Saturday, 6 February 2016

What if?

Reading this morning about Claude Monet it struck me just how many things in life are governed by that phrase.   In fact everything.
Throughout his life Monet would go now and then to visit his brother, who lived in Rouen.    Once when he went in February 1892, he stayed in a hotel which overlooked Rouen Cathedral and he sat at the window watching the daylight fade on the South West front and noticed how the light shifted from one place to another as it faded.  And that was enough to inspire his thirty amazing paintings of the cathedral showing the light at every hour, showing what atmosphere hourly does to stonework.

What if Monet had been given another room, one which didn't overlook the cathedral front?   Then his inspiration for the series would never had happened and we wouldn't be left with this wonderful set of impressionist paintings - perhaps amongst the most famous that he ever did.

Claude Debussy came to England and stayed in a hotel at Eastbourne.   Listening to the sound of the sea inspired him to write La Mer.   That most French of composers writing a piece which most people think of as quintessentially  French, inspired by the English seashore.

What if he had not come to Eastbourne?   Would he still have written a piece about the sea, a piece which is amongst his most loved?

And of course we can come down to the more mundane.

'What ifs' really govern every aspect of our lives - from the moment of our conception onwards.    Of course with the famous and the gifted we can speculate and marvel at the coincidences that put the artist or composer in the right place at the right time - but maybe it is no less worthy of thought when it applies to our own lives and the paths they have taken.



Since Christmas we have had very few sunny days, but on Wednesday friend W went over into Swaledale, the dale North of our Dale, and on the way she stopped and took these two beautiful pictures.

So today I have invited her to guest my blog and publish them:  I hope they give everyone a taste of the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and the promise of more sunny days to come.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

White lines.

The farmer says that there is one good thing to come out of all the rain we have been having, and that is that it has really highlighted the wet spots on our land.  Today after several days of gales and little or no rain, the land has dried up a tiny bit so he has been out with his machinery tackling the worst spot.   This morning dug the hole and this afternoon laid the drainage pipe.   By tea time it was all done and dusted, digger away and hopefully the spot a little drier.

The new gas main creeps down our lane - now only a matter of yards from our entrance.   This afternoon, when I drove slowly up and past the workmen and equipment I noticed that on one side of the road there is a trench about six feet deep, where the new main is being laid.   It was not fenced off.   When I returned an hour later it was still open to the world (and with a good foot of water in the bottom) and the digger on the other side of the lane pulled over to let me through.   I found it quite scary as the width was only just enough and I kept expecting to end up with one side of wheels in the trench!

Reading the Times on my return I was interested to read yet another letter about the proposed trials to remove the white lines from the roads.   I find the whole idea a bit scary really and a letter writer today did make a good point in that the white line is a useful thing to follow on a foggy night.   But I am old enough to remember when winkers were first introduced and those fancy little markers which used to pop out the side of the car to indicate one was turning (or alternatively use a hand signal - hand straight out for turning right and hand and arm circled anti-clockwise to indicate turning left) were superseded by winkers.   There was a public outcry and people said there would be countless accidents and no good would come of it.   We do hate change, don't we?   Is the same true to white lines?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Do you worry?

There is an interesting article in today's Yorkshire Post about what women carry about in their handbags.   I have just tipped mine out on to the table and I list the contents herewith:-
purse; cheque book; mobile phone; comb; diary; pen;spare hearing aid; tissues; bill to pay when I next go into town.   The writer of the article, Stephanie Smith, says that some folk say you can tell the state of a woman's mind by what she has in her handbag.

Some chap in America suggests that although you can tell the state of a woman's mind by what is in her handbag, perhaps a better strategy would be for her to make a diagram about her worries. So he did just that.  It makes interesting reading:
children - lunch, toys, room mess.  Worries about work.   House - state of cleanliness.  Personal - weight and looks.

No mention of health, which I found interesting.   Other than that I think we could all agree with most of it (with perhaps a question mark over weight and looks, which only applies to some of us).

Some of us worry more than others.   I used to be a terrible worrier but over the years I have learned to control it a little, but there are still worries.   Some of them - in fact most of them - fade a little after a couple of days.   But I think the health of all my loved ones - husband, son, grand children perhaps comes top of my list.  My oldest grandson is about to become a father for the first time (3 days overdue) and I shall be pleased when that is over and all is well. My own health - not so much.   Although having just booked a holiday which entails going through Amsterdam airport I am at present worrying about my mobility and the long walk to passport control.  Am I too proud to ask for a wheel chair?   Basically yes, but I think reason may have to take over and I might have to be sensible and give in.

As Stephanie Smith concludes, how lucky we are compared with others in the world, that we can waste time on such worries.  As John Lennon famously said, "Life  is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."    And of course, knowing the outcome of his own life, nobody ever made a truer statement.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


Our lane is now closed to all but residents of the lane (5 families in its whole two mile length) for the next three months as they fit a new gas main down its entire length.   This has not meant a great disruption but there are stretches where one has to drive slowly on the grass verge as the road is taken up by fencing and machinery - and that verge is getting more muddy by the day.

But today even more disrupting was the fact that our friend and neighbour A found that his 'muck' tank was full to overflowing and so he hired the big machine to spread it on the fields - our fields as well as his own.   And slowly but surely the smell has permeated the whole house.   As his farm, and most of our fields, are all on the West side of the house and the gale is blowing in from the West, there is no respite.

But then I suppose that is what farming is all about isn't it?

Monday, 1 February 2016

Down on the farm.

The Farmers' Guardian is one of the farmer's favourite papers and he reads it avidly each Friday.   I read some of the articles and find them fascinating.  His other vital reading matter is the Yorkshire Post, which he reads every evening from cover to cover.   On Saturdays there is a Country Week supplement and this week it has in it a surprising article, which I thought I would share with you.

I am often quite suspicious of 'National Surveys'.  I don't know who did this one and I don't know where it was done - I would presume it was probably done with city children (although I wouldn't bank on it).   But the results are shocking.

One in three children had never heard a cow 'moo' or a sheep 'baa'.
One in five didn't know which animal bacon came from; one in twenty thought cheese  was sourced from pigs; over a quarter didn't know that carrots grew underground - in fact nine percent thought they probably grew 'under bushes'.

In once read of someone standing in a check-out queue at the Supermarket behind a mother and child.   The mother told the child she had forgotten the potatoes and sent him to get some - he came back with a large frozen chips, which she accepted and carried on going through the check-out.

 I suppose that in this modern technological age this shouldn't be all that surprising, when children are so much more interested in their various 'gadgets' and many have no longer any contact with the countryside at all.   But it does seem a shame - does it matter?


Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Calm before the storm.

Today there is not a breath of wind.   It is dull and the air is damp.  We went out to Sunday lunch - six of us - Hawes in Wensleydale.   Four came from the West side of the country and we of course from lower down the dale.   And what a delicious meal it was - a choice of roast beef, roast lamb, roast pork and roast turkey.  All with the correct trimmings of cranberry, horseradish, mint or apple sauce.  We were there for two hours of good food and jolly company and we are now home again, the wood burner is lit and the farmer has just taken Tess for her afternoon walk.

Now we must savour this quiet because Henry is on his way and he will be noisy again.  I find the noise of the wind so very tiring.

No more food to get today - just a cup of tea, so a nice, peaceful evening.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Naming names.

Gertrude has been a beast today I must say.  She has howled and raged all day in the Scot's pines and the noise has driven me mad.  The only way I can get any peace is to turn off my hearing aid.   She hadn't stopped the farmer from walking round on the last shoot of the season with his syndicate group.   It was bitterly cold but boosted by a whisky-laced flask of coffee, a Scotch egg (sorry John), sandwiches, a piece of slab cake, a packet of crisps and a large bunch of grapes he set off at ten o'clock in fine fettle.

Friend W and I took ourselves into our favourite cafe for a bowl of vegetable soup and a ham and mustard sandwich.   Delicious.

No soon is Gertrude disappearing off the horizon, accompanied by flurries of snow over high ground (us?) than Henry puts in an appearance on Monday/Tuesday, accompanied by even stronger winds 'which may cause structural damage'.   

The one advantage of naming storms that I can see is that it does make it easier to recall how many storms we have had this Winter.
Henry will be the eighth and the farmer cannot ever remember so many storms in one Winter before. 

We are set to meet four people in Hawes tomorrow for lunch (a change of venue as the restaurant we were to meet in was flooded out and rang on Friday to say that their renovations were not finished).   We are keeping our fingers crossed that snow doesn't prevent us all meeting as this is the third time we have arranged to meet and the other two have gone wrong.

So everyone will wrap up well.  But after all, it is Winter isn't it?

Friday, 29 January 2016


Women are supposed to be good at multi-tasking (think looking after babies, preparing a meal, looking after a house) and I used to pride myself at one time that I could hold down an important job, run a household, have hobbies and the like.

Now is a very different story.   I do not like to be under pressure and when there are jobs to be done I like to do them one at a time and then tick them off on my mental list of 'Jobs to do today.'

Is this something to do with the ageing process do you think?   Or is it something to do with lack of practice?

Whatever it is, after a morning with the coffee girls (thin on the ground today because of the weather) when it was nigh on impossible to stand up in our Market Square because of the incredibly strong gales, my job to do this afternoon, along with the farmer, was to go to our Post Office in the little town of Bedale, about twelve miles away, to send off (after their checking) for passport renewal.

All done and dusted now, but why is it now so frustrating and stressful to have to fill in forms, get accompanying photographs, get said photographs verified and then have the lot checked.  And this is a week when I have already given up on forms from the Income Tax office and sent them off to my accountant to sort out.
Yes, if I am not careful I shall go into a decline believing I am getting old.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The end of the season.

This Saturday, January 30th, will be the last 'shoot' of the season, as the pheasant-shooting season ends on January 31st.   Around here most farms are privately owned, and those which are, like ours, mostly organise shooting syndicates with the farms roundabout.  In early Spring they buy in pheasant poults and rear them before letting them go.   By the time the season begins they are full size.

The farmer has never been a shooter but usually goes along to act as a beater, or just for the exercise and the company.   The shooters all know one another; they have their lunch in the big barn, sitting on bales of straw.   If it is a really cold, or wet, day somebody usually has a bottle of  something to pass round.   I usually put a tot of rum or whisky in the farmer's coffee flask - all helps to keep him warm.

Half a dozen fields away from our shoot is a large, corporate shoot -  belonging to one of the big landowners in the area.   That is a very different matter.   Here, large groups pay for the privilege of shooting on the land, and they are treated to a sumptuous lunch in some shooting hut somewhere, transported there by vehicles.  The whole thing is organised by a gamekeeper.

Of course, pheasants don't know who they 'belong' to - they are free spirits - and they can fly - so by the end of the season they have roamed far and wide and no doubt they will have some of 'our' birds and we will have some of 'theirs.'

The fact remains that they are not wild birds as such, they are partly tame, so they stay around.   We have a group that stay around our bird table for most of the day.   They have no reason to go further as there is plenty of food there for them.   I always hope they stay as that means they end the season unscathed.   This year, at present, we have one cock pheasant and four hens - the beginning of his harem I presume (I expect he can feel Spring in the air).

It goes without saying that no way will I eat pheasant.   They are beautiful birds and I don't approve of shooting them, particularly when they are introduced to the fields especially for that purpose.

On the subject of fields.   They are still far too wet to get on to, and it is getting quite serious for farmers as jobs usually done this time of year fall behind.  'Muck' still lies in a heap - it is far too wet to take the spreader up and down the fields.  And the hedges remain uncut as the hedge-cutter can't get on either.   This becomes serious in a month or so when the hedgerow birds begin to think about building their nests.   We always try to get this work done well before that time.   We have a lot of yellow hammers and they love the thick, short hedges for building their nests.