Tuesday 31 July 2012

Ormesby Hall

After visiting Rievaulx Terrace on Sunday, we went on to Ormesby Hall - at least we did when we finally found it. It was so difficult to find that we gave up and, seeing a sign for Yarm, which we knew was on our way home, we turned down there only to find a sign for Ormesby Hall after all.

The Hall itself was the home of the Perryman family the last of whom died in the mid twentieth century and left no children, so that the house is left exactly as it would have been in that day. There were some delightful touches - one that particularly caught my eye was that every bedroom has a writing desk in a prominent place with a view over the garden. This was because the hostess insisted that every guest should have a pleasant place at which to write her letters. Golly how times have changed since then. And every bedroom had a small, portable bookcase holding a selection of books which the hostess chose specially for her guests.

By the time we got out into the grounds the rain threatened. We made a quick sortie down to the stable block which is strictly out of bounds as it is the place where the Cleveland Police Force keep their horses. But we were able to peep over the stable doors into the beautifully kept stables and the huge horses with names like Pete and Dave. (What happened to names like Major, Beauty, Blossom and so on?)

And finally, in the pouring rain, we sheltered in the Laundry which told its own sad story for me at any rate, because my mother was in service in the early 1900's and used to tell us tales of the cold stone floors that she had to scrub and how the cook ruled the roost and dished out orders. There was a huge copper for boiling the white clothes (of which there were plenty hanging up overhead), a copper which needed constant stoking with wood I presume; there was a long, slate gulley with a row of rubbing boards where a line of maids would be busy using 'elbow grease' to get the clothes clean. Maybe we don't know we a born these days.

Monday 30 July 2012

The Terrace at Rievaulx

Yesterday, in a day of sunshine and heavy showers, the farmer and I had a day out (and Tess too).
We are members of the National Trust so thought we would go to the Terrace at Rievaulx. I put a blog on about the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey at Rievaulx some time ago - they are spectacular.
But above them is a beautiful terrace which actually has little connection with the abbey.

In the mid eighteenth century Thomas Duncombe 11, who lived in nearby Duncombe Park, had the idea of building this terrace because he realised it would have beautiful views, not only of the abbey directly below but also far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside on the edge of the North York Moors.

He placed a temple at either end to add to the beauty of the whole. Now visitors can walk through woodland to the far end of the terrace and then back along the terrace itself.

Now it belongs to the National Trust and so is open to all. At present there is an exhibition of work and I can't for the life of me remember the name of the sculptor. But I am putting on the beautiful animals and when I remember her name I shall add it. Most of the sculptures were made of twisted willow but there is also a splendid horse made of galvanised wire. Regular readers of my blog will know of my love of hares - well as you will see there were plenty to choose from here.

Sunday 29 July 2012

The Lune View

The course of our rivers up here - as everywhere I suppose - is governed by the hills. The water cascades off the hills, finds the lowest point and then flows through the valleys (or Dales, depending where you live). Thus we get Swale Dale, Nidder Dale, Calder Dale and so on. Over on the other side of the country they are called valleys - so we see the Ribble Valley, the Eden Valley and the Lune Valley. And it was to the valley of the River Lune that a friend and I went on Friday to meet our friends P and D from Windermere. Kirby Lonsdale is about half way and is a beautiful journey there for all of us.

It was a sunny day on this side of the Pennines and also on the other side, but going over the top of the Pennines it was cloudy, so once again we could not see the top of Ingleborough (one of the famous Three Peaks).

We always have lunch in a lovely Bistro called Avanti, which serves super pizzas, pastas and chicken dishes. I had chicken campagna (chicken breast, green beans, garlic fried potatoes all served in a herby sauce) but all the meals looked scrummy.

It was a lovely day over there with a brilliant blue sky and the air full of swifts (we have not seen a single swift here in North Yorkshire around our farm), so after our meal we all walked over, through the churchyard and down to look at the Lune View, which is a view over the valley of the River Lune, a valley painted by JWM Turner and commented on by Ruskin. I never tire of standing there, more or less where Turner stood, and looking out over the magnificent scenery. I know I have put this view on my blog many times before but I'm sure you can stand seeing it again.

Coming back through the churchyard we came across this lovely Memorial Garden, which I think is such a lovely idea. It is constructed in a circle, which is somehow a restful shape and also is significant in that it denotes the circle of the year and the way in which the months come round again. Each month has a separate space and those who lose a loved one in that month can plant a plant within that space in memory. I have never seen one before, have you?

We came back a different way, meeting a whole lot of very old vintage cars obviously on a Rally as a friend had seen them in Swaledale four hours earlier. Most of the cars were open to the elements (lovely as it happened, although not hot) and were driven by men, all dressed up in the right gear for that era. Most had women in the passenger seat, swaddled in scarves and blankets and looking rather bored and frozen stiff. Ah well - was it ever thus?

Saturday 28 July 2012

The date is 1940

Not sure why some folk feel the need to celebrate the 1940's. Maybe it is because we won the war.
Whatever the reason it is a big weekend here in our little town as the whole place goes 1940 for the weekend. I am pretty sure that if our town had been bombed to the ground and we had lost the war, we would feel no need at all to enter into the spirit of things.

As it is the town today is full of men dressed in army, navy and airforce uniforms, playing at being officers and looking really important. Many of them have a wife in 1940's gear hanging on to their arm. Our town is really dressed up for the occasion, including the shop windows.

In the market place a big area is cordoned off with a notice'Danger, unexploded Bomb'; a spitfire stands in the centre of the town; old vehicles are parked around and a G I sits in his Jeep chatting to the locals.

There are swing boats and roundabouts for the children and one of those lovely 'Roll a Penny' stalls - I haven't seen one for years.

The shops are selling 1940's type food and some of the cafes are doing Spam fritters on the menu.

I went to the Library and walked down to have a look at it all, and as I left 1940's music started playing in the square and G I's and girls began to jive.

In the grocer's shop all the assistants were wearing big old fashioned pinnies and turbans and all the men had on brown overalls. As I bought four of their delicious chocolate covered picnic slices I couldn't help but remark to the aproned assistant that they seemed largely out of keeping with the food situation in 1940 - and in any case my mother would have died in 1940 rather than feed us on what she disparagingly called 'shop bought cake.'

Friday 27 July 2012

The Olympic Games

Like Religion and Politics perhaps the Olympic Games, which start today, is a subject that should not be discussed in Blogland. From the little snippets I have divined during the past few weeks there does seem to be quite a large body of folk totally against them, or at best not interested in them.

Of course we are all entitled to our own opinions. I don't know the political leanings of any single one of my followers (maybe I could have an educated guess at one or two!) - and I don't want to know - we are not in Blogland to discuss them.

But I must say here and now that I am quite excited about the whole thing. I think the Torch Relay has gone marvellously well and has shown up some wonderfully brave people, all of whom have obviously considered it an honour to be asked to carry the torch, and all of whom have certainly made me feel quite humble. I didn't know about the Bell Ringing at 8.12am this morning until about three minutes before when a friend told me. I switched on the TV and saw all the thousands out on the streets ringing their bells. I thought of all the thousands that have lined the torch route. Well it can't all be bad can it in what has been such a miserable Summer so far?

And let's not forget that a lot of people have put in huge amounts of time - alright - some of them have been paid an enormous amount of money but not all. There are thousands of volunteers, there are thousands of athletes who have trained eight or more hours a day for months.

Alright, so things are not all good. The price of the most expensive seats for tonight;'s opening ceremony is obscene; the fact that some people didn't get into the football match to see their team (Mexico) until twenty minutes before the end; the cock-up over security.

But please, for the sake of all those people who have tried to make it all a success, do sit back and enjoy it. We are a great country and it would be good to put the Great back in Britain. Goodness knows we need it in some form or other. So keep your fingers crossed for an opening ceremony without too many hitches.

Thursday 26 July 2012

A Poem and photographs to go with it.

Hauxwell Church.

Standing grey
among the trees
that seem to shield it from the sunlight;
its stone steps and floors
are worn by the feet
of generations.

Built within the grounds
of the Hall,
men and women trudged along the path
on Sunday mornings,
brought more by duty
than religion.

They lie now
in the graveyard,
their gravestones as worn
and ancient
as the floors on which they trod.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Admiration for tenacity.

On Friday 13th September 2002 Philip Sheridan had a very bad motor cycle accident on the road to Whitby. His right leg was shattered and he also had severe injuries to his left leg, arms and shoulder. As a result his right leg was amputated.

Philip had been a keen runner as well as a keen motor cyclist but as he was in a wheelchair for a year after his accident, he felt his running career was well and truly over. But there is no substitute for tenacity and during the last ten years he has completely rebuilt his life and has taken up blade running.

Now, to mark the tenth anniversary of his terrible accident he is blade running the Dales Way. This footpath runs from Ilkley in West Yorkshire, through spectacular Dales scenery, including the Three Peaks and the Ribble head viaduct, finishing in Bowness in Windermere. He aims to do the run - 80 miles - over just three days.

He will be wearing an Ossur running leg - the lower blade made from carbon fibre and the shank from aluminium - all fitted to his knee with a special socket. One of his heroes and inspirations is the South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who runs on a similar Icelandic leg.

Dealing with the emotional aftermath of the accident and also getting his brain to reprogramme into learning to run in a different way are just two of the skills which he has had to learn. Don't you just have tremendous admiration for people - men and women - who overcome the odds and come out on top? I dare not think how many young men - and women - are having to face this challenge every day after war injuries.

I am reminded of Dame Tani Grey Thompson, the paralympic who told in a recent interview on radio how when she was born with her condition her father refused to have the house adapted to suit her needs, saying that she had to adapt, not the house. I think you need a special kind of strength in order to rise to that kind of challenge, but clearly both she and Phillip have got it in spades.

Good luck to him. He has a web site at www.justgiving.com/teams/DalesWayUltraRun if you feel like sponsoring this brave and fearless man. All the money raised is for charity.

Tuesday 24 July 2012


On a happier note today - I am always impressed by the high degree of cooperation between neighbouring farmers, who seem to help one another out without being asked.

Today is my supermarket day when I go off as early as possible to get the week's shopping. I do not enjoy shopping and like to get it all in one go, apart from a top up of fruit and vegetables on the market on Fridays. The farmer meanwhile is busy silaging for several folk in the village who just have one or maybe two fields. The weather, although it is hot today, is quite unpredictable and rain is forecast for later in the week, so time is of the essence.

In no time at all our neighbour opposite is out and helping. The farmer cuts and he bales and then - after it is wrapped - they are busy leading it in between them.

Last week our neighbour on the other side realised that his two fields were getting rather short of grass for the ten or so heifers he was keeping over the summer, so one day they arrived in one of our pastures and joined our sheep for a few days. Now that their grass has grown up again they have gone back - but it is this sort of cooperation that makes for such good neighbours.

The downside of today's silaging, as far as muggins here is concerned, is that what is usually meal times absolutely set in stone has become a day when meal times are anybody's guess. Lunch was an hour early, although nobody told me and it is now 7.15pm and tea is usually at 5pm - and so far there is no sign of anyone to eat it.

Monday 23 July 2012

A Story with no winners.

Here is a sad tale of events which took place last week. We all have our own views about foxes and we all have our own views about shooting of pheasants - some for and some against. I can only report what happened - and I feel totally impartial about it, although sad. I don't agree with fox hunting, and I don't agree with shooting, but our little group of local farmers do have a bit of a syndicate, shooting on our own fields through the pheasant-shooting season. The farmer doesn't shoot but he does enjoy walking round with the beaters and we both enjoy the social occasions when the season is over. Because of the syndicate, they buy around 250 pheasant 'poults' and keep them in a pen in one of our neighbour's fields.

Here begins the story. One of our farmer neighbours has a small caravan park on his land and over the last few weeks it has been full (5 maximum caravans). The people staying there have been absolutely delighted by the sight of a vixen playing with her two young cubs. I have to agree that it is a sight which I would also love to see. Then one night last week the vixen earned a black mark from the watchers when she turned up home with the day's food - two black hens.
Where they came from nobody seems to know, but obviously from some hen coop not too far away.

The next night saw a very different and much more dramatic story, when the two cubs got into the pheasant pen intent on having some fun. Of course, the more they dashed about and jumped in the air, the more the pheasant chicks panicked and by the time the cubs had finished, eighty of the chicks were dead. (noneof them eaten).

We have a patient young man willing to sit and wait for them to come back. He sat, he waited, they came back the next night. Sufficient to say that he despatched them both quickly and cleanly. I suppose all we can say is that shooting, if it is cleanly and accurately done, is more humane than the hunting with dogs, which is what would have happened once the fox-hunting season arrives. But there are no winners here, only losers - and sadness all round.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Half Full or half empty?

I see in yesterday's Guardian that we are being accused as a Nation of being a lot of whingers. In fact it is even suggested that while the Games are here we might add 'moaning' as an Olympic event in its own right.

Only yesterday a friend and I were talking about the way in which the BBC do seem to have come down with Headline News on every so-called disaster - G4S, the planned strikes, the use of the armed forces - if it is a Headline on the six o'clock news, then it is one of doom and gloom. There is
never a mention of the fact the the magnificent Stadium was completed on time and under budget, or that hundreds of people are doing sterling work getting everything ready.

Having been in Amateur dramatics for a few years I know that in the weeks before the production everything seems to go wrong. You think it will never be good enough. 'It'll be alright on the night' is almost a National saying. So I really do think we should stop the moaning and grousing and wait and see.

Peter Catterall, editor of the journal of National Identities, says that as a Nation we do tend to think in terms of what could go wrong rather than what could go right. Shall we all, in this week running up to the Opening Ceremony, make a conscious effort to be optimistic and up-beat, to say that it is all going to be marvellous. Yes, there will be hiccups. But if they are well enough rehearsed then no-one will notice them.

I do however disagree with a bit in the German Der Spiegel when they say that the global enthusiasm for the 2012 Olympics is not shared by the Brits. I am sure most people have been truly amazed and heartened by the cheering crowds that have greeted the Olympic torch wherever it has gone.

So here's wishing all those - the planners, the organisers, the officials, the competitors - concerned in any way with the games the very best of luck for the forthcoming event. I sincerely hope that absolutely everything runs like clockwork and that at the end it makes us all proud to be British. Today's event at the Champs Elysee when hopefully Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour do France (keep your fingers crossed for him) should start us all off in the right mood.

To end on an amusing note there is a nice little story about Rafa Nadal (who has pulled out of the Games, sadly). In the Beijing Olympics British cycling gold medallist, Jamie Staff, met Rafa late one night in the laundry. Jamie says that Rafa was pushing all his laundry in together - whites, reds, blues - the lot. He says he really wanted to say to Rafa 'Dude, you're going to have a nightmare with that. You can't put all that lot in together.' But he didn't. I suppose that is one of the downsides of winning so much money at tennis (or any sport) that you never need to do your own washing.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Gooseberries and Greeks...

...in that order.
Yesterday morning, before going in for my usual trip to the market and meeting friends for coffee in The Golden Lion, I made ten pounds of gooseberry jam. The farmer picked the gooseberries the previous afternoon, so it was time they were used. I must say it tastes delicious (there was a little left for a bowl and I had a taste.)

After lunch I made a small amount (one and a half jars) of gooseberry chutney to a recipe I found on the internet. Artic Fox kindly sent me a recipe after I asked on my blog if anyone knew one. It was heavily based on hot flavours, which neither the farmer nor I care for. So thanks, Arctic Fox, but no thanks - too hot for us.

However, I did find one which used only gooseberries, red onions, ginger and thyme leaves. At present it tastes a bit insipid, but maybe the flavours will develop after a week or two. Anyone wanting the recipe, please ask.

Now to the Greek bit. Yesterday evening I went with a group of friends to a nearby village hall where the ladies were putting on a Greek evening. Like the Italian evening they put on a couple of months ago, this one was lovely. There were about forty of us and the food - moussaka, various meat balls in various sauces, feta, olives, salads etc. - was laid out on a buffet table so that we could help ourselves. It was all delicious. I managed to resist the pud - baklava - but there was also a merigue pie, which turned out to be a gooseberry meringue pie rather than the usual lemon - so the gooseberry theme carried on throughout the day.

We ended up with a bit of circle dancing to Greek music, although I was a spectator rather than a peformer. It was a thoroughly nice day with friends - surely the best kind of day to have.

Today, because the weather forecast is better, the farmer has begun to cut for hay. One lady has insisted hers is ready and he is cutting it on her demand, but really he feels it needs a bit more sun and breeze to dry up the ground before cutting begins. After such a wet summer, suddenly weather forecasts suggest there might be a bit of sunshine and I must say it was very welcome this morning when I went down to the Library. Added to that I managed to find Alexander McCall Smith's second book in the Corduroy Mansions series, and as I read the first book in the series last week, I am looking forward to sitting outside on a seat in the sun this afternoon and having a good read. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday 19 July 2012


Do you dream, or are you like the farmer who says he never dreams? I tell him everyone dreams but not everyone remembers them.

I have the most fanciful dreams, as though my brain is trying to sort out some of the rubbish I think about during the day. I have a bit of a butterfly mind and do tend to flit from subject to subject given half a chance.

But last night I had such an interesting dream. Interesting from the point of view that it seemed to draw its source from everything that had happened to me over the last few days , mix them up and serve them up in the form of a precis of events.

Last week at writers' group I was talking to D, one of our members, about selling her house and how unsettling it was; then I read a poem a few days later by Ted Hughes, called 'May Day on Holderness'; I have been watching Antiques Road Trip on BBC2 at tea-time each night this week; I am reading a book on Italian Cookery.

Last night I dreamt that I was looking for a house to buy and lit upon the one owned by D. The front of the house was in Richmond, where she lives, and was stocked with priceless antiques, all of which were for sale. The back, however, looked out over the Humber Estuary - in fact it was so close that the water was lapping at the end of the garden and round the wheels of one of the farmer's tractors. To cap it all, D invited me to stay for a meal and served up a delicious dish of Italian pasta.

Is that mad or is that mad? Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

A Poetry Day

Today was our Poetry afternoon. It goes from strength to strength and is always such an enjoyable afternoon. There were ten of us today and we read poetry by Edmund Blunden, Philip Larkin, R S Thomas, Dorothy Parker, WH Auden, amongst others. We have a brief discussion after each one and the afternoon passes in a flash.

There was an extra highlight for me today. The friend to whom I gave a dozen eggs for hatching lives next door (and comes to poetry). Sadly only one of the eggs I gave her hatched out - we wonder if the eggs (which were pullet eggs) were too small for the chicks inside because when they looked into the eggs the chicks were perfectly formed but very tightly packed into the egg. Does anyone have any experience of this?

However, the one chick that did hatch out is the image of its Buff Orpington dad (I can't help feeling that it is a cockerel as it is already well advanced with wing feathers and is only a week old) and they have bought another five day old chicks to join it. Talk about being well-looked-after! They are residing in a special box in the sitting room and are getting plenty of TLC - just like the four pullets in the garden, who come to the first call from S. I thought of you John Gray - they are getting the same sort of treatment that you give your livestock. Oh and I forgot to say that they all have names. I dare not tell the farmer!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Northern Lights.

For anyone joining this post hoping to read that I saw the Northern Lights, they are going to be disappointed. Sorry, but I was so absolutely exhausted after my weekend and lunch yesterday that I went to sleep at 10.30pm and awoke at 7.30am and anything which happened in between I am afraid I missed completely. It was a clear night, so they might well have been visible in the early hours of the morning when there is the best chance of seeing them, although nobody has mentioned them today.

As I look out of the window it is pouring with rain, so no chance tonight I would say.

I have never seen them and often look at the Norwegian Coastal Voyage in the winter months and think that it would be rather nice to go at that time of the year when there would be a very good chance of seeing them. But I have done the voyage at midsummer and even then you need warm clothes once you get above the Arctic Circle, so I can only imagine what the temperature is in Winter.

The voyage stays on what they choose to call the 'Inside Passage', going up and down Fiords to little places at the far end and then hugging the coast for the rest of the time. Almost at the top and quite near to the North Cape is a tiny harbour called Batsfjord. When I read that in Winter the waves reaching the harbour can be forty feet high and that the harbour wall has been completely washed away three times, then I don't think a winter journey is for me. Crossing over to the Lofoten Islands in a rough sea resulted in a lengthy period of intense seasickness for me in midsummer, so Northern Lights or not - I'll stay at home.

Monday 16 July 2012

A Busy Week-end.

My God-daughter and her new husband came for the week-end and we had a lovely time, just sitting and chatting and then on Sunday going out for a leisurely lunch. This morning they went back home and shortly after that my friend fromn Kent came (she is up here for a few days). B is the most wonderful patchwork quilter and she brought with her the beginnings of her latest quilt. I have put a photograph of it on here so that you can see the just how complicated the pattern is. A mutual friend, M, also came to lunch so that we all three met up together - what a lovely chatty time we had.

Now that everyone has gone home and it is just the farmer and I (and Tess of course) the house seems strangely quiet. Hope every else has had as pleasant a weekend as I have had. Back to normal tomorrow. The Northern Lights are supposed to be visible tonight, weather permitting - so we shall be on the lookout.

Saturday 14 July 2012

We made it!

Just a quick blog before my visitors arrive for the week-end, to say that we have made it - the grass is being baled up as I write. Not hay, sadly - that would take a few more days and we haven't got that sort of time before the rain arrives again. But at least we are getting silage.

Neighbours are so good - that is the super side of farming - we all help one another and Geoffrey who lives opposite, has just arrived with the baler and has got stuck in immediately. Well, that's a relief - the start of silage for Winter feed.

One of our bird boxes on the Scots pine trees by the kitchen window, has a family of tree sparrows in it. How busy the parents have been toing and froing from the bird table with sunflower hearts. Well now, one little face sits in the hole waiting to pluck up courage to emerge. Two parents sit on a nearby branch chirping encouragement. I keep standing and watching, but I have no doubt I shall miss the actual moment when he/she takes that first tentative flight. Isn't nature wonderful? How can anyone be bored living in the country?

Friday 13 July 2012

The coming of Autumn.

Sorry to be such a Jonah when we have had no Summer to speak of, but up here at a height above sea level I have always said that our Autumn begins with August, regardless of whether we have had any Summer of not.

Walking out today with Tess and the farmer (I have had my eyes tested today and the drops I had put in to dilate my pupils made my vision so blurred that I dare not walk on my own) I noticed various signs which tell me that Autumn is on its way.

The wild roses are already fading and in the strong breeze the petals are blowing along the sides of the lane; the meadowsweet, with its heady, almondy smell is in full bloom; there are already berries on the honeysuckle as well as flowers. Last but not least, the wild blackberries are in full flower.

So far the rain has held off, although it is now very cloudy and doesn't look too promising. Sadly, when the farmer shook up the crop this morning he found that he had run over and killed a hen pheasant sitting on a nest of eggs. Always sad when this happens.

Speaking of eggs, we gave a clutch of eggs to friends to put in their incubator and they should have hatched out on Tuesday - one did but the rest, although one or to of them had chipped, have not produced chicks - they seem to have died in the egg. Very sad as I was really looking forward to babies second hand. So, sorry S and T - I know how much you were looking forward to it too.

Tomorrow I have friends for the weekend, so I may not get much time to blog - we shall see.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Bite the Bullet.

Well, it has been a sunny day today and, although not especially warm, it has been a good, drying day. Having looked at the weather forecast at 6.30pm the farmer came to a decision, went out and cut the paddock, where the grass was very long and had long gone to seed.

This is the field he likes to make hay from - a little bit of hay is lovely to have in in the Winter for a sheep that is a bit off colour. He has been 'champing at the bit' for days to get it done but there have not been two fine days together. Will there be now?

Well, that is anybody's guess. The forecast says that tomorrow's promised rain will not get as far up-country as us, so it is a risk he just has to take before the whole crop is spoiled. After all, it is only one field, so it is worth taking the risk. So please keep your fingers crossed that he manages to get the field of hay in before the next lot of rain reaches us.

This morning I watched from the bathroom window and counted twenty pheasants stripping the seeds off the long grass. Now it is laid on the ground, so it is easier for them to feed I suppose. If there are any babies around then we haven't seen them, but it would be nice to think that one or two of the pheasants have managed to rear a family in spite of the rain.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

A Poem

Well - I am trying. How long I can keep it up when I feel so dissatisfied with the results I don't know. But here is an offering:


There are pampered ones
who spend their days
on velvet cushions; all their ways
indulged by doting owners, who
fulfil their every whim.
While we impartial ones, we know
that no-one owns a cat.

There are those with chewed-up ears,
with missing bits of fur
and scars on face and nose.
It's those - the tough guys -
who roam the gardens, steal the food,
rely on no-one, walk alone
and have no home
save where they choose to stay.

Then there are the ordinary ones
who have their bowls, their toys, cushions,
who wander in and out through flaps
and deign to accept the strokes - and laps.
They all share one thing, you'll agree,
if they want something from you or me,
they'll walk ahead, they'll trip you up,
they'll make you listen, let you see,
that really they own you.
And they'll make very sure each day
it stays that way.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

If you can't stand gore - don't look! WARNING

This morning the farmer found a heifer dead in the field. When he walked round yesterday afternoon they had all seemed as normal. The trouble is, as he keeps telling me , this is such unhealthy weather, both for animals and for plants. She was lying flat out in a pool of water (there are pools of water everywhere, in every dip in the fields)and directly under the electric wires, so he did wonder whether or not she had been struck by lightning.

Because of this and the fact that lightning strikes mean insurance claims may be met, the vet came this afternoon and did an autopsy. I just had to be there to witness what it entailed and I took some photographs.

Oddly enough there was absolutely no blood whatsoever. She was very bloated and we were advised to stand back as the vet stuck a knife in to let the air out. He also let out the most appalling smell, although she can't have died before 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

Because he knew I was interested, he talked us through the 'operation'. First of all he made a cut directly along her tummy and then up behind her head. Feeling about inside her he then brought out her organs one by one in order to establish that they were healthy. Lungs were very healthy, as was her heart. He then made another incision to bring out her spleen - also healthy. Then, feeling about inside he brought out an enormous, very enlarged and very unhealthy liver. There was the cause of the problem. He thought probably a virulent infection that overtook her so fast that she exhibited no symptoms before death.

So there you have it. One dead heifer in the yard waiting for the 'knacker wagon' to come - she is cut up into pieces and the vet's gloves and apron are stuffed inside her. He scrubbed up using a bucket of hot water and disinfectant. I must say he seemed to enjoy the job and also enjoy talking us through it. But I really cannot begin to describe the smell of it all.

It is always sad to see an animal die.

Monday 9 July 2012


For the past few months I have been totally lacking in inspiration as far as my writing and poetry are concerned. It is very frustrating because I do still want to write and I do enjoy going to my Writers' Group each month.

This month I am really making an effort to get back into it and so my resolution is to read some good poetry every morning over my coffee. Having just read a quarter of an hour of Ted Hughes's Lupercal book I am not sure whether I find it inspiring or whether it makes me feel that there is no good me trying!

I had forgotten just how brilliantly he uses words, just how - in a few lines - he can dredge up so many ideas. There is a poem called "Mayday on Holderness" in which he talks about the Humber Estuary and its entry into the North Sea. I can't print it here because of copyright - but maybe it is possible to read it somewhere on the internet. I love the way he describes night falling - he says 'The stars make pietas. The owl announces its sanity The crow sleeps glutted and the stoat begins." So much better then 'Night falls'.

There is little poetry in the weather at the moment - although I have no doubt Ted Hughes could have found some. Here it is dark, cold, damp and thoroughly depressing. Thank goodness for blogland I say - it is always good to meet blogfriends and share one's thoughts - so thank you to everyone who reads this blog and to all those who give me pleasure when I read theirs.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Open Gardens.

It has been Open Gardens and Scarecrows in the village today. As we live outside the village and too remote to attract visitors to our garden, we don't take part. But Dominic (made out of words) does and I slipped round to view their scarecrow and their garden before it all began this morning. There was a real buzz in the village.

Churchgoers were just leaving church. There was a scarecrow vicar standing in the gateway. I walked round Dominic and Karen's garden and took several photos for you to see. The weather has played havoc with all the plants but I have to say it looked far nicer than these photographs show. Their scarecrow was an artist 'waiting for inspiration' - rather good I thought.

The village hall was open for refreshments and various ladies were hurrying up the road with plates of cakes; the church was open for an art exhibition and there was a general feeling of excitement around. And best of all it has kept fine all day.

I love this communal activities. The first one was held in 1991, shortly after the death of my first husband. I had a cousin staying and I opened my garden (which is now Dominic's) and I also opened up my cottage so that people could look at his water colours. I didn't expect many visitors (none of us did as it was the first one) but I had well over 200 people round during the afternoon and I must say that it cheered me up no end.

On the subject of gardens and greenery = i thought you might like to see my Green Man - given to me by friends. He is on the wall just outside the back kitchen door. The Green Man (or Jack in the Green) is a figure in English folklore and appears in carvings in many churches throughout the country. He is associated with all things green, so it is quite appropriate to show his photograph on Open Gardens Day.

Friday 6 July 2012

Weather. and something to cheer you up.

I know the British are notorious for talking about/complaining about, the weather, but really, this Summer (what a misnomer that is) takes the biscuit for awfulness. One day this week we had 19mm of rain, today we have 18mm so far and it is still raining as I write. In addition we have a gale blowing in from the North East. That, I suspect, with my rather limited skills at weather-forecasting, is holding the weather front over us rather than allowing it to slip North.

This morning the farmer, in full Winter weather waterproofs, went out with the dogs and then filled up the feeders on the bird tables. We have so many birds. I think every goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, yellow hammer, tree sparrow etc. has brought along all its babies, its cousins, its aunts and uncles. They are going through the seeds and nuts at a rate of knots.

The field opposite is flooded and now, to cap it all, a heavy fog (possibly low cloud) has blown in, so that at half past two in the afternoon we have all the lights on.

Two photographs, both of poor quality but they give you some idea of the conditions. The first was taken through the kitchen window at breakfast time (for birds, not us) and the second taken just now from the side of the road looking into the field, where the daft Limousin heifers are all standing knee=deep in the flooded corner of the field.

Now for something to cheer you up. A friend has just returned from three weeks in Shetland and tells me that all the public loos on the islands have poetry fastened on the backs of the doors. This project is called 'Bards in the bog' and is the idea of Jen Hadfield, reader in residence with Shetland Library Service. If you want to have a look at them - and it might cheer you up if you are getting weather anything like ours - go to http://www.shetland-library.gov.uk/Bards.asp - or just do as I did and Google Shetland Bards in the Bog.

Finally a friend has e mailed me after reading yesterday's Naming of Plants to remind me of dear old Paul's Scarlet (his name is Paul, so he can imagine it is named after him). Thanks for that Paul.

Thursday 5 July 2012

The Naming of Plants

I have always thought it would be rather nice to have a plant named after me. I suppose for this to happen you either have to be famous or greatly loved by some plant breeder or something like that.
When I went round my garden with the camera I was surprised how many plants I could see which were named after people. First of all there is my very favourite old rose 'Gertrude Jekyll'. Now if anyone deserved being remembered by a rose it is she, for what a wonderful gardener and garden planner she was. Together with Lutyens they designed and brought to fruition so many beautiful places - she deserves a lovely, scented rose.

Then there is my rambler rose, 'Alexander Girault'. It only has one flowering each year, but that flowering involves hundreds of scented blooms. Sadly, this year, as fast as they come out they are ruined by downpours (a storm dropped 19mms this morning).

My other favourite rose is 'Albertine' - she is an old favourite, going back to my childhood, when my father had Albertine on one wall in the garden and Dr. Van Fleet on the other. Who were they both I wonder, and what inspired the creator of these roses to choose their names?

My blue herbaceous geranium, 'Russell Pritchard' creates huge mounds of colour in the garden' Again I don't know who Russell Pritchard was but his name certainly lives on in this hardy geranium.

Finally there is the herbaceous geranium, 'Patricia'. I bought her because she is my namesake - I don't know that Patricia she was named after but I like to think this is the nearest I shall get to immortality through a garden plant. To make it doubly nice I bought the plant at a plant stall in the grounds of Coxhoe Rectory, the house where Lawrence Sterne, the author of Tristram Shandy was rector.

So how is all that for a bit of name dropping.