This is a painting by my good friend and renowned local Gloucestershire artist Sally Williams. It seemed apt given that we’ve had the ‘Beast from the East’ upon us over here in the UK. Why is it that journalists insist on giving weather a title? I don’t remember the dreadful winter of 1964 being given a name.

As usual for us everything, apparently, grinds to a halt and there is panic buying of bread! The present storm is said to arrive with more ferocity ( that is east winds ) in the next few days. I’m in London at present and there is indeed snow here too, which is very unusual. Sledging in Hackney not known to be popular before this.

If you have been forced to stay inside and partake of endless cups of tea, then why not take a look at some more of Sally’s work on this site: Looks good on the wall

She’s there with a few more artists and you can buy prints of selected pieces there. I have always been a fan of her work, it deserves wider exposure. Exposure? Apt word for these freezing days. Stay warm.


16. Load! Aim! Fiiiiiiiiire!

The Battle of Scarborough, from Our Own Correspondent.

Roadworks on the A171 Whitby road had sent the Ang Gonnaseckian Army coach driver on a roundabout route, so roundabout in fact that he had come back on himself, turned right at the lights, followed his nose, made another right at the Mill Inn, Harwood Dale, got in a terrible tangle after that in Dalby Forest and somehow managed to find himself heading straight into Scarborough up Racecourse Hill from the Ayton direction.

“That way, down there!” shouted a few of the more sensible passengers, and the bus turned south towards Seamer. “Hanger right again!” they shouted at the end of Dicky Harper’s Lane, but the driver was not so hot on lefts and rights and turned the other way, east towards Scarborough.

“Right! Right!” they screamed at the end of Stony Haggs, so he went left, heading directly for the Nosepipe HQ in the DIY store on Seamer Road.

“Left! Left!” they cried at The Mere, and to everyone’s relief the coach driver turned right and headed up Oliver’s Mount. Phew. They could get on to the Filey road and thence south to freedom. They didn’t see the Nosepipian look-out, in the crow’s nest on the Hispaniola galleon floating on The Mere. But he saw them.

On top of Oliver’s Mount they ran out of diesel. The Army got out of the bus and looked at the view, and very pretty it was. The only drawback was the large and comparatively businesslike Nosepipe Army now arranging itself in neat patterns in the valley below.

How splendid their squadrons looked in the sunshine. How impressive were their flags and banners, waving confidently in the sea breeze, and how disciplined their movements as they placed themselves in battle formation. The sounds of fife and drum floated up and struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it.

The Ang Gonnaseckian Army, a paltry, frightened, pink-sandalled remnant of what once had been a fearsome fighting force, watched in horrified, paralysed fascination as a double line, each of 250 archers, marched up the hill to within firing range.

The front line knelt, and the back line stood. At a shouted command from a small girl, they all strung arrows, drew back, and aimed.

“FIRE!” shouted the girl and, with a tremendous throbbing and hissing, 500 bowstrings sent 500 brand new and extremely sharp arrows whizzing at lightning speed towards the poor, dismal, self-hypnotised Ang Gonnaseckians.


Potato time, and what’s in a name?

Time to get the seed potatoes for the plot. I go to a brilliant little nursery where the choice is massive and the guidance on what to grow is also great. I’ve tried a few in my time on the plot but last year’s success encouraged me to go with a similar selection.

Potato Head?

I’m hoping for good results from International Kidney which is my new potato choice. second early is Jester which did very well for me last year. There’s huge satisfaction from digging up perfect spuds, it’s like finding big golden eggs in the ground. Equally it’s a grim business when something else has had a dig around your gems and you can tell instantly by how light they are, the inners having been chomped.

Kingmay was one of my main crop choices. It says it’s a waxy spud which will be a change from what I grew last time, which was a version that fell apart in boiling but mashed beautifully.

I could not resist Blue Danube, simply for the colour. Red plants seem to do better for me and discourage the little creatures that want to get there first.

I resisted Arsenal, I need to steer clear of chips.


15. Not so fast, Macdonald.

Our latest episode of Nicky Tams the King of Nosepipe
as told by Gordon Thorburn and illustrated by myself



Not so fast, Macdonald.

You still haven’t had your Meringue Test.

Macdonald scampered up the alleyway which had all the stacks of bathroom tiles. Even running as fast as he was, he still noticed what yucky colours they were.

Reaching the end of the vile tile pile aisle he turned into the next one, which was given over to free demonstrations of the fingernail care kits which were being sold cheaply that week.

Soon he reached the end of the nailfile style trial aisle and, without looking, ran straight into Offer of the Month, which was garden furniture. He tripped over a sun lounger and dived, spread-eagled, onto a shiny white plastic table with an umbrella sticking out of it. The table tipped and slid him onto a shopping trolley, which rolled forward towards a huge glass-fronted cupboard full of power tools.

Precisely at that moment, a Nosepipe soldier was trying out a cordless belt-sander. He had the button pressed in, the one that keeps it going without the trigger, so when the trolley hit him in the back and made him throw the belt-sander in the air, it was still sanding when it came down and landed on Macdonald’s bottom.

The coarse grade sandpaper was through his light cotton strides and his boxers in an instant, and in two instants it had removed the first five of his seven layers of bum-skin and was accelerating up his back. The pain brought his brain into sharp focus. He leaped off the trolley but ran into a huge stack of ten-litre buckets of Brilliant White vinyl emulsion, matt finish. An avalanche of these fell on his head.


The last picture in his mind as he slipped into oblivion was of Tracy. She was walking towards him, smiling and licking her lips, carrying a small tray. On the tray was a tea plate. On the tea plate were… oh no! Two enormous Meringues!

So, Macdonald thought. Goodbye to all that. Goodnight, Vienna. This. Is. It. And he fell back, dead to the world.

You can’t enjoy a good Meringue Test with an unconscious person and so Tracy wandered off. When Macdonald came to, he was alone. Silently he crept towards the exit, where he pressed the No Sale button on the till. The drawer opened and Macdonald was able to whip enough sponduliks to set himself up in a little business.

He hitched a few lifts up the high road and the low road and across the Wolds to Hull, where he opened a cafe near the docks and set about trying to make a name for himself. He tried all different sorts of food to sell. There was ox kidney coated in white chocolate. Kippers with Edinburgh Rock sauce. Mars Bar porridge chow mein, and his greatest disaster, mashed potato with pickled baby-goat’s eyeballs, which he called ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’.


Then, one day, he got confused while making a minced meat pie. He put the beef through the mincer twice by mistake, then rolled it out flat thinking it was the pastry. He cut rounds out of it with his pastry cutter, then got confused again and put the rounds to cook on a griddle thinking they were drop scones.

Oh well, Macdonald thought, when he saw what he’d made instead of the minced meat pie. It was nearly lunch time, so he found a few salady bits and a pickled gherkin, and put them with this minced beef patty thing inside a big flat bap. He dolloped some tomato ketchup on the meat, closed the bun and took a bite of this most novel creation.

Caramba, thought Macdonald, as he ate it. Caramba.

14. The spy who shoved me.

Our latest episode of Nicky Tams the King of Nosepipe
as told by Gordon Thorburn and illustrated by myself



Can Macdonald pass the Meringue Test? 

“I was King Canoe’s batman, manservant or valet, Your Majesty,” declared Macdonald after he arose, giving every word as much weight as he could. “Even as we speak, the King is a prisoner. Outside this very headquarters. He is tied up. In a sack. In the passenger seat of an MG.”

“What kind of an MG might that be?” said King Nicky Tams the Easily Led, who had a knack of going straight to the most unimportant point.

“It is a red MG TC, Your Majesty,” replied Macdonald.


“What, with wire wheels, leather seats and a wooden steering wheel?” Nicky Tams could hardly contain his excitement.

“Exactly so, Your Majesty. It also has a walnut dashboard, proper black knobs and switches, and chromium trim around the dials.”

“Brrrrummmmm, brrrrrummmmmm!!!” said Nicky Tams, already seeing himself touring his new country in this magnificent vehicle and forgetting that there were one or two little difficulties to sort out first.

Time for Tracy, thought Tracy.

She sent two guards to grab the blubbering, sack-headed King Canoe from the MG and had him locked in the Ladies. With a hostile glare, Tracy then turned on the manservant.

“Are you a spy?” she asked, penetratingly, of Macdonald. “Don’t lie to me. We have our own very special way of dealing with liars. We give them…. The Meringue Test!”


“Might I enquire as to the precise nature of…. The Meringue Test?” asked Macdonald, seeming to be very laid back but with his knuckles showing white as he clenched his fists in terror.

“You will be taken from here to a Place of Testing, where you will be given Two Large Meringues!” cried Tracy, her voice shrill with power and peril. “Such Meringues as these are blindingly white, utterly tasteless, and tremendously crisp and fly-away. They are horribly over-sweetened with sugar and saccharine and are filled with disgusting artificial cream.”

“My mother, Queen Scary Mary,” said King Nicky Tams rather wistfully, “used to make really nice sticky meringues. We used to call them Tuesday meringues. She made them on Friday, we ate them on Saturday, and they were still stuck in our teeth on Tuesday.”

“Quite so, Your Majesty,” said Tracy with an irritated little sigh. “But these. These are…. Shop Meringues. Made in Filey.”

The only sound was a deep gulp from Macdonald. Tracy turned to him with a viperous gaze.

“And,” she hissed “the test is this. You have to eat them, both of them, WITHOUT LICKING YOUR LIPS.”

Macdonald turned pale. He trembled from top to toe and his left nostril twitched in fright. His desperate eyes scanned the DIY store for a Fire Exit. He couldn’t see one. With a ghastly cry, like a howling beastie on a midnight marsh, he shoved Tracy out of the way and ran for it.

Batman lives in Sheffield, well he would would​ n’t he?


There I was in Walkley, which is on a hill in Sheffield. Everything seems to be on a hill in Sheffield, which perhaps explains why the roads seem to slip and result in probably more pot-holes than anywhere I’ve ever experienced. The only vehicle that might survive this is likely to be a batmobile. There it was, parked at an angle to the hill to prevent slippage.

I was there to help son Joe open his brand new coffee shop. He’s a bit of a coffee freak so this is a bit of a dream come true. He’s pretty adept at the customer service bit too, with an easy manner and a great line in patter. He can “talk for England” about the beans or his other favourite subject: “Hip-Hop”, which I believe is a sort of music as we oldies say.

It’s a tiny little coffee bar on South Road in lovely wind-swept Uptown Walkley, and if you are in the area then go in and say hello, but talk about the weather or anything except coffee, or you’ll be there for days. While you are there then why not partake of one of their brilliant sandwiches too, I had one on the way back from Yorkshire yesterday. I slept for half an hour afterwards, to get my breath back for the onward journey. His chef Max makes the sandwiches and they are a work of art. You can see more about them at their website : joespresso

It’s what you might call an understated website: Who, what, where!

If you are on Facebook, then take a look out for them there too.




So there you have it, a snack for Batman and Robin, right there just around the corner from their place in Walkley, and with a good strong cup of coffee, they’ll soon be flying again.