Sunday, 30 November 2014

Ravenstonedale Chase

Today the farmer, Tess and I have been through Wensleydale, along to The Moorcock  Pub (on the edge of the Carlisle to Settle railway) and then up the side of the railway as far as Lady Anne Clifford's Pendragon Castle, where we turned left across Ravenstonedale Chase and through to the village of Ravenstonedale for lunch in The Black Swan with my God-daughter and her husband.  It is a gloriously wild, untamed area up there with miles with no habitation.   You really get some idea of how very bleak it must have been in Lady Anne's day.

Lunch was splendid (baked ham with mustard and ginger sauce

for me and brisket of beef for the farmer), the company was first class, and - for the first time in four long days - we saw wall to wall sunshine.   It has been foggy here since Wednesday morning, and today the sun shone.   There were clouds, which always makes the Dales exciting because some areas will be in sunshine and some in shade, making for fine views.

Coming back, the sunset was spectacular and I managed a shot, although do bear in mind it was (as were all the other shots) from a moving car.   A lovely day out.

Sorry it is a hurried post, but there is a queue to use my computer. Sorry also that my pictures have appeared in the middle of the writing.   Can you spot the farmer walking Tess up on the Chase - fairly high up on the left of one of the pictures?

Saturday, 29 November 2014


It is often said that 'old' people become invisible in the street; that we go about our daily tasks and nobody notices us, unless we dress outrageously, or sing loudly as we walk along.

We were talking about this at our Friday coffee group when one of our friends spoke about being in a shop in our little market town.   The shop is a popular one , selling 'home made' cakes and pies - perfect fodder for the working men of the town, who pop in for a pie for elevenses or a cake to eat with their coffee.

She was in there waiting to be served when a young workman came blustering in, pushed in front of her and ordered his pie or whatever.   She wondered whether to accost him and say that she was first, but decided against it in case she got a mouth-full of abuse.   Straight afterwards, another young man, obviously a colleague, came in, joined the first young man and placed his order. All this time our friend stood waiting to be served.   To add insult to injury their loud voices were peppered with foul language.   She felt like telling them to curb it, but decided against it.   My question is this - when the first young man pushed in front of her, should she have said 'Excuse me but I think it is my turn.'  And when the second chap arrived and the bad language started, should she have told them to curb it (and risk a mouth-full aimed at her)?

Talking it over with the farmer last night, his opinion was that it should have been up to the shop assistant  to a) serve my friend first and b) tell them to curb their language.   This begs the questions - did she realise that my friend was first (invisibility theory at play here, although my friend does wear a red anorak), and also would the complaint about the language (to which she may be very used) just mean that they wouldn't come into the shop again and the shop would lose custom?

This kind of dilemma must be played out a dozen times every day in some shop or other.   As elderly folk we really should not put up with such behaviour, but what can we do about it?   I am sure my friend will be interested in what you have to say.

*On reading this through, another thought occurs to me.   These two young men, most likely living in our little town anyway, have no doubt got mums and grans at home, and would not dream of using that kind of language in front of them - and most likely go our of their way to be helpful at home.   So what happens to them to make them so different once they are in their working environment?

Thursday, 27 November 2014


It seems that Winter has more or less arrived.   I know that officially it doesn't start until the 21st December, but today is a typical Winter's Day and I hate it, especially as it is only November.   A day like this at the end of February is to be tolerated because you know Winter is almost over.

November 25th - a dull, dark day - never getting even a vestige of daylight.   A deep mist cloaks everything and hangs low in the fields leaving its taint on the cobwebs which hang heavy in the hedgerow.

Everythings looks to have gone into hibernation.   Even the rabbits seem to be absent from the fields, although they must come out to eat at some point.   The hens, who could spend the day happily in the hen house in their clean, fresh straw, choose to come out into the farm yard and stand about in small bedraggled clusters, heads down, thoroughly miserable.

In our little town the Christmassy windows of the shops are making an effort to cheer the place upbut there is hardly a soul about to appreciate it.

Our wood burner is out of action for a couple of days as we wait for a new glass (the farmer was adding the new bits he had bought and he accidentally dropped the glass, so we are waiting for a replacement which should be here tomorrow) so we have the central heating on - not the same without that lovely red glow.

All the cattle have gone now and the fields are empty and forlorn - and they will stay like this until Spring - which I must say seems a long way off today.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


We had to go to our nearest town, Northallerton, this morning and the farmer went into the Heating Centre to collect a parcel and I sat in the car in the car park.   There were about a dozen other cars there and I found it interesting, as people came out of the centre, to speculate which car they would go to.

First came a lady, possibly in her seventies, but very smartly turned out.   Hair grey, swept into a chignon held up by a tortoiseshell clip, black trousers and jacket,  knee high red boots, she was slim and elegant.  I guessed right - a Volvo sporty car a couple of years old.

Then came a middle-aged couple, both overweight, both wearing fleeces (I hate fleeces), both looking a bit scruffy - again I guessed right when they approached and got into an old banger.

A man in a check jacket and wearing green wellies - a Range Rover - right again.

At this point the farmer came out so the game was over, but we went into our Farming Merchant's shop next door to go up into their cafe for a coffee and a scone.   Not surprisingly the cafe was full of 'farming types' all eating heartily.   The food was good and definitely substantial - we had a scone each and they were huge and cheap! Anyone seeing these folk would know they were farming types.

All the way home I was thinking about how we project our image to people.   If, like me, you have moved around the country, had various jobs and lived various life styles, then you must surely have developed several different persona.   Does this make us more complex characters?   Or do we just have a wider experience of life but possibly on a more superficial level.

The farmer is a farmer, is a farmer.   He has never lived anywhere other than here on the farm, and all his experience has been in farming so that he has a deep knowledge of all things farming.   My experience on the other hand, spans only twenty or so years.

All a bit complicated I know - and I am sorry if you think I am writing rubbish - but it really interests me, even if I am not putting it very well.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The passing of the old.

A village stalwart has passed away this week - a charming lady who has had far more than her share of illness over the past few years, and a lady who has been a pillar of the community as long as I have lived here - and many years before that.   In old photographs of the village she is always there - arranging the flowers, singing in the choir, helping at village occasions.   She will be greatly missed, not only by her family but also but the village and the church community.

Her passing made me think of village characters who pass away and I knew that somewhere in one of Ronald Blythe's books there was a passage on just such a theme and I was pretty sure it was under an article on All Souls' Day.

So this morning I looked it up and read it.   He says, 'I am suddenly struck by how swiftly they vanish.  Here today and gone tomorrow.  Why hasn't the village collapsed as prop after prop is taken away?   How is it that church-wise they have all gone without leaving an unfillable space?   Something strange here.   Is this what mortality is?

Even after all these years since my first husband died (23) these words are so real - that is village living I suppose. Whatever the answer is I know that the whole village will mourn her passing.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Three cheers for us oldies.

He's done it!   I did a post about him when he set off - so here's one when he has arrived.   Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, at the ripe old age of 75has arrived in Guadeloupe in his 60ft yacht 'Grey Power', after coming Third in the solo trans-Atlantic race Route de Rhum.

He was the first man to sail solo and non-stop round the world in 1968/9.   He says about this recent race that he is 'absolutely over the moon to come third.  It is quite fantastic.'   All I can say is well done Sir Robin - I absolutely agree with you.   Three cheers for all of us oldies.

And while we are on the subject of 'honours' for G B - well done too to Lewis Hamilton on becoming World Champion in Formula 1 for the second time.    Wonder what he will do when he is 75.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Busy days

I had no time to post yesterday -out with friends, as usual, in the morning (couldn't miss that) and then 'Dear Diary' class in the afternoon (only one more to go, so shall really miss that after next Friday).

Today the farmer is shooting and I have been to Teesside Park Shopping Centre with friend W.  It is a venture into the 'real world' from our quiet little backwater (long may it remain that way) but it has meant that shopping in M and S has put a whole load of Christmas food into the freezer - the turkey, a nice joint of beef, a couple of vegetarian dishes (moussaka and a cheese, potato and onion pie) and two packs of 'ready to roast' parsnips.  A chunk of my family is vegetarian, so I always have to be prepared.   A couple of quiches without chorizo and a couple of pizzas and I am ready to go.   Luckily they all adore my trifle, which is made in a trice, so that's it really. 

Friends are coming to tea tomorrow, which will be nice - a nice chat and a nice little afternoon tea.   What's not to like?

All our friends in the US seem to be having a terrible time with snow - here in the uk I think we just hope we don't end up getting it too.   So often, what starts over there finds its way over here later.

Our journey to Teesside Park (due East from here) was a journey in and out of fog.   Sometimes the sun could be glimpsed pushing its way through the cloud, other times it was dark with thick fog.   When we came out of the shop the sky was blue and there was a glorious sun shining.    But we came back through fog again before the sun met us near to home.

I was reading John Clare's Shepherd's Calendar for November the other day - my goodness, how well he knew his countryside and the seasons.   As the poor man spent so much of his life in what was in those days called a 'lunatic asylum' one wonders how much better a life he would have had these days - drugs have made all the difference in so many cases like his.   Thank goodness such places, with their draconian ways, no longer exist.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Barking Mad

When we let Tess out into the yard last night at around ten-thirty, for her last wee before we went to bed, she went out of the back door in an absolute frenzy - and barked and barked.   Up and down the grass under the pine trees she roared, barking all the time and going mad.

The reason?   A huge flock of geese were flying over and chatting amongst themselves as they made their journey.   I love to see these skeins of geese fly over in the day time and to see in which direction they are flying.   But these were airborne well after dark - it had just not occurred to me that they made journeys in the dark.   But when you think about it, all the birds who migrate must travel in the dark as well as in the light, or they would never get there.

Sorry I missed them though. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fitness League

'Fitnessbeing relative, of course.

Wednesday is the day that we go to the Fitness League class for an hour of strenuous (for me) exercise for the over sixties.   It is done to music, which does help as it keeps us all moving.   But it is jolly hard work and I always come home feeling better for it but also absolutely staggering with the effort.   Today is no exception.

If John is reading this and wondering whether an exercise class might help him to lose that extra weight, I should tell him that one of the highlights of this class is a lovely lady who absolutely loves baking and who turns up each week with a box of cakes for afterwards (this week butterfly buns with butter cream studded with ju-jubes - delicious).

The news on the television has just shown fifteen feet of snow in some parts of the United States - the weather man assures us that it is not coming here - let's hope not, we don't want snow as early as this do we?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Out to lunch AGAIN.

Out to lunch today with friend S - poor farmer didn't have to fend for himself as we didn't go until just after twelve o'clock, so he came in a bit early for his lunch.   We went to Berry's cafe in the village of Swinithwaite in Wensleydale.   It is always a reliable place to get a lovely meal with lovely atmosphere in which to eat it.   Today there was an added reason for going because about eighteen months ago a large beech tree blew down on the Swinithwaite estate and now someone has hollowed it out by hand to make a viking boat - and we wanted to see it.   It is lovely and I am sure the children will adore it.
Lunch was delicious too - club sandwich with chips and salad for friend S and crab cakes for me - followed by ice cream for both of us and a pot of tea.   Then it was home through the very few miles, stopping on the driveway to photograph their two llamas who always seem interested in what is going on, except when you want to take their photograph, when they are intent upon eating.   And knowing how llamas can spit without warning, I didn't want to get too close!
A lovely surprise through the post this morning from Gayle and the Square Ones (see my side bar) - when a belated birthday card arrived from them.   I love belated cards - they make one's birthday last a little longer.  So, thank you Gayle for making my morning - and especially for the exquisite drawing you had done on the back of the envelope.
Today is a beautiful Autumn day here in the Yorkshire Dales and I must say the Dales looked at their absolute best as we made our journey to and from the restaurant.   Bolton Castle - a fourteenth century castle on the daleside - stood out in the Autumn mist majestically.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sunday Lunches

Out to lunch yesterday (Sunday), the farmer, friend W and I.   Other friends also lunching in the same venue, so that we met and chatted to six other folk while we were there.

The farmer had roast pork (with crackling) and W and I had slow roast leg of lamb - with these came Yorkshire puddings (2 each if we wished), gravy in a gravy boat, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, carrots, diced turnips, roast potatoes and a roast parsnip each.  Are you full up just reading this?   Would you believe that we all had a pudding afterwards, the farmer pear crumble and the two of us raspberry meringue roulade. After coffee in the lounge we staggered out to the car and drove home.  None of us had another crumb to eat on Sunday.

One of the main reasons I like to go out to lunch on Sunday (the traditional day here in the UK for a roast lunch) is that as there are only two of us, any joint of meat I buy will be very small.   When we go out we are eating slices cut from a whole leg of lamb or a very large joint of pork or beef - and it tastes so much better.  

The farmer and I were talking at lunch time about our childhood and Sunday lunch and we both agreed - our parents bought a large joint (and usually rotated between pork, beef and lamb with maybe a chicken now and again, although chicken was a luxury food in those days and chicken for us was usually old hen from our own flock and she had to be boiled and eaten with white sauce.  And mother always had to lie and say it wasn't one of ours, otherwise I wouldn't eat it!)

That large joint was eaten hot on Sunday, cold slices on Monday (wash day) with fried vegetables (remember bubble and squeak?), cottage or shepherd's pie on Tuesday and perhaps even Wednesday as well, with plenty of veg to eke the meat out further.  Our mothers were jolly good managers and  certainly in the case of my own mother there was never that much money to spare.  But by golly we ate well, supplemented as we were by plenty of vegetables out of the garden (no frozen food for us, we didn't even have a fridge).

Not really back to 'normal' eating today - still taking it steady!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

My diary

Well, dear readers, how fascinating my one-year diary turned out to be.   I kept it in four spiral notebooks, one for each season, from Autumn 2010 to Autumn 2011 and reading through it reminded me of so many things I had completely forgotten.   There were records of people who had called to see us and what I had given them to eat, records of places the farmer and I had visited (it was the year we went to The Netherlands, so there was quite a lot about the various art work there), it happened to be the year when I had been airlifted to hospital (only a couple of weeks ago the farmer and I were trying to decide how long ago it was) - and there were so many incidents in it about which I had completely forgotten.

I shall certainly pass it on one day to my son, although whether he will want to be bothered with it is up to him.   At present he seems to have little interest in Family History.   And on the subject - it was always spoken in our family about my mother's brother, Uncle Abe, who farmed in the Lincolnshire Wolds where I spent many happy holidays in my childhood, how he had won the Military Medal in the First World War.   A friend has recently researched it for me and there is no record of this at all.  It seems it was a Family Myth - and I would guess that there are plenty of those around.

This morning, now that the early mist has cleared, there is a pale sun shining and it is still - in other words a lovely Autumn morning.   I am enjoying a relaxing morning as, along with friend W and the farmer, we are going out for Sunday lunch.   Lovely not to think about what to cook.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dear Diary

Friend W and I are still attending a Friday afternoon class in our little market town.   The class is called 'Dear Diary' and each week our Lecturer takes a different diary she has researched in the County Records Office and we read it and discuss it.   It is fascinating stuff.

This week it was a diary kept by two young school boys just before their teenage years.   They lived with their Grandparents in the Vale of York on a small farm.  Their mother had died and their father was a grocer in Manchester, who paid infrequent visits to see them.

We know that later on they both joined their father in the grocery business and moved to Manchester, but here they are aged around 10 (one follows the other in the book, which was obviously kept safe in the farmhouse, where nothing was wasted, not even a simple book like this.)

The date is the early 1840's and so it has survived for over 150 years.   What a treasure, thanks to it being handed down through the family until finally a distant relative handed it in to the County Record Office for safe keeping.   Very thoughtful I would say, when many folk might have destroyed it.   It is invaluable.

There is a lot about the weather, the barley crop, the mowing and gathering in of the crops, the picking and storing of the apples, the milking of the cow, and a lot about what time it is (to the exact second).  But also there are various mathematical puzzles.   I can surmise that Grandmother (or Grandfather) made them do school work in the holidays, particularly maths puzzles, in preparation for their employment in a grocery shop.  They did both go as day boys to a local school.  Here is one puzzle (our tutor did give us the answer the boys gave!)

"How many drops of rain are there in a thundershower supposing that it stretches three miles in length and two in breadth, that during its whole continuance the drops fell at the rate of 1820 per minute upon each square yard and it lasted forty minute."

These diaries are so important when thinking about the past and they are wonderful to read through.   Another friend E, has kept a diary for many years - writing it daily and sticking into it pictures which are applicable to what she has written.  I do hope that in two hundred years somebody is reading that.   It takes some patience to keep it up.  I tried in and managed from Autumn 2010  until the beginning of Autumn 2011,   I have just found it on the bookshelf, so am off to make myself a cup of coffee and read what I did that year.   One of the four Christmas cakes I make each year (three as presents) is in the oven so I have to stay near.

Oh and, by the way, I wonder how many ten year olds could work out that puzzle these days without a calculator.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

They are here!

Just in time.   The farmer cleaned out the loose housing earlier this week and spread the 'muck' on the fields.   Yesterday he spread a deep layer of straw and this morning the farmer's son called to say he was walking over the fields with the first cows this afternoon, for their winter stay.
And here they are, complete with the salt licks to aid their digestion (i.e. make them drink more).   All are (hopefully) in calf and all look jolly happy to be inside as it is an awful dark, cold day today. They walked across the fields (the farmer's two sons rode behind them on the quad bike), came in and went straight for the silage.

I love it when they come for the Winter (these will be here until a week or two before they are due to calve unless there are complications) because it means there is always life in the yard when I go down to get the car out of the garage.   Even the farm cats, Blackie and Creamy were out and about, watching the proceedings - I think they are pleased too.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


I have just returned from my weekly exercise class and I am exhausted, as always, so I know if I sit down to watch the antiques programme we always watch over our tea (boiled eggs tonight), I shall not get round to posting a blog today.   And that would never do.  I know it is doing me good to have an hour's strenuous exercise (strenuous for me that is) and our tutor really does put us through it,  I never feel like going and I always come home feeling better for it.

Then tonight there is one of our favourite programmes on the television when Michael Portillo journeys by rail down the spine of Italy.   We watch his programme every week and once we see past his coloured jackets (pink, yellow, aquamarine to name but three) we love the snippets of information, the people he meets, the countryside zipping past the train window  - what is there not to like?  And yet the Times critic (in this case I think it was Andrew Billen) absolutely slaughtered the programme last week, talking of him behaving like a peacock strutting up and down the train.   He gave the programme only two out of five stars.  As friend W and I agreed on our way home from the exercise class, sometimes these television 'critics' seem to have watched an entirely different programme from the one we watched.

I had a lovely surprise in the post today when Siri, daughter of Margaret of Thousand Flower on my side bar, sent me the most beautiful card with a hare on it (I collect hares - pictures, statuettes, cars - anything with a hare on it) and one I have not had before.   So thank you Thousand Flower - it is most appreciated.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

November 11th.

 So many wars, so much killing and maiming, and often it is difficult to answer the question 'for what?'   Today, a particularly poignant Remembrance Day as it is one hundred years since the outbreak of the Great War,  all the usual sights were there.   The thousands of poppies representing all the hundreds of thousands who have died, the stiff, straight faces of rows upon rows of men and women in uniform all trying not to cry, and the old veterans, many of them in wheel chairs, who cannot contain their emotions and who cry openly.

And what I always find almost unbearable is all the children there.   This year, at the Tower of London and at various places around the world (the Menin Gate, particularly so) children stand solemn-faced and speak to the cameras of remembering the dead of the wars.   Some of them have fathers, grand-fathers and great-grandfathers who have died in one or another conflict.   I cannot help but watch them and wonder whether they will take their turn when they become adults.

I'm sure it is necessary to remember, and having a special day to do so is also important - but it does make me question so many things about war and the reason for war - while at the same time feeling a sense of disloyalty to those who have died.   Does anyone else feel like this?

Monday, 10 November 2014


Our farm lies about three miles outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary.   In many ways this is a good thing because we get all the benefits of the beautiful scenery without the restraints regarding planning etc., which apply within the Park.

Once you get into the Park (which stretches from Wensley in the East through to Sedbergh in the West) almost every field boundary is a dry stone wall - a huge feature of the area and made, of course, because it is the indigenous material and therefore was cheap in the days when these walls were built (now they cost the earth to rebuild when one falls down and one has to employ a dry-stone-waller).

We do have dry stone walls on many of our field boundaries, but we do also have hedges.   I love the walls - they are home to rabbits and stoats and weasels in the Winter time when the ground may be frozen or flooded and they also house a great number of mosses and ferns.   But I do also love our hedges.

We have some which have been let grow so that the hedges are almost trees, and some which are kept short.   We need this short, thick hedge in order to keep the sheep in during the Winter.   There is nothing sheep like more than pushing through 'flimsy' hedging and moving into pastures new.

But what is most interesting about these hedges is the wealth of different, species to be found in them.   Most of our hedges are a good mix of hawthorn (good berries for birds in winter), blackthorn (sloes for wine and also impenetrable because of spiky stems, holly (berries for Christmas if the birds leave them long enough), field maple (lovely leaf-colour in the Autumn), hazel (some years lots of nuts and therefore lots of grey squirrels and ash saplings which throw up 'spikes' over the summer, only for these to be cut down when the hedge-cutting man arrives - these plants, left to their own devices, will soon grow into small trees, crab apple (again these become trees and provide winter food for all kinds of wild life), with guelder rose, dog rose and blackberry thrown in for good measure. Judging from the number of species it is safe to estimate that the older hedges have been there for four or five hundred years.  There was a 'fashion' for grubbing up hedges in some areas, to make bigger fields, but certainly on our farm this has not been the case.   Here and there are 'thinner' hedges, largely made up of hawthorn trees and crab apple trees - these the farmer calls 'cams' and says they were field hedges long ago, mostly long before his time and the fields have now been made into one larger field.

We also have a plantain which consists of some evergreens and a good stand of alders, along with a few fruit trees (apple and plum) which have been added over the years.

I have just started reading 'The Making of the English Landscape' by .W G Hoskins, which my son gave me for my birthday.  I do hope to learn more about hedges and stone walls before I finish it.
In the meantime I love speculating on who planted these hedges and what made them decide on particular species, and where did they get them from ?

There has been thick fog all day here today.   But I have just noticed out of the hall window that the late sun has broken through.   Here is a photo - not particularly good - makes me feel better about the approaching winter though - there is nothing worse than
a foggy day in November for making you dread the coming of winter.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Miscellany

In yesterday's comments Elizabeth talked of books which she loved as a child.   They struck a real chord with me - The Famous Five of course, almost everyone read those - the characters all became almost part of the family.   But she also mentioned BB (if my memory serves me right the author's real name was W Watkins-Pitchford (hopefully somebody will correct me if I am wrong).  The two books I remember are 'The Little Grey Men' and 'Down the Bright Stream' - I wonder if they can still be bought? - Cloudberry, Sneezewort and the rest, getting up to real adventures on the woodland floor.   How I loved those books, and read them over and over again.

That love of books has never left me and still I come across books now and again which I want to read over and over, and it is these books that I end up buying.   One such book I was bought for my birthday last week - a biography of Kathleen Raine, the poet.   Friend G bought me 'No End to Snowdrops' written by Philippa Bernard'.   Utterly fascinating life, difficult to put down and so easy to read.                    **********

Holly Berries:    The big question is will there be any left by Christmas?   Holly trees and bushes are laden and look divine, but this week the redwings and fieldfares have arrived in force, apart from the blackbirds - and all are tucking into those berries with gusto.   I do not begrudge the birds a single berry - after all, that is what nature intended them for; but I do wish they would hold off for another seven weeks (yes that is how near Christmas is!) .

So, two questions really - did you enjoy reading as a child and if so,
what books really influenced you (perhaps we could make a list, it might make a good Christmas present list for folk who don't know what to buy for their god-children, grandchildren, friend's children and the like).

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Carefree days

I came across this photograph of the maypole at a village garden fete in our village - circa 1950.   Two of the farmer's sisters are on it
and when I asked him why he wasn't there he suggested that he had thought it far too 'cissy' to get involved.  (He hasn't changed then).

Of course it was almost forty years before I arrived in these parts but I am sure that similar photographs exist of similar exploits in my Lincolnshire village - because that is what we did in those days.

And they were largely carefree days providing we came from loving, 'normal' families - how lucky we were.   The war was over and things were beginning to get back to how they should be.   And although few of our families had a lot of money our mothers were usually good managers and could scrape together enough for a new dress for the maypole, or the Sunday school anniversary or similar.   As kids, I don't think we ever questioned where the money came from.

No, I don't envy today's children with all their computers, mobiles, i-pads and the like.   We were out in the fields in summer making our own enjoyment and in the winter we were near the fire (burning the fronts of our legs while the backs were freezing!) playing board games, or I spy, or reading, or learning our parts for the school or sunday school play.   Or indeed, trying to memorise exactly how you got the maypole ribbons right (I never did master it).

Alright - call me old-fashioned if you like.  But I suppose it is each to his own generation and mine has long passed.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A busy day

Yesterday the first of the Summer eatage cattle went back home to the farm opposite.  They went with no trouble at all, following friend and farmer G, who had a feed bag in his hand, which he kept rattling.   They went straight into their Winter quarters and began eating.

So today the farmer has hired the big muck spreader from friend M and is spending the day leading the muck out of the loose housing and spreading it on the fields above the farm, which now have no stock in them.   He is hoping to have it all finished before dark and then he can lay the straw bedding down and as soon as some dry cows are ready for coming in it will be all ready for them.   I love it when the dry cows are in - they will all be in calf and they are a pleasure to watch as they sit around chewing the cud, rising now and again to eat the silage and then sitting down again in the nice clean straw.   Not a bad life (while it lasts!)

There is no doubt here that the weather, although still very pleasant and sunny, has turned very Autumnal.    There are night time frosts and the temperature barely rises above around twelve degrees.   So you can be sure there will be cattle in any time soon.

And the farm cats, Blackie and Creamy, are at the back door every time I go out, asking for milk - they don't bother in the Summer but once the cooler weather comes - they are here.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Two images

There are two recurring images which I just can't get out of my mind today, and I wish to share them with you.

The first is of an adorable baby I met yesterday.   Just a month old, Alice lay in her mother's arms in the Audiology department of the hospital where the farmer went for his tests.   She had a mop of black hair, deep blue eyes and just the faint beginnings of a smile.   Her mum cuddled and talked to her and already there was a sense of communication between the two.   Alice was wearing the prettiest little white dress embroidered all over with pink daisies and a new white cardigan which her grannie had knitted for her.  Her Dad sat beside them (it was Dad who had come for similar tests to the farmer) and under his chair was the baby carrier with new white blankets - all beautifully cared for.   It was a delight to sit next to them and for a few minutes to share their happiness at this new addition to their family (they told me they had two older children and that this one was a lovely surprise).

The second image is from the BBC News bulletin at six o'clock last evening and is from a remote village in Sierra Leone.   Here, most of the adults are dead or dying from ebola.   Many of their bodies lay where they have fallen, in grotesque positions.   Some have babies by their sides, babies too small to join the other children.   The other children, some not much more than toddlers, stand quietly at the other side of the road through the village 'because  they think the fever might not cross the road, so they are safer there'.   When asked by one of the few healthy adults around to put up one hand for each parent who had died, almost without exception all the children put up both hands.   Who is there to help them?   Nobody at that moment other than a television crew.

Half of me thinks this television intrustion to be obscene - the other half thinks that the world needs to see this.   Apparently immediately after the showing help arrived in the shape of medical staff.   Then I began to think of other remote villages.   Then I began to think of the plight of so many of the poor children in Africa and in the areas of the Middle East where nobody has a secure place to be.

Alice had lovely little pink feet sticking out of her dress, feet which were kicking happily and when I touched one of her feet she looked at me.   I put my finger on her hand and her fingers closed round it - she is beginning to make contact with the outside world - a world which is friendly, secure and loving.   If only all the children in the world could say the same.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Another hospital visit.

This time it was for the farmer to be taught exercises to help his balance which is not good because of difficulties with his inner ear.
James Cook University Hospital is forty miles away from the farm and his appointment was for half past nine, so (much to Tess's horror) we had to set off at crack of dawn (almost before).  Hitting Middlesbrough during the rush hour and the time of schools starting is not a good idea, but we were there in plenty of time, parking was easy and we were in in good time at Audiology.

He went in for his training and I repaired to the Costa Coffee Shop for an Americano and a Pain au Raisin with today's Guardian newspaper (well, one has to treat oneself on days like this).

Paying for the Guardian at a self-service till flummoxed me totally until a kindly assistant thought 'poor old dear' and came and did it for me.

Our journey took us through what I believe is the largest army garrison in Europe.   There are a lot of disadvantages to living relatively near to such a place but there is one advantage and it was much in evidence today.   There is not a single piece of rubbish of any kind throughout the three miles or so, all the grass verges are neatly mown, all the leaves are swept up almost as they fall, and the verges are all planted with stands of the most beautiful indigenous broadleaf trees.   These are mostly beech, birch, silver birch and horse chestnut - trees which are lovely as they come in to leaf in the Spring, pleasant during the Summer, a riot of colour at this time of the year and beautiful shapes in their Winter bareness.   Not an evergreen tree to be seen until we are leaving the garrison, and then here and there the everygreens are enlivened with silver birch and stands of deciduous larch.   Such beauty.   And sometimes in Winter, if you are really lucky, you can see Blackcock in those silver birches.

Early morning heavy mist was a great help as we were driving due East and by the time we returned it had dispersed and it was a beautiful sunny day.   Instructions have been posted on the wardrobe door - exercise routine begins after tonight's shower.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The opposite of an armchair enthusiast.

After yesterday's post saying I like to read about adventures rather than take part in them, I pick up this morning's Times to find that, almost fifty years after his solo circumnavigation of the globe, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the oldest ever competitor as he set off from the North coast of France, bound for Guadeloupe in the Caribbean in the Trans-Atlantic Route de Rhum race. 

Eating nothing but freeze-dried food brought back to eatability with boiling water, doing wees and poos in a bucket on a rope, sleeping only two or three hours at a time, at most, and downloading the weather forecast six to eight times a day, he says he feels about 48 rather than 75.

He says he is doing it 'because I bloody well want to!' - what better reason.   I wish him God speed and hope he wins.   I shall sit in my armchair and follow his progress.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Viewed from the comfort of my armchair.

My father was always an armchair gardener, planning what he would put where and how he would reorganise things; but then other things would get in the way and he would end up just keeping the weeds down and mowing and edging the lawn. As a family we would smile, and pull his leg, about this.   But now I have come to the conclusion that I am an armchair all kinds of things - and not just since I have become less mobile.

The book I remember most from my early teenage years was 'Kurun around the world' which was about a voyage round the world.   It was written by Maurice leToumelin and I sailed every nautical mile with him over and over again.   How I wanted to be there with him.   Or did I, in my heart of hearts?   Even a ride on the swing boats prompted me to awful sickness - imagine a typhoon in mid ocean.  (crossing to the Lofoten islands a few years ago from mainland Norway I was prostrate with sickness).

Armand and Michaela Dennis (remember them?) a few years later, had me gobbling up all their information on African wildlife - I was there with them.  But Africa is not my thing - bugs, creepy crawlies, hard beds, bites from mega-sized midge - a definite no-no.

A book taking me across what was then called Arabia, on horseback - wonderful stuff.   All from the comfort of my armchair.
So today, reading one of my birthday presents from my son -
'Woodsman' by Ben Law, a book in which he tells of making his home in the woodland and building his house there, is again superb reading.  I am enjoying every line.   But do I wish to sleep under a thatch of hazel saplings?  No - I'll stick to letting someone else do that and then telling me about it.

Trying to get in touch

I have quite a lot of information for Sarah about her grand-mother, who lived and worked in Swaledale for one year in the late 1940's - she sent me an e mail.   But sadly I can't seem to send
her the information back as her e mail address won't accept it.   So Sarah, if you are reading this -
please get in touch.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Monthly Coffee Morning.

Today, the first Saturday in the month, is - as usual - our Coffee Morning in the Village Hall, in aid of Church Funds.  I always go
to this unless we are away because, living as we do almost a mile out of the village, I would rarely - if ever - meet the other folk there under any other circumstances.

A, the lady in charge of the food stall, always makes me a Turkey Lasagne (without celery as the farmer hates it) and today she had also made a fish pie with new potatoes, cod loin and tomato slices. Two handy meals now in the freezer for when I am out and the farmer has to feed himself.

Friends M and J run the raffle - I always have a go but never take any tickets as I really do not wish to win any of the prizes (one of the prizes today was a gorgeous box of Violet Creams which I adore and which I would eat rapidly!)

Then it is just a matter of drinking coffee from smart thermos jugs, eating biscuits and chatting to all and sundry - a pleasant morning.
Home for a lunch of chestnut mushroom omelette with a mixed salad followed by lemon yoghourt.   Then a walk down the land with Tess - and that is it for today.

The farmer is digging over the tulip bed by the front gate.   He is digging all the bulbs out, trying to get rid of as many weeds as possible, and then he will put the bulbs back.   They do very well indeed here and we have a wonderful scarlet show every Spring.

After all the excitement of yesterday I feel like a quiet evening!