Friday, 30 August 2013

Common sense.

So, common sense has prevailed - for the time being at any rate. David Cameron lost the vote for action in Syria by 13 votes, with many of his own side voting against him.  I was struck by the fact that when he was making his speech there was not a single spare seat in the house; when the cameras returned later on there was only a scattering of folk there.   Where had they all gone?   Did they come back for the vote?   How do these things work - can someone explain it to me in words of no more than two syllables?

I did say to my son once that I was always less than impressed by how few M P's there were in the House when the cameras were there, apart from at Prime Minister's Question Time.   He lectured me on how MP's had far more important constituency work to do and that that is why they were often not in the House of Commons. I need convincing.

As for the Syria point of view - Tom Stephenson put it very well on his blog yesterday and is well worth a read.  All I want to say really is that how can more killing justify the killing in the first place - and if we are so keen to help in Syria, why did we 'allow' so many Kurds to be chemical-weapon-attacked in the Middle East in the not too distant past?  And - correct me if I am wrong - I thought that many of the weapons being used by the Assad regime had been bought from the West.

What a troubled, crazy world we live in.   We cannot possibly understand the Middle East question.   The man who spoke the most sense in yesterday's debate was the past Ambassador to Syria - very impressive and reasonable I thought.

Sometimes I just want to curl up in an armchair, switch off the News and put my head under the blanket.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Plums anyone?

Yes, this really has been a year of plenty - from the first strawberry, through the gooseberries, the raspberries, the blackcurrants, the peas, the broad beans and now the plums - everything has given of its best.

Now we are inundated with plums of an unspecified variety.  The one thing I know for sure is that they are decidedly NOT Victoria plums.  They are everyone's favourite and have a distinctive taste of their own - and are best eaten straight off the tree.

These plums are medium sized, plum coloured and taste alright (damned with faint praise?) and the farmer started picking the ripe ones this morning - a large bowl full.

What to do with them?   Any ideas anybody?  We had a glut two years ago - I still have plum chutney left to eat from that year, I still have several jars of plum jam from last year.

Today we are having stewed plums and custard - yes I know, plum crumble and custard, plum pie and custard would both be better, but they both have far too many calories in them when we are watching our weight (I am watching our weight).

But the branches of the tree are bent and touching the ground.   The crop is ripening rapidly and friend wasp will be waiting in the wings.   So if anyone has any ideas then please respond.   I did think of plum brandy but am not sure how to go about it.

And if any of my local friends are reading this blog - then give me a ring if you want some!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Please read yesterday's comments!

 Never before in the history of my own blogging, have I felt more strongly that we were all sitting around over a cup of coffee and chatting amongst ourselves about an issue.

I have so enjoyed reading all your comments - there is such food for thought there from everybody - and if you haven't yet left a comment then please go back one day, read the blog and contribute to the discussion.

In the light of the fact that it is the anniversary of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech then JoAnn's comments are indeed of great interest.

Yes, we do all feel quite strongly about this issue = that is evident from your replies - thank you so much for joining in.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Snap Judgements?

Do you make snap judgements?   Do you meet a person once and either relate to them or not - either think 'yes, I could make a friend of you' or 'I certainly don't want to see you again!'   And, if so, are these judgements really fair?   In fact this judgement does not necessarily have to go as far as meeting a person.   It can just be seeing a person.

This happened to me this morning and it set me thinking about just how fair this is.   I suppose we are all guilty of doing it.  I'll tell you what happened.

Friend W always very kindly takes me into our little town on Tuesday mornings.   We go to the Post Office, pay our newsagent's bills, do a bit of shopping and then meet in our favourite Coffee Bar for a drink and a natter (we are pretty good at that) .

This morning a family came and sat on another table and had what looked like an all day breakfast (it was 10.30am - they could easily have been up here on holiday - in any case I could always fancy an all day breakfast at any time but because I watch my weight I suppress the urge).   I don't think W noticed them as she had her back to the table, but I couldn't help noticing them and their behaviour.

They were quiet, they were well behaved, their table manners were perfect - so far, so good.   But one thing marred the whole scene for me.   The man was absolutely festooned in gold.   He wore gold earrings, he had gold bracelets on both wrists and a gold watch as well, he had four or five gold chains of varying thicknesses around his neck and a gold ring on almost every finger.

Now why should that lead me to make snap judgements?   For all I know he could have looked at me and thought how dowdy I was, sitting there with just one thin gold chain around my neck; or maybe he had an aversion to the colour of my hair, or my hairstyle.  He is entitled to his own views, but my judgement of him rests entirely on the quantity of gold he had about his person.   I didn't even hear him speak - they spoke quietly and got on with eating their meal.

Should we try not to make snap judgements like this?   Are we being unfair to people or, as they never know in instances like this, does it matter?   What is your view?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Mellow Fruitfulness.

The two phrases which rarely go together here in the UK are 'Bank Holiday Monday' and 'Wall-to-Wall sunshine.'   But today is a very welcome exception.   The sun has shone all day and it is warm and still.

A friend came round for coffee and we could have been sitting outside in the sun but we both prefer to sit inside and admire the sunshine through the window.

Tess and I had our walk after lunch and the weather was glorious - but there is somehow a hint of Autumn in the air.   Most of the wild flowers have gone to seed, the berries have ripened, the apples on the tree near to the kitchen are a bright red and although small they suggest sweetness (I might try one in a minute), the rowan tree is laden with berries and the buddleia is covered in late butterflies.   Yes, Autumn has arrived.

I found the MRI Scan fascinating.   I only had to have my foot and ankle in the machine so there was no feeling of claustrophobia which some folk speak about  The noises were intense but as I had to remove my hearing aid and as my head was not in the machine, it could have been much louder.   I kept worrying about my daughter-in-law who had to have a full body scan and was following me into the machine.   I thought how much harder it would be for her.

When it finished I found it impossible to get up - my whole body seemed to have locked!!   But once I got going I was back to normal very quickly.   My daughter in law took it all in her stride, as she does all ill health.   Now we both await results.

Back to Autumn - a pheasant has decided that its bed for the night is one of our fir trees by the farmhouse.   It might think it is well hidden but of course there is a pile of droppings under where it roosts, which completely gives the game away.  I won't bore you by putting on a photograph of said pile, but there are always a few feathers around and I thought this one in the photograph was particularly beautiful.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Farming Day

Yesterday was our local show - The Wensleydale Show - which is held within walking distance of our farm.   For the first time in the twenty years I have been married to the farmer, I didn't go with him.   I am having severe ankle/foot problems (am going for an MRI scan this afternoon - August Bank Holiday Sunday!) so he went off on his own, but took my camera so that he could take some photographs for me.

Friday evening it poured with rain and we were sure it would rain all yesterday, but suddenly, at about ten o'clock it cleared and they had a dry day, so it was well attended.

First he had to go to the village of West Witton where he judges the hay, fruit and vegetable sections.  Then, after a quick coffee he walked up to the showground.

The show was well-attended, he met lots of farming friends, he had a nice lunch in his local feed merchants tent and came back home at half past four after an enjoyable day.   Then it was take the dogs round the fields, shower, change and take me out for dinner to a local pub for our twentieth wedding anniversary.  Quite a full day for a seventy year old, but he came through it with flying colours.

It set me thinking, and we chatted about it over our meal in the evening (marvellous garlic mushrooms in a cream and bacon sauce) - so many of our farming friends either are themselves or have sons who are unmarried.

The daughters on the whole have married out of farming, apart from one, who is now a wonderful farmer's wife - just as her mother is too - but we know many sons in their thirties and forties who don't even have girl friends.

As the average age of farmers in this country is I think around sixty three, where does this leave farming in the future?   One or two trends are creeping in of course - farms are getting much bigger and when farms come on the market they tend to be bought up by neighbouring farmers,   The fact is that it is no longer viable to farm small farms (which most of them were in The Dales) and that in order to survive a Dairy herd has to be well over 100 with a similar number of followers.   But nevertheless, unless farmer's sons marry there will not be another generation to follow on.

Why do they find it so hard?   First of all they have to work very hard - either at the family farm or often both at home and at another farm to make enough money to live on if Dad is still working. If they are milking they won't finish work until well after eight in the evening.   I know that people say you never see a poor farmer, that farmers are always driving around in four wheel drive new vehicles and have new tractors, machinery etc.   But again I think this is part of the problem.   This is a purely personal view but I believe that any spare money made is immediately ploughed back into the farm - a new tractor (£40,000+), update the milking system, update the buildings, a new milking parlour with better equipment.  I suspect that this often means that the house and/or the wife goes without -  if she is at home looking after small children (Dad might be at home all day but he is too busy to supervise children in an unsafe environment) her clothing allowance might be limited or non-existent, is there enough money for a dishwasher?  or a drier? or

a kitchen update?   I doubt it.

Whatever the reason, I see all these chaps in their thirties, forties and fifties, still living at home and with no female friends and I am sad for them.

Enjoy the photographs of the show courtesy of the farmer:

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Life of Snails.

Anybody who watched the six o'clock news tonight might well have seen an item about the life of the snail.   We think of snails as slow, unadventurous creatures who slide across the garden without moving very far.   We couldn't be more wrong.

Scientists fixed small lights to snails' shells and then mapped what happened after dark.   Surprisingly, they moved long distances, spreading out across quite an area.   Speeded up the images created an amazing pattern of movement.

Importantly though, snails carry lugworm which can be dangerous for dogs.   Some dogs love chomping snails up and thus they get infected.

Two lessons to be learned from this I would have thought.   Stop your dog from eating snails (yuk) and don't try throwing any snails in your garden over next door's fence - they will probably be back 'home' by the next morning.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Old Times

Yesterday I had quite a few trips down memory lane.

In the morning friend W collected me and together we went into our little market town to do various bits and pieces like drawing money from the bank, paying the newspaper bill, topping up on shopping.   Then we met in a coffee bar where we always go, and sat and chatted for an hour.   It is a pleasant way to spend the morning and I am so grateful to all my good friends who collect me and include me now that I cannot drive again.   So thank you W, both for the lift and also for your company.

We talked about old times, when we were small.   We found out that W was born in Huddersfield and that I had two aunts who lived there.   I spent many happy holidays with them, so it is more than likely that W and I were both in the town playing as children at the same time.

The houses where my aunts lived will have been demolished many years ago because neither of the houses had much in the way of mod cons.   This got us talking out the old times and how hard our mothers had to work.   There was no job sharing between parents in those days because our fathers also had to work jolly hard to bring in the money.

My maternal grandfather, William Everton, worked all his life on the railway.   He never learned to read and write but could sign his name.   As he rose to a responsible position he used to bring any book work home for my grandmother to do for him in the evenings.

My grandmother died quite young of a strangulated hernia because she refused to go into hospital.  My mother's youngest brother took my grandfather to live with him and his wife.   They were strict Methodists and drink was utterly forbidden.   Mr grandfather liked his beer.   When he was young it was said that he would dance on the table of The Black Horse pub for a pint of beer.  As an old man he still liked his beer and when we went to see him as a family my father would take him a bag of extra strong mints and slip him enough money for a pint of beer (a 'sneck lifter' as it was called).  Granded Everton would say he was going for a walk round the village, nip in for his pint and then suck the mints all the way home.

In the afternoon it was our Poetry meeting - lots of lovely poetry as usual.  Friend S called for me - so thanks to her too.  Friend S read a lovely Yorkshire poem about the old days - about ovens at the side of the fire, about  the back-breaking work women did around the home, about baking their own bread.   None of the members (with the exception of friend S) are Spring chickens and we could all identify with the sentiments expressed - the Monday washday with its copper with a fire underneath, its Reckitts blue, its starch, its posher and rubbing board and its old wooden mangle.

I came home at the end of the afternoon - the dishwasher had finished washing its load, the Aga was ready for instant toast for tea, we've come a long way in the last fifty years - and by golly we are grateful for it.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Return to wheels.

Yes folks, by an intricate network of cousins (one of the benefits of living all of one's life in the same place) the farmer eventually managed to open the farm gate and drive his car out, locking the gate again behind him.

So yesterday saw us traversing Wensleydale through to Sedbergh to meet our God-daughter for lunch.   It was a lovely drive, as it always is, and it was also good to see her again.

Now we are home and back to normal.   Today there is second-cut silage grass to cut and already the farmer has gone out with his grass cutter on the back of his tractor to get on with the job. Luckily it is only the meadows which are cut for silage and not the pastures (here the sheep and cattle graze all Summer) because this year, as you will see from the photograph, there is a very special crop emerging.   This is the first time for many years that we have had more than one or two mushrooms, but this year we are getting a good handful every morning.   And they are delicious.

If you have never tasted a wild field mushroom then you don't know what you are missing.   It makes you never want to eat the rubbish you buy in boxes at the supermarket again.

They are mysterious things mushrooms; for years they don't put in an appearance and then suddenly one year they pop up everywhere.   It is probably a combination of last year's very wet Summer and this year's very warm July.   Whatever the reason, we shall enjoy them while we can.   Cold roast ham, runner beans from the garden and a mushroom omelette each for lunch methinks.

Enjoy your day.

To end on an amusing note.  We were told of a young lady who wants to go into veterinary work when she leaves school and has enrolled on a course at a zoo to learn about animal management.  It is a fortnight's course - yesterday - Day 1 - was 'the management of stick insects'.   The final day is' the management of lions, tigers and elephants.'

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Out to Lunch

Next week it is friend G's birthday, so today I took her out to lunch to a lovely pub quite near here in the village of Finghall - The Queen's Head.   It is a lovely pub with a lovely atmosphere and a delicious menu!

Our visit coincided with the Bentley Owners' Club outing to The Dales, so there were some super cars in the car park.   I have put on two photographs of our puddings (first course and main for us both was crayfish and apple salad followed by roast beef and Yorkshire pudding),   G had the blackberry and almond tart and I had lemon syllabub with poached gooseberries.   I thought I would put the images on to whet your appetites.   I dare say the Bentley will whet a few appetites too.

The farmer has been on one of his group walks today and when he came back I had to laugh.   It is usually me who does something silly but today it was him.   He put his car in his cousin's yard (his cousin had told him to leave it there any time he wished to) and went off on the walk.   When he returned the yard gate is locked and the house is all locked up.   Have they gone on holiday?   Have they gone out for the day?   He doesn't know.  My daughter in law has taken him up to another cousin's farm a few miles away as the farmer thinks he might have a key to the gate.   I await the outcome, but we are supposed to be meeting our God-daughter in Sedbergh tomorrow for lunch, so it is exciting times around here.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Wars and Boundaries

Have you noticed that now there is this dreadful trouble in Egypt then Syria has completely disappeared from news bulletins?   It seems that only while it is deemed 'newsworthy' is it worth putting the so-called top names (Frank Gardner, Jeremy Bowen etc) there.   Once the fighting becomes entrenched then everything moves on to a new field of  conflict.

And on the same subject - do we really need to impinge so much on peoples' distress that we can see close-ups of bodies being carried up the stairs, people with life-threatening injuries, row upon row on wrapped dead bodies with grieving relatives by their sides?  All this is usually preceded by us being told by the news reader that the following scenes 'you may find distressing'.   You bet we do - but not half as distressing as the people involved.

Humanity will never learn will it.   Surely we all agree that there is one God (assuming we believe in God), so may we not worship him in the way we see fit?

And while I am on the subject of wars - there is this terrible territorial thing.   Why are we all so territorial?   When man first began to evolve in Africa and then migrated Northwards and then settled in various places or moved on, was there immediately this thing about 'this is my spot so don't you dare to come into it'!

I know we can't all go and live in affluent countries, even if we can raise the money to get there.   But I find the dreadful racialist ideas, the fighting over boundaries and the like appalling.  WH Auden said it all with his lines, "He was talking of you and me my dear" in his poem about fascism. **

When I think about it we are even territorial individually aren't we?  We surround our properties with fences and we get mortally offended if anyone interferes with these.  Robert Frost touched on it when he said 'good fences make good neighbours' - yes, if the fence breaks down we can easily fall out about where it should be.
And, come to think of it, animals are also territorial aren't they?   Dogs protect their territory to the death - as do many other animals.

** Refugee Blues by W H Auden,

Friday, 16 August 2013


The pheasant is hardly a wild bird around here where thousands are bred every year to satisfy the corporate shooters.   Driving down our lane over the past couple of weeks, when all the young poults have been let out of their housing and introduced to the big, wide world, is like driving through some bizarre obstacle course from 'Alice in Wonderland.'

The birds crowd on to the lane, pecking madly at the newly-found source of grit.   Along comes a car.  'Could this be the gamekeeper with our daily ration of corn?' they think - and rush towards it.

The rash, hardened drivers just keep going, scattering them and expecting them to get out of the way - they don't all make it, but is being killed by a car any worse than being shot with a gun?

Other drivers blow the horn, stop, get out, shoo the birds on to the side of the road, get back in the car to find they are all in the road again.  Or, worse still, they appear to be going purposefully to the left and then - at the last minute - change their minds and run back.

Last year we had a 'pet' pheasant on the farm.   We called him Fez and after a few days eating with the hens he would come when we called his name.   Then one night he ventured into the hen house with the hens and got shut in.   Next morning he was frantic to escape and we never saw him again.

Once the farmer ran over a pheasant's nest while hay-making.   He came into the kitchen with six still warm eggs in his cap (he had killed the sitting pheasant hen) and we put them under a broody bantam hen.   Within a week we had six long-legged, scrawny chicks.    They thrived, lovingly cared for by the bantam, who seemed bemused when they preferred to hide under the brash in the run rather than under her skirts.

When they grew bigger we made a pen for them in the field and they grew and thrived, until one night a stoat got into the pen and killed one of them.   At this point we thought it wiser to let them go and take their chance in the wild.   We were surprised to find them a few months later, huddled into the corner of the greenhouse one cold night.

I don't eat pheasant.   Seeing them around all the time and sometimes forming some kind of relationship with one (we had a nest in the front garden this year and she hatched twelve chicks) and - for a second - holding their bright eye in your gaze - means that they are well and truly crossed off my menu.

Already the Glorious Twelfth has passed and grouse-shooting is in full swing around here.   In another couple of months, when these young poults have grown plump and tasty, pheasant shooting will begin.   I just hope that by then most of them learn to run rather than fly.   If only they would stick to the ground the shooters can't shoot them - they are not allowed to shoot down and must wait for the bird to take to the air.

To me eating a pheasant would be like eating a friend.   And who amongst us would like to do that?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Three unrelated pieces of information.

First of all, there has been an interesting happening in our garden.  We have a group of Scot's pine trees which have been up for almost a hundred years.   They are planted next to the farmhouse in order to protect it in Winter from the prevailing winds.   It is under these trees that we site all our bird feeders and it is on the trunks of these trees that we put our various bird boxes.   Greater spotted woodpeckers have commandeered one of the boxes!   They have pecked the entrance hole bigger (the box was originally put up to house nesting tits) and as I write this I can see a young woodpecker popping in and out of the hole.   I don't know whether or not they actually had their nest there, but I have to say that the parents and the two young seem to spend most of the day chipping the bark off the trees or hanging on to the peanut feeders - they certainly think of it as home now.

Now to two recipes I have made up over the last week and which have been so successful that I thought I would share them with you.

We have an enormous crop of blackcurrants - the best in years.   The trouble with them is that they take so much going over before being made into jam.   I intended to let the blackbirds have the lot and then I had an idea.   The farmer picked a pan full each day for almost a week.   I washed them but didn't bother to top and tail or pick them over, I just added the minimum of water and cooked them down very gently.   I then put them in a sieve over a bowl overnight.   I added the smallest amount of sugar and poured the thick liquid into used, washed-out yoghourt pots and froze them.
Yesterday we have relations to tea.   I thawed out several of the pots and we had the syrup poured over vanilla ice cream - absolutely delicious.

I needed a quick sauce for pasta for lunch.   I chopped and cooked two red onions in a drop of olive oil until the onion was transparent, then added a tin of plum tomatoes and a small tin of tomato paste, breaking it all down with a wooden spoon until I had a thick 'mush'.
I put this into my very slow small oven for about an hour, then added a handful of finely chopped basil.    At lunch time I reheated it and stirred in a handful of grated parmesan at the last minute.   It was delicious (I ate far too much of it).

Yesterday was a lovely day - friend S for coffee in the morning and the farmer's niece and her family in the afternoon.   No need to cook today as there is plenty left from yesterday's tea to eat up, so I shall have a leisurely morning before my weekly hair appointment.
Another busy day tomorrow.   Where do the days go?

Monday, 12 August 2013

An Outing in Turner's Footsteps

This afternoon friend G and I set off on a little outing by car.   We didn't have far to go but we were actually for a short time following the trail of J M W Turner.   

Turner set off from London on the coach for Leeds on July 12th 1816 having been commissioned by Longmans to paint 120 watercolours to illustrate a seven volume history of the County of York.

In fact Turner filled three sketchbooks with over four hundred drawings and was paid 3000 guineas for the project - the most money he had ever been paid.  Ruskin thought they had 'the most heart in them and the most serious finishing of truth' of anything Turner had painted.

He seems to have come up through Wharfedale and into Wensleydale, and one of the first places he sketched (and later painted) was West Burton Falls, saying that he loved the way the water fanned out at the bottom, showing the rocks behind.

Well, here they are - West Burton Falls, only a matter of five or six miles from home, and always a joy to visit.

As we drove into the village there was a sight and a smell which immediately brought to mind Autumn.   We had had signs on the way as we saw masses of rooks gathered in the fields and searching for grubs in the grass - yes, the rooks are beginning to get together in a gang again.    But this is what we saw that made us both say "Autumn" -

Sunday, 11 August 2013

How I hate DLL's

Spiders are a definite 'no-no', particularly those enormous ones that scamper across the carpet in the Autumn evenings and disappear under the furniture - and lurk.

And then there are those funny ones with a round, ball-like body and long spindly legs.   When I was a child we only had an outside loo and it was at the bottom of the garden.   These spindly spiders used to hang about in there and I was pretty scared stiff of them then.

And then there are ear-wigs.   During the war we had evacuees in our Lincolnshire village - they came from Leeds and were very street-wise (we really were country bumpkins in those days).   In a lot of ways they perked up our little village school no end, but there was one particularly horrible little boy called Harold Heller (yes, his name has stuck in my memory).   He used to gather up handfuls of earwigs from inside the black-out curtains and chase the girls around the playground with them.   I can still raise a shudder at the thought.

But the one thing that still gives me the eebie-jeebies although I am a grown woman (as an old headmistress used to say when I was a junior member of staff and didn't know how to change a plug!) is the Daddy Long Legs.   At the first sign of a Daddy Long Legs you know that Autumn is on its way.   And the first sign occurred this morning, when one arrived on the inside of our bedroom window sill.   Outside and I could have viewed it objectively - but inside immediately suggested to me that tonight when I am in bed it might make a b-line for my face and I might feel those dangly long legs across my cheek.

Time to summon the farmer to my aid.

I heard on the radio the other day that 'they' are expecting a plague of the wretched things this year.   I shall be constantly on my guard.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Poem.

This morning, as usual, a group of us met for coffee in our little market town.   We do this every Friday morning and it is such fun.

This morning friend W suddenly came out with the statement: "Somebody's pinched my kazoo!"   W plays in several ukulele bands and is a good musician.   She sometimes has occasion to play the kazoo and hers has gone missing, much to her frustration.

This made us all laugh as it seemed such a good line for the title of a silly song or poem.   So the group suggested that I write one.   So here it is W - hope you like it (and the rest of the group if they are reading this).

The Missing Kazoo.

Somebody's pinched my kazoo!
I feel it just might have been you.
I'm quite a musician
and it created a frisson -
- a shiver that seemed to run through.

It's easy to spot 'cos it's blue.
In the shop there were only a few.
When you'd all gone for a fag
I searched every bag
and every coat pocket too.

So now my buzzer is gone.
I hope it's gone to a good home.
But when the uke band's about,
they'll miss it no doubt.
Meanwhile I'll play paper and comb.

If anyone finds a blue kazoo - you know who it belongs to.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Getting to know you.

'Getting to know all about you', as the old song says.   Well yes, here in Blogland if we blog for long enough with our Blogfriends we do get to know them to some extent - in so far as they wish us to impinge on their lives really.

For example I can now be almost sure how Tom (Tom Stephenson on my side bar) will react to a situation.   John (Going Gently) with his hilarious sense of humour and his wonderful kindness to old ladies and assorted animals (not necessarily in that ordert) is also fairly predictable.

Some bloggers I have met - Elizabeth (About New York), Fiona (Marmalade Rose), Denise (Mrs Nesbitt's Space), A J (Morning AJ) to name but four.   So I know a little more about them.

And the one thing I know for sure about them, and can never know about the rest, is what they sound like.   If they put a photograph of themselves on their blog I know what they look like.   I know their thoughts and feelings in so far as they wish me to.   But voices and accents - now there is another thing altogether.

Linda, who lives on a farm in Colorado, Barbara who farms in the Shenandoah Valley, Pondside, Hildred, Loren, Cloudia - if they were all in the room together I am certain I would be overwhelmed by their differing accents.

And voice is quite important isn't it?   I have an accent which to anyone who is good at accents would immediately point me out as 'Northern'.   The farmer is obviously Yorkshire through and through - from his flat cap to his wonderfully accented voice.   Friend M, although she has lived up here for some years, is quite certainly from the South.   We get good at pin -pointing accents in our own country.

These thoughts were prompted by an article in The Times (where else?) this morning by Matthew Syed, speaking about voices on Radio - really the exact opposite of what I am saying about Blogland.   Alexander Gordon has read the classified football results on Radio 4 for a long time and although I have never been even remotely interested in football his voice has always fascinated me - the way he managed to imply who had lost by the inflexion of his voice before he actually told you the score.

Syed also suggests that President Obama is marvellous radio material because his voice has depth, smoothness and 'just a hint of folksiness' - thus conveying that he is 'one of us'.

Voice is so important - perhaps it is sad that Blogland doesn't include a voice element - or is it?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Country Matters.

Regular readers of my blog may remember that back in the Spring Mrs. Pheasant reared a large brood of chicks under the hydrangea bush by the landing window.

It has been a good year for pheasant and partridge and the farmer has seen part-grown young in almost every field.   This afternoon, when Tess and I went for our after-lunch walk there were nineteen young pheasants in the middle of the road.   We walked slowly and carefully and they were not afraid, just walking in front of us down the lane.   I took a few photographs - this is the best.   Sadly, the grouse shooting season begins on the 12th of this month and by the end of October they will be shooting pheasants too - so this gang had better learn to be scared before that date - or at least to keep walking and not be tempted to fly (the guns can't shoot low, so if the pheasants stay on the ground they are safe; if only I could tell them.)
And now to my other theme for today - the subject of Ragwort. Oddly enough, I intended to write about it today and rang friend W to check the name of the moth involved and she said that Matthew Parris had written about it in The Times today - so I read his thoughts before I wrote this.

For anyone who doesn't know, Ragwort is a rather pernicious yellow weed which has done particularly well this year (what hasn't done particularly well this year in the flower/fruit world?)   It is important in the life cycle of the cinnabar moth.

It is also fatal to equines.   My friend W lost her two donkeys to ragwort poisoning.    Equines will not eat it while it is flowering but if it dies down and is then cut in with the grass for hay then they will eat it.

Round here the grass verges are thick with it and there are clumps of it in the fields.   The local Nature Reserve has lots of it and I suppose you could argue that there it is in the kind of environment where it poses no threat. Matthew Parris himself lost a llama to liver disease some years ago.

It is even possible that humans can contract liver disease from pulling up the plants and there is, according to Parris, a law saying that Landowners have a legal duty to remove it.   It is obvious as one drives around the countryside that the law is not being enforced.

John Clare, the poet wrote in 1831:

Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come and scatter gold....
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright and glaring that the very light
Of rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
and seems but very shadows in thy sight.

Beautiful it might be, and important to the cinnabar moth, but as I go around the countryside and see it in fields where it might easily to incorporated into a hay crop then I do really think something has to be done about it.   What do you think?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

An 'ordinary' sort of day.

I am not driving again after my recent attack, and the likelihood is that I shall not drive again, so I must get used to it.   Luckily I have some very good friends and a wonderful partner who is willing to drive me wherever I wish to go.

This morning friend W collected me just to go into town to the Post Office.   As she had an appointment later we only had time for a quick cup of coffee - but it was time for a chat and passing the time of day.   So thank you W for starting my day off on the right note.

When I got home the farmer was in the Utility Room shelling peas.   I find shelling peas on a par with watching paint dry - they are not my favourite vegetable anyway and it is such a boring occupation.
However, because the farmer loves them, he is happy to spend the whole morning shelling them.   Then I froze them for future use.

This afternoon I went to visit friend M and we spent a lovely afternoon with our feet up discussing the world, the village, our families - anything and everything in fact.   M and I have been friends for a long time and we never ever run out of things to say to one another.   So thank you M for a lovely afternoon.

On leaving (the farmer was collecting me) I saw the patch of oregano in her front garden.   It was absolutely covered in bees of all shapes and sizes.   What a good year for honey this is going to be surely.   The blossom in the Spring was prolific, the herbaceous borders have all been full of bloom, and now - as we go into Autumn - the mauves and purples of herbs and Michaelmas daisies are everywhere and so are the bees.   I just managed to catch one Tortoiseshell butterfly on the oregano before my camera told me that my memory card was full.

As we came back down the drive I saw that the buddleia was in bud.   Now that is where the butterflies will really arrive in about a fortnight, all being well.

It is our Writers' Meeting in the morning, so I now need to get ready for that.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Office work

How did I ever manage to go out to work and hold down any kind of job which needed administrative work?

Every three months I have to submit a VAT return for our farm business (I do the ledger) and every three months I approach it as though I have never seen it before.

The language is foreign and I have a struggle.   Perhaps it would be better if it were submitted every month, before my pea brain began to lose it.   As it is, I struggle.

I suppose the plus side is that when I have finally understood what goes in which box and have completed it and the figures all balance, everything else falls into place.   Rachel suggests this in her reply to my blog yesterday - you are quite right Rachel - get the rotten jobs out of the way first and then you can enjoy the rest.

My latest read (which I am trying to ignore on the bookshelf while I do more pressing jobs like this blog) is a jolly good one.   If you are a Henning Mankell fan and have not read 'Kennedy's Brain' do look out for it.   And while I am on the subject of books, if you are an Alexander McCall Smith fan and have not read his Isabelle Dalhousie books - then you are in for another treat there too.

The rain is just persistent today and it really feels as though Autumn has set in here in the Yorkshire Dales.   The grass verges have gone to seed and are all brown.  Apart from a few purple thistles and an awful lot of ragwort there is nothing much left flowering in the countryside and on the rowan and hawthorn trees the berries are rapidly turning to red.   Seems as though the best of our wonderful Summer is over and the season of 'mists and yellow fruitfulness' may well be just beginning.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Coffee mornings.

One of the things I really enjoy about village life is the Coffee Mornings, usually run by a hardy group of ladies who enjoy doing this sort of thing.   We have one in our village over the Winter on the first Saturday in each month and it is always well-attended.   My friend W always calls for me and we go together.   For me, as I live outside the village, it is the only time I get to see some of the folk I know.

But I often also go with a group of friends to such events as this at a nearby village of Constable Burton.   In Victorian times almost the entire village belonged to the 'Lord of the Manor' but gradually over the years parts of it have been sold off.   It is a pretty little village and is the next village along the valley through which our little beck flows.

Yesterday three of us, thanks to W (who collected us), went to the Coffee morning the the Village Hall.   The Hall itself is lovely, fairly newly refurbished and with a huge selection of books which you can browse and buy cheaply.   But what makes this really special for me at any rate, is the trouble that is taken to dress the tables beautifully.    Every table has a hand-made cloth on it, some lace, some crocheted and some embroidered.   All the tea pots are pretty ones and the cups are china cups.   There was the added treat yesterday of toasted tea cakes with raspberry jam.

Opposite the Village Hall is the village green, which slopes down to the beck (our beck) and which has blossom trees - beautiful earlier in the year.

It was a lovely morning.

Today the farmer is walking.   I have a long list of jobs - a piece of writing for our Writers' meeting this week; the VAT return for the business; two loads of washing (the forecast for tomorrow is for pouring rain all day); a baby's cardigan I have knitted which needs finishing off; a new Henning Mankell mystery to read; Tess to walk; lunch to get (I intend to invite my son and his wife who have just come back from a week away).   So I am not short of things to do.    

Have a nice day.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Inula is in bloom.

I looked out of the bedroom window this morning and saw that the Inula in the front garden was in bloom.   It is not a flower I am particularly fond of but I grow it for one reason only.   The Peacock Butterflies seem besotted with it.

Sure enough, I went out with my camera five minutes later and there was already one on it.   Not a fantastic photograph - but I thought I would put it on for you anyway.

It is official that it has been the hottest month here in the UK for something like twenty years.  The weather is set to change to rain on Monday, but if we don't get any more Summer at all then this one has certainly been a cracker.

People in countries like parts of the United States, where heat is the norm every year (I was once in Phoenix in late May and that was far hotter than I wanted thank-you) don't always realise that here in the UK we only have sunshine like that now and again.   I think our memories of every Summer being hot and dry are probably enhanced by time, don't you?

Thursday, 1 August 2013


We live in a holiday area.   The Yorkshire Dales is popular with walkers, cyclists, dog owners, folk with small children who don't fancy the seaside, folk who have been coming here for years and see no need to change (and will probably retire up here).   Almost all of them spend their holiday in a holiday cottage - of which there are hundreds.

As August begins, so the holidaymakers swell.   On wet days like yesterday they tend to gravitate towards the little market towns.   Not that our little town has a lot to commend it to the holidaymaker.   There are the usual shops, various tea shops, a garden centre - the whole would take up about half an hour to explore I would have thought.   Then there is the Wensleydale Railway - from here they can go through the Dales countryside and enjoy the ride.   And many of them do.

Once the weather improves then very few come into the towns at all.   Those who do (recognisable by their footwear, shorts, rucksacks etc) are usually stocking up on supplies for the day's picnic.

I am always pleased when the weather is good for them.   These cottages are by no means cheap, children tend to get fractious if they are shut up day after day - they need to be out in our beautiful countryside -running free.

Today is a perfect day for them, with puffy white clouds, blue sky and a cooling wind blowing.   I have just been into town and there were plenty of holiday-makers around.   What I like about them is the selection of dogs they bring to the area.   I find it is a good way of starting a conversation - "Can I stroke your dog?   What breed is it?" is as good a way into meeting people as any.

And then, of course, you get the added satisfaction of driving home luxuriating in the fact that you don't have to come up here on holiday - you actually live here.