Tuesday 30 October 2012


Are you a creature of habit or do you have the kind of life where you are able to wander through the hours at will?   Or do you indeed wish to wander at will rather than stick to a habit?

After a lifetime of teaching, when I had to be at school at a certain time then I got into a habit timewise.   Then I retired and for a few years we would get up when we woke up and go to bed when we were tired.  Things floated along just as we wished them to.

Then, of course, I was widowed and re-married a farmer.   There is little that is more prone to habit-forming than being a farmer, particularly a dairy farmer as the farmer was when I first married him.   Morning milking was at 6.30 and five minutes late and cows would let you know you were late.   Lunch had to be at a set time, so that if the farmer was working a few fields away he knew what time to come home.   Tea time had to take place just before evening milking.   And so the pattern went on - 365 days a year.

Now the farmer is semi-retired and could easily lapse into any old time, but old habits die hard.   He still gets up and goes to collect the daily papers at 6.30am; we still have lunch at 12.30 and tea at 5pm.   Even his two dog walks with Tess and Tip, the sheepdog, take place at 8am and 4.30pm.

This ordered life has spread over into other aspects too.  I still do the bulk of my weekly washing on a monday morning, while my cleaning lady is cleaning through; I still go to the supermarket every Tuesday morning and then on to have coffee with a friend; I still have coffee in the Golden Lion every Friday morning at 10am with a group of friends.  There are also monthly meetings, like my writing group which meets on the first Wednesday in the month, and my Poetry group that meets around about the last Wednesday in the month.

Am I a boring old f***?   Or is this regularity good for me as I come up to my 80th birthday tomorrow?   Speaking of which - I can't decide whether or not to have a tattoo done on my right shoulder as a way of breaking out.   Now that would be a departure from habit, wouldn't it?    

Monday 29 October 2012

If you go down in the woods today......

...or anywhere else in the country for that matter, don't expect to see any teddies or any picnics.   For today's the day the farmers are spreading their muck around.   It is a dull and dismal day and the air is full of the scent of FYM to put it politely.

Everyone has been holding on for fine, dry weather.   But the time is rapidly coming when cattle will have to come in as the fields are so wet.   They will all wait until the last minute because Winter feed this year will be very expensive as there has not been enough dry weather to get on to the land to make a third cut of silage grass.

I have been down to the city of Ripon this morning to my hairdressers and all along the way the fields are full of the flying stuff as the giant spreaders go up and down.   And as soon as you get off the main road (as I do on my way home) every farm lane is thick with great clods of the stuff.   Still, my mother always said it was a good healthy smell and as I can't get away from it, what can't be cured must be endured as they say.

I am thinking about all our blogging friends on the Eastern seaboard of the United States (Elizabeth of the world examining works for example - she lives in Manhattan) and hoping that the forecasts of this enormous storm on its way are exaggerated.   It must be awful living in a hurricane area.   Makes a bit of farmyard muck seem small fry.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Food for thought.

This book is well worth my recommendation.   I read about it a couple of weeks ago in the Saturday Guardian newspaper and was attracted to it really because I have always been fascinated by Robert's (The Solitary Walker's) posts about his walks on the route to Santiage de Compostella.  In fact I have done a couple of stretches of it in the past - more by accident than design.

I sent for the book from The guardian bookshop and it came promptly and cost less than its list price (they are an excellent place to order books)'

As well as being an interesting travel book, the kind that spots all kinds of little stories rather than look at the scenery, it is also the author's explanation of his inner journey to find himself.   I found it very revealing.   If you get the opportunity, do read it. 

Thursday 25 October 2012

Is the ash tree doomed?

I read in today's Times that the Chalara Fraxinia fungus, which has wiped out 90% of Denmark's ash trees, and is widespread across a lot of Central Europe, has reached our British woodland.

And I am taken back to the mid-1970's when Dutch Elm Disease more or less wiped out our beautiful English elm trees.   At the time I lived in the Midlands in a house which was built on what had been woodland and as a result we had three old elm trees at the bottom of our garden.   I remember watching them anxiously for the first signs of the disease and finally one morning seeing that the leaves were dying and beginning to drop although it was only early Summer.   We had to have all three felled.   It was such a sad day.   Now it seems as though it might happen all over again.

Ash is such a quintessentially English tree.   Years ago they were such useful trees for the farmer to have on his land.   They made splendid fencing posts and cart shafts and could be used for all kinds of repair jobs around the farm.   They also burn well on the fire.   Now on farm land they just stand proud.  The farmer has no use for cart shafts and buys his fencing posts ready tannelised.   He might use the odd branch for firewood - but other than that they are just roosts for birds.

But that doesn't stop the ash being an important aspect of the country scene.   If the disease spreads to our area we would lose about eighty percent of the trees on our lane and farm.   There are old ash trees standing in the hedgerows and there are saplings which have seeded themselves in the hedges.   These are cut back every year but by the end of the Summer they have risen up again.   They look so hardy and unstoppable.

Some of our ash trees are festooned with ash key seeds, other trees are bare and seem to be sterile.   Some drop their leaves early and some hang on to them until the first frosts.   All make a terrible mess when their leaves fall.   But I forgive them that when I see their Winter branches full of rooks on a Winter's morning.

I would miss them terribly.   The Woodland Trust is trying to stop the disease from spreading and becoming established by supporting a ban on importing and moving ash trees.   I cannot understand why we should have to import them when we have so many here already.   Does anyone reading this know?    Is ash still used extensively in furniture making for instance?

When I think of all the thousands of ash tree seedlings which emerge in our fields every Spring and which just disappear by being eaten off by cattle and sheep or trampled down - I think surely we don't need to import ash.

On a different theme  - thank you to all those who wrote with suggestions for improving my piece for my writing group.   I have taken your suggestions to heart and have altered the piece.   The new version is yesterday's post if you want to see what I have done to it.   Thanks particularly to AJ, Gwil and Seeking Center.

But then I wouldn't have thought we would have had to import Brussels Sprouts - a commonly grown English vegetable at this time of the year - but when I got mine home from Tesco yesterday and opened the pack to cook some for lunch, I saw that they came from Holland.   Has the world gone mad?

Tuesday 23 October 2012

This month's writers meeting.

The theme for this month's writers meeting is ' The Picture Reminded me of Someone.'   I thought I would try out my entry on you lot - do let me have some feedback before the meeting so that I can alter it or re-write it.   Lots of heads are always better than one.

It was during a visit to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, where I had gone to look at a particular Degas painting of dancers.   Outside it was snowing heavily and the light inside was perfect for looking at the amazing purple that Degas had employed on the canvas.   I had dreamt of seeing this picture for years and it did not disappoint.

Two hours later I was still wandering round the museum's collection of work by my favourite artist.   I sat down to rest my feet and looked at my watch.   Still half an hour to go before my taxi turned up to take me back to my hotel.   I decided to look round one or two other rooms.

It has always been my habit to look at only one painter when I visit a gallery - otherwise I become satiated with art and nothing sinks in.   But, as I was unlikely to visit here again I made an exception.

I stepped through the door of the next room and stopped short with shock.   On the wall opposite the door I had come face to face with myself.   So that was where it had ended up.   The gallery would no doubt have paid a huge price.

The artist and I were at Art School together.   In those heady days we thought we could conquer the world.   We were going to sacrifice all for our art and we spent hours talking about it.

I was his first muse.   At the time I convinced myself that it was love and that we would be together forever.   He painted me whenever he wanted;  there was never a time when I would not pose for him and now, looking back, I realise it was probably because I was free, whereas paying a model would have cost money he didn't have.

We imagined outselves living in a garret, almost (but not quite) starving, working all day, having exhibitions, becoming famous.   I now realise he had far more talent than I had but at the time we were young and we had fervour.

Of course it couldn't last.   And it didn't.   I fell in love, married, had three children in quick succession and now have six grandchildren.   I paint them with delight and hang the finished works on the walls of my house.

He, on the other hand, never married.  He had a succession of muses, fathered a dozen or more children, became famous until his works fetched millions and his name was a household one.

I had not thought of him for years now, but as I looked at my youthful self, my slim figure, the confidence of my pose, I was taken back to those days.   I am almost sure that this was the first picture of me that he had ever done and for a moment I desperately wanted to own it, wanted - through it - to try and recapture some of that elation of that time.

But then I looked at my watch.   My taxi would be waiting.   The artist was dead now.   I was alive and happy and had had a happy fulfilled life.   Each to his own way, I thought, as I turned and walked out of the gallery, knowing that her eyes would follow me until I turned the corner and our connection was broken for ever.      

Monday 22 October 2012

Pending jobs.

There is just one important job to do before the Winter sets in on the farm, and that is proving very difficult.   Last Winter we had our friend and neighbour's cattle in our loose housing shed, as we always do.   When they are put out to grass the farmer leaves the deep litter manure in the shed to rot down.

The farm cats love this of course, because as it rots down, so it warms up and with Summers like the one just passed it is the warmest place for them to lie on a chilly day.   Added this, there are always plenty of swallows nesting in the rafters and they can at the least watch them as they learn to fly and at the best (from their point of view) catch the odd one.  Mice also take advantage of the warmth to build nests and have their babies - another food source for two hungry farm cats who would much rather catch their own dinner than eat the rubbish from a tin of cat food (although we always buy the best).

Soon it will be time for the cattle to come inside again.   They will be kept out as long as possible; there is plenty of grass for them this year and once they come in they are expensive to feed.   But if the weather comes very wet they will need to come in.   So the loose housing has to be ready with deep straw for the new year.

So what to do with the old manure?   Well, it is ready, well-rotted, to spread on the fields.  But as, walking round the fields yesterday afternoon confirmed,   sadly the fields are not ready to receive it. They are far too wet for the heavy tractor and spreader to go up and down - gouging out grooves in the grass.  We have had a few days of real Indian Summer here with beautiful sunshine and still, warm conditions.   But, because the ground is so saturated from the recent flooding, the water is slow to drain away.

Now, today, we are back to damp, misty conditions which are no help whatsoever.

Still, the farmer has seen it all before.    This is the thing about farming; I don't suppose conditions are ever perfect and everything gets done in the end.   I suppose, if the worst comes to the worst, the manure will be piled up in a heap somewhere with a firm base and left until conditions are right.

When that 'right' will be is anybody's guess.  The weather map on last night's Country File suggested that by Saturday there might be snow up here in the North of England.   My birthday is coming up shortly and I have never had a white birthday yet.    There is always a first time.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Time flies (whether you are having fun or not).

Isn't it amazing how fast time goes by?   Every Saturday The Times carries a list which is headed 'On this day'.   Would you believe that it is forty-four years since Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis?

But the big story, the one which makes the headline in the article is that on this day in 1960, in the Central Criminal Court, Lady Chatterley's Lover was considered.   Penguin Books had published it and were being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing an unexpurgated version.

I love the way it says that after the case had been opened it was adjourned until the next Thursday to allow the jury of nine men and three women time to read it.   And they had to read it in the jury room at the Court.

Doesn't it all seem old-fashined now, fifty two years later, when anything goes?    Was it Kenneth Tynan who was the first person to use the F word on television?

I do remember buying the book and someone telling me that it would automatically open at "the" page.   The trouble with all these things is that if you ban something everyone will want to do it/read it or whatever.

On the other hand, I do sometimes feel that we have gone too far the other way now - I wonder - have we degraded the English language somewhat by being able to use the F and C words, as well as many others?  Some folk do tend to use them as expletives or even just in the general flow of conversation (Have I got News for You is a good example of this - although I love the programme).  I don't recall hearing my father swear at all when I was a child.  And when I first met the farmer I remarked that I had never heard him swear - did he ever do so?   To which he replied, "Not in front of ladies." - ah the age of chivalry is not dead after all.

Friday 19 October 2012

Alterations to the Status Quo.

As one gets older or( as Yeats so ably puts it in Song of the Old Mother) 'the seed of the fire grows feeble and cold'alterations to the Status Quo - or even threatened alterations - are somehow much more disturbing.   Things - events, happenings,changes of fortune - seem to have been taken in my stride.   Now it is not so.  Is this an age thing?   Do you find that the older you get the less able you are to cope with changes?

First of all there is a threat to the health of my daughter-in-law (already a semi-invalid), which happily turned out not to be serious; then immediately another very dear friend has a stroke and goes away to hospital; then this morning I met another friend of many years standing, who is now in her eighties and walks very badly, so that even with a wheeled trolley in one hand and a stick in the other, her passage across the market square looked very precarious.
Later on, as our Friday group sat in the Golden Lion over coffee, as we do every Friday morning (I sometimes wonder what other clientelle think to us as we chat and laugh out loud) an elderly friend called to see us and fell in the doorway.   She has Parkinson's Disease and is really rather frail.

I don't find it depressing on the whole.   I feel very well and lead a very active life both socially and around the house, but surely this is an age thing.  The older one gets the more one's life is going to be altered and various inroads are going to be made into the Status Quo.  One answer is to have plenty of young friends - there is nothing better for keeping a body young than to have to keep up with younger people (and don't I know it as the farmer is considerably younger than me!)   But I would love to know how readers of my blog cope with such changes.

Incidentally - I do think daily blogging helps an awful lot.   It gets all kind of niggly things off one's chest and opens up issues to the wider world for comment.   So please do feel free to leave your suggestions.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Thorpe Perrow Arboretum

It is that time of year again - Autumn, with all its magnificent colours.   That can only mean one thing for friend W and me - a trip to the Arboretum for a walk round.

Very muddy underfoot as there was a lot of rain last night, but today is lovely with warm sun and only a very light breeze.   Walking round the paths through leaves which last Autumn were crisp and crackly and this Autumn are wet and soggy, we were able to soak up the lovely fungi, the beautiful colours of the acer trees and the berries here and there.

They always try to attract children for Hallowe'en and lay down a trail.   We followed parts of it and I must say it was quite scary but then, that is what children like - to be scared out of their wits when they know it is only 'pretend'.  The photograph is of a witch in the bog garden hauling a dead body out of the mud.  One the other side of the path there was a witch barbecuing feet and hands!

And after the walk round (with dog, Sophie) we had bowls of minted pea and ham soup in the cafe - the icing on the cake, so to speak.

The farmer is off to the physiotherapist as I write for a bit of manipulation on his shoulders - he will continue to heave great bales of straw around so of course his shoulders continue to give him trouble.   But then, what is a farmer to do?

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Cleaning out the drawers.

     Sometimes, in a fit of enthusiasm, I decide to tidy the drawers out.  Yesterday was just such a day.  Worried about my daughter in law I didn't want to sit about (she is home again from hospital and her tests are clear I am relieved to say) so I set to and cleaned out the desk in the sitting room.

     It is a desk I am very fond of as it belonged to my sister and I inherited it when she died.   I tackled the stationery bit first, topping up envelopes,  buying new ones and paper clips, then sorting through various cards.   Then I went through the drawers and during the course of that I came across this lovely little doll.   I bought it in Lunenburg in Canada a few years ago.

     Lunenburg is on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia -such a pretty little port.   St. John's Church, which is made of wood, burnt down some years ago and has been rebuilt.   The enterprising citizens of the town have made various things to sell from the ruins of the old church, and one of them is this dear little doll.   Another one is a cross fashioned from the charred wood of the remains.  I just can't find it, otherwise I would have put that on too.

     But this little doll is a delight.  The label attached to her (she is made completely out of cotton) reads:

My name is Emily.

Heritage dolls like me were most likely made by grandmothers
in the early days of St John's church.

We were also called church dolls.   Little girls were allowed to carry us to church and if we were dropped while playing, we made no noise to disturb the service.

     (Those were the days.)

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Boys' Toys.

Today the farmer got what is for him the ultimate in boys' toys - he changed his 'best' tractor for a more powerful model, which now stands proudly in the shed.   He has driven it up and down the yard a couple of times - that's all.   But he is rather pleased with it.

By the time it was all sorted out the light had gone, so a photograph will have to wait until tomorrow.   The increased power will mean that he can pulled heavier weights up hills (e.g. a full slurry tanker up a hilly field).

As far as I am concerned a tractor is a tractor is a tractor - but then I have never driven one.   The farmer did once try to give me a lesson and let me drive across the field, but when we approached a bridge across the beck I just put my hands over my eyes (I dare not cross the narrow bridge) - so that was that - I never tried again.

My post is short today as I am waiting for a phone call.   My daughter in law was taken into hospital last night for tests and my son is with her and will ring when there is any news.   So these are quite worrying times.   I just hope that everything will be well for her.

Monday 15 October 2012

Energy Levels.

Why is it that some days we have a surfeit of energy and some days we are totally lacking in energy?   I wish I knew.   It doesn't seem in any way connected to what I have eaten or how much sleep I have had.   Some days I almost have to drag myself around and am pleased to sit down and have a read; some days I want to be 'on the go' all day.    Today was just such a day.

Replanting pots by the back door with winter primroses, cleaning out the desk and replenishing the post card and envelope compartments, cleaning a few inside windows, cooking a lunch, taking Tess for a walk, going into town to the bank - and now, at almost tea time, sitting down to type this.

Would that I could be like this every day.   A friend has just called and when I told her she replied that I would probably be absolutely 'washed out' tomorrow - well we shall see.

Speaking of energy - I needed all mine to open two packs of envelopes bought from the newagent in town.  A gold strip to pull, which pulled off one cellophane end, then the other end of cellophane to pull off, then an inner card with the word 'envelopes' on it (I could see that from the transparent wrapping).   I had just emptied the waste paper basket - the wrappings, together with four unsolicited 'fashion' brochures advertising clothes I would never buy which came through the post this morning = and the bin is full again.   How many trees are wasted each year to rubbish mail I wonder.   End of moan for today - don't want to waste any more energy!

Sunday 14 October 2012

Chance and Time

This morning we had to visit Hawes again.   The day was just as beautiful, the hills standing out against a blue sky, puffy clouds and a light breeze - a perfect day to view our beautiful Dales.   There was not a lot of traffic about apart from caravans going home to be put to bed for the Winter and motor cyclists on their last few rides out in the Dales before putting their bikes to bed for the Winter too.

Wensleydale is indeed a beautiful Dale but sadly every year there are deaths of motor cyclists on our narrow roads.   In fact there are various accident black spots where flowers and little memorials mark the spot where someone has died.  This morning we passed one such spot where a lady was replenishing the flowers -a stark reminder of such deaths.

Time and chance play a large part in these deaths, as they do in so many incidents in our lives.   A chance meeting on a train, in a bus, in a cafe, in the park, at the bus stop - which changes our lives for ever, which makes lasting friendships, which puts us in touch with one another.   Or the one day in the week when we buy a Daily Paper and notice an advert which catches our eye and results in us buying something which changes our lives (this happened with the purchase of Tess, my Border Terrier).

Well, on our return journey this morning an incident entirely due to chance and time, almost resulted in what could have been a fatal accident.   It struck me that this is how almost all accidents must occur (here I am speaking of traffic accidents).   We were driving through the village of Aysgarth, which has a 30 mile an hour speed limit, going Eastwards.   At the same time a motor cyclist with a pillion passenger was travelling towards us - and I would be sure we were both well within the speed limit.   Suddenly with no warning, an elderly gentleman in a car shot out of his drive, presumably having not seen the motor cyclist (he was on that side of the road).  At the last minute he saw the motor cyclist and slammed on his brakes.   The motor cyclist was too near to avoid hitting him so swerved round the bonnet of the car as fast as he could and back into his side of the road again.   Luckily we were maybe fifty yards too far back to hit him and were able to brake.   But it did strike me that another fifty yards forward, or another minute earlier and the motor cyclist and/or his pillion passenger would have been in real trouble.  Chance - time - call in what you will - often there is but a split second between a good outcome and a terrible one.   Makes you think, doesn't it?

Saturday 13 October 2012

Autumn is really here now.

     If we were in any doubt about it, the last few days have shown that Autumn is really here and that Summer is well and truly past.  During the last week we have had sharp frosts, gale-force winds, heavy rain and brilliant sunshine,   The first three have contrived to bring down an awful lot of the leaves and as Tess and I walked through the fields this afternoon (ankle deep in mud in places) we were walking as much through fallen ash tree leaves as through grass.
      In the gateways the water has collected in the ruts and it is difficult to get into the fields without getting wet feet.   But once in we set off down the field to where the farmer is busy digging out the beck at the bottom.   It always silts up every year but this year, with the torrential rain of a couple of weeks ago, when Dominic's lane was all but washed away (it is the same beck that flows through our fields), a lot of rubbish came down too, so there is a lot of digging out to do.   The farmer has to keep a sharp eye out because he digs out bullheads and small trout and tries to see them in order to put them back before they perish.   After all, they are good winter food for the heron and the kingfisher.

     We chat for a few minutes and Tess has a good old sniff at the wet mud which has been dug out.   Then we walk back home.   It is a glorious day here today - brilliant sunshine, slight breeze, and - as you can see from this photograph - amazingly beautiful clouds.

Friday 12 October 2012

The Perfect Specimens

A sheep is a sheep is a sheep I suppose, if one is not really into sheep-breeding.   And of course, the prime reason for breeding sheep has really got to be to sell their meat, and once they are on the butcher's slab they all look the same.

But today, visiting a farmer friend, we had a real taste of perfect pedigree specimens.   The friend is a Swaledale fanatic and really lives and breathes Swaledales.   Next week there is a tup sale and today he was getting his tups ready for the sale.  Grooming them, trimming their fleeces and their hooves, generally smartening them up.

They are quite nasty individuals and no light weights, so that they have to be separated.   Each pen (which holds two or three at the most) is surrounded by carpet-covered fencing and electric fencing to stop them getting to each other and creating mayhem.  The carpet, of course, is to stop them actually seeing one another.

I must say it was fascinating to see them all.  I will report back when the sale is over, so that you can see the sort of prices they fetch.

Thursday 11 October 2012

I am still coming to terms with the new Blogger.  Everyone tells me that when I get used to it I shall like it much better, but in the meantime there are so many things which I suddenly cannot do any more.   One of them is create spaces and paragraphs.

Although I carefully space and paragraph my posts, when they are up on my blog they are all condensed into one paragraph.   Tom has already suggested he needs new glasses to read it and various friends who read it but don't themselves blog have said that the font is just too small to read when it is all so compacted.

So I have made another step forward and seen how to alter the font size (I know - it is a simple enough thing, but I have not been clicking on compose, so I have not been getting a good line of instructions across the top! )

Now I have somehow got to crack paragraphing.  If anyone has any ideas, please send me help.

Can Blogger sense when you want something, I ask?   Lo and behold I put this blog up and it is all done correctly.  I never cease to be amazed - Google can obviously read my mind.   Keep blogging I say.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Am I sentimental?

There is something about the word 'sentimental' which brings out a reaction in people. For example - a lot of people dislike PreRaphaellite paintings because they seem to have a sentimental element. The same is true of poetry - sentimental poetry is frowned upon. Well I have had a surge of sentimentality over the last couple of days and I am not ashamed to admit it. I was born in a fenland village in Lincolnshire; a village where everybody knew everybody and where no event, however small, went unnoticed and untalked about. Well, over the last two days it has all come back to me with the reading of a fabulous book of short stories: Louis de Bernieres 'Notwithstanding.' If you haven't already done so, please do try and get hold of it. Of course, we all know he is a marvellous writer anyway (Captain Corelli's Mandolin among other books) but his turn of phrase in this book of short stories about the village of Notwithstanding is just superb. It has had me bursting out laughing time and time again as he describes events and people. An example, which I am sure will be so familiar to all 'doggy' people, comes in a story called 'All my Everlasting Love' when a boy is about to take his dog for a walk. At the appointed time he calls his dog, which de Bernieres says 'has been sighing pointedly since early morning' He says the dog 'sighed and waggled his eyebrows, affecting an air of suffering, but as soon as anybody went to the walking stick stand or fetched wellington boots, he would lift off vertically into the air bouncing straight up and down so rapidly that it was impossible to attach his lead.' He then goes on to say how they used to say 'walk', then began to spell it w-a-l-k, then called it 'promenade', then 'spaziergang', then 'paseo' and finally 'peripateion' with the dog a mere one linguistic step behind. Anyone who has ever had a dog can't help but recognise their dog in that. Well this sentimentality seems to have spilled over into all areas, because today was my hair appointment day in Ripon - a distance of about twenty miles. Coming home I took a different route, along a high country road between rolling landscape. Fields had been ploughed to a deep, rich brown; corn had been harvested and fields of golden stubble shone in the Autumn sunlight; the trees were beginning to turn and everywhere I looked the scenery was breath-taking. I was so overcome with it that I pulled into the side of the road and sat and looked at it for five minutes. Call me sentimental if you like, but the weather is set to break tomorrow and I wanted to fill my soul with this Autumn scene before I became soaked with rain again. Sitting with the car's windows open, the air was full of the sounds of crows, who have all begun to gather together again for winter. The stubble fields were full of them and any road kill (pheasants, squirrels, rabbits, hedgehogs - everywhere)was being quickly devoured. Robins'
songs were so close together as they have all established their winter territories. So I indulged myself - sentiments of the country - and I don't regret a minute of it. I was still home in time to take the casserole out of the oven for lunch. Now the sky has clouded over and rain is forecast, but I have plenty of countryside memories and scenes to draw on for a day or two. Hope you have too.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Wars and Rumours of Wars.

The farmer and I have just sat out on the bench in the garden in beautiful sunlight with our morning coffee and a stroopwaffel each (given to us by Dutch friends and jolly good). We were looking at the crystal drops of dew on the grass and the fine gossamer threads woven between all the plants and blades of grass. We were listening to the robin sing his song, which sounds so joyful but really means 'keep off my patch'. Then the sun went behind a cloud (one lonely one in an otherwise clear sky Gwilym if you are reading this) and suddenly the chill of Autumn was in the air. As we thought about standing up we saw that the tiny spiders had woven us into their gossamer - our shoes were attached to the grass and our sleeves to the garden bench. It seemed almost a shame to break the magic. A couple of weeks ago we had terrible flooding all over North Yorkshire, with homes flooded and blocks of flats almost washed away. Our village had many houses flooded and the lane where Dominic lives (made out of words on my side bar if you want to see pictures of the lane)almost washed away. Things still hang in the air regarding the mending of the lane and who should foot the bill. But what has amused me is that in the fortnight since it happened I have heard so many versions of a solution. 'The lane has been completely washed away (it hasn't); a) said this and b) said that; I heard one story from a friend, who heard it from the cleaner we share; I heard another version from my chiropodist; and to cap it all, I heard another version this morning from the man I visit on the check out at my supermarket. I don't live in the village but live about a mile out of it so am on the periphery of all happenings but I really begin to think that it is a case of 'send reinforcements we are going to advance' morphing into 'send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance'. As everyone uses the lane who lives on it, I would have thought that the obvious solution would be for everyone to chip in and share the cost of repairs - but maybe that is too simple. All I can say with certainty is that at present I am sitting here and doing nothing. Cowardly it may be - but I would like the dust to settle (or mud in this case), at which point the voice of reason might emerge. Meanwhile, the weather is at its most glorious for early Autumn. There is a hint of the colour to come in the trees, there is a scent of dying foliage, the robins are singing, the sky is clear blue and the sun is warm. The only fly in the ointment is that dear little Tess, my Border Terrier, in her eagerness to go out for a walk yesterday lunchtime, was flying up and down, skidded to a halt and banged her face on the step. She is a sorry sight. I have managed to persuade her to eat a little food by moistening it with warm water and then feeding it off my hand. But she is a sad little dog. We can't find any injury so assume she is just sore. If you are in the UK enjoy the sunshine while it lasts - apparently it is only temporary.

Monday 8 October 2012

Nellie and Bert.

So sorry about this. I am still finding Blogger so difficult. I now find that the photograph in the post below below is actually of Nellie NooNah - she suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The photograph of Bert, her husband, is below on this post. I would like to have added this photograph to the previous post by editing it, but I can no longer find out how to get on to edit - it seemed to have disappeared from my screen. It has even left me in mid-sentence. Please don't desert me - I shall eventually find my way around. Oh how I wish I could return to the old way of doing things.

Blue faced Leicester Sheep.

Here goes. I shall attempt another post about them and hope that this time I can transfer the photographs. To re-iterate - the farmer and his niece went to a pukka Blue faced Leicester sheep sale last Thursday. It is her favourite breed, although I think they are incredibly ugly. But as I said then - Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. Some of the really good ones, used for breeding, fetch an incredible amount of money. Last year's champion from the sale at Hawes Auction Mart, was sold after the show for a massive £16,000. This morning I received an e mail from said niece to say that she has now bought a tup (ram) to put with Nellie Noo Nah (her ewe). He is to be called Bert. So there you have it - Nellie Noo Nah and Bert - the Blue faced Leicester married couple (we hope). Bert's portrait is here for you to admire. The 'alien' writing turned out to be blogger's way of inserting the instruction to paragraphing. I carefully went through and erased them all. You would think that by my age I would have learned how to do things correctly.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Going Back.

. I think it is true that, as John Steinbeck says, you can't go back. He says that the trouble with going back is that you have gone away and changed over the years but the place you are leaving has the locals staying as they were, so that when you return you are a stranger. And furthermore, the buildings and the layout change so that everything is unfamiliar. He cites Salinas, the place where he was born. He says, "The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me." He calls to see old friends and after a few minutes he finds his attention wandering and realises that the same thing is happening to his old friends - his town has grown and changed and his old friends with it, whereas he has gone away and his return has muddied the memory for his old friend. I found that when I returned to the village of my birth in Lincolnshire a couple of years ago, it had changed out of all recognition. When I lived there there were only around three hundred inhabitants, and as a nosey-parker I am pretty sure I knew them all, knew the names of their houses, had been in most of them and certainly spoke to each and every one of them when we passed in the street or met in the local shop. When I returned there were around thirty thousand inhabitants - a number of huge housing estates had been built, and all those meadows we played on as children were now covered in almost identical houses, where everyone had done their level best (to no avail) to make their house different by the addition of a different kind of front door, different windows, stone pots on the step, different shaped lawns. It made little difference overall - this was now a dormitory 'town' for the city of Lincoln and you barely knew your neighbours. Today the farmer and I went for a walk in Arkengarthdale. It is one of my favourite Dales because it has hardly any houses and everything is as it always was. I no longer have the mobility to walk all that far, particularly on uneven ground, but we went intending that I should rest and the farmer should then go on further while I enjoyed the glorious sunshine. We walked for about a mile on rather damp ground, then I put down something to sit on and sat with my back against a stone wall, while the farmer and Tess carried on. This backfired rather as Tess did not like us to be parted and so wittered to come back. In the end we all sat in the sun and ate our sandwiches. There was a ram in the field with his flock of sheep and also three young heifers. I gave the ram a wide berth but the farmer walked fearlessly close to him - he never took his eyes off Tess. He is obviously in the field in order to do his annual job because tucked into the wall by the gate was the raddle, ready to mark his tummy, so that when he mounts his girls they get a red mark on their bottoms, which says he has been there, done it and got the T shirt, so to speak! There was a Dales pony too, who came to the wall to say Hello. As we were eating our lunch I remarked to the farmer that this was certainly one place where things had not changed over the generations and that looking at the land, everything was as it had always been. At this, the farmer pointed out just how many changes there had been:- 1. There was a quad bike standing in the farmyard we had walked through, so the farmer no longer had to tramp the fields in search of his sheep. 2. The stack of silage bales wrapped in black plastic in the yard signified that he was no longer having to make hay regardless of the weather. 3. The oil tank by the farmhouse showed that much of the farm was now oil-fired, so they probably had central heating, cooking facilities etc. 4. There was electricity. 5. There was a 4x4 and a smaller car in the drive so the farmer and his wife would be able to get into the nearest town with ease. (Tesco is about ten miles away, Richmond about the same distance. How would they get there before?) I suppose the moral is that things are constantly changing, so are we and that perhaps it is wisest never to go back as everywhere and everyone changes at a different pace. You will notice that I still have not managed to get the sheep photograph on. I shall try again. In the meantime, I shall put today's photographs on but where abouts in the post they will go will be entirely at the discretion of Blogger, which seems still to have a mind of its own. I shall get used to the new format eventually but in the meantime - many apologies for various cock-ups. For some reason strange letter formats also keep appearing among the text - has an alien got in?

Saturday 6 October 2012

A Miscellany of things.

How quickly the days fly by.   I have had visitors P and D staying and there has been no chance to put on a blog.   But that doesn't mean that nothing has been happening.

First of all, on Thursday, the farmer went with his niece to a sale of Blue-faced Leicester sheep.   They are not the prettiest of sheep but she loves them.   This morning she has e mailed me a photograph of her favourite in the flock - Nellie Noonah - she says that the photographs shows all she loves about the breed.
I hope I have saved the photograph and I hope that when I have finished this blog I can put it on to the post for you to look at Nellie Noonah.   Time will tell.

On Friday, after my friends came to lunch, we went down to Masham - only a distance of about twelve miles, and home to the Black Sheep Brewery.   We were hoping to go on a tour of the Brewery, but the tour was full.   But we did have a magnificent view of the village and the church sitting amongst the early Autumn colours.   And we did then go into the village to visit the lovely old-fashioned sweet shop which I think is magic.  I always resist the temptation to buy anything but just to look at the lovely colours in enough.

Then on Friday evening we had a meal to gether with Dominic (made out of words...)and his wife.   The six of us had intended to go out for a meal but the logistics of fitting the going out around Dominic's teaching and
the first episode of Strictly Come Dancing proved too complicated, so we ate at home in a relaxed manner.   We had to suffer the stings and arrows of Dominic's scorn that we watched Strictly, but our backs are broad and they went home before the first episode began.

This morning we had a drive into Richmond, a stroll round the shops and the market and a cup of coffee in The Station Coffee House.   Them we ate all the bits left from last night's meal, with the exception of the garlic bread which I threw to the hens - will the eggs taste of garlic I ask?

To end on a funny story - my friends, who are partners, are of different political persuasions.   P, who is Conservative, is very musical and plays in various semi-professional music groups.   One of these groups is a Saxophone Quartet and they were asked to play recently at the local Conservative Association dinner.

Being a saxophone quartet they dressed accordingly in bright waistcoats and bow ties and they played as the diners were eating, so people were not paying all that much attention.   Afterwards, when they were standing together, without their instruments, chatting about the concert, several Conservative ladies approached with empty glasses, handed them to the group and suggested that they would know what to do with them.   They had been mistaken for the waiters!!! (This confirmed all his partner, D, thought about that particular political persuasion).

Thursday 4 October 2012

Peace at last.

At last a day without having to go places.   Tuesday is always my shopping day, followed by calling on my friend G for coffee.   Last Tuesday had the added hindrance of having to go to the hospital for an X Ray on an ankle which is being a nuisance.   Our local Catterick Garrison has a perfectly good hospital which the Powers that Be chose to virtually close down, but luckily the X Ray Department is still open so I was able to go there - just round the corner from both Tesco and my friend.   I wonder why everything has to change just when it is working properly.

In the afternoon I washed out the fridge before putting the new food away, got down on my knees to do so and found myself physically unable to get up!   Luckily the farmer was upstairs and he came to my rescue, but it made me realise that I have got to start doing something about it.

An idea came yesterday afternoon when it was our monthly Poetry meeting.   It is one of my favourite afternoons of the month, meeting at friend W's house, sitting in her conservatory and reading out our favourite poems.   Yesterday there were only six of us but - as always - there was such a lot of interesting poetry and such good conversation.  Afterwards, talking of being unable to get up the day before, two of the group demonstrated "the dog" - I think a Yoga exercise - designed to strengthen one's arm muscles.   I tried it when I got home and found I could do it quite easily.   So this morning I added six 'dogs' to my growing list of morning exercises.   Now I wait to see if it makes things any better.

Today the farmer has gone to Hawes with his niece.   There is a special Blue-faced Leicester sheep sale at the Auction Mart and his niece is thinking of buying some so wants to look what is available and what sort of prices they are fetching.   If you know the Blue-faced Leicester you will know that it is a perfect example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.  But then, I suppose that applies to everything.

Monday 1 October 2012

Less is more.

In these days of twenty-four hour news coverage is has become so easy not to listen any more.   However serious or critic al or sad the situation is, if we are bombarded with it every hour on the hour, there comes a moment when we mentally switch off and it ceases to make any kind of impression on us.

The same is true of the images we see on the News/   A refugee camp in an arid desert in somewhere like Ethiopia, where countless woman and children, all haggard and dying, stare out at the camera makes such an appalling image that we reach for a cheque book to make a donation immediately.   But if we get it on every bulletin it is not long before we stop looking at it, and even begin to ask questions.  "Where are the men in all this?"  The answer, of course, is that often they are all off fighting some pointless war somewhere and are probably quite well fed.

Words have become so cheap.   Images have become so graphic.  Is there not a case sometimes for less of both - for fewer words and a chance to use our imagination to fill in the gaps?

Remember the Moon Landing?   When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon's surface, he said, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind."   I heard him speaking about this shortly before he died.  He said that he only thought about what he was going to say a short while before he said it.   Can you imagine how much less dramatic it would have been if he had waxed lyrical about what he was doing.  As it was, just those few memorable words and a picture which said it all, was enough to burn it into our memories.

Some time ago there was a terrifying programme on television in which Ben Fogle was swimming with crocodiles in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.   At one point a giant crocodile, three metres long, swam out from beneath a bank and came straight at Fogle.   He uttered just two words:  "Holy Crap!"  I think that told us all we needed to know!

And it doesn't just apply to imagery which is light-hearted.   Ronald Blythe refers to young men whose lives were cut short in the Western Desert in the Second World War.   He speaks of them dying 'with their mouths full of sand.'  For me, at any rate, that conjures up an image far more graphic than any photograph or commentary.

And think of Larkin's Toad - work.  The image throttles a worker with its grotesqueness.   A good metaphor is worth a thousand words.

There are times, of course, when the truth destroys an image we have held for years.  A light-hearted version of this occurred for me recently when I read that water voles often travel fifteen to twenty miles up river in search of a mate.   I remembered Ratty in Wind in the Willows telling Mole that he only knew a couple of miles of the river bank.   Oh Ratty, were you lying to Mole all this time?

But yes, joking apart, for me less is always more.   Please allow me the opportunity to choose exactly how much information I want to have; please allow me the chance to use my imagination.