Sunday 30 December 2012


No, this photograph was not taken this year.   It was taken in January three years ago when we had a sudden heavy snowfall.  I used it for our Christmas card that same year and I just came across it by chance the other day.

Snow is so photogenic, isn't it?   It looks so pretty on the trees and lying in the fields; not so pretty for the farmers who have to go out in it to feed the animals (and sometimes dig the sheep out of snow drifts).   What happens, of course, is that farmers usually end up with osteo-arthritis  and my farmer is no exception, suffering from it in his knees, shoulders and hands.

Today is bitterly cold here and snow lies on the top of the Moor and on the top of Penn Hill, both of which we can see from our kitchen window.   Here though it is raining heavily one minute and what the farmer calls a 'glishy' sun the next.   I have just taken Tess for her after-lunch walk and water is pouring down the lane in a river.   Pity the poor souls in the West Country who have had a miserable Christmas with the flooding.   Some people in our village are still not back to normal after our flooding, and that was a couple of months ago.

The wood-burner beckons and putting on one's outdoor clothes, scarves, hat and gloves is such a bind.   Then when one gets out and gets moving it is quite enjoyable.   Tess just doesn't seem to notice the weather at all.

Tomorrow will be New Year's Eve and another party although I wonder how many people will be able to come and how many will be struck down with the bug that is going round here.   I thought on Thursday that I was getting it as I felt quite ill, but gradually I have begun to feel better until today I am almost back to normal, so I hope I have fought it off without too many ill effects.

If you are venturing out to a party or if, like me, you are giving one - do enjoy it and see in the New Year.  Here's wishing you all a very Happy New Year with good health for everyone - surely the most important thing on a personal level.   On a wider level then the greatest hope has got to be for Peace around the world, but with what is going on in Syria, as well as other places where persecution of minorities or ill treatment of women seem to be commonplace and taken forgranted, I fear this is a vain hope.  

Saturday 29 December 2012


Well, that is Christmas over for another year.   Christmas round here has been bedevilled by the coughing bug, which is everywhere.  Luckily, so far, I have escaped it - although every evening I feel as though I am going down with it and then I dose myself up at bedtime and feel fine the next morning, so I think I must be fighting it off.  Our next jolly evening is New Year's Eve, when there should be eight of us enjoying my buffet supper, but it will depend on how well, or otherwise, everyone is I suspect.

We had a lovely party on Boxing Day, as we do every year, with only one friend missing because she was not well.   I am hoping she will be recovered enough to be  here for New Year (get well J).

Turkey is definitely off the menu for the foreseeable future.   The remains are sliced up and in the freezer - you can have too much of a good thing.   Somehow the same does not apply to ham - it was delicious and there is enough left to put on the table on New Year's Eve.   If you are simmering a ham, do try simmering it in equal quantities of cranberry juice and apple juice - the result is tremendous and the flesh is the most gorgeous  deep pink colour.  A honey and mustard glaze and twenty minutes in a hot oven with the flesh covered with foil just finishes it off nicely.

The farmer has done the bare minimum over the period - after all he is recovering from the bug and still coughing (and snoring!) enough to be banished to the spare bedroom. (he looks so comfy in there that I fear he may wish to stay, whereas I am missing him terribly in my bed at night (he is always warm, whereas I am always cold) without somewhere (or rather someone) to warm my feet.  He has to feed cattle, sheep and hens, farm dog and the garden birds.   That done he checks logs and kindling for the stove and then is inside.   As he had two super large jigsaw puzzles for presents in his stocking he is engrossed in doing the first of these.

My favourite present was Hilary Mantel's 'Bring up the Bodies' - the follow-on to 'Wolf Hall' and the winner of this year's Booker Prize.   My goodness, what a brilliant writer she is - you are transported back to the sixteenth century by the time you have read a paragraph.

My other favourite occupation over the holiday has been the Guardian's Christmas Crossword (cryptic) compiled by Araucaria .   It is always difficult and wonderful to pick up at odd moments.   A friend in the village also does it so we are able to confer if any clues really stump us.   I have only two left to do - any ideas anyone? 22 Down - One with the skill to break the ice  -e-h-e and 42 down  Jug fully given to prejudice -o-i-s.

Two very strange things have happened with regard to the crossword (which I must admit has been done at many odd moments over the Christmas perios).   First of all a clue which I did not understand at all and which had 3,1,3 letters.   Shortly after reading the clue I picked up my Mantel book and within a minute had read the word/phrase cap-a-pie, which was the answer.   There was another long clue I couldn't answer, and which was actually quite easy once I solved it (!) and I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night and thought 'Twickenham' - now how weird is that?  I suppose it is a perfect example of fortune favouring the prepared mind.

If you are planning to celebrate New Year, then have a lovely time - and keep safe.

Another wet day here, water lying in the fields, chill damp air.  But are we disheartened?  No - nothing to do but the jig saw and a good book to read (and the delicious remains of a pavlova I made for pud at lunchtime) - what more could anyone wish for? 


Wednesday 26 December 2012



Friday 21 December 2012

The answers to my quiz. And friendship.

First of all, here are the answers to the quiz I set you the other day.
Well done to Juliet (Crafty Green Poet) who got almost all of them.
1.  Buttercup (Goat-Butter, getit?),2.  London Pride, 3. Thrift,
4. Cranesbill, 5. Foxglove, 6. Dandelion, 7. Daisy, 8.Cow parsley.
9. Speedwell, 10. Dog rose, 11. Kingcup, 12. Poppy, 13. Red campion, 14. Bindweed or knot weed (either fit the clue), 15. Dog violet, 16. Hawkweed, 17. Shepherd' Purse, 18. Sweet Cecily, 19. Lovage (an anagram of gavel plus o) 20. Mind your own business (an alternative name for Mother of Thousands.)   If any wild flower
enthusiast wishes to use it as a Christmas quiz, please feel free.

Now to today's topic - Friends.  As Hilaire Belloc puts it:-
There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.

Our laughter on a Friday morning in the Golden Lion at coffee time could probably be heard all over the Market Place if anyone chose to listen.   Why do we laugh?   Because we are friends, of course, and because we can always find something to laugh about.

So many of my friends are alone - either widows or never married.  They all have one very important thing in common - they do not sit at home waiting for the world to come to them - they go out and find people to chat to, people to mix with, ways of enjoying life.
G and J are both wildlife enthusiasts and spend much of their time walking, bird watching, visiting a local Nature Reserve; in addition they both have groups of friends with whom they spend a lot of time over coffee, lunch or just chatting.   W runs a ukulele group at her house, joins in a 'sing-along', has a circle dancing group, lunches with friends, invites friends to her house for poetry and various other things.  I could go on.   Most of my friends have very full diaries and often it is hard to find a 'window' where we can all meet (I do hate that word window).

But isn;t that better than sitting at home and hoping that people will come to see you and then feeling hard done-by when they don't turn up.   It is no excuse to say that not everyone can get out and meet people - I agree they can't but they can invite people to come and see them, rather than live in hope that someone will turn up.

Friend, D, who herself has a very full diary, hosted our Poetry afternoon on Wednesday - what a lovely time we had - a huge variety of poetry, delicious Christmas food, lots of laughs.   As we left D handed us each a rolled up piece of paper.   On it was a drawing she had done and run off - a lovely, Christmassy sketch and the words - the best thing of all - "friends keep us going."   This is a lady who has had a lot of sadness in her life and who yet manages to fill her time with friends seven days a week.

Please don't think for a moment that I have forgotten or dismissed all the thousands of lonely old people, all the homeless who sleep rough in the streets - all of whom need friendship and love more than any of us, and all of whom rely on the wonderful volunteers who offer that friendship  throughout the year and especially at Christmas.   All the more reason for those of us who are able to embrace friendship and go out into the world and invite it.

I take my hat off to D, to W, to G and J, to all my friends in fact who, at this time are all managing to go along to one another's houses over the festive season.  No-one will sit at home alone - all will be together.   Long live friendship - the most important thing in the world.   

Thursday 20 December 2012

Who does the work round here?

Yesterday at the hairdressers he mentioned that he intended giving a Dinner Party on Saturday night and that he had done the menu and would be doing the cooking.   He has already made the starter -
rabbit, pheasant and duck terrine - he had shot the animals/birds himself and had made up the recipe!  Yes, dear readers, I was impressed. Doesn't often happen - or does it?

Robert Crampton in the Times earlier this week, talked of visiting Africa and seeing the women working the fields, their babies strapped to their backs; going through the villages and seeing the women pounding the grain, washing the clothes, cooking the meals;
then passing the men lounging around chatting, smoking, drinking and doing little else.   Poor women he thought.

Then, on arrrival home, he suddenly had a thought.   Who was doing all the arrangements for Christmas in his household?   Who bought the presents, wrapped the presents, bought the cards, wrote the cards, posted the cards, organised the recipes, bought the food and cooked the Christmas dinner?   Maybe the man of the house would pour up the wine, fire the pudding - that kind of thing.   But, let's face it, in most households the woman does the work.   Or am I wrong? 

I chatted to the lady in the Newsagent's this afternoon about it and she remembered remarking to her father when she was a child that her mum did all the work and that her dad just expected his dinner to be on the table when he came through the door from work.  She got a clip round the ear for her remarks!

So could we have a consensus of opinion please?   If you are a man and you really contribute to Christmas preparations please say so and prove me wrong.   What does the farmer do?   Well I must say that I do most of the planning but he is on hand to help with the veggies, carve the turkey, fire the pudding etc. and he always, always stacks the dishwasher and unloads it over the whole Christmas period.   I have no complaints but I would really like to know what you think.   

Wednesday 19 December 2012

This and that.

First of all, sad to relate, the poor cow who went down and had to be hoisted up (twice on successive days) finally went down on the third day in an even more awkward position and could not be saved.   She had to be put down, although she was only a month from calving.   It is always sad to see a cow go in this manner, apart from the financial loss, which is considerable.   But we have to be stoic about it - she was suffering quite a lot and not likely to improve.

Now on to happier things.   Life is quite hectic at the moment.   The farmer has a very bad cold and is feeling rather sorry for himself, although it is a little better tonight.   He is dosing himself up with lemsips and hot whisky toddies. (that is the happy side of the cold!)
I have driven twenty odd miles to the hairdresser this morning, got back and twenty minutes later gone out to Richmond to our Christmas poetry afternoon - wonderful as usual, with a real Christmas flavour both in the poetry and in the food provided by D.

Friend G has gone to a party tonight on our local Nature Reserve and I have helped her to compile a party quiz.   I have done the wild flower bit, which is quite easy and is all about British Native Wild Flowers.   The clues are cryptic but I have purposely made them very easy.   I thought some of you might like to try it.  The number in brackets after each question relates to the number of letters in the flower.   I will print the answers in a couple of days.   If you wish to have a go - send the answers on my comment slot.

1.  You would find this at the goat's afternoon tea party.(9)
2.   2012 really was the year for this. (6,5)
3.   The chancellor expects us all to practise this. (6)
4.   A bird's beak (10)
5.   Reynard needs two pairs (8)
6.   A very fancy feline (9)
7.   Do give me your answer. (5)
8.   A bovine herb? (3,7)
9.   Hurry to fetch the water. (9)
10. Man's best friend got up. (3,4)
11. Royal drinking vessel by the edge of the water. (7)
12. Remembered in Flanders Field. (5)
13. A communist winner drops his aitches. (3,7)
14. Tie up this unwanted plant. (8)
15. Pursue this shrinking flower. (3,6)
16. Is this bird of prey thin and scraggy? (8)
17. This chap puts his money here when he sells sheep (9.5)
18. What a charming young lady. (5,6)
19. The auctioneer's hammer needs nothing to mix up a herb. (6)
20. Mother of thousands. (4,4,3,8)      

Monday 17 December 2012

An important part of Christmas.

Candles - Christmas would not be Christmas without candles, would it?   When I was a small child I remember we had the same tree for some years.   My father would dig it up out of the garden and put it into a bucket.   My mother would wrap the bucket in Christmassy paper and we would decorate the tree with the same decorations every year, maybe just adding one or two new ones.
There was a little silver glittery house with red cellophane windows - that was my favourite.   There was a tin Santa Claus and a tin reindeer and there were long, pointed drop shapes in various colours.   And last of all were the tiny candles, red, white and green twisted ones which we put into equally tiny clip-on candle holders.  They were only lit once - the fire risk was tremendous - on Christmas eve when my mother would make the bedtime cocoa, the presents would be under the tree and we would all sit round and sing carols,   I learned to play the piano when I was very young and I always sat at the piano to play the carols - but the scene (probably enhanced over the years) is one of my fondest memories.   We didn't have a lot of spare money and we only had a few presents -nothing special but nevertheless there was magic in the air - a magic I suspect has largely gone from a lot of Christmasses now.

I think everyone has candles around at Christmas.   They cast a magical light.   Gone are the days when we relied on them for light - the only light in fact in the dark days around Christmas.   Maybe it is this that makes them so important now.

On Sunday morning I went with friend, G, to the White Rose Candle Company at Wensley - a tiny village close to where I live.
How I wish I had taken my camera.   Stepping through the door into the small, cosy candle workshop, was rather like stepping into fairyland.   There were candles of all shapes, colours, sizes and decorations; there were candle holders in all kinds of shapes; there was an overriding smell of candle wax and various saucepans were bubbling away in the background.

I bought two very pretty candle holders.   When I have put them on my hall window sill and decorated it for Christmas, I shall put a photograph on to show you.   But I did wish I had taken my camera so that you could see into this tiny shop, situated in an old mill by the side of a cascading waterfall in full flow.

If you want to see what it looks like then please go to their website, where there are plenty of photographs.  Just Google White Rose Candles, Wensleydale. 

Saturday 15 December 2012

The run-up to Christmas.

Are you an organised person, or do you let things muddle along? Do you make lists and cross things off as you do them, or do you keep a mental list in your head?

I am afraid I am the former.  That sounds almost like an apology doesn't it?   Well some people seem to find this super-finnickiness very irritating (well, alright, most people) but it is the only way in which I can both operate and keep my sanity.

Maybe it comes from years of running a large department in a Comprehensive School, where I had to keep things running smoothly.   I have now been retired for many years but I still maintain this organisation.

So when it comes to the Christmas season then my lists begin to appear as early as November and they are kept in my dog-eared copy of Delia's Christmas Cookery, which at this time of the year is my bible.

Christmas puddings done, re-wrapped, cling-filmed and covered in foil (tick); Christmas cakes baked, fed repeatedly with rum, marzipanned and (this morning)iced (almost tick); Christmas cards written and posted (tick); presents bought, wrapped and ready to give out/posted (tick); menus written and anything which is not perishable bought (tick).

Actually here on the farm we have a relatively quiet Christmas.   We spend the day itself just the two of us, but I cook the turkey, the ham and all the trimmings on that day so that when Boxing Day comes, when I have eight plus for the whole day, a lot of the cooking has been done.    After that there is a lull until New Year's Eve when I have a small dinner party for six.

But there are always droppers-in so there has to be a plentiful supply of mince pies lurking in the freezer.   I know there are some good ones which you can buy these days, but nothing tastes as good as a home made one, does it?   And as I over-bought dried fruit (getting carried away by Tesco's offers) I had a lot of it left to make mincemeat,

Of course life goes on here on the farm whatever day of the year it is.   The hens still need feeding; the sheep need inspecting and (if it is cold weather) feeding and the inside cattle need cleaning out and stocking up on feed.   All that takes the best part of two hours.   Then the farmer can come in for the day.   In his milking days, of course, it would have been lunch time before he came in and he would have had to be out again for five o'clock for evening milking.

There was a slight hiccup in my organisation though.   Friday was designated as the day we drove across the Pennines to Sedbergh to deliver a present to our God-daughter and have lunch with her.  Friday dawned with thick, freezing fog, well-below freezing temperatures, icy sleet falling and a bitter wind.   All that at six hundred feet.   What would it be like at the top of the Pennines?  We didn't even consider going.   Now it is scheduled for some time next week.

Tonight we go to a dinner party with friends - always a lovely occasion.   It means I don't have to cook a lunch, so I can get on with the icing of the cakes (I make four - one for us, one for son and wife, and two for friends).

On a completely different topic:  Thank you to all who wished me well for the funeral of the dear friend.   I have to report that it went splendidly.   My dearest friend M, (it was her husband who had passed away), bore up very well.   And, goodness me, what a wonderful send-off they gave this splendid man.   He had been a military man, serving in Burma towards the end of the Second World War and then in Japan.   He had been an active member of both Burma Star and British Legion and every one did him proud. He was piped into church with the Skye Boat Song and out of church with Amazing Grace.   The farmer, along with several other villagers and two of his step-sons, was a bearer.   His step-grandson, who is a soldier (and who was wounded in Afghanistan) read the
Kohima epitaph and we stood for The Battle Hymn of the Republic.   He would have loved it.

I'm sorry to have gone into italics, I think it happens when I accidentally press a particular key.   Can anyone tell me how to get rid of it please?         

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Four legs good, two legs bad.

You would think, in this icy weather, that it would be easier to walk on four legs than on two.   But that is not always the case.   This afternoon, A and R, whose cattle we over-winter inside, came to collect one or two cows/heifers who are near to calving.   Our farms are next door to one another so the journey home is a short one.

All went well until the last cow was being walked to the trailer, when she slipped and went down.   Cows are really quite ungainly creatures and she was totally unable to get up again.   Poor thing, she was so distressed.

They had to return to their farm to collect a hoist.   They fitted this across her back, loosening and then tightening bolts until it fitted correctly.   Then the farmer gently lifted her up using his tractor.

She is on all four feet again and seems no worse for her accident, but they are leaving her overnight to see how she is in the morning before subjecting her to a ride home in a wobbly trailer behind a tractor.

You would think that a leg at each corner would make for stability wouldn't you?   I am wobbling about on these icy roads wearing my Yaktraks.  Dindin, who lives in Alaska, swears by Yaktraks and I must say I feel safer on icy roads when I am wearing them.   But they are lethal in our Utility Room where there is a stone floor, so they have to be taken off the minute I come through the door.

Tomorrow is our friend's funeral and once again the farmer is a bearer.   In the past week another three people have died in and around the area, making six in about three weeks.   As you get older this sort of happening makes one so painfully aware of one's own mortality from a purely selfish point of view.

As I write, cold, freezing fog is creeping across the fields in strips and the sky is an icy blue as the low sun sinks.   It is bitterly cold.   Hopefully the weather is set to get slightly warmer by the weekend, preceded by a bank of heavy snow.  The heating is full on and I am just about to light the wood-burner, draw the curtains and settle down for the evening once the farmer returns from his last walk with the dogs, who don't seem to notice the cold at all - surely a case of four legs good, two legs bad as far as cold weather in concerned.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Roll on the solstice.

In another ten days it will be the Winter Solstice and it can't come soon enough.   For one thing, the sun is so low in the sky that on the occasions when it is shining, it is difficult to drive after about 2pm because any journey going Westward makes driving impossible.  Apart from that, at this time of the year the sun can only be described as 'watery', casting a gentle, rather pleasant light, but one without the slightest hint of warmth (rather like a candle compared with a one-bar electric fire!).

Today is one of those days.  The air is still and the temperature on our outside thermometer hovers around nought.  There are still patches of ice on the lane and the puddles on the sides of the lane which have not been broken by traffic have a thin, pretty film of icy patterns.   One our walk earlier I couldn't resist jumping on some of them.   Alright - I might be an old dear but I can still enjoy myself with simple pleasures.   Tess, in her thick winter coat, doesn't seem to notice the cold to any degree, being far more interested in pheasant and rabbit smells.

At the bird table the birds are devouring the fat which we hung in the rowan tree.   The meal worms on the table are slowly going.   Two robins are eyeing them warily but have not yet ventured under the canopy - it takes a day or two for them to trust it, but if we had the table without a roof, the food would get so wet.

This morning the farmer kept warm by sawing wood for the stove and chopping sticks for kindling.   Yesterday he dug part of the vegetable garden and would probably have done the same today except that I got cross with him for being out in the cold at his age.   So he has stayed in this afternoon, lit the stove and as I write this is trying to fit a few more pieces in the jig saw of Herdwick sheep I bought him the other week.   It is proving hard to do, but he is nothing if not determined and says he will have it done in time for it to be cleared away for Christmas goodies to be put on the table.

  • A fortnight today will be the big day.   Santa will have been and we shall all be sitting down to roast turkey at around this time.  Speaking of Santa reminds me that I read an amusing story in today's Times about someone called Mr Santer, who happened to have a heart attack around this time of the year.   When his wife phoned the emergency services and gave her name they said something along the lines of, "Oh yeah, I suppose he had too much to drink with his elves - we always get some joker at this time of the year!"   Keep warm.  

Sunday 9 December 2012

No need to go to Arrezzo

Several years ago we went to Arrezzo, specifically to see the wonderful wall paintings of Piero della Francesca.   They were, of course, stunning.

Today, we heard the week's weather forecast, which is for terribly cold weather coming in from Northern Europe - in other words a big freeze.   Poor birds, we thought, no berries left, ground all frozen solid, nothing to eat.   So we decided to go to a local warehouse to stock up.   While there we bought coconut shells filled with fat and seeds, dried meal worms, extra feeders for seed and sunflower hearts so that now we have a good stock.

But on the way back we did a slight detour (all this well within ten miles of home) to have a walk around the thirteenth century Easby Abbey - an abbey built by and occupied by the Premonstratension 'white canons' on the banks of the River Swale.  We also chanced to go into the adjoining St Agatha's church, parts of which date back to 1100, and which still holds services today.   

And there they were on the wall of the chancel - exquisite wall paintings dating back to the 13th century - one the story of the crucifixion from Christ on the cross through to rising from the tomb and opposite it one depicting the fall - Adam and Eve, the serpent, the apple tree - and all as clear and colourful as if they had been painted yesterday.

Food for the birds, food for the soul, a health-giving walk after days of hardly daring to set foot outside because of the ice and all within a short distance of home. 

Friday 7 December 2012


After all those weeks of heavy rain there is now a very sharp frost.   Most days it is bright and sunny but there is such a keen wind blowing that the frost never goes.   The roads are icy and our lane is almost impassable except with extreme care.

But because the ground is totally waterlogged and that water has now frozen, nothing can be done on the farm.   Every grass field is peppered with hoof prints that are now hard so that walking is hard work,   There is a film of white frost on the grass and the hedges are bare and black.

We were hoping that a few berries would survive on the holly so that it could be brought in to celebrate christmas - a tradition which goes back to the days when it was thought that holly protected a household from witches and mischevious house goblins - but all have gone.   The birds need is greater than ours and one wonders how the fieldfares and redwings are surviving when all berries have gone and beaks cannot penetrate the hard ground in a search for grubs.

We have several holly trees which date back to the times when the ploughman would use a holly tree to line up his plough for the first furrow, and we also have plenty of holly in the hedges.  Any branch which falls off is quickly utilised for the stove - it is the finest wood for burning.

Many small birds have come off the fields and are at the bird table from morning to night.   Blackbirds in particular, which we rarely see in Summer, are now at the table most of the day and it is 
not unusual to see a dozen or more waiting for seed to drop from the feeders where hungry goldfinches pull one sunflower heart out of the feeder and cause another dozen to drop on the floor.   Pheasants join the blackbirds waiting at the base.

But all work is at a standstill.   The cows in the loose housing eat their feed and then lay down in the warm straw, their sweet breath showing up against the cold air.  They only come to the edge when they are hungry.   The rest of the time they lie down snug and warm.

The sheep don't seem to notice the cold at all - but then they have good woolly coats and are accustomed to spending all year out in the elements.   Even they appreciate a feeder with hay or silage in it for a bit of a supplement to the heavily frosted grass.

No let up in the weather is forecast.   In the market today the roads and footpaths were like glass and walking was dangerous.   I rang the farmer when he was at the Auction Mart and asked him to collect me in town, so that I didn't have to slip and slide and probably fall down.

We are keeping warm by the wood burner.   The Christmas cards have started arriving and there is a feeling of Christmas in the air.  I have made cakes, puddings and mincemeat and am now thinking about putting on the marzipan and icing.  I love the Christmas season and I suppose this cold, crisp weather is Christmassy too but the older I get the thinner my blood gets (or so they say).  Whatever the reason, I am keeping warm and looking at the weather through the window.   

Thursday 6 December 2012

Farm Shops

Do you have them round where you live?

There is a plethora of Farm Shops around here and they all have their ways of attracting you in.   One has a large play park for children and a lot of unusual animals, another has KuneKune pigs and rare breed hens.   But once inside the shop one is very like another.

Our most popular one, which I intend to visit once the weather here is less than abominable, has a super cafe and a super range of home baking which can be bought.  

Today I went with my daughter in law to one which is much nearer.  It is fairly new on the Farm Shop circuit and has won a lot of awards this year.   Certainly the cafe is lovely, the quality of the coffee is excellent and the scones are light and tasty (we ignored the rest of what looked like a scrumptious lot of home-baked cakes).   There was a butchery selling local high quality meat and a whole range of speciality olive oils, chutneys etc.  It was nice for a little trip out on a miserable afternoon, but that is as far as it goes.   I shall report on the other one when I eventually get there.   I have heard excellent reports.

I have to report that my friend who lost her husband yesterday is much better today.   Yesterday was an awful day of shock but today she sounded much more like her old self when I spoke to her this morning.   The difference?   She has her family round her.  There is nothing like family to give one a sense of strength and love is there? 

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Another friend says goodbye.

Today was the funeral of our friend, A.   She was in her eighties but appeared to be quite fit.   In fact we were out for lunch on the Sunday before she died.   But, sadly, she passed away leaving behind a grieving husband and family.

Today's rousing funeral in a Swaledale village , in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, was a fitting send off for this lovely lady.   There was a good crowd of her friends and family.   The hymns were well-chosen and included the W I 'hymn' Jerusalem, as she was always a keen member of the W I.   And the service ended with everyone singing 'Beautiful Swaledale', A's favourite song, which she could often be persuaded to sing at parties.   The whole service must have been a great comfort to everyone who knew and loved her.

And afterwards, as I recounted last week after the previous funeral, there was an enormous spread of food in the village hall.   The farmer was honoured, along with seven other local men, to be a bearer but he managed to get back in time to fill his plate with food, after laying A to rest in a churchyard with the most beautiful view.

Sadly, we arrived home to find that another dear friend, S, had died early this morning.   This makes three in three weeks.   They say things come in threes.   Let us hope so.   We need a few pieces of good news now to balance things out.   S was a wonderful character and will be very much missed around the village.  

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Mettam's clock.

This clock is part of the fabric of the farmhouse.   It has been on the wall where it is now for as long as the farmer can remember and certainly for twenty years before that.   In order to keep good time it has to sit at a slightly 'off' angle.   In fact in many ways it is almost in charge of the house.   You can hear the chimes on the hour and on the half hour from anywhere in the house,   I would not like to take it down from its place.

But isn't the brain a strange thing?   At this time of the year, when the weather is cold and frosty, the whole chime of the clock alters.
If there are any clock enthusiasts reading this then maybe you can tell me why this should be so.   However warm it is in the room (and this is the room with the wood-burning stove) the clock still has the most unmelodious chime.   As the farmer says - it suddenly sounds as though somebody is banging an old biscuit tin with a wooden spoon.   Gone is the pleasant, musical sound it usually makes.

When the farmer said this I was immediately transported back to my childhood and a day when we went to visit some people called Mr and Mrs Mettam.   I can't remember who they were, where they lived, or how old I was.   But what I do remember about that visit is that it was a bitterly cold, frosty day and that the Mettam's had a wall clock rather like ours.   And it struck rather like ours does in this weather.   We didn't have a car and had to come home by bus and I vividly remember standing with my parents at the bus stop and them in fits of laughter at the sound this clock made.   And ever after that any such sound got the response from my mother of 'Mettam's clock'.   The memory gave me such a warm feeling.

And speaking of such feelings, I have just made a bowl-full of Christmas mincemeat - suet, dried fruit, chopped apple, oranges and lemons, soft brown sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice - all stirred together with a generous helping of rum.   Now it must sit in the bowl until tomorrow afternoon when I can pot it up and store it ready to make the mince pies.   In the meantime the whole house smells of Christmas and it sort of gets the season started.

Last night I wrapped the presents.   The wrapping paper was covered in gold glittering snowflakes.   Remind me next Christmas not to by glittering paper.   The whole house, the carpets, the table, my hair, my clothes, everywhere is covered in tiny fragments of glitter.   I love glitter at Christmas, but you can have too much of a good thing.   

Monday 3 December 2012

Winter had arrived.

Winter had arrived this morning.   When the farmer drew back the curtains at 6.30am it was thick fog.   When the fog cleared, as it did by seven o'clock, it revealed an inch of snow.

As always I switched the electric blanket on, sat up in bed to drink my morning cup of tea and waited for the farmer to arrive back from collecting the papers.  When I see his car lights on the bay window I take it as a signal to get up.   This morning the lights stopped in the gateway and I thought he must be talking to someone.

Oh yes he was, he told me when I came downstairs!   He was talking to himself in not very polite terms as the gateway was slippery and he had hit the gate post.

Now the sun is shining and although it is cold the snow is disappearing quickly.   I love to see the snow but I hate going out if it is slippery as I am scared of falling and breaking something.   Last year the farmer bought me some things to clip on the bottom of my shoes to stop slipping.   I shall be getting them out shortly.

There are dozens of birds at the bird table.   Food is in short supply this year as there are few berries and most of the seeds have gone.  So a plea, if you live in the U K - please put out extra food, particularly fat (they love Atora beef suet), to help them to survive.   Kate Humble in yesterday's Guardian also advised cleaning out any bird boxes and putting some hay or shavings in the bottom so that little birds could perhaps use these to shelter in at night.   Keep warm!   

Saturday 1 December 2012


The wet weather, which has bedevilled us for so many weeks and caused such havoc with floods, seems to have finally left us for the time being at any rate.   But not before it caused a landslide in the beautiful seaside town of Whitby, leading to a row of picturesque cottages, which have stood on the site for 150 years, being condemned.  Demolition has started today and people have not even been allowed back into their homes to collect their belongings, as it is too dangerous.   In the past I have looked at all those lovely cottages perched on the steep hillside - with a lovely view across the bay - and thought how wonderful it would be to live in one.

Now, the days are bright and sunny.   There is a bitter wind blowing and the sunsets are magnificent.   And, as I switched on my computer, I saw on the news that snow is falling in some areas.  So now I think about all those who were flooded and are just beginning to get back on track with their homes dried out and redecorated but without the comfort of the past - this is probably the last thing they need.

If we have escaped the worst of the weather - as the farmer and I have - then we should be thankful.   A few lakes in the fields and gardens is little price to pay.

This morning was our monthly coffee morning in the village and I was talking to L, who reads this blog.   Her large front lawn has been flooded for weeks and now as I passed this morning I saw that it was frozen over.   I told her her lake had turned into a skating rink but she said she had tried the ice and it wasn't thick enough!  Judging by the forecast L, you could be putting on your ice skates any time soon.  

Thursday 29 November 2012

Sadness and Joy in equal measure.

Today has see the first of two funerals I have to attend - both of friends of long time standing.   This one was in the church in our village.

M was born only about 70 yards from the church and has lived and worked in the vicinity for the whole of her eighty odd years.   Everyone knew and loved her.

For the past year she has been more or less housebound and for the last few weeks of her life her health had deteriorated.   This does not make her death any less sad, but it was inevitable and - as they say around here - they gave her a jolly good send off.

M was of farming stock and the whole of the farming community turned out to say goodbye and to celebrate a life well-lived.   Having been in a city for so many of my adult years, I had forgotten what village funerals are like.   Town funerals tend to be rather impersonal, but there was nothing impersonal about this one.   Everyone was there because they wished to be there - nobody felt under any obligation to be in attendance.

Everyone sang lustily and afterwards everyone hugged her son and her brother - there was a culpable feeling of loving support everywhere.

One little incident made us smile.   There was so much parked traffic on the narrow lane where the church stands that the milk tanker, attempting to pass through to the farm at the bottom of the lane to collect today's milk, was held up until we came out of church.   That would have made M smile. 

Wednesday 28 November 2012

A Poetic Afternoon

Time again for our Poetry afternoon.   We hold this once a month, when a group of friends meet in one another's houses for an afternoon of reading our favourite poetry.   Today I didn't have to venture out as it was my turn to host the event.

All I had to do was to bake one or two goodies, stoke up a nice blazing fire, put on the central heating and wait for friends to arrive.
In the event there were seven of us as various friends were unable to come this month.

We had such a super selection of poems (as we always do), some serious, some amusing, some we have never heard of - that is what is so good about it.  It introduces us to poets who are new to us.

S, who comes from Lancashire and has a strong Lancashire accent, read an amusing poem by Wendy Cope about Socks.   Friend, W, who lives next door to her came in her multi-coloured socks and S anticipated this and brought the poem along to read.  It caused great amusement (as did her dialect poem about Albert (of Horses Head Handle fame) and the Jubilee) and I thought you might like to see S reading the poem and W's socks alongside.

Looks as though those socks will come in useful over the next day or two as bitterly cold weather is forecast up here in the North.   I am hoping to get a frosty photograph to use as a header.   I have plenty of flooding ones but really they are far too depressing.

Some of the poets we read today:

Christy Brown (D)
Poems from The Saturday Guardian (A)
Poems about sheep including local old counting methods (I)
Tessimond (W)
Wendy Cope (S)
Poems from an anthology called 'The Washing Line' (L)

Parts of Dart by Alice Oswald (me)  

Monday 26 November 2012


I am afraid there is plenty of it here at the moment - the North East is now getting the deluge that was in the South West last week.   And as we have already had it once in the last six weeks we really don't want it again.   Luckily this time we are better prepared, in that most villagers have barricaded their driveways with sandbags and the water seems to be flowing straight past.

I find the speed and power of the water quite terrifying.  In the fields opposite the farm we have our own little Lake District but the farm itself is largely unaffected.

Friend J, who lives alone,  was very badly flooded,and is just beginning to get back to normal.   The furniture is away being repolished, the place has dried out, the skirting has been replaced and at present the decorators are in prior to the new carpet being fitted.  When I heard how bad things were in the village today I feared the worst but a mutual friend rang to say that everyone had the sandbags out in good time and had avoided the worst.

Over the weekend another friend has passed away.   That makes two friends lost in the last month.   It is always sad to see them go and in addition it really makes one aware of one's own mortality. What we all need is a few days of sunshine to make us all feel a bit better about things.   In both cases there has been a life well-lived and so there is that to celebrate, but there is also sadness that they have had to leave us.

It is dark now and still raining but the farmer has been round and drawn all the curtains to shut the horrible weather out.   The wood burner is glowing, the kettle is singing and it is time for tea.  See you tomorrow. 

Sunday 25 November 2012

A Chinese Evening

Last night I went with a group of friends to our local Chinese Restaurant for a meal.   There were eight of us and we do this on a regular basis.  We usually make rather a lot of noise as we are a jolly group, but this time we were well outstripped by a group of eight young ladies in their early twenties - quite a change.   A delicious meal on a pouring wet, cold night while the farmer sat at home watching television on his own and enjoying it.

Today I have finally managed something I have been trying to do for weeks.   Well, I'll come clean and admit it, my son came round and set the system up for me.  But here it is anyway.

Our local market town, Leyburn, has its own band.   They have been together now for some years and are doing very well and playing at a lot of local venues. I have a friend, G, who plays in it and who has said for a long time that I should give them a mention on my blog.   I have done so but been quite unable to post the photographs she has given me.   Now at last I can show you what Leyburn Band looks like.

Each year there is a Band Concert in September at Hardraw Force in Wensleydale (Force being the local word for waterfall).   It is open to all Bands and attracts them from a wide area.   Naturally Leyburn Band features in the contest and often wins.   This particular year I T V were there filming the event for the popular series 'The Dales' with Adrian Edmondson.   Two of the photographs were taken on that occasion.

The third photograph shows the Band playing at the Methodist Chapel in Reeth, the small town in Swaledale.

As we are quite a long way from 'civilisation' so to speak, we do have to make our own amusement up here and events like this are always popular.   And long may it continue to be so.

There has been another deluge of rain here, but not enough for flooding.   Spare a thought for our blogging friends in the South West of the country where flooding has been terrible - as it was up here a couple of months ago.   It seems as though every area has had to have this deluge at one time or another.

As I write, mid afternoon on Sunday, the sun is shining and it is bitterly cold.   But more rain is forecast for later on today and for the whole of tomorrow.  I can't help questioning, what is happening to our weather?    

Thursday 22 November 2012

A busy day.

Today has been one busy day.   This morning saw a visit to my Physiotherapist, who (as always) found muscles I never even knew I had.  I am always sore for a day or two and then much more supple for the next five weeks until I go again.

Then, after an early lunch friend W called to collect me and we went to Teesside Park Shopping Centre.   Is there supposed to be a shortage of money?   Oh yes, I do know that there is terrible poverty in some places and that a lot of people find it impossible even to find enough money to feed their families, but there was no shortage of money at the Retail Park this afternoon, unless everyone is shopping on credit.

We had difficulty in finding a place to park.   In fact W, who drives a large four-track, finally backed into the narrowest of spaces in an absolutely fantastic piece of parking.   We were going just to Marks and Spencer, along with hundreds, if not thousands, of others.   The place was heaving and clothing and food were disappearing from the shelves faster than they could be restocked.

I came home with almost all of my Christmas present shopping done and with much of my Christmas food to put into the freezer -
turkey, ham, beef and lots of canapes to freeze and cook straight from the freezer.

Because there were so many people and I had plenty of time, I did look at people carefully to see if I could pigeonhole the sort of people who had enough money to spend in these times of austerity.
There seemed to be an awful lot of retired people - lots of bored men waiting about while their wives tried on clothes.   But then I saw a surprising number of young women with babies as well - so you never can tell.  It could be that because we live so near to such a huge army garrison incomes are not representative of the country as a whole.

Incidentally (apropos yesterday's post about mid life crises) I also looked if any of those bored men were wearing red trousers.   They weren't, but then I suppose those who were wearing such things would find better things to do than spend their afternoon accompanying their wives to Marks and Spencer.