Little did I know then, 1953, when a play I wrote with a neighbour was performed as part of the street celebrations for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, that I would spend most of my adult life writing professionally as a journalist. To my knowledge it was the second piece of fiction I wrote, the other being a fanciful short story written a few years before. Sadly (for me) neither script nor story have survived, though I remember the latter concerned a robin under the Mersey tunnel (I think it was ‘inspired’ by a choir – St Peter’s, Saltaire – trip to Liverpool)!

Black and white photo of cast of play written by me and Betty Chapman (the witch in the picture) and performed by children living on Albert Avenue for 1953 Coronation street party

Kids from Albert Avenue, Shipley, W Yorkshire, UK, dressed for the play I (wizard, left, back) and Betty Chapman (the witch, right, back) wrote and performed for the street party celebrating the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. My two younger brothers (Bob) played ‘the king’ and a page (Rodney, left, front). Unfortunately my mother, who could have identified the others, is no longer with us.

Still writing. Busy this weekend with a report on the Village Show (Menston, Yorkshire), with photos, to do for the local paper, write the Menston page I do for a monthly local magazine, and also report the show on the village website I edit:


While the show judging takes place, I’ll pop over the moor to a meeting of a ‘Writers Club’ in nearby Ilkley (of “baht ‘at” fame), set up, would you believe, by a young Romanian lady – Ruxandra – who now lives in the UK. She sometimes prompts us to write at these meetings or sets us a short story theme to write on for the following week’s meeting, though this week it’s just talking.

I hope to get to a post on our 7,000+km VW camper trip to Romania next week.

Another 75 word story submitted to Paragraph Planet.

Meet at six? They agreed. Always the same coffee shop. Two minutes to six I was there. Six precisely another arrived. We sat, small talk, holding the exciting news until our trio was complete. The third appeared, outside, tidying rush-disarranged hair. A wayward bus swept her off her feet, through the window, depositing a bloody, eternally motionless mess before us. I always told her she would be too late for her own funeral, I thought.

My previous, first, attempt – ‘Playing the trout‘ – was featured on Paragraph Planet on 18 June. I’m not going to explain my prompt for this one.

Playing the trout. In the hot June sun, the fly arches towards a cooler spot, suspended for a moment then alighting, still yet ominous. Only the midges bite, swooping again and again on bare skin. The daisies behind smile at the sun, a white army, each bearing his shield of gold. Buttercups spread their delicious gold. No rod here, no hook with barb nor tortured fish. Just Schubert’s quintet, spilling with joy from an iPad.

Some of you will know of my love for the ‘traditional’ haiku, the discipline of writing to a very short set format – 5-7-5 syllables – to communicate a thought or feeling.

Recently I was introduced, by Becky whose blog is called Evening Scribbles, to another format which appeals to me for similar reasons: to write a story or introductory stand-alone paragraph of exactly 75 words. They may be published, if accepted, on the website: http://www.paragraphplanet.com/

I have just submitted my first, though have yet to hear whether it will be published on the site. It was prompted by seeing a neighbour loading his car to go fishing shortly before I ventured downstairs to sit in the sun for the first time since my recent surgery, where I wrote the above 75 words. 


Lovely poem from our Bradford poet.

Originally posted on The optimistic pessimist:

Theresa I remember you

I climbed the stairs of

The old folk’s home

Holding the tray of food

I had made for you

Could already hear

Down the hallway

The dance music blaring

From your radio

In the shared room

All alone

I come in and smile

At your sweet face

I put down the tray

I switch the radio

Over and think

About the horrible staff

Who put that on

And left you

They leave you up here

In bed alone

All day, most days,

You cause trouble

You are rude to other

People’s visitors

You never get your own

No one cares

When you see me

You smile and your eyes sparkle

I sit beside you and give you

My time, I am seventeen and

Have plenty. You are over seventy

And have plenty too

We lean in and chat and

Hand squeezing

You say to me


View original 137 more words

Time travel from chat

to chat in another time



One of the most interesting, and far from unpleasant, things for me about having fairly major surgery is the experience of having a general anaesthetic. I had my latest yesterday and the magical experience prompted the above haiku.

I am chatting to a couple of nurses and an anaesthetist – chatty, cheerful, communicative – in a pre-op room at the Yorkshire Clinic. Then I time travel. I am in some other place, chatting to some other person – a recovery nurse. Did I take just a microsecond to make the journey? The clock says it is more like an hour. Magical!

Hernia repair

I was having a hernia on my left-hand side fixed (‘open’ surgery) following a similar procedure on the right almost exactly four months ago, which I described in detail in a subsequent post.

I will not describe the most recent procedure in such detail. Suffice it to say that despite having the team in Romania well prepared to deal with any urinary problem (see post mentioned above), this time I did not need it. The post-operative pain was (and still is until pain-killers kick in) quite a bit more severe than on the previous occasion, but I immediately felt (and, I am told, looked) far better and this time I was able to come home only four hours after surgery.

To me the left hernia felt smaller than the right but the surgeon (Mr R B Khan) told me that it was, if anything, larger and the bladder was pushing through, which probably gave rise to the pee problem. That it is now back where it belongs will probably help with the other – prostate – problem too.

Romania trip

I hope that feeling so much better means I will be well recovered enough to make the intended major trip to Romania in the camper, and tackle Fagarasanul, in the summer.

The Romanian doctor who attended me last time – Dr Aurel Sbarcea –  was not on duty, doing his alternate fortnightly stint in Romania, nor did I see the Romanian nurse, Adriana, this time.

But, again, I cannot praise the staff at the NHS Hernia Clinic at the Yorkshire Clinic enough. They are simply great!

I’m writing this in Germany, using the WordPress app on an iPad mini for the first time, so anything could happen. However, a great week began a week ago last Saturday (2 May): I discovered a new ‘Writers Club’ looking for a permanent venue and arranged one in my village. Sunday the ‘Tour de Yorkshire’ came through my village – a massive turnout, wonderful community atmosphere, to applaud the riders through. Then, I decided to abandon my usual ‘Biftek hache a la Lyonnaise’ hamburger and experiment  with making a hamburger ‘Romanesc’ which turned out to be a big hit with my Romanca (ie Romanian lady – wife) so I’m going to tell you about it.

Writers Club

I think it’s fitting that my village, Menston, in which Lassie was created (by Eric Knight, a Menstonite) should become the ‘home’ of a Writers Club, though the club was first formed in a nearby town which has an increasingly renowned literature festival – Ilkley. What might be really surprising to many people, though not to me, is that the club was initiated by a young woman, a graduate in Behavioural Psychology from Bradford University. Not surprising? No, that isn’t; that the club was started in this tyke’s county by a Romanian might surprise most people.

Ruxandra Busoiu, founder of the Writers Club. Pic by club member Bob Hamilton.

Ruxandra Busoiu, founder of the Writers Club. Pic by club member Bob Hamilton.

She’s Ruxandra (what a great ancient Romanian name that is!) Busoiu and in a very busy life she’s aiming to write a novel. Another member is a mathematician who runs a software development company in the town of my birth, Shipley, now almost absorbed by the Bradford metropolis; he has written a book – not fiction – and been published; he’s also a pretty good photographer. Then there’s a journalist, and now there’s me – blogger, former journalist, occasionally attempting a haiku and a couple of short stories, yet no urge to write a novel. The first meeting with them was nothing short of inspirational so I’m really looking forward to our next meeting on Saturday next, close to my home.

A ‘Romanian’ hamburger

The hamburger with baked potato, pickled bell pepper and pickled unripe tomato

A ‘Romanian’ hamburger?

I often joke with my wife that Romanians (Romanians in Moldavia that is) eat bread with everything. including bread, and cannot cook a dish without a liberal dose of dill. So a very large handful of fresh dill (in fact frozen – one drawer of our freezer is almost full of the stuff), finely chopped, was next to the mixing bowl with just under a lb (400g) of good, lean, minced beef.

The lean beef needs some fat and I usually add butter, but for this ‘Romanian’ hamburger I added some finely ‘chopped’ slanina afumata (smoked pork back fat) bought from the Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market.

A good dose of boia de ardei dulce (sweet paprika) was added after mixing the meat with some gently sweated finely chopped onion with chopped garlic, a little salt and pepper and a pinch of cimbru (thyme).

Formed into two thick rounds, seared in a very hot pan then cooked on a lower flame until just pink inside. The pan was deglazed with red wine for a sauce. Apart from a baked potato, the other accompaniments seen in the picture are pickled gogosari murati (pickled bell pepper) and gogonele murati (pickled unripe tomato), both from the Leeds market shop.

As I said, my wife rated this experimental hamburger very highly and has requested that it be regularly on the menu.




Picture of lambToday – 26 February – is Fairy Tale Day so I thought I’d try to tell you a fairy tale. Although it is Romanian, called Miorita (I don’t have the Romanian characters but it’s pronounced mee-oh-ree-tsa), the little ewe lamb, I’ll try to tell it in English. My very free – not literal – translation (I would not attempt to versify it) is based on a version collected by Vasile Alecsandri (1821 – 1890, Romanian poet, playwright, politician and diplomat who came from the Moldavian city of Bacau, a little south of where I spent most of my time in Romania).

It’s not really a ‘fairy tale’, it’s an ancient ballad which, when I thought I understood it after several years in Romania and knew the language reasonably well, I began to say “Understand Miorita and you can understand Romanians”. Some Romanians may say that is presumptuous, but I believe it to be true though perhaps I should say “Understand Miorita and you can understand Moldavians”.

Moldavia is the part of Romania in which I stayed most of my over 11 years there; if I have a favourite part of this wonderful country it is Moldavia, though my specific favourite is the Bucovina, where some of the more fragile aspects of Moldavians have been strengthened by influences from the western side of the Carpathian mountains.

Bride and groom with marriage crowns during a Romanian wedding service

“Tell them I went to marry a princess”


Once upon a time there were three shepherds, each tending their flock on the plain below the lower slopes of hills which seemed to lead to heaven. One of the shepherds was Moldavian, one Transylvanian and one Vrancean (from three parts of ancient Romania).

The Moldavian had more flocks with the most beautiful sheep, with long horns. He had the best, well-trained horses and the most ferocious hounds; in short he was the richest of the three.

The Transylvanian and Vrancean were envious. In their minds, and planning together, they intended to ambush the Moldavian, and kill him, when the sun went down.

Meanwhile, one small grey-dappled ewe lamb had bleated loudly and continuously for three days, refusing to eat.

The Moldavian shepherd asked her: “Don’t you like the grass? Why do you bleat so long and loud? Are you too sick to eat, sweet little lamb?”

She answered: “Dear master, take the flock into that far field, where there is shade for you.  Call a large hound, a fierce, fearless one, strong and loyal, to be near you. When the daylight is gone the Transylvanian and Vrancean intend to murder you”.

The shepherd said to her: “If I am to die here, tell the Vrancean and Transylvanian to let my bones lie somewhere near, by the sheepfold so that my sheep are close by and I can hear my hounds. Put beside me a small beech pipe with its soft, sweet sound, a small pipe of bone which has a loving tone, and one of elderwood, good but fiery-tongued. Then, when the winds blow and play on them all my listening sheep would come near and weep”.

“Do not tell them how I died. Say that I could not stay but went to marry a princess, the most beautiful princess in the world. Tell them that at my wedding a bright star fell, the sun and moon came down to hold my marriage crown. My guests were trees – firs and maples. The high mountains were my priests, my fiddlers the birds, my torchlights the stars”.

“However, if you should meet somewhere my little, old mother with her girdle of wool, crossing the plains with tears flowing from her eyes, asking everyone she meets whether they had seen, had known, her fine shepherd son, slim as a willow tree with a face as bright as milk foam and a small moustache like a young ear of wheat, with hair as black as the feathers of a crow, and small black eyes that glow like ripe sloe berries, have pity and tell her that I have gone to marry a noble princess on the far hills there which lead to heaven”.

“But do not tell my old mother that a bright star fell for my bridal night, that firs and maples were my guests or that the high mountains were my priests, my fiddlers the birds and my torches the stars”.

I have stood on those hills which lead to heaven and can assure you that they do.

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