Merry Christmas

This may be my last post for a while, much will depend on how good the Internet connection is on Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken.  So, in case I cannot get connected, a very Merry Christmas to all my followers, many thanks for taking the time to like and comment on my increasingly random thoughts throughout the year and all the best for 2015.  More importantly, many thanks for all the wonderful posts.  The quality of television is in inverse proportion to the quantity i.e. the more channels there are the worse it gets – by contrast WordPress always entertains :-)


Here’s hoping this is what we actually see:

One winter …


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at! Up above the world you fly, Like a tea tray in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at! The Mad Hatter – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland … Continue reading

Gone …

but not forgotten.  This is an unusual image, unique among the family archive for its outward display of affection. Their emotional roles were reversed; my dad was the soft place to fall, my mother the disciplinarian. My upbringing was unbalanced – “just wait until your dad gets home” held no perils for me.

They could argue enthusiastically and, frequently, I was the subject of the disagreement. My dad was a constant voice of reason but his exasperation could, in extremis, set him afire. Ultimately though, he was always fiercely loyal to mum and I learned, too early, not to depend on anyone.

And yet, I still miss them both.


Jonathon Meades captures this generation perfectly in An Encyclopaedia of Myself :

Two world wars, economic depressions, genocidal dictators, material privations, the ominpresence of death … enduring such stuff is not propitious for the embrace of affective ostentation, for the desire to get in touch with our inner entitlements, for the infantile need to share our pain, for the comfy validation of our self-pity, for the slovenly annihilating of our restraint, for the quashing of our shame.

For the public exposure of our past, for the tortuous excuses we make ;-)

Drifting under your window

It was only recently that I became aware of the connection between Philip Larkin and Haydon Bridge, the next town along the Tyne, west of Hexham.  For some reason I take some delight in his shared knowledge of the area.  Since the by-pass was built a few years back, the town has returned to the pace of life which Larkin would have remembered. The second set of patio doors, overlooking the Tyne, is the back of 1A Ratcliffe Road:

Writer Philip Larkin and Monica Jones, his companion of 40 years, shared this secret love nest from 1961 to 1984.

“I thought your little house seemed … distinguished and exciting and beautiful … it looks splendid, and it can never be ordinary with the Tyne going by outside … a great English river drifting under your window, brown and muscled with currents!”

Philip Larkin April 1962

Drifting under your window ...

On this bright, frosty, December day, the Tyne was anything but brown and muscled – a sleeping giant. This is almost, but not quite, the view from the back of 1A Ratcliffe Road:

Almost but not quite ...

According to Wiki: “One of his better-known later poems Show Saturday is dedicated to the 1973 Bellingham Show, which they attended. They also went to the tar barrel ceremony in Allendale, and dined at Blanchland. It was a record of Tommy Armstrong’s Trimdon Grange Explosion which Larkin heard at the cottage that prompted him to write his own late poem The Explosion.”

Along the Tyne ...
Along the Tyne ...

“I am always trying to ‘preserve’ things by getting other people to read what I have written, and feel what I felt.” – Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

Like many of us.



A recent comment from one of my follower friends (Mark in Inverness) about his enthusiasm for chimneys got me thinking that I probably share his passion – there are quite a few chimneys in my archive, many from the English canals. Indeed, chimneys even get mentioned in Golf in the Wild.  This is the description of Allendale’s glorious third which provides the opportunity for another pop at the banking fraternity (see previous post):

Everything about this hole is on the vertical plane, a portrait rather than landscape view. The approach to the green is framed by trees right and left and the eye is drawn upwards to Flow Moss and the Allen Mill chimney, after which the hole is named; the top of another chimney, set further back, is also visible on clear days. The chimneys and their flues were built in 1808 to vent sulphur and arsenic, a by-product of the Allen Mill lead ore smelting process which first started operating in 1692. The Allen Valley was once the richest source of lead in Britain. The smelt mill down near the railway station has largely gone but there are some significant remnants including stone storage bunkers, a condensing chamber, silver smelter and a flue opening. The flue system runs from Allen Mill to the chimneys with some impressive statistics; at their widest and highest they are over 6 feet and 24 feet respectively and run for over 2 miles. While some stretches have collapsed much remains and a walk to the chimneys allows a closer inspection of one of the best preserved flue systems in England, now a Scheduled Monument.


Lead ore can contain significant concentrations of silver and this was recognised in the construction of the flues; doors gave access to enable the silver to be scraped or brushed from the lining; is this where the phrase ‘daft as a brush’ derives from, the sulphur and arsenic having the same effect as mercury on a mad hatter. The lead brought the railways, the railways brought the people and the people played golf.

From the third tee keep the idea of chimneys in your mind and try floating a ball down the stack and onto the green; you can come up short on the bank but, in the summer, the ball may bounce off the slope and over the back of the green, requiring the use of crampons to retrieve it. In the winter the ball will simply stop dead. The approach to the same green from the twelfth tee on the back nine is wholly different and characterises how the local course designers cleverly extracted the best from the land available. Offset to the right and further down the hill, Crow’s Nest invites an ace. It is known as the Northern Rock shot; pitch the ball to the left and use the run on the bank to gather the ball to the hole. I offer no apologies to Adam Applegarth; I am still waiting for his.

This is my youngest son’s interpretation of the iconic chimneys and Allendale Golf Club:


Golf in the Wild – now available worldwide on Amazon.

Money money money …

Failed bank

There was a time when Joe Public had a fairly neutral attitude towards banks – they exist, they do a  fairly straightforward job reasonably reliably, end of story. It is not rocket science is it?  Except that it is apparently and it is so complex and so clever that they can reward themselves with vast sums for creating monstrous systems that few of them understand.  Here is a small example from everyday life as incompetence and misdirected priorities seep down the lowest rungs of the ladder:

Dear Sir/Madam – I am not often prompted to contact customer service but your recent email entitled “Improving our service” was a classic example of the law of unintended consequences.

1. When I login to my account I find that the inactivity timer is set so low (in seconds) that I am continually logged out as I switch between pages;

2. Why am I switching between pages? – because I wanted to send a secure message;

3. Why did I want to send a secure message? – because your “good news” email prompted me to look at my savings account which I find is generating an inglorious 0.1% interest per annum

4. Is this the best you can do? I suspect not – why then, as a longstanding customer, can you not automatically transfer my accounts to the best rate – far better to invest in real improvements to customer service than tarting up website interfaces.

I have copied to my wife who has a similar account and will be similarly disappointed – so that little marketing initiative worked well didn’t it.


V Meldrew

Rant over, I feel better for that :-).