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A Walk on the Wild Side!

The Probus walks have started up again – in a reduced and safe form. With the change in our national status from level 4 to level 3.5, up to six people are now allowed to gather together, suitably socially distanced.

A bit of discussion amongst the ‘elite’ walking group about what is possible, when we could do it, and how it would work – with particular emphasis on there being no pub lunch at the end of a walk! The Elite Rambling and Dining Group has sadly lost the D in our title, at least for a while!

So, yesterday an intrepid three of us did a walk, dubbed ‘the Phoenix walk’, starting from Conistone in Upper Wharfedale. It was a circular walk through spectacular scenery, and in glorious weather. We walked up ‘The Dib’, an intriguing steep limestone gorge that must have been a river bed in the distant past, and then along the high moor Dales Way at the top of the valley side, passing extensive limestone pavements, exotic limestone buttresses (have you ever seen the Conistone Pie – it’s not something you’d eat!), a Lime Kiln and old (iron age?) settlements.

Lunch, rather than being in a cosy pub was us sitting on limestone blocks, eating sandwiches and looking at the lush valley near Threshfield. The return half of the walk, just outside a large wood, took us on a contoured trail, alongside magnificent cliffs and on a switchback roller-coaster of a trail back to Conistone.

You had to be there to appreciate it! Bill usually does the descriptions of the views that we can’t see because of the murky conditions for many of our walks, but this time the blue sky and the big views were clear for us all to see. 5 or 6 miles of pure heaven!

Maybe our luck is changing!

Probus and The Boodman Syndrome

I’ve just been reading a book as part of being in a book club for those learning Italian. The story describes a Judge called Boodman in 1945 who uncharacteristically did something very minor, but wrong (he cheated himself when playing the card game Solitaire) and at the same time, coincidentally (?), the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He blamed himself and became seriously mentally ill. Most of the book is about a psychiatrist who claims to find many other cases similar to Boodman’s, all over the world, and proposes a new syndrome to cover the psychiatric situation (and makes himself famous – and becomes mentally ill – at the same time).

I really don’t know if it’s a true story (I can’t find it on Wikipedia, so surely it can’t be true – or does that make it true?), but I feel a bit like Boodman in that I volunteered as our Probus Club’s Social Secretary for this year – and at the same time Covid-19 hit the world!

I don’t think it was my fault – well at least I’m not accepting responsibility for it! – But I do know that our club’s social programme is now zero! We had just had the first of what were to be monthly lunches and chats at a Harrogate hostelry (most successful), when all public gatherings stopped. No Probus meetings, talks, walks – nothing!

We have instituted weekly virtual get-togethers for a few Probus friends – and they’re very helpful in these socially bereft times. Apart from them and a few emails and Skypes with friends and family, it’s a bit quiet! I imagine that it’s the same for you.

I had thought that this year might be quite busy, organising a few Probus social events, including the regulars (including the annual summer lunch) and some ideas for other activities. Now I’m wondering if we’ll be able to have any of these, or even the Christmas carol concert and lunch.

Maybe it will all evaporate, or some magic pill will enable us all to safely avoid the current social distance restrictions – and get back to shaking hands in our traditionally British way. Perhaps we’ll have moved to bumping elbows by then – it’ll be a new world.

What counts for Normal round here?

As Good As It Gets!

I’ve been very lazy – but maybe you have too in these 4 weeks of lockdown (so far)?

I haven’t been doing this blog (or diary, if you prefer) for the last four weeks, just at the time it might possibly be most valuable to members to do it. I’m not sure if I have an ‘audience’ for these words, or not, but if I had I may well have lost them by now. Still, here goes – for my sanity if not yours!

I certainly have had a lot of time on my hands – and I’ve been spending most of it in the house and garden. I’ve only been out for essential shopping. I can’t use the excuse that ‘I’ve been busy so haven’t got around to ….’, but I’d claim that the general air of despondency about the Covid-19 pandemic, and our progress against it has de-motivated me somewhat. It’s difficult to keep up spirits (without downing some!)

I guess that lots of Probus folk now have a very different daily timetable from the pre Covid-19 version. I’ve certainly missed our Probus meetings, especially chatting to Probus friends every couple of weeks. I’ve especially missed the Probus walks – having a good walk in the countryside with a small group of friends for an extended chat and the wonderful group feeling as you sit down for a good lunch after a fine walk is so important in my schedule – and it all seems much more than 4 weeks ago. Of course this wonderful mostly warm and sunny weather makes the loss so much more painful.

On the credit side:

  • My garden has never looked better. I’ve spent so much time in it during the first two weeks that I ran out of jobs to do in it (well, at least those jobs that am intending to do!)
  • There is a weekly Skype session on Wednesday evenings for half a dozen frustrated Probus walkers. Lots of fun, where we keep in contact, share some jokes and videos, and tell each other where you can get non-essential items such as garden plants. Contact our secretary David P if you’d like to join in – you’d be welcome
  • I’ve started taking a more regular daily exercise – a brisk walk over the Stray, round town centre and back again. I need to be fit enough to join the Probus walks when they are permitted!
A Virtually Empty Harrogate

God knows when we’ll all be ‘liberated’ – according to the papers today the over 70s may be in this state for another year (if a suitable vaccine is developed, tested, distributed in time).

I think I’ll take it one week at a time …. Keep safe!


Well it’s a funny old time for Probus members, and for all the rest of the population. We’re not just talking about the weather now, or Brexit – the main topic of conversation has become the Coronavirus

It seems a bit of a ‘false dawn’ at the moment, with nothing concrete happening on the local health front, but nothing else apart from the virus featuring on the TV and the Web. 

I gather that before WW2 ( and perhaps before WW1 as well) actually kicked off there was a lot of speculation about whether there was going to be a war. Later this moved to ‘it’ll all be over by Christmas’, and then people dug in for the long haul that it turned out to be.

Hopefully this virus will be on the milder end of predictions, won’t last too long, or recur in subsequent years – but it does seem to have been accepted that if it doesn’t kill a lot of people in the UK it will still cause a lot of misery and disruption for quite a time.

Probus has already had to cancel one of our meetings, and our AGM, due next week, has now been deferred until further notice. The committee is discussing what actions to take about future activities – meetings, walks and events like our planned trip to Tennants on April 29th, as well as the intended follow up monthly visits to The Coach and Horses for agreeable lunches. It’s difficult to sit far enough apart in a Pub for virus safety and still carry on a good conversation!

With Probus forming an important part of many of our lives, the loss of regular activities with fellow members would badly diminish our social lives – though the last thing that we’d want is to put any of our friends in any danger.

It’s tough to realise that we are the main ‘at risk’ group – likely to get a dangerous dose if we do get exposed to the little ******* er.

Ironically it’s our own family and friends that are the big risk to our health – so that makes taking care of the grandchildren a bit tricky! If this goes on for more than a few months we’ll be in the holiday season, and may have to cancel / defer any trips that we’ve got booked.

One of my friends at a Health Club I go to regularly (ironically that’ll now be a likely source of infection rather than of health if the virus gets established!) refers jokingly to the weekly schedule of retired people as being a ’seven day weekend’.

What are we going to do if we’re cut off from others for the sake of our health? Even the football and cricket are being cancelled! Whoa is me/us!

I suppose we should be grateful that this hasn’t had a serious impact on us so far – there are so many individuals and families already affected badly. However I feel a bit better having got that off my chest. Hope you’re OK!

Beer and Sandwiches (other refreshments possible)

We held our inaugural regular Probus lunch meeting this week.

It was a very pleasant, informal occasion, held at the Coach and Horses pub at West Park in Harrogate, overlooking the formerly beautiful West Park Stray.

There was a good turnout for this first occasion, eight members in total. A very enjoyable couple of hours partaking of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), eating a snack (or in a few cases a slap-up lunch), and shooting the breeze.  There is no agenda, no speaker (just speakers!).

As usual the topics we covered ranged far and wide. It never ceases to amaze me how Probus members have such varied work and life experiences, and are very willing to share them. Safe to say that there were NO awkward silences!

These meetings take place on the fourth Wednesday every month at The Coach and Horses from 12 noon onwards. Our next meeting will be on March 25th. Come along if you’ve got a spare couple of hours! One or two of those attending didn’t want to go home!

Two Wrecks

I’ve recently had a couple of excellent Probus walks – not actually the real thing, like our regular fortnightly walks, but the preparation for leading one of them.

Known as ‘reccies’, or reconnoitres, apparently from an obsolete french word meaning to ‘explore’, Bill and I recently stretched the term from ‘explore’ to ‘wander’!

As it’s very early in the year to be travelling far afield, Bill settled on a circular walk starting at the village of Timble, and we duly set off.

Certainly there was plenty of mud, not just as it usually is around the gates to fields, where cattle churn up the ground something rotten, but everywhere! We made our way across muddy fields, along muddy tracks, down towards the river Washburn.  The river was in spate, and I guess going down to a river when it’s been raining is not the brightest idea, though the mud was getting better (or maybe we were just getting used to it)! The path along the river bank was OK, but here we broke an unwritten rule about reccies – concentrate!

We had relaxed into our usual banter about current affairs, Probus matters, family events etc etc. Doing one of our regular checks (where are we, where next etc.) we realised that we’d overshot a turn that we should have taken away from the river by about a mile!

Another unwritten rule is that it may be better to retrace than try to bluff your way in the general direction you were supposed to be headed! (Plan the walk and then walk the plan).

Well we decided that we knew better, and climbed up a long and winding track before heading back towards our planned course. We passed an interesting landmark (Dob Park Lodge, pictured) – that wasn’t on our plan – but failed to connect with our original planned course. Made another mid-course correction, found a new track that eventually led us to a signpost claiming to lead back to Timble, and it did!

Instead of a 5 to 6 mile walk, we actually had covered 8 miles, and by the end we were genuine wrecks!

In our defence, at no point were we ‘lost’, maybe just a bit ‘geographically-misplaced’. And the weather was lovely!

Not discouraged, we arranged to do a follow up reccie a few days later to iron out the few little difficulties that we had encountered in reccie 1. A positive start led us from Timble along the river to the Dob Park packhorse bridge. So far, so good. We had a revised plan that led us back in the general direction of Timble, but on the other side of the river. Apart from the very impressive amounts of mud we encountered in a few fields, no problems. What could go wrong?

The last section of the walk from the river to Timble could have been achieved by repeating the outward route, but in the reverse direction, but that’s too easy for experienced walkers like Bill and I.

We negotiated, even oscillated, across fields, never quite finding the planned route- but being quite close to it, only requiring yet another slight adjustment.  We startled a few pheasants, and even a hare! We had to clamber over a few field gates, and then we were back in Timble!

So this saga shows the importance of determination and stamina in conquering any little issues encountered during a reccie. (and maybe focusing on the job in hand and reading the map a bit more closely!)

The real walk is next Tuesday – we’re quietly confident about the walk, and this time we’re going to have a fine lunch at The Timble Inn at the end of it!

Wasn’t (Isn’t ) it Good!

Nice time of year, full of positive vibes (apart from the election, of course.)

Loads of Probus social events for Probus members and their wives/partners/ friends. Lots of food, of course (and some alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.)

I’ve lost count of the events with food and drink that I’ve taken part in – and we haven’t reached Christmas yet!

  • The club Christmas lunch was well attended and with lovely chatter and food
  • The Probus carol concert had some great brass-band driven carols (and buffet)
  • The biennial Christmas walkers’ lunch at William and Vic’s was a spectacular success – another 4 hour lunch. It’s a tribute to the 11 of us that we still have the stamina for such an activity!
  • The traditional Probus walker’s lunch (it’s the lunch that’s traditional, not the walkers!) after a walk through the Fountain’s estate was excellent.
    • Our walk was notable mainly for having to walk past a line of pheasant shooters in the Valley of the Seven Bridges. They stopped (briefly) as we passed them, and we were ‘treated’ to the sight of birds plummeting to earth and being picked up by the gun dogs! Not a common experience.
    • The food at The Chequers pub was notable for its usual excellence in newly and beautifully decorated surroundings

OK there have to be some Christmas gripes.

  • Why does sellotape for Christmas parcels have to be so thin that it’s really difficult to use, requiring constant re-establishing where the end of the roll is?
  • Why does a fault that develops in your Pay TV have to wait for Christmas to materialise?
  • Why are Christmas tree lights so complicated? They used to rely on all lights working correctly – if one failed, none of them would work. Now it seems that they have a huge number of settings – from always on to flashing at various frequencies. I had to rely on a visiting grand-daughter to fix it so that they didn’t flash all the time, driving me crazy (er)!
  • Why are some websites so difficult to use (while others are wonderful)?
    • I’m now the proud owner of two pairs of new trousers of the same colour, rather than two of different colours that I thought I’d ordered!
    • Actually I like them, so maybe Google (or similar) knows better than I do as to what colour would suit me best? (Big Brother/Mother)

Happy Christmas!

It’s That Time of Year again!

It must be getting near Christmas-time. The calendar is filling up with Probus events of all sorts(and a few non-Probus).

Our Christmas Probus lunch earlier this week was very enjoyable. A great bunch of members, their partners and guests enjoying some excellent food and a chance to win the bottles of fine wine and some pretty fine chocolates in the raffle. A happy start to the festivities. The weather was lovely as we arrived, with a gorgeous blue sky, but it deteriorated by the end of the meal towards a seasonally appropriate early sunset.

Conversations with my sister in Western Australia establish that she’s ‘perspiring’ in 42 degrees heat, hiding away in her home or in air-conditioned shopping malls. I’m diplomatically sympathetic to her plight, but inwardly a bit jealous. Australia does seem to have extremes of temperature at very odd times, with huge bush fires adding to the heat in many States.

Over here Christmas continues with our Probus walkers’ Christmas lunch on Monday, much awaited as the previous two in the last twelve months (we have a very flexible view about when Christmas actually is) were so enjoyable, raucous, fun. A bit Dickensian, perhaps (I’m imagining that bit, I’m not that old)

Then it’s on to the Probus Carol concert on Wednesday – another traditional gathering with half a brass band providing the music for our efforts at singing. And it’s still a fortnight to go until Christmas day!

We do have our Christmas Probus walk around Fountains Abbey on December 19th (with excellent food (especially the desserts) at The Chequers’ Inn).

Then there won’t be much time to fit in the inevitable present buying for the family.

Thank goodness for the late opening of petrol stations with their small shops – life savers for busy retired men!

Happy Christmas!


I’ve just come back from a short holiday in Fuerteventura. It’s lovely to get away for some warm weather, just when our own is going to pot (or more strictly to autumn!)

There are lots of plusses to going away:

  • It’s a change, and a change is supposed to be beneficial (I’m avoiding politics here, as all parties seem to be offering more or less radical change in the upcoming election. I’ve never come across an election yet where any party says that they’re going to keep everything the same, even if they’re the departing Government!)
  • I like sandy beaches, the sea, and most especially the warmth
  • I do enjoy having lovely food prepared for me by polite strangers. There’s something especially satisfying in a labour-less grazing from multiple types of food, especially when it’s all ‘free’, or more specifically paid for in advance, irrespective of the amount eaten, and hence painless to the wallet ‘at the point of choice’.
  • Drink is an undoubted attraction. Is it the sea air that gives one a larger appetite for both food and wine? Helping yourself to wine from a tap under an ‘all-inclusive’ deal is particularly tempting, especially when it’s OK wine. I do have some reservations about the evening drinks, especially the whisky and brandy, as the spirits on offer are not likely to be ‘the real thing’ – rather a local imitator. Drinking spirits with mixers can be fraught too. For example I like whisky and ginger (I’m that old fashioned!), but the best I’ve managed on holiday is whisky and lemon fanta – not quite the same…..
  • Lastly, getting away from Brexit and elections for a while is a huge plus – not just a change, a short period of relative sanity. Now we’re back, not only has England failed in their bid to be World Rugby Champions, but the electoral cycle is pedalling along every road there is – promising things, being rude about their rivals and giving the nation yet another set of choices that are difficult/impossible to be rational about..
  • One of my best responses might be to go abroad again. But of course there’s Christmas to look forward to, with all the lovely Probus events!


A great talk at Probus yesterday – all about leisure and pleasure in Victorian times. Our carriage clock (pictured) is from around 1900, the end of the Victorian period. Time flies – but only 30 hours at a time, then I have to rewind it!

My impression has always been that the rich and the noble folk in those times had all the leisure, and the ‘working’ people had all the work. Indeed we were told about the different leisure opportunities for the different classes.

The ‘Well to Do’ had a couple of months each year taking advantage of all the delights of the London Season, ending in time to go grouse shooting on “the Glorious 12th” (of August).

The working classes had to make do with the public houses on every street corner, football (from playing to spectating on a Saturday) and week-long shut downs of work in different towns, when everyone would go off to the seaside.

What struck me from the talk was that a lot happened during Queen Victoria’s 64 year long reign.

Not just the Battle of Waterloo and the Crimean and Boer wars – but staggering changes in everyday life.

People became urban dwellers, the light bulb was invented, and railway networks were built across the country. Cycling with Penny Farthings started as a sport for the rich, but by the 1890s mass produced bicycles were sold to working class people (by companies such as Humber, that went on the build cars subsequently).

You might have had enough of bicycles after the UCI event in Harrogate, but the changes in bicycles over this era (e.g. different size wheels, propelled by feet only, pedals and chains, even allowing women to use them!) were indicative of the changes in Victoria’s reign.

During our current Queen’s similarly long reign there have obviously been amazing changes too e.g. better housing and healthcare, the expansion of airplane travel, television and of course the Internet!

I think that you could have made a case that people in Victorian times experienced as much dramatic change in their lifetime, along with a lot of drudgery and illness as we have in our time. Nowadays we seem to have expanded our lifestyles to the point that we now know we are damaging the very planet we live on.

Hopefully we can dig ourselves out of these destructive issues we now face (but enough about Brexit!)

Tempus fugit!