Time in Wales

IMG_0507This may look more like ‘What are you?’ than ‘What ho!’ but this furry brown alpaca is in fact none other than Bertie Wooster.  He and his companion Jeeves lead a peaceful, snack-filled existence on an orchard in Wales accompanied by fierce geese (George and Mildred) a cockerel named Cromwell, some anonymous ducks and a host of unnamed fruit trees.  And lo! there we were just the other day, in brilliant sunshine with a terrific view of the hills and enjoying all the usual concomitant benefits of a Grosmont holiday.

We did all the usual things: Daniel took photos of the castle and orchard; I took the dogs for a walk ending up in the pub where I escaped the Royal Wedding by slipping out to the beer garden, only to come in again at the point where the fearful words ‘If any of you know any reason in law why these persons may not marry each other…’ were being uttered.  I sampled the local beer, caught up with the local gossip, had a drink with a friend and heard in detail the frightful story of how my brother-in-law’s boat went down to the briny deep, thankfully without him or my nephew on board (more on that story later.)  Daniel discovered the piano in the church and played for a while; it’s amazing how the fingers remember tunes they haven’t played for years.  He was trying to recall Fur Elise and I was able to play it from memory precisely.

We had whizzy journeys there and back with no hold-ups (though I imagine the M42 round Brum will get a bit cloggy at rush hour.)  On the way we stopped at a peaceful service station in the middle of nowhere; you could actually hear the birds singing.  Daniel rigged up a navigation system (not that you really need it, except for the last bit which goes along country lanes with high hedges indistinguishable from one another and all in mobile and internet black spots so Google can’t help if you get lost.  Which you do) whereby he connected his mobile to a speaker and hey presto! who needs satnav?  In general I prefer to use my own nous when navigating but lately with memory lapses that doesn’t always work so well.

And so to bed, as Pepys was wont to say.

Here are some more pics:


Kirk out

Bumper and Grind

‘All that Jizz’ has now flown off in the direction of Mslexia Towers (that’s what they call it, though I suspect it’s an office in a little back-street somewhere) though it is no longer called by that offensive title but had a re-fit and a new front bumper added and is now called ‘What the Heron Saw’.  It has become a story about migrants, which makes it much better I think.

And so it’s back to the novel, which at the moment is feeling like a bit of a grind.

Whenever I use the word ‘grind’ I think it sounds like a posh way of saying ‘ground’.  I once had a book on how to ‘move upper-class’.  It was called ‘High Taw Tawk Propah-leah’ and it advised verbal exercises such as grimacing continually so as to sound (and presumably look) like Prince Phillip (Preenz Feelp).

I’ve just blogged the title and I’ve found my own post, reblogged by someone else.  Which was nice..


So here’s a link to the reblog so we can all go round in circles…

Last week was fun: we went to Foxton Locks for a day.  If you haven’t been there it’s a quite staggering feat of engineering getting canal-boats from the top of the hill to the bottom via a seriously steep lock-staircase.  There’s a cafe at the top (what was once the lock-keeper’s cottage) and no fewer than three pubs at the bottom.  We rejected two of these as being too posh and touristy, and entered the third, Bridge 61.  This was a proper pub, patronised by proper people and although the grub wasn’t brilliant the company was good.  I struck up a conversation with an old guy who looked the epitome of a narrow-boatman (which he was) but who surprised me by saying that before he retired he’d been a doctor!  He was into holistic therapies and we had a really interesting chat: he said as he finished his cider that he’d recently been thinking about going back into medicine but had decided he might be a tad old at 76!

I love canal-life.  I realise that in the heyday of canal-traffic it was a hard life, and for some who live all year round on unheated boats (like Chris, who comes to Drink and Think) it still is, but I’d really like to experience that.  It’s a way of life with its own traditions and its own people and according to our doctor friend, they all know each other.

So after lunch I went walking and picked some more elderberries, and now I have enough for my next batch of wine.  The blackberries are already simmering in the demijohn.

Anyway, here’s Foxton Locks:



Kirk out

There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch!

I am writing to you from the wonderful haven that is our sun lounge. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a sun lounge and it was the best place to hang out, especially on days when the wind was cruel but the sun was kind. Today is such a day, and to be in the conservatory, as Mark calls it, is very heaven.  This morning we failed utterly to find a climate change event (maybe the climate changed and they went home) and so did the Peace Café instead. Then we mooched around the shops and found a great deli/cafe at the top of Silver Arcade, passing time until 12.30 when the main event was happening.

We only found out about this on Thursday: called the Junk Food Cafe, it takes food supermarkets would otherwise throw away, makes it into lunch and serves it for the price of a donation.  If you can’t pay you can help with the washing-up.  We has a vegetable balti and a Palestinian bake, plus we got to take away a packet of pasta. It was great! There were!loads of people and a lovely atmosphere. They plan to do it once a month, at Leicester Adult Ed College.

WeeWe will definitely go again. They had policemen dancing outside and musicians inside. Terrific!

And so home.  And that’s today. Yesterday I worked on a poetry collection.

Kirk out

Like Drinking? Like Thinking? Then You’ll Love Drink and Think

Once more I must remind you that tomorrow night is Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon.


This month the topic is ‘Should Drugs be a Matter for Choice or a Matter for the Law?’  OH is going to introduce the topic and will talk about prescription drugs, ‘recreational’ drugs and so-called ‘legal highs’.  He has strong views on this subject, but then he has strong views on just about anything, from coffee to the human rights act, so that doesn’t particularly distinguish it from any other topic.

You should come along.  Yes, Drink and Think is a philosophy discussion group, but it’s not specially academic or high-flown and anyone is welcome to come and join us.  There are usually about six or seven men and women who range from the abstract and intellectual to the very down-to-earth.  And then there’s the beer: the Ale Wagon sports several different real ales and since May is Mild Month they should have at least one type of mild on.

I have strong views on mild.  And tea, but particularly mild.  It aggrieves me that mild beer is seen as an old man’s drink when it is mostly very tasty and, as the name suggests, not too alcoholic.  And yet it has become so unfashionable, losing out to trendy lagers and strong bitters, that you can hardly find it.  My favourite is Banks’ Mild which hails from the Black Country.


I shall hope to find mild of some description tomorrow night.

See you there.

Kirk out

Be Mild in May

Just look at the time!  It’s 11.40 already and I’ve done no work at all.  First I had to go to the doctor’s and discuss my cholesterol (just forget about it, no problem) and the unfeasibly complicated ‘Choose and Book’ system for hospital appointments; then I had to publicise Left Unity’s launch on Facebook (here’s the flyer, please come along)

then I had to draft a press release about said event; then I had to email a short story to someone (does that count as work?) and answer a number of other emails, then I had to reply to some comments on here and look at other people’s blogs who are following mine (that counts as work, surely?) and THEN I needed to do a Sainsbury’s order and now, finally, I can do my blog post.  I blame Chris Conway.  The man is just too damned entertaining.  He kept us up till the crack of ten thirty last night; way past my bed time.


I was gratified to see that at long last some mild was available at a pub I happened to be in, at a time when I happened to be there.  I had three halves of a very pleasant Nottingham Rock Mild


and not only that, but this month is Mild Month.  Yes, folks – take a walk on the mild side, for Leicester Camra is hosting a Mild in May trail!  I have always regretted that mild is considered an old man’s drink as it is delicious and not too strong (in general).


So any time you feel like buying me a pint, let me know.

Kirk out



I’m not Racist and…

As I was Tomato-ing yesterday I came across an article in The Guardian.  It was a review of a book in which the author seemed to be saying that multiculturalism isn’t a good idea because – and I quote, from memory at least – ‘We are more comfortable when we are with our own kind.’  Now, leaving aside the question ‘what is our own kind?’ and assuming that he is not specifically being racist as he doesn’t say one race is necessarily superior, just that white English people should hang out with white English people, there is still an awful lot wrong with this statement.  If you’re going to stick with what is comfortable, well – I am more comfortable sitting on the sofa watching TV than I am getting out my laptop and writing a story.  Should I therefore stick with the sofa?  Of course not.  Nothing is ever achieved by sticking to your comfort zone – and the likely consequence of people sticking with their own is that their horizons will shrink and shrink until you get the kind of ridiculous parochialism I experienced when living in Leigh, Lancashire.  I told my friends one day that I was going to Wigan.  ‘What d’yer wan’ go thur fer?’ was the response.  ‘They’re all pie-eyters over thur.’

That was the local name for Wiganners in Leigh, though I never understood why: they also had a very entertaining name for people from the nearby town of Westhoughton.  These were known as ‘cay-yeds’ or ‘cow-heads’ because, so the story goes, there was once a local farmer who kept cows.  One day he installed a new gate which he had made himself – and when one of his cows got its head stuck in this gate and couldn’t get it out, rather than chop up his precious gate, he chopped the cow’s head off!


In the local dialect the town of Leigh was called ‘Leyth’ and nearby Atherton and Tyldesley were known as ‘Bent’ and Bongs’.  I spent a couple of cold and unprofitable evenings once helping distribute a local alternative magazine called ‘Leyth, Bent and Bongs’ round all the pubs in the district and not stopping for even one beer!  I was most disgruntled, and the locals were deeply uninterested in the magazine’s ‘Private-eye’ style reportage.

Here’s a site Mark was looking at this morning:


I’m more comfortable with mockney, myself.  Perhaps I should have stayed in London…

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and I’ve started a group on Facebook for peri- and post-menopausal women to share their experiences.  It’s called Crazy Crones, so if you’re interested send me a request.

Won’t Get Schooled Again

Apparently one of Holly’s friends has returned to Home Ed after a period in school.  Not sure what’s going on there, but it made for a nice pun in today’s post around what used to be my favourite song of All Time.  From the very first second with the organ starting low, then wandering along in a series of questioning intervals like one taking a line for a walk, and then, like a ton of bricks falling off a roof, the building to the guitar-chords (The Who were from Hounslow, you know – my home town) when the song gets under way, right to Pete Townshend’s scream that marks the ‘When-Harry-met-Sally-style climax, continuing to the wandering organ at the end, I love every second of it, and until Leonard Cohen walked into my life it was my all-time no. 1.   And then I heard Suzanne…

But that’s another story.  Here, to serenade you through the rest of the post, are the sublime Who:


The lyrics are great, too: ‘meet the new boss/same as the old boss…’

Last night I was taken by daughter for a drink at our local, The Western.  I have blogged before about this great local pub: once a railway hotel practically on the platform of the Great Central Railway, it is now a popular local which still has separate bars and hence caters for a variety of people rather than one undifferentiated melee.  The beer is always great – last night I tried Black Widow, a dark beer accurately described as having hints of burnt coffee and chicory.


The image shows a bottle, though they also had it on draught.  Daughter had a fruit cider, and that was my Mother’s Day present.


The Western is also reasonably priced – for nowadays – several beers under 3 quid a pint.  Bloody hell!  I remember when fifty pee a pint was a lot…

And that was yesterday.

Kirk out

Are you Still There?

Everyone still there?  Good.  So are we all.  Reports of our death greatly exaggerated then.  OK, moving on…

A good had was all by night at the Ale Wagon where I had a friends’ excuse-me; Peter followed by Jan.  All jolly good fun and a brisk walk home in the cold and rain.  Unfortunately the several pints I had last night are now causing a fog in the frontal lobes of my brain and I’m finding it hard to think of anything to say.  In the meantime here is some light music, a poem about that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano a couple of years back and the ash it deposited on car roofs:


Light Music

(for Eyjafjallajokull)

And it brought back to me my childhood

every second thought killed by a scream

of metal straining to get into heaven.

Long, long ago before the Fall

there was a time of peace. Like this

brief moment between thought and Word.

And it seemed to come from hell, the fire and smoke

(and some said Earth was taking her revenge

though others said that stuff was nonsense).

The sweat of vapour gone, the sky is innocent.

Washed. Only the ash Invisible rains down

(as cars are witness).

Now coaches come, trains shuttle, boats ferry. Taxis triumph.

Government inhales:

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Meanwhile here is some light music.

OK there you go.  I’ll leave you with this song parody, for alien believers:

Then I saw her tentacles

now I’m a believer…

Kirk out


Good Hob, reasonable Bass, interesting Green and Gold, back to Hob.  Talked about Bob.  Going to Donkey at weekend.  Keep thinking it’s Friday because I’ve been out for a drink.