Monday, 30 November 2009

Us oiks up 'ere want a voice!

Is there anything like a North/South divide in the States I wonder. I suspect there is from comments which were once made by a New England lady when we said we were going to Texas. (Why would you wish to go there?)
That there is such a divide is unquestionable here in the UK. So to write this post today, as we live North of an imaginary line drawn from Birmingham to the Wash (and definitely North of Watford Gap), I have donned my flat cap and apron and David is, as I write, walking round the fields in his smock with a pitchfork in his hand, to gather in his carthorses for a spot of muck-spreading.
I make quite clear at the beginning that this is in no way meant to belittle the awful flooding in The Lake District (Workington and Cockermouth especially) last week. What happened there was way beyond anything here this weekend - I cannot imagine what it must be like trying to cope with the aftermath - both the deaths and the misery of the mud. But somehow The Lake District always escapes that North/South divide - maybe because it is the area where so many people spend their leisure time and has therefore gained status in the eyes of the Press.
So, here is my moan for today. Yesterday we in The Dales had three inches of rain in less than twenty four hours. The field opposite is a river. Many roads were closed because of flooding. The weather was absolutely dreadful. There are even cars abandoned on the road from the top of our lane into our little market town. Getting out of our road was impossible for most of the day. Our beck overflowed across the fields, forming several new becks in the process (our major rabbit warren was deeply flooded, to the farmer's delight and Tess's horror).
so, I ask a question - is there even a mention in The Times? Of course there isn't - this happened in that foreign country 'oop North. Well, gentlemen (and ladies) of the press - let me tell thee it were right bad oop 'ere; tha couldn't see t'edges for t'great big raindrops (or, to use the farmer's favourite expression "it were chuckin' it down).
This morning Tess and the farmer have done their morning walk in a snowstorm. As I write this the North wind doth blow and the air is full of snowflakes. I think we can say that winter is here. Dominic has some "wet weather" photographs on his blog and if you go to painting the sun (see my blog list) you will see fantastic photographs of West Burton Falls (often painted by Turner) in all their full-flood majesty.

On a brighter note - Happy St Andrew's Day to Titus the dog, Scotland for the Senses and not forgetting More about the Song - Rachel - and to their families too, of course. Time to batten down the hatches and light the fire, methinks.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Water - water everywhere.

Such a contrast to yesterday - then it was warm, still and with bright sunshine; to day it is grey, windy and absolutely deluging with rain. We have already had one and a half inches of rain this morning and the field opposite, yesterday a sea of green, is today under water as you will see from the photograph. I went down the front garden path in the rain to take it, and got fairly wet in that short time.
We were going out to lunch but we cannot even get out of our lane as it is flooded at the top where it joins the main road. The River Ure is over at various places through the Dale, so even if we could get out we couldn't be assured of getting back again - too much of a worry, so we sit down at home to salmon steaks with lime and chilli and a parsnip gratin - very nice, I must say.
I sincerely hope that it is n't raining like this in Cockermouth and Workington, where last week's terrible floods were.
I was thinking about them this morning and trying to imagine the dirty flood water half way up our staircase - it really doesn't bear thinking about. Even if one had enough warning to move one's things upstairs, the mess left behind and the damage to the fabric of the house would be awful.
So I asked myself a question - assuming loved ones and animals were all safe and dry - what is there in the house that I absolutely could not bear to lose? High on the list would be family photographs - mostly of people, loved ones, long gone. Then there would be books - most of my books (and I have at least a thousand) I could probably spare, but those which belonged to my father I would hate to lose.
Then there are the ornaments and pictures. Many of my watercolours were painted by my first husband and are very precious to me - so I would have moved them upstairs away from the flood water.
That leaves other little precious things and I have chosen one or two with sentimental value to me.
First of all there is my buddha. He is made of alabaster and sits on the mantelshelf in one of our sitting rooms. He was the first thing my first husband and I bought together - long before we were married. He came from an antique shop in Lincoln in around 1951 and he cost two pounds and tenshillings. He had a partner - a reclining buddha, also two pounds, ten shillings - but we couldn't afford both at the time. I have regretted that ever since.
Then there is a tiny circular picture which I bought in Pompeii many years ago. The painter, an Italian lady, was actually standing in the house (Vetii brothers, I think) painting in situ. It cost the equivalent of five pounds and I bought it at least twenty five years ago. It has given me pleasure almost every day since - so money well-spent.
And, thirdly, there is my little ceramic doll. She sits on the window cill in the sitting room and was bought as a present by my sister and her daughter, many years ago. She is strange in that she has no face - her face is just flat ceramic - the potter said this was so that one could put ones own interpretation of the face. Underneath she has my name - Patricia - written to suggest that she is me.
Three little treasures - I would make sure that they were safe. The farmer and I always bring some small memento back from our travels - a paperweight from malta, a stone box from Grenada, a bull's head from Salamanca - each little treasure holds special memories.
But, let's face it, when all is said and done - in any emergency the only things which really matter are the wellbeing and the safety of one's nearest and dearest - including dogs and cats in that!
If it rains much more today I shall start growing fins. Have a good day.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Fancy a walk?

It is a lovely day here - cold, still and sunny. For the past week it has been very windy and blustery showers, so today the contrast is quite marked. The farmer is shooting (well, beating as he is not a shooting man really) with our local syndicate, so Tess and I set off alone.

When I finish my lunch-time coffee and put my newspaper down, that is the signal for Tess to get up and look at me: "Are we going, then" I decide to go to the bathroom first - she comes with me - just in case I am pulling a fast one and not going to take her. Out of the landing window I spot a tiny wren on the wall, in full sunlight. Such shy little birds, who spend most of their lives in the hedge bottom scratching for grubs, this little chap is in fine feather and, close to, he is such a prettily marked bird, not the little brown job you imagine. So that is a good start.
A little way down the lane, after I have waited for Tess to poke her nose into a hole in the wall and shout, "Oi! I know you are in there!!" to the rabbits, a male bull finch flits silently across the lane in front of us.
What a splendid bird! His crimson breast is the nearest thing we have to the red cardinal in the US. If only they were not such secretive birds - they so rarely show themselves. This one, I guess, is after the last few honeysuckle berries in the hedge.
Today wildlife round here must be in a state of terror. In the fields to the left of the lane our syndicate are shooting. On the right of the lane our neighbouring farmer's syndicate is also shooting and he meets me as I come back. He is hitting the hedge with a stick to flush out any hiding pheasants. None come out and i am secretly glad. In the distance I get sight of our loval Hunt, who are in our area today looking for foxes. Again I am secretly hoping that all the shooting that has been going on since mid morning has warned the fox to lie low.
There is barely a leaf left on the trees after a week of gales. . I point the camera over the fields - the sheep graze in the Winter sunlight and the peaceful scene belies the shooting going on.
We come back through the front garden. There are still roses blooming and the purple hebe is putting out a few shoots of flowers. In the tubs by the back door the tete a tete daffodils are already poking through the gravel - a bit too early for my liking, they may get a nasty shock as a sprinkling of snow on high ground is forecast
I am in the middle of baking Christmas cakes for family and friends. One is just about ready to come out of the oven and one sits on the cooling rack. The smell is delicious - Christmas draws nearer - it will be December next week. Have a good weekend.

Friday, 27 November 2009


Well, for better or worse, I have finished my Poetry Book Cover. In case you missed my earlier blog, I have hand-written some of my poems into a book, really so that when I "pop my clogs" my poetry can be kept by my family, if they wish to do so. I really enjoyed writing it out so I decided it would be good to make a decoration for the front and back covers.

Making a complete book cover is quite easy, but this book had a spiral back which meant I had to design a front cover and a back cover and stick them on.

Because it is a long time since I did any serious textile work, I have found getting back into it very hard. My sewing machine was like a foreigh, unvisited country. Even the simplest thing caused me to get into melt-down. I kept getting the tension wrong, I couldn't thread the needle, the thread kept breaking. I began to despair, and several days ago posted a blog to say that I could not find my "voice" again with textile art. Fantastic bloggy friends that you are, you sent me a series of very encouraging messages - keep trying, don't despair, your voice will come back.

So yesterday morning - with nothing planned for the whole day - I shut myself in my study, took it gently and began to sew . And, hey presto, I have managed it.

Yes, I know (and you will know too if you enlarge the pictures) I have made mistakes, it is not perfect by any means. But I have managed to complete something and I like it (with reservations about some of the stitching). If posterity reads it and gives the verdict "well. she is a better poet than she is a needlewoman" then I shall be happy.

On a different note: my daughter-in-law has a new camera and she brought it round for me to look at. I turned it towards Tess and clicked the shutter. Since I had Tess I have spent hours trying to get a decent photograph and they always turn out badly. But as you can see on my side bar - this one was very successful.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

It is not always good news on the farm.

One thing you quickly learn in farming is that things do not always go as you wish them to. Of course, the weather plays a big part - particularly for the arable farmer, when a wet autumn can spell disaster for getting the crops in. But even here, where we have semi-retired and only look after animals for others, we have the occasional sad tale to tell.

Last week it was a sheep - suddenly went off its feet . We brought it into a calf pen where it lay for a week in warm straw. Two or three times a day the farmer coaxed it to drink a little water and every day it had an injection, but to no avail - at the weekend it quietly died.

But a couple of days ago we had a drama which was most upsetting. The farmer suddenly noticed that one of the heifers in the loose housing was in some kind of distress. All these heifers are in calf, mostly due around Christmas and January.

On close investigation he saw the nose of the calf sticking out but no legs (calves usually come legs first with nose neatly tucked in). We got our neighbour round immediately and once he saw it he rang for the vet. It was a dark, wet and windy night but luckily there is good lighting in the housing and it is sheltered, although one side is open to the elements.

The upshot was that there was not one calf, but two, both very large and both, sadly, very dead.

The vet thought that they had probably been dead for around a week before she began to abort.

I wont go into gory details, suffice to say that one of them had to be cut to extract it - the bodies of both calves were very smelly and the cow was already very ill.

She had a cocktail of injections and at eleven o'clock at night she had a drink of warm water from a bucket - but all to no avail. By morning she had died too.

Strange to say, all this took place in the housing, amongst twenty or so other heifers, who took little or no notice of what was happening.

It is always sad to lose an animal, doubly sad when it is so young (she was only three years old), and trebly sad when beautiful calves die too (these were beautiful calves but either one would have made for a difficult birth.)

The dead animals have been fetched away, the housing is re=strawed and the yard has been well swilled down, so it is all over - but there is still a lingering sadness.

It is Thanksgiving today - so may I wish all readers who live in the US a very happy Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


When I posted my book on my blog a couple of days ago Derrick commented on the page he could read, which was "Hare." I did put this poem on my blog a long time ago, but as today is a very busy day here (that will be another blog tomorrow) and I shall be short of time, I am putting the poem on again. So this is for you Derrick (Melrose Musings) and for anyone else who came to my blog after I posted it last time.
The hare is my favourite animal. Maybe it is something to do with being born on Hallowe'en - but the magic and folklore which surround the animal has always fascinated me. There are dozens of colloquial words for the hare - one of which is Dew Flirt, and another The Wild One. I have used both in my poem.


Dew Flirt!
Mysterious wild thing
of the ploughed earth,
birthing in the furrow and
living for the free, open ground.

Tales of mystery
and magic
surround you.
How little we really know you -
The Wild One.

Familiar to the goddess, Freya,
as the black cat
to the witch,
you stand tall,
tipped ears erect,
and meet my eye with
fearless gaze.

Then you are gone,
leaping and flying
through the air in one
gigantic burst of speed.

Sleep with your eyes open
if you will.
Dance to the rhythms of time
as you have always done.
Shun taming,
stay free; but
give me the occasional glance
to gladden my heart.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Stripped bare.

I suppose the only time the "real" me emerges is when I am about to step into the shower; when all my clothes, jewelry, "statements" are removed, then surely we are shown without any pretensions whatsoever. That person is the me before I attempt to create a persona for myself - in Jungian terms to present to the world the character I wish to be seen as.

For what a lot our clothes say about us If I see a woman in a long, flowing dress, long dangly earrings, long, flowing hair and ethnic jewelry, it says "I am a creative free spirit" to me. And a man in a battered hat, cords and an old fleece (particularly if he is also sporting a beard) says,"I am my own man and I don't care what I look like." The woman with shoulder pads, tight fitting suit and high heels - "Don't mess with me!" At least that is the image they are trying to project.

The fact seems to be that without our clothes were are uncomfortable (yes, I know most of us live in places where the weather is wrong for nudity), could it be because the real person is one we don't necessarily want to show to the world?

These thoughts occurred to me on the drive back from Tesco this afternoon. You never know what is going on in the minds of drivers who pass you on the road! They were prompted by a David Hockney painting would you believe.

"Bigger Trees near Warter" is a Hockney painting which measures a staggering fifteen feet by forty feet and he has given the painting to Tate Britain, where it goes on show today. Painted on fifty separate pieces of canvas it occupies three walls in the gallery.

How does this relate to my earlier thinking? Well all the trees in the picture are bare. The artist had to rush to finish the painting (in three weeks) so that he caught all the branches before they came into leaf. In fact he raced against the onset of Spring in 2007 because he did not want the emerging leaves to hide the beauty and detail of the branches.

It is very beautiful - each and every branch and twig stands out in such detail.

Then I thought how foliage similarly defines a tree and hides its imperfections. It is only in Winter that one really sees the shape, the beauty, the flaws and the secrets. I would never have seen the long tailed tits nest which you see above had it been on a leafy tree - only when all the leaves are gone and the tree is stripped bare is all revealed.

The farmer searched long and hard for the nest of our resident carrion crow (don't ask why, tis best not to know), never found it until all the leaves fell and the crows were long gone - there it sat in the topmost bough of an alder in the plantain.

There is such beauty in a bare tree and Hockney has captured that in the same way that great artists through the ages have captured the beauty of the naked human body.

There may well be somewhere on the web where you can view this picture - if not then like me you will have to hope that one day you can see it in Tate Britain. It is flanked by two identical photographic images of the same scene - and I dearly wish to see it - fully clothed, I might add.

Don't think this post is necessarily in praise of nudity. Somebody once said that after forty everything begins to move South - and I am sure they are right - so I will keep my persona if you don't mind - although I do feel it is sad that we are mostly reticent about removing our clothes.

##Don't read the title as "water", I haven't spelt it wrongly - Warter is obviously the place where the trees are.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Finding a Voice.

I have only been writing poems since I got my laptop and began to blog. Some are stored in my computer, some in a notebook and some are filed in my Writers' Group folder. In other words they are all over the place.
So, my resolution was to buy a note book and put them all together. I bought one at The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate last week and during this weekend I have written all the poems I can find into the notebook. It really has been an interesting exercise.
To begin with I didn't know I had written so many. When I wrote them out (I wanted them to be in my handwriting) I was astonished to find that some of them I liked very much, some were just alright and some I discarded as being not worthy of inclusion.
Now I want to involve one of my other hobbies and decorate the cover of the notebook. And here the difficulty has arisen. My textile work has been on the back burner for some months as I have concentrated on writing - for my blog, for Writers' Group and for my poetry. Suddenly even my Bernina sewing machine is almost a foreign country.
But one thing has struck me forcibly - and that is that I have to find my own voice. I am sure that this applies to any creative work. Reading through my poetry I am conscious that they are written in my voice. Yes, I have read RS Thomas, Edwin Morgan, Norman MacCaig - and all the other poets who's work I admire. But when all is said and done, it has to be my voice - for good or bad.
And the same thing goes for my textile work. I had developed a style and could carry out the work to my satisfaction and was ready to push forward. Now I find that voice has gone and I am having to begin again. Yes - I admire the work of Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, of Ruth Draper, of Maggie Grey - I love their books and they are a mine of inspiration. But when I sit at the machine, or when I get out threads and materials, it is my voice that has to be heard - and somehow I have to find it again. It is not going to be easy, but then what would be the point of doing it if it were easy.
So here is the naked book for you to see. Sometime soon, when my textile laryngitis has recovered, I will show it to you with the cover decorated. Has anyone out there had this kind of difficulty in any of their creative work? I suppose it is similar to writers' block. But that's another story.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Call in and have a stir!

It is "Stir Up Sunday" today - the day on which we traditionally make our Christmas Puddings - and as I am a great one for tradition, I am making my puddings today. I can't put the recipe on my blog as I am sure I would be breaking Delia's copyright - I always use the recipe from Delia Smith's Christmas book - but suffice to say it contains all the usual ingredients - suet, dried fruit, oranges, lemons, spices, barley wine, stout and rum. Already the smell has spread through the farmhouse and Christmas has begun.
Everybody who stirs the pudding and makes a wish is sure to have good luck - so pop in and give it a metaphorical stir for good luck. Tonight I shall put it into the basins and pop them in the Aga warming oven for the night. Tomorrow morning I shall remove the puds and cover them in greaseproof paper and foil and store them until Christmas.
I make them for several friends too. On Christmas morning the pudding will be put on to heat through, then the farmer will heat the whisky in a little pan, fire it and pour it over the pudding.
Yum, yum. Can't wait. Christmas cakes next!

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Little Surprise!

This morning when we got up we found a little surprise in the loose housing shed - you can see her in the photograph above - sorry about the cow-pat directly in front of her but Mum was being protective and the farmer didn't want to get any nearer. Usually the heifers leave here and go home to the farm next door two or three weeks before they are due to calve, so that they can have special rations - but this lady decided to calve a bit early. Our neighbour came round immediately with his land rover and trailer. The heifer went into the trailer and he carried the calf into straw in the back of his land rover - and off they went home.
I have a friend moving house this weekend, so I have made her a card by sewing a house shape on to a piece of card. It is not finished yet but thought you might like to see the idea.
The Western side of the country has been greatly affected by the very heavy rain. Sadly a policeman has been drowned - there is always a run of very sad stories in this sort of weather - our sympathies go to his family. It has been a showery day here today but as you will see from the photographs taken just as it was getting dark, the storm clouds seem to be gathering again. The poor people who have been flooded out of their homes must be in despair as many of them have experienced it before. Our rivers are all very full but not overflowing today. Now we shall have to see what tomorrow brings in the way of weather.
Have a lovely week-end.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Knitting and Stitching Show.

Have just returned from Harrogate - from the country's leading textile show which comes here once each year and brings with it the best textile art and the best stands to buy materials. As usual it was fantastic. Thousands (and yes, I mean thousands) of women (only saw about half a dozen very brave men) descend on Harrogate, many of them in organised bus loads.
It all went swimmingly - a bus from our nearest town, dropped us at the door and collected us there five hours later. Wonderful embroidery and textile art, marvellous stands of vibrant materials to buy. I took my camera but was too busy looking and buying to think of taking a photograph.
At lunch time my friend and I went out, crossed the road and had a lovely lunch in The Old Swan Hotel (chicken and caesar salad wraps since you ask). Any Agatha Christie fans amongst you will be interested to hear that that is the hotel to which Christie went when she disappeared off the radar for some days. There is a plaque in the foyer to tell you this.
Now I have unloaded and filed away all my goodies. My first plan now is to write all my poems (the ones I think are good enough) into a book I bought today. I shall decorate the cover before I do so - and then the book can be left to posterity (or put in Dominic's drawer). So watch out for "before" and "after" photos of the book.
TFE's Poteen Party is in full swing, over on his site. There is an opportunity to read his interview with Liz Gallagher - plus a conversation with his dog and a lot of celebrity guests, all pretty inebriated when I left.
Terrible floods over in the West - Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway - today we were lucky to miss it all - it was a warm, breezy, sunny day in Harrogate and here too - but the farmer drove up to Hawes (15 miles West of here) and there it was absolutely pouring down. I wonder how our bloggy friends in Wales and the West Country have fared. More rain is forecast for the weekend, so spare a thought for the poor people who's homes are flooded. Have a pleasant evening.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

If Music be the Food of Love...........

.......make mine a simple song.
I'd like it sung Andante,
with pauses; not too long
or I'll get tired of listening
before the singer's done.

There was a day when harmony
could be atonal, or
when crashing chords,
would thrill me to the core.
In double f, fortissimo
my senses they would soar.

But now I like a gentle tune
in simple harmony,
that ends in perfect cadences
and leaves my senses free.
Adagio Cantabile
would be my earnest plea.
If it's also pianissimo
it's the perfect song for me.

"If music be the food of love" is the topic for our writing this next month in our Writers' Group.
Very hard to know how to tackle it, to be honest. This is my first effort. More may follow.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bullheads and sticklebacks - watch out!

.....there's a heron about!
Before winter sets in there is one important job to be done in the fields (apart from the mending of walls where the summer beast have knocked them down). Our beck needs cleaning out.
Water crowfoot, water forget me not, water cress - all have grown in profusion until they have formed a thick coat to the beck - perfect cover for the bullheads, minnows and sticklebacks which live there.
But sadly these plants also inhibit the flow of water. When heavy rain is forecast there is a likelihood that the beck will overflow and begin to flood the fields - so all the farmers on its length will be looking to clean it out. Some have already started - as I walked the lane today I saw our neighbouring farmer standing in the water in his wellies, pulling at swathes of weed.
My farmer uses a digger on the front of his tractor, pulling out the weed and then going through it carefully so that he can throw back any little fish which have been caught in it. Some will inevitably die but the majority will be back in the water in no time.
There are trout too. In the early part of the twentieth century the "big house", about two miles downstream from our fields, used to breed trout for the table. The local boys in our village used to watch the big ones swim upstream and then when the trout were in the village they would put a net across the beck to stop them going back 'home'. Many a trout feast would be had from stolen fish.
Now the trout are only small but there are plenty of them.
I shall be pleased to see the beck cleaned out and running swiftly again with clear water - at the moment it is very sluggish. But it is not only me who will rejoice - the grey heron will find it much easier to find his food - and our resident kingfisher will enjoy the clear water too.
As for the fish - well, there are plenty of little bridges over the water. In our village almost every house has a bridge at its front gate and even here in the fields there are bridges for the cattle to cross - so plenty of places to hide - places which have been home to dippers through the summer months.
Heavy rain is forecast again for the next two days - so perhaps the beck has been cleaned out just in time to prevent the fields flooding. We shall see.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Biblical Kings.

An interesting rhyme in today's Times:-

King David and King Solomon
lived merry, merry lives,
with many, many concubines
and many, many wives.
But when old age crept after them,
with many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote Proverbs
and King David wrote the Psalms.

There is a new book out, published by OUP and written by Prof. Eric Cline, called "Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. Apparently in it he says that there is very little evidence that either David or Solomon existed. Fifteen years ago there was no evidence at all in either case but then, in 1994 the Tel Dan Stele was discovered - it had been reused as building material. Dating back to 842BC it tells of the defeat of Joram, King of Israel in the ninth century BC by a ruler in Damascus. The wording says that he "slew seventy kings" and it actually mentions The House of David. But of Solomon there is not a single piece of evidence outside of the Bible.
I am not a religious person but I do love the poetry, particularly that of the Authorised Version of The Bible, and particularly Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Whether or not David and Solomon existed in reality I don't think matters at all. After all, we know that the figures of Classical Greek Mythology never ever existed but it doesn't stop us enjoying the wonderfully poetic stories they tell.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A Trip through the Dales.

Today is a lovely Autumn day - rain is forecast for tomorrow - so we decided, the farmer and I, to have a trip out in the Dales, through Wensleydale, down into Wharfedale and through into Ribblesdale. Barely had we left home when it began to rain, so the journey down to the bottom of Wharfedale went largely unrecorded. But by the time we turned off to cut through into Ribblesdale, the sun had come out.
. We stopped for a walk in the tiny village of Eshton. The first thing was saw on getting out of the car was a grey heron making a wobbly landing in a tree - too far away to photograph but I can assure you he looked quite ridiculous. Sheep with their ram were grazing the velvety green fields; in the distance Eshton Hall, a fine building, shone in the sunlight. I took a closer shot - what a typically English country house scene it is. There was a pretty lodge by the gate and the river meandering past. Beech leaves are still clinging to their branches making superb patches of colour here and there.
Once through the villages of Hellifield, Long Preston and Gargrave, the weather came down again and we drove along in thick cloud. Eventually we wound our way back into Wensleydale and stopped at the Wensleydale Creamery, where genuine Wensleydale cheeses are made. We had a delicious lunch in the cafe there before driving home on the familiar road through the dale.
I stopped to take a picture in my favourite spot. The River Ure is just winding round the bend; on the left bank a stand of deciduous larches lines - and lights up - the bank; on the right bank a patch of cornus shows its winter red stems. That is my favourite view of our river. Usually there are one or two grey heron attendant on the banks today there were none.
Hope you enjoy the photographs though.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Just another Saturday.

Winter has arrived at last. The promised eighty-five mile an hour gales never materialised here in the North of England, but we did have almost an inch of rain in around three hours yesterday evening. We went to a Birthday Party and parked at the bottom of a slope - along with a lot of other people. In the car headlights it looked as though we were parking in a river bed. By the time we came out four hours later the rain had stopped but the beck was full to overflowing in places. This morning the countryside has suddenly taken on the air of a dying year.
Opposite, on the horizon, the deciduous larches of our neightbour's farm have gone from being little beacons of light yesterday to being dank, brown needles today. This morning the outdoor heifers were fetched home to a warm barn full of sweet-smelling straw, leaving the field a quagmire. The five feed troughs are gone and the nine pheasants who had taken up residence in the hedge bottom close to an easy food source are wandering desultorily around the area, pecking at blades of grass and just waiting around to see if any food materialises.
The bird table outside the kitchen window is alive with feeding birds - spotted woodpeckers, great tits, coal tits, blue tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, hedge sparrows, house sparrows, collared doves, chaffinches - and an occasional flurry of long-tailed tits. On the ground beneath the table blackbirds scratch and peck at the one or two apples I have thrown there and in the hedge-bottom a wren flits furtively - never an easy bird to spot. The perky robin sits at the top of the fir tree and sings its beak off. That cheery little fellow never lets us down - it all sounds so lovely that it is best to forget that he is singing because he is so very territorial and his song is saying - keep away, this is my patch.
The farmer is out with his shooting pals today, shooting our land and our neighbours. Being a kind man who dislikes killing anything he doesn't shoot but goes along as a beater. I can hear the gun shot in the distance and there are six or seven pheasant under the bird table, refugees from the fields, trying to keep well out of range of the guns. Last time the guns were out, a fortnight ago, they had a magnificent view of a dog fox slinking along the hedgeside on his way back to his earth.
Today the sun is struggling to get out and not having a lot of success, so it is basically a grey day. The grey days before Christmas my mother would have called it. Christmas looms ever nearer and before long the house will bear that lovely smell of dried fruit, brandy mince pies and spices as I make the cakes and puddings. But I am putting it off as long as I can.
Finally, readers of my blog, even if they didn't participate, will know of TFE's wonderful Poetry Bus, which ran for six weeks or so and inspired us all to write a Monday poem. Sadly Joan O'Flynn (AKA Drama Queen) a passenger on that bus, passed away yesterday. If you have not already done so, please go go TFE's blog (see my blog list) and read the most wonderfully inspired poem, which was probably the last poem Joan wrote - "Wait for me." Reading it and realising that the writer has gone so soon after writing it is a very humbling experience - the
poem has stayed in my mind for the last twenty four hours. If you wish to leave your condolences to her family TFE's post will tell you how to do that too. Rest in peace Joan.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Stepping on eggshells?

Why, here in the UK, do so many people see Sex Education as a problem? The Government is now going to introduce a Sex Education Programme at a younger age and there is such debate going on, as though it was all a big thing. Having sex is a natural thing for goodness sake, like eating, going to the lavatory, breathing. I would hazard a guess that children in African tribes and other "so called" Primitive peoples know the facts of life at a very early age. Why should it all be such a big deal here?

I suspect here in the UK that a lot of it is left over from the Victorian era, when they even put frills round the bottom of piano legs as they were thought a bit indecent! And it will not be helped by the innuendo that has become such a part of comedy on TV either. I really don't see why we cannot relax about the whole thing and answer questions as and when they arise.

I am sure the farmer had no need for such a thing, living as he did in close proximity to breeding animals of all kinds; and having three sisters and two brothers would help too, siblings are very good at doling out the facts of life, even if they are wrong.

There was an amusing letter in The Times earlier this week from a man who had been at Boarding School as a child. At the end of the first term they were all gathered together in the Hall to be told the arrangements for the next day, when they were to be collected by parents. They had to have their trunks packed ready, they were to meet their parents in a certain spot, while they were waiting they could do various sports and for a limited time the swimming pool would be open. Then, with little or no warning, the master launched into a lecture about The Birds and the Bees - in a very embarrassed fashion. When he had explained it he asked if there were any questions. One little chap tentatively put up his hand. "Please sir, what time did you say the swimming pool would close?"
I would love to know your views. Should it become a subject on the curriculum - and if so at what age; should it be left to parents - what is the best way to try to ensure that our children grow up knowing about the facts of life in a sensible, common-sense way? My view is that the sexual problems here in the UK - whether they be of a criminal nature or just sexual "hang ups" within relationships - have little or nothing to do with sex education and much more to do with the general way in which children are brought up and the kind of relationship they have with their parents. What do you think?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Another lovely day.. far, although black clouds on the horizon suggest it is only temporary. TFE says that he always knows when it is a nice day because I do a post about it - so here is another one for you TFE! If you read yesterday's comments you will find that he has given a foolproof way of finding the crock of gold from one of the "little people"; I am keeping my eye open for one each time I pass Toadstool Town under the scots pines.
It was a trip to Tesco morning, always a pleasure as the drive is such a lovely one and only six or seven miles. It started well as I drove out of the gate on to the lane - there in front of me was a deer. It was taking dainty steps up the centre of the lane and I drove very slowly behind it for two or three hundred yards when suddenly, over the brow of a little hill, a lady with two dogs came into view. The deer stopped. I stopped. There was a moment of indecision and then, light as air the deer turned sideways, cleared a five barred gate with ease, and trotted off down the field. What a joy, and it set the tone for the whole journey.
Once up on the top road the view across the Vale of York was like a Sisley painting - muted colours, trees in heavy mist, slight rainbow colours where the sun touched, Then a moment later the sight of a Black Grouse perched incongruously in a silver birch tree, pecking at the buds.
All that in the space of a couple of miles, and I never thought to take my camera.
It wasn't finished yet. A few hundred yards on and there was a Sparrow Hawk perched on the topmost branch of a tree, the sun catching his foliage (think it was a male as it was quite small and the female is larger) looking majestic. And within a short distance a kestrel hovering over some small, unsuspecting prey below.
Calling in on a friend after the Tesco visit, she told me I had just missed seeing a Bullfinch in her garden - that would have been an extra treat. Shortly afterwards a jay landed under some oak trees outside her house, looking for acorns no doubt.
Sorry I haven't got a single photograph of any of these events, but I can assure you that they are imprinted on my mind - to see so much in such a short journey. Tess and I have just been down the lane for our walk and the only thing we spotted were the nine pheasants who seem to spend all day round the feed trough for the heifers. When they hear us coming they scuttle off into the hedge bottom - wait quietly behind a bush and within a couple of minutes they are back.
As I predicted, in the time it has taken me to type this post the sky has clouded in and rain is falling - fine, gentle rain at present but enough to go outside and fetch in the washing from the clothes line. Have a nice day- must rush........

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lovely day - not many of them this time of year.

Yet another beautiful day here in Wensleydale - low sun, long shadows, no wind, quite warm.

Tess and I had a lovely walk through the fields - not so good coming back though as I have an eyesight difficulty which means I really can't see when facing into the sun - which meant that I trod in an enormous cowpat! Have left my shoes out to dry in the sun and am hoping that the farmer will take pity on me and clean them for me.

Our field barns, which were a very important part of farm life a century ago - particularly in Winter, when they housed milking cows - are quickly falling into disrepair. The barn in the photograph may look very picturesque with an ash sapling growing through the rafters but really it spells the beginning of the end for two or three of our barns in this same state.

Outside the kitchen window, under the Scots Pines a veritable town of fungi has sprung up over night. If these little clumps are really inhabited by "the little people" then what a lot of activity there must be on our lawn after night has fallen.

A fortnight ago I gave a dinner party and the people coming bought me a lovely bouquet of flowers, most of which are still as good as they were on the day. One of them is this exquisite little ornamental cabbage. Don't you think it is lovely?

I am very busy today as our writers' group are producing a booklet and a group of us are proof reading it today. The worst thing of all is the great mountain of paper which we have to keep sorting through. There is surely an easier way to do it, but if there is then we haven't discovered it. So I must get back to wading through it all (good job I am not having to wade through it in my shoes!)

Addition to yesterday's post.

read today in the Times that our Prime Minister can only see what he is writing if he writes in thick felt tip, as his sight is so bad. I never for one moment doubt his sincerity in writing (I think all grieving parents get a personal letter from him) - after all, he has lost a child himself so does know about losing a loved one at first hand. Maybe his staff should set up some sort of checking system - or maybe the letter should be typed and just signed by him. I don't know the answer but on reading about how bad his sight is I do feel there were some mitigating circumstances.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

When one door closes............

There is an old saying here that when one door closes, another opens, Well, today I met a friend for lunch on the other side of the Pennines. The journey was through spectacular countryside - very wild and high, with little habitation. I put my camera in the car, expecting to take a series of photographs on the journey. The road goes through the famous Three Peaks district, so I looked for Whernside and Ingleborough to photograph. Where had they gone? They were totally in cloud - right down to the valley floor. Visibility was very poor all the way until I dropped down into the Trough of Bowland, where the sun was trying its best to get out.
So - sorry, but there are no photographs today.
However, on the way there I was thinking of what I could post today if all else failed - and of course I came up with another topic which is in the news here at the moment, and it is a topic close to my heart as an ex-English teacher. It is "that letter." I don't suppose there is anyone in the UK who has not heard of it, but for readers elsewhere the letter I am talking about is the one which our Prime Minister sent to a grieving parent after her son was tragically killed in Afghanistan.
I am sure the Prime Minister was sincere in offering his condolences, and a personal letter is surely the best way, short of actually calling personally. But am I old fashioned (many would say I am) in that I still think First Impressions matter greatly.
The Prime Minister does not have good hand-writing. He is not the only one - handwriting has not been taught in our schools for donkey's years and as a nation we have no accepted script. (For US readers, I can usually pick out people who come from the US because you have been taught "proper" script - and it shows). So I excuse Gordon Brown his poor handwriting. What I cannot excuse is the rest of the sorry saga. The poor, grieving mother has said that he spelt her son's name wrong and also that the letter was written with a felt tipped pen (and not even a fine tip).
First of all the spelling. As a teacher I would say to a pupil - if your handwriting is bad then it is even more important to make sure you lay the letter out correctly. The receiver of your letter gets his or her first impression of you from what lies on the page - so be aware of that. Even using a ballpoint is suspect in my book - if you take the trouble to write a letter to someone, take the trouble to use pen and ink. And if you don't know what pen and ink is then buy a really fine fibre-tip which uses proper ink.
Set your letter out beautifully on the page - line each single line up so that it is neat and precise - use paragraphs to separate - and check spelling. If your spelling is suspect (and let us face it none of us have perfect spelling) then ask someone (surely the PM has numerous 'secretaries')
to check it for you.
Am I being too pedantic? Is it too much to ask? All I can say is that if I get a letter (and let's face it letters of any kind are few and far between these days) and it is on scruffy note paper, or badly written, or badly spelled - then I am put off the writer immediately (unless he or she is under the age of about seven).
When our government purports to be so dedicated to improving education, what kind of message does this send out? And that it was sent to a grieving mother makes it all the worse.
What do you think?

Monday, 9 November 2009

What do you do?

Today is one of those September in November days. The sky is a deep blue and, after an early white frost, the sun is shining and the air is still. Although there is a bite to the day, in the sunshine it is quite warm. Tess and I soak up the sunshine on our lunchtime walk. Well, I soak up the sunshine more than she, as I spend a lot of time waiting for a tail sticking out of the hedgerow. Later on, as the sun is beginning to go down, we walk again with a friend and this time Tess "goes to earth" and we walk home without her. A quarter of an hour later she turns up having been rabbitting in the pasture - wet, muddy and pretty tired. This will not do, we tell her - she will have to go on the lead for a day or two to learn her lesson.
I have been re-reading Ronald Blythe's River Diary - a wonderful book to just dib into at odd moments. Reading one of the October entries he brings up a subject which sets me thinking. He remarks how often at parties or gatherings where there are people we don't know, someone will chat to you and say "And what do you do?" Blythe says how crudely people's lives are simplified by their being pigeonholed like this. We are all the sum of many parts, not just by the job we do - or did.
Up here in the country, I find that people are not particularly impressed by whatever job you might have done. They are much more interested in what kind of a person you are now. When I first moved up here in 1987, upon retirement from teaching, I don't think anyone ever asked what job I had done, and I certainly didn't tell anyone. This was my retirement - my teaching career was in the past - and I wanted to explore new avenues. Someone (a local) paid me a very backhanded compliment when they remarked that they knew we would settle well up here. When we asked how they knew - the astonishing answer was "well you don't wear posh clothes and you don't have posh furniture - people who come with those rarely stay long!"
I don't quite know what I would reply if anyone asked me that question today. Maybe I would say "farmer's wife", or "dog owner", but what I would really like to say would be something along the lines of "I don't DO anything, I just AM".
Lovely sunset here, golden sky, no breeze, Tess home and safe, the farmer just off for his walk round the fields - what more could anyone wish for. Have a nice evening.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

In a Dark Time.........

When reading Loren's post the other day (In a Dark Time.....the eye begins to see - see my blog list - he takes the most wonderful bird photos) it struck me what a brilliant quotation that is. Taken at face value it is true - the longer you walk in the dark the more you can see as your eyes adjust to the change.
Here we are quite a long way from artificial outdoor light (except for the neighbouring haulage yard which has security lights). But we have only to walk down the fields on a really starry night to get the full effect and to marvel at the wonderful display. People who live in towns never see this wonder. Where I grew up, in the Lincolnshire Fens, the skies were huge as the land was so flat (I am sure Reader Wil in The Netherlands has the same experiences now) and the stars, in those days of few artificial lights, were spectacular. What a lot people miss. I can only imagine the effect from the centre of the Sahara Desert.
We often walk in the dark. In the days when we had a dairy herd the farmer and I would walk down the fields in the early hours to check on a calving cow. He would take a lamp but rarely put it on until we had to start searching for the cow (finding a black and white cow in the dark is not so easy - thank goodness for the white patches!). It is surprising how quickly one's eyes would adjust to the dark. And on a moonlight night one soon sees almost as well as during the day.
There is something about the dark that gives a whole different meaning to the landscape.
But, of course, in the wider sense the quotation has even more meaning. I hear this morning that my friends grandson is well on the way to recovery - physically. Mentally only time will tell. One thing is for sure though, he will never see things in quite the same way again. For it is often the "dark" times that shape our future, that make us see things in a different way. For some this is a positive experience but for others, sadly, it can become negative. But, as the quotation says, it is only that contrast between dark and light, both physically and metaphorically, that really makes us see things in perspective.
The quotation is from the work of the American poet, Theodore Roethke, who died at the tragically young age of 55. Good that these words have survived him and taken on such meaning.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Dark Days.

It is half past two in the afternoon and already the light is beginning to go. As Tess and I set out for our afternoon walk down the lane, the sky is heavy with unspilt rain, black clouds hanging low. There is an overall atmosphere of damp and desolation. The trees are bare, their leaves lying dead on the edges of the lane. There is a smell - not unpleasant - of rotting vegetation. As we approach our neighbour's cottage, a hundred yards down the lane, I smell, long before we get there, that they have lit the log fire. The sweet smell of burning wood pours from the chimney and billows down into the lane in the low pressure, and as I pass I catch a glimpse of a roaring log fire.
The hedgerows are mostly bare branches now except for the blackthorn, where the yellow leaves hang limply, waiting for the first real frost. Some of the ash saplings on the lane side are also hanging on to their leaves - you can see them in the photograph.
The birds are largely silent except for a gaggle of quarelling sparrows in a blackthorn bush and a sentinel robin singing his heart out in the tree top.
But Tess can smell pheasant! Luckily for me, she is on the long leash so she cannot disappear into the undergrowth, but she stands on her back legs and looks into the hedge bottom, pushing into the dense foliage wherever she can and setting up disturbed pheasant. In the field where the beef heifers are still out, there are nine pheasants perched on the edges of the food troughs cleaning up the crumbs that the cattle have left.
The sheep in the field with the ram are all grazing contentedly, many of them already showing the tell-tale red rumps which signify that they have been serviced by the ram and are - hopefully - in lamb for the Spring. I love how the farming year is constantly looking forward to the next season.
The farmer is just finishing off cleaning out the midden. Yesterday morning he cleaned out the loose housing, just in time, as after lunch seventeen in calf Holstein heifers came in for the winter. They look happy to be in and as you can see in the photograph are happily ensconced in the deep, clean straw. The cats are not so pleased though, as this was their prime mousing site.
The farmer is tipping the contents of the midden into the field, as the land is too wet to spread it. You can see from the photograph that deep ruts show his passage into the field. They will have to be harrowed out early in the year.
This weekend is Remembrance weekend here in the UK, when we remember those who were killed or badly injured in all the wars since the 1914-18 war. We have had two timely reminders this week - one in Afghanistan, where soldiers were killed by a colleague as they relaxed and another in the US where a similar situation occurred. War is a terrible thing - it kills the innocent far more often that it kills the guilty and because, in this instance, it is so far away, it is easier to push it all to the back of our minds. A dear friend has had a grandson wounded in
Afghanistan this week. He is now safely back in UK and she says "in good spirits", but others in the incident were not so lucky. So tomorrow, Remembrance Sunday, is a good time to pause and think about our boys who are fighting - and the civilian population who are trying to get on with their everyday lives, many of them, I am sure, just want it all to be over. There are no winners in any war - everyone loses.
In the garden the roses keep on flowering. Almost every bush is full of buds - the last rose of summer is a long time blooming this year. The first real frost will no doubt finish them off.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bad feet.

Start looking at the sheep as you pass a field full and I will guarantee you will quickly notice that some of them are lame. Some will be running normally, others will be running and limping, some will be running on three legs and the really bad ones will be limping behind. The truth is that sheep have immense problems with bad feet (as do c0ws too). Sometimes it is a kind of digital dermatitis; sometimes foot rot; sometimes a stone caught between their two hooves, lodged there and the wound going septic. The problem is always worse this time of the year when the weather is very damp - and this year it has also been very warm, which has compounded the problem. So today the owner of the Swaledales we are over-wintering, sent two men down to treat the flock. That involves inspecting each foot, trimming the hoof, swabbing any sore places and spraying with antibiotic spray. They do not like it - obviously their feet hurt and we cannot explain why we are doing it. So the poor dumb creatures have to endure the whole procedure. But I am sure they feel better for it afterwards when they are back in the field.
Sorry about the awful photograph of a septic foot, but rarely do we get the opportunity to see how bad the feet can get, so I passed the camera over to the farmer, for a close-up.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I suppose it is inevitable that sunset has become a bit of a cliche for dying, for the end of life, for the "twilight years." I don't think any poet now could use sunset as a metaphor for the end of life - because it has been done so often.

I love Robert Browning's use of "the sunset touch":-
Just when we're safest, there's a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower bell, some one's death
A chorus ending from Euripedes, -
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as Nature's self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul.

Lord Byron (I think from Childe Harold) has a nice little mention too:-
The moon is up - and yet it is not night -
Sunset divides the sky with her - a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli's mountain.
(My father quoted this regularly at sunset if anyone was listening!)

And, of course, there is the old Tennyrson quote
Sunset and evening star
and one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar
when I put out to sea.

Oh dear - all a bit sad and pessimistic aren't they? Well,, I have to tell you that I don't view sunset like that. Our kitchen window faces due West, so at this time of the year we usually eat our tea to the accompaniment of a glorious sunset if one is available. I thought you might like to see these five different sunset photographs - all taken from our kitchen window - to say that each one fills the sky with beauty is an understatement. Enjoy them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What makes a good book?

Today was our writers' group meeting. The subject was "What makes a good book?" What an odd subject some of us thought (well, OK I thought) but we had a really interesting morning. Only a few had chosen to write but each one was different and we had a really good discussion.

Here is my piece:-

The trouble with adjectives is that their meaning is so subjective. "Being a good girl" when you are a child really means conforming (and all the best brains tried not to conform). Every mother has a beautiful baby in her eyes, whereas you might look into the pram and think - what an odd looking little thing. So there is going to be trouble with this word "good." So let's re-write the question and ask "What makes a good book - for me?"

Now the really important word in the question is "me". Is there anyone reading this who has not had the following experience? A friend, relative, colleague, acquaintance, radio programme, someone standing next to you in the library queue holds up a book and says "this book is really, really good - I so enjoyed it." You take the book home looking forward to curling up in your favourite armchair by the log fire, with your chosen tipple in a glass by your side, a box of choccies to hand - you open the book and by the time you get to page 2 you are beginning to have your doubts. By the time you get to page 6 your dream evening has gone "pouf". You need that tipple to drown your disappointment.

So let's be perfectly clear - this is what makes a good book for ME. Don't take any of the following to heart - you are not me (Thank God for that do I hear you say?), your taste will not be my taste - and what a good job that is so, otherwise there would be huge library queues for some books while others would moulder on the shelves.

I am not a lover of too much dialogue. Everyone raved about the Harry Potter books, so I tried to read one. After ten pages of solid dialogue I knew these books were not for me. I like descriptive writing - about nature, about travel, about scenery, about people (as long as they don't do a lot of talking).

Of course I have read the classics, Shakespeare, Trollope, Dickens, Jane Austen - some of them I loved and they are on my list of good books; others I found hard going and have no desire to read again. That they are great works of literature cannot be denied, but that does not make me want to curl up in their company.

So let me list a few books which I call really good books - for me. I have read E M Forster's A Passage to India many times and never tire of it. The great Russian writers - Turgenev, Tolstoy, Pasternak - I love them. Of present day writers I would say that Sebastian Faulks's

Birdsong is, for me, one of the best books of the twentieth century. On the other hand, if I am tired or unwell and need something which does not tax me too much, I am happy to settle for Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables - all tried and trusted favourites.

What do these books have in common? Each of them tells a story with a beginning, a middle and an end (not necessarily in that order), and each is memorable enough for me to be able to recall it sometimes years after I first read it.

Some writers are able to do that for me, some aren't. Anita Brookner always stuns me with her well-written style; Hilary Mantel makes me come back for more; Salley Vickers "Miss Garnett's Angel" sits in my head like a much loved recurring dream.

I have just finished reading Adam Thorpe's "The Rules of Perspective" (Thorpe was recommended by Dave (pics and poems) so thanks Dave- there is one recommendation which was a success). Not an easy read, a harrowing subject (the fall of a German city at the end of the Second World War) - I read it one evening and when I got to bed I couldn't stop thinking about it and wanted to get up to continue reading it - now there is a really gripping book.

Now I am reading Katherine Swift's "The Morville House" about the making of a Shropshire garden. Fascinating stuff. This is a really good book. What makes it good - well I suppose it is good because I think it is so. Would you like to borrow it? Pour out a glass of your favourite tipple and curl up by a log fire with it. Don't overdo the chocolate. You will not be disappointed.

Or will you?

Sorry about the quality of the photograph - it is a pouring wet day here and I can't find anywhere to take the photograph where the flash doesn't spoil it. But you get the idea.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Nature .....ever the opportunist.

I suppose that the reason the countryside is as rich as it is is due in part to the opportunistic side of nature. If there is a piece of open ground then rapidly plants will begin to colonise it. Poppies and other "shaken dispersal" plants shake their seed heads violently so that seeds fly in all directions - only some will take root but the ones that do you can bet your bottom dollar are the ones that land in the most advantageous places for development. Similarly, little plants like violets will seed in a crack in the paving - just the right place to keep their feet cool.
The same applies to birds - a farmer ploughing a field will notice that the sky goes from empty to full of gulls at a rate of knots - where they come from it is hard to say, but ever the opportunist - the seagull will sense there is food around. And how long does a dead rabbit lie on the roadway before a crow or two are pecking at it?
Earlier in the year in a gale, our ancient plum tree broke across its middle and half of it fell down.
The wood has already been sawn up for the stove - plum wood is lovely to burn. (I suppose you could say that was the farmer being opportunistic). This morning the farmer called me to come and look what had happened to the spot where the branch had broken away. Lo and behold - fungi had already grown in it - not just one but a veritable little town of fungi roofs. And do you see - on top of the fungi an overhanging holly bush (laden with berries this year) has dropped a berry right in the middle. It will be interesting to see if it takes root. Watch this space.

Monday, 2 November 2009

All the glisters....

Although the Poetry Bus has well and truly crashed into a ditch while that zany Einstein was driving, I cannot get out of the habit of Monday being Poetry Day. So here is my poem for Monday:-

All that glisters....

Catching the sun,
an apple hung
on a laden tree in a
leafy bower.

Its fiery hues
led me to choose
this perfect fruit.

I took a bite.
But it was sour!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A Birthday Outing.

Glorious sunshine, lovely company, chauffeur-driven, incredible scenery - what more could anyone wish for on their birthday?

My friend took me out for the day and we went into Nidderdale. It is maybe a lesser-known Dale towards the Southern edge of the Dales, and is called after its river - the Nidd. There is a river called Nidd in Norway - I think flowing through Trondheim - so I presume it to be a Viking word. It is a picturesque river and where it flows through its Dale it is quite small as you will see from the photograph - but it eventually flows into Knaresborough, where it takes on a much more mature face.
We left home at ten o'clock and drove a short way towards Ripon before branching off into the high country. Up there on the tops it is wild and empty, populated only by Swaledale sheep. The heather has finished flowering and has gone brown so we drove through miles of this open moorland before Nidderdale opened up in front of us - a pretty dale, peppered with tiny grey stone villages looking so neat and tidy in the Autumn sunlight. Everywhere we looked there were patches of deciduous larches standing tall and golden in the sun and beech trees in their weekend of glory lighting the landscape like Hallowe'en lanterns.
There was a lot of cloud overhead but round the edges was blue sky, so we decided that it wasn't going to rain - and we were right. After going through several small villages my driver suddenly turned off over the River Nidd and into a tiny hamlet where there was the most beautiful Country House Hotel. The hamlet was Wath and the hotel The Sportsman. Here, in a cosy, well-upholstered, warm, pretty lounge we had a tray with a cafatiere of coffee and a plate of biscuits, served by a charming and welcoming young lady - very civilised. As we came out we gave my friends dogs a Utility Walk (as she chooses to call it) and I took photographs of the river from the pretty little bridge.
Then it was on into Pateley Bridge - Nidderdale's market town. We didn't stop here but I took a photo from the moving vehicle so that you could see what it looks like.
And then it was off again over Grassington Moor, another high moorland place, although this one has a main road running through it, so there is more traffic. We stopped at the Old Hall Hotel for lunch. We had (to quote the menu) Award-winning sausages on a bed of mash, with onion gravy. I hope your mouths are watering - it was delicious. Here we met a lovely rescue dog, reputedly Border Collie cross Labrador, with such a shiny black coat, white feet and a tiny white tip on his extra-long tail.
Then we were off again (Heather, Marmalade Rose and all other embroiders can feel jealous here) to Embsay Mills near Skipton - an embroiderers Mecca. We had a lovely mooch, were sorely tempted - in fact I spent the Birthday money my friend had just given me on a lovely box
of materials (see photograph in order to feel intense envy those mentioned above!)
A cup of coffee in the cafe and then it was home again by a different but equally pretty route, through villages with lovely sounding names - Kirby Malzeard, Grewelthorpe, Masham - ending up back at home just as the farmer was about to light the pumpkin.
Lovely birthday - thank you dear G.