Archive for May, 2013

This week in the middle of England the schools are closed and it always strikes me as amazing just how little traffic there is on my regular morning cycle commute at these times.

There are 3 secondary school, a middle school, a primary school, and two infant schools within approximately a mile radius of my house.

I’m not going to give you statistics of how many students there are at each school and estimate how many of those are taken to school by car, or bus, but my estimation is that when the schools are on holiday the traffic on my journey to work reduces by 90%.

That’s right – 90%!

Without even getting into environmental concerns that’s costing an awful lot of money in fuel.

When I was at school I walked there every day whatever the weather; 0.5 mile to my primary school, 1 mile walk to secondary school. My parents would have laughed if I’d asked for a lift to school but for most kids these days it seems to be the norm.

Is there a solution?

You could try something radical – leave the car at home and walk. You never know you might just enjoy it.


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Two family revelations came to my attention recently – both courtesy of my dad, and both concerning my mother’s family.

‘Did you know,’ my dad said, over a family meal at Easter, ‘your granddad could have had an OBE.’

We all stopped eating, drinking, chatting, and stared at him. ‘Which one?’ I asked.

‘Arthur.’ He replied, meaning my mum’s father.

‘What do you mean could have?’ I asked, dreams of reflected glory fading rapidly.

The background to the story is this: in the late fifties or early sixties Arthur was a big noise in the local Labour movement. Among other things he was: the regional convenor for the engineering union, friends with Hugh Gaitskell the Leeds MP who became leader of the Labour Party. So, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could have been nominated for an OBE.

The story was – and I’ve no means of checking this as Arthur is long gone and mum’s no longer around either – the phone rang one day, Arthur answered and was told by the caller, who introduced himself, that he was being nominated for an OBE, and would he accept? Arthur thinking he was having his leg pulled by his mates declined in no uncertain terms. Gradually, as time passed, and there were no chuckles, or sly glances, he came to the conclusion that it had been a genuine call and he’d turned down the chance of becoming an OBE.

The other revelation concerned my mum’s brother, Alwyn. In his teenage years he was both a keen musician, and an excellent footballer. Eventually he had to choose, and he chose the trumpet.

Now, I’ve heard Alwyn play the trumpet and he was very good. He had his own band for many years playing on the northern club circuit, and but for the odd bit of luck here and there, he could have been right up there at the top. He was a contestant on Opportunity Knocks in the 70s, okay, didn’t win, but showbands weren’t that big at the time.

But, what I didn’t know until recently, was that he was invited for trials with Leeds United – and turned them down!

I was incredulous. When I was at school, to have laid claim to an uncle who’d played for Leeds would have had me right up there at the top of the list for everything imaginable.

I’m just glad I didn’t know at the time.

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I watched my son through the dining room window this afternoon. He was assembling a neat little pile of sticks and paper on the scrubby ground that never really recovered from his camping expedition last summer.

Over the pile of sticks and paper he erected a framework of garden canes to which he tied a hollowed out piece of baking foil. Any minute now he’ll be looking for matches I thought.

I went outside and casually asked him what he was doing. He must have thought me really dumb – after all, it was so obvious what he was doing.

He humoured me. ‘Making a fire.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘In case there’s a zombie apocalypse.’ He told me without batting an eyelid.

‘Is that likely?’ I wondered.

‘You never know dad. God said he would never destroy the earth again by using water, so it could be something else.’

‘And you think it could be zombies?’ I ventured, thinking I’d be better off inside reading the book of Revelation.

‘Nah, not really,’ he grinned, ‘but it’s a good excuse to make a fire.’

Then he cooked me some rice in the hollowed out baking foil, which to be fair wasn’t the best cooked rice in the world, but wasn’t the worst either.

Me? I kept looking round for zombies, hoping they weren’t attracted by the smell of wood smoke.

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