Thursday, 31 July 2014

Thursday again.

Have you noticed how, if you have regular appointments at the same time each week, the weeks seem to fly by?   Thursday at 1pm is my Hairdresser (I cannot remember the last time I washed my own hair - I hate doing it).   This means an early lunch (meals are very regular here on the farm, so that the farmer knows what time to come in- his mother trained him well).

After that I usually do a little shopping in our little market town - stocking up on bits and pieces so that all I have to do tomorrow is to buy my fruit and vegetables from the market after our weekly coffee jaunt (another thing to make things go quickly through the week).

Then, at half past four a gang of us are off the see 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel',   I think that all but one of us has seen it before - but it has such a 'feel good factor' we thought we would go and see it again.  Do we imagine ourselves in that kind of situation?   I suspect we do a bit.   Well - we can all dream you know.

All these things serve to shut out the awful world situation.   I can't do anything about it (except despair) so best to get on with life - although it is not enough.

My friends S and D finish their Land's End to John O'Groats walk today; they have been walking since May 18th and are to be congratulated on finishing.   Photographs if and when I receive them. 


Wednesday, 30 July 2014


If I never see another pea it will be too soon!   As usual, all our crop of peas is ready at once.   As peas are the farmer's favourite vegetable then he always grows rows and rows of them.   They are not my favourite vegetable - by a long way.

So yesterday he spent much of the day sitting in the Utility Room with buckets of pods and gradually shelling them ready to freeze.   I have not got that kind of patience, and frankly, the difference between a frozen home-grown pea and a Bird's Eye frozen pea is negligible.

Now I am freezing them.  I admit they freeze very well - I open freeze them and bag them up afterwards.   The second freezer has been switched on (we only use it for our own produce) and once all the peas are in and the ongoing crop of raspberries (which I adore and which freeze very well) added there will barely be room for the broad beans, which should be ready in about a fortnight.

So my culinary skills will be stretched to the limit finding ways with peas (other than peas with every meal and pea omelette) - as for the raspberries - trifle or raspberry crumble anyone?   P, if you are reading this over in the Lakes, I promise a crumble next time you are over here.

Poetry meeting today - only a few of us - so must read through my
chosen poems a few times to make sure I am word perfect - nothing worse than a stumble - spoils the rhythm.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Isolation or in a crowd?

Yesterday's post brought some interesting comments on where to live.   Cro prefers to live in a small community of just one or two houses, away from 'civilisation'; others prefer to live in small towns and some prefer city life.

Often, when we are driving through The Dales, we pass isolated barn-conversions which are really beautifully converted and I look at them and imagine living there.   Our friends K and J live in just such a conversion.   They have a large field surrounding their property and it is reached down a long lane.   They have a horse, and a few sheep and their life is idyllic.   But, they are young.

As old age creeps up on one - and believe me, that is exactly what it does - these small hiccups don't happen overnight, they occur when you least expect them - you have to be realistic and think of moving nearer to civilisation.  

I have a dear old friend, J, who lives in Lincolnshire (the county of my birth and childhood) and quite often we communicate by telephone. She still lives in the village where we were both born and where we started infant school on the same day.  She is about to have a knee replacement next week and various folk are rallying round to help her and her husband over the next few weeks.   It's called 'community spirit' and it does give one a warm feeling.

Do you read 'Going Gently' on my side bar?   If you don't then I do urge you to start reading John's daily doings.   His life is the best example of community spirit that I know.

Here, the farmer and I are fairly isolated - just one neighbour (expecting a baby today, so we are eagerly awaiting a new baby any day now) - the nearest houses are three fields away or perhaps a mile round by the road.   There are various other farms nearer than that but they are down various lanes. so we never feel isolated.  However, I don't think I would like to live here alone.

Each to his own is the answer I suppose.   I have friends who are city dwellers and the thought of living way out in the country would drive them crazy.   I have tried both - and enjoyed both - but the country wins every time.   How else would I know when the rosebay willow herb came into flower, or when the blackberries began to ripen.  Not important facts maybe - but I clock them all in my mind.

Sunday, 27 July 2014


One of the highest market towns in England, Hawes in about fifteen miles further into Wensleydale than where we live.   It is a thriving little town with its own shops, a thriving Auction Mart which is a centre for Swaledale sheep, and a permanent air of being a holiday town.   Even in the middle of Winter you rarely go through Hawes without there being several coach loads of tourists wandering around.
We needed to go to Hawes today, and knowing that in addition to plenty of tourist coaches there would also be the inevitable hordes of motor cyclists who go there on Sunday mornings and congregate in one or other of the outside cafes, we went very early.
It was a lovely journey, as it always is.   And, as usual, I thought about how living here makes us take the scenery forgranted, whereas if we were up here on holiday we would be looking at the fields full of sheep, the river, the hills, the ancient buildings and gasping at the beauty of it all.
I took a couple of photos going into Hawes.   The Tour de France went through the outskirts of the town and the inhabitants really decorated the town for the occasion.   They have left the bunting, the hanging baskets, the yellow bikes in place for the Summer - and what a lovely place it looks.
It will be different in the middle of Winter, when its height makes it prone to snow, rain, strong winds and bitterly cold weather. But let's enjoy it while it is there.
The biggest downside I suppose to living up there is that it is so far from anywhere.   A visit to hospital means a journey of around just under sixty miles.


Saturday, 26 July 2014


'Brag sweet tenor bull,
descant on Rawthey's madrigal,
each pebble its part
for the fells' late Spring.

So wrote the poet, Basil Bunting, who visited the site as a child and never forgot it.

Brigflatts is a Quaker Meeting House in Cumbria, about a mile outside Sedbergh, on the Kirby Lonsdale road.   It is the oldest Meeting House in the North of England, and the third oldest in the country.

Yesterday, after our lunch in Kirby Lonsdale, friend W and I called in at Brigflatts on our way
back.   We have called before, and indeed friend W has been to meetings there in the past, but this time I had my camera with me.

I can tell you that it is, without a doubt, the most peaceful place I have ever been.   Any church or religious building (in any sense of the word) has a kind of peace about it.   But this is something special.

The tiny settlement has just three houses and this Meeting House (built in 1675).   There is a Peace Garden, and there is a Cemetery - in which lies the body of Basil Bunting, who died in 1985, at the age of 85).   I can't think of a nicer place to be buried.

Inside there are benches all the way round and a gallery above.   And at the bottom of the wooden staircase up into the gallery there is a little gated area where dogs were allowed to wait for their masters - this is a remote country area and Quakers would often walk some miles across the fields to reach the Meeting House - presumably often accompanied by their dogs.

'fell-born men of precise instep
leading demure dogs
from Tweed and Till and Teviotdale
and hair combed back from the muzzle.
Dogs from Redesdale and Coquetdale
taught by Wilson or Telfer.'

Incidentally, the Rawthey, mentioned in the first stanza, is the River which runs nearby.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Out for the day.

Friend W and I are off on one of our jaunts today, across the Pennines to Kirby Lonsdale to meet a friend for lunch in the Italian there.   It is usually two friends, but one of them, D, is almost finished the Land's End to John O'Groats walkMy son and his wife have set off up to
the very North of Scotland to ferry them during their last few days - they have a cottage in the forest up there (hope there are no midgies).   The walk ends on August 1st - they have now averaged twenty miles a day - amazing.

Our drive - which we always enjoy - will be through some of the wildest and most beautiful parts of the Yorkshire Dales, and through between the Three Peaks (famous for the Three Peaks Walk).  Photographs may well be posted tonight (if I can remember how to post them using my new computer's set up).

Watching some of the Commonwealth Games last night (the swimming) I found myself cheering for the Scots girl when she overtook the English girl in the last length.  Not very partisan I'm afraid - but what a swim.

The farmer is staying at home this morning rather than his usual trip to the Auction Mart,because yesterday, in the middle of grass-cutting, his grass cutter broke down and - as it is over twenty years old and has broken down several times before - the upshot is that a new one is being delivered this morning.   In the middle of grass cutting we can't manage without this vital piece of equipment.

I must go and get ready.   This weekend in our little market town, it is the 1940's week-end (don't ask me why folk wish to get dressed up in officer's uniforms (never Privates) and parade about the town celebrating a war during which they weren't even born, but there it is.   Tomorrow the town will be a no-go area so we need to dash in for the week-end's milk before I go.  Have a nice day and keep cool.  (or dry if you live on the other side of the world.)

Thursday, 24 July 2014


We are having a real heatwave here in the UK - day after day of hot sun and more or less cloudless skies.   For the farmers it is a real boon; the grass is growing well, the hay is crisping
and they are all able to get on with haymaking and silaging without looking at the sky every hour to see whether rain clouds are looming.

The Summer feels like the Summers used to feel when we were kids.   Our Mums would pack us up a load of sandwiches (usually home made jam). a piece of cake (if we were lucky) and a bottle of something to drink, and we would be off for the day on our bikes.   We mostly went down to the river - to swim, to lounge on the bank, or (if there were any houseboats moored) to chat to anybody there.   And of course we would swim in the river.   As far as I am aware, certainly on the Witham,'my river, ', nobody ever drowned.  And we would burn in the fierce heat.   It was a matter of honour to get one's back so burnt that it peeled and then browned.

We learned to be pretty self-sufficient, to look after ourselves, to keep well clear of unsavoury characters (oh yes, they were around in those days too), and to arrive home in time for tea.   Woebetide us if we were late - and in any case we would be famished by then and ready to eat.

The big thing that has changed of course is the volume of traffic on the road.   Hordes of cycling kids carrying shrimping nets and paraphernalia would be a major hazard on the roads now.
And the computer has come and taken over the lives of a lot of children.

But I can sit here in our cool dining room, which faces North and is always cool however hot it may be outside, and I can read, I can reminisce about the old days if I wish to, I can plan what I intend to have for lunch (nothing too strenuous to make), but above all, I can keep out of that scorching hot sun - I no longer enjoy its close company.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The media have a lot to answer for.

I am attending a class on Tuesday evenings on the Poetry, Literature  and Art of the First World War.   In it we are looking at the Poets - Wilfred Owen, Sassoon and the like; the Painters  - Paul and John Nash, John Singer Sergeant etc.  And we are discussing the effect these people had upon the general population during and after the conflict.

In those days, what else did the public have to inform them?   Well they had propagaganda films, posters, leaflets etc. They had the word of mouth of those returning from the Front.  And they had the gradual realisation that what started as a 'jolly hockey sticks' kind of jaunt, where it was almost fun to join up, to the point where it became obvious that 'over there' it was hell on earth.

How very different then from now where it is thrown into our faces while we sit on the settee eating a box of chocolates, or doing the washing up, or the ironing.

In the newspapers the Headline will be accompanied by a photograph, usually a very graphic one.  It will move from one conflict to another, leaving behind one when another starts up.  (Is there still fighting in Aleppo?   If so it hasn't been in the newspapers for weeks - other conflicts and disasters have taken over).

Last night the Headline news on the television was of the awful situation in Gaza - where a building was destroyed and the dead were being brought out.   One person was still alive - a finger moved - but the rest of her family were dead.

Is it a coincidence that there do not seem to be war poets, war painters or anyone writing about these wars?   Or are there such people in the places where they are occurring?

And is this daily 'in your face' contact perhaps making us impervious to the awfulness of it all?   I don't know the answer - I just know that there seems to have become a point where the newsmen move from country to country, grasping the sensationalism and then moving on.

War these days is dreadful in a completely different way with all the sophisticated weaponry, but the result is the same - thousands killed in the name of some ideology or other.   We need to know about it -  but how and under what circumstances would we be best served?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

There is a shortage of time today as the farmer and I are going to our friend's funeral later this morning and then will not be back home much before tea time.   This evening is my evening class on the art, literature and poetry of the Great War (which I am enjoying immensely).   So here is a bit of inspiration for you.

When we went to my Grand-daughter's wedding a couple of Saturdays ago, we passed very close to The Angel of the North, the iconic statue by Antony Gormley, which stands alongside the A1 trunk road just outside Newcastle.   There is a convenient lay-by and the statue is surrounded by a large, grassy area.   I hadn't realised just how very tall it is - it is most impressive.   It has made me want to go to Crosby, near Liverpool, to see his figures in the sea even more.  Good art is always inspirational.

Here you are Liz - I have made the print more readable - just for you!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Red sky at night

I am learning all the time. We are haymaking again today; another friend, with a much larger field, wants his making into hay for his horses and he wants it to be ready to lead in at the week-end. This week looks a reasonable week so that the farmer has begun the cutting today. He looked at the long-range forecast last night (on Country File John)and the forecast up until the week-end looks quite promising. It struck me forcibly on Friday how farmers and countrymen in general decided on the order of jobs in the days before there was any sophisticated forecasting. There was a sharp breeze blowing and the leaves on our rowan tree outside the kitchen window were almost blowing inside out. The farmer remarked on this, saying that the leaves were blowing inside out - that was a sure sign that rain was on its way. And I thought of all the other country sayings: Red sky at night a shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning a shepherd's warning. Rain before seven, fine before eleven. It's the west wind that brings the rain and the east wind that brings the cold. The North wind brings the snow. There are countless others and that and the farmer's intuition were all he had to go on when planning farm jobs. The farmer will often come in and say ' there's rain in the air' or 'there's snow coming in' and he places a lot of importance on the view over the moor from our kitchen window - a lot of weather comes from there he believes. And he is probably right. So nowadays it is a combination of things that decide when farmers begin their haymaking, but it is still a tense time. The price of cattle feed in Winter fluctuates greatly and the more each farmer has stored in his barns when winter begins the happier he will be.