Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hide and seek.

The painters are here this morning starting to paint the outside of our farmhouse.   As I write this there are scraping and rubbing noises from the bay windows at the front of the house.   Getting showered (keep the blinds drawn) and getting dressed was a matter of darting from room to room, hoping I had chosen the right room to avoid detection.   Believe me, at my age, my body is not a pretty sight.  (the days when I would happily take my clothes off and pose for someone to draw me are long gone - although I do believe some painters like painting old women).

Age takes it toll, doesn;t it?   I was at a Preview of an Art Exhibition last night with friend W.   I met and chatted to an old friend who I have not seen for twenty-odd years - how she had aged and become infirm.   It struck me forcibly that she was probably thinking exactly the same about me.   When we look in the mirror we see the same person we have seen since the day we were born.   Others only see the person as he/she is today - that's the big difference.   None of us can avoid old age - the best thing to do is to embrace it, grit one's teeth and jolly well keep going.   After all, as someone once said, the alternative to old age is worse.

Well, it's the big day today.   I was about to write that after today it will all die down, but of course it will be at least a week before things on the news get back to 'normal' - then there will be some conflict somewhere which will be designed to catch our attention.   Meanwhile thousands, if not millions, languish in appalling refugee camps around the area with no prospect of return.   Whole generations of children  will grow up without allegiance to a country and with a hatred of the people who have driven them out.   It makes the business of an independent Scotland seem very small fry doesn't it?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Today (and tomorrow too) has been a busy day - but also an enjoyable one.This morning friend S came for coffee and a chat.
Last night I had made a Moroccan Tagine for lunch today so I could sit and chat  to her until lunch time.   I should have served cous-cous with the tagine but I forgot to get any - the farmer was delighted by this and jumped for joy at the idea of mashed potato instead!

After lunch it was down to the Feed Merchants in Masham - a really lovely little market village/town with a very French feel to it.
On the journey down (it is only about ten miles from home) we pass this lovely little Roman Catholic Church, which I always feel has a French feel to it to.  At last I managed to get a photograph of it, albeit not a very good one.

After tea I went with friend W to a Preview of an Art Exhibition in our local Arts Centre.   It was lovely to see such a lot of people there and there was quite a buzz to the evening.

Now I am home and just about to watch 'Bake Off' - I wonder who will go out tonight after they have made their quite impossible creations.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Some garden flowers are really 'in your face'.   In this group I would put the glorious sunflower, obviously, but also flowers like the blowsy, brightly coloured peony, the tall, deep blue delphinium, a lot of the yellow flowers (a single daffodil is not in this category, but a whole hillside, now that's a different matter.) and some roses, although I look upon most roses as being subtle and understated for the most part.

Some garden flowers are shy and retiring, hiding under bushes in shady places, or flowering low to the ground so that  you have to really look for them.   The violet falls into this class, in fact many Spring flowers do.  Even the bold snowdrop, flowering even when snow is forecast, pushes up its neat little white head and asks for nothing (it certainly never says 'look at me'!.

But there is a plant just coming out all over my garden, which fills me with joy every year.  It is bright red, yet it is a subtle red, so it doesn't shout.   It spreads, so that one clump will soon become several clumps  and it comes into bloom at a time when almost everything else is beginning to die back.   And here it is - the schizostylis - brightening up my garden today - and I hope giving you a little bit of pleasure too.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Swung by an argument.

I normally sit with the farmer and watch the six o'clock National News - the one time in the day when I hear it, as I just can't bear to hear it every hour on the hour - it is too depressing.   But tonight, after hearing the Headlines I have come out of the television room and on to my computer, as I can no longer stomach hours of the 'Scotland Debate'.  By Thursday the votes will be cast, on Friday the Post-Mortem will begin - it will take another week to die down.

All members of my family have loved a good argument and I grew up with my father (ardently Left Wing) debating issues with my Brother in Law (ardently Conservative).   When my first husband came on the scene (also ardently Left Wing), he and my father got on like a house-on-fire, both being on the same side.   Sadly my Dad died long before I married the farmer (typical farming stock and therefore conservative with a small c), but he would have driven my Dad mad because he would never argue about politics.

But during the whole of that time I never knew anyone to change sides.   Dad stayed   Left and my Brother-in-Law stayed Right.  Because, let's face it, our views are pretty entrenched.   We all think we are right and nobody is going to make us change our minds.

So it does beg the question, why is the Prime Minister spending so much time trekking round Scotland trying to persuade voters to vote the way he wants them to - and similarly why doesn't Alex Salmond sit at home and relax and let people vote how they intend to?

By the week-end we shall all know what is to happen and I can categorically state that within a week the whole issue will have disappeared from our screens, as has the war in Syria and the whole Middle East situation - that will return next week once Scotland has sorted itself out.   Why must the media all centre on one issue and do it to death, then let it disappear from our screens as though it is a thing of the past?

I genuinely believe that it is up to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want indepence or not - and as I am not Scots then I don't waste time thinking about the issue.  Looks desperately like rain outside and my washing hangs on the line, so I must fetch it in - that is the area of my thinking at the moment.   Hope that doesn't sound fascetious but I am truly fed up with the whole issue.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Come ye thankful

The congregation will be singing in our local church Harvest Festival tomorrow.   The congregation will be totally different from how it would have been fifty years ago.   The last time the farmer and I counted, he could only think of fifteen people living in the village who were actually born here - the rest are incomers, some from other surrounding Dales but  mostly from much further afield.

In the 'Old Days' all the local farmers would have been at the Harvest Festival, most of the villagers, most of the farm workers, and also usually quite a large Sunday School.   The produce would have been stacked deep in front of the altar and would always include a home-baked loaf of bread and a sheaf of wheat.  The vegetables would have almost all been home-grown and the produce home-baked jams and preserves.   Now I suspect that most of the produce comes off Supermarket shelves as so few people seem to have the time or the inclination to grow vegetables any more.   But, hopefully, the feelings behind it are the same.  And if there is a sheaf of corn it will be because one of the farmers has grown a patch of long-stemmed wheat especially.   These days corn has been engineered to have much shorter stems.

Is it all safely gathered in?   Well, apart from a few fields of whole-crop maize it does all seem to be finished with round here.
Walking the dog down the Lane during the last few days has not been the usual quiet experience I enjoy.   The air has been full of noise and a feathery dust, as giant combine harvesters (owned by contractors who come in specially for the occasion) race up and down the fields and have them cut and then baled into large bales in no time at all.   Gone are the days of the quiet clack-clack of the reaper and then the binder, the barking of the dogs and the shouting of the men as the terrified rabbits and hares ran out as they became trapped in the last bit to be cut, and then the quiet chat of the men as they stacked the sheaves to dry in the sun before they were taken back to the farm on the farm cart, pulled by some faithful old farm horse and put ready for the day on which the threshing man chose to come.   My first sight of the Flying Scotsman was from the top of just such a cart in a field in The Dukeries, where my aunt lived, and where the railway line of the main London to Edinburgh train cut through the middle.

Yes, Autumn has really set in.   We shall pick no more blackberries from the hedge because the devil has spat on them - early this year - in reality the nymphs of the frog-hopper, which cover the berries in spumes of foam.

Another sure sign is that the only bird that is consistently singing loud and clear is the robin - they are everywhere and their song is so uplifting even if, like me, you had a really rotten night last night, when sleep seemed to evade me for most of the night. 

On the way back from taking these pictures the black cat decides to try his hardest to trip me up all the way home in an effort to secure  an extra  saucer of milk.  No chance - bedtime only.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Times they are a'Changin'

Bob Dylan??   If not then I am sure somebody will point out who it was.

My father, who died in the 70's, talked about hoeing a beet field and hearing a noise and running over the field to see a new-fangled motor-car going past preceded by a man with a flag.   Now I read about driverless cars- a thing of the future on our roads.

Sometimes I used to be sent to the Co-op for my mother's shopping.
There was no 'fancy stuff' in those days.   Her weekly order was always more or less the same, with one or two additions if and when they were needed.  (a new tin of salmon, a new tin of peaches and a couple of tins of evaporated milk if we had had visitors, or Persil if the packet was getting empty, or maybe more household soap in the days before detergents and washing up liquids) .

It ran like this:   sugar, butter, marg, lard, tea, camp coffee, yeast (she made her own bread), dried fruit, bacon.   Her vegetables were mainly from the garden or from a man who came round with a horse and cart once a week.   Her meat came from the butcher's shop opposite our house and was often payment for the time she spent preparing poultry for him.   That was it - simple, good fare.

Now look at the range of food in the shops.  The foreign food (my mother was highly suspicious of foreign food and would never eat any which I served up when they came to stay), the twenty different types of tea, a whole line of different sugars (ours came out of a barrel and was weighed into a dark blue sugar paper which was carefully folded around it (can anybody do that folding now I wonder).  The butter was cut out of huge lump of butter in a tub (Danish tub butter I think it was called) and - again it was wrapped specially in greaseproof paper.

Things change.   Things evolve.   Sometimes the change is for the better, sometimes it is for the worse.   We have little control over it.
 A huge combine harvester cut the field opposite us last evening in about an hour - a job that would have taken several days using a binder.

Now a possible mighty change if Scotland vote 'yes'.  Personally I can't get roused about it.  It is for the people of Scotland to decide - let them decide one way or the other, and take the consequences.   Who are we English to judge?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Where do you come in the family line-up?

In a study done recently by Oxford University, 3,500 12-years olds were quizzed on whether or not they had been bullied by a sibling, and if so - how often.   How did they define 'bullied' - physically
hurt, ostracised, ignored, the subject of lies, rumours, and deliberately hurtful remarks.   At the age of 18 these same 3,500 were quizzed again.   In the original study around 800 of the children had said they had been bullied and when quizzed at 18 these 800 were twice as likely to be clinically depressed compared with the non-bullied ones.   Girls were more likely to have been the victims.

I sat down and thought about it.  I am the youngest of three (two others died in infancy long before I was born).  My sister was twenty-two years older than me (same parents) and was married before I was a year old.  I obviously wasn't bullied by her but I do remember being resentful of her in various ways.   For example, all my friends at school had tennis rackets, my parents couldn't afford one at the time, so I had to borrow my sister's.   Once, at a vital time (match of some sort), I couldn't play because she needed her racket, so I had to drop out.   I still remember that I somehow felt the need to lie about the reason so that I hid the fact that it wasn't my racket.

There were many other occasions, all of them equally petty.   But I do know that throughout my life I had a much easier relationship with my brother (11 years older), who I adored.

Being a parent myself didn't present those problems as I only had one child, but it is hard for parents not to categorise their children as 'the pretty one', 'the clever one' and so on, even if they are all loved equally.

This thinking came as a result of an article by Stephanie Smith in today's Yorkshire Post and also in the light of the news that there is to be a new Royal sprog.   It is all too easy to look at the Royal family over the last few generations and see the differences.

The Queen, who has been the most wonderful Monarch (whether you are a Royalist or not you have to agree on this) was, I understand, brought up in a different manner from her sister, Princess Margaret.  Her Majesty was groomed for the role, which she has fulfilled for so long, from being a small child.   Prince Charles has always seemed so much more serious than his siblings, yet underneath one can catch glimpses of the fun chap he probably is.  This is emphasised in the fact that Princes William and Harry seem to have had so much freer and happier a life - both obviously have great affection for one another.   And when Harry was asked yesterday how he felt about slipping one place down the line of succession, he said 'great' and I am sure he meant it.

Where do you come in the line of your family?   Were you bullied?  Or were you the bully?   Or was everything in the garden lovely?

On a completely different subject - I had my eyes tested yesterday and I need new specs.   When I was choosing the new frames I picked up some red frames with purple sides - 'I rather like these', I said to the optician. He laughed - 'those are really teenagers' frames' he said.   That decided me - I am having them!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Is it better to travel hopefully?

I am still clearing out 'rubbish' - old jig-saws we will never do again, old books etc.   It is such a good feeling when yet another space has been cleared and the carpet sees the light of day for the first time in a year or two.

In the days before digital photography I always kept a diary to go along with the countless photographs I took.   As soon as we returned home I would dash to the chemist to get the films developed and then, while it was still fresh in my mind, I would mount the best snaps into albums, type up the diary and store them away.

I have enjoyed several holidays over the last few days - most enjoyable has to be the journey up the coast of Norway round to the Russian border at Kirkenes on the Hurtigruten Kong Harald Ferry.
I don't mean I have been; I mean I have sat down with a coffee and read the diary and looked at the photographs.   So many of the incidents I had forgotten and so many memories have been revived (without a horrible bout of seasickness which overtook me on the three hours of open sea out to the Lofoten Islands in a Force 8 Gale).  In that respect I enjoyed reading about it rather than experiencing it!

When I think of the queuing at the airports these days, all the hullabaloo of getting through to the Departure Gate, the rotten food on the flight, my lack of mobility and the packing, unpacking and washing afterwards, I am beginning to agree that it is maybe better to travel hopefully than it is to arrive.

Maybe this is because the only two places I still wish I had been to and obviously will now never go, are Alaska and India.

I first went abroad in 1953 staying in the Hotel St. Petersburg in the Rue Ceaumartin.   It is ingrained on my memory because I was only 21 and every experience was so new.  During my clearing out session today I came across this photograph of me, sitting in a cafe in Montmartre - with the waiter standing by my side.  Ah - those were the days.   It's a tatty old photograph, but you get the idea and maybe pick up a bit of my excitement at the adventure (when I could walk quickly - or even run if I so wished).

Monday, 8 September 2014

Country Matters

For the first time in a lot of years we have grey squirrels. Why?   Well the answer to that question is obvious if you walk round the boundaries of our fields - our nut trees are laden with hazelnuts.  The farmer says that when they are ready he will shake    as many as he can down so that we can get them rather than the squirrels.   But one question continues to niggle me.   How do the squirrels know?
We honestly never see one, so there can't be any all that near to us.
This means they are coming from a distance away.   Do hazelnuts smell?   We have never seen any signs of squirrels so it can't be that they patrol every year to see whether the trees have nuts on.   Does 'odeur  de h azel  ' waft around the surrounding area and do their sensitive noses pick up the scent?   Whatever the reason - they are here in force and piles of broken nut shells lie under the trees.   But I don't begrudge them their little feast, so good luck to them if they get them all before us.   I just wish I knew how they did  it.  One of the mysteries of the countryside.

The hunting (fox hounds) season has not begun yet but the hunt came round this morning cubbing.   They come round early (7am), just as it is getting light, bringing their young hounds as well as some of the more experienced ones and they look for fox earths.   They are not intent on killing the cubs, they just wish to have a rough idea of where they are and to give them 'a bit of a run around'.  I don't approve of fox hunting, but the farmer does and it is his farm so I tolerate it and keep quiet.   But my sympathies always lie with Reynard.   'The unspeakable pursuing the uneatable'
is my view.

Tom managed to be the first to mention 'Season of mists.....'   I have always felt that it is 'season of bonfires' and as I go around, that evocative smell of burning leaves, grass and foliage, which means quite often that gardeners have been tidying up for Winter, seems to be everywhere.   I love it.

The other things which are everywhere this year on the trees is horse chestnuts (conkers).   Does anyone play 'conkers' any more?   It used to be secret which method you used to make them hard and unbreakable (vinegar, roasting, soaking) and giant conker fights abounded when I was a kid.   Does anyone play the game now?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Value of Village Coffee Mornings.

Apart from the months of July and August, when a lot of people are on holiday, our village holds a Coffee Morning at 10am on the first Saturday in each month.  The same group of people do all the hard work each month.   By the time we arrive tables are set nicely, cups and saucers and a plate of biscuits are ready on each table and as ten o'clock comes a thermal jug of coffee comes to each table, plus milk and sugar.   As many refills of coffee as you wish.

Today, the first one of the Autumn, there were fifty people there - a good number for what is quite a small village.   There is always a card stall and a produce stall (a lot of people take items for the produce stall - today there were various cakes, marmalade (home made), and home-made turkey lasagne.   In addition today there was a lady with a slow cooker full of curry, which she was selling in pots.   I must say it smelt very good.

Then there is the raffle.   Lots of folk bring along raffle prizes (bottles of booze, chocolates, biscuits, smellies and the like).   So you can see that quite a lot of money is raised each month.   As far as I know the money raised goes into our church funds (or may be shared with the village hall, I am not sure).

But one thing I am sure about and that is the value of the occasion.
I lived in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands for twenty years, in the top bungalow of a cul-de-sac.   During the whole of that time, apart from the couple next door, with whom we were great friends, and the old man opposite who used to cut through our garden when he walked his dog, thereby cutting off a big piece of pavement and getting more quickly to a grassy area, I did not know a single person on the whole of the road.   I worked, I went out early in my car each morning and returned each evening hell bent on getting a meal ready - no time for anything else.

Here our farm is about a mile out of the village.   If I didn;t go to the Coffee Mornings there are many folk in the village that I would never see or speak to.   As it is I do see them, we chat and the next time I see them in our nearby town we chat again, because I recognise them.   Friend W, who I always go with, lives in the village, walks her dog every morning and collects her daily paper from a box outside the village hall, along with anyone else who takes a paper in the village - so she knows lots of people.   And through her I know them too.   All this is such a valuable asset to communication and I would suggest to you that it is one of the best reasons I can think of for village life.   I am sure that John (Going Gently on my side bar) would endorse that.