The cover of the New Yorker is usually fun – humorous, gay (in its proper sense), sometimes quirky, often wacky. Some covers have become classics. My copy of the magazine for mid-September arrived. The cover is black, powerfully black. Then you look again and superimposed in black are the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.


The Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline have always been the symbol of the free world. The Land of the Free indeed. The most successful nation ever. Our rich cousins. The strong protector who saved Europe three times in the twentieth century. No one ever imagined when NATO established the mutual covenant that an attack on one country would be an attack on all, that that attack would be on the United States itself. Nothing will ever be the same again, even though Manhattan will be re-built better than before and time will slowly begin to heal the grief. But as Groucho Marx said, ‘the future is not what it was’.


The galaxy M31, the only galaxy other than our own which is visible with the naked eye, is 2.2 million light years away. Did you realise you could see so far? It is moving towards us at a rate of 300,000 miles an hour. That’s quite fast even in galactic terms. In three billion years’ time the M31 galaxy and our own will collide. Before this happens, because of the galaxy’s proximity, the night sky will be bright enough, according to Adrian Berry in the Daily Telegraph, to read a newspaper by. All in all it certainly helps put the traffic problems on the A65 into perspective.


Ilkley Parish Church



From the Department of Interesting Statistics. 260,000 people live in Iceland. The population of Wales is three million. There are about four million people in each of Ireland and New Zealand. Scotland and Denmark have populations of five million. There are five million people in Yorkshire.



Twice recently I’ve been to Betty’s in York and Ilkley. They remain the same as ever. Smart polite waiters and waitresses dressed strictly in black and white. Linen tablecloths and white china. No piped music.  Mobile phones and small children have to be deposited in a box at the entrance (no, not really). Excellent omelettes. Lovely Yorkshire rarebit. They’ve recently produced a promotional brochure. All Betty’s produce is made in Harrogate and much is still based on the Swiss recipes of its founder. My own favourites include the organic mouse bread (so-called because of the mouse on the top of each loaf – no, not a real one), Yorkshire cobble made with rye flour, and the rustic loaves. And of course you can have a fat rascal (oooh, er, missis) or a treat from the range of wonderful cakes and confectionery.




Bolton Old Hall in Bolton-on-Swale near Richmond is for sale according to an article in the Telegraph. It began its existence in the late fourteenth century as a peel tower at a time when feudal warfare, particularly in the North of England, made it essential for a rich man to live in a fortified structure, explains Ross Clark. Richard le Scrope built the tower. In Elizabeth I’s reign the tower was converted and extended to make a fine house. The property has an escape tunnel to a nearby churchyard and is supposed to be connected with the Gunpowder Plotters. (Guy Fawkes, of course, went to school in York). The house was last purchased in 1963 for £5,500 (about £70,000 in today’s money). It is now for sale at £625,000 which tells you something about house price inflation compared with general inflation over the last forty years.



I have these occasional days off work during the week if I work weekends. It’s a mixed blessing; some time alone is quality time but it helps convince me I’m not ready to retire yet even if I could afford to. So I was reflecting in Morrison’s car park in Yeadon whilst watching a woman trying desperately but without success to park her car in a space the size of  Portugal. It is a magnificent view from that car park across to Baildon Moor and Burley Woodhead and it encouraged me to go to Ilkley. I swear I was the youngest there.


Then I watched the local news on daytime TV. Dear me, is daytime TV so bad to encourage people not to take time off work? Local news is not only dreadful but it’s the same every day -  a child with some awful illness, a pensioner who has been robbed, a couple of road accidents, a dinner lady who has won a competition and a parrot in Rotherham which can sing ‘Roll Me Over’ or something to that effect. And apart from the odd concerned look and serious tone, it is all delivered with a false bonhomie peppered with weak scripted jokes. 


Then there are the adverts on daytime television; it’s totally different from the evening. Daytime adverts invite you to buy vitamins, stairlifts, comfortable shoes, incontinence pants, home security and out-of-season holidays. And, the adverts make clear, all this can be paid for out of your winnings if only you will bring an action against someone for negligence. Litigation. This is the mantra of the post-Christian Britain – sue your neighbour.



God bless America. God help us all.