Saturday, 22 November 2014

Busy days

I had no time to post yesterday -out with friends, as usual, in the morning (couldn't miss that) and then 'Dear Diary' class in the afternoon (only one more to go, so shall really miss that after next Friday).

Today the farmer is shooting and I have been to Teesside Park Shopping Centre with friend W.  It is a venture into the 'real world' from our quiet little backwater (long may it remain that way) but it has meant that shopping in M and S has put a whole load of Christmas food into the freezer - the turkey, a nice joint of beef, a couple of vegetarian dishes (moussaka and a cheese, potato and onion pie) and two packs of 'ready to roast' parsnips.  A chunk of my family is vegetarian, so I always have to be prepared.   A couple of quiches without chorizo and a couple of pizzas and I am ready to go.   Luckily they all adore my trifle, which is made in a trice, so that's it really. 

Friends are coming to tea tomorrow, which will be nice - a nice chat and a nice little afternoon tea.   What's not to like?

All our friends in the US seem to be having a terrible time with snow - here in the uk I think we just hope we don't end up getting it too.   So often, what starts over there finds its way over here later.

Our journey to Teesside Park (due East from here) was a journey in and out of fog.   Sometimes the sun could be glimpsed pushing its way through the cloud, other times it was dark with thick fog.   When we came out of the shop the sky was blue and there was a glorious sun shining.    But we came back through fog again before the sun met us near to home.

I was reading John Clare's Shepherd's Calendar for November the other day - my goodness, how well he knew his countryside and the seasons.   As the poor man spent so much of his life in what was in those days called a 'lunatic asylum' one wonders how much better a life he would have had these days - drugs have made all the difference in so many cases like his.   Thank goodness such places, with their draconian ways, no longer exist.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Barking Mad

When we let Tess out into the yard last night at around ten-thirty, for her last wee before we went to bed, she went out of the back door in an absolute frenzy - and barked and barked.   Up and down the grass under the pine trees she roared, barking all the time and going mad.

The reason?   A huge flock of geese were flying over and chatting amongst themselves as they made their journey.   I love to see these skeins of geese fly over in the day time and to see in which direction they are flying.   But these were airborne well after dark - it had just not occurred to me that they made journeys in the dark.   But when you think about it, all the birds who migrate must travel in the dark as well as in the light, or they would never get there.

Sorry I missed them though. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fitness League

'Fitnessbeing relative, of course.

Wednesday is the day that we go to the Fitness League class for an hour of strenuous (for me) exercise for the over sixties.   It is done to music, which does help as it keeps us all moving.   But it is jolly hard work and I always come home feeling better for it but also absolutely staggering with the effort.   Today is no exception.

If John is reading this and wondering whether an exercise class might help him to lose that extra weight, I should tell him that one of the highlights of this class is a lovely lady who absolutely loves baking and who turns up each week with a box of cakes for afterwards (this week butterfly buns with butter cream studded with ju-jubes - delicious).

The news on the television has just shown fifteen feet of snow in some parts of the United States - the weather man assures us that it is not coming here - let's hope not, we don't want snow as early as this do we?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Out to lunch AGAIN.

Out to lunch today with friend S - poor farmer didn't have to fend for himself as we didn't go until just after twelve o'clock, so he came in a bit early for his lunch.   We went to Berry's cafe in the village of Swinithwaite in Wensleydale.   It is always a reliable place to get a lovely meal with lovely atmosphere in which to eat it.   Today there was an added reason for going because about eighteen months ago a large beech tree blew down on the Swinithwaite estate and now someone has hollowed it out by hand to make a viking boat - and we wanted to see it.   It is lovely and I am sure the children will adore it.
Lunch was delicious too - club sandwich with chips and salad for friend S and crab cakes for me - followed by ice cream for both of us and a pot of tea.   Then it was home through the very few miles, stopping on the driveway to photograph their two llamas who always seem interested in what is going on, except when you want to take their photograph, when they are intent upon eating.   And knowing how llamas can spit without warning, I didn't want to get too close!
A lovely surprise through the post this morning from Gayle and the Square Ones (see my side bar) - when a belated birthday card arrived from them.   I love belated cards - they make one's birthday last a little longer.  So, thank you Gayle for making my morning - and especially for the exquisite drawing you had done on the back of the envelope.
Today is a beautiful Autumn day here in the Yorkshire Dales and I must say the Dales looked at their absolute best as we made our journey to and from the restaurant.   Bolton Castle - a fourteenth century castle on the daleside - stood out in the Autumn mist majestically.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sunday Lunches

Out to lunch yesterday (Sunday), the farmer, friend W and I.   Other friends also lunching in the same venue, so that we met and chatted to six other folk while we were there.

The farmer had roast pork (with crackling) and W and I had slow roast leg of lamb - with these came Yorkshire puddings (2 each if we wished), gravy in a gravy boat, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, carrots, diced turnips, roast potatoes and a roast parsnip each.  Are you full up just reading this?   Would you believe that we all had a pudding afterwards, the farmer pear crumble and the two of us raspberry meringue roulade. After coffee in the lounge we staggered out to the car and drove home.  None of us had another crumb to eat on Sunday.

One of the main reasons I like to go out to lunch on Sunday (the traditional day here in the UK for a roast lunch) is that as there are only two of us, any joint of meat I buy will be very small.   When we go out we are eating slices cut from a whole leg of lamb or a very large joint of pork or beef - and it tastes so much better.  

The farmer and I were talking at lunch time about our childhood and Sunday lunch and we both agreed - our parents bought a large joint (and usually rotated between pork, beef and lamb with maybe a chicken now and again, although chicken was a luxury food in those days and chicken for us was usually old hen from our own flock and she had to be boiled and eaten with white sauce.  And mother always had to lie and say it wasn't one of ours, otherwise I wouldn't eat it!)

That large joint was eaten hot on Sunday, cold slices on Monday (wash day) with fried vegetables (remember bubble and squeak?), cottage or shepherd's pie on Tuesday and perhaps even Wednesday as well, with plenty of veg to eke the meat out further.  Our mothers were jolly good managers and  certainly in the case of my own mother there was never that much money to spare.  But by golly we ate well, supplemented as we were by plenty of vegetables out of the garden (no frozen food for us, we didn't even have a fridge).

Not really back to 'normal' eating today - still taking it steady!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

My diary

Well, dear readers, how fascinating my one-year diary turned out to be.   I kept it in four spiral notebooks, one for each season, from Autumn 2010 to Autumn 2011 and reading through it reminded me of so many things I had completely forgotten.   There were records of people who had called to see us and what I had given them to eat, records of places the farmer and I had visited (it was the year we went to The Netherlands, so there was quite a lot about the various art work there), it happened to be the year when I had been airlifted to hospital (only a couple of weeks ago the farmer and I were trying to decide how long ago it was) - and there were so many incidents in it about which I had completely forgotten.

I shall certainly pass it on one day to my son, although whether he will want to be bothered with it is up to him.   At present he seems to have little interest in Family History.   And on the subject - it was always spoken in our family about my mother's brother, Uncle Abe, who farmed in the Lincolnshire Wolds where I spent many happy holidays in my childhood, how he had won the Military Medal in the First World War.   A friend has recently researched it for me and there is no record of this at all.  It seems it was a Family Myth - and I would guess that there are plenty of those around.

This morning, now that the early mist has cleared, there is a pale sun shining and it is still - in other words a lovely Autumn morning.   I am enjoying a relaxing morning as, along with friend W and the farmer, we are going out for Sunday lunch.   Lovely not to think about what to cook.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dear Diary

Friend W and I are still attending a Friday afternoon class in our little market town.   The class is called 'Dear Diary' and each week our Lecturer takes a different diary she has researched in the County Records Office and we read it and discuss it.   It is fascinating stuff.

This week it was a diary kept by two young school boys just before their teenage years.   They lived with their Grandparents in the Vale of York on a small farm.  Their mother had died and their father was a grocer in Manchester, who paid infrequent visits to see them.

We know that later on they both joined their father in the grocery business and moved to Manchester, but here they are aged around 10 (one follows the other in the book, which was obviously kept safe in the farmhouse, where nothing was wasted, not even a simple book like this.)

The date is the early 1840's and so it has survived for over 150 years.   What a treasure, thanks to it being handed down through the family until finally a distant relative handed it in to the County Record Office for safe keeping.   Very thoughtful I would say, when many folk might have destroyed it.   It is invaluable.

There is a lot about the weather, the barley crop, the mowing and gathering in of the crops, the picking and storing of the apples, the milking of the cow, and a lot about what time it is (to the exact second).  But also there are various mathematical puzzles.   I can surmise that Grandmother (or Grandfather) made them do school work in the holidays, particularly maths puzzles, in preparation for their employment in a grocery shop.  They did both go as day boys to a local school.  Here is one puzzle (our tutor did give us the answer the boys gave!)

"How many drops of rain are there in a thundershower supposing that it stretches three miles in length and two in breadth, that during its whole continuance the drops fell at the rate of 1820 per minute upon each square yard and it lasted forty minute."

These diaries are so important when thinking about the past and they are wonderful to read through.   Another friend E, has kept a diary for many years - writing it daily and sticking into it pictures which are applicable to what she has written.  I do hope that in two hundred years somebody is reading that.   It takes some patience to keep it up.  I tried in and managed from Autumn 2010  until the beginning of Autumn 2011,   I have just found it on the bookshelf, so am off to make myself a cup of coffee and read what I did that year.   One of the four Christmas cakes I make each year (three as presents) is in the oven so I have to stay near.

Oh and, by the way, I wonder how many ten year olds could work out that puzzle these days without a calculator.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

They are here!

Just in time.   The farmer cleaned out the loose housing earlier this week and spread the 'muck' on the fields.   Yesterday he spread a deep layer of straw and this morning the farmer's son called to say he was walking over the fields with the first cows this afternoon, for their winter stay.
And here they are, complete with the salt licks to aid their digestion (i.e. make them drink more).   All are (hopefully) in calf and all look jolly happy to be inside as it is an awful dark, cold day today. They walked across the fields (the farmer's two sons rode behind them on the quad bike), came in and went straight for the silage.

I love it when they come for the Winter (these will be here until a week or two before they are due to calve unless there are complications) because it means there is always life in the yard when I go down to get the car out of the garage.   Even the farm cats, Blackie and Creamy were out and about, watching the proceedings - I think they are pleased too.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


I have just returned from my weekly exercise class and I am exhausted, as always, so I know if I sit down to watch the antiques programme we always watch over our tea (boiled eggs tonight), I shall not get round to posting a blog today.   And that would never do.  I know it is doing me good to have an hour's strenuous exercise (strenuous for me that is) and our tutor really does put us through it,  I never feel like going and I always come home feeling better for it.

Then tonight there is one of our favourite programmes on the television when Michael Portillo journeys by rail down the spine of Italy.   We watch his programme every week and once we see past his coloured jackets (pink, yellow, aquamarine to name but three) we love the snippets of information, the people he meets, the countryside zipping past the train window  - what is there not to like?  And yet the Times critic (in this case I think it was Andrew Billen) absolutely slaughtered the programme last week, talking of him behaving like a peacock strutting up and down the train.   He gave the programme only two out of five stars.  As friend W and I agreed on our way home from the exercise class, sometimes these television 'critics' seem to have watched an entirely different programme from the one we watched.

I had a lovely surprise in the post today when Siri, daughter of Margaret of Thousand Flower on my side bar, sent me the most beautiful card with a hare on it (I collect hares - pictures, statuettes, cars - anything with a hare on it) and one I have not had before.   So thank you Thousand Flower - it is most appreciated.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

November 11th.

 So many wars, so much killing and maiming, and often it is difficult to answer the question 'for what?'   Today, a particularly poignant Remembrance Day as it is one hundred years since the outbreak of the Great War,  all the usual sights were there.   The thousands of poppies representing all the hundreds of thousands who have died, the stiff, straight faces of rows upon rows of men and women in uniform all trying not to cry, and the old veterans, many of them in wheel chairs, who cannot contain their emotions and who cry openly.

And what I always find almost unbearable is all the children there.   This year, at the Tower of London and at various places around the world (the Menin Gate, particularly so) children stand solemn-faced and speak to the cameras of remembering the dead of the wars.   Some of them have fathers, grand-fathers and great-grandfathers who have died in one or another conflict.   I cannot help but watch them and wonder whether they will take their turn when they become adults.

I'm sure it is necessary to remember, and having a special day to do so is also important - but it does make me question so many things about war and the reason for war - while at the same time feeling a sense of disloyalty to those who have died.   Does anyone else feel like this?