Petronela the chicken

Petronela. An extraordinary attire but I don’t like that look in her eye!

Sunday 15 October

An extraordinarily warm mid October day prompted a complete mind shift from yesterday. Then a spot of baking pushed out any stage nerves before ‘performing’ at the Ilkley Literature Festival ‘Fringe’ (in fact I arrogantly don’t have any – I never have been frightened of making a fool of myself and it gets worse with age – readers of this blog may well have deduced that 😜).

Favourite short walk

Today walking with Petronela on our favourite short local walk, intent on having a chat with another Petronela – a chicken, one of those who lays our eggs. I really wanted to get a picture of Petronela holding her namesake but we couldn’t find her (the chicken). Every one of the ladies has a name and Sue, who with Simon provides a home for these ladies who lay our “very free range eggs”, knows each one of them by name. I had to settle for the dog for my photo.

She was here earlier,” said Sue, “she was eating like a pig.” Looking at the Petronela who can polish off a plate of spaghetti bolognaise in little more time than it takes me to grate some Parmesan on mine, I held my tongue. Who cares? They both remain beautiful, as you can see. The picture of chicken Petronela is one taken on an earlier visit (by Petronela –  confusing isn’t it?).

A large group of walkers arrived just before us which prevented Sue helping us locate Petronela. Clearly most of them had not been there before so seeing the discomfort of one, as a very free range lady tried to nick his slice of Sue’s exceedingly good homemade cake, made my day.

Charity

Sue and Simon are an extraordinary, lovely couple. They sell the eggs, with an ‘honour’ system of payment, and serve homemade cakes and drinks to passing walkers if they are home, but all the proceeds go to a charity supporting teenagers with cancer. Once a year they have a charity day to support one local young person disadvantaged in some way. P and I have a money box into which change of 10p and under goes throughout the year to hand over on that day.

When I despair of the world in which we now live I think of Sue and Simon and how lucky we are to have that walk to chat with them.

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I’m not going to tell you a story here, just hopefully to wet your appetite for a post soon after the 14th October. That’s the day on which the writers’ club of which I am a member, Writing on the Wharfe, will be doing its stuff at the prestigious Ilkley Literature Festival ‘Fringe’, having been invited back after its successful debut last year.

I’m working on my first ever ‘fairy story’ for the event. Because our club has grown since last year we each have only a short ‘slot’. That’s OK for my usual haiku and short short stories but having decided on one longer fairy story I’ve been working out how to present my story in the allotted time. I’ve decided to omit the centre section, just reading the opening and the ‘denouement’, with a brief explanation at the start.

Poster for our ‘fringe’event

Motivation

I’ve been motivated to write a fairy story by two delightful young ladies who generally come to our public events. So, in fact, I’m endeavouring to write two stories, the second for presentation at a later Christmas ‘show’ in Ilkley library, again a repeat of last year, but we’re hoping to take this ‘on tour’ to at least the library in the village in which I live. That one I’d hope to post here on the day after the Ilkley library ‘show’.

Talent

Part of a display Kelly currently has in the Keighley library Showing some of her illustration style

Part of a display Kelly currently has in the Keighley library

We have a tremendous range of local talent in our club, covering many different genres, some members having been published. We also have our wonderful singer/songwriter, Emma Nabarro-Steel, who published her debut (almost) album last year. Her CD is often in my player. Another member, Kelly McCarthy-Wright, not only writes stories but is a superb illustrator, her style including illustrations ideal for children’s books.

So, look out for my first fairy story (complete version) on or about 15th October and the second early to mid December. I’ll be truly interested in your feedback on each.

I’ve said it before: Bradford, my home city, has become what to me is the biggest ‘slum’ in Europe. Because on Tuesday I went to Leeds, vibrant, fun, smiling people (bit about that on my post of 14 September) I decided as I needed to visit my bank yesterday I’d go to Bradford where there is a branch. I wish I had not.

In the Bronte village of Haworth in February

I’m not going to post any pictures of the city, they would be too depressing. It’s been turned into a city of ghettos, many of poverty. The much vaunted ‘new’ shopping centre, full of the usual chain shops has, appropriately I suppose, the most boring architecture imaginable. The major shops having moved to this centre, the previous shopping streets are filled with empty, deteriorating premises. It’s all reflected in the faces of the weary, hunched over figures on the streets.

All this in what was a magnificent Victorian city, built by the wool barons to demonstrate their wealth.  Vestiges of the old city remain, including the magnificent city hall, but most of it has been allowed to deteriorate. If you look above the tired shop fronts you can still imagine the superb local stone architecture that was.

It’s no coincidence that the ghettos have something like the highest incidence of uninsured drivers, the highest incidence of deliberately provoked ‘accidents’ to seek compensation and some of the worst driving you will experience anywhere (as I experienced only yesterday and but for extreme vigilance I would now have a buckled front wing).

Some jewels

There are a few jewels, for example the Alhambra where I was introduced, as a child, by my grandmother to ballet, opera and pantomime. I don’t go any more, crossing the city to reach it is too depressing. Another once magnificent building, St George’s Hall where I was introduced to live symphony concerts, is a sorry sight and another smaller concert venue, Eastbrook Hall,  where I think I heard Eileen Joyce play, has long gone, only a facade remaining. Another former jewel which I used to visit frequently, the national media museum, following a threat to close it because of falling attendances (not surprising as you had to go to the depressing city to visit it), has been ‘taken over’ by the London Science Museum. It would have been better, as I said at the time, to move it intact to Leeds, somewhere near the superb Royal Armouries museum. Attendance would have soared. Now, for ‘culture’, I’d go to Leeds.

There are many more jewels in the surrounding vast Bradford Metropolitan District, the World Heritage village of Saltaire where I spent my childhood, the Bronte village of Haworth, Ilkley Moor and others, but the disaster of the city is slowly but surely creeping out to consume them.

Antidotes

What a difference in a similar city in one of Europe’s substantially less wealthy countries, Iași in Romania. So one antidote to the Bradford visit was to look at some pictures taken in the city when we were there this summer.

The restoration of the buildings which declined in communist times is not finished yet but there’s enough to make it a happy place to visit, bustling with culture and, soon, the swarms of young people will be boosted as the new university year begins.

Back to the Chevin (pub!)

A final antidote to the Bradford visit, a climb up to the Chevin (see my post a few days ago) on a superb autumn day this afternoon. Only high enough today to have a drink in the Chevin Inn which boasts it has the finest views in Yorkshire from the garden. I think I’d argue with that but the views are certainly superb. Viewed with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s (local brewery) Landlord bitter in front of me and, for Petronela, a not so local cider, with a packet of crisps, it’ll do. Enough to obliterate memories of Bradford. Fortunately I wrote about that visit to the city before setting off on our 2.1/2 hour walk.

 

View of Otley from the top of the Chevin

View of Otley from the top of the Chevin

Two reasons to stay right where we are in Menston in Yorkshire, Otley  Chevin and the Washburn valley. Catching a bit of news on the radio this morning I was intending to post something (a grump) about that but it will keep till tomorrow.

Otley Chevin is no more than 5 mins by car from home. We usually walk but had a brief visit there the day before yesterday on the way to do something else. In the picture you’ll see the rather ‘cute’ small town of Otley nestling below.

I always smile when I see the sign about the dry stone walling training area; the former assistant head of the school where Petronela and I met refused to believe you could build walls without mortar. They are, of course, a major feature of the Yorkshire landscape. He also refused to believe that the sheep on the moors here roam free without shepherd or sheepdog; of course they do.

Washburn valley

The Washburn valley, perhaps the smallest of the Yorkshire dales, is one of my favourite places, only 20 minutes away by car. We did set out today with the idea of finishing a walk there with the always delicious home made cakes at the ‘heritage centre’. Though we have been many times, clearly never on the last Sunday of the month as we didn’t know there were no cakes on that day. We settled for the free homemade biscuit! Petronela is still grumbling about it! She looked her usual gorgeous self though in one of her ‘ie’ (Romanian traditional blouses).

The ‘lake’ is a reservoir, one of four, created between 1869 and 1966 by damming the small river in this little vale, to satisfy the increasing demand for water from the city of Bradford. Perfect walking weather, warm but not hot. Not too many signs of autumn yet, a bit of colouring of some leaves and a few fungi.

Emily and Charlotte

Catching up this morning on reading some of the blogs I follow I particularly liked a post from one of my Romanian blogging friends, Monica (mopana), who writes in both Romanian and (excellent) English – good for me to practice my Romanian. It was all the more poignant as I knew a little later I was meeting another delightfully happy young friend, Charlotte.

Charlotte, 10 years old, has severe cerebral palsy – spastic quadriplegia, so all four limbs are affected. But what a happy little girl she is, particularly when with her loving sister Emily.

I spent a lovely hour in the sun chatting with her on a near perfect English summer day. Speaking is difficult for her but with a bit of perserverence it becomes easier to understand her; she seems to have no problem understanding me.

The occasion was an annual charity bun fight at the home of other friends, from whom we buy our “very free range eggs”. I ‘do’ the posters and flyers for the event. This year it was raising money for a Mollii suit which, worn for an hour each morning, helps Charlotte have an easier day, but each year she must have a larger one at a cost of around £1,000.

Here’s the English text from Monica’s post, entitled:

Be happy

Can you see?

Can you hear?

Can you speak?

Can you walk?

Can you use your hands?

Then…

Be happy!

Others cannot

Another reason we cannot but be happy is where we live, in the Wharfe valley in what we call ‘God’s own country’, Yorkshire. Here’s a quick snap taken along the short walk from home to meet Charlotte today.

Looking over the Wharfe valley to the north

My ‘alternative’ website/blog for the village in which I live, Menston, has got me into trouble far more than this one ever has (for one example of why see some ‘wanted’ posters I created and published) but it has also brought me more plaudits than grumpytyke has. There is an ‘official’ village website run by the Parish Council; it doesn’t have a blog. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago posting on both ‘my’ sites became rather erratic – sometimes because I just did not feel well enough. In a way the village site suffered more than this one because it had lists of village events, village businesses, etc, which became out of date as I could not chase around garnering the information. In fact I had a third blog, specifically about classic cameras and film photography; I stopped posting on that completely but didn’t take it down and it can still be accessed through a link on this site.

Thanks to what I describe as my “wonder pills” (I posted about these cytotoxic miracles here recently) I’ve been able to do far more recently; a short while ago I managed to climb a small mountain in the English Lake District, which I also blogged about, and the weekend before last I was persuaded onto the dance floor at a village gig by two delightful energetic ladies and survived (I thought I was going just to take photographs, which I did – if you’d like to see them and proof that I was dancing you can see pictures here.)

Dusty and me

I’m trying now to rejuvenate this blog and the village one. As far as this one is concerned  I hope to document a forthcoming trip to Romania far better than I did that of two years ago. Just coaxing the then 43 year old VW camper over seven and a half thousand kilometers (4,500 miles) didn’t leave much energy for anything else. This year the trip will be in our recently acquired Dacia Duster – we’ve named him Dusty – which I hope will be less wearing.

menston village wharfedale

As for the village site, I’ve persuaded someone who I’ve described as “one of the three best writers I’ve ever worked with” to join me in writing posts on the blog. She’s Becky Bond, a member of our writers’ club who more often than not has us all in fits of laughter with her contributions. If you’d like to know a little about her I wrote a post introducing her recently on the village blog. She has her own blog, unfortunately not a WordPress one so much more difficult to show appreciation with ‘likes’ or comments. It’s called Becky Bond Writes. Becky was one of those who didn’t succeed in killing me two weeks ago!

I’ve always disliked Facebook. After resisting it for years I finally succumbed when teenagers in a project I ran in the village where I live said it was the best way to communicate with them. For this I created a private group. Later our local writers’ club created a private FB group and that remains very useful.

I have found limited use of Twitter useful too – letting me know of new posts from blogger friends who do not have a ‘follow’ possibility on their non-Wordpress sites but ‘boost’ their posts on Twitter, and to let friends who do not use WordPress, and do not wish to follow by email, of my new blog posts.

But the love affairs with FB and Twitter, if they ever existed, are over. On the other hand, my love for radio has regrown over the past few months. The following rundown refers, of course, to when I am home alone on weekdays.

Twitter

After signing up to FB and Twitter I was rapidly bombarded by ‘suggestions’  for new groups/people to ‘follow’. In Twitter particularly posts appear regularly from organisations or people I have not ‘chosen’. Almost never are these of interest. On the other hand I did sign up to several favourite musicians but most of these are just promotional rather than containing interesting information. Then there are ‘friends’ who rarely post anything original, they just ‘share’ posts from others. Again, these are rarely of interest. In Twitter particularly annoying are multiple, lots, of posts per day, and many repeats; TES (more sensibly named in the past Times Educational Supplement), which I chose to follow because my wife is a teacher, is really irritating in the respect. It’s no longer followed but I continue to follow GuardianTeach. (In the past I unfollowed quite a few WordPress bloggers who blogged multiple times a day and bunged up my reader and/or inbox).

Facebook

As far as FB is concerned, it seems often to bring out the very worst in people. One recent example was prompted by a mildly contentious post on the WordPress site/blog I do for the village in which I live. It concerned an organisation run by someone with whom I am regularly in contact; in fact only a few days before she had emailed me for some help, which I had given. However, when she did not like the post on the village site did she comment there or approach me directly? No, she posted her objection on a village FB page and, of course, this was followed by a host of FBers joining in.

The village FB page, despite the pinned post asking that posts be limited to “Anything that adds life to the village”, probably has more that do not do this than do, and so many are barely disguised advertising. Many have nothing at all to do with the village other than they may have been written by someone who lives in it but often promote events, and businesses elsewhere (and of course self-promotion is rife). I’m only too aware of the problems for the admin to control this. 

Going to ‘home’, the reader is littered with ‘suggested posts’ and advertisements which are almost never of interest, and other ads are often promoting ‘scams’.

Messenger

Something I do like is ‘Messenger’. Very useful for short communications with friends and ‘friends’, including my wife. It’s become even more useful as free WiFi has been introduced on local bus and train services. The telephone and texting have become almost redundant!

Drastic prune underway

I’m sure that anyone running a business should be using FB and Twitter but I do not so they have become more and more irritating and time wasting. Recently I decided to do a drastic prune of both. I am now in the process reducing ‘follows’ to a small number of friends (in the original sense) and an even smaller number of organisations with which I am involved in some way. I’ve not yet completed the job but already my daily FB and Twitter trawl is quicker and much more relevant. One of the first to go was the village FB group mentioned.

Radio

On the other hand a love of radio way in the past has been revived. It’s not perfect, but so much less superficial than tv. The few minute bites on tv usually leave me with a host of unanswered questions; more often than not a radio programme tackling the same subject satisfies my information need.

Classic FM

Most mornings I have Classic FM on the radio; I deliberately did not say I ‘listen’ to it!’ I have found a perfect low volume at which the music is a pleasant background but the majority of presenters’ interjections can be ignored and, even more important, so can the advertisements the perpetrators of which seem to have the view that the Classic FM audience is either senile or stupid.The station has improved a lot recently by running fewer of the assinine ads and also by airing the musical pot-boilers less frequently and introducing me to many new pieces and even previously unknown, to me, composers. I have found that I have a volume control in my head which I can wind up if something interesting or I wish to stop and listen to comes on.

I find the women presenters far more acceptable than the males with one exception, Aled Jones (and every time his rendition of Handel’s ‘Have you heard my lady’ is aired I wind up my in-ear volume control to experience the exquisite tingling in the spine which his voice and amazingly clear diction always provoke). 

At 1pm I switch to BBC4 to catch up on what to the media is the most important news, following which I get a host of facts and opinions on everything from gardening (even though I do not have a garden) to finances, books, science, medicine and the tortuous thinking behind Round Britain Quiz. I don’t switch off the Archers though I might use the 15min intermission to do some urgent small job. Although the 45 minute drama at 2.15pm is of variable quality it is always interesting to me as a would-be writer. I may make it until 5pm at which point I usually turn my attention to preparing the evening meal, often a bit before that.

Of course another advantage of radio over tv is that you can often do other things while listening, as I usually do. When the radio is in ‘background’ mode this includes writing, as now.

TV

At 6pm on goes the tv for the news as we sit down to our evening meal; I stick with BBC 1 mainly because I like to watch Look North, especially if my three favourite presenters – Lara Rostrom, Charlotte Leeming and Tanya Arnold – are on air. Lara is a fairly recent addition (a year?) but Charlotte and Tanya are old hands and whatever else I just enjoy watching the professionalism of all three (Tanya is a surprise as I’m not generally interested in sport!).

Back to blogging

Culling FB and Twitter should, I hope, allow more opportunity for blogging, both reading blogs – usually so much less superficial than FB and T – and writing them – so much more enjoyable!