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Sunday 28 April 2024

Sunday Silliness

Silly Songs With Simple Chords
C and G7 

         Cows in the kitchen, moo moo moo,
         Pigs in the pantry, grunt oink ooh,
         Lambs on the landing, baa baa boo,
         Skip to my Lou my darling.

         There’s a horse in the hallway, neigh neigh neigh,
         A donkey in the doorway, bray bray bray, 
         Ducks and chicks in the chairs all day, 
         Skip to my Lou my darling. 

         Get all these animals out of this place,
         They make a lot of noise, they take a lot of space,
         There’s no room left for me or you,
         Can’t skip to the loo, you can’t get through.  

Friday 26 April 2024

The Cats With A Bank Account

Anyone seeking evidence that the BBC is not what it once was, look no further than this report from Nationwide in 1973.

As someone who was working in accountancy at the time, several things in this report trouble me greatly.  

Aside from tax and inheritance questions such as whether the correct tax was paid on interest received (cats do not have a tax allowance), and what happened to the money after the cats died: how did the beneficiaries or next-of-kin proved their right of inheritance, I have questions about the operation of the bank account. 

Presumably, Quicksilver and Quince had someone write the cheques for them, possibly the lady in the film, but how did they sign them? If it was with a paw print, then how did the bank verify the signatures as genuine, rather than the paw prints of criminal cats who steal cheque books? One paw print looks much like another as far as I can tell. 

And if the account required joint signatures, rather than either one, then how did the bank verify that both have actually signed, rather than just one that has put its paw mark on the cheque twice? That Quince looks a bit shifty to me.  

We need assurances that the bank account was operated legally and not in false names. 

Thursday 25 April 2024

Blog Address

I have removed the custom address for A Yorkshire Memoir and reverted to the original (instead of If reading this, you are in the right place. 

This is to prevent the blog from becoming inaccessible when the subscription to the custom domain expires. It still has over a year to run, but I have made the change early because custom domains are often bought by others for illicit use. 


Technical and Other Considerations (for anyone considering doing it themselves) 

Removing the custom address turned out to be easier than anticipated. I thought I would be wrestling with the technicalities of canonical names (cnames) and the like, but that was not the case. 

All I had to do was:

1) Delete the custom domain name in the blog settings. The version of the address worked straight away. The address began to be shown as unknown. 

2) I created a completely new blog called "A Yorkshire Memoir - holding page" saying what I was doing, and also a note in the title that the address had changed. 

3) Then, on the new Holding Page blog, I simply added as the custom domain. Surprisingly, that URL immediately began to redirect to the Holding Page. It did not require any change to the cnames on the domain provider's site. It did, however, take a few minutes before the https version of the address became active after I switched it on.

The outcome is that access to now links straight to the blog, and access to links to the holding site. I will leave it like that for now as a reminder to those who use that route to change their links.

Please let me know of any problems. 

Internal links within the blog - The blog archive, list of popular posts, etc. changed automatically. Links in blog posts that reference other posts still work correctly so long as they point to a address, but if they point to a message appears saying either that the post does not exist or that the site cannot be accessed at all. It depends on how http/https and www are specified in the link. Fortunately, I have always used the blogspot version within the blog, so don't have to change them. 

External links -  Where others' blog posts or websites have included a link to one of my blog posts, these links now point to the holding site, i.e., with a page not found message. The same happens with sidebar links on other Blogger blogs until they are updated. 

Google, Bing, and other search indexes - Initially, the results from searches remained unchanged, i.e. they referenced the custom address. Clicking these links led to the holding site, i.e., with a page not found message. I assume the search indexes will automatically update in due course. (there may be more to add)

Monday 22 April 2024

Warp Land

The flatland where the River Humber branches into tributaries was once an expanse of permanent marsh. It dried out gradually over the centuries with the construction of river banks and drainage ditches, making agriculture possible. Some areas were improved by a process known as warping.

In warping, river waters are diverted into the fields to deposit layers of fine, fertile silt. It is carried out by building low embankments around the fields and filling them through a breach or sluice in the river bank. The water flows into the fields at high tide, and after being allowed to settle, is drained back as the tide goes out, leaving silt behind. When carried out regularly over two or three years, three feet of silt might be laid down. 

I remember my uncle, the farmer (see Aunty Bina’s Farm), explaining why he preferred certain fields for crops, and others for his “be-asts”. Potatoes, sugar beet, and wheat grew best on warp land, whereas the cattle grazed on pasture. 

I may be mistaken, but looking now on Streetview, I fancy that the line of the low bank around the field followed the line of the lane. The fields were for crops, while the cows grazed behind the house. 

But thinking about it now, it puzzled me. The buildings in the far distance are on the other side of a railway line, and there is a canal beyond that, with the river at the other side of the canal. How could the river water have been diverted into the fields? 

Perhaps the water came from a different river. The River Aire is around two miles to the North behind the camera, and the River Ouse about three miles to the East, but I think these would have been too far, and several main roads, the villages of Rawcliffe and Airmyn, and the town of Goole were in the way. My guess is that the warp water must have come from the river beyond the railway, canal, and buildings - the Dutch River (or River Don). 

Wikipedia provides an answer: “The first reliable report of warping seems to come in the 1730s from Rawcliffe, which is near the confluences of the Ouse with the Aire and the Don, where a small farmer called Barker used the technique.” Neither the railway nor the canal would have been there then. The Knottingley and Goole Canal was opened in 1826, and the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole section of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1846. The warping must have been done before these dates. Some of the brick outhouses at the farm could easily have dated from that time, and knowledge of the warping would have been passed down by word of mouth. 

The railway, canal, and Dutch River can be seen running parallel in the lower left quarter of this 1962 map (pre-motorway). The oddly straight Dutch River is clearly another man-made feature. It was constructed in the 1630s by Dutch engineers, who diverted the River Don to drain the moors of Hatfield Chase, hence the name “The Dutch River”. The River Don originally flowed further East into the River Trent. Warping of my uncle’s land must have used water from the diverted river Don. 

More extensive warping schemes were carried out in the Nineteenth Century along the original course of the Don, as far East as Adlingfleet on the Trent, and as far South as Crowle. One large area is served by the enormous Swinefleet Warping Drain (centre bottom of map) which runs for 5.6 miles (9 km) and has a permanent sluice into the River Ouse. The drain and much of the network of drainage ditches are deep and wide. Some are stocked with fish for anglers, and all provide habitats for frogs, sticklebacks, water voles, and other wildlife. It is astonishing to think it was all dug out by hand. But, we do not only alter our landscape. Families with Dutch names still live in the area, and the local name for drainage ditches is dykes. 

Swinefleet Warping Drain

Swinefleet Sluice where the warping drain enters the Ouse

Two areas of unreclaimed land remain just to the South: Thorne and Hatfield Moors, which together form the largest expanse of lowland peat bog in the country. Even the intrepid Yorkshire Pudding’s Geograph project has not much ventured there.  

One last piece of trivia. In the film “The Dam Busters” (1955), the aeroplanes are shown flying along a Dutch canal. It was actually filmed flying East along the Dutch River. The Goole shipyard cranes can be seen as the planes approach the River Ouse and then bank left over the town. Please don’t tell the East Riding Council. It will give them ideas about what to do with the place. 

Dave Northsider is now trying to work out how he can divert river water into his polytunnel. 

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Wainwright’s Mardale Green

Rosemary (Share My Garden) wrote about her visit to Tyneham, a village in Dorset abandoned in the Second World War because it was in an area needed for military training. The residents never returned.

She also remembered, as a child, picking gooseberries in the garden of a house in a village abandoned to the rising waters of a new reservoir.

Mardale Green

It reminded me of a passage in ‘Fellwalking With Wainwright’, which has haunted me since I bought the book in 1985. I think of it often. Oh to be able to write like Wainwright. 

I will never go to Mardale Head now without thinking of a summer’s day more than forty years ago when I walked over Gatescarth Pass and saw the valley of Mardale for the first time. It was a lovely vista. The floor of the dale was a fresh green strath shadowed by fine trees and deeply inurned between shaggy heights; beyond, receding in the distance, was Haweswater, then a natural lake. It was a peaceful scene, the seclusion of the valley being emphasised by its surround of rough mountains. Mardale was a bright jewel in the dark crown .... I remember that day so well. Many early memories have faded, but not that one. Down in the valley, I went along the lane to the Dun Bull between walls splashed with lichens and draped with ivy. There was no welcome for me at the inn, which for centuries had been a meeting place for farmers and shepherds and the scene of many festive gatherings. It was empty, unoccupied. Around the corner was the small church amongst fine yews: it was a ghostly shell, the interior having been dismantled and the bodies in the graveyard exhumed and reburied elsewhere. The nearby vicarage and a few cottages were deserted and abandoned. This was the hamlet of Mardale Green, delightfully situated in the lee of a wooded hill, but now under sentence of death. Birds trittered in the trees and my footsteps echoed as I walked along the lane but there was no other sound, no sign of life. Even the sheep had gone. There were wild roses in fragrant hedgerows, foxgloves and harebells and wood anemones and primroses in the fields and under the trees, all cheerfully enjoying the warmth and sunshine; but there would be no other summers for them: they were doomed ... Manchester Corporation had taken over the valley and built a great dam. The lake would be submerged beneath a new water level a hundred feet higher. Already the impounded waters were creeping up the valley. Soon the hamlet of Mardale Green would be drowned: the church, the inn, the cottages, and the flowers, would all disappear, sunk without trace, and its history and traditions be forgotten. The flood was coming and it would fill the valley. Nature’s plan for Mardale would be over-rules. Manchester had other plans, to transform Mardale into a great Haweswater Reservoir. And no doubt be very proud of their achievement ... I climbed out of the valley to Kidsty Pike. Looking back at Mardale Green from a distance, its buildings no longer seeming forlorn but cosily encompassed by trees and its silent pastures dappled by sunlight, I thought I had never seen a more beautiful picture. Nor a sadder one.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

The Eccentric Great Aunt: the Painter

Imagine you received an annuity at a young age, never had to work, and had enough to fund your activities within reason. How would you spend your time? 


Soon after the death of her first husband, my wife’s great-grandmother married a wealthy bachelor who, although himself a translator rather than a writer, was very well-connected in London literary circles. His friends and house guests included Maxim Gorky, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy, and Joseph Conrad. The couple holidayed in Rome, Athens and Egypt in the nineteen-twenties and -thirties. 

Great-Grandma had a fifteen-year-old daughter still at home. The new husband looked after her generously, as if she were his own, funding her through Chelsea School of Art and presenting her as a debutante at the Court of King George V. 

The daughter never married, continuing to live at home through the twenties and thirties, accompanying her mother and step-father abroad. She looked after her ageing mother after her step-father died, and was eventually left on her own. She is remembered as my wife’s eccentric great-aunt who lived a rather disorganized life in Oxford, where she was part of the art scene. I met her only once when she was in her eighties. She was tall and ungainly, very upper crust, and absolutely terrifying.

Her life was spent travelling and painting. Her travel list is long and impressive, especially considering the years in which they occurred: Bavaria and Sicily in 1928, Egypt in 1932, Malta in 1939, Mauritius and South Africa in 1950, San Francisco in 1962, India in 1969, Persia and Singapore in 1970, Burma and Malaya in 1973, China in 1978, Mexico in 1982 ... this is just a small sample. It made for a wealth of entertaining stories.

She was not well-known, but exhibited in London, mostly at the Brook Street Art Gallery, and a few times at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. 

Was she any good? You tell me. To me she was rather a messy artist with a distinctive, quirky style. Some of her pictures hang in our house, and we have some of her sketchbooks and colour slides. She had two main kinds of subject: exotic images of birds, animals and nature; and her travels, into which her quirky exoticism spilled. However, she may not have been all that original. Image searches reveal other paintings in a similar style.

Does it matter? Probably not. If we spend our time doing what we want, being creative as best we can, and are satisfied with the result, then what more could we ask? Isn’t that what we do on Blogger?

Pictures 2 and 4 are hard to photograph in their frames. 

Bali Dancers

Saturday 6 April 2024

Carrot Tub

Following Dave Northsider, who has repurposed an old oil tank to make raised vegetable beds, I filled this old half water butt with soil from the compost bin, and sowed a row of carrot seeds. It is 22 inches across, so I plan six rows at three-weekly intervals. As the fresh compost is full of worms, the wooden strips are there to protect the first row from digging birds. The bin spends the winter covering the monster rhubarb plant to give us a few tender pink stems in early spring, so this seems a good way to use it over the summer. 

As I sowed the seeds, carrot fly lined the lawn, bouncing up and down and chirruping gleefully. Dave assures me they cannot fly above 12 inches high. The tub is 18 inches, so the carrots should be safe. 

But then I read in a gardening book that carrot fly barriers should be 30 inches high. No guessing who will get the blame if I have any problems.  

Tuesday 2 April 2024


New Month Old Post: first posted 30th October, 2016.

A song for dads to sing to their children. 
Petula Clark: Downtown

What a super singalong on BBC Four on Friday! 

It Started with a Kiss, or rather for us with a bottle of Chilean Shiraz. It was followed by a fabulous edition of Top Of The Pops 1982, from 15th July. After several weeks of watching the constipated faces of Brian Ferry and Martin Fry (get the look!), it was great to have some good tunes for a change. Following Errol and Hot Chocolate came Dexy’s Come On Eileen, the perennial Cliff Richard, David Essex’s Night Clubbing, and Irene Cara’s Fame (although I have never understood the line in that song about qualifying for a pilots licence).

Later, there was a concert with the then (in 2016) 83-year-old Petula Clark who has brought out a new LP. Goodness, she is even more perennial than Cliff Richard. My great-grandfather used to like her and he died in 1960. Her voice is a bit thin now, but the music and band were superb. She kept us waiting for her ultimate singalong song but it duly arrived near the end. I then blotted my copybook by reprising my own lyrics from when the children were little. They went something like this.

When you’re in bed and Mummy’s snoring beside you
You can always go, downstairs
When you are cold and Mummy’s got all the duvet
There’s a place I know, downstairs
You can lie down on the settee, and have it all to yourself, 
Choose some bedtime reading from the books upon the bookshelf
How can you lose?
It’s warmer and quieter there 
You can forget all the snoring, no need to stay there 
Just go downstairs
Sleeping on the settee, downstairs
Sleeping so peacefully, downstairs
Everything’s waiting for you.

When you’re in bed and Mummy’s been eating garlic
There’s a place to go, downstairs
Onions and curry, chilli, tikka masala
Seems to help I know, downstairs
You can open all the windows and the air is clear and nice
Fill your lungs with freshness thats free of herbs and spice
How can you lose?
The night is much cleaner there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
And go downstairs
Have a weak cup of tea, downstairs
Crackers or toast for me, downstairs
Everything’s waiting for you.

I was lucky not to have to sleep downstairs.