Saturday 31 October 2009


A Happy Hallowe'en to you all - and a big thank- you for all the Birthday wishes. Another year older.

Dinner Party.

No time to blog yesterday as we were having a little dinner party last evening and I do like to get ready at my leisure. It is my birthday today and a friend is taking me out for the day, so this is also brief. But I thought you might like to see the menu for last night. When American blog friends publish menus it is always interesting to see how they differ from our menus, so thought my American blog friends might like to see my menu too. (UK bloggers can skip the next bit if they like)
Starter: Garlic bread with salad platters.
Main: Moroccan lamb tagine with dates, cous-cous with raisings, roasted red green and yellow vegetables.
Puds Citrus tart, pavlova with toasted almonds, fresh raspberries.
Cheese and biscuits (cheddar and Blue Stilton) and coffee.
I was intending to photograph the puds when I put them on the table, but sorry - I forgot!
However, it was a lovely dinner party with lots of conversation. Really enjoyed it!
I have been trying to photograph Tess after her visit to the Beauty Parlour. Every photo I take makes her look like a little rat (sorry Tess). Finally I managed to get one looking down on her as she peered through the paddock gate looking for rabbits.
Pumpkin will be posted this evening - the farmer has fashioned the face and will light it at dusk - so see you again later in the day. Have a good day - if you are in the UK make the most of it as the forecasters say this weekend is the end of the lovely weather.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Fancy a trip to the Beauty Parlour

Tess is going for a wash and brush up this morning. It is a fine Autumn morning. A pale, watery sun is shining in a milky blue sky striped with puffy white clouds. - do I make it attractive enough for you to come along? We are going to Bedale, a distance of about twelve miles. Bedale is on the upper edge of The Vale of York and fog is forecast for the Vale, so keep your fingers crossed that we can see the sights!
There are no pheasants on the lane today: the pheasant shooting season has started and already they have learned to avoid humans and to keep a low profile. Once off the lane and out on to the Main Road, there is a slight mist. The hawthorn hedges along the sides have lost their leaves but here and there a field maple with yellow and red leaves relieves the monotony of brown.And bramble stems arch out towards the roadway with their brightly coloured leaves, like early Christmas decorations.
Now and again there is a stand of trees, or a small copse, or a larger wood. Here most of the deciduous trees are bare apart from the larch, which is in brilliant garb and the wonderful beech which lights up the interior of the woodland with its leaves like copper pennies.
We pass through Constable Burton, where the wall of the Hall's walled garden edges the road and where horse chestnut branches, already losing their golden sparkle, turn brown and hang limply over the road in the mist.
Once through the village we are out in open country with fields either side of us. Some have been ploughed and look so smart with their straight furrows; some have been sown with barley, which is up - the new bright green shoots standing bravely ready to face whatever Winter might throw at them. One or two fields have been left with stubble after harvest. Here the pale stalks of straw are peppered with cock pheasants scratching for the gleanings.
At Patrick Brompton the little church stands surround by bare trees, the leaves of which lie thick on the ground.
By the time we reach Little Crakehall the fog is quite thick. Single bare trees in the hedgrows take on an air of mystery as they rise out of the fog. I spot a sparrow hawk on the fence, preening its feathers and stretching its wings. Before I reach home again I have seen three.
I intended to take a photograph of Bedale, but by the time we reach there the fog is really thick.
I deposit Tess at the parlour. The farmer is collecting her this afternoon. She loves the attention and is quite happy to be left (we are all the same, we women - we do like attention!)
It seems strange at home without her around my feet. I hope you enjoyed the journey with us - tomorrow I will show you how lovely she looks when she is first cut (that is if she will stand still long enough for a photograph).
As we come up the lane to home, the pedigree limousin cattle from the farmer down the lane, are gathered round the feed trough in the field - a sure sign that the grass is getting weaker and not giving them enough nourishment. I stand at the gate to photograph them - one or two turn to face me wondering if I am a further food source.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

What goes in.....................

Yes, folks, it is that time of the year again. I am afraid you cannot have a farm with animals without having the M word. It is some time since I brought up the subject of manure but it is time I reminded you of the smelly, down-side of farming!
At present the loose-housing has a good, deep, well-rotted floor of manure from the cattle which were in it last Winter. Oh how the farm cats love it. If you enlarge the photograph of the interior you will see Blackie lounging luxuriously, pretending to be asleep but really waiting for a little mouse to stroll past. You see, the big thing about well-rotted manure is that it is WARM!
Countless birds roost in there at night, as well as the small vermin - so that cats have a field day.
Our other farm cat (Creamy) - yes they are pretty unimaginative names - is half Siamese, is pale cream with the faintest of grey/tabby stripes. He may well be in that manure somewhere but he is well camouflaged. Also, as befits his parentage, he is very shy and not at all friendly (unlike Blackie who comes out to meet everyone).
Next week the farmer will hire a huge muck-spreader for the day and will begin early in the morning. He will spread it all on our pastures and by evening the housing will be empty and ready for a layer of sweet-smelling straw. Then, when the weather turns wet, the heifers from our neighbour can come in again for the winter. It is lovely to have cattle in the yard again. Our garage is next to their housing and they are curious creatures, so each time I get the car out they all come to say hello.
We are always late in the year spreading it. I rots well in situ - and the farmer likes the grass to be well eaten off before he spreads it. As the over-wintering sheep have now been here for about six weeks, the grass is nicely nibbled.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

A Good Read.

Usually I am not a fan of whodunits, but this one was recommended to me by a friend who usually likes the same books as me. Reading is such an individual thing; I often find that people recommend a book and I find it impossible to read it. There was a time when I would persevere to the bitter end and make myself read it. Now, if I don't like what I am reading then I admit defeat and put it down.

The story takes place in the fishing community on Long Island in 1947. The pace is excellent - you just need to keep reading it. Although it is set in US the writer lives in Oxford. The book won the Crime Writers' Association Award for the Best Novel by a debut author in 2004. I really couldn't put it down.

Now it is dark by five o'clock in the evening. Tonight it is foggy and damp - just the kind of evening to settle down with a glass of blackberry whisky and a good book. I really wish I hadn't finished it!

Monday 26 October 2009

Ready and waiting at the Bus Stop!

This week TFE has chosen a subject close to my heart. Before I write you my poem I would just like to write a little explanation.

I chose to listen to Penderecki's "Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima". I have heard it many times before and I always find it profoundly moving. It has aged well. In fact I think the whole Hiroshima episode has "aged well" - there can't be many people who haven't heard of it now and with all the publicity it has had over the years there can't be many who are not still appalled, horrified, - I can't think of words enough to describe the feeling. But I just wanted to show you another aspect.

My late husband, Dominic Rivron's father, was what used to be known as a Boy Soldier - he was recruited into the East Surrey Regiment in 1938 as a flautist in the band. For reasons I shall not go into here, he was almost immediately sent to Shanghai with his regiment, so that at this very young age he witnessed indescribable cruelty when the Japanese invaded China. For instance he saw the Nanking rebellion with all its awful happenings. Then in 1941 he was taken prisoner by the Japanese and for the rest of the war he lived in terrible conditions in the jungles of Thailand - and worked on the Kwai bridge and also the Death Railway.

When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and then shortly afterwards on Nagasaki, the war came to an end. At the time he was near to death with cerebral malaria. His discharge certificate cites malaria, pelagra, beri-beri, cholera, typhoid and a host of other reasons for his discharge. Immediately aid was flown in to his remote jungle camp he was airlifted to Bangalore in India to a specialist hospital, where he remained seriously ill for months. But he recovered.
He always said that the dropping of the bombs probably saved his life, because although we were winning the war anyway, the episode probably shortened the war by a few weeks - enough to save his life.

However, we were both members of CND at the time of the Aldermaston marches - and he was totally against nuclear weapons. He died of kidney cancer at the age of 66, having had a happy and healthy life up to the last year.

So - sorry about that digression - but wanted to tell you the background. Now here is my poem for the bus. It seems to me there is an inbuilt need to fight within men. Male animals do it - would that as a species we had the intelligence to reject it.


I am the man who,
at the Planners' Table,
unfolded the map -
its clean, sharp folds crackling in
the expectant air.
Mine the finger that
traced the line,
Kyoto, Tokyo, Yokohama;

I am the man in
enola gay
on the bright morning
in the cloudless sky.
Mine the finger that
pressed the button,
saw the
"supramundane mushroom cloud"
saw the bright light,
brighter than a thousand suns,
felt the heat and
the momentousness of
the occasion.

I was the man who,
standing the the square,
heard the plane,
saw it sparkling in the sunlight,
looked up at its beauty.
My shape,
my form,
I have left for you,
scorched into the stone.

I was the man,
skeletal and zombie-like,
feet infested with ulcers,
head in turmoil with malaria, who
lay in the jungle and knew
my flimsy fate would be
decided by others.

The noise, the bombs, the screams,
the slaughter.
The beauty of the day, the cloud,
the terrible brightness,
then the silence.

Then the apportioning of the blame.

Sunday 25 October 2009


Last night British Summer Time ended and we all put our clocks back one hour. That means that this morning it is much lighter when we wake up. Our bay window has an east facing pane and through it we could see the big, round, orange sun just peeping up over the horizon. At that same moment the thousands of rooks from Forty Acre wood flew past, tacking in the South Westerly wind and almost touching the window. That is a sight I look forward to every Autumn. It will continue for the next few weeks and I shall enjoy it every day.
One of the advantages of this weather (sunny, raining, drizzling, throwing out a rainbow or two, flinging great black clouds across the sky) is that, when the sun is low as it is now, it does tend to create shafts of light which illuminate particular spots. We had a wonderful example yesterday when a friend and I walked our usual route across the fields. As we walked along the side of the beck we suddenly noticed a bright red flash sitting on a post. Was it a robin? No the wrong coloured red. It was indeed a kingfisher - it sat for a moment in the shaft of sunlight then darted off like an arrow just above the surface of the water, into the plantain. What a treat that was.
The beck is low at the moment so he will have no trouble with his fishing (minnows, stickleback, small trout and bullheads all live in our beck).
This morning, looking out of the bathroom window, I saw the spotlight was on a patch of blackberry leaves in the paddock hedge. I popped over to take a photograph. Naturally (sod's law) by the time I got there the sun has gone in for a rest and a mild drizzle was falling - but I think you get the general idea from the photograph. Then when the sun came out again I nipped into the front garden and took a few illuminated flowers. Even the wretched convolvulus, which is the bane of my life, looks pretty against the stone wall!
Some time ago I posted a poem about spotlighting. In this hilly area it does throw up some fantastic sights. Here it is again:-
A spotlight shines
on Friesian cows
and, for an instant,
they are
Prima Donnas, holding centre stage.
Then a cloud
switches off the light.
A golden poplar
lit from the side
gets a starring role
before the light goes out.
There are bit players,
the barns,
the sheep,
the sometimes-sparkling water
of the beck,
a red car that,
for a split second,
catches the sunlight.
But for today
the cows
and the tree
are the stars.
Tomorrow will be
a different play. PT

Saturday 24 October 2009

Horses for courses.

Yesterday, cleaning out my study looking for my carefully filed instruction book for my Bernina machine, I came across an envelope full of old photographs. The one at the top of this post made me smile. The farmer and I reminisced about it during the evening, and today I thought I would share the story with you. The year is 1992 - I have been widowed for just over a year and the farmer and I are just beginning to pussy-foot around each other prior to doing some serious "courting." (yes it is still viewed in this way in rural Yorkshire - well certainly amongst those of a certain age!)

I was at the time Chairwoman of a Craft Committee for a local organisation. As such I was asked to arrange a course on "Horse Riding for Beginners." Let me start by telling you dear readers that I am afraid - very afraid - of horses close up. I love them in fields where there is a fence between me and them. They are beautiful animals but - they can kick, they can bite and they can be a bit frisky.

However, I felt that as I was organising it I had to conquer my fear and go on the course myself.

When the day came there were sixteen of us (all middle aged and older) brave souls, none of whom had ever been on a horse before (well once or twice I had been on cart horses in the hay field as a child, but that didn't really count.) We duly presented ourselves at Earl Masham's Pony Trecking Centre at Masham and met our sixteen horses.

Because I was the organiser it was decided to put me on a horse first and they brought out an enormous grey horse and managed to get me on its back (don't ask for the details). I was scared. "Oh don't worry," said our tutor, "he is a gentle soul - he carries the big drum at the local festival."

Then they left me, to attend to the other fifteen novice riders. Immediately my horse saw some of its friends in a field, whinnied and strolled over to chat. I had no idea how to stop it or take command - so I had no option but to let it do what it wanted. Well, that more or less set the tone for the whole episode. If my horse saw a tasty morsel in the hedgerow it would wander off and have a nibble at it. "Show it that you are in charge," said the tutor. "You can transmit the control down the reins and it will know who is boss." It knew who was the boss alright, and it wasn't me. On my return I told the farmer who said I needed to get on a horse again to get my confidence back (they always say this when you have done something silly in the car!) Also the farmer, who had never been on a horse other than "cart" agreed to come with me.

So, here we are at the riding stables, the farmer having leapt up into the saddle like a gazelle, me having been pushed up into the saddle from one side and almost falling off the other side like one of those old silent films. This time I have a slightly smaller very pretty pale buff horse with a dark mane. I was hopeful.

Although he had never ridden before, the farmer took immediate control (well he has controlled all other forms of large animals for years hasn't he) and his horse was perfectly behaved. Mine, however, knew a pushover when it saw one - it hung behind to eat grass, it popped into the hedge bottom to eat a bit of this and a bit of that, and suddenly it began to trot towards home. I was like a sad sack of potatoes on its back - everyone else was rising and falling in time to the music(!) but oh dear no, not me.

We arrived back at the stables, the farmer leapt off, I slid off in an ungainly manner and we both agreed, without a word being spoken, that I was never going to make it as a rider. From then on I have kept both feet on terra firma and fully intend to keep it that way.

Friday 23 October 2009

Still here - alive and kicking!

Thank you to those readers who sent me an e mail yesterday evening to see if I was alright as I hadn't blogged yesterday. Remember what I said about blog friends (almost wrote fiends there!) the other day - isn't it heart-warming that people should see I had missed a day. The reason for this was that my computer decided to go slow. In fact slow is an understatement - it hardly moved. Luckily Dominic called and de-fragmented it for me (is that the right word?) I am ashamed to say that I had 756 items in my recycle bin! This morning it seems back to normal. If I have to get the doctor to it I have his number on my desk.

So - what to write about today? Because I wasn't blogging I decided to start a piece of textile work. I sat down at my Bernina sewing machine. It is so long since I used it I had forgotten how to thread it let along use it. So I took it to pieces, cleaned it, oiled it and read the instruction book - and today I am all ready to go.

This week has seen a huge fall of leaves, particularly ash. At the moment it is foggy here and not light enough to see without artificial light in the house. The leaves lie damp along the lane but the sun is scheduled to come out later today so maybe they will crisp up so that Tess and I can walk through them making our Autumn noise. As it is they smell beautifully of Autumn - that and bonfire smoke symbolise Autumn up here in the countryside.

We have harvested the walnuts from our two forty year old trees and have the magnificnet total of 36 walnuts, all very small and sad-looking. The horse chestnut fruits (conkers) have fallen and their prickly green coats have split to reveal the shiny brown conkers inside. The leaves on the horse chestnuts are at their best this week and really glow. There is a row of them in front of The Manor in our village. If the sun comes out later I will take a photograph to show you.

I see it is almost time for the New York Marathon. I hope our New York bloggers will be out with their cameras on the big day. One of the doctors from our practice (Dr Julia Brown) is running in it for charity (Marie Curie Cancer Care) so we have an interest in it this year.

This year several people have been killed in UK by being trampled on by herds of cows while crossing a field. I read the inquest report on one lady in today's Times. She had a dog, of course, and was holding it by the collar in an effort to restrain it from going near the cows. Sadly she was pulled over and trampled. The farmer who owned the cows gave a sound piece of advice. If you walk across a field of cows, stick to the footpath and if you have a dog, let it off the leash so that the cows can investigate the dog rather than you. On the other hand, if the field is full of sheep then keep your dog on the lead. Sound advice I would have thought.

Finally today sees the publication of The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary - it has been 44 years in compilation. I see that the longest entry is for the word "immediately".
Apparently there are 265 different ways of saying immediately (a lot of words that used to mean immediately now really mean soon). I bet you really wanted to know that!

But there are some lovely words which have gone out of usage. Apparently in Anglo Saxon times (when interestingly, medical knowledge only covered the outer body) there were two foot diseases called Deawwyrm and Fotgeswell. The word for carrot didn't appear in English until 1533 (from French carotte) and before that the carrot was called a tank. Fancy a piece of tank cake anyone?

If I was an Anglo Saxon and I wanted to be rude to you I would have called you a wyrmlic. In Shakespeare's time I would have used Shack-rag and, according to the book, in the twentieth century I would have used tripe-hound. All I can say is that I would never use such language - so I will sign off by saying have a lovely day my bloggy friends.

PS My pumpkin has arrived (it is my birthday on Hallowe'en) so the farmer has a whole week in which to sharpen his pumpkin-carving knife and be creative with its face.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

How Times have changed, or have they?

Picture this scene. It is 1957 and I discover that I am pregnant. What is the procedure?
After confirmation and a given date I have to go and see the Matron (a very formidable lady) of our local maternity home. Here I am given the once-over and labelled "Mother". I am booked in for the birth and for ante natal classes and henceforth I shall be known as Mother. As far as I am aware, nobody ever called me by name.
On the appointed day I am taken to hospital by my husband, who says goodbye on the doorstep. I give birth, see my son for about ten minutes whilst they are cleaning us both up. Then he is popped into his cot and wheeled away to the baby unit. It is 5pm. At 7pm fathers are admitted to the ward and new fathers are taken to view - through a large plate glass window - their new son or daughter. At feeding times (every four hours, no more, no less) the babies are wheeled into the ward in their tiny cribs and handed out to Mothers, fed, burped and returned to the baby unit. After three days Mothers are allowed into the area to first help with and finally bath their offspring. After ten days Mother and baby are collected by Father and taken home. This is the first time Father has been able to touch/hold/kiss/smell/cuddle his offspring.

Now picture this scene in 2009. Husband drives wife, who is seriously in labour, to the maternity unit, leaving their two year old with grannie. Husband is welcomed into the unit with wife, scrubs up, comforts wife during labour, is there to see his son/daughter emerge into the world. Wife is wheeled back to the ward, he accompanies and seconds later baby in his/her crib is placed at the side of the bed. Mother and father can pick the baby up, cuddle her, look closely to see he/she has all the right bits and pieces (always a worry for mothers), even be photographed holding the baby. Then father drives home, picking toddler up on the way. Baby has been born at 8am. At 6pm father gets a call to say he can collect Mother and baby and by the toddler's bedtime the whole family are well-acquainted.

Which scenario strikes you as being the most civilised?I suspect you will reveal your age by your answer. Apparently more than 90% of men are now present at the birth. But now, Dr Michael Odent has thrown a spanner in the works.

He claims that the presence of the father at the birth increases the likelihood of Caesarean section, subsequent marriage break up and even mental illness. He says this may be because
having a man present makes the mother more tense, which makes her produce more adrenaline and this in turn slows down the production of the right hormones and therefore slows down the birth process.

If you are a man reading this - were you in at the births of your children? Did you enjoy the experience and did it make for good bonding all round? If you weren't do you wish you had been? If you are a woman, what do you think about it. We really cannot dismiss Dr Odent's remarks as rubbish - he is after all a leading obstetrician.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Friends real and virtual.

I have posted on friendship before - on how important friends are and what a wonderful bond one builds up with friends over the years. But here is new food for thought.

What about our blogging friends? I suppose we can compare blog friends to penfriends of years ago. Then we would write long letters to each other, telling each other about our lives, our hopes, our dreams........ And we would await a reply eagerly. If the pen friend lived abroad then we might wait a month for a reply, but that was how it was and we were used to it.

Now such communication is more or less instant. I can post on farming here and five minutes later I can have a reply on farming in New Zealand. I still find this amazing, coming from the generation which does not take technology for granted.

But now I have been lucky enough to meet blogging friends - twice. First of all Elizabeth and I met in New York in May. We had seen photographs of one another on our blogs and we stood in the hotel foyer and instantly recognised each other. And it was like meeting an old friend.

Yesterday Rachel (More about the song) called in with her family en route from holiday to home.
And the same thing happened. It wasn't like the first meeting with someone new - it was like meeting an old, trusted friend. So thanks, Elizabeth and Rachel, meetings like this restore my faith in humanity.

Another blog-friend, Gina of BT, sent me a postcard from her holiday in Spain - it sits on my shelving units - another great friendship across cyberspace. Long may it all continue.

On a different subject - I have posted two poems on Death in the last week. A friend who does not blog but who reads mine every day has just sent me an e mail telling me about a book she read about a cook from New Zealand who wished to die in this way - I would like to skid in sideways - chocolate in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, shouting "What a Ride!" I must say it reminded me somewhat of the recent death of the cook, Keith Floyd.

So, there we are for today - wet and thoroughly miserable outside - cheerful inside as I think about all my wonderful friends, real and cyber - long may our friendships continue. Have a lovely evening by the fire (unless you are in the Southern hemisphere - in which case enjoy the sunshine.) See you tomorrow.

Monday 19 October 2009

All Aboard the Poetry Bus.

A letter to Death:

Dear Death,

Come for me at evening, when
the sun has filled the sky
with glimmering gold.....
and there is stillness
and the birds
are silent
and the creatures of the night are
not abroad.
Come in that brief moment,
on the cusp, between
day and night
when there is room for me
to slip away.

Or come for me when Winter gales
are cracking branches,
swirling leaves,
howling round the chimney pot,
loosing tiles, rattling doors and
shaking windows,
beating hail on the tin roofs
and hurtling waves against the shore.
Come at ninety miles an hour
in a rage and
so that I can fly and
soar away.

Don't come for me when,
ordered or prescribed
with linen sheets and
men in white coats
standing round;
when stethescopes, and drips, and
devilish machines
bleep and burp
and waver 'til
the thin green line,
the sharp, unwavering sound,
signals the end and
everything is switched off.

I wish to go with
a bang or a whimper,
not wheeled through the ranks
of the nearly dead,
to be tagged
and labelled
and stored in a
frozen metal drawer. PT ## I have removed "unnoticed" from the end of each of the first two stanzas. Dominic felt they were superfluous - and on reading it I agreed with him. Less is usually more as far as poetry is concerned, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday 18 October 2009

Out to Sunday lunch.

Going out to lunch on a Sunday and having to drive through Wensleydale to get there is no hardship. I thought I would try and capture the flavour of Autumn for you as I went, but really the weather had other ideas. At home, here on the East of the Pennines, it was clear and sunny, but as soon as we began to head West through the Dale the cloud began to thicken and come down from the tops, so that many of the hilltops were cloaked in heavy cloud.One of the major Sunday hazards in Wensleydale is the number of motor cyclists - there are usually a hundred or more all making for the little market town of Hawes. They are not young people, rather middle aged people who can suddenly afford powerful motorbikes; they are good drivers on the whole, but they tend to creep up on one and then surge past when there is an opportunity. Sadly two or three die in accidents every year around here. Today there were not too many about and the roads were quite empty apart from a smattering of caravan trailers being taken home for the Winter.
The hedges are beginning to turn golden and I tried to capture that Autumn feel without asking the farmer to stop. As always, when we got to Cotter Force (which I have featured many times on my blog) we stopped and walked up to the waterfall with Tess. And the first thing we noticed was that the many Rowan (Mountain Ash) trees had not lost a single berry. Our tree by the kitchen window had all the berries eaten by the blackbirds within a week of them being ripe. Here, every rowan tree is heavy with berries - what a feast for the fieldfares and redwings just beginning to make an appearance. The other thing I noticed on the walk was how nature can effortlessly make the most beautiful "works of art" - just take a look at the photograph above showing a fallen tree trunk with a fern growing at its foot and a sprig of blue-green nettle foliage in the bottom corner. What a beautiful combination.
We turned off out of Wensleydale towards Kirby Stephen. Here the trees were really beginning to show their Autumn colour. Then, by Pendragon castle, we were up on the common and hoping to see some of the wild horses who live up there. We were not disappointed. Scratching its rear end on a signpost was the most beautiful little foal. We stopped and opened the window of the car and he came close to investigate - what a treat.
We arrived at The Black Swan for our Sunday lunch - roast pork, apple sauce, roast potatoes and vegetables - doesn't it look inviting on the plate?
Then it was back over the common where the cloud had cleared enough for one photograph of Autumn leaves. Then as we came back through Wensleydale the cloud began to come down again. Two maple trees shone like beacons and behind them, where there should have been green rolling hills, just a blanket of cloud.
Home again in time for the farmer to watch the Grand Prix and, as neither of us feel like tea at the moment, time for me to post my blog.
If you like reading about Autumn, can I recommend an article in yesterday's Times (I am sure you can find it at Times on line) by Jeanette Winterson, called "A Season for Senses and the Soul" - I love her writing anyway but this piece is brilliant.
All aboard the Poetry Bus again tomorrow morning - wonder where we are going next week.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Bees. Briars. and Bunnies.

Saturday and the farmer decides it is time to start clearing up the hedgerows for Winter. The blackberrry briars reach right out into the fields at this time of the year - and the sheep, already wearing their Winter coats, easily get hooked up in them. As it is time for Tess and me to walk round the fields anyway, we decide to go with the farmer after lunch.
Walking down the pasture he informs me that he thinks the bees' nest is empty. In Cow House field hedge-bottom there has been a nest of wild bees all Summer. The nest is a thing of beauty and I would dearly like to bring it back home to have a close look at it. And the farmer happens to have his favourite cutting tool with him anyway - so off we go to have a closer look.
Several very dozy wild bees are crawling around on the outside of the nest. The cold has obviously got to them, but where there are two or three there might just possibly be two or three hundred in the warmer inside of the nest, so we decide to have a good look at it but not interfere.
You can see the photographs above - the nest is built in what must have been a hole - maybe even a rabbit hole - in the hedge bottom. The farmer breaks a bit of the nest off and holds it in his hand for me to photograph. Each layer is paper thin. We leave it behind for another day.
Tess is not even mildly interested in the nest but goodness me, she is very aggressive towards a plastic bag in a heap of dead grass, which the farmer has raked out of the hedge bottom. Her hackles rise, she growls, she barks and will not go anywhere near it.
But, of course, as usual for the rest of the walk she has only one thing on her mind - rabbits!

Friday 16 October 2009

Friday again!

How quickly Fridays - and the Auction mart - come round here. It seems to be the contact point of the week somehow and it always seems to be Friday before we get over the weekend. So it is rush round, tidy up, look at the e mails and then go into the market while the farmer looks at the prices and hears the gossip at the Mart.
It is a glorious Autumn day here, mild, sunny, a light breeze ruffling the changing leaves and the smell of Autumn bonfires in the air. Lovely.
TFE has set us quite a challenge for the Monday Poetry Bus. I have chosen to read Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus "many times" as he instructed. Poor old Sylvia was a very mixed up lady - and a brilliant poet (maybe the two things go together) - and, with hindsight, it is almost impossible to read any of her poetry without reading into it the "hooks", the "barbs", the covert references to death. So, inevitably, my Monday poem is about Death.
I always feel sorry that there is such a taboo about death here in the Western world. As my brother used to say - we are dying the minute we are born, so why get so het up about it. As I get older I find I view it with equanimity - it is inevitable, so best to enjoy every minute before the Grim Reaper comes for you. That's my philosophy in a nutshell.
However, to get back to that Poetry Bus, which seems to be gathering momentum and hurtling along now. I wrote two poems. Naturally I am saving one for Monday morning, but I thought I would give the other one an airing here today - to see what you think. Before writing I read a lot of Dylan's poetry (he is another one who wrote at length about death, isn't he?), and John Donne (he even kept his shroud pinned on his study wall - I think that is going a bit far), Ted Hughes - and various other poets, and as I read I made notes. This poem is constructed from those notes:-

The Inevitable.

Yes, cover the mirrors,
save the souls.
Let his last frail deeds,
his plucking at the blankets,
the last thin words,
the dying light,
move through inexorably
'til that silence
so profound
it can be heard
signals that he is
gone. PT

Could I make a plea to all readers. If you know someone who has recently lost a loved one - if you meet that person in the roadway then please make a point of speaking directly to them and asking them how they are and how they are coping with the death. When I was widowed I watched people I knew well cross the road to avoid having to speak to me (I suppose they just didn't know what to say), and this week I spoke to someone who is now going through the same experience. If you don't know what to say then say "I don't know what to say". People who are recently bereaved need every tiny human contact they can get - a hug, a smile, a hand on the shoulder - anything rather than being ostracised, for whatever reason.

Thursday 15 October 2009

...and down into Wensleydale.

Following on from yesterday's post, we reach the topmost point of the Pennine road and there before us lies Wensleydale. Although it is a lovely, sunny day, much of the dale lies in cloud. But once we get down to the valley floor we are in sunshine again.
This back road through the Dale goes through some very pretty country. The River Ure, which flows through Wensleydale (it used to be called Uredale) has a road on either side of it and today we are choosing the most Northerly side. It is barely wider than a lane and still very leafy.
We come down into Askrigg, the Herriot village. Sorry there is no photograph of that as there was so much traffic.
Then we tootle along the Dale, coming first to the village of Carperby where you will see The Wheatsheaf pub in the photograph. It was here that the real James Herriot (Alf Wight) spent his honeymoon.
Shortly after the village we come to a field of Belted Galloway cattle. I persuade the farmer to stop here, as he is interested too. These belties are becoming more and more popular and there are now several herds in The Dales. When we were in Dumfries and Galloway for a holiday in 2002, we really had to search for belties, although this is where they originated. Perhaps Titus to dog, who I believe lives in that area, can tell us whether there are more of them around now.
They are a short, stocky breed and very hardy, being able to stay out all Winter in all but the most severe weather. You can clearly see their characteristic white "belt" in the photograph.
And then we reach Redmire - a lovely little village with stone built houses.
A lot of them sport a coat of Virginia Creeper, which looks magnificent at the moment. Also, in all its magnificence - the village sycamore tree, just beginning to turn the most beautiful gold
We climb up out of the dale by a road called Scarth Nick - here all the silver birchesare beginning to turn their autumn colours. And then it is down the road into the top end of our village - and home again.
I go upstairs to change into my slippers and look out of the window. And I realise just how lucky we are to have such a lovely, peaceful view so close to the beauties of The Dales. Enjoy the ride!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Fancy a drive?

Then hop in the car and we'll be off through Swaledale on a lovely sunny Autumn afternoon, when the sky is deepest blue and pretty white clouds are floating about aimlessly. Once the farmer sets the car in motion he is not too keen to keep stopping for photography, so any photos we take will have to be taken through the windscreen I'm afraid.
We'll set off across Bellerby Moor - almost impossible to photograph without very expensive equipment as the view is huge. Alf Wight (the real James Herriot of "All Creatures Great and Small") thought this view was the best in the Dales. I've tried to give you a taster with my photograph from the road (it is army land and you cannot venture on to it without permission). Between the dying heather flowers (the brown in the foreground) and the village of Marske on the green hills in the middle ground lies the whole of the dale with the River Swale running through it. This is the grouse-shooting season, so that brown of the dying flowers is a perfect hiding place for the red grouse, which are a similar colour. We see one or two pecking along the road edge (once the shooting starts they quickly learn not to rise up from the ground) their plumage shining in the sunlight. Up here you feel on top of the world.
We drive through the little town of Reeth, so full of walkers' cars that it is impossible to take a photograph (shall return there one day in Winter so that you can see it). The first village we come to is Healaugh. These little villages were mostly built for the lead mining industry in the days when there was no motor traffic - hence the very narrow roads. The cottages are so very close together and there are now no garages, so that cars are left on the road - it is the eternal problem of The Dales.
Shortly after driving through the village the River Swale meanders along the side of the road. You can see it shining through the trees in the photograph. It is a benign river today but it can rise twenty feet in an hour in heavy rain and this section of the road floods easily and regularly.
We drive on through Low Row and into Gunnerside (named after a Viking chief), cross the Swale (see how low it is) and drive high up along the edge. Here the fields with their stone walls and stone barns are looking particularly green and fertile today in contrast to the blue sky.
At High Oxnop we turn off to go through one of the passes through the Pennines into Wensleydale. Let's stop the car, park it and get out for a walk - there is a sharpness in the air but the sun is still shining. Be careful where you tread, this is high marshy ground and the going is very wet and slippery. Wherever you look streams drain off the moor, carrying the water down to the valley floor and the river.
The Swaledale sheep are still out here on the tops. Soon they will be herded down into the valley to meet the Tup and then spend their winter on lower, more winter-friendly ground. Turn and look back at the view into the dale - it is so beautiful.
Fungi are shining wetly in the sunlight - tiny orange toadstools, bright orange fingers. By the side of the road as we drive on there is a sharp scar and a trail of scree down the hillside. We speculate on the stone. The Dales are famous for their limestone escarpments, but this stone looks too dark. Any geologists out there who would like to guess what the stone is?
We reach the top and suddenly there is Wensleydale stretched out in front of us - another wonderful panorama. We'll go there tomorrow. Be waiting on the side of the road for a lift!
Photographs - left to right on each line, from the bottom:
Bellerby Moor. Healaugh.
River Swale. Gunnerside.
Swale Bridge. Fields in the Dale.
Moorland stream. Swaledale sheep.
View down the Dale. Fungi fingers.