Christmas Eve

It is so good to have Tom and his two children, Rebecca (12) and Ben (11) staying here over Christmas, as they are very settled and happy. Tom’s new dog, Ruby, a cross between a Flat Coated Retriever (black) and a Golden Retriever, is remarkably well trained (by Tom), and is herself very content. She never barks! But like all dogs of this type, is very active and enjoys long walks – and Tom wondered why he had lost weight!

In canine excitement, Ruby runs around the room,
Chases her tail with furious energy,
But never quite catching it.
Her tail hardly represents a serious threat,
Nor chasing it, a major response.
This dog has so transformed Tom’s life, 
helped him think more responsibly, 
to anticipate trouble, in advance, 
Prepare for difficulties or avoid them. 
Ruby has been to Tom both vulnerable and supportive.
“Pet” is not the term of choice for Ruby,
She’s more a companion, servant, doggy helper;
with a mind of her own, she thinks for herself,
and manages think for others too.

Christmas Eve 2018

Waldershelf Singers – again

 The choir is in the midst of a hectic schedule of Carol concerts, the fist two of which functioned as "dress rehearsals", as we had hardly done enough practice previously. However, tomorrow we are due to perform in the afternoon at the Stocksbridge Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Neurological Care Centre (and in the evening, the church, not the choir, will be doing its "Christmas Live" visiting three pubs in Stannington and telling the Christmas message of Good News to the large crowd who will attend).

The biggest carol concert is on Tuesday eveing, (sold out!), at our own rehearsal venue, The Stocksbridge Venue.

Then next Sunday our last event is an open air concert the the Eccelshall Woods Discovery Cantre, followed by a visit to a former Choir member in a nearby nursing home. That just illustrates the caring ethos of this choir.

A novel I’ve just finished: “The Final Reckoning” by Sam Bourne (journalist Jonathan Freedland)

At my choir (the Waldershelf Singers) people had put books for members to take in exchange for a doantion to charity. I picked up a thumbed paperback by an author I didn’t recognnise, and read on the first page that the author was the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, whose writing I admired.

The book grabbed my attantion for the moment I started it, and held it throughout its 552 pages. It began with a shooting in the United Nations headquarters in New York, but soon moved to central Europe, and to what we all know as “the Holocaust”. Gradually the connections between the two become clearer, and the plot moves rapidly back and forth across the Atlansic, and across time periods (1939-45 and the very recent past – 9/11 had recently affected New York, and also the UN).

In a revealing 5-page note at the end, the Author makes it very clear that the vast majority of the events in the story actually happened, and gives his sources for this, starting with a 1977 account of events, “Forged in Fury”, by former BBC corresponded Michael Elkins. While the hero, Tom Byrne, a lawyer formerly on the UN staff, and the heroine Rebecca Merton, a hospital specialist (in paediatric oncology, although that is very peripheral ), are fictional, both are based on real characters. There was on one truly “made up” character, whose role in the plot only emerges towards the end of the book.

It was published in 2008, but ten years later it reads as fresh and as challening a treatise on the inhumanity of man to man as if it were newly published. I have ordered two more of this Author’s books.

Our Dutch friends

It was delightful to receive an email from a couple who we both got to know in East Yorkshire through their friendship with John, the retired Reader at our previos church St Peter’s Rowley. They had not heard that Janet had died, so I had to tell them. They were very sensitive and kind, and asked for some details. I foiund it not  painful to rehearse details of Janet’s last two months, and to describe again the outstanding care she received from St Luke’s Hospice. These dear folk have their own health fears, and i hope I shall keep in touch with them.

Rachel and Emma, my to lovely daughters, are running the Percy Pud 10k race next Sunday, raising funds for the Hospice.See: 

And if you can, please support them! Thank you.

More Woodturning

Over the past two weeks I have been turning a block of seasoned oak, bought from the Turners’ Retreat in Doncaster. I divided it into three pieces and turned each into a drining vessel, or tumbler. I have pictured the two completed ones, with tow small bowls I made earlier. With hindsight I would not have chosen Oak for tumblers, because its grain is quite open, but as a wood it seems very hard.

The carnauba wax finished the tumbler off nicely. The next club meeting, tomorrow, will include a competition for drinking cups, so I might enter these!

Tumblers and bowls made here.

Old Friends

It has been such a joy to be in touch with friends from the past, such as my good friend and former colleague Nick Summerton and his wife Ailee. They met me at the Rising Sun,  close to the Hospice where I had been attending the first of a new weekly group on Genealogy. John, the facilitator, seems to know his stuff, and has set us as homework to start the process of delving into our family trees. I plan to explore my mother’s line (Dorothy Shave, and her mother was nee Adeane), since my uncle Peter has already done a complete job on my father’s (his brother’s) side of the family.

Regarding woodturning, I have received through the post two sticks of Carnauba Wax, and so I have applied it to the two tumblers and a bowl, to very good effect. I understand that this is a “food-safe” finish.


I started to make turned wooden objects a few years ago in Little Weighton, East Yorkshire, but was unable to bring my lathe and some other equipment because it would not fit into the new house in Sheffield. I sold it to my purchaser. However, I have now bought a new lathe, from the delightfully named Turner’s Retreat, just outside Doncaster,  a Record Coronet Herald lathe with electronic variable speed (with reverse), and a Robert Sorby (of Sheffield) Patriot chuck. I also bought a Record wet stone sharpening system, to keep my chisels as sharp as possible, and a dust extractor, for my health’s sake.

The Sheffield Woodturning Club happens to be based just down the road from my house, and I have been attending regularly for the past six months or so. We meet on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, alternately a demonstration and a “hands-on” session, when experienced members mentor and teach those like me who are beginners.

Sonnet to a block of wood

Twelve inches long by four by four,

this oblong cube of seasoned chestnut wood

seemed to resist my roughing gouge’s blade

which chewed its corners, chipped the square to round.

Rough cylinder, what form would it assume?

My urge to turn it curvy overwhelmed,

so, spinning faster, chisels sharpened keen,

it slowly changed itself into a vase.

Its many imperfections, ridges, lumps,

I gently smoothed away with grades of rough

abrasive, finer till the surface shone.

Its grain, till now unseen, began to show,

three coats of Danish oil enhanced each ring:

the chestnut’s glory in my vase did sing.

Peter Campion, January 2010


Janet and I bought the flat at Carnoustie almost 10 years ago, and over the years have had tremendous value from it. It is so homely, comfortable, weatherproof, and social, as we have got to know several of the other householders in the building. It is a former Victorian lodge, divided into flats just before we bought ours. Charlie Ward, the developer who did the work, is still around, and helpful. I hope the two pictures below, of the single large kitchen/dining room/lounge gives an accurate impression. There are also four bedrooms and three bathrooms!


There are quite a lot of Janet’s clothes, but I am not getting upset by dealing with them. The plan is to keep those outdoor clothes that will have general use, and take the others to a charity shop locally.

I shall be on my own for the next three days, then one of my two Sheffield daughters and family are joining me for the second half of the week, and we shall travel back together.

Some poems, the first three written in sonnet form, during stays at Carnoustie:


The sea smells hit us as we got off the train,

then the sound of gently lapping waves,

and birds, not gulls, but terns, and croaking shags

and waders, huddled on the dwindling reefs

as the tide rose.


This southern coast of Angus, so unspoilt:

some golf links, ranges, interesting cliffs,

but off the tourist trail, or so we hope,

an understated jewel from nature’s hoard.


A place of quiet solace, to retire

to read, and write, and watch the tides return

with stubborn regularity.

A place to share with any who admit

to need a rest, a change, and a retreat,

where all may find their peace.



Night Waves at Carnoustie.

At night the noise began, not raindrops, more

a soft insistent humming sound that reached

our half-unconscious ears. What’s that? We said,

but knew it was the waves, waves on the shore.


Once calm as glass, the sea’s mood changed, and we

next morning on the beach could feel the surge,

as wave on wave broke on the shallow rocks,

advancing line by line relentlessly.


For hours these waves had swept across the sea,

uninterrupted till they met our shore,

sweeping past the fateful Inchcape’s Bell

their energy dispelled in breakers’ roar.

The noise must be their death-throes, agony:

rage, rage against the dying of the swell.

(February 2011.)


Walk on Carnoustie Beach

We stroll along West Haven’s drying beach,

the tide’s legacy of rock pools gleam,

the massive reefs of rocks lean in rows,

like giant stacked slates in a builder’s yard.


Boulders lie in clumps, like canon balls;

Pebbles in piles like grapes waiting to be pressed;

Sand banks dry out in the stiff north wind

As we walk into the gilded glare of the winter sun.


Seabirds and waders notice us:

tiny dunlin scuttle together but still feed;

the oyster catcher shrieks alarm and flies away;

solitary redshank wanders aloof among the pools;

and the cormorant just watches from his post.

We share the scene together, sheltered by the dunes.

(December 2012.)


A sinking.

Slowly swamped by the rising tide and the onshore wind

the lobster boat sank side-on to the swell.

Anchored by cabled moorings fore and aft,

the craft had no chance in th’ unexpected storm.


Fishermen gathered on the beach, three generations,

watching, discussing this threat to their livelihood.

As the tide dropped, and the swell subsided,

they made it in a dingy to the drowned boat.


Scuppers, built to let the water out, had switched their role,

acting against the balers and the pumps, until,

blocked up with rags, they ceased their perverse leak.

For hours those men baled the flooded hull.


By night the little ship was floating proud,

bobbing on a calm sea, as if nothing had happened.

And the fishermen, friends, and relations could go home:

tired but satisfied, they’d rescued this wreck.

(Carnoustie, 2009.)


Carnoustie beach

Lapping waves splash gently on the shore,

a soft wind strokes my cheek

and makes a low swooshing sound against my eardrum.

The light forces my eyes to squint against its brilliance

as it reflects off silver sand and sparkling sea.


A swallow shoots past, a gull flaps and soars,

sparrows chatter in the dune grass,

a willow tit chirps its abrasive voice,

and the waves softly lap against the gentle shore.


Above me clouds assemble in a congruence of gloom,

far away to the north east, white and fluffy overhead,

almost black in the far distance. It looks like rain.

And still the soft waves gently lap the sloping shore.


From the darkening sky silver gobbets spatter the windscreen,

the road submerges under watery sheets,

flumes of spray squirt sideways from lorries, and visibility falls.

And at the beach the waves continue their lapping.


But summer showers soon stop and sun shines,

the clouds again assume their picturesque beauty,

and all is calm. The gently lapping waves

still tickle the beach, teasing the silver sand to sleep.


I think these poems evoke the deep love we all have for this lovely place.








“The Armed Man”

Today is the much-antcipiated performance by the Waldershelf Singers of this modern piece by Karl Jenkins, in Sheffield Cathedral. I was invited to join this choir by a friend in church, saying that there were three (tenors) already from our church, and they would take me in rotation by car. The rehearsals are held in the nearby town of Stocksbridge. We are teaming up with the very excellent Stannington Brass Band (recent National Champions), who I believe are playing a new arrangement for brass band by the composer, and with another local choir, Vivacity.

We are also singing three lovely songs (“His eye is on the Sparrow”, “In Flanders Fields”, and “Total Praise”, plus “Abide with me”).

I find the choir very supportive given my recent bereavement, and very friendly (see  and @waldershelfsing).

Rather disconcertingly, I fell in the street yesterday, tripping over a kerb while looking at my smartphone (so understandable), and am now aching everywhere. At least I can explain the aches and bone pains, and need not (as I did in the night) hypothesise a recurrence of ca prostate.

My next post will address the subject of wood turning, as I’ve bought a new lathe, and had an excellent hand-on tutorial on Thursday at the Sheffield Woodturning Club, which is just down the road from here.





I read a new book by retired neonatologist Professor John Wyatt, called “Dying well”. It touched me, and helped me by reassuring me that Janet did indeed “die well”. The following thoughts were written as a precursor to the poem that fellows.

So much of our life revolves around control, to manage what we do and how we do it. We talk of “self-control” as an attribute much to be desired; and to “lose control” is to fall into the depths of depravity or illness, There is a sense in which “control” is adverse, as in abusive “coercive control”, but that is clearly distinct from “self-control”. It shows that “control” is not necessarily good.

So, when might it be good to not hold control?

When it is in the other’s interest to be able to control us, perhaps. Can there be shared control? Or mutual control? Shared control seems possible, as when two people jointly hold responsibility for a decision, perhaps a doctor and a patient, who both have to agree with a course of action for it to happen. However, this essay concerns ‘self-control” and the circumstances in which this could be appropriate.

To relinquish control in any situation seems hard, but when another is set up to care for you, whether in nursing, social, or medical work, then by not “letting go”, you will inhibit and impair their work. That sounds like formal healthcare, but informally too, for one person to not let go, another who would wish to care, is prevented.

Again, concretely, a dying person whose family member or friend would like to help with their care, perhaps in the embarrassing area of continence and toileting, or perhaps in the still embarrassing but less personal realm of money, unless the dying person permits it, this act of kindness is thwarted, and the person seeking to help is diminished.

In the language of “autonomy” (self-control), the diminishing of another is an ethical negative, while the affirmation of another is the ethical goal. I diminish you by any act that impairs your ability to act positively, to grow yourself or others.

Autonomy? A sonnet.

I control my life by having choice: to grow

or to enable other’s growth: I choose,

when powerful, to change the path for some

to’enable or prevent them gain some goal.


But when I find myself to be in need

of others’ help, how then choose what to do?

I could somehow compel another’s help,

And so diminish their autonomy.


Or I could choose to let them have control

By stepping out of my controlling place.

They are enhanced this way, as I forego

The right to have control of all my life.


It is in sacrificing such control

That we enhance the other, heart and soul.


Peter Campion, October 2018