Posts Listings

  • Hiring Out The School Hall

    There are very few halls for hire near me, which is why I found myself in Hillam Village on a blustery day in 2018.

    There was an odd air of emptiness in this place, my husband noted it as soon as we stepped out of the car. We’d had to park on the side of the road, as there didn’t appear to be any car parks in the entire place. I’d complained about this, but my husband had made the valid point that many of these small rural places were simply not large enough to warrant building one and, besides, an ugly tarmac car park would surely ruin the idyllic appearance of such a place.

    He was right of course, besides feeling a little deserted, the place was perfectly idyllic. There wasn’t a sign of modernity in the whole place. The people of Hillam must have decided that keeping cars off the streets would best preserve the aura of antiquity in the place and it had certainly worked. Little thatched cottages were bunched up next to each other, their front gardens seamlessly blending into the scrappy mud track road. In what looked to be the town square, a gnarled tree sprouted from an ugly mound of earth. It seemed odd that such a picturesque place would have an eyesore such as this as it’s centrepiece, the poor thing looked half-dead!

    We’d arranged to meet a lady from the village council to take a look a their school hall, our youngest was due to have her eighth birthday party soon and we’d found that all the halls for hire in our immediate area had been booked months ago! My husband and I had both felt like quite the fools, calling round all of these popular party venues asking if there were any spaces in just a fortnight’s time…well, you can just imagine the responses that we got! Only when we were forced to look further afield did we find Hillam Village. We must’ve driven past the little signpost dozens of times over the years, but had never thought of popping in. Then again, why would we? The village was, to put it rather bluntly, a dead end. The only reason you’d have to go there is if you lived there, or if you were in desperate need of a party venue!

    We’d found their school hall in the phone book of all places and had a brief conversation with a ‘Mabel’ over a very crackly line and that had led us to the village. We were only slightly disconcerted to find out that our phones had dropped out of signal when we’d entered the village, but it was hardly surprising considering how deep into the valley we were. We must have been waiting a good half hour before a grey-haired lady tottered out one of the tiny cottages and made her way over to us. She had a beaming smile on her face, but my husband and I were somewhat taken aback by her clothes.

    She wore a rough-hewn woollen cloak with a hood and no shoes on her feet…

  • The Children of Hillam Search Forth

    Cloaked in their school robes and fearful of strangers, the children of Hillam set fort with purpose, yet with every step that they took doubts began to cloud their minds.

    What if the tree that the salesman had brought was in fact a new tree after all? With such limited experience with other trees and after dealing with such a devastating blow, it would hardly be surprising if they saw a few similarities between their fabled heart tree and this new replacement. As the miles wore on and night began to slowly draw in, the group of young separatists began to dwindle in numbers. The youngest was the first to leave, eager to return to the arms of his family and the familiarity of the village. He was then then followed by the next youngest, a boy with a newly frightened look in his eyes.

    He beseeched his partner, a lanky girl of 14 with a fierce look in her eyes, “How can we go further on?”, he cried. “This road could travel on for days, we have no provisions left and if we do not make a bid to return soon, we are sure to perish on the return journey.”

    “Leave then. I have reserves in my body and the drive to discover the truth about the tree, our village and this world. I am fuelled by my thirst for knowledge, if you cannot join me then go back to Hillam. Go back to our prison and tell them that I have left to find out what really happened to our sacred tree.”

    The young boy stopped in his tracks, quickly looking back to see if the other deserter was still in sight. The youngest lad was an ever diminishing speck on the horizon, a speck that was growing ever dimmer as the sun dropped lower in the sky. He screwed his face up, clearly at odds with himself, torn by his innate curiosity and his desire to be wrapped up in his warm bed. He took one step further away from home, before shaking his head, blurting an apology and then dashing in the opposite direction, back to Hillam.

    The girl stood for a while watching her compatriot disappear into the encroaching darkness, joining his young friend back in Hillam, back in the past. In her head she knew that she would never return. Even if she discovered the truth about the tree, even if she found that her entire village had been deceived by a man with large sun-glasses, she would not return. Hillam was a prison and she had not intention on handing herself back in.

    Not today, not ever.

  • New Life Emerges From Within

    The return of a tree to the centre of our village brought more than just foliage back to our lives…

    Something odd happened when our new tree was planted in the centre of the village.

    The period of mourning had gripped us all and left us at a real loss; for weeks we had all neglected our responsibilities. The children, without the cane and stern eyes of the school master, had lapsed into unruliness. Similarly, the men had slid into a state of listless solipsism.They kicked up the dust in the town square, starting conversations with initial enthusiasm and forgetting them a moment later. In the meantime the fields grew to be just as unruly as the children, whilst the womenfolk sat upon the same dust, kicked up by their husbands, allowing their homes to grow dirty.

    However, with a tree at the heart of our village centre, life as it once was returned to Hillam. The children were ushered back to the school house, the men returned to the fields and the women returned to the cottages to make their homes.

    The weeks passed and slowly, but surely, order was restored to our village. We all found peace and comfort in returning to our preordained positions in life. The village elders inspected the sacred tree on each passing day, always mindful of how easily it was neglected before. Their daily findings were of much curiosity to members of the younger generation, who were perhaps less enamoured with the tree than their parents. They tested and teased their elders by questioning basic facts of the tree like: ‘How could it look so similar to the last dead tree?’ and ‘Why hasn’t it grown since we planted it?’

    For each of these questions, the elders had an answer. ‘It is Winter, that is why the tree hasn’t grown.’ ‘All trees look alike, this is simply a similar tree.’

    But the young were not satisfied. They decided to find out more about the mysterious tree salesman and how he had happened upon such a similar tree, so soon after the demise of their last one.

    Three travellers set forth on the road from Hillam. They left in the dead of night, for fear of retribution from their elders; with knapsacks tied together from scraps of spare bed linen they scurried away supplies and made their way east along Hillam Common Lane. These three youngsters were excited to be leaving the village, but also fearful, they had not met outsiders before and had often been warned about the danger of straying outside of the village grounds.

    They found the answer to their question sooner than they expected. The youngest of the group, his eyes as keen as Hillam Mustard, spotted the salesman’s truck parked behind a low-lying hedge. Thrilled by their discovery, the group crept off the road and into the adjacent field, wary of danger but eager for answers. The truck was empty, with only a few loose twigs suggesting that the vehicle had ever been used for the purpose of transporting a tree in the first place.

    To have come so far (nearly a whole mile) and to discover that they had wasted their time was a crushing blow. But all was not lost – underneath a seat, one of the intrepid explorers discovered a business card directing them to their next destination in the distant land of Gateforth…

  • Hillam Rising: Events and Landmarks

    After a year spent mourning the loss of our once great tree, the people of Hillam have cause to celebrate!

    It has taken us a long time to deal with the pain of losing our tree.

    A full year has passed since we lost the only true landmark this village had. Through neglect and the progression of modern civilisation, we saw fit to abandon this great creature. We left it to die and have had to deal with passing the sacred spot where it once stood for the past year, on our way in and out of Hillam. In the year since the tree’s passing we’ve been able to assess where it is that we went wrong and how we can avoid making such a terrible error again in the future. Through meetings and counselling sessions, the people of the village most effected by the loss of the tree have been able to come to terms with their grief and accept that there will be no replacing it. The tree that died was truly one of a kind – like you or me – there will never be one like it.

    Although we made constant reference to the tree in our meetings, for a year we essentially avoided the difficult subject of what do about it’s remains. We all knew the tree was dead, but none of us could bear the thought of committing the final act of ripping it from the ground. Now that an appropriate passage of time has passed, we’ve decided, as a village and community, to have a professional tree surgeon remove it.

    We said goodbye to our old green friend from the centre of the village last week, waving it off as it was torn from the ground and placed gently into the back of the tree surgeon’s truck. As he left, we inquired as to where we might get a new one from. This man, clearly an outsider from the village, fixed us with a queer look. He’d been discomfited when he had heard us sing Hillam’s Tree Anthem (the very same tune that has been sung for three centuries in this village) and had been flustered when we asked him to handle the tree gently. The surgeon took our payment in cash and then told us that if we waited, his brother would be along soon with a tree from another village – one which, if you can believe it, bore a striking resemblance to our last one.

    Sure enough, not 10 minutes after we had waved off the tree surgeon, still gently humming the Anthem, we were lucky enough to be visited by a travelling tree salesman. He did indeed look very similar to the tree surgeon, however his hair appeared to parted to the side and clearly suffered from some form of photophobia as he wore very dark, large sunglasses. The man didn’t seem very talkative but motioned that he’d be happy for us to take this brand new tree off his hands for just £200. After a brief period of haggling, we successfully talked him down to £150 but gave him £175 for his troubles (you really wouldn’t believe the likeness of this tree to our old one!).

    The new tree sat perfectly in place where the old one had lain.

    With our hands encircled around it, the kindly travelling salesman left to a renewed chorus of the Anthem…

  • Tough Times In The Village

    There comes a time in every village’s existence where bad things happen.

    Such a tragedy, nay a calamity, has befallen our quiet peaceful place here in Yorkshire.


    The tree, that beautiful tree that for so long graced the side of our cricket pitch. That lovely Oak that has stood sentinel over us for decades. That gorgeous testament to time that has presided over weddings, funerals, fours and sixes. That spectacular once-sapling which has grown up with the oldest of all of us. That ever-lasting fountain of age and wisdom that has been the meeting spot for countless teenage love affairs.

    That tree – our tree, is no more.


    Perhaps the most tragic thing about the loss of one of our oldest residents here in Hillam, is that we have lost it through our own mean graces. That’s right. The tree is dead – and it’s all our own fault.
    How, after so many years, could we neglect it so?

    I know what you’re thinking.

    “Well, just how on Earth do you suppose that us people hurt that lovely tree? We weren’t exactly meant to be feeding it…were we?”

    Of course we were. We were meant to be feeding it with out love, attention and our gratitude. No one was paying that tree to grow there. The tree only continued to grow because it was being cared for and used.

    The cricket club closed down first, not enough kids playing and the old boys got too damn old. Couldn’t be helped.

    Then people stopped getting married, who needs a decent Christian Wedding right? Not us, but someone enjoyed presiding over them…remember?

    He watched the old boys he’d known as children die and was shocked to find that teenagers no longer chose his strong oak and leafy protection to meet for their midnight love affairs. They just talked and tapped on their phones instead and laughed at PewDiePie.


    When a tree is not paid attention to, it dies.

    Forests survive because the trees can pay attention to each other, they share news and gossip of dog walkers, couples having picnics and acting out dark fantasies in blue Ford Focus cars.

    This tree was all alone though, with no companion to tell him of the muddy Jack-Russells, Scotch Eggs or masked deviants.

    Now he’s gone and our village will forever feel that bit more empty.

    sad dog

  • Peace and The Storm

    “I saw her today at the reception
    A glass of wine in her hand
    I knew she would meet her connection
    At her feet was a footloose man
    No, you can’t always get what you want
    You can’t always get what you want
    You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try sometime you find
    You get what you need”

    From ‘You can’t always get what you want’

    By The Rolling Stones

    Peace comes after a storm, as much as before. Once the scars are healing and we can look around the battle field and survey our failures. Once we find our routines have taken us along a few weeks and we are thinking of the fight less, if at all. Then we can remember the storm, by choice, as that which happened to us and we happened to do. So it is, and so it shall always be.


    There are times when you want, when you want something with an inescapable unavoidable and unmanageable want. But it all passes, and we once again learn the lessons that are taught by passing time. Such as the important difference between emotional intensity and emotional depth. Feeling something intensely does not make that feeling deep, or meaningful. And the intensity of your feeling toward someone does not make them special or important. Often, when you are attacked by an intensity of feeling toward someone, it is much more about you than it is them. Intensity may transfer into depth, but it really does not require it.


    I have been, as you know,  preparing for winter. Going down the route of some sort of wood pellet burner. I’ve been considering going out further into the world of biomass though. I just have this desire now, a desire to prepare, a desire to look forward, a desire to survive and be aware of my surviving. I’m not planning on leaving the grid and becoming some hermit in a forest somewhere because I feel weak and vulnerable and fear dependence.


    Back again?

    I just want to feel that, at least partially, I am surviving independently. So I began doing further research into biomass and stumbled upon  a few forums. In these forums people were discussing sustainability, self-sufficiency and biomass. But I sensed in many conversations that were also sharing something else. We were sharing in a common reality and a common experience and purpose. We had all come to be here because we wanted to change, we wanted to change our environment, we wanted to take control of something bigger than us. And in doing so attempt some control over ourselves. If you can give your self a gift. If you can create something for yourself. Why can’t you then give yourself happiness? Why can’t you create happiness for yourself?


    Why can’t you indeed. I’ve tried before. I tried working my way up a career ladder and every weekend having barbecue’s at my house. I’d have all these people round and I’d pour money into getting better and better barbecue’s, I’d pour money into getting bigger steaks and burgers and all the things you could imagine. I thought I had a ‘passion’ for barbecuing. I would obsessively clean the thing, I got so good at it I almost started freelancing for a bbq cleaning business as I could make any barbecue look and cook like it was brand new. It was complete obsession. I just thought that if I could master the barbecue I could master life. If only…

  • Wood Pellets Are All I Want To Write About Now For Some Reason

    The world is dying. It is dying partially because of the infectious virus that lives on it. That infectious virus is called humanity. We are killing the earth. We are murderers. Murderers of our mother. Mother Earth. Why did we kill mother earth? Because we were just to busy to care and just to greedy to be stopped. But we need to care. And we need to stop. NOW.


    Because trees.

    The fight for a more sustainable mode of energy production goes on and on. But still these crackers want to be frackers! Why would you want to frack? We all know that there are potentially incredibly dangerous consequences of fracking. Yet these crackers just really, really want to be frackers! Me, I say be the change you want to see in the world. And if the change you want to see in the world involves more renewable energy then that means more renewable energy in the home!



    Because Ghandi.

    So I’ve been trying to do just that by getting a wood pellet burner and making my first bulk order of wood pellets. I say lovely people because they are doing good work and doing it with a good attitude. The drive for more renewable and sustainable energy is best pushed forward by those who attempt to set up shop and get something going. Enterprise and environment are not necessarily enemies. Those who can make a sustainable business out of sustainable energy are too be encouraged. The more that is done on this side of the state/non-state divide the more pressure it puts on the government to stand up and be counted. Not something they are ever particularly keen on doing.


    Because Cameron.

    Spineless, worthless, useless. You have no idea how much sadness I feel when I look at that face. It’s the face of complete failure. We have to struggle on in the face of that… face.

    That bloody face.



    Because Lizard.

  • I Don’t Understand.

    As you age you find a lot of things fall and fail. Your skin and you spirit can fall. You fail to feel part of the world. We are so obsessed with youth here I feel. The youth are the future, the youth are the creators. Young people get to create. Create themselves. Create the world. Create the future. They are still making themselves, that is the key. They are still becoming. They are not set. Then at some age you are suddenly expected to exist be set. You are no longer approaching the world, you are part of it. Is that fair? Is that right? Is that in anyway a representation of reality? I don’t think so, anyone is ever set, I don’t think we stop changing and developing, we are just expected to, so we pretend to. And as with all things, if we pretend to do something for long enough we can sometimes forget we are pretending, forget that the world is wrong and it is what is inside us that is real. We start to think what inside us is wrong.

    But what’s inside you is not wrong.


    These feelings creep on you, they do not suddenly leap up, they slip into your thinking slowly but surely. One day your anxieties and worries about what your life will become just seem a little silly, they feel like they have just been around for a bit too long. It becomes clear that your anxieties are not a journey, they are not really a stepping stone or a necessity, they are just a thing.  A seemingly permanent but probably useless thing.

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    A seemingly permanent but probably useless thing.

    Permanence, however, can often masquerade as importance. The longer something has been the more integral it feels to all else that surrounds it. If we pull down the monarchy maybe the whole nationhood will collapse in on itself! If we reform institutions the world will fall apart! If I solve my problems, my anxieties and insecurities, if I stop my mood swings and my panics, which have been with me all this time, I’ll lose my creativity, I’ll lose my interest, I’ll lose my personality. I’ll lose it all.


    You know, I’ve heard plenty of people talk about this fear. Almost all of them talk about it in the past tense and talk about how they found it was nonsense. When they got over their issues with this or that drug or this or that compulsive thought or behavior they came out on the other side with their creativity and their personality intact. But I guess, maybe, the ones that lost it wouldn’t be talking would they? They wouldn’t be being interviewed about their great creativity if they’d lost it. You don’t really interview the failures.

    Maybe we should. That would be a more realistic picture of the world.

    Interview the failures. Talk to the failures. Admit the failures.

  • Domestic Bliss…

    I don’t like to dwell that much on the difference between men and women. As I’ve got older it seems that the world is slowly attempting to drag itself into the reality that Men and Women are not really programmed to be that differently, we just have a world that pushes them apart. The world we grow up in seems to demand that we end up opposites. These opposites have a purpose, they are a system of organisation for a (supposedly/hopefully) functioning society. Men are given a role and women are given a role. It’s one way to organise a world, and it’s a deeply flawed way. The anchor for all its flaws is the aggressively enforced idea that these different roles are somehow biological and inherent. That women are born predisposed to servitude and an obsession with shoes and hair and men are born with a deep yearning for power, war and sex with people they don’t like. None of this is true. All of this is sad.

    edam and ave

    Adam and Eve. Proscribed Gender norms in scripture.

    Having said all that, as we do live in a world which trains us differently from childhood because of our gender we do end up as adults having different skills. I, for instance, am not much good at keeping the house clean and tidy whenever Daisy leaves town. So when I know that she’ll soon be back, I have to suddenly go into overdrive on cleaning the house. But, luckily, I’ve found one big short cut…

    Get Help! 

    Yes, that’s right, get help. That’s the big secret. So far this week I’ve hired a multitude of people to come in and help me out. First I got an eco-cleaning fairy (not too sure about the name there) to come in and give the house a one over in a green and efficient way. They were great people, enthusiastic and effective. Then I contacted Ovenu oven cleaning service who came in and gave the oven, which I thought I was going to have to replace, a once over that left it looking good as new. Then, last but not least, I got Gary from the Cross’s to come over and spruce the garden up. I may have, in a sense, sat around all day chatting with these people, drinking tea and doing nothing of good use. But I got the help in and I made it happen, so I guess there’s some virtue there.

    So now I’m sitting in domestic bliss, I hope she likes it!

  • Driving Miss Daisy

    Been busy overt here lately, I’ve been driving all over the shop, I’ll be heading down Doncaster way to pick my beautiful Miss Daisy up at the airport they got up there next week. It’s a little tradition we have now when she’s going away for work: I take her up to Liverpool Airport when she’s on her way out. I park up and walk her over to the terminal and wave her away. I love waving her away, I never used to be able to do it because the parking was so bloody dear. But I’ve been checking this Liverpool Airport car parking website thing recently and I’ve saved a pretty penny. I’m not one for getting all excited about the latest gismo, but I know that its worked for me. So there you go. You gotta show appreciation when something or someone helps you out. I believe that. It’s done me good so far.

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    My Daisy don’t look at me quite so mean.

    It’s been a week of strange goings on round here. Coincidences are abound in my little corner of Hillam. It’s making your fellow here a little uncomfortable. I’m not really one for superstition, I reckon about 90% of all things are coincidence, its a raw old coincidence that I was in a bar taking a drink on my first ever trip to London back in 1964 and the most beautiful lady I’d ever seen walked through the door. It was a bare coincidence that she was stood up by some fellow who must have been the stupidest bloody idiot in the world. It just so happened that she sat down there next to me, ordered herself a whisky sour and caught my eye. From then on we start going into a little more design. It wasn’t coincidence that I suddenly felt that I had the ability to talk to this stranger. I had to talk to her, I had to know one way or the other. I had to watch her laugh and hear her stories. I had look into her eyes as they skipped up and down from her drink and her hands, flicking down and then back, holding my gaze for a moment before jumping away. It was no coincidence that neither of us can really remember what we said that night. We weren’t really talking with what we were saying. We were sharing something much more than what we were saying. We were sharing it whenever we locked eyes.

    You know when you find yourself in these moments, when your talking to someone and you’ve been talking to them all night and you’re laughing and joking and revealing yourself far more than you normally would. There’s always that slow transition toward physical intimacy. Sure, this transition is demarcated by big, sudden steps. But these are often not the real moments of risk. By the time you get to the point where you put your arms around their waste and pull them into you, when your kissing and your foreheads are touching, when you pull just a little away and breath heavily together and open your eyes. By that time, you both know this is happening, you know that the other is feeling the same thing.

    But that all starts with the silliest little pretences, where you let your leg just rest against theirs and act as if you didn’t even know it was happening, even though your entire body feels it. The little spot where the two of you are connecting. When you unnecessarily touch their hand to illustrate some story or other, you hold onto it a little longer than you need to, you know that you’re barely hearing your own words, you can barely remember what excuse you found for touching their hand. They look in your eyes, you try so hard to read the gaze. Or maybe you just know. You prolong the physical contact and bring your hands back down to the table or as it was that night, the bar, and you let them stay together. Two are now one. That’s the moment of risk. It’s not the kiss in the moonlight, it’s the hand on the arm. It’s not when you kick the bedroom door closed, its the brush of the leg. The little touch to the shoulder they give you as you walk around a corner. As if you need help to get around a corner! Just need that little guidance to navigate the nightmare of the 90 degree turn. These little touches can look patronising or odd or out of place. But they’re all just love, or the yearning for it. The yearning for contact and togetherness. These are the true moments of vulnerability.

    This morning I drove out to Doncaster to pick up my very own Miss Daisy. I used a Doncaster Airport parking website thing to get a good place for the van. The world is hard to navigate. Theres so many people out there. Far more than there are parking spaces at a bloody airport. With finding that special person you have to accept that a lot of it will be chance, a lot of it will be coincidence, you just have to try and get yourself ready to take that chance when it comes along. No website can get rid of that situation. And neither should you want one too. But with parking spaces, I’ll accept a little less chaos and a little more certainty.