Friday, 31 October 2014

Two thousand and still counting.

Hallowe'en,  my birthday (82nd) and my two thousandth blog.  A red letter day.   I have been out with friend W for the day to meet friends in Kirby Lonsdale and the farmer has been to a special sale at the Auction Mart.   Since I got home I have been reading my huge pile of birthday cards and e cards, opening my presents (lots of lovely books to read) and reading letters from friends I only hear from on my birthday.

My son and his wife have just arrived to celebrate with a slice of my birthday cake and a drink.   But I can't let this day go past without a blog, so here are a few thoughts on being eighty-two.

Walking along the street in KL we saw a sign in a shop window and it struck me what a good starting point it made.   It said 'What if the hokey-cokey is all it is about?'

What inde
ed.  I must say that I have really no more idea what life is all about now than I had at twenty one.   In fact I have probably less idea because when you are young, fit, healthy and 'raring to go' you sometimes think you have all the answers.   It is only as you begin to age that you realise that you probably have none of them, and what is more you don't really care.

One of the things I wish had more of is mobility, but then I look at contemporaries who have far less mobility than I do.   Health-wise it is always the luck of the draw and I am not all that far down from the top of the list.

I shall not follow Gwil's suggestion on my last blog comments, that I put ivy leaves under my pillow in order to have 'prophetic dreams' - I am not sure I want those.  Dreamless sleep or dreams about the countryside and beautiful things suits me fine.

My pumpkin burns brightly in the garden, I still burn fairly brightly here on the farm and hope to keep going for another thousand at least.   Happy Hallowe'en to you all.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

What to write.

What to write on this, the last day of being 81 and the last post before my two-thousandth, when the weather outside is truly Autumnal, with heavy mist and damp air.   The sun is just visible behind the cloud cover, so I have every hope that by the time I go to the hairdresser at 1pm., the sky will have cleared and we will be having a glorious sunny day like yesterday (ever the optimist).   And after the hairdressers I shall be off to the last class on 'The Art and Literature of the British Countryside' - how I have enjoyed it, and how sad to see it over.   In between, if I have time, I shall pop into the supermarket to buy some ingredients so that I can make today's Lindsay Bareham recipe at the week-end.

If you don't take the Times, do go to it on line and look at her recipe for Porky Pie - it sounds delightful - two layers of cheesy mashed potato and between them a layer of minced pork, apple, onion and herbs.

Yesterday's Poetry meeting was good, as usual.   Eleven of us yesterday and with a really good selection of poetry being read aloud.   How much better it sounds, and how much more understandable it is, when read aloud.   Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Roald Dahl, Carol Ann Duffy, John Betjamen, Edmund Blunden, and many more - something for everyone's taste.

Lunch calls -at least putting the jacket potatoes into the Aga calls - how I love them (and how the farmer doesn't) .   Luckily there are enough new potatoes left from yesterday for him to have.

The sun has burst through and is flooding the hall as I write - can't be bad.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Big Day

It's a big day for these cattle on Friday because they are off to market.   Not, I hasten to add, to be bought and killed by a local butcher for Sunday lunch food, but to be bought and sold on as Store Cattle. to survive another Winter and be allowed to grow bigger.

At the moment they are in our paddock, right next to the kitchen window and I have enjoyed seeing them all week.   They are there because they will be easier to catch and transport on Friday morning.   They belong to our friend and neighbour L, but his grass has been almost eaten off, we have plenty and in farming there is always a lot of give and take.

Friday is a big day at our local Auction Mart.   It is the 'Middleham Moor Fair' - the annual show and sale of 350 strong store cattle, suckled calves and feeding bulls.   There is also a sale of beef breeding cattle.   It is here they are destined to go.   They were bought in in the Spring and have been fed, as well as eating grass, all Summer long - with the sun on their backs.

There is obviously some Limousin in there somewhere, although they will not be pedigree.

The farmer will be there to see them sold (as will their owner) and will be happy to stay and have an indulgent lunch in the Auction Mart Cafe as friend W and I are off to Kirby Lonsdale to meet our friends for lunch in the Italian there.

It is easy to look at them and feel sad that they are destined eventually for the pot.  But one has to realise that if there was no food end to the product no-one would breed them and they will have had three years of pleasant life.   They have been drawn in pen 39, so will not have too long to wait.

Poetry meeting today - one of my favourite days of the month.  I shall now go and shower and then sit in the sun and choose my poems - tomorrow I will tell you what I chose this month.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Staple Food

This morning the farmer and I went for our six-weekly visit for manipulation at the Physiotherapist.   Half an hour each on her couch means another six weeks without quite so many aches and pains unless we do something stupid.

By the time we returned to our little market town it was lunch time and we resorted, for the first time in a year or two, to fish, chips and mushy peas from the chip shop. Because the amount of chips is so huge, we shared one portion of chips (and then the hens got a few), but we really enjoyed it all.   Perhaps the fact that we hadn't had it for a couple of years made it more enjoyable.   But the fact remains that is is surely still the staple 'British meal' and is still good value for money.   We don't live all that far from the North Sea and from some well-know ports, so the quality of the cod was excellent.

Then an afternoon spent just Tess and I visiting friend M - an afternoon of chatting to a dear old friend, and a short drive back just before the dark set in.  (I am not allowed to drive in the dark).

Once I have read today's blog posts I shall spend the rest of the evening looking out some poems to read tomorrow at our Poetry afternoon.   I discovered a poem I didn't know by Robert Frost - 'Departmental' - if you don't know it, look it up on the internet.  Half the fun of our poetry afternoons is choosing what to read and what to leave out.

See you again tomorrow - that 2000 creeps ever nearer.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Thinking in old money.

Well the hour has been taken off and the nights are dark by around 5pm.   At present the mornings are an hour lighter, the rooks fly over at the time I am drinking my morning tea again, but that always seems to disappear more quickly.   By 5pm yesterday, because it was a cloudy day, it was dark here in the Dales.   And we have another eight or so weeks before there will be any sign that things have changed and it is beginning to get light again.

In the far North things are so much worse - even the North of Scotland suffers long hours of darkness and Shetland even worse, although I find it interesting that they liven up their dark days with all kinds of celebrations and festivals - I suppose it is called 'making the best of it'.

In the middle of Summer the reverse is true of course.   We spent mid-summer's day and the surrounding days way up above the Arctic Circle one year and in Tromso in Norway folk were sitting in pavement cafes and children were playing around their feet at one o'clock in the morning, the sun still just visible on the horizon.

I suppose one gets used to it.   We accept our British Summer Time of one hour forward and our Winter time of one hour back.   And it does make a difference.   Now I see there is a move afoot to make it two hours forward for British Summer Time and just one hour back in the Winter.   What are the advantages and disadvantages?

The farmer immediately jumps into the argument and tells of the times during the war years (when there was a two hour 'daylight saving' for a year or two), to tell how at the time the farm had a huge flock of free range chickens, who wandered around the fields all day and went into their huts at dusk.   Dusk? Around midnight!  Who wishes to stay up until then when they have to milk the milking herd at 6am the next morning?   They used to have to 'round up' the hens with the sheep dogs to get them to bed.

I must say that I do find the long dark nights quite depressing.  Alright, it is rather nice on a cold Winter's night to have all the curtains drawn, the wood-burner ticking over and toast by the fireside at 5pm.   But it does make for a very long evening.

But maybe the lighter mornings would be better for children going to school.   I would like to know the pros and cons.   Can you provide me with a few?  (not that it will make any difference, the politicians will make up their minds and land us with a fait accompli, whether we like it or not.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


A post today about friends.   What would we do without them?  Do you know anyone who has few or no friends?  I do, but I really do wonder how they cope through life.   I seem to have friends for every occasion, and see one or two of them most days.   I hope that the  feelings I have for them are reciprocal - I assume they are.

We have had dear friends P and D for the week-end.   P I have known since he was in his early twenties (he is now in his sixties) and he seems like one of the family.  D I have only known for the past ten or twelve years but he has also become as important to me and as much a part of the family.

Last night we ate early (a starter of goat's cheese, leaves and onion marmalade, main of salmon, new potatoes and peas, pud of blackberry and apple pie and cream) and then watched 'Strictly Come Dancing' together.   This morning we went out to Sunday lunch to our local Golf Club with them.   The farmer and I have now come back having eaten far too much, P and D have set off on their journey home to the Lake District and we are settling down for the rest of the day.   But in the Lounge of the Golf Club, while waiting for the call to lunch, were two separate lots of friends - friend W with whom I usually go for lunch there (she also has people staying) and friend G, who I write quizzes for to make money for the Nature Reserve she supports.   All pleasant 'tie-ups', which make the world go round.

I remember doing Venn diagrams at school (don't think I have tackled them since!) and putting people we knew into categories.   Some of the 'circles' would overlap when people would be in more than one 'circle'.   I was mentally doing this with my friends as I began writing this.  For example, friend S would appear in my poetry circle as she is a member of that, she would appear in my 'classes' circle as she is the tutor of the Art and Literature class, and she would be in a circle of 'friends  I often go out to lunch with'.
How very lucky I am to have such an active and full life, full of friends, fun and (today) good food.  Unfortunately baked camembert followed by roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, cauliflower cheese, broccoli and carrots serves to make me lethargic and ready for a doze by the wood burner.   So any further thought on the subject will have to be shelved while I have an afternoon doze.   The clocks have gone back one hour overnight and this change in time always serves to throw out one's body clock too.   Enjoy the rest of your week-end.

Friday, 24 October 2014


Each Friday afternoon I go to a class for two hours and look at a diary which has been transcribed by our Tutor - a diary of a Yorkshire man or woman, usually in the eighteenth century.

All the diaries have been fascinating, but today's was the most interesting to date.   It was the 'Journal of the voyage of the 'Hope' from the port of Whitby', written by the ship's surgeon,Thomas Atkinson, in 1774.

Just a short journal it dealt with just one expedition to the whaling waters of the Arctic area around Labrador and Newfoundland.   The furthest the boat got on this occasion was the  island of Disko at the Northern end of the Davis Strait.

It seems as though on this occasion nobody got ill, as there is absolutely nothing about the crew or any illness.   This journal is fascinating because as well as telling us about the weather it tells us about the whaling (absolutely awful stuff -) it also tells us about the native Inuit people they encountered.

As far as the whales are concerned - of course they didn't realise in those days that the whale was actually a mammal, they thought of it as a very large fish (although the record of cruelty to mammals was pretty awful about this time, so it wouldn't have made a lot of difference).   Neither did they understand about the migratory habits of the whale, so some voyages never saw a whale at all.   Others slaughtered sometimes as many as four on one voyage, often dragging them on to ice floes for butchering and processing.
The work was dreadful in the most terrible conditions.

Most fascinating of all however, is their sighting of 'an Indian in his canoe'.   He tells us how they could plainly see how he was dressed and could also see his darts and harpoons and the two large seals he had killed which were lashed to the sides of his boat.   The 'Indian's'
manner suggested that he was familiar with the whalers.

Having had an afternoon of reading this journal we all agreed that it was good that whaling is now banned in most countries in the world. (note that I say 'most' and not 'all).

Sadly the Inuit were in many ways exploited - it is a thorny problem as to whether these native peoples would have been better left undisturbed.   They occur all round the world and seem to have had a bad deal wherever they are.   With these particular Inuit people, they were used by the whaling fleet in exchange for various goods, but in addition the Europeans gave them measles, tuberculosis and other illnesses to which they had no immunity, so that whole tribes were wiped out.

It was altogether an fascinating afternoon, which left me with much to think about.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


Today, friend W and I have been to a metropolis.  Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but coming - as we do- from a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales, it certainly felt like it.

We went the forty or so miles to the large 'out of town' Shopping Park.   There we wandered round the large store we had gone to see.   There were mothers wandering round bottle feeding babies as they went; there were old ladies (who made us feel quite young) in bath chairs being pushed round; and there were even one or two extremely tiny babies - maybe two or three weeks old - being pushed around in prams with a thin blanket covering the whole pram - maybe to keep off germs or to help baby to sleep, I don't know.  I felt a bit like a country bumpkin.   And to think I used to live permanently in this kind of environment.

I began life in the deep country (first twenty-eight years) and I shall definitely end my life in the deep country.   The bit in between was spent in cities and although I was happy (and very fulfilled) while I was there, I am a country woman at heart.

Are you a townie or do you prefer the country? 

Incidentally - in nine days time - on October 31st (Hallowe'en) I shall be eighty-two years old.   I shall miss out one or two blog posts between now and then so that on that day I can publish my
2000th blog post.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hurrican Gonzalo

When we got up this morning we thought that the tail-end of Gonzalo had missed us, as it was a pleasant morning.   But no, it just hadn't arrived.   Later in the morning it arrived in force; there is a very strong gale blowing and one minute it is brilliant, glishy sunshine, the next minute pouring with rain.  I can't stand up outside the kitchen door, so I am staying put today.   Even Tess was reluctant to go out with the farmer for her lunch-time walk.

I had thought to go and visit friend M this afternoon, but have been unable to raise her on the telephone so I decided to stay at home.   As I had one of my periodic bad nights, perhaps it is just as well.  One thing is for sure - there is hardly a leaf to be seen on a single deciduous tree visible from my kitchen window.  Left to the wind all the leaves come off and (hopefully) the wind sweeps them into heaps too.   As I once read an old man said, "I don't bother sweeping up the leaves in Autumn, I leave old Borealis to do it for me" (Borealis being the North wind).

Monday, 20 October 2014

The third sighting.

Yes.   It happened.   Later on Saturday evening, watching the  television, settled down for the evening, slippers on, drink in hand (campari and tonic), 'Strictly' progressing well on the screen (apart from the glimpse we would rather not have had of Brendan's split trousers) IT arrived.   It scampered across the floor towards the screen as though it intended to do the Cha-cha and shot behind the television into the corner.   I screamed.   The farmer laughed and derided me suggesting I was far bigger than it was.  After pleading he agreed to get up, get a glass from the corner cupboard, find a card and trap the thing.   Bringing it VERY close to my face as he went out, he took it into the yard and deposited it on the hedge of next door's vegetable garden.  I hope it decided to over-Winter in mybrother-in-law's house now.  Was it the same one?   I sincerely hope so - I don't want two of that size in the house.

Our friends from the Netherlands brought us a huge quantity of bulbs when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago.   Yesterday the farmer dug over a bed just outside the landing window, dug plenty of manure, compost and grit into it and scattered about a hundred tulip bulbs and planted them.   Now, every time I go upstairs in March and April I should be treated to a wonderful display right outside the window.   We have to look forward to the Spring bulbs don't we?   That's how we get through whatever Winter has to throw at us.