Survival kits

It’s been a fortnight since I blogged. I’ve been very busy particularly last weekend when friends from NZ and family came and we had a really full weekend. Time for blogging disappeared. Then off to London this week to see all four days of a county championship cricket match featuring Yorkshire at the Oval against Surrey. A game for the purist because after four days it ended in a draw. So seven days of activity, challenging but I survived suggesting perhaps my new medication is helping and my systems for survival are working. More of that below.

M & K

Last Saturday was a time to celebrate my humble little town of Tickhill. M and K are on a short European tour featuring those fabulous cities of London, Edinburgh, Paris, Lisbon, Florence and Rome. Nestled in the middle was Tickhill. Once the second wealthiest town in South Yorkshire, albeit in medieval times, it offers much to see for the new visitor. Saturday saw a tour of the village which started around 3 pm and after 3 pubs, a wine bar and the cricket club, the tour of the picturesque village we got home at 10 pm for a wonderful late BBQ. Great test for the scooter as it took we round all day and was great to use the lights to find my way home so late. It was a lovely day and I was amazed I was still going way after midnight though jet lag was making it a struggle for our guests.


Next day was a late start but we went off to York, a must city if you come to Yorkshire such a beautiful place and so much to see. Unfortunately still not got my car so I tired quickly and retreated to a coffee bar whilst the rest of the group looked at the Minister, the walls, Shambles etc etc. We came home and enjoyed a lovely Italian meal to end a great weekend. Thanks to M and K, H and M and J and S. Next morning they headed for the Dales and the Lakes as their European journey continued.

Working in London on the Monday meant I was set for cricket at the Oval for the rest of the week. Important game to win for Yorkshire suddenly finding themselves in a relegation battle. I said above this was a game for the purists. Opinion is becoming divided in cricket about what is the more likely game to unfold in the future. The money, younger audiences, instant action, excitement and engagement, rests with the T20 game. Across the world fixture lists are being organised to bring central stage the major T20 tournaments like Indian Premier League, the Big Bash and in the UK, the Blast. Franchise cricket is due to arrive in the UK in 2019 when new loyalties will have to be found so we can cheer for one of 8 city teams deemed to have the finance to mount a team, composed of players from around the world who will be paid for. For many people, including myself, it is a bit of a nightmare scenario. Loyalty to your club is part of what makes sport so engrossing, why else would you spend a lifetime supporting Barnsley FC, yesterday celebrating their 130th anniversary. But Yorkshire is my cricket team not Leeds nor Birmingham nor any other make believe team, 

But the first class County game, this year marginalised to April/May, cold and wet and September colder/wetter is seen as an irrelevance almost. Different crowds appear at T20 to county matches if any crowd appears at all to the latter. And yet the excitement of a four day festival match at Scarborough is remembered long after the cheap thrills of T20 have withered away.

I know I am an anachronism in terms of the cricketing future and many sports have adapted to shortened forms of the game. But would the rugby union buff really prefer a Sevens tournament to the excitement of a Lions tour. Penalty shoot outs in football are exciting, tie breaks in tennis likewise, but you have had the full version first. What will it do to skills development? This summer we have already seen England struggling to find test quality batsmen despite the same players whacking runs with great rapidity in T20, Alex Hales for instance. I enjoyed my four day draw at the Oval. I sat through nearly every ball and though it was difficult to see Surrey get nearly 600, the centuries by Stoneman and Sangegara were a joy to watch particularly the latter. After he got his century he hit the ball with such precision it was wonderful to watch. Yorkshire battled hard and though were forced to follow on it made for a challenging, tense and interesting final day. Big record breaking partnership and centuries from return-to-form Lees and departing Aussie Marsh secured the game and I went home satisfied. 

But I can see why this form of cricket may not be viable, £20 entry with no concessions, I guess because most watching were at least over 65. Even the last day same price. Inside the pricing on the one van offering food was laughable. Fish and chips £11.50, tea £2.70. Chips alone £3.70 at 4.27p per chip. This may just have been London but wow need a mortgage to watch there regularly. Great meal out with H and J just round corner from my Travel Lodge at Balham which made access to the ground easy and quick. It is remarkable how specific dangers like terrorism can be. I travelled to the ground the morning of the Parsons Cross incident and it was not until friends texted that I was aware anything had happened.

Finally systems of survival. I now go away even for the day with such military planning and precision. Gone are the days when I simply threw a fleece in the car in case of bad weather and off we went. Now there is a checklist – medications, CPAP mask (for sleep apnoea), checked routes to ensure easy access to toilets, spare clothes just in case, testing kit for infections, card in case of sudden illness to give to paramedics, walking stick, two fleeces because get colder etc etc. I recall going out with my kids and having to pack a range of items to cover their every need now I do it for myself. When I forget panic sets in but usually my bag is full for every eventually as long as any train strike does not last for more than 48 hours! Have a good week, a bit of rest for me.

My week in Photos

From my motel window
Huge pigeon stops play

Morning has broken

I went to a concert tonight, the first time since I saw Tom Paxton about three years ago. It was called The Cat Stevens Story ( Darren Coggan, an Australian singer, sings all the numbers in an authentic Cat Stevens voice, the musicianship of the group is great and he intersperses the songs with a detailed story of the life of Cat Stevens. I went on my own which was a bit daunting but when I saw it a while back I could not think of a companion and just booked it. I am not a seasoned concert goer, far from it I am a very occasional visitor almost apologetically arriving. I worry about too many things these days unrelated to the event and nearly persuaded myself out of going a few times today. But I went and was so glad I did.

Cat Stevens is one of a handful of musicians who define my maturing self and the music has remain resonant to me to this day. I am not a clear voice when it comes to music, I do not always get music and have drifted in and out of music all my life. Even when I have a period when I am playing songs it does not last and I can go weeks without hearing any music unless it is a by-product of a TV programme or my son persuades me to have music on in the car. I have never quite got music and whilst I can identify people as favourites I have never got into anyone with sufficient depth that I cannot leave their music. Even the Beatles, who I have loved from my youth, I do not play every day but I never object to hearing their songs and I know them as much as I know any group or singer. I just do not have a definable music genre. And I don’t suppose I will ever have one now.

What inspired me about the likes of Cat Stevens, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Stones, Tom Paxton and Join Mitchell amongst many others I fleetingly admired in the early 1970s was that they resonated with my student life when the big issues of love and hate, peace and war, environment, religion, politics were played out in the music. The poetry of the lyrics helped my thinking, and steered my thoughts. In the intervening forty years I cannot say what I have admired with any certainty and could not muster a more modern or contemporary list than the one above. I regret this in an undefinable way. I feel lacking, I cannot hold those conversations when people go into a reverie about Prince, Michael Jackson or the White Stripes. (I don’t really know who the White Stripes are) does it matter? I sometimes feel it does given my desire to understand the world surely I have missed a vital feature of how life is portrayed.

It’s not that I am anti-music per se or tone deaf. I played piano up to adulthood, i sang in choirs. I got music Olevel at school and will often find myself enjoying a piece of music I have never heard before. But I do not sustain this interest. I have wondered whether I have just not found the right type of music as I think folk music probably was my favourite as a young man. I have listened to jazz, classical, country and western, gospel etc and sometimes when my mood is right enjoyed all of them and at other times been irritated by them. It’s as if my connection to music is fickle, unsustainable and flawed. I went to a concert around five years ago to see Hugh Laurie. This was the one before Tom Paxton. It was brilliant. I decided I loved blues bought his albums and now rarely play them. 

It was a good night tonight reconnecting me to those days in student dorms listening to Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat and Foreigner. It transported me to those days of uncertainty, questioning, feeling out for ideas and finding a sense of belonging that accompanied student life. I shed a tear at one or two songs reminding me that music has that power to overwhelm, to draw you in. So annoying as it is, I have consistently failed to stay with music, it has always been a temporary companion, drifting in and drifting out. Even now as I sit in the silence of the house writing this I don’t play music to comfort me or inspire me. It’s a personal conundrum which I occasionally think about. And tonight as I drove the car home it came to the fore again.

I had struggled today for a theme for my blog and was resigned to missing my Sunday slot. This is a quickly written piece drawing on feelings brought up by tonight’s music. Maybe I should go more to concerts, but to what? I usually refine the blog before publishing but feel I might talk myself out of it by the morning. So here it is.
My Week in photos 

We are all Luddites occasionally

If you live a reasonably long life, and I think 65 fits that description, you can see unfold before you generational changes which are staggering. You can ride with those changes or struggle with them. You can embrace change or resist often calling on glowing references to a greater past and with Luddite proclamations regret this changing of the guard. I want to briefly reflect on three aspects of my life which have changed beyond belief and how I have dealt with those changes. These are study and technology, cricket and probation, though I hope the principle could apply to any sphere of life.

Studying in the 1970s

I think back to my university life and study. It was centred on the library, reading and noting whatever you read, painstakingly writing out your essays unless you had a typewriter and the skills, continually chasing around, frantically, for the books and hoping the journal articles were available. No photocopying, certainly no computers and lots of paper, in my case piles of mess and only a tidy mind got me through my physical disorganisation. Even in 1985 when I completed my MA dissertation I did so with a typewriter and using tippex. Once I stated writing I just carried on with the 15000 word tome no chance to move anything around or change chapters around. I wrote it down and that was it, bound and off for assessment.
The impact of technology on my life has been immense. Computers, mobile phones, and tablets transformed the way I undertook writing projects and how I thought about and constructed my approach to article writing became unrecognisable. I saw people around me staying with the familiar and at times almost being antagonistic to these changes. For me I became excited my each new change which tidied my desk and brought my tidy mind onto the pages of my computer. So when I wrote an article I could type or speak a draft on the iPad, change it, move paragraphs around, add references from a range of references stored on my iPad, check an idea on the internet and produce something which reflected that capacity for internal transformation, I could not achieve in my student days. And as a bonus my desk became clear and I moved as far as I could to a paperless world. Bliss. I regret little in those changes.

My study – I still love my books

As much as I have welcomed and embraced the changes engineered by technology I have resisted and bemoaned some of the more recent developments in the world of cricket. After Yorkshire’s record breaking T20 win last week I wrote this about it;
What a night of cricket and yet it seems a different game. I loved the raw excitement of it, the record making, the fun of it. But, and not sure I understand this but cricket for me unfolds over a number of days is attritional, climatic in small bursts, surprising, changing shape, creating records and the debacle of Yorkshire at Scarborough recently sticks more in my memory than last night will. I know I am a traditionalist, I know all the arguments but am I alone at wanting the best form of the game to prosper too? Not be squashed in between the smash and grab of T20. After all by the end of the day we could be out of this competition.’

I understand the need to promote the game to a newer population but my prediction was correct we were out of the competition the following night. This fuels my argument that it is a game which is more of a lottery, when a good display from any team can defeat the other whereas in first class cricket the better side usually wins over 3/4/5 days of attritional, and, I know it’s my view, totally absorbing play. I was struck that the audience I sat with for the T20 and for a county game were almost completely different people. The former younger, excited, cheering, whooping at every six hit but without any analysis because in some ways, in many ways it’s a simpler game. The county audience much much older, funny, analytical, they knew their cricket and patient. I embraced the excitement of technology without hesitation, here I am uncertain, unclear of what will happen to the traditional game. Like tippex will the first class game disappear in 20/30 years time, just a peculiar artefact on the newsreels?

The joy of playing on the outfield
Archetypal spectator
Lyth trying to build an innings
Sidebottom at Scarborough, last appearance there
Scarborough 2017

My third example is the world of probation and to do justice to change and continuity in this profession is extraordinarily difficult. Yet there has been massive changes since I walked through the doors of the probation service in Doncaster in 1977. At first sight it has been all about change – organisational, technological, evidential, – and yet the continuities refuse to go away – relationships, community, partnership. Change to be successful, even with a clear break which Transforming Rehabilitation has tried to be, has to be organic. Taking with it the best of current practices so that the new version builds on the knowledges of the past. Otherwise it has to be reinvented and this slows progress. Consider the importance of the professional relationship reinvented by the Offender Engagement programme, forms one of many examples. If this can produce the best of practice whatever the external changes then maybe some of the traditions will be preserved even in challenging times.

Also this may be the answer to cricket’s dilemmas. Given the first class game develops the highest quality in the players it will be important to find a way of preserving this game so those skills do not disappear. The game is at risk of being devalued if the emphasis on quick wins, instant entertainment are pursued and we settle for entertainment at the expense of core skills or am I just too old, yearning for days which won’t return.

As to technology maybe my early years of study taught me skills I have simply adapted as technology has changed. For me it suits me to use my iPad to plan and write and review, which is what I will now do before publishing! But I still plan, write and review!

My photos of the week. 

A splash of colour

Tickhill Mill Pond
Tickhill Mill Pond
Tickhill Mill Pond

Happy Yorkshire Day

Last week a friend came for a visit and during conversation asked when I first came to Yorkshire. I was mortified that my six years of exile to Suffolk in my teenage years had modified my Barnsley accent to such an extent that it was not just obvious that Yorkshire, was and is my natural home. I have delayed my blog this week to coincide with what should be a local holiday, Yorkshire Day, 1st August. I shall set out my simple argument for the joy of being a Yorkshireman, man and boy ready to represent Yorkshire at cricket at a moment’s notice, given my birth at Pinder Oaks Hospital, Barnsley in 1952. 

I have only spent six years living outside Yorkshire in my entire life having gone with the family to West Suffolk around 1964 returning to university at York, then Hull and finding a resting place in and around Doncaster, first in Conisbrough and for over 30 years in the wonderful small town of Tickhill. My first experience of Suffolk was going to the shops and finding I could not be understood. I was so upset and came home in tears. My broad accent, the Barnsley accent, one of the most distinctive in Yorkshire, perished as my teenage voice began to mimic the country twang of Suffolk, such a shame, though I think the core aspects of a Yorkshire accent have always remained.

So why is Yorkshire so attractive. For me it’s down to people, places and locations. People in Yorkshire are proud people, whether rough honed from the coal pits, the steel furnaces, the woollen mills or the country fields. Facing their fair share of poverty, disappointment and unemployment, Yorkshire people bounce back often with a humour and resilience which is awe-inspiring. In the midst of this Yorkshire produces it’s fair share of poets, artists, sculptors, authors and many many sporting heroes to represent the heart at the core of the White Rose. People are at the heart of any community and in Yorkshire there is a warmth between neighbours: who will invite you in for a cup of tea; who will support you in time of need; and who will just be there with a robust humour and a sharp word when needed to tell you what should be. People will speak their mind and not all of that is good but there is an honesty at the heart of many normal conversations. The world is more global now and people are much more travelled but this essence is still evident around the heartlands of Yorkshire. 

For me the exploits of the cricket team are at the heart of Yorkshire. A strong England team always has Yorkshire players in it as true now as it was during the heyday in the 1960s. I ensured my children were born in Yorkshire in case they were good enough to play for Yorkshire, an important action to take 35 years ago. I love watching Yorkshire play, particularly at the incomparable Scarborough Cricket Ground, and their resurgence in the last few years has been wonderful to watch.

Yorkshire CCC
The iconic Scarborough Cricket Club

The variety of place within the boundaries of Yorkshire mark it out as the county that can boast the best of places. The big cities of Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and Harrogate offer contrasting treats if you like the splendour of urban living. But for me the smaller county town of York offers the most with its imposing Minster and charming centre, though admittedly overrun by tourists. But dig deeper and you will find so many delights from Bronte country and Haworth, the rural delights of Reeth in Swaledale, small towns like Skipton, Richmond, Whitby, Scarborough, Halifax, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Shipley, Ripon, Thirsk, Malton, Beverley, Barnsley and so many more. I mention Barnsley as it’s my birthplace and where I started out for my first 12 years. It retains an affection for me with its opulent town hall mentioned by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier and of course its football club for which I retain a season ticket. A life sentence when you are born here! 

The Yorkshire flag
Lifelong BFC support

And so to Yorkshire’s many wonderful locations. I have already mentioned Bronte’s countryside but I start with the two national parks in the North York Moors and my personal favourite the Yorkshire Dales. An inner calm comes across me when I drive through the Dales, through Reeth, Gunnerside, Muker and Keld in Swaledale or Leyburn and it’s surrounding villages in Wensleydale or Grassington, Bolton Abbey, Buckden in Wharfedale and the market town, the home of Wensleydale cheese in Hawes. In between splendid countryside, many small villages, good ale, with Timothy Taylor’s and Black Sheep as favourites. The dry stone walls mark out the areas as do landmarks such as Malham Cove. So much to see and do, it always repays a visit.

Gunnerside cottage
Overlooking Reeth
Aysgarth Falls

For me the other location I love is the East Coast. The area around my favourite resort and fishing village of Whitby is wonderful and I could easily move to Whitby and live there. I never tire of returning there and visiting my favourite haunts such as Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, Sandsend, Hornsea, Filey and Flamborough Head. I can highly recommend the Magpie Cafe in Whitby and on a quiet but dry winter’s day Whitby has such a charm it is so worth a visit. Or staying at Raven Hall Hotel on the coast at Ravenscar, after completing the Lyke Wake Walk is a must. 

Flamborough Head
Flamborough Head

All in all Yorkshire could function as a devolved area with its own government. It has so much to offer and such a strong identity I love the fact I was born in it. And so let’s raise a glass of Taylor’s Landlord bitter, tuck into Yorkshire Puddings with onion gravy, fish and chips and then rhubarb, crumble, tart or pie for ‘afters’ and Wensleydale cheese and crackers with a glass or two of port. Ok it’s a stereotypical depiction of the local fare but not bad on a rainy, cloudy, windy, cold winter’s day of which there are a few. 

So excuse my wallowing in this county but on this day of all day’s why not! Happy Yorkshire Day.
My week in photos

A letter to my younger self

I was inspired this week by reading a blog with the same title by the writer Patrick Gale who reflecting on his earlier life wrote to his younger self. I cannot do justice to his eloquence or the issues he faced but this is my take on this……….

You were always a committed person and certainly a real sense of purpose drove you forward but maybe on occasions it made you a little hot-headed and sometimes a more reflective response might have worked better. Sometimes that inner anger/frustration with others got in the way and left you with mountains to climb to get people back working with you. This happened more on the sports field than at work but you never suffered fools gladly and got that wrong from time to time. I think mistaking commitment for rightness meant you could leave people in your wake and it took you time to get them back. Having said that I think you often did get people back working with you and it was that characteristic which acted as a helpful counterpoint. You quietly forgave people and easily re-established good relations. For all your argumentative spirit you liked accord and disliked simmering conflict. But I guess you could have been a less tough-minded person to know at times. 

The softer side of you was not always evident to work colleagues. The single-minded intention to get things done, to work at solutions and deliver quality practices meant there was little time for play. After your days in Doncaster you rarely took time out for lunch and revealed little of your wider self to colleagues. I do not think you were necessarily a private person as when someone wanted to know more of you, you gave openly of yourself. But the drive to succeed meant unless asked you did not take time out. You would have been rewarded better if you had spent more social time with colleagues as you could be a great social companion when someone pressed the right buttons.

You were unlucky in love, notwithstanding the break up of your marriage which just happens. But the focus on work and on your children meant that new opportunities for love were missed. You could, maybe should, have taken more time out for yourself and also pursued a love interest more single-mindedly. You were rightly putting your children first and they got most of your love, and work got most of the rest. But you spent a lot of time with the cricket club which was close to your heart but that scuppered chances for you find space for another person close to your heart. You would have been an attentive, caring and committed lover and anyone caught up with you would have enjoyed the ride. You would have been good in a partnership but it has not really happened apart from your dalliances in Hong Kong.

You might have tried harder to resist the ravages of time on your health. You made spirited attempts to lose weight on more than one occasion and at the time each seemed successful. Sustaining such changes was much harder and you drifted back into weight gain. The lure of bacon sandwiches, fish and chips and real ale jointly share the responsibility with butter! This did not seem to impact on you whilst still playing cricket but post-50 you could have done with a fat clear-out. Would it have made a difference to your health problems now, you will never really know but logic suggests it might have done. 

You always wrote well but too infrequently. Your academic outcomes are chronically less than they should be. You wrote some good pieces but your influence was more in your verbal utterances through speeches, workshops and teaching. You are a great communicator but when the dust settles will you regret not completing some of the many projects which died on the cutting room floor. You choose instead to influence through social media and blogging, no bad thing and very immediate in its impact. Was this though a little lazy and should you have pushed for a more sustained academic contribution – probation: policy and practice over 40 years – deserved your literary mark on it.

Would life had gone differently if your younger self had exercised more financial acumen. You lived on the cusp of bankruptcy for too long in your life and this could be conceived as careless. You were paid enough to be careless and of course you never lacked generosity. Your children benefitted greatly from this but at a financial cost to you. In the early days of freelancing, a financially risky undertaking itself, your energy and enthusiasm saw you achieve good money which you ploughed back into your kid’s education and well-being. Little was kept back for a rainy day and that day came when undiagnosed illness, eventually identified as sleep apnoea, made working at a pace difficult. Then you lost money, ultimately sold your house and had to re-build. Refreshingly I don’t think lack of money ever worried you for long and it is remarkable that in retirement you have found solvency for now. Please manage it well.

You have rushed through life a bit and only in these latter days have you enjoyed new interests like photography and bird spotting. Maybe more time outs would have enabled you to pursue things you like – such as novels, cooking and travelling – which you have done but around the business of your life. You have often forgotten there are only 24 hours in the day but others have gained from that zest for life, an attitude of positivity and glass half full approach to everything you have done. Maybe it would not have been you to slow down, it’s my observation only. Whatever speed you have led your life no one can doubt your commitment to people, to your work and to cricket, indeed whatever you have turned your hand to and you have responded to your latest bout of cancer with similar determination. Keep at it.

Love from the old man. 

My week in photos 


 A week at Scarborough feasting on cricket in the wonderful surroundings of the North Marine Road venue is only bettered by enjoying it with friends. Once a year our old touring team, Yorkhull CC meet up to enjoy a few day’s cricket watching and renew friendships. Seven of us met up this time enjoying Yorkshire v Somerset and the excellent overnight venue of Raven Hall Hotel in Ravenscar, nestled on that iconic East Yorkshire coast just across from Robin Hood’s Bay. The perfect settings for old friendships to be renewed coupled with lovely food and for those imbibing, real ale and good wine. 

I think I belong to a generation where friends are spread out rather than clustered where I live. Having had six years at university, a bit greedy really, I then moved back to Yorkshire and all school and university friends remained scattered everywhere. Indeed as time went on some found their way throughout the world. Sustaining such friendships can be difficult particularly if you enter a busy work life, get married and have children, all of which I did. Inevitably, if sadly, you will lose touch with some of those friends, sometimes for ever, sometimes years later through chance or social media or something like the site Friends Re-united, relationships can be rekindled but they only work if there is enough to share to make it sustainable. Sometimes the past is not enough to keep a friendship going, the contexts have changed too much for there to be a continuing conversation. For others, you can re-start a friendship having not seen someone for years and it all falls into place. It is not a science but you can sense it when you get into conversation. The years roll away and what brought you together all those years ago is once again evident.

I see something of that in this annual gathering of cricketing buddies. To be fair some of them I see much more often and we also have had a winter gathering until this year at our favourite hotel in the Lake District sadly now closed down and which I wrote about in an earlier blog. But we quickly get back into a communicative mode, based partly on historic memories, the old worn out jokes and memories do come flooding back, but often in pairs we simply catch up on what is happening to each of us and re-affirm our friendships. As we have got older the subjects have changed, no longer dominated about what are children are doing or our own careers but more likely to feature retirement talk, ill-health and the exploits of grand children. But this is part of the natural evolution of friendships which, unless interrupted by early terminal illness or another tragedy, rolls forward and becomes renewed as much by the changes as the continuity. Symbolically we always have one designated day at the cricket where we wear our red t-shirts dedicated to one of our group, George, who died in 2012 but is never forgotten.

I like this group of people and for obvious reasons we are drawn together for one purpose, our love of cricket, but it is much more than that its a mutual respect and shared interest around politics and other topics. By no means is there agreement and the nuances of different views get put through the wringer of intense conversation. None though more forensically interrogated than cricket itself. This is where an outsider looking in might get bored but for us it is what it’s about and much debate, some argument and many reflections take place. The past always figures as Kate Atkinson has remarked:

The past is a cupboard full of light and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door.” from Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson

So I never tire of those reminiscences which bring back good memories of cricketing exploits now more grander and better than ever they were on the day but we can enjoy the tweaking of memory as the context and the events certainly did take place. 

One thing for me I like about Scarborough is that I get to bump into other friends and acquaintances as they arrive to enjoy the cricket. Most know where I tend to sit so pop down to say hello which will be great in a few weeks when I return without this group to enjoy the Festival week game. But I met up with a friend I had not seen for at least a couple of years and that was a good catch up. All in all a great few days with one exception as Yorkshire lost but I shall rush over that thought. 

This is one group of friends but they serve to illustrate the importance of friends in our lives. I would find my life much diminished if it were not for friends, some I see often, some I see occasionally, some I rarely see but through social media try and stay in touch. Every time you see such friends, that warmth and mutual regard returns and it can be as if it was just yesterday. I have held a BBQ for those friends and this year will be the sixth. It has become a lovely engagement for me but also brings people together who would otherwise not meet at all or very often. This is an added benefit and is now just two weeks away. It is so worth making effort to keep in touch particularly as life is always uncertain and leaving it too long might just be a delay too much. Get out and renew those friendships, ring one up tonight you have not seen for a while and set a lunch date. You know it makes sense.

My week in pictures.

My new kitchen pine dresser
Toad in the hole, home cooked
My front garden
A chair without a job
Friends at dinner overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay
The inevitable rain
Scarborough ground


Trying to move forward (literally)

It’s been an interesting, if challenging, week for me. Early signs, just five weeks in, with a new drug are that it is working which will give me another respite if this continues. Always a temporary respite but might last a few months or even a year or more. It’s a lottery on which I won’t ever draw a winning ticket but have had a few good small wins over the past 5.6 years so I am not complaining. It comes with more fatigue which just means I have to take things easy and I am getting better at doing that. I get it wrong some days and I have to stand back and just quietly withdraw. Bigger side effects have not yet materialised so hopefully I can tolerate it. It’s one of the expensive drugs so if it stops working they will take me off it but that is for tomorrow, I hope. Life remains a little uncertain under the NHS but I for one am eternally grateful for it, while we still have it.

I’ve also been out looking at cars and mobility scooters. I have been struggling to walk any distance for a couple of years now so I decided to apply for a Personal Independence Payment. Given the horror stories associated with PIP in recent years I was not hopeful. As 64 was the final age you could apply I was encouraged by friends to try. I know my life has become distinctly circumscribed in recent years. Although I can drive to places – Dales, nature reserves, Clumber Park, Peak District etc etc I cannot roam around them as walking is increasingly a trial. The freedom a scooter would bring would transform my life in the short term. Simple goal. 

I was recently assessed and waited for the outcome. To my pleasant surprise I was awarded an enhanced mobility payment enabling me to get a leased car, buy a scooter with the savings and put the two together to get out into the countryside. Then the fun started. Car companies are able to help you with some wonderful cars which can be leased on Motability and happy to tell you of the admittedly many benefits. But they rarely have a clue about which scooters might go into which cars. So having spend a week with Skoda going backwards and forwards with different scooter models it was concluded that for the scooter I needed they do not have a car which, with a hoist, will fit it in.

So I tried the reverse approach and talked to the scooter sellers who again did not routinely know which scooters fitted in which cars but ‘helped’ me change my mind, again and again, about the best scooter for me. So I found a lovely scooter which ticked all the boxes and would enable me to go ‘off-roading’, I love the sound of that, but still not a car to fit it in. Another couple of car companies bit the dust.

So my third approach was to go to the hoist company and to ask them what scooters will fit into which cars. I had a Scooter in mind but it was not stocked there so once again a new scooter was found, actually on offer and ticking all the boxes at a more competitive price. It had the virtue of being there so I could trial it and the engineer was able to measure it. He suggested yet another car/van. The choice of the car is getting bigger all the time. With PIPT a premium is levied on the car as an advanced payment so the bigger the car the higher the payment. Was I being priced out of what had started as a simple project and my dream of off-roading reduced to rambling round the village? 

Once again my long suffering son came with me as we went back to a garage from where, over 40 years ago I had bought my first ever car – a Ford Escort Popular. I had a tour around a car called the Grand Tourneo, (see pics below) I was exhausted once I had walked round it once, it seems so big. But the boot, with seats down, appears to be long enough, wide enough and having a large rear aperture to take a hoist and my preferred scooter. This was the car recommended by the firm from whom I am buying the scooter so I hope we have a fit. I have a nervous few days awaiting the phone call which will give me the green light. If this fails it will be a ford transit or small lorry neither of which are in the scheme! This may be my last chance so i’ll keep you posted.

Ford Grand Tourneo
Ford Grand Tourneo

It has been a tiring week. I am not a car lover and have always had a pragmatic approach to car buying. I get frustrated about discussing all the options. Car companies will regal me about its technical specification when I just need to know: if it’s an automatic, whether I can get into and out of the seat ok, which must be comfortable and whether it has rear parking sensors, as the bigger the car got the more frightened I become about ever parking it.  

I never thought this opportunity would come along and I do hope I can pull it off. I have felt a little trapped in the last year when I cannot get to places which interest me. I also think that getting out with friends becomes possible again as they walk and I can move alongside them, not worked out a term for this yet – mobility walking, aided walking, scootering? It opens up possibilities whereas closing down opportunities has felt to be the theme of the past couple of years. It will help with the tiredness I discussed at the beginning as walking is so tiring whenever I attempt it, even over short distances. My desires are simple but I will once again get out into the country rather than just viewed through my car but ‘walking’. I am cautiously optimistic I am nearing this goal and if the new drug continues to work, I may get some time to fulfil this dream and take some more expansive photos. Watch this space for an update.

My week in photos.

June challenge Days 16-30
June challenge collage Days 1-15
Magnets awaiting reassembly
Self portrait in front of a pic of self portraits
Day-night first class cricket at Headingley
Cricket books
Looking up at my pigs
Pomegranates and pineapples