly has no intention of delivering.

Part of Bradford’s main shopping street; there are least four dismal, empty, abandoned shops in this picture and many, many more within a few paces

But I also went to Leeds, only 3 miles further; vibrant, colourful, the people in the street look contented, elegant, happy – and I wondered if my initial depression on return to the UK eight years ago was just that I returned to my home city – Bradford. 

Seeing the enthusiasm of the crowds, including the blind and multiple disabled tenants of the charity for which I work, turning out to cheer on the Olympic torch carriers over the past couple of weeks,  it is difficult to remember that Britain has serious problems. Britons need a jolt to jerk them out of the stoic acceptance of bad times, and it seems to me that the Olympics could well provide that from what I have seen so far.

The dedication, perseverance yet wonderful modesty of Olympians like Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins give us all something to aspire to. So, despite my aversion to sporting activity (though I do love to walk), I have high hopes that the 2012 Olympics will provide the jolt to spark a renewal in Britain.

Sorting gmail

As for sorting my emails, Google’s claim that you never need to delete anything and don’t need folders with gmail was beginning to look shaky as, despite labelling, I was increasingly unable to find anything among 563 blog-related emails since I began posting a little over a month ago. An internet search quickly showed how to create folders, so now everything related to likes, follows and comments on my own blog – 216 emails – is in one folder; everything related to other blogs – 347 emails – is now in another folder.

A day of ‘street photography’ debate (with myself only!)

Good intentions to write a blog a day died last week when work and other things took over. So Saturday, due to go to a village gala and subsequent barbecue at friends who live in the village, it seemed a good idea to take up the WordPress weekly photo challenge and attempt some ‘street photography’. Despite declaring a big interest in things photographic I’ve so far written almost nothing about it. Our contribution to the barbecue would give me an opportunity to talk about food.

So, what camera to take? Seemed clear to me I should take film, black and white film at that. Looking at all the street photography through links on the challenge post it was clear that, for me, that black and white provided the most powerful images and those on film appealed most to me.

Some of grumpytyke's film cameras

A lovely Exa with Tessar, a Super Ikonta also with Tessar, a Mamiya Press Super 23, Voigtlander Bessa-T with 35mm Color Skopar, Contax AX and Olympus XA. A few of my ‘little’ collection.

Which camera? The Olympus XA – pocketable, light, the ideal 35mm lens, excellent viewfinder, very unobtrusive. Unfortunately the shutter on mine is playing up so it had to be discounted, and the Minox 35EL with similar attributes is ‘in bits’ while I try to find a similar problem.

For me all the SLRs were ‘out’ – generally too bulky, too noisy, too intrusive.

So it had to be one of the rangefinders (though a Leica M4 exists, till now, only on my wish list). What film did I have?

Well I have a shelf-full of 120 B&W film but the Super Ikonta folder or Mamiya Super 23 are clearly not the tools for this job. I could find only four 35mm – a 36 exposure FP4 cassette, at 125 not really fast enough; a 20 exp Delta 400 – not as many exposures as I wanted; a couple of hundred exposures of XP2 in a bulk loader but couldn’t find any empty cassettes, and almost 50 metres of APX 400 in an unopened pack, which would have been my preferred choice but, again, no cassettes and even if I found some changing the film in the bulk-loader would be a helluva hassle.

So, maybe this time I have to settle for digital; the Lumix GF1 set to B&W, zoom set to 17.5mm (so 35mm equivalent) manual exposure and focus set to hyperfocal distance, provides some of the necessary attributes. I’d be more convinced if it had a conventional viewfinder.

However. I still wanted to go with film so chose the Bessa-T with optical viewfinder in the hotshoe, taking the Delta 400 with the FP4 as back-up (maybe it can be ‘pushed’?).

I took the GF1 as a back-up.

All to no avail. We arrived at the village as the heavens opened; it rained like a power shower for an hour so we sat in the VW camper till we could make it to the barbecue – no parking there so a long walk. Then it rained again so no barbecue – almost everything was cooked in the oven/grill inside.

So no ‘street photography’, at least not in time for this week’s challenge.

Barbecue food, Romanian ‘mici’

One brave soul, my Romanian wife, was determined to have the ‘mici’ she’d made taste authentic so braved the rain and got just enough cover to cook them on the charcoal. As always, these ‘simple’ Romanian barbecue delicacies went down a bomb (as they did when she made them for our Jubilee ‘Big Lunch’ a couple of weeks ago).

Simple? Minced meat mixed with a variety of flavourings – onion, garlic, thyme, coriander, cumin, black pepper and, of course, salt. Traditionally the mince is a mixture of lamb and beef, but my wife won’t eat lamb so she makes it with beef and pork – 60/40% seems to work well. Apart from the unusual spice mix, what makes the ‘mici’ special is they are mixed (hands of course) with some sparkling mineral water (or sodium bicarbonate mixed with ‘juice’ from the meat) which makes them more ‘airy’.

They are rolled into small sausage shapes (keeping hands wet to prevent the mixture sticking) and, when cooked, eaten with slices from a French stick and ‘French’ mustard. Cold beer, gassy continental type, is obligatory (I took the little bottles of French Brasserie Blonde from Aldi – cheap and ideal if you’re driving – low alcohol).

Not surprisingly, few if any Romanians mix up the spices themselves nowadays, they buy a packet. We do the same; we bring a few packets back on each visit or the family post them to us.

Bankers, lawyers and Dickens

Can’t resist a little politics. Did anyone else notice that the politicians in the ‘save the Euro’ discussions seemed more intent on saving, or not losing, face than coming up with any real solutions?

Banking? The latest banking scandal, fixing interest rates, incredibly seems yet again to be greeted with surprise by so many. Dickens was ranting about the financial ‘institutions’ of that day around a century and a half ago and I’ve been saying for about the past 50 years that little has changed.

Of course he was right about the legal professions too and much remains the same.

By any moral standard both remain corrupt.

‘Complain’ – despite the frustrations

I put ‘.’ around the word ‘complain’ because as a senior executive of a private hospital recently pointed out to me (more on this below), it should be regarded as feedback which gives an organisation or person a chance to rectify the error or omission.

The British in particular seem reluctant to bring problems to the attention of those who can do something about it. So some of my neighbours moan to me about a silly little parking squabble but don’t say anything to those who can do something about it. And many moan to me about ‘happenings’ in the NHS but again that’s as much as they do.

Of course, most of the time you will be frustrated and feel you are wasting your time, as I did when after I and my wife had telephoned our local ‘cottage hospital’ – the Wharfedale Hospital – many times to try to cancel an appointment – to be unanswered, cut off or directed to a machine which didn’t take messages. Yet when I finally got through, the receptionist refused to accept what I told her, repeating “But the phone is always answered”.

I was equally frustrated when I ‘complained’ to a large local NHS hospital that my 90 year old mother had been kept on a trolley for 11 hours on admission because, it seems “patients cannot be given a bed until they have seen a doctor and no doctors were available”. Or ‘complaints’ directed to the Chief Executive of our local housing association which are passed down to a ‘customer service manager’, resulting in the usual ‘form’ letter and no action.

This post was originally going to be about how the private hospitals to which we can now be referred by our GPs are just as bad as the NHS ones. This followed a couple of administrative errors from one of them. But I’m pleased to say that this was one of those rare occasions which backed up my contention that you should always ‘complain’.

I sent an email outlining my complaint to the Chief Executive, who was on leave at the time, but it was picked up by another senior director and …

What a difference! The senior director immediately arranged to meet my wife and myself. He explained what had gone wrong, why it had gone wrong, and the measures the organisation had taken to ensure it did not happen again. This was followed up by a letter confirming everything that had been said at the meeting.

Unfortunately I don’t feel able to name the organisation concerned because, in view of the rapid and effective response, I don’t think the original error should be publicised as I first intended.

How often have I thought “I’m going to write about this to the local paper”? Rarely I have done it. However, getting into this new blog has set me off writing again so I actually wrote something and emailed it. Whether it’s published or not is something else. We’ll see. I’ve put them under ‘Ramblings’.

I guess they may not mean very much to someone not local to where I live (beautiful Wharfedale in Yorkshire). But there are some more general political issues and even some links to my interest in food – so I’ve tagged them so.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

Neither Sophocles nor Virgil tells us to take care even when they are not! Though Virgil does hint at it:

I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts” (my underline).

So now the Greeks are going to the polls and we are all fearful of the effect of the outcome on our lives. But why?

Why the hell should the misbehaviour of what is, after all, a fairly small, fairly insignificant country in the bigger scheme of things have such consequences?

Well, we’re told it’s the ‘markets’. What does that mean? It means it’s the same irresponsible gamblers – those in the money dealers, those in the banks, those in the whole corrupt worldwide financial system – those who caused the problem in the first place.

That means of course we’re back to the politicians, who fly off to Mexico or sit in video conferences to waffle non-stop, but actually do nothing to deal with the real problem.

If the Greeks are bearing gifts, what are they? A fabulous ancient history, a fascinating ancient literature, a lot of sun on a lovely blue sea, and great music for dancing. It seems they can even play football now and then. But I can’t see anything there which enables them to bring down the whole of modern Europe. But I guess a big, wooden horse looked pretty innocuous at the time.

Maybe it’s the great food! (which gives me a link to the next item).


Tournedos Rossini

Yet another picture in a restaurant review of a few grams of food exquisitely arranged on a plate, enough for a sparrow (and complete with the obligatory ‘smear’ left by said sparrow) prompted me to go back 30 or 40 years to give recent dinner guests a main course I had not prepared for several decades – Tournedos Rossini.

But before Bill Oddy and all the other animal rights campaigners have a go at me, have a look at the recipes (under the ‘Food’ menu item).

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