Sunday, 3 May 2015

Habit?

Are you a creature of habit or do you vary the order in which you do things from week to week, or even day to day?   I think that once I retired from the busy life of teaching I became a creature of non-habit - that is until I met and married the farmer.   Since then things have become very ordered indeed!  (and that is twenty-two years).

When we first married it was pre 'Foot and Mouth' and this was still a working dairy farm.   Cows are definitely creatures of habit and at a quarter to six every morning the cows would be queueing at the pasture gate - and what is more they would be calling (loudly) for the farmer to get a move on.  Similarly at half past five in the afternoon.   On the odd occasion when he was not there they would not be pleased.

That of course meant a couple of slices of bread and butter left covered on the table for half past five in the morning,  breakfast always at around nine o'clock, when the cows had gone back to the pastures, lunch at 12.30 so that wherever the farmer was on the farm he knew that that was the time to come in for lunch,  and tea at five o'clock.  At least I knew precisely where I stood and what I was getting into!

And that is how it has remained apart from breakfast, which has moved to seven in the morning, although we are now semi-retired.   And I must say there is a certain orderliness about it which I like very much and most of the time it makes life much easier.   If I am out with friends I can always leave something for him to manage for himself (he is very good on the microwave - much better than I am) and he does a very good crispy fried yesterday's potatoes.

 Even my shopping has that same orderliness about it.  I order on line and each week it is delivered between eight and nine in the morning on Tuesdays.   That just gives me time to wipe out the fridge and put the breakfast pots in the dishwasher before my order arrives.

Does all this sound boring to you?   Well, maybe it is but it does make life so much easier and more comfortable.

Today, the second day of the local Food and Drink Festival in our little market town, has dawned with pouring rain.   The fields need it badly.   After a couple of warm weeks when the grass grew well, we have had a cold week with night frosts and the grass has gone backwards.   Most farmers have put out their dairy herds and the situation is that they will be short of grass before long unless things improve.   This rain will be gratefully received by those little green blades - not so the Food and Drink Festival folk.   Good news is that it is set to clear the country before lunch time, so perhaps they will have a good, successful afternoon.



Saturday, 2 May 2015

It is here.

Well the Royal Baby Girl has arrived, so that is one bit of important news out of the way in good time before Thursday isn't it.   I am not a Royalist in particular, but as with any couple, it is nice when their baby arrives promptly and is well - and, most importantly, - is loved.   That is certainly true of this young lady.   I wonder what she is to be called.  No doubt we shall hear in due course.

The Queen is in Richmond, about seven miles from here, today for the amalgamation of two regiments.   She is taking the salute in Richmond castle, which stands on top of a hill in a windy, exposed position.   Our Queen is a toughie and even at  89 she will no doubt stand there in a freezing cold wind and take it on the chin, whereas I have chickened out of taking Tess for a walk (too cold, I complained to farmer).  I am sure she will be delighted that it is a girl - the first one for quite a long time.

Today has been the church coffee morning.   Friend W and I always go, and now friend J always joins us too.   It is well-attended - maybe fifty or so this morning.   It is a pound entry and there is a raffle, a pie stall (the lady's pies are delicious) a home-made card stall and a baking stall.   Today I bought a turkey lasagne (which we had for lunch .  They are always delicious) and a chicken leek and mushroom pie topped with mashed potato, which I have frozen.

The trouble with regular events like this though is that they make time go so quickly, and as one gets older that happens without any extra help.   A Coffee Morning on the first Saturday in the month, hairdresser each Thursday lunchtime, exercise class every Wednesday afternoon, cleaning lady every Monday morning, meeting friends for coffee every Friday morning - the week passes by in a flash.

I am reading an excellent book -'Regeneration' by Pat Barker, first published in 1991.   It is a book about damaged people in a hospital for officers during the First World War.   It leaves nothing to the imagination and is gruesome in the extreme.   Pat Barker really does get across the dreadful awfulness of the conflict.  It is compulsive - if not entirely pleasant - reading.  It centres on Seigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen amongst others.   Barker must have done hugely extensive study of the war to write such a powerful book.

It is The Festival of Food and Drink here in our little market town this week end.   People come to it from far and wide.   Locals tend to stay away from the congestion - and this year from the cold and damp weather too.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Prejudice

I find it so sad just how much prejudice there is around.   I have always felt that it is every woman's duty to vote even if only because women died almost within living memory in order to get the vote.   My father's generation could remember a time when 'the common man' did not have a vote.   Now it is everyone's right.

Yet there is a degree of prejudice against women still.   A male politician who is 'bullish' is seen as an admirable man - one who will fight to get things done.   A female politician however - well that's a different  matter - so people like Nicola Sturgeon are seen as pushy.   People comment on her clothes - how red suits her and makes her stand out in a crowd.   I have not heard anyone comment on suits any of the men wear, or the ties, or the way they do their hair.

A little of the prejudice disappeared with the advent of Margaret Thatcher and her era, but that time has disappeared.   Until people stop commenting on whether a politician is a man or a woman, but just that they are a person standing for Parliament, then it won't have gone away.   And that applies to all aspects of life -equal pay, equal rights.  Sadly it won't happen in my lifetime.  Maybe not in yours.

And that brings me on to another, if anything more serious form of prejudice.  That is prejudice against the colour of anyone's skin.
I have been a couple of times with the farmer to Baltimore and it is a beautiful city.   I am glad I am not there now - the racial tension is terrible and a disgrace in this day and age.

The farmer and I live in a constituency with one of the safest Conservative majorities in the country - farming country, plenty of rich landowners.   For years our M P has been Rt Hon William Hague - much to be admired by everyone in his constituency whether they were of his political persuasion or not, becase he was such a jolly good constituency MP.   Well, he is retiring and we have a new Conservative candidate.

A charming young man, a real live wire, a businessman, a family man, educated at an English Public school, followed by Cambridge.  His father a GP and his mother a Chemist - so far it all sounds so good.  But many in The Dales have doubts about it all.   Why?   I am ashamed to say that it seems to be because of the colour of his skin.

He has an Indian name and I believe his parents were first generation incomers to this country.   He himself was born here and is English.

I have lived in a large Midlands multi racial city, taught in a multi racial (Sikh, Jamaican and local children) school for almost twenty years.   Most of the time it worked - folk worked together and race didn't matter - wasn't often spoken about.

Up here it is rare to see anyone who is not white and English.  I am horrified by the attitude of some people - I had not thought such attitudes existed up here, but now I find out that they do.

To people who say they are 'worried' about the colour of  skin I would like to point out our two very good hospitals.   The Friarage, our 'local' hospital in Northallerton and The James Cook University Hospital, a much larger establishment in Middlesbrough.   If you removed any Consultant with a foreign name (of African, Caribbean or Asian descent) from the list of people you can see for every illness, then there would be very few left to see.   The treatment one gets at both hospitals is first class, the Consultants are charming men and women and instil the patients with that sense of hope and trust that is so essential to recovery.   These same prejudiced people are not so likely to reject treatment when their health is at stake.

Please note that I am not a Conservative - to date I have little or no idea who I shall vote for next Thursday - too many issues, too many candidates, indecision on my part.   But one thing is for sure - vote I shall for sure.   And the colour of anyone's skin will not make the slightest difference to my choice.

On a lighter note, my hairdresser asked me to have a bet with her on the following:
If the Royal baby arrives on Election Day, which story will be the Headline News on the BBC Six o'clock News in the evening?  Like to have a bet on it?



Wednesday, 29 April 2015

What's not to like?

It was our Poetry afternoon.  Nine of us read our favourite poetry in the lovely warm conservatory at friend W's - the sun shining in and totally sheltered from the icy wind outside.   As usual a good selection of Poetry of all kinds - nobody chose the same poem (this does sometimes happen) and there were nice discussions after each, and lots of laughter.   What a lovely afternoon.
 
Then it was home to get the tea and then a chat to a friend who I have not seen for around 40 years.   Can you think of a nicer day
because I certainly can't.

I am trying to avoid the News as much as possible because I am totally sick of electioneering, false promises, media hype and all the rest.   But I do want to know how the rescue operation is getting on in a desperate Nepal; it does seem as though some aid is at last getting there.   The people must have almost given up hope.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Bizzare weather

The weather here in the Yorkshire Dales has been, I suppose, very 'Aprilish' these last few days.   This afternoon I had several errands in the car and noticed that the temperature on the dashboard indicated that outside in was just nine degrees.   Last week at this time it was nineteen.

There is bright sunshine and the leaves are bursting forth on the trees - everywhere is greening up nicely - but there is an icy wind blowing.   And living, as we do, in a hilly area, we can see showers coming from a long way away - and today many of them have been of horizontal hail.   Many of the peaks on the Pennines in the distance are snow-covered.

Yesterday the farmer rotovated the whole vegetable garden and then planted peas, broad beans, shallots and red onions; luckily he didn't put in the broad bean plants but left them under cover for the night because this morning  there was a covering of hail stones.

Today was not really a day for doing a lot on the farm so it was tidying up the shed (always plenty to do in there) and then, after lunch a trip with the tractor and trailer to buy a load of stakes so that he can begin mending fences tomorrow.

It is our Poetry group tomorrow, so I am now going to sit in a sunny window (while the sunshine lasts) and choose what I am going to read.   Enjoy your evening.

Monday, 27 April 2015

A Butterfly mind.

My family have always accused me of having a 'butterfly mind' - that is, I seem able to flit from one subject to another with little effort.  I am sure they are right.

I like to think of my mind as a huge filing cabinet in which is stored all the life experiences, all the information, everything I have ever
learned - all ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice.  The trouble is, it doesn't work like that.   I suppose everyone is the same.  Some things I remember (even if inaccurately) as though they happened yesterday and somethings I suspect I have forgotten, or they are buried so deep (or misfiled) in that filing cabinet that I cannot access them.

I came across another piece of useless information yesterday and I have filed it away - you never know when it might come in useful (in a Pub Quiz, a crossword or a conversation).   Did you know that the word 'electric' is the Greek word for amber? If you rub a piece of amber across your cheek several times it creates a tiny shock - so it was considered a good word to use.

Friend M and I were sitting reminiscing the other afternoon, talking about the old days - twenty five years or so ago - when she and her partner used to meet the same two couples every Friday and go out for lunch together.  We could remember all the names except that of one of the wives - and that escaped both of us, until the middle of the night on Saturday night, when I awoke quite suddenly and thought 'Dora' - and yes, that was her name.   Had my filing cabinet been sorting quietly on its own for several days, ordering and cataloguing until it suddenly popped up with the correct answer?   I like to think so.

The mind is indeed a marvellous thing.   An elderly Aunt of mine many years ago was quietly dying.   She was bedridden, and being no trouble (which was how she had been pretty much all her life) 
and when I called in to see her she said how pleased she was to see me and that she had just returned from a walk around the village (she had not lived there for at least fifty years) - she described various features and various people she had met.   I have always thought that that was just a marvellous way to go out of this world.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The best laid plans...

Today I had big plans.   I have nothing I necessarily have to do today and I knew that the farmer would be busy in the vegetable garden getting ready to hire a rotovator to give it a good going over.
So I planned to empty my wardrobe and clean it out, exchanging my winter clothes for my Summer ones which are all folded in the drawers in the spare bedroom.   Then I would wash all my jumpers and put them away with sweet-smelling lavender bags for the summer.

Did I mention the word Summer?   Well of course our contrary climate here in the UK meant that after a week of glorious spring weather today has dawned damp, cloudy and cold, with North wind sweeping straight down from the Arctic.   I have even put my thermal vest back on.   And I abandoned my plan about T shirts versus jumpers.

Instead I took all the scarves and bags off the top shelf and sorted them out, throwing away handbags which are greatly out of date and which I have carted around from place to place for the last twenty years. Similarly with the scarves - I have far too many anyway, so they have gone off to the charity shop.

Then it was sort out shoes from the floor of the wardrobe, throwing away several pairs I no longer wear and which are well past their best anyway.

I am now sitting here feeling virtuous.   Somehow after doing this kind of job one's mind seems to be more in order.   Do you find the same?

On a different subject - is anyone else watching Gryf Rees-Jones in his programme on Africa?  I am finding it compulsive viewing and enjoying every single minute of it.   The people are so lovely - what a pity that in so many places in Africa there is such turmoil and so much killing and so many thousands desperately trying to get away. I heard on the News that many of the refugees who are being drowned daily in the Med are sub-Sarahan - what terrible journeys they have already had to reach the coast and what terrible fates await so many of them.   There are so many mothers with young children - one wonders what they have been led to expect.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Lovliest of trees.

My new header is our cherry tree - one of my favourite trees, not least because of the passage of Housman's in 'The Shropshire Lad', which begins - Lovliest of trees the cherry now.   When I read it as one of my chosen pieces for our last Poetry meeting, friend J reminded me that I read it every year at this time of the year!   I didn't know that but I shall no doubt read it again next year too.

This morning at our weekly coffee morning in the town, we were talking about the election (boring) and whether or not we could be bothered to go and vote.   We were all (all women) of one mind - women fought and died to get the vote and it is our duty to go to the Polling Station even if - in desperation - we spoil our Ballot Papers - we must exercise our democratic right to be able to vote.

Young people today seem so sophisticated compared with how we were when we were young.   How far the world has progressed in some areas.   Looking back we were so innocent and certainly in the country areas (where I was brought up in what was a carefree, happy environment, in spite of the world war being raged at the time) we really knew little or nothing about the real facts of life.

How different from now with the internet leaving nothing to the imagination.
 
Yet as we agreed this morning, young folk don't necessarily know how far women have come in that time.   Within our living memory there were many things women could not do without a husband's 'permission' and we really had little control over our own money and property.   It was virtually unheard of for a woman to keep her maiden name when she married - and unless one wished to be seen as a 'hussy' then living together in an unmarried state was not to be contemplated.

Are we there yet in Western Society - to a state where everyone is viewed equally regardless of sex, married state, sexual orientation?  I think not.   Maybe we are well on the way but if you are in any doubt about this read John's blog today (Going Gently on my side bar).

But, to reiterate - we have the vote, we can freely go into the Polling Booth and put our cross exactly where we like without anyone else knowing (my father could remember when you were expected to vote as your employer wished) - so we must do it, even if - when we get there - we are so disillusioned with all the parties that we spoil our ballot paper.

And incidentally, if you do wish to do that - just write across the top, taking care to miss all the boxes that you wish to vote for no-one.   The slightest mark inside any of the boxes and your vote will be counted.
Here is our other cherry tree, just as beautiful in its own way, although I prefer the perfection of the white one.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tit for tat!

The car - which is only six weeks old - belongs to the farmer.   Although he insists on calling it 'our' car - he paid for it and I always think of myself as driving 'his' car'

Therefore I was a bit nonplussed last week when backing off the patio I caught the edge of one of my giant flowerpots and pulled a rubber bumper guard off the front of the car.   Luckily the farmer came and refixed it - knocking it in place with his fist - seems it had been put there for just such a happenening , so no permanent damage done (thank goodness).   However, he did tell me (quite rightly) that I tend to park too near the back door which does not leave room for manouvre.  (I can't dispute that - he is quite correct).

However, I couldn't help being rather smugly pleased this morning when he was mowing the lawns in the vegetable garden with his ride-on mower and he accidentally went a bit too far and cut off a clump of my white lilies (yes, I know it is a veggie garden) making sure they will have no flowers on this year.

At least it shows that we can both make mistakes.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

That pudding.

Well, there you are!   Here is the rhubarb and apple betty I promised the farmer for lunch today - it was Lyndsey Bareham's recipe in The Times yesterday.

I did a very small first course (beans on toast with a poached egg on top) followed by this pud with custard.   I am afraid it was far too rich for me.   I have trained myself not to eat sweet food and this was sweet - also it has quite a bit of butter in it.  The farmer loved it, so there is plenty left for him for the next two days.   But, as I am sure you will agree, it certainly looks good.

Maybe I worked a bit of my helping off at our exercise class this afternoon - our tutor S took us out into the garden after the class and we all had a cup of tea sitting in the sun.   There were two sorts of biscuits (the lady who usually makes lovely small cakes is quite poorly at the moment - we all sent her best wishes for a speedy recovery) and I am pleased to say that I even resisted the biscuits.

Tess was left with the run of the house yesterday afternoon when I went to see friend M for the afternoon.   When I returned she greeted me very effusively - calling, wailing and crawling along on her stomach (most unusual) and I quickly found out the reason why.   She had weed a large patch on the hall carpet.   I attacked it immediately but I fear it will have left a stain.   I had taken her for a walk before I went and had seen her do lots of wees - so I presume it was maybe the stress of being left alone (I quite often leave her when I go shopping etc).  Whatever the reason, it now means I shall have to put her in her 'cage' when I go out without her.  I take her whenever I can but there has to be a limit.  I feel sorry for her because she is so ashamed.   Has anyone any ideas about why she should suddenly do such a thing?

The air is full of the sounds of bird calls - curlews in the fields and cock pheasants in the garden are the loudest - but I can tell you that breeding is in full swing here.