Monday, 30 December 2013


There is a fear - largely irrational in my view - that we are about to be inundated with Roma beggars after January 1st.   I see today in the Times that Romania's Prime Minister has said that we should be far more concerned about bankers taking our millions than about beggars asking for pence on street corners. Certainly a comment worthy of thinking about.

Where we live it is rare to see anyone begging in the street.  I am sure this is not the case in the big cities.   There may well be homeless people up here - I am ashamed to say that I don't know whether there are or not.   There was one lady a few years ago who chose to live in her car but that situation seems to have sorted itself out.

But all this made me think back to my own childhood.   I don't remember beggars round our village, but tramps were an everyday occurence and my mother always welcomed them with open arms.

She had the ability to make a meal out of nothing; we always had plenty of veg in the garden and as she regularly prepared game and fowls for the butcher she often had a plentiful supply of meat (which she loved).  Tramps knew they would be welcome.

We had a stone wash house attached to our house, where my mother did indeed do the washing.   There was a brick copper which was lit every Monday morning and there was a black range which she kept clean and ready to light.

There was an old scrubbed-top table, which she always kept clear, and it was here that she sat any tramp who happened to call at the back door.   If it was cold weather she would light the range to warm things up and she would tell him to make himself comfortable in front of the range and wait for his dinner.

Any old clothes of my father's or my brother's would be passed on to the tramp.   He would warm himself up,  eat his dinner (which would always be substantial - she was a great maker of suet dumplings in the winter months) and then he would be on his way.

As far as I remember there was only ever one woman and she was called Pyewipe Liz (Pyewipe is a hamlet on the side of the Foss Dyke between Lincoln and Newark).   She used to come round regularly with her small daughter in tow and I rather think she lived in an old caravan.

These tramps seem to have largely disappeared these days.   Could be that they are now what we term 'the homeless' and that they gather in the towns and cities or it could be that they end up in Old Peoples'  Homes, although as I remember it they were not all old by any means - rather inadequate at coping with life.

It used to be said that tramps would leave a mark on the gate post of any house where they were welcome but I never remember any mark - but however they knew, word got around that tramps were always welcome at our house.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Glutton for Punishment.

Well, I really think I must be, considering the amount of entertaining I have done over Christmas.   On Boxing Day I had a Lunch Party and a Buffet in the evening, for eight and seven respectively.   Now this evening I am having my grandchildren, along with their Dad and Step Mum for a meal and then I am giving a New Year's Eve Party.

Tonight's meal presents something of a challenge as there will be one vegan, one vegetarian, one piscatorian and two 'normal' eaters.
Jacket potatoes will feature heavily.

The weather today is beautiful - tomorrow is set to be awful - we seem to be alternating days of sunshine and storm.   Just in case you think this is a modern phenomenon, it is 134 years today since the Tay Bridge disaster, when the bridge collapsed taking a passenger train with it,at the height of a terrible storm.

Reading the report of the day which was published in yesterday's Times, it struck me how reporting has changed - and indeed how rescue operations have changed.   The article implies that they are not sure that the train has gone, but they know it went on to one side of the bridge and they know it didn't come off the other.   They 'fear' the train is at the bottom of the water but the only 'proof' they have is that two mail bags have been washed up on the shore.   How things have changed.

It set me thinking and talking with the farmer over our lunch time coffee about how many things have changed in my lifetime (and it is a jolly long one believe me).  Here is the list of the things I came up with:

Breach of promise is no longer a crime.
Homosexuality is no longer a crime.
You can no longer go to prison for debt.
The whip has been abolished as a form of punishment.
There is no longer a death penalty for murder.
Divorce laws have been eased and divorce is no longer seen as shameful.
 -We talk openly - and criticise openly - anybody.   I remember the career of a comedian (I think it might have been Max Miller) being seriously harmed because he mentioned Mrs Simpson on stage at the time of the Edward VIII scandal.
Illegitimacy is a word which has largely disappeared from our language.  I think more children are born out of wedlock than in these days.

These are just the things I thought of in a spare five minutes - I am sure you can think of many more.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas and memories

Christmas is always a time for memories isn't it?   Family happy times, episodes from one's childhood, red letter days - they all seem to come into one's mind when carving the turkey or dishing up the Christmas pudding - or reminiscing amongst family members round the wood burner.

This photograph stands with family photographs on the piano and it really sums up well the relationship I had with my siblings.   My sister, Vera, was twenty-two years older than me and my brother, Jack, was eleven years older than me.  So our parents spaced us out well.  This photograph was taken on the occasion of Vera's 75th birthday, when (as a total surprise) the whole family gathered for her birthday at the home of her daughter.  (she was totally overcome and made her daughter promise never to do such a thing again.)

My brother was to die suddenly in 1987 with a Coronary thrombosis, my sister lived on well into her nineties.   But this photo, taken in 1985, show us all having a good laugh about something.   And of such small incidents are memories made - and come to the fore at Christmas.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Only remnants remain.

Remnants of turkey and the last few slices of ham remain on the meat dish.   In the bowl a small amount of cranberry sauce languishes.   A few sad vegetables have been heated in the microwave today and eaten for lunch along with the remains of yesterday's trifle.   The Christmas cards begin to wobble, the decorations begin to suggest tawdriness and I am rather tired of twinkling fairy lights.   Yes, you've guessed it, Christmas is over for another year.
Of course it all has to remain for New Year's Eve - then it can all come down and be packed away for another year.   Bits can be vacuumed up and by the second day of January we will be back to normal (whatever normal is).
But yes, as usual we have enjoyed it all - feasting, laughing with friends - what could be better?
Sorry I haven't blogged but I have been too busy.   And thank you to friend W, who was so worried that I hadn't blogged that she rang in the middle of the festivities to see if I was ill.   Commiserations to her also as she has now gone down with the most awful feverish cold.   She sounds dreadful on the telephone - and, if you are reading this W, we missed her terribly this morning at our Friday coffee get together.  She must get better for New Year's Eve because she is coming to sample my salmon and leek pie at my New Year's Eve party.
Coming out of the Coffee House this morning the gale, which is blowing directly down the Market Square, caught me unawares and blew me about twenty yards down the road - very scary.   In order to cross the road and get back to the car I had to cling on for dear life.   Maybe I am getting old after all - and that after saying over coffee that from today I am reversing the figures in my age and dressing and acting accordingly.   So folks, from today I am 18 again and am looking for something classy, short and sexy to wear -
I suspect it is an impossibility.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Only four days to go...

...and I have not even got the decorations out of the boxroom yet.   My cleaner comes on Monday mornings so I am waiting until she has gone and then the farmer and I will hit it hard.  We have cut a branch in the hopes that we can emulate Cro's lovely branch tree for our utility room.   Time will tell.

Most Christmas jobs are done however.   The food cupboard is full and the freezer is full.   The fridge is bursting with food and all the menus are written.   It is just the last minute vegetables to get on Christmas eve and we are away.

I do love Christmas cards.   For anyone who has decided not to send them any more (and I do appreciate that they are both expensive to buy and to post) I do urge you to think carefully.   When you have moved around the country a lot, as I have, it is the one time in the year when we swap up to date news and greetings.  Finding a pile of cards on the mat when the postman has been gives me pleasure every morning.

The farmer is shooting today and friend W and I have been into town, done a little shopping and spent an hour putting the world to rights in the coffee shop.   Now the wood burner is lit and I am making myself a coffee and settling down to read one of the Grantchester mystery short stories over it.   Not, in my opinion, brilliant writing, but readable all the same.

Did you see in today's obituaries that Paul Torbay, author of 'Salmon fishing in the Yemen' has died?  Now that is a great loss to present day literature. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Call me old fashioned.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but there is an advert on BB C1 here in the UK at the moment, which appalls me and fills me with despair about the future.

As a retired teacher who concentrated on reading skills and extending vocabulary and widening interest, I sit and look at this advert, which seems to be on three or four times every night at the moment.   It is for BBC I Player and shows a railway carriage full of people of all ages travelling along through the countryside.   On one side of the carriage are people looking bored, dozing, looking miserable, generally fed up.   On the other side are folk who have tablets or whatever they are called on which they can get BBC I Player, so that they can watch their favourite programmes as they ride along,   Of course they are all looking happy and enjoying the journey.

Has no-one ever told them about looking out of the window and watching the scenery go past?   Watching the villages, the towns, the folk working in the fields, the animals, churches - the list is endless.

When our son was small we would play games on long journeys.   One that I remember was spotting a red London bus when we went to London, or spotting the Cathedral when we went to Lincoln (it is on a hill in the middle of flat country and can be seen from miles around). We used to say "Last one to spot the Cathedral is a monkey's uncle!"

Are we going to become a nation of people where no-one raises their head from a screen of some kind, where no-one is at all interested in what goes on around them?   There are so many fun things to do on journeys both in this country and abroad.

Travelling in China a few years ago, of all the images I retain probably the most vivid is of women in a remote village in the middle of nowhere standing round some kind of grinding stone while a donkey walked round and round grinding the corn.   In this country on train journeys I used to look for the churches - had they spires or towers, about how old were they, were they in the middle of the village or were they on the outskirts, perhaps as part of an estate?

Please let's all resist this with all our might.  For the sake of our children and grandchild we must keep them interested in the real world out there, the world they can actually see, not the one which is portrayed in a television programme.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Busy days

Lots of Christmas jobs done this morning.   Three cakes marzipanned ready to ice over the week-end, Christmas menus written out and final shopping list (quite short) written out.  Now I am about to get ready to go to our Poetry afternoon.   The weather was beautifully sunny but I see from the landing window that it is now raining quite heavily, so obviously a mixture of sunshine and showers.

I found a rather nice piece of Christmas poetry to read, although as usual with poetry I really think the poet (Sir Walter Scott in Marmion) saw the scene through rose-tinted specs.   It begins
"Heap on more wood! - the wind is chill"and ends "A Christmas gambol oft would cheer a poor man's heart through half the year."
I doubt it in those days - but the Christmas spirit is lovely.

Thinking of Mandella's death this week I am also reading his favourite poem which is Invictus by W E Henley.   A very inspiring read.   Depending how many there are there (anything between six and eleven) I also have Thackeray's The Ballad of Bouillabaisse and Vernon Scannell's Uncle Edward's Affliction.

It is always one of my favourite afternoons in the month - lovely company and always poetry I have never come across before.

Sun is now blazing away in my eyes again.   Have a nice day.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bringing home the tree.

Our new field has a copse of Christmas trees and today my son and his wife (made out of words on my side bar) called.   The farmer was able to cut them a tree and my son carried it home across the fields - what a Christmassy feeling that engendered.   I like to think that tonight it will be up in their living room and they will be decorating it.   A week tomorrow will be Christmas Day so deck the halls with boughs of holly and Christmas trees.   Incidentally, on the subject of holly, the birds have stripped the berries off in the last week and there is not a berry to be seen.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Still no more to eat.

I have no will power where good food is concerned.  The Christmas carvery yesterday was first class.   Huge turkey, huge joint of beef, various sauces, Yorkshire puddings, stuffings, potatoes (mashed and roast), swede (mashed) parsnips (chipped and delicious), sprouts, red cabbage, carrots, filled the counter from end to end - all piping hot and cooked to perfection.   I had some of everything apart from the Yorkshire pudding which I thought was the last straw.  (the farmer even added that to his plate).   There were eighty five eating there (fully booked) and I would hazard a guess that if you had removed everyone from the farming community there would have been no-one left.   There were some large tummies and some very healthy appetites.

All three of us really enjoyed our meal.   The farmer and I chose Christmas pudding for dessert, friend W had a lovely meringue.   She took a photograph of the dessert table for you to see - plenty of
 calories there I am sure you will agree.

Sufficient to say that it is now a quarter to eleven on a Monday morning, my cleaner has just gone and I have had nothing to eat yet apart from one round of toast for breakfast.

Everyone in the restaurant worked jolly hard and I would guess they were there incredibly early in order to have everything ready.   The restaurant is itself run by the farmers who send their sheep down off the tops to spend the Winter on our farm.

I did intend to take a photograph of my full plate but forgot until it was an empty plate!

I hope those of you who popped over to view Cro's 'tree' were inspired to do something similar.   I see that Cro in his comments on my blog yesterday, says that he has added various bits of holly and ivy to the original branch.   I hope he puts an updated photograph on his blog today.

For me there is something magical about the build-up to Christmas Day - a build-up which for me comes to a head with the Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve on BBC 1 - I never miss it and it always means the start of Christmas proper for me.   In the meantime there are lists to make and tick off so that I know haven't forgotten anything vital.   Are you a list-maker?   Or do you just trust to luck that everything will be alright on the day? 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A New Day

Yesterday's 'easy' day turned out to be quite busy, but enjoyable.   One thing I did do was walk in the fields with the farmer and Tess after lunch, looking for a suitable branch to hang in the back utility room (the entrance everyone uses when visiting us).   If you haven't seen the lovely decorated branch which Cro has put up for Christmas then do go to his blog (Magnon's meanderings on my sidebar) and look at it.  He has given me an idea for something similar so we went off on a search.   We found a lovely hazel branch with catkins already forming.   Later this week the farmer will cut it and I thought I would spray the catkins and then decorate the branch in a similar manner to Cro's - so thank-you for the idea Cro.

WE came back but naughty Tess decided that the numerous rabbits were just too tempting and when we got back to the yard there was absolutely no sign of her.   I came into the house to make a cup of tea while the farmer went back to search - there she was, nonchalantly coming up the field as though tomorrow would do.

Our Christmas trees are flourishing - my son is having one and will come to cut it shortly.   But we have decided against having a 'real' one  - the thought of pine needles everywhere is too much to bear.  I am rather ashamed to say it though, as the smell of pine is so beautiful at Christmas.

Today the farmer is taking friend W and me out for a Christmas lunch in Hawes at the cafe belonging to the farmers whose sheep we over-Winter.   It will be a gigantic meal of their own produce - I shall over-eat and all we shall feel like doing is sleeping it off all evening - must watch the results of Strictly though - who will come off this week and which four will be in the Final next week?   I wonder.

If there is an opportunity to take photographs at the Christmas lunch I will do so and post them later in the day.   In the meantime, have a nice day - it's a lovely one here.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

An empty day.

Today there is absolutely nothing that I have to do - I am totally free.   It is a good feeling and I shall revel in it.

Maybe I shall give my fridge a good clean out and wash, so that it is ready to accept Christmas food - but then again I might leave it for another day.

One thing I shall do is to concoct something tasty for lunch from whatever I happen to have in there.   It seems to consist of two chicken breasts, an unopened pack of button mushrooms, some new potatoes and some cheese.  (Tomorrow the farmer is taking friend W and me out for Christmas lunch), so I shall go and dice the chicken, chop the onions and mushrooms, par boil the potatoes and make some cheese sauce.   Then I shall assemble it all, put the sliced potatoes on the top, grate over some parmesan and pop it in the oven.  I hope it will turn out to be a tasty treat - time will tell.

Strong winds and storms are forecast for this area again - but at present it is the calm before the storm with warm temperatures (ten degrees), a slight breeze and sunshine.  When the sun is low in the sky, as it is now, our house gets beautifully warm (we face due South).   Tess is well aware of where the sun hits and follows it around - at present on to the stairs where she slumps rather than sits, eyes closed, lapping up every sunbeam.

The farmer is away clearing up briars he has cut off the hedges and branches which have fallen off the trees during the last storm.   The briars will form the basis of the last bonfire before Christmas and the branches will be sawn up for the log burner.   Country life is good.

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Journey

Christmas looms and our little market town has gone mad today (market day).   All the fruit and vegetable stalls, the fish stalls, the butchers - had great long queues and people were rushing hither and thither as though tomorrow was the big day.   The local band was playing carols in the square.   The supermarket was so busy that there were no trolleys to be had and even if there had been there wasn't room to push them between the people in the aisles.
What is it with folk that they seem to have this need to stock up on so much food?   After all, the shops are really only closed on Christmas Day - most of them open again on Boxing Day morning, at least for part of the day.

I came home from town and the farmer and I, with Tess, went the thirty miles to Sedbergh to meet our God-daughter for lunch and to exchange Christmas presents.  Well, it should have been thirty miles but two thirds of the way there (it was pouring with rain by this time and the cloud was down low on the hills) the road was closed and we had to make a twenty mile detour, which made us late.   Coming back we made the same detour, only to find that when we reached the turn off the road had been opened in our absence!

Still, one more job to tick off my list.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Super rich

There is a lot in the papers at present about the super rich because of the Saatchi/Nigella court case.   Having read it all in The Times, I have decided that I have absolutely no desire at all to be in the super rich bracket.   It would seem to me that as long as we have enough for our needs (rather than our wants), are healthy, well fed, warm for the winter - what more is necessary.   The whole thing about being super rich seems to me to be obscene when I think of all the people who are below the poverty line and are going to go hungry and cold this winter.

£1500 each month on fresh flowers?  I love my bunch of daffodils for New Year - what pleasure I get from watching the buds open to remind me that Spring is not all that far away, and to prompt me to go out into the garden to see how far up the snowdrops are.

A Home tutor for my children?  I think children should grow up in the kind of environment where they meet 'all sorts'.   That way they learn to get along with everybody.

£500 on a bottle of wine - no thanks.

It would seem to me that this kind of life is life lived in a bubble, protected (or excluded which ever way you look at it) from real life so completely that the two never ever meet.

I have a home help one morning a week.   She has been coming to me for over fifteen years and we are great friends.  (She is my main source of information as to what is going on in the area!)  No way would I want a housekeeper - somebody to make all the decisions for me - I like to decide what we are having for lunch.

There is something immoral about great wealth in a world where so many are starving.   But the sad fact is that if all that wealth were to be shared out equally then after a year or two some would be super rich again and others would be poor.  It seems that making money is an interesting occupation for some whilst others just spend it.

One thing is for sure.  Wealth is not for me.   I have never bought a Lottery ticket and after reading about the super rich I never shall.  The chances of winning six million (as someone did a fortnight ago) are very remote - but I don't wish to, thank you.   Luckily the couple who did win it, having bought each of their children a house, are carrying on as normal as they can't think of anything they want.   I hope it continues that way for them.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


This morning was my last exercise class for the over sixties before Christmas.  A full hour of exertion, stretching every muscle in the body (or so it seemed) including quite a few I didn't even know I had!  After lunch I have just taken Tess for her walk, which I think loosened me up a little and now I am putting on a hurried blog before a friend pops in for a cup of tea.  How lovely it is to have such a full life.

Tomorrow morning both the farmer and I are going to our monthly Physiotherapy session.  I think I shall need it after today's exertions and the farmer is going round the farm cutting back briars and collecting them up in the top fields so that he can allow the sheep in there.  If they go in with the briars still sticking out from the hedges then within hours some of them will be tangled up in the thorns.

Lovely day here, slight breeze blowing from the South West and a nice sun shining gently over the fields.   All my cards are posted, as are all my parcels; all my present shopping is done.  I do not decorate the house until Christmas eve (I hate shrivelled up holly) so I can sit back and enjoy it for a few days now.   Have a nice day.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A busy day.

Today has been a jolly busy day here in the Dales.   Well it has for me at any rate.   This morning friend S and I drove over to our local nursery twelve miles or so away (and through some of the most beautiful Swaledale scenery) to stock up on Christmas plants.

I bought a holly wreath for my first husband's grave, a poinsettia plant, three cyclamen in full flower, a solanum covered in orange berries and a bowl of fern surrounded by white hyacinths.   They are now spread around the house and it begins to look as though Christmas might well be coming soon.

After a hasty lunch friend W and I, along with friend S. sped off to Teeside Park at Stockton on Tees to that store few of us could manage without at Christmas - Marks and Spenser.   Here I bought my turkey and a large piece of gammon, along with lots of nibbles and canapes for Boxing Day.   Now they are all in the freezer and another aspect of Christmas can be ticked off my list.

I do love the run up to Christmas with its organising, its stocking up of all store cupboards, its planning.   Goodness me, I am merely having seven people to lunch and evening meal on Boxing Day and a group of friends on New Year's eve, when I shall be cooking a meal, but I seem to be getting enough food in to feed an army.

After a cloudy and rather miserable day, the evening sky as friend W drove back from Teeside, was absolutely beautiful - a mixture of duck egg blue sky and apricot clouds.  S and I were lucky that we could just sit there and admire it.  Poor W had to keep her eye on the road as the traffic was horrendous.   We all agreed that we are so lucky to live here in the Dales where traffic is so light and we can enjoy the peace and tranquility without all the pushing and shoving and overtaking we experienced on the way back.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Santa's Grotto.

You can;t escape it can you?   As I said in yesterday's post, I deliberately avoided our little market town yesterday as it was Christmas themed all day.

This morning the farmer and I made the twelve mile journey to our nearest beautiful forest/nature reserve in order to collect a couple of season tickets (my last present - I have now finished my Christmas shopping and am trying not to sound smug).  It doesn't open until eleven in Winter months and as it was only just that time we expected there would be no-one there.

We turned the corner into the Car Park and there wasn't a space!!  Why not?   Alas, Santa had moved his Grotto to a little hidey hole within the park and there was a queue a mile long - children, parents, grannies and grandads - all eager to visit Santa.   I had to queue ten minutes to get to the ticket office.   And what a ten minutes.  Several children were sending up clouds of bubbles, so that the air was full of them; others were charging about full of excitement.   The atmosphere was lovely.

And it struck me as I stood there.   There was not an under-privileged child in that queue (certainly not in monetary terms) - it was £6.50 per adult to get inside for a start.  In terms of love and security of course, one never knows.   But when I see pictures on the television of our inner city children, our under-privileged children, the children of parents out of work and struggling to put a meal on the table, I realise that we do, on the whole, live in a very affluent area.

So I think we should all spare a thought this week-end, in the run up to Christmas to those for whom Christmas will maybe not be a happy one this year (this includes those whose homes have been flooded or washed away in this week's storms) and it also includes all those refugee children from Syria for whom Christmas is of course not an occasion they celebrate, but who for the last few years have had absolutely nothing to celebrate anyway- and nothing  for the forseeable future.

We are so lucky.   Let's be thankful for it.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Snug and warm

The storm of two days ago and the subsequent tidal surge all down the East coast of the country has been pretty devastating for a lot of people, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.   The South Yorkshire coast and the coast of Lincolnshire have been particularly badly hit and some houses have been washed away.   What a nightmare it must have been.

Now the weather is back to "normal" and it is as though the storm has never been, apart from branches off trees.   There are quite a few of what the farmer calls "Nature's Prunings" around our fields and they always come in handy for winter logs once they have dried out.

Meanwhile, the cows are snug and warm in their barn and to satisfy those of you who asked, the farmer took a couple of photographs of them.   Once they get in that straw and out of the wind, and their food is provided twenty four hours a day, I think they imagine they have died and gone to heaven.

This morning friend W and I have been to the village monthly coffee morning in the Village Hall.   There was a goodly crowd there, including one or two newcomers to the village - which is good as it is a good way to meet everyone.   There was a cheerful log fire burning in the grate and I think we all enjoyed it.   K provided hot mince pies with a topping of brandy butter as a little extra and they were scrummy.

The farmer meanwhile, well wrapped up, is shooting today.   As I write this I can hear the guns in the background.   The local Hunt called to say they would be hunting our fields today but when the farmer told them that we would be shooting they changed their minds.   I suppose the sound of the guns gives the fox too much warning of approaching danger. I was just pleased that any foxes in our area would get a reprieve.

Our local market town is holding a fun day today.   There is an ice rink in the Market Place, a Craft tent with presents to buy, the local brass band is playing, Santa has a Grotto and is switching the Christmas lights on at 5pm this evening - it's all happening and I am sure the children will love it.  They have even relaxed parking charges for the day.   I am steering clear - I have no desire to see Santa in his Grotto, my Christmas shopping is finished and I am sure that my ice-skating days are over (they actually never started).
Call me Mrs Grinch if you like, but I shall sit by the fire when I have taken Tess for her walk in a few minutes.

Keep warm and snug and have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Just in time.

Just in time before the big storm the milking parlour roof is back on and the first batch of cows are warm in the straw of the Loose Housing.

The builder finished yesterday and spent most of the day doing odd jobs which will save the farmer a lot of time.   Also I do object to the farmer going up a ladder at his age so the builder cleaned out the guttering all the way round the house.  As we have a stand of Scots Pines close by, the guttering gets absolutely full of pine needles.   Then when the winter rains and snows come the guttering overflows.

There is a lovely story in the farmer's paper this morning about a family who had a West Highland White dog.  A while ago they bought a Rottweiller bitch and a couple of weeks ago she presented them with a litter of eleven Wotties!!!  Two died but the other nine are thriving.   Apparently Dad is playing an equal part in their rearing.   They look like rather large Border Terriers (like Tess) and are absolutely adorable.  There are two outcomes - one is that all the puppies have already been found new homes when they are old enough to leave their mother; the other is that the West Highland dog is off to the vets next week.  All I wonder is how he managed it.   Did he have a ladder?

Photographs of the new roof and of the contented cows will be posted later today hopefully.   At present there is a terrible storm raging outside - high winds and pouring rain.   Later I am going out to lunch with friends (am already dreaming of the crab cakes, which are always on the menu) But the farmer has said that he will take the photographs once the rain has stopped.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Winter draws near.

The weather forecast here in the North of England is for cold weather coming down from the Arctic tomorrow and leaving a scattering of snow on the tops.   The builder is just putting the finishing touches to the milking parlour roof as I write - he will be pleased to get it done just in time.

In the garden the last few roses of Summer are blooming in the tub by the front door.   They are so pretty - I have no idea of the variety but I have had this rose a few years and it never fails to please early and late in the season.

This morning the farmer drove me over the tops to Richmond to go to the audiology clinic to have new hearing aids fitted (in both ears for the first time - everything sounds so terribly loud this afternoon.)   On the way back we saw that they are burning the heather all round us.

The grouse-shooting season finished last weekend and the game keepers like to get on with the heather burning straight away if the weather is right - and it is at the moment.   The purpose of burning the heather (which they do in controlled patches throughout the moor) is to encourage the young shoots to grow back green and healthy.   Grouse more or less live on heather and they eat the young shoots and the seeds they produce.   Each patch is burnt once every four years.  I must say that it produces the most beautiful smell which wafts over the moor as the day wears on.   Columns of white smoke drift along and today these extend the full length of the moors on all sides.

Christmas cake number two is in the oven as I write this - smells good.   Two down, two to go.  I always feel well on course when I have done all four.  Christmas Day is three weeks tomorrow it you need a reminder!

The first of the cows who overwinter in our Loose housing came in this morning.   There has been such a lot of late grass this year that has been ideal for dry cows, who don't have to be fed to encourage the milk yield.   But now that they are in they have settled in quickly, lying down in the deep straw and only getting up to come to their troughs when I went down there at lunch time with a few savoy cabbage leaves cut from the outside of our lunchtime cabbage.   I must say I like the Winter cows in = it happens every year and emphasises a sense of continuity on the farm.

Get in the logs, get out the hats and scarves, be ready for that first icy blast!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

a Baking Day

Apart from the usual Sunday lunch cook I also made the first of four Christmas cakes which I make every year - three as presents and one for ourselves.   It has just come out of the Aga - baking slow-cook fruit cakes is a complicated process in a two-oven Aga and is best done in an Aga cake baker.   This is like a large handleless saucepan where the cake sits on a rack, a lid is put on and the cake really steam-bakes.   Results are usually good and this one looks good so far.   One down, three to go.   I have just annointed it with Highland Park whisky (the farmer's favourite tipple) so that the house is full of lovely smells.

In addition I tried Cro Magnon's Soda Bread recipe (if you want to try it go to Magnon's Meanderings on my side bar for the recipe).  My husband reminded me that we ate soda bread fresh every morning years ago in a farm B and B in Ireland.   The bread is delicious.   If I make it again I shall omit the herbs as this made it only suitable for eating with savoury things (we both had it for Sunday tea with a chunk of cheddar),   Made without the herbs it would be good for breakfast toasted and spread with honey or marmalade.   But I do urge you to try it - as Cro says, it is fairly foolproof and is a good standby.

Photographs of both baking efforts here!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Saint Andrew.

Today, November 30th, is Saint Andrew's Day - St. Andrew being the Patron Saint of Scotland.   In his honour my friend J, whose late husband was a Scot, has bought a haggis to cook for her tea and my friend W has run the Scottish flag up her flagpole.

Sadly we English don't seem to celebrate our Patron Saint's day do we?    April 23rd is St. George's Day but as far as I know nothing is special about it.   The Scots seem to celebrate St. Andrew and the Welsh certainly celebrate St. David by wearing a daffodil.

I am afraid that I didn't even know who St. Andrew was, so if you are the same I will tell you that he was one of the apostles - a brother of St. Peter and was adopted as the Patron Saint of Scotland in the eighth century.   So Happy Saint Andrew's Day to all you Scots out there.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Has the world gone completely mad?

or does this happen every year as soon as December approaches?

Today has been that terrible thing here in the UK "Black Friday", whatever that means (can anyone enlighten me?).  Pictures on the six o'clock news show shoppers in Asda being pushed and shoved and falling over in their rush to get to the check-out.   One elderly lady with a broken wrist as a result.   And all just to get 'cheaper' televisions, food, fancy goods, anything for Christmas really.

And that is really the fly in the ointment - Christmas looms and the whole world seems to go mad with shopping frenzy.

Friday is market day here in our little town but whenever it is cold and damp and windy the market is much reduced.  This is because our market square is very exposed and no one in their right mind would spend time browsing on market stalls today as the wind whistled across the square.

So I went into the supermarket to do my little bit of 'top up' shopping - a few fresh vegetables and one or two perishables for the weekend table.   And the shopping frenzy was just as bad in there.

Could I please tell all the folk out there that it is not even December yet - the shops are not going to go away.   Let's all be reasonable, take our time, relax and enjoy the build up to Christmas - not go at it like demented earwigs.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Electronic babies.

One of the few chances I get to talk regularly to a really young person (22) is when I go to my hairdresser every Thursday lunchtime.  The visit has made life so much easier for me - I have forgotten how to wash my hair myself and my hair has got used to being washed once a week instead of each morning.   Some of our conversations are hilarious.

Today she was telling me that her father was just back from Everest basecamp.  I asked her where it was but she didn't really know.   Was it in Asia, she asked.   Then she remembered that he flew to Nepal - could you pin point Nepal on a map I asked.  She couldn't.

I think this is really the fault of schools because they no longer seem to teach any kind of Geography which relates to where places are.   I thought back to my days in Primary School, where we had a teacher well past retiring age (it was war time and teachers were in short supply).   Her name was Miss Kirkbride and she came to school accompanied always by her Great Dane.##  Her teaching methods were well ahead of her time.

I vividly remember having to bring every label off every tin we used at home into school so that we could pin point the place it came from on the map.  There would have been few tins from abroad as it was war time, but this activity fostered in me the need to look places up on the map.   To this day if I hear a place mentioned and I don't know exactly where it is, then I go straight to the Atlas to find it.   So thank you for that Miss Kirkbride.

##On the subject of the Great Dane, my father was once taking a short cut through 'The Pits' - a nature walk between two villages, one of which was the one where we lived- it was dark and very quiet.   All of a sudden something very cold touched the palm of his hand and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

It was the Great Dane being taken on his last walk of the day by Miss Kirkbride, who lived nearby.

But, back to my hairdresser.   Apparently she did a Child Development Course in the Comprehensive school but dropped out. Why? I asked.   Well, they gave her an electronic baby tag for the weekend, fastened to her wrist.   When 'the baby' cried she had to deal with it - change its nappy, feed it, cuddle it or whatever.  Being a weekend she had to wear the tag from Friday afternoon until Monday morning - this included getting up in the night to 'feed' it.  Going round the fashion shops on Saturday afternoon at   one point she had to stop and deal with the crying electronic tag in a rather posh fashion shop in the centre of town.   "It has put me off babies for ever!" she said. Can;t help feeling this ought to be compulsory in all schools - might stop a lot of teenage pregnancies.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Oh the glamour, the opulence...

Anyone who thinks there is anything glamorous about being the wife of a farmer needs to read this.   You see below the picture of my transport today.

I wished to spend the afternoon with friend M, and to this end asked the farmer if he could take me round there.  (sadly I can no longer drive).   He told me he was going that way anyway and I could have a lift with pleasure - there was a seat beside him in the tractor.

What he didn't tell me until I got outside and saw for myself, was that behind the tractor was the muck spreader.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.   What an elegant vehicle to travel in.   The lane is very bumpy and I had to hold on tightly.  If you think I was inelegant getting up into the tractor you should have seen me getting out!

But the most colourful part of the whole afternoon was still to come.   He collected me (again on the tractor and muck
spreader) but when we reached the lane end we kept going along the Main Road.   We were going to the field to spread the last load of muck before it got dark, so my afternoon with M (which had been lovely by the way) ended by the farmer and I gliding slowly up and down the field spreading the last muck of the day.

Still I had a nice afternoon out and I am not proud - after all, beggars can't be choosers can they?   Any ride is better than no ride at all and it is not everyone who can say they have been taken to visit a friend riding on a much spreader is it?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Silver Line launches today.

After my blog a few days ago - or rather my rant - about the article in The Times on the elderly, I was interested to see that Silver Line opened today.   For anyone who doesn't know, it is a telephone call centre for the elderly to ring if they are lonely so that they can be put in touch with someone who will chat to them.

We were shown volunteers speaking to callers but we were also shown groups of elderly folk sitting in drop-in centres chatting to one another, having a cup of tea and generally enjoying themselves.

What struck me about them was that they all looked so old!  My immediate reaction was, "OMG, do I look like that?"   The answer is, of course, that I probably do.   It's just that when I look in the mirror I don't see it that way.  I think to ourselves we are eternally young.   I certainly do not feel any different inside, or if I do the transformation has happened so slowly that I have not noticed it.

Long may it continue like that!!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Stir- up Sunday

Today is stir up Sunday, the day when traditionally we make our Christmas puddings and get anyone who calls in to give them a stir and make a wish.   I know that now many people buy a Christmas pudding but I love the tradition and have kept it up.

Christmas pudding is the easiest pudding in the world to make and making it fills the house with a delicious Christmassy smell.  It is just a mixture of shredded suet, brown sugar, dried fruits and citrus fruits mixed with spices, flour, breadcrumbs and eggs, then well-laced with alcohol.

I suppose one drawback to making your own is that the pudding then needs steaming for many hours, but having an Aga means that I can do this in the bottom oven and just leave it in overnight.

And at Christmas when the farmer is responsible for firing it with brandy, carrying it to the table and slicing it up to be eaten with ice cream, fresh cream or brandy sauce it makes Christmas complete for me.

So today, pudding made, stirred and ready to go into the oven tonight.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Getting ready for next year.

I suppose one of the good things about farming is that one is always looking to the future, whereas in ordinary day-to-day life if you are sensible you develop a 'sufficient unto the day' attitude.

To that end the fertiliser has come today ready to make the grass grow in the Spring.   The prudent farmer buys it when the price is at its lowest and as our supplier rang to say that it was £50 a ton cheaper than at this time last year - the farmer ordered it and today it arrived on a large lorry.   It is now unloaded and stored in a cool, dry shed until such time as the land is ready to receive it.

Although it is cold, at least it is dry, the farmer, acting as Builder's Labourer has been up on the Milking Parlour roof again.   Half of the slates are now back and the job is in abeyance until next Thursday.   Our Builder is semi-retired and in his spare time is a loader for the Grouse Shooting parties on the moors around here.   He is grouse shooting Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

I try not to think about it as it is a way of life up here and I am not going to change anything, am I?   But he was out on the moors on Wednesday of this week and in the evening plucked and got to the oven- ready stage for his freezer - a pheasant, a grouse, a wild duck and a wood pigeon.   When I turned my nose up and said I couldn;t contemplate eating any of those, he replied that I would if I was starving.   I can't win, can I?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Deeply offensive.

There is a leading article in today's Times 2 which I find deeply offensive.   I thought of writing to them but decided it wasn't worth it - that is what these journalists hope you will do, so I shall not give Deborah Ross the satisfaction of knowing that she has offended me.

The subject is old age and I am sure it is written tongue-in- cheek (particularly as the article 'so who is Reem anyway?) written alongside it and also by her, suggests she is heading that way herself.  (she looks on the top side of forty in her photograph).

Alright, so I am willing to accept that my sense of humour is pretty poor when it refers to old age, but I still think the article is beyond the pale.   It was in response to Esther Rantzen's recent setting up of 'Silver Line' - a help line for the elderly along the lines of Childline.
These are the things she suggests that old people (of which I have to accept I am one) can do to stave off boredom.
1.  Have sex and write about it. (I do not wish to discuss my sex life
with anyone thank-you).
2. Go kayaking or bobsleighing with one's grandchildren. (ie sitting down activities)
3. Reminisce about once being part of a target audience on TV.
4. Pay kids £10 per half hour to hear you talk about old landlines.
5. Kill a whole afternoon looking for your reading glasses.
6. Spend a whole afternoon looking for your car before you realise you actually walked and left the car at home.
7. Keep reporting things to the police so that eventually they start
offering you cups of tea.
8. Call and leave messages for your children because they never listen to their answer phones, so you can spend all day on the activity.
9. At the till rummage in your purse for the right change holding up the whole queue - then walk home slowly taking up the whole pavement.
10. Hunch over and get  wired by a qualified electrician so that you can become a floor lamp.

Growing old is not a joke and those of us who have reached it do our level best to stay ahead of the game.   I read up on current affairs, I belong a writers' circle and a poetry circle, I go to an exercise class, I go out for meals with friends and cook meals here for friends too

Alright, I am not one hundred percent mobile and cannot always walk quickly but I jolly well try not to take up more than my fair share of the pavement.

I suppose I am lucky that I live in a picturesque area to which many folk retire, so that the average age of the inhabitants is I am sure well above the National average.   There are clubs and societies, all well-attended, for almost everything - The Wensleydale Society which has talks and walks,  Round Table which does marvellous charity work, Photographic clubs, Painting clubs, Yoga, Pilates, Amateur Dramatics - there is plenty going on and also on many of the estates elderly people look out for one another.

Rantzen's new service is excellent - anyone who shut in on a cold Winter's night and lonely can surely get comfort from such an organisation.   But we don't need Times 2 to poke fun at us thank-you - however well-intended.

Our taxes helped to pay for the roads and pavements everyone walks on, our generation (I was a teacher for all of my working life) educated the generation which includes Deborah Ross, our parents fought in the Second World War for the liberty of this country and the young and middle aged do not have a prerogative over walking the pavements any more than they do over how long we take to go through the till.

It says a lot that the other article on the same somebody called Clover Stroud is headlined "I watch more porn than my husband does."  For two pins I would write another rant on that!

However, it is a freezing cold day and the builder and his labourer are up on the roof in spite of the weather, so I am sure I can be more suitably engage in making them a cup of tea.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On the farm today.

The last of the Summer eatage beasts have gone.   They went to our local market to a store beast sale.   This means that a farmer who has a plentiful supply of barley which he has grown himself and therefore does not have to buy in, will have bought them to keep indoors and fatten up to go to a fatstock market in about six months time.   Buying in Winter feed is a very expensive business so that those farmers who have to buy it all in tend to sell their stock off at this time of year.

We are having our milking parlour re-roofed this week.   We no longer use it as we went out of milk production when we had foot and mouth disease, but we must not let the milking parlour deteriorate.   For the sake of whoever comes after us it is our duty to keep the building in good shape - hence the builder is here and the farmer is acting as builder's labourer.

When I came back that way from my after-lunch walk with Tess I took a photograph - "for posterity" I told the farmer, and also to remind him of how to do it the next time it needed re-roofing.   He replied that he would be "pushing up the daisies" long before that as the last time it was done was apparently around 1930!!

It is the most beautiful day here today.   We awoke to an apricot sky of such clarity with an almost full moon still shining and the sky has stayed a clear blue all day.   It is cold and there is a slight breeze but the builder and his labourer say it is reasonably warm with the sun on their backs.

I am off now to choose my poems for tomorrow's Poetry meeting - one of my favourite afternoons in the month.

Monday, 18 November 2013


Anybody who has read my blog for a long time will know that the rook is my favourite bird.   I am not sure why this is except there are two images from childhood which perhaps make me lean in this direction.

The first one is one I have only been told about.   Opposite our house was a large rookery and every year when the young rooks were about to leave the nest they would have a large rook shoot to cull the birds.   Apparently, when I was just a toddler, I was found sitting in the middle of the back lawn, cradling a dead rook and sucking its beak.   I rather prefer not to think of this image very often.

The second is of course that rookery opposite the house.  The sound of the rooks would wake me every morning and I would often go to sleep to the sound of them returning.

Now I am back living in the country again we live within a mile of a very large rookery.   The farmer estimates at least fifty thousand birds in it.   During the Summer we see them scattered about the fields and trees or gathering in our little town, particularly on market day, when there are juicy pickings to be had.

But this time of the year (I have written about this before) just for a short time, until the days get even shorter, the journey of the rooks from their roost to their feeding grounds further up the Dale coincides with me sitting up in bed drinking my morning cup of tea.

Yesterday morning the sky was a deep and vivid red at dawn and for half an hour the rooks streamed past.   The sight was incredible.
In honour of that I am putting on again the poem I wrote about the rooks a few years ago.   Sorry if you are one of those who read it last time, but I make no apologies for printing it again - I just wish you could have seen the wonderful sight.


It seems to me the wind
is your friend.
Soaring, tumbling,
playing with the thermals
on a still day.

Tacking, swooping,
cutting along the hedge tops 
manipulating a gale.

Chattering, flying high,
sailing home on a
light breeze.

Building your stick nest
high on the bare branches
for it to rock and rattle
round the rookery.

You joyful bird
with your black, lustrous plumage
and your crusty beak
that stabs at the ground
for leather jackets.

You can
fill the sky with movement,
write a tune on the wires,
blacken a field with your parliament,
and fill my heart with joy as you
surge past my window
in your thousands
at dawn on a cold winter's morning.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Five weeks and three days...

...before the turkey needs to go into the oven.   And I realise that any of our American friends have got to negotiate Thanksgiving before that.   But, judging by the shop windows in our little market town, Christmas is very close indeed.   Out have come the reindeer, the sleighs, the snowflakes, the fake snow and all the other paraphernalia of Christmas and away have gone all the things you might wish to buy.   Never mind, as I say every year, it will soon be over.

But one thing is different here on the farm.   Since last year the farmer has bought a new field.   It sits among our other fields and so completes the block of fields, which is very satisfying.   The centre of the field had been planted with young Christmas trees which had been sadly neglected, so much so that when the field first came into our hands the farmer was all for digging them up. 

But instead he cleared a lot of the long grass from around them and so gave them room to breathe.   Many are struggling, but some are flourishing and will be ready for Christmas this year. I am not at all tempted to have one - the thought of pine needles drives away any longing for the real thing - although there is nothing to beat that lovely smell of pine at Christmas.

Most of the holly berries have been stripped by the fieldfares; there are a few left and I hope they will still be there to bring in for Christmas but I am philosophical about it, certain that if the snow comes (and some is forecast for this week) then the birds' need is greater than ours.

One thing is for sure as far as Christmas is concerned.   Next Sunday - November 25th - is Stir-up Sunday, so next Saturday is the day I make my Christmas puddings (Delia's recipe as every year), so that any friends and relations who can be roped in to visit on Sunday can give the bowl a stir for luck.   Far better than putting sixpenny pieces in the pudding - a sure tooth-breaker if ever there was one.

Get writing those cards!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Memories and Deja Vu.

How often do we look back and remember things from the past?   Believe me, says she from an advanced age, the older I get the more I do it.   Wet, dismal afternoons tend to sink me into reminiscence until I get up and do something quickly.   But are those memories accurate - no they are not, any more than that sense of deja vu is.

Do you remember what you were doing when JFK was assassinated.   That is one of those defining moments when they say that everyone remembers what they were doing (whoever 'they' is).  I am sure I remember - I lived in the depths of the Lincolnshire countryside, I was ironing, my young son had just gone to bed, my sister rang to tell me the news.

Daniel Finkelstein in today's Times writes about memory and 9/11 - another of those defining moments.

In 'The Invisible Gorilla' by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons there is an excerpt which suggest that memory plays tricks on us.   Apparently in a study a group of undergraduates were asked to remember what they were doing on the day and for a few days earlier than 9/11.  When the academics conducting the study went back to the same people a few years later and asked the same questions their memories were vivid but very inaccurate.   But there was also a difference.   They were willing to admit that they may well be wrong about those few days before 9/11 but they thought that no way was it possible that they were wrong about the day itself.

So it looks as though we feel secure in our memories of big events - even if the memories are false.

And of course, sometimes we have no memory at all of events - they have vanished for ever, even if we are reminded of this.   Yesterday friend W and I met our friends from Windermere at our favourite Italian Restaurant in Kirby Lonsdale for lunch.  During our lunch friend P asked if I remembered when I ran a choir in our little market town - I vaguely remembered that (it is about twenty two years ago) but I had completely forgotten that he was staying with me one day and I asked him to come to a rehearsal and play the piano so that I could conduct them, rather than try to do both at the same time.

But there was a momentous event as an outcome of this and I do remember that.   I was getting this choir ready to sing with other choirs at a Harvest Festival.   I was not the Principal Conductor, but would sing in the choir on the night.

The venue was St. Wilfred's Church in Harrogate.   We set off with the bus driver assuring me that he knew exactly where St. Wilfred's was and he duly dropped us off there with about twenty minutes to spare - time to get into the choir stalls and get ourselves organised.
He drove off with a cheery good-bye, telling us that he was going to stop down the road and get fish and chips and sit and eat them and listen to his radio.   Of course it was dark by this time and we trooped up the drive to the church in dim lighting.   At the door was a large sign which said "Welcome to St. Luke's Church" - we were in the wrong place!

The youngest and fittest set off at a gallop down the road to where we could see the lights of shops in the distance.   We huddled on the side of the road.   Luckily she caught the driver, he came back and we toured Harrogate asking all and sundry for how to get to St. Wilfred's.   We arrived half way through the first verse of We Plough the Fields and Scatter - hot and bothered, wind-blown and puffing heavily.   I can assure you I can still remember the look of relief on the face of the conductor.

And I will tell you this for nothing.   Should I ever pass St Luke's Church in Harrogate again I shall be in no doubt at all that I am having a strong feeling of deja vu.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Done It!

I seem to subscribe to the maxim these days: "Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow" - alright, I have twisted it round to suit my own ends, but you know what I mean.

For days I have been unable to find things in my wardrobe and chest of drawers.   The cold weather has taken me by surprise and there are plenty of thin blouses but not enough jumpers easily accessible.

Today I got up determined to do something about it.   I have done it!   I am feeling suitably smug and satisfied.   All my Summer clothes are now in the spare wardrobe and all my Winter jumpers are either washed and on the washing line in the garden or freshly ironed to get out the storage creases and hanging in the wardrobe.
I have done a check on everything and collected all the stuff I have not worn for at least a year and put it together in bags to take to either the Charity Shop or the clothing bank in our little town.

Now my dilemma is how to persuade the farmer to do the same.  He says it needs doing - so here is a question for you:   Do I do it for him or do I let him do it himself? (i e leave it undone all through the winter I guess.)   Oh dear - Men - they do have their uses but cleaning out their clothing drawers and cupboards is not one of them.   Good job I love him!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Good Read

If you love travel books, read on.  Otherwise, give today's post a miss!

In the early 1930's Patrick Leigh Fermor, at the age of eighteen, set out to walk from The Hook of Holland to Constantinople.  It was, as it says on the flyleaf of the book, 'the defining experience of his life'.   He wrote two books - his best known works - 'A Time of Gifts' 1977 and 'Between the woods and the water' 1986.   Both books, as you will realise, written well after the experience.

But these two books only took the reader as far as the Iron Gates in Rumania and although he planned to complete the trilogy he somehow could not find the energy and enthusiasm needed to do so.

The Broken Road completes the journey but although Fermor was working on it spasmodically until he died in 2011 it has taken his literary executors (Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper) to edit what was left of his diaries and notes.

The book is mainly about the Balkans area as it existed in the 1930's and is full of wonderful stories about the places he sees and  - more importantly - the ordinary people that he meets.   It is a world that no longer exists - a lot of it geographically and almost all of it in terms of the way in which the people live.  I found it fascinating and really hard to put down.   Now that I have finished it I am going to read it again.   I am also going on to Amazon to see if those two early volumes are still available, and if they are they are going on my wish list.  I had to keep referring to the map in the front of the book as it is an area I know so little about.

If you love travel books, do please put it on your christmas list.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

My favourite walk.

Readers of my blog who have been following it for some years may remember that my favourite walk is the walk to Cotter Force in Upper Wensleydale.  (A force is a waterfall in dalespeak).   For the last year or so my mobility has been such that my ankle has not been up to the quarter of a mile walk each way, but today there is a distinct improvement so I suggested to the farmer that we had a ride out.

First of all we went to the Dales Countryside Museum where there was an interesting art exhibition - pastels, oils, pottery, stained glass, fabric collage - I must say it was impressive and there was a lot I liked.   Perhaps, because of my love of rooks, one of my favourite pieces was an etching called 'High Rise Appartments' which was of tree tops and rooks nests.

I think if folk take the trouble to mount an exhibition like this (my previous husband was a painter so I know just how much work goes into such a thing) then the least we can do is to go along and see it.

We popped over the road to the Craft Gallery where Fiona (Marmalade Rose on my side bar) has work on show too and then drove on the two miles further than Hawes to Cotter Force.

The farmer and Tess set off at a fair pace, I followed, stopping when I had to, taking a few photographs, resting my ankle.   But I made it all the way to the Force and back and it was such an exquisite day that I enjoyed every minute of it.

In a field at the side of the Force were some lovely goats - I thought at first they were deer from a distance, but then I saw the Billy goat and there was no mistaking him!  Grey, shaggy, scruffy and long-bearded - as the farmer quite rightly said, we were lucky to be upwind of him rather than downwind!

The Autumn trees along the river were very pretty and the Force itself was quite full.  I took a rare photograph of the farmer looking at it.  Sorry it is in full sun - but any photograph of him is hard to get and I have to snap him while I can!


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Out again!

The farmer is shooting today around our fields and those of our neighbours.   Before he went I warned him that he could only bring a pheasant home if he was willing to hang it, skin it, cut off the breast and legs, cling film it, freeze it, defrost it, casserole it and eat it.   That should ensure he doesn't arrive home with one.   That should also tell you that I hate pheasant.  I like my pheasants roaming the fields free and colourful - and that is how they would remain if it was down to me.

I have been out to lunch again!   As our Friday gang are all going out for a Chinese tonight we didn't need much at lunch time, but dear friend W collected J and M and then came down the Lane for me and we all went to the nearby village of Constable Burton for a bowl of soup and a roll (no John, not a roll in the hay, just a bread roll).

The choice was carrot and coriander or broccoli - I had the latter and it was delicious.  Then we had coffee and a Jammie Dodger before coming home to take Tess for her walk, light the wood burner and sit down to write this. Outside it is a cold, damp Autumn day - one minute sunny the next a sharp shower and very cold with it.   However, the weather is set to turn much warmer later today, so our outing to the Chinese (my mouth is already watering at the thought of those tiger prawns in batter) tonight should see a pleasanter temperature.

Just look at those wonderful Autumn colours on the village green just outside the door of tje Village Hall.

Friday, 8 November 2013

An unexpected outing.

Often the best kind of outing.   On Fridays I always meet a group of friends in town for coffee at 10am.   As I was getting ready to go, friend G rang and asked if I would care to join her and friend J for lunch in The Three Horseshoes in Wensley village for a fish and chip lunch.

Casserole all ready for the farmer, so no reason to say no.  They called for me at noon and we tootled down the Dale the three miles or so to the pub.   Delicious fish and chips and mushy peas in an old fashioned environment - lovely, easy going, dogs allowed in the bar with its scrubbed wooden tables and comfortable settles for sitting on.  There were logs burning brightly in the wood burning stove and a lovely view from the window.   What could be better?

After lunch we strolled next door to White Rose Candles, who have already got their Christmas candles on display.   It is a fascinating place where they are making candles as you wander round and where the smell of melting candle wax pervades the air.

There is every sort of candle you can imagine, and every colour too.  The easiest thing to do is to copy down their write up from their hand-out.

'White Rose Candles est. 1971 has a reputation for high quality handmade long burning candles, made in their old watermill using unusual machinery.   Dinner, pillar, aromatherapy and church candles are our speciality.   Also available are a wide range of candle holders.'   You can get a better idea of what is on offer by going to their website at but I can assure you that their stock is absolutely beautiful and at present so very Christmassy.   Do go and have a look on the web site.

I am putting on some photographs I took (with their permission) as we walked around.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I was brought up during the Second World War when our maxim was always  'waste not want not.'   Every scrap of garden produce was used, every crust of bread used to make a bread and butter (or more likely margarine) pudding, nothing but the vegetable peelings thrown away - and those to the pig.

The farmer was brought up like this too and still frowns upon waste (although it is more than he dare do to say so!) - all our unused food (and there is very little of it) goes into the feed trough for the hens.
So you can imagine that this year has been quite difficult because our garden and orchard produced an enormous crop of apples, both eaters, cookers and don't know whichers.   Also a huge crop of cooking onions.

The farmer has picked them  and put them into boxes and there they sit on the bench in the shed window.   Every time I go out into the yard they glare at me accusingly from the shed window. They don't quite knock on the window and call, 'Oy, it's time you used us!' but they might just as well, because I feel that.

I have made apple pies and put them in the freezer, I have made apple and blackberry and apple and raspberry crumbles and put them in the freezer, I have stewed apples, put them in plastic containers and put them in the freezer.   As yet I have made no noticeable inroad into any of the boxes.

When Margaret from Thousand Flower was here last week she told me another easy recipe and I tried it today.   Alright, it only used four onions and four apples, but I have to say it was delicious and I shall certainly use it again and again.   So - here it is, in case you too are overloaded with apples and onions.   And even if you aren't then there is no reason why you shouldn't buy some especially.   I served it with a casserole made with steak, potatoes, celeriac, carrots, peppers and swede in a rich gravy.  

All you need to do is peel and quarter equal quantities of apples (in my case they were eaters as I have so many) and onions and saute them slowly.  I used a knob of butter and a small amount of rapeseed oil for this.   When they were a nice golden brown I sprinkled a scant spoon of sugar over them to give them a bit of a glaze.  Believe me, they were fantastic.   Try it sometime.