Strange but true – we have another piece published in a learned journal

It’s another light-hearted look at continuous improvement.


Don Valley Festival Champions

Two things have happened since the adjudicator. First, he’s not been invited back. Some choristers took his feedback personally. Others felt our musical director had been undermined. Those who enjoyed it and wanted more were in the minority.

Second, we won The Don Valley Festival, a week-long annual music and arts shindig near Barnsley. A large audience, a big cup, a slightly less big cheque and a massive barrel of Eastwood’s bitter. It is just the best way of getting feedback: we sounded great, for one performance at least.

Where do we go from here? We don’t have a set of targets, which is a relief. We have a hard working committee and a charity mission statement that says something about promoting choral music in the community. A prior informal understanding that we didn’t do competitions has now gone. As a mixed ability choir, our auditions assess basic skills only. Selection could be one way forward, though not without its problems. My pal Big Dave, twenty stone bass with Cadenza, an Edinburgh Choir, tells me their MD holds strict auditions. She specifically looks for balance, thus excluding, heaven forbid, the rogue distinctive single voice. The confident and consistent outfit we have become is very good for new members, but the new guys do change the balance until they are bedded in.

We are a strong team headed by a first rate musical director and pianist. Over sixty singers attend a two hour rehearsal once weekly, with extra sectionals once a month. Most turn out for our annual away weekend, currently held in Scarborough. Voice coaching remains a gap. Gordon Shepherd, Ark Occupational Health, tells me that he and some of his Barber Shop pals go for professional residential singing lessons; expensive but excellent value. Learning occurs in formal sessions and during the afterglow in the bar. Their sections also submit CD recordings to the MD and voice coaches within the choir. Gordon is okay with this, but he admits it is softly, softly at the moment.

In addition to that one performance, what is the evidence for improvement? We are still being invited to appear with other musical ensembles, CD sales are steady, bums on seats at our own concerts are satisfactory to good, small profits are being made and newspaper reviews are favourable. Having great guests is a good tip. Since the adjudicator we’ve had Aled Jones and Morriston Male Orpheus. Our normal fan base of wives, partners and friends was boosted. The reviews got rosier too.

Can individuals make a difference? Voice coaching is an anatomy lecture, a demonstration, and practice, practice, practice. So the answer is yes. But it needs paying for and you get feedback a plenty: good and bad. The evidence for keeping up or getting better? The top choirs have a regular voice test and very few singers look forward to it.

The adjudicator left some bruised egos and a crumb of confidence. We can only get better.

Strange but true – we have been published in a learned journal

The Adjudicator

This appears by kind permission of ‘The Journal of Occupational Medicine’. It’s a tongue in cheek approach to medical relicensing and revalidation. It’s a ‘filler’. For the empty bits at the bottom of pages.


I sing in a choir. Sixty mature males, many technically sound, some in various stages of development. Formed in a public house fifteen years ago following an overture to a retired opera singer by a Friday night regular who thought he could sing. Whilst the maestro got it going, it needed a committee. Good men in tune with the detail and in harmony with the bank manager. But the maestro eventually stretched beyond what was feasible and affordable and the resulting dissonance was intolerable.

His replacement more than filled his shoes. Two experienced ladies with musical staves for backbones. Change through consent. Improvement through pleasure and fellowship. Then one day someone wondered how good the choir was. What were the ways to measure progress?

Invitations were still coming in, though we rarely had a full house. Not a popular choir in the sense of a regular following. A rock band has thousands of fans and they can’t wait to hear the same songs over and over again. With a male voice choir you’re praying they’ll sing something different, something you know perhaps. Even singing the same thing differently would be a welcome change.

We entered a competition once under the maestro, came last and had no wish to repeat the experience. So we employed an adjudicator instead. He was well known and respected around the town. A popular conductor with his own choir, an accomplished singer in the ‘choral’ and a regular adjudicator at competitions. He sat in for one rehearsal and returned two weeks later to deliver judgement. A panning. The acid test was singing quietly, which he said the choir couldn’t. And singing normally was too harsh. He delivered bad news skilfully by smiling and chuckling with each broadside.

He then turned into a trainer. He sang everyone’s notes and demonstrated how he did it with a series of exercises which we copied. He was mustard keen and many of us lapped him up, and his banter.

‘You’re flat tenors, see if you can ruin this?’

‘Are you joining in this time basses? Try and keep up.’

‘That was quite nice baritones. Now sing it.’

For his finale he told us we were quite capable of making a good sound. I left the rehearsal with a sore mouth, chest pain and a buzzing somewhere behind my nose. I’d discovered palate and tongue shapes and cranial cavities I didn’t know I had.

We’ve had other voice coaches. Good in their way but not followed by sustained change, as few of us took personal responsibility to maintain improvement or develop skills further. ‘And why should we?’ asked a fellow baritone. ‘Its a hobby after all.’ Not easy to learn new stuff when you are knocking on. What if we can’t keep up? Will we be asked to leave? Will real singers be drafted in? What about auditions, mandatory lessons, competitions, reviews in The Telegraph? There’s no telling where it might go.‘

Keeping the core stuff good or improving it, learning new stuff, measuring, coaching, testing.

Everybody’s doing it.

New Mill and the Ukes

ukes1                          ukes2

Great concert, though I didn’t catch a lot of what the Ukes were doing. By the audience reaction they were doing okay.

Yes, agree with John Middleton, Heroes was the high point with its connection to the story of the Berlin Wall.

Respect to Dorian and Emma for getting us up to concert speed. Also to Steve and his colleagues for getting us up to venue speed.

Concerts have space, between rehearsal and performance. Time to catch up on the last 18 months. Families, projects and preoccupations. 

Heroes – Ben Macintyre, Times, Oct 2nd


Bowie died 5 years ago.

The lost album Toy, songs from past present and posthumous, is now available.

In 1977, Bowie lived in West Berlin with Iggy Pop. He recorded Heroes, his most frequently downloaded song. ‘He was inspired by looking out of the studio window and seeing two lovers embrace beneath the machinegun watchtowers.’ Symbols of Germany’s ’emotional and political gulf created by the wall.’ Each verse ends with ‘nothing can keep us together.’

There is hope ‘But we could be safer, just for one day.’

10 years later, when political change was in the air, he featured in a three day concert in front of the Riechstag. Thousands of East Berliners crowded as close to the wall as they could. Bowie said it felt like a double concert, hearing them cheering and singing from the other side. The police overreacted violently.

The concert and reaction helped ‘crystallise popular resistance’ supporting political and economic unrest which had been present for decades.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.

Is there a link between this and the concert and the song? Bowie was ever questioning and undermining authority, but music tends to reflect change rather than initiate. Still a challenging character.

‘His ideas would find the most powerful and lasting impression in a song about love thwarted by totalitarianism.’ He asks the question ‘can ordinary people bring about great changes?’ I guess they would no longer be ordinary.

We can be heroes, just for one day.

How I came to join the choir – Steve Flynn


January 2007

It’s not every day you ‘retire’. After 39 years of the day job I’m just waking up to the fact that my daily bike commute to Leeds Road is over. So what do I do now? I’ve worked in IT since the age of 19. Back then a computer filled a warehouse and had substantially less processing power than the average mobile phone. My early intentions are to provide a service to anyone in difficulties with home PC’s or who wants to know a bit more about the software they have, particularly Microsoft Office. Broadband seems a real minefield for some people so there’s probably work there too. And have you seen how much PC World charge for these services? Must be an opportunity to undercut those guys. So lets see how things develop.

March 2007

Remember when you were in work and that smug retiree would tell you how busy they were? Did you believe them? Course you didn’t. But it’s true. There’s lots of things to get involved in, most of them unpaid and time consuming. Projects at home and the odd bit of work, mostly for peanuts but rewarding nonetheless, fill out the days. Your social life begins to expand into daylight hours as well as nights. You begin to make the transition into ‘The Third Age’.

May 2007

Met Graham in Holmfirth. Still banging on at me to come along to New Mill choir. He says some of the guys get together on a Tuesday afternoon to play bowls which sounds a nice change to bashing pedals round on my bike. Although I can see through his cunning plan, I have to admit to an interest. But it’s raining so the bowls will have to wait.

June 2007

Still raining.

July 2007.

More rain.

September 2007

Met Graham in Holmfirth (again). The seed he planted in May must have germinated somewhere in my subconscious and I find myself provisionally agreeing to go along to a choir concert at St Paul’s in October. My resistance is beginning to weaken.

October 2007.

The concert is good fun and I genuinely enjoy it but can I sing like these guys? Three pints in the Star and it’s been agreed that I’m a baritone and I’m going to the next rehearsal at New Mill club. Beer: the salvation and downfall of men!

It’s Tuesday night and I’ve walked to the club. It’s all hustle and bustle, smiling faces, lots of introductions and before I know it I have a thick book of music and I’m invited to join in and sing. I find the experience exhilarating. As 50 male voices rise to a crescendo, the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I want to be part of this. The music, to my ears and eyes, is difficult to follow at first but I quickly start to get the hang of the simpler stuff though anything with the remotest degree of difficulty is mesmerising. Afterwards there’s a very sociable gathering in the bar with supper and a well earned drink. This isn’t bad at all!

November 2007

The first night has set the pattern for the following weeks. Raymond, my neighbour, has put aside his apprehension and come along too. We’ve signed up to go to the workshop in Scarborough which, I understand, is not to be missed.

Scarborough 2008

I won’t try and describe the weekend in a serial manner; rather I’ll just give my impressions and observations. It is an excellent way for the choir ‘newbie’ to broaden his choir experience and anyone new to the choir should go. Energy levels are high and the concentrated workshop sessions give me more confidence. The social elements of the weekend are an opportunity to meet and chat with the people I am singing with and even though I wondered whether the invitation to go for a run at 7:00 am was a wind up, it did happen. Probably the most impressive thing about the weekend is the concert in Tadcaster where the choir demonstrate that they can produce a very emotional performance even when vocal chords have been constantly exercised and many have drunk long and deep at the bar. I can only assume the Spirit of Elvis is upon them – those at the ‘show’ on Saturday evening will know what I mean.

Spring Concert, St Paul’s

First sing in public with the choir. I’m pretty nervous and even take the words to some songs with me to the Town v Tranmere game. A quick run through at half time and again in Sainsbury’s café after the match. I have sung in the massed choir event at the Town Hall but that was relatively anonymous and we had the words in front of us. This time it’s from memory and I know how that can suddenly go blank. Even though I’ve appeared in amateur shows and performed simulated sex on stage at the LBT (yes, really!) the nerves drag at the stomach. Fortunately we begin with ‘The Heavens Proclaim’ which gives me the chance to open my lungs, have a good rant and settle down. The rest of the concert consists of songs I can make a contribution to, songs I know bits and pieces of and some in which I really should keep my mouth closed but instead try to follow Elizabeth’s guidance and at least do something with. Note to self – make more effort to get these things learnt!

The concert finishes and I seek the verdict of my ex-choir accompanist and partner Sue with some trepidation but she judges it a success.

So it’s back to the Star to round off the evening with a beer or more.  Which is where this started really.

Here’s to the next time!

Famous Baritones of the 20th Century – Ibbo 

ibbo b&w 2_face0

Baritones are often synonymous with flawed anti-heroes, men of uncontrollable emotion and sometimes, outright villains.

Here are two of the most famous baritones of the twentieth century who may or may not have exhibited some of these qualities. I will leave you to make your own judgements.

 Bing Crosby, Singer / Actor

  • Born: 3 May 1903
  • Birthplace: Tacoma, Washington
  • Died: 14 October 1977 (heart attack)
  • Best Known As: The singer of “White Christmas”
  • Name at birth: Harry Lillis Crosby

Crosby was one of the biggest music and movie stars of the mid-20th century. He started out as a member of the Rhythm Boys, a jazz vocal trio, before going solo in the early 1930s. He quickly became a radio star, a silky-smooth crooner who could sing both pop and jazz. As such he is often credited with inspiring Frank Sinatra and other modern pop singers. Crosby also became a film star, winning an Oscar for his portrayal of a good-natured priest in the 1944 movie ʻGoing My Wayʼ. His long running comic feud with comedian Bob Hope was milked for laughs on their radio and TV shows, and they co-starred in a series of movies that became known as the “road films”: Crosby first sang the tune “White Christmas” in the movie Holiday Inn (1942); his recording of the tune remains a holiday favourite, and for many years was the biggest-selling single of all time. In the 1960s and ’70s his annual Christmas special was a popular TV fixture. He died in 1977 on a golf course in Spain, having just completed the 18th hole. In 1955 whilst filming the Country Girl he had an intense affair with his co-starGrace Kelly, a fellow Irish Catholic, which was kept quiet to protect both their reputations and at the insistence of Kellyʼs dad, a millionaire Irish builder, who didnʼt want some old crooner getting the dosh.

Adolf Hitler, Painter /Politician

  • Born: April 20 1889
  • Birthplace: Braunau am Inn, Austria
  • Died: 30th April 1945 (suicide)
  • Best Known As: Führer and Reichskanzler of Germany
  • Name at birth: Adolf Schicklgruber

Adolf Hitlerʼs life has been exhaustively researched and documented from his early years in the Bavarian Army Rhythm Boys, a jazz vocal trio, before going solo in the early 1930s with his unique style of National Socialist demagoguery. He quickly became a radio and film star no doubt due to his absolute control of the German media from 1933 and his subsequent dominance of most of continental Europe until his timely death in 1945. He spent most of his later years touring extensively with notable success in Poland, France, Italy, The Balkans and North Africa. His popularity reached its height in 1942 with his initial early successes in Russia, but his failures to dislodge The Joe Stalin Red Army Ensemble from the no 1 position in the Moscow Hit Parade led to a rapid and then complete eclipse of his once dominant position in European popular culture. With the rediscovery of the only known tape of Hitlerʼs singing voice in a Finnish garage in 1992 we can now conclusively prove that he was a baritone. Previously all his recordings were of the intense delivery he used for his official ranting and ravings. It was secretly recorded by Finnish intelligence agents in the buffet of Hitlerʼs private train when he sang Happy Birthday to the Finnish war leader, Marshall Mannerheim on his 75th birthday on 4th June 1942 Although somewhat marred by the accompaniment of a drunken Scotsman at the other end of the buffet car it proves that Hitler was a baritone. His inability to remember the second verse or indeed the baritone line supports the conclusion.

Stay well – friendship and summer holidays

This is a piece which I have deleted twice. Don’t know how but it’s a senior moment. Two senior moments. If I lose this I shall feel a right twerp.

Very interesting articles recently in the Times (July 25th). Ysenda Maxtone Graham (Lazy days with nothing in the diary) and Sheridan Voysey (Friendship). Arguably the same thing, certainly lots of overlap.

One of the things that has got people thinking during the pandemic is just how we spend our time. Talk of learning a language, doing a Phd, writing a novel. Then, for those with family, especially up against it in the towns and cities, the amount of time spent keeping children occupied. Another connected thought comes from how we spent our summer holidays back in the 1950s. We entertained ourselves and didn’t  cost anything. Indeed back then rationing and austerity were still around. Being careful and thoughtful with money was a virtue, particularly when food and eating were involved. Somewhat different to buying loads at the supermarket at the start of the pandemic.

These reflections resonate with today’s 60 and 70 somethings. My mum worked and granny supervised. I was out roaming the spaces near where we lived. Freedom. Waste ground next to the railway and an abandoned quarry were parts of our territory, so free and risky as well. And then there were hills, hedgerows, fields and streams. ‘Our territory’ meant we had a gang. 10 year olds. Wandered and played football and cricket together until we went our separate ways after the eleven plus. This was the time before housing estates, before traffic jams and paedophiles, before the attraction of youth clubs and girls. Before ipads.

Did we go away on holiday? The family had a week on the east coast. Went on a Hanson’s bus and stopped half way for refreshments. One large battered suitcase which took all Friday night to pack. A caravan or a chalet. Teenagers didn’t with parents. Camping and walking as part of school or youth club parties. Butlins and the Norfolk Broads for others. Even went abroad – Yugoslavia and Austria. Long tiring trips on trains. We were part of another gang.

Our holidays since have been more frequent and shorter. Regular visitors to Gower, Cornwall, the Lakes, Ireland, Northumbria and an assortment of canals. Yes and abroad – Brittany, Italy, Spain. With friends and now more with family. Friends from sport and work with whom touch is lost when moving about.

We have never been regular restaurant visitors. A legacy from the 1950s? Value for money surely comes into it. Even if food is good I fail to see why I should spend ninety odd quid on two meals. Similarly I baulk at a pub meal  advertising a pie which is clearly stew with a crusty hat. The finer points of cuisine, red wine and classical music have passed me by .

So, lots of references to pals and friends. Last Thursday was National Friendship Day. People with whom you share interests and values. Some are listeners. Others tell you how their day was. Consoling. People to check out your thoughts and feelings with and not simply rely on Radio4 and the Times newspaper. The childbride is never off the phone. I’m never on it.

I do have friends. Pete and I played junior rugby league for Dalton St Pauls in Huddersfield. I went off to seek fame and fortune. Pete stayed in the local business world, finishing in the publishing section of the Examiner – and a revealing scepticism about the press. When the family moved back to the W Riding, I tried to play squash at Honley. Met Pete again (and Geoff) and so began a saga of walking in the Dales. We also share mid life stories of health and retirement. I saved Geoff’s bacon in Hawes with a Mrs Doubtfire skill.

Big Dave and I played veterans and blind pimply faced youth rugby in N Yorkshire. A Barnsley lad, he went down the pit, then a musician in the army and eventually a BT lineman in the dales. Over 20 stone and shinning up telegraph poles – phew. We share a love of high lonely places and spent time walking, camping and caravanning in Scotland and N Yorkshire. I am not aware he had a mid life thing, but he was certainly there for me.

Then there’s Eric. Psychiatrist and serious. Walking again: White Peak, Coast-to-Coast and Hadrian’s Wall. He’s move near Portsmouth. A good pal.

Others along the way – Liverpool, Cardiff, Saddleworth, N Yorkshire – colleagues, cricket and a rugby. More recently the old farts from the residue of Almondbury Casuals CC, stiff pilates mates, out of tune New Mill Male choristers.

My bestest pal is my childbride. Rubbing along all these years. What does she see?

So 1950s brought-up-to-date summer holidays and friendship. We remain fairly close to those early beliefs and values. I now vote for the economy and a occasionally wear a waistcoat with pocket watch. Bigger houses. Keen on self-reliance – 1950s plus parental expectations and being from Yorkshire. Some difficulty taking advice maybe. Our friends accept who we are.


Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death?

Trying to keep the above piece safe I came across something from 1997 I think. About old age. Before adopting one space after commas and full stops. And getting it’s right.

‘Old age has a great sense of calm and freedom. When the passions have relaxed their hold you have escaped, not from one master, but from many.’ (Plato:  The Republic)

I’m not sure where the phrase ageing gracefully comes from, but Plato’s quotation is one among several suggesting that aging might have its benefits. There are others, with Lear leading the way, which support the opposite view. 

‘You see me here, you gods, a poor old man, As full of grief as age; wretched in both:’ (Shakespeare: King Lear)

My problem is I just get more puzzled. Each room in our house has a television – why? I can spend up to two hours in a car and go nowhere – pointless. An old lady gets mugged for pence – an outrage. Events I don’t understand are happening everyday: locally, nationally and internationally.  The Twin Towers atrocity beggars belief. What is going on?  I don’t know, so sod aging gracefully, I’m aging angrily.

I enrolled at the local university yesterday. It’s freshers week. I’m a second year trying to complete the first year – a slow old hand with a swagger. I cycled in – we smugly only own the one car which the childbride uses for work.  Student  registration is all done on computer. It doesn’t recognise my number or password so I fill in a form. Takes me thirty seconds.  I cycle home.

Its my second spell at college. The first was thirty years ago, and today I’m trying to book bed and breakfast so we can go to the reunion. The local tourist board have put me on hold, all their operators are busy. The hold tells me it values my custom. After five minutes the hold asks me to leave a message, “We’ll call you back”. I’m still waiting.

We might have booked earlier, but the phone’s been off for a week. No one rang, I was in heaven. I’ve heard it said that some people carry a phone around with them all the time. Fancy that.

So I’m a crosspatch. And, when something daft happens, I’m cross twice-over because I accept that’s the way things are. What kind of attitude is that? In the sixties, when we first went away to college, Roger McGough was one of the local poets. He’s done well. ‘The Way Things Are’ and ‘Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death’ neatly capture learning to accept on the one hand, and challenging the ‘norm’ on the other. A father’s advice, to soften a child’s growing sense of disappointment, and an enraged geriatric.

‘Do not become a prison-officer unless you know what you’re letting someone else in for. The thrill of being a shower curtain will soon pall. No trusting hand awaits a falling star,

I am your father, and I am sorry, but this is the way things are.’ (Extract from ‘The Way Things Are’ McGough) 

They say more of us are going to live longer and still be fit. More and more ‘greys’ remaining healthy enough to be angry. Angry health. Is that an oxymoron? My inherited 1901 Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary (strange place for the apostrophe) defines oxymoron as,

‘n. a figure of speech, by means of which contradictory terms are combined, so as to form an expressive phrase or epithet, as cruel kindness, falsley true, &c.  [Gr. neut. of oxymoros, lit. pointedly foolish-oxys, sharp, moros, foolish.]’

‘Or when I’m 104 and banned from the Cavern, may my mistress, catching me in bed with her daughter and fearing for her son, cut me up into little pieces and throw away every piece but one.

Let me die a young man’s death, not a free from sin tiptoe in candle wax and waning death

not a curtains drawn by angels borne ‘what a nice way to go’ death’. (Extract from ‘Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death’ McGough)

Yes, the world and my life are often contradictory and foolish. 

And nothing dele

Reflections on blogging

daw for blogBeginnings

When I started, there were ideas of the pitfalls and joys and humour of being an older person. I was especially keen to promote exercise and laid out the NICE guidelines. Also keeping mentally alert and active and using older role models as inspiration.

The dark side

This followed a long period of reflection on where my strengths and weaknesses came from and what I might do about them. I have insight enough to realise I live with them and just get on with it. I am regularly reminded, thoughts coming to mind in the small hours of the morning and sometimes in quiet moments like reading a book. The dark times produce unpleasant memories, but I also need to celebrate. Here is a verse I wrote for ‘Don’t let the old man in.’

Many things we have done/Some good and some bad/Leave your sorrows behind/Enjoy the love that you have

 I have a vague itch somewhere that suggests I’ve said most of what what I want to say.

Lighter notes

There were lighter notes on travel, senior moments or gaffes, coffee, family matters and the garden. These were largely for my benefit and anyone who cared to read about me. There have been loyal supporters who enjoy content and style. But it was never going national.

We can continue with a diary which will always be there for the family members that come after us. The other stuff about activity in older people has been now covered. There are still gaffes and inspiring role models and maybe the occasional helpful piece of advice.


So, going with the experts, a blog must evolve. Stop, start, carry on – a mantra from my management development days. Stop – there are too many subjects and labels. Content is diluted and needs more focus. Keep to single figures in the topics I cover, with clear labels as themes. I haven’t discovered a way of deleting labels/categories in shallilo-foreveryoung and the new format makes it very hard when you have already 50 or so to choose from. Moving to WordPress makes this easier. Google blogger has lost all my photos. Thankfully I have not deleted the originals.

Carry on – the basic content outlined above continues in shallilo-foreveryoung, concentrating on less than 10 topics. This will help with key words. I could not work out whether these were purely for the blog or were multiple and topic based. If it is the latter then less than 10 topics will reduce the key word work load. Good images as well.

Start – a more story-based blog with lear-youngatheart, whether it be family history, cricket or walking in the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland. I am going to pay more attention to what goes on under the hood (SEO).

  • There is not a lot of time left
  • It’s not about being in a rush
  • It’s not about being trivial

Haiku, line drawings, photographs, bite sized personal moments, short stories – sketches.

It’s still a personal blog.


Awaydays in Scarboro – Easing of lockdown

Walking in the spa gardens and on south cliff

Awaydays in Scarborough
The Italian Garden and spa view
Awaydays in Scarborough - the Clock Cafe (not open), the shop (open) and deserted views towards the town
Awaydays in Scarborough – the Clock Cafe (not open), the shop (open) and deserted views towards the town
Awaydays in Scarborough - the pond and frog walk in the Italian Gardens and the Rose Garden
The pond and frog walk in the Italian Gardens and the Rose Garden
Awaydays in Scarborough - South Cliff and the Red Lea hotel
South Cliff and the Red Lea hotel – small insect with purple wings

Easing of lockdown and chance to catchup and slow down

This was our first chance to take a break. Social distancing was good. No visits to pubs or supermarkets. Nothing open down on the foreshore. To make sure all was well and tidy up any projects.

The lintel on the flat’s front windows rubbed down and painted with hammerite. It took minutes to complete, but hours to move carpets and furniture and, afterwards, to clean me up and some of my clothes. At home, our family bubble has now been meeting almost daily and we do our own shopping, so Scarborough sort of took us back into lockdown. It describes why we go – time and space. Back to normal at home – we are running out of them.

The wheel was half constructed on the site of the Futurist Theatre. Sadly I didn’t have my camera.

Lots of talk about how the pandemic is an amplifier and accelerator. The cracks that have been around for a while have suddenly got wider. Social inequality, social care and racism are examples. Just how much will be done remains to be seen. Our very presence in Scarborough highlights the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Climate change hopefully will bring forward innovation ahead of time – as long at it makes money. Reasonably-priced electric cars sooner than expected maybe. Will opening up the economy be the same for everyone?

I wonder where the second team play?

Revision – 2014 (Dyce is me, coy in the first person. Eric was a walking pal going back to 1994 when my mental health first began to deteriorate. He was also a psychiatrist). This piece could be a prologue. I can’t just see the date of the first drafts, but around 2000 and after.

A busy sunny Spring Saturday afternoon. Two men in their sixties, Dyce and Eric. A Derbyshire walk over the Great Ridge overlooking Ingleton and the Hope Valley.

  “It’s not something that happens to you,” said Dyce, “Back in the day, other people used to have nervous breakdowns. Even when there was no one else for miles, my mother would whisper with a knowing wink, ‘He had a nervous breakdown.’ We hadn’t a clue what that meant. We imagined someone drooling and saying daft stuff. Or one person one minute and another the next. A dark room in the loony bin. Dad said they were ‘mixed up’, a curious disorder that teenagers were allowed to have in the nineteen fifties and sixties, until they discovered they had to earn a living. And dad’s solution? ‘A spell in the forces would sort them out. They should never have stopped conscription.'”

  “You sound as though you know something about it,” said Eric. 

“Well every second person you meet has had some form of emotional wobble. Not a train wreck that ends up in casualty. It’s more gradual. An experience that friends and relatives have. Becoming slowly unpleasant. Until you can no longer do normal stuff. No surprise to anyone but yourself.”

  “So not at the time, later maybe?”

  “Today, it’s almost cool to be on anti-depressants, apart from the side-effects. Imagine having to disappear for a crap, at the most inconvenient times, with seconds to spare. Boy scouts learn always to carry toilet roll. Well adults do too. Out walking on the fells is a risk. Do it in summer and keep to the foothillls for a while, home to safely luxuriant bracken. Afternoons can be awkward. Too high for bracken, you need to quickly clamber for that sheltered rocky spot. But take care to look behind or belt undone, half squatting, you could put that couple, fifty yards away, right off their afternoon tea.”

  “Needed a medication change.”

  “Or just throw the pills in the bin.”

They walked off Lose Hill and came across a wall, a stile and a junction of five lanes. Three of the names on the signpost read Hope, including the way they’d come.

  “Which way?” asked Rivers.

“No problem,” said Dyce, “It’s Hope whatever.”

  Ten minutes later, as they strolled along the riverside, listening to the bustle of Hope Show, a bloke in a flat cap and macintosh came in the opposite direction and asked a question that stopped them in their tracks, “Is this the path?” 

Dyce laughed, “Depends where you want to go,” he replied. They watched as the bloke trudged away toward five lane ends.

“He won’t get any help there,” said Eric and they both laughed, “It’s a John Bunyan moment.”

Later still they sat on the grassy bank in front of Peveril Castle. In the far distance there was a single rugby pitch. Dyce turned to Eric, “I wonder where the second team play?” Eric replied, “they probably play one after each other, you know, a double-header.” 

Dyce wanted the question to just hang there, left without an answer. He sighed, bemused, do we need to be that certain?

“It’s a story. There and back, and while you’re there. A simple three-parter. An innocent plan that turns into a tough schedule and a hasty rethink, peeping across and catching glimpses of other slower, more thoughtful trips. You finish in a strange place, ruffled and bruised.”

“You need to write it,” said Eric. 

Conscription may not have been such a bad idea, thought Dyce as he stood and walked back to the car park.