Last week Little Boots and I spent a couple of days on a wooded campsite. It was nice to get away, as life has felt rather too hectic of late, and great to spend some time outdoors.
We cooked over an open fire, whittled sticks (me an atlatl/LB somekind of ninja weapon), climbed trees and even rigged up a hammock using a tarp, paracord and walking poles.

I’m always astounded by LB’s climbing skills, but was also impressed that my child can now single-handedly pitch a tent, light a proper fire to cook on and self-administer first aid following a slip whilst whittling.

These are useful skills and things that no amount of time playing computer games can give you.

I am a very proud parent


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Yonderland begins it’s second series tonight on Sky1.

Little Boots enjoyed the first series very much and fell in love with the Parvuli, furry little singing and flute playing creatures, that featured in the final episode.

So that last year when they made some cotton bags at school LB’s featured a Parvuli on the front.
We will be looking out for them this series.

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We went away for a short break a few months back and for reading matter I bought the latest issue of Bushcraft Magazine along with the first book from my “to read” book stack. The mag included a piece by Lisa Fenton on The American Frontiersman this included such famed explorers as Henry Kelsey, Samuel Hearne, Alexander MacKenzie and Anthony Henday.

Coincidentally the book, which I’d nabbed without looking at, was Ray Mears’ Northern Wilderness.
The book and the article had plenty of common ground, both featuring Hearne and MacKenzie and others among the American mountain men.

And if that weren’t enough in terms of odd coincidences, I had just the day before we left, finished watching a series on US PBS channel about the expedition of American explorers Lewis and Clarke.

I find this sort of history, both fascinating and awful at the same time. The European explorers were clearly men of resourcefulness and fortitude who achieved some amazing feats. However for me that is wholly tempered by the fact that these were not unpeopled lands and their ventures created the prelude to what feels a lot of the time like a genocidal wave of “progress” under which the First Nations peoples (and they were Nations) suffered massively.

I must confess I find it difficult to separate the two viewpoints.

As is often the case things become even more “real” when one has some personal peg on which to hang it. Mine is that some of my ancestors were called Field, which is the name of two of the members of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, and they were doubtless of English stock. And of course many of these people sailed the Atlantic to get away from a society where they were the rural poor and counted for little more than slaves.

All of which was some quite heavy thinking for a jaunty weekend away.

Next time I will take a joke book and The Beano.

Following on from the post before last – a name I was surprised to find amongst those revered by the traditional angling tribe was that of Jack Hargreaves.

He was a television presenter that I recall well from my youth, but at the same time know very little about. This was no doubt because my father would not allow his programmes to be on in the house. So the most I ever saw was a minute or two.

Such ire was exceptional, even for my father who regularly watched TV programmes featuring people he disliked and, rather than change channels, would spew forth futile Alf Garnet-like rants about them. But Jack Hargreaves was beyond even this.

The general vein of this excoriation was that he was a “bullshitter” and not just that – the old man seemed to actually like bullshitters – at least the ones that he sensed didn’t themselves really believe the line that they were peddling. Hargeaves was something worse, a bullshitter of a townie pretending he was a countryman.

I have no idea myself having never seen more than a snippet of ‘Out of Town’, and being too young to judge even if we had been allowed to watch it. He starred in another programme, ‘How’ which we could have watched when the Old Man was at work, but we thought it was rubbish. My dad might have tolerated that one though, because it also featured Fred Dineage (a man with a ridiculously dodgy comb-over who was often on Southern TV programmes) who he loved to watch seemingly solely so that he could call him a w***er.

One specific incident sticks in my mind with regard to JH and that is when he was on some programme or other. I can’t believe it was his own, so he must have popped up and caught the Old Man unawares. He had a ferret and claimed that as a young man he would go to church on Sunday morning with a ferret in one pocket and rabbit net in the other and do a spot of rabbiting on the way home.

“Bullshit!” said the old man, rising rapidly into a boil of raging disgust. “You’d never catch a rabbit on your way to church, never mind on the way home.”

Whether this is true I don’t know. I guess there is an optimum time to snare rabbits, but it did cross my mind that if my Old Man (and his dad) had got up at the crack of dawn to go rabbiting it might have more to do with them not getting caught by the landowner, than it being the best time to catch bunnies. I did seriously think he was going to kick the telly in until having reached a crescendo of expletive abuse, he grabbed the remote, hesitated as if considering throwing at the screen, and then changed channel.

As his anger subsided, he turned to me. ” Do you remember that c*** when he judged you in that fancy dress competition? What a c***!”

I do recall the occasion and do struggle to understand why the old man was so cross because I won and took home a really good model JCB. Maybe I just won my age group and not the grand prize – I don’t know and probably now after his stroke neither does the old fella.

It was a good costume and later won prizes when my siblings wore it. From the ground up it consisted of some very long thin grown-up’s boots. They were vintage even then – the sort that fastened above the ankle via buttons and eyes. Next football socks, one blue, one red. Then a pair of grey adult trousers, cut off just below the height of my knee and held up by braces. The gaping waistband was held out in a hoop by a circle of wire, and they were decorated with multicoloured patches. On my top I wore a bright t-shirt and a waistcoat. My head sported a battered top-hat from which a blousy crepe flower danced on a springy wire stalk.

Obviously I had my face made up to look like a clown, though I don’t know exactly how. I do recall my round nose, made from a ping pong ball and held on with thin black elastic, because it was a long way from comfortable. It was horrible to touch too as it was coloured red by smeary red lipstick. For the first effort my father had used car paint from the garage where he worked. Apparently it had looked great initially, but had then slid into mush as the paint reacted with, and then dissolved, the ball.

But the piece of the costume that my father had spent most time on was a squirty flower. The petals were made from red and white vinyl and the centre was the nozzle from a car windscreen washer. This was linked via tubing, presumably of the same source, to a bulb from a bicycle horn, hidden in the trouser pocket. It was quite effective, though good for only one decent squirt before refilling was needed. I remember my father’s regret that he could not get a bigger bulb and that trials with a water-filled balloon instead proved unsatisfactory. Nevertheless it would have to do.

“When he gets close give him a good squirt” my dad instructed. “He” was Jack Hargreaves who was judging the contest at the village fete. Well I won my prize and was delighted, but my father’s disappointment was palpable. I had not drenched my assigned target. Not through lack of nerve on my part, I should add, I was more than prepared to carry out the hit, but the flower had a four foot range at best and he just never got close enough.

In hindsight I suspect the illusions wrought by television played a part in my father’s distain. Thanks to the edit suite a shot of Hargreaves casting would shortly be followed by one of him playing and landing a fish. The Old Man was convinced of a more blatant deception. As far as he was concerned there were a number of “proper fishermen” downstream who were hooking the fish which they’d immediately hand over to be filmed being brought in.

But apart from the fish fakery and the bullshit I think what grated most was the mellow theme music and opening scenes of a gently plodding horse-drawn-trap which painted the countryside and its past a golden mellow colour – the Old Man knew from generations of experience that the lives of the rural poor were seldom anything approaching golden.

Back somewhere around June I saw that Jaws was on at a local cinema. Whilst I’ve seen it many times I’ve never watched it on the big screen. When it was originally released I was too young to go, but remember the pangs of envy as older cousins filled us smaller kids in with all the scary details.

Discussing the re-release with a friend over a beer and we enthused about going. Then promptly did nothing about it. An opportunity missed.

Luckily a nearby arts centre shows some movies a while after they’ve done the rounds and so another chance to see it surfaced. This time we actually got organised enough to buy tickets. To be honest this was actually a superior option. Whilst it’s always better to watch a movie on a cinema screen rather than a TV one, not all cinema theatres are equal – sometimes even within the same multiplex.

And the reason that the arts centre was a much betteroption than the local multi-screen, is that it has a modern and marvellous little cinema tucked away in the top of the building. It only seats about 40 and manages to feel both huge and intimate at the same time.

The movie itself has been cleaned up to mark 100 years of Universal Studios, and although there’s still the odd murky scene, as a whole it really did look fresh.

That and watching it on a big screen did make it feel a bit like seeing it for the first time. Whether it was that, or watching it in an environment that allows one to truly concentrate on the film, I don’t know but I can honestly say, I’ve never enjoyed a viewing of that film so much. I even noticed a couple of touches that had never registered before, or perhaps were brought to life by the bigger screen

And yes, I even jumped at the scene where the head appears in the bottom of the boat then laughed at myself for doing so.

“Farewell and adieu to you fair, Spanish Ladies…..”

Sometimes life is just a bit odd.

Today I found myself helping a robot get on board a train.

Sadly it wasn’t C3PO, or Optimus Prime, but rather a “Robot Wars” type mechanoid which was strapped, along with a huge toolbox, to a sack trolley.

Unfortunately the trolley wheels had got stuck underneath the train doorstep and against the platform edge – it was either that or an interstellar vortex dragging it, and the puffing humaniod on the other end, down through a wormhole in time and space.

A bit of a hand from me and the metal warrior was off to conquer the planet – although going by Cross Country trains I don’t rate his chances. 

And I thought it was only Daleks that had problems with stairs.

Spotted this piece of street art today.

It was on the side of a recycling container.

Whilst the side had been repainted at some point it wasn’t wet – and in any case the “wet paint warning tape” was on top of the painted surface. I actually think that the artist appropriated the tape to highlight his/her work.

On a very loosely associated note, last night’s One Show (a programme that I normally avoid like the plague/Olly Murs/insert blight of your own choice here) had a snippet of a feature on urban art which included vintage footage of Walter Kershaw painting the giant pansies included here and also the Morecambe Mystery Graffiti Fish – which may or may not be associated withe The Spindly Killer Fish.

Quite often the BBC will run a small feature on its website, or in a news, or magazine programme that is actually a plug for a TV or radio programme. If that was the intention here then the timing was somewhat out as the radio programme was 12 days before and isn’t even on the iPlayer anymore.

As someone who listens to a lot of speech radio I’m surprised I missed it. I’m also bloody annoyed as it sounds great.