Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Short Delay

Sorry, there is a short delay in posting as I am feeling 'under the weather' - back shortly.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Lucky me.

Some days ago Valerie (acornmoon on my blog roll) did a post about a new book she has illustrated and said she had a 'give away' to anyone who answered her post and that a name would be drawn when all the comments were in.

Well, I am pleased to say that she let me know the other day that my name had come up and that I was to get a copy of this delightful little book.   It came on Saturday morning and it is exquisite.   I would give anything to be able to draw with her ability - her drawings are meticulously executed and perfect in every detail.

Adele Geras has written the charming rhymes about each square on a child's quilt and each square is illustrated with one of Valerie Greeley's delightful quilt pictures.

I am the proud owner of one of these lovely little books, so thank you so much Valerie.   Here is the book for all my readers to see:

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Perfect weather for it.

This week end it is the 1940's week-end in our little market town.   I can't understand what it is that persuades men (most of whom were not even a twinkle in their father's eye during the war years) to dress in the uniforms of army, navy, airforce, American and Polish forces, air raid wardens,  the French Resistance men, Policemen and then parade around the market square with a woman on their arm - and a woman dressed to the nines in a lovely summery dress and a smart hat and gloves (and yes, I can understand that bit!).   But they obviously enjoy it tremendously and by ten this morning the whole town was a-buzz.

In addition to various stands selling vintage clothes and uniforms, there were vintage tractors and steam rollers, fairground rides for children, food stalls,  music from the forties at one end of the market place and a man singing Frank Sinatra songs at the other.   There was a big space left for those who fancied a jive to the music and various activities were planned throughout the day and again tomorrow.

Most of our cafes have outside tables and they were already full so the cafes will undoubtedly do very well today, which is good for trade in the town.

Here is a selection of photographs.   They are not good.   I can't ask people to pose and there were so many folk about that it was nigh on impossible to take a shot without somebody walking in to the frame from the side.  But I hope they do give you a feel for the occasion.

You will see one of an Airedale Terrier.   I was speaking to his owner who told me that during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War they were put into slings on a zip wire and sent across enemy lines with messages.   Needless to say many were lost in battle.   This chap was a beauty and it made me sad to think that they were used in such a way.   Although when one thinks of the needless slaughter of thousands of men in that battle - they too had been sent to slaughter needlessly.

On this day after yet another tragedy unfolding in Munich it makes the whole idea of celebrating war of any kind somehow obscene doesn't it.

But enjoy the pictures - albeit rotten ones - of folk (mostly well past middle age) enjoying themselves.


Perfect weather for it.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Birds have a new Table.

Our bird table was put up when we moved into the house twenty years ago from next door (my aged parents in law lived here until they died) so it has done very well.   But yesterday, after tilting to one side for about the last year, the roof began to come adrift and it looked in a sorry state.

Our Builders' Merchants only come here on Fridays (Market Day) so I sent them an e mail asking them to bring us a couple of new bird   tables, so that the farmer could choose one.

This afternoon he has been putting it up. The first job was to put an extra piece round each side because we get a lot of corvids - rooks, crows, jackdaws and magpies - and they are all partial to the odd mealworm.   And of course their huge beaks shovel them up leaving none for the blackbirds, tits and robins who also adore them.

I took the opportunity to thoroughly wash the various feeders - this in itself was hard because they are made of plastic and over the years the plastic tends to get brittle, but at least I finished up with them cleaner than when I began the job.

We feed 'our' birds all the year round - for purely selfish reasons really;  we love wild birds, the  table is just outside the kitchen window where we sit for our meals and we can watch them the whole time.   We get a good variety - blackbirds, robins, wrens, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches, yellowhammers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, collared doves, wild pheasant, house sparrows, hedge sparrows and tree sparrows - and the odd other visitor like a siskin or a brambling.   Good value for money as far as we are concerned - and always a joy to watch.

Here are a few photographs of the farmer in demolition and building mode.   Note the blue baler band used to string up the fat balls - I did mention that something else might be an improvement but the suggestion was met with a stare - baler band is used for everything on the farm from improvising a dog leash to keeping up a pair or trousers and I suppose that at least blue is a slight improvement on the usual orange.

We feed fat balls, meal worms, nyger (for the goldfinches),mixed seed and peanuts.   In addition, in the Winter the birds get coconuts (in their shells and cut in half) and shredded suet.   And always there are some scraps from the table - crumbs - a piece of old cheese and things like that.  Incidentally, the chicken wire is round the fat balls again to stop the corvids.
The sparrows quickly worked out how to get inside, as did the tits.

Here are the photographs:

Thursday, 21 July 2016


 When we first began visiting James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough some years ago, we consulted our AA Road Map book to work out the best way to get there.   I don't suppose there is a household with a car in the whole country who haven't also got a road map.   We take maps foregranted.   I also have a World Atlas (I am fascinated by Geography) and if I read about a city or a country (particularly in Africa or in the Balkans area) and I just can't mentally place where it is - out comes the Atlas, which I keep by my chair.

I was thinking about this yesterday in the hospital.  In the main corridor of James Cook Hospital is a copy of the last eight feet of the Bayeux Tapestry.   This was beautifully embroidered in laid thread work by Jan Messent for Madeira Threads.   I never tire of looking at it.

Roughly speaking The Bayeux Tapestry   is 'the story' of the Norman Invasion of England, and the Battle of Hastings in 1066 - told for a population who, largely, couldn't read a written version.  It was only with the invention of various scientific instruments in the Sixteenth Century that our more sophisticated grid maps became widely available.  Before that time maps were largely Story Maps - maps where the local population told of the events which happened there; these were passed on from generation to generation and modified or extended by future happenings.   Remnants of Story Maps still exist in the countryside.

If I asked the Farmer for example 'How do I get to Finghall from here?', he would probably say 'turn left at Parson's Barn (which incidentally has not existed in his life time) and just keep going.

MacFarlane tells a wonderful story about how, in 1826 in the Arctic, a British Naval Officer met an Inuit Hunting group.   They couldn't of course speak the same language but the officer did wish to know where he was exactly and the Inuit sensed this.   And, to quote MacFarlane, the Inuit 'created a map on the beach, using sticks and pebbles'.

These days, when our journeys are calculated down to the last mile (and the cost of petrol is calculated!) are we in danger of losing our wonder about the land and our beautiful countryside?  MacFarlane suggests this to be the case.   Do you agree?

If you haven't already done so, do read the book:
'The Wild Places' by Robert MacFarlane (pub Granta, price £8.99) - or at the very least dip into it - because it is fascinating.

**Two points have occurred to me during the day as I have been around on various travels.   The first is that, of course, the population these days is constantly on the move, whereas in the days before the sixteenth century folk married from within their own village or at the very most the village next door - nobody travelled very far, so that Story Maps would be the easier option anyway.

The other is a memory from many years ago.   When my son was a teenager we used to go on holiday - a gang of us (remember P if you are reading this!) to the same cottage on a farm in the village of Verwig, near Cardigan in Wales.   There was a story there, told with amusement, of an old man who had not travelled much further than Cardigan throughout his life.   On fine evenings he used to stand at his front gate to watch the world go by - this is a very isolated country area.   One evening a couple in a car stopped and asked him the way to somewhere further up the coast.   There happened to be a full moon which was low in the sky - and his reply was 'go up to the moon and turn left there.'  

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

To hospital and back.

The farmer has had the M R I Scan done on his shoulder this morning at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough - getting on for fifty miles away.   His appointment was for ten fifteen so we had to leave here at half past eight.

A trouble-free journey had us there in good time for his appointment.   I went to Costa coffee with two daily newspapers (The Telegraph and The Guardian) and was told that the farmer would join me in about an hour.

Two hours later he still hadn't arrived so I decided to go back to the depart ment and look for him, just hoping that we didn't miss one another on the way.

We didn't and the reason for his lateness was that a priority case had come in and he was very late going in for his scan.

After a sandwich in the Costa coffee shop we came home and just got home before there was an absolute downpour as we caught the edge of a thunderstorm.  (thank goodness the hay was in).   Now the air is somewhat fresher- can't be a bad thing as it was almost unbearable.

Now we await the results about whether or not an operation is possible (the Consultant doubted it).

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Weather.

How everything in farming revolves around the weather.  Yesterday the farmer cut two lots of grass in the hopes of making hay.   Yesterday and today have been scorching hot (well for here, although not as hot as down South).   But already the humidity is building up in the air and it is becoming oppressive.   The barometer has fallen quite a long way since lunch time and things are beginning to look a bit dicy.

The forecast is for heavy and prolonged thunderstorms in some areas overnight and through tomorrow, with up to thirty millimetres of rain falling where a storm occurs, and where these storms happen is in the lap of the gods.

At lunch time the grass was just not quite dry enough to bale and as I left to go and see friend M for the afternoon the farmer was off to inspect it.   Now I have returned and he is out - whether he is baling the hay or not I shalln't know until he returns.  If not and there is a storm here (and it certainly feels as though there will be) then the crop will be virtually ruined and will have to stand until it dries out and then be made into silage.

Watch this space.***Made into hay this afternoon.   The farmer came in for his tea two hours late and has now gone to load it all on to his trailer and bring it home.  Looking at the weather forecast it seems that we will probably miss the bad weather tomorrow, but as the farmer has to go for an MRI scan at a hospital fifty miles away we shall be out all day and the hay will be better in one of our sheds even if it is still loaded on the trailer.

Monday, 18 July 2016

A Tranquil Drive.

On a Sunday afternoon when the news really doesn't get any better, we thought we would have a drive out through the Dales.

I have just finished reading Amanda Owen's A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess and the farmer (who is a true Dalesman) really wasn't sure where Ravenseat, her farm, was.

So we set off through Swaledale, into Arkengathdale and up to the Tan Hill pub (the highest pub in England) and then down back into Swaledale.   We failed to find it, but we passed quite near as I have found by Googling it this morning.

But what a lovely drive we had, stopping for an ice cream in Reeth on the way back.

I thought you would like to see one or two of the photographs I took.
Here we are driving along the roof of the Pennines, through Arkengarthdale towards the Tan Hill pub - a very popular pub both with walkers and drivers in the Summer months, but often snowed up during the winter time.    In the distance is the county of Durham.
I am sorry to say that I can't load any more pictures - nothing seems to work, so you will have to use your imagination until such time as things are working again.

In the meantime, it is interesting to note that all of the little Dales villages we drove through have the same problem - cars.   I am sure the same problem applies to many villages in beauty spots throughout the country.   These Dales cottages were built in local stone and were finished and inhabited long before the motor car was invented, so needless to say they had no garages (in any case, the original inhabitants of these cottages - lead miners, farm works, tradesmen and the like, would not have been able to afford a car).   Now the narrowness of the roads (no more than lanes really), coupled with the fact that almost every household has one or even two, cars means that it is usually single traffic with a lot of waiting and a lot of courtesy to get through.   But it is worth the wait.
Well, here's the Tan Hill pub - at least that has got one on.   Now I will try another.   Sorry hasn't worked.   More tomorrow.   Later I managed to get a shot of the narrow road in Gunnerside on to this post.   Sadly it arrived in the top spot and I don't intend to tempt fate and try to move it.   But is does give you some idea about the narrow roads.

Interesting name - Gunnerside - a viking name, as are any of the names around here.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Beauty of the Countryside.

  I refuse to be downhearted today.   When all the news is of killing and strife - about which I can do absolutely nothing - I shall concentrate instead on the beauty of our countryside and how lucky I am to be living in it rather than in the middle of some noisy city.

The hedges on our lane play host to countless beautiful flowers and the most beautiful of all at this time of the year is the wild rose, of which there are many in all colours from almost white to a very deep pink.

The other flower, which vies for first place in beauty at this time of the year, and which flowers up and down the lane, is the honeysuckle.   I suppose it has the edge over the rose
because it has a glorious scent.

Meadow sweet is also in flower - that creamy, lacy plant - again with a sweet smell.

So all in all it is a joy to walk in the lane and to  see the Summer flowers in all their glory.  I shall try to get pleasure from them in these troubled times.

Incidentally, of all the words in the English language 'honeysuckle' has got to be one of my favourites.   Have you a favourite (and no, John, you can't have Scotch eggs as yours).