Green satiated

Winter songsters’ sanguine store

Shiver prophesy

Rowan tree in berry

I haven’t been motivated to try a haiku for some time. As often happens, a ‘like’ – on my previous post – took me to a new world. Not geographically – Marsden village is bounded by scenery as beautiful as anywhere in Yorkshire though not as well known as the dales in which I live, so I have visited and walked there often. David Coldwell’s ‘like’ took me to The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. And motivation.

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.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for my work as the charity I work for takes part in numerous outside events and I usually have to set them up and take them down at the end of the day. Last Saturday I was at a local school which raises money for us, and Sunday I was at the Dragon Boat Challenge in York, where we had a fundraising stall. So I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging, or reading the many which I follow.

The Optimistic Pessimist's poem on display in Lofty's rear window

The Optimistic Pessimist’s poem on display in Lofty’s rear window

However, I said in my most recent post that Lofty, my VW camper, had not only insisted I reblogged a poem – Campervan – penned by Bradford’s blogger the Optimistic Pessimist, but that I printed it out and displayed it in his window. That I had not had time to do.

So, apart from giving me all sorts of problems changing gear (he needs a new clutch), yesterday on a visit to nearby Bronte land – ie Haworth – he refused to start to bring us home.

I promised that the poem would go in today and, possibly helped by a jump start from the leisure battery, he got us home.

We have a lot of steep hills around here so I really must get the clutch done – I had quite a problem to pull away on a 1 in 3 today – but with no place to do it, not the tools necessary and, more important, getting too long in the tooth to do such things now, it’s a garage job so I have to find a day I can do without him as he’s my daily ride (and travelling B&B!).

He also runs on LPG, half the cost of running on petrol, so I will only trust someone who knows the LPG system to pull the engine (or, more to the point, put it back and get it running correctly again) for the new clutch.

I’ll have to get it done soon; I should be on annual leave for the rest of the month after 7 August so I don’t want to be stranded in the Yorkshire Dales, let alone maybe in the north of Scotland!

Originally posted on The optimistic pessimist:

Box of dreams

Wardrobe to other worlds

Part of the gang

We wave at our own

Like crazy people

Because we know

We share the joy

Perfect joy

Of freedom

On wheels

Where every day is perfect

Every meal the most amazing

Every moment with you

In that perfect little place

To keep us together

Trapped in the same room

Never bored

Always happy

Happy like

You can’t remember

What sad feels like

Just filled to brimming

With joy.

View original

madness frozen out

bones interred together        warmed

peace       buds in waiting

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian "lunatic asylum" at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried close by

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower – about 1/2 mile away – of the once notorious Victorian “lunatic asylum” at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried, together, close by

Although I love to labour over complex classic French recipes, I also like to throw things together quickly, especially when I’m using my female ‘multi-tasking’ alias. Such was yesterday – when, among other things, I wanted to scan a film and do a post for my photo blog. Accomplished. However, seeing that a number of people had dropped in to my ‘About’ on this one, while I was quickly ‘throwing together’ a meal which reminded me of my student days I thought I’d expand a bit on my ‘About’ bio.

Student days - the '74' skiffle group. After a year of fun, gigging up and down the A5 trunk road, we all did badly in our exams and gave it up.

Student days – the ’74’ skiffle group. After a year of fun, gigging up and down the A5 trunk road, we all did badly in our exams and gave it up.

Towards the end of my apprenticeship (so approaching 21 years old), when I was studying for a Higher National Diploma in Applied Physics, I was awarded a scholarship to go to university to do a BSc in Physics (clever little sod at that time despite spending most of one year doing gigs up and down the A5 – no M1 motorway then – as the thimble-toting washboard/ukulele player in a skiffle group. Anyone remember skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, a real musician?). By then I was beginning to want to change to something involving writing but I took up the scholarship in London. It lasted only a year before I made a determined attempt to get in to journalism, a goal I reached in about 3 months.

Suet dumpling and Baby Belling

Back to student days. We received our student grant in three amounts a year, one at the beginning of each term. Being totally unskilled in financial management, and caring even less, we spent most of it in the first few weeks. So, what to eat for the rest of the term?

Top_1060925

I invented a kind of large biscuit, basically the same recipe as suet dumpling, but flavoured with an Oxo beef cube (or maybe Bovril?), flattened out to a circle about the size of a dinner plate, which went under the grill of the bed-sit Baby Belling cooker for a few minutes. That was ‘dinner’ most days of the week (unless I had a good win at poker).

Pot_1060924

Yesterday, while drafting this post, I threw some chicken legs, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, a lot of lentils and a very large ‘bouquet garni’ into a Romanian gypsy pot, added pepper (a lot) and salt (very little), covered with water and left to simmer till tender. Then I made my large suet ‘biscuit’ (flour:suet two to one) but instead of Oxo laced it with parsley and sage. Rolled out very roughly to fit the pot, dropped on top of the chicken then in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Cooked_1060927

Simple, quick, but deliciously, warmingly filling on a day when snow is falling.

Into Fleet Street

So, having finished my first degree year I decided not to continue. I walked down Fleet Street, then the true centre of the Press, and called in every editorial office saying I wanted a writing job. “Have you any experience?” was the inevitable question in each one. “No”. “Well come back when you have”.

I was lucky. A good friend’s sister had a boyfriend who was a journalist with a north London newspaper group. He took me to meet the editor. “We can’t give you a job”, he said, “but if you want to come in every day and do whatever we ask we’ll buy you a beer and sausages lunch in the pub every day”. Of course I took it.

First I had to learn to type. I was put in front of a very ancient Underwood typewriter and given a para, which used every key, to type over and over again. It wasn’t ‘The quick brown fox …’ and it’s not repeatable here. I mastered the typewriter.

Then I was sent out on every imaginable kind of story – court reporting, council meetings, accidents, sports events, more than I can remember now. I loved it. I learned so much, but particularly how to make a front page story from nothing, how to condense a story into a selling headline, what makes a good picture, how to cut a story to fit a space without losing its essence and, most important of all, the fact that you can never, never miss a deadline.

Fleet Street again

It was time to attack Fleet Street again. The walk of three months before was repeated, to no avail until I reached Bouverie House, headquarters of a then renowned publisher of trade/technical journals, Benn Brothers. The Editorial Director, Mr Woolley (no first names in those collar and tie times!), agreed to see me. He listened to my story then asked, “Do you know anything about chemistry?” “Not a thing”, I said, though I did have to belatedly sit and pass the GCE ‘O’ level chemistry exam to take up my BSc Physics scholarship. “I’m sorry”, he said, “but the only vacancy we have is on a weekly chemical industry newspaper”. “I’ll take it”, I said, and surprisingly he accepted that. That was 1962.

Again my luck was in. As I have written in my ‘About’ piece, the editor of the chemical industry news journal, Mike Hyde, a superb journalist, was one of the two biggest positive influences on my journalistic life; although he ‘threw me in the deep end’, giving me a major story to cover on my first day, he was always there to advise, guide, correct and understand, helping me to continue to accrue the knowledge and skills which had begun earlier on the local newspapers. He also sent me, for the first time in my life, all over Europe, including Communist Europe, an invaluable experience for someone in their early 20s in the 1960s. (Imagine arriving in, say, Prague, not a word, sign or speaker of English anywhere, everything in Cyrillic. You learn very fast!).

At that time I set myself a target, to be an editor and have an income of £3,000 a year (£42,000 or much more in today’s money) by the time I was 30. I achieved it two years earlier than that, no small credit to Mike Hyde.

Nowadays the chances of a keen young writer being able to repeat my experience is about nil; without a degree in journalism, media studies or the like they’ll have no chance. This has done nothing for the standards of journalism today. The appreciation of the value of learning by experience, as I did during my apprenticeship and my early times in the Press, has been replaced by the idea that everyone MUST go to university. It’s a sad, destructive nonsense.

So now – 1962 – I’m a journalist; I’ll continue the story another day.

*

HAPPNEW YEAR

to you all

may your year be full of rainbows

*

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