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.  

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Heroes and heroines.

Did you have a hero - or, indeed, do you have a hero now?

As a small boy my first husband's hero was Teddy Tail in the Daily Mail.   His father was a stern and very strict man.   My husband always wanted to read Teddy Tail before he went to school but he dare not touch the paper, so his mother used to stand by with the iron, so that if he disturbed the pages she could iron them flat again and his father would never know.

I suppose my son's first hero was probably Rupert the Bear as he read him avidly as a small child.   The good thing about Rupert was that you could 'get' the story without reading the text at the bottom of the page because it was given in outline under each picture in rhyming couplets.   The one that sticks in my mind was Rupert going over the garden where Mrs Bear is busy pegging out the washing:    I do declare said Mrs Bear
                  That's our Rupert flying up there.
My son still has many of his Rupert annuals, so maybe he still has a soft spot for him.

I don't remember having a hero as a small child.   But as I got older people began to tell me how like Jean Simmonds the actress I was.  And so I began to collect pictures of her, try to get my hair like hers, try (as far as I could) to dress in similar clothes.   I suppose one day I realised that whatever I did I would never ever have her willowy figure - I had far too many bumps in the wrong places - and so she began to wane.

Later on I admired Vanessa Redgrave - still do in many ways - again her slender figure, her leftish views, her independence, her way of dressing -  all appealed to me.  But by this time I was old enough to just see her as a figure to admire.

But what about today - what heroes and heroines are there around for young people?   Footballers, so called 'pop stars', figures in the media - all with far too much money and often with outlandish views, crazy clothes, weird hairstyles, tattoos - do young people try to emulate them?

Trends come and go just as heroes and heroines come and go.   But no longer are the pioneers seen as heroes.  I can't imagine many young people worship the men who go into space or the women who make it to the top in any field.

In today's paper there is an article about mid-life crisis which hits chimps as well as men apparently.  The article suggests that just as male chimps develop red bottoms when they wish to mate with the females, so middle aged men tend to wear red trousers (or maybe yellow or some other bright colour) when they get the urge to roam.
I put this to the farmer over breakfast - he wouldn't be seen dead in red trousers - and he merely replied, without taking his eyes of his own daily paper - 'no way!'    But then, he didn't meet me until he was a bachelor of 49 and we have only been married for nineteen years - so maybe his mid life crisis is still to come.   I just hope he is conservative in his choice of hero; I don't want him suddenly turning up in leather trousers, gold chains and tattoos!     

Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Brown Hare

Long term readers of my blog will know of my attachment to the brown hare.   It is by far my favourite wild animal and I have spent the last few years collecting images - card, statuettes etc.   Every time I get enough cards I put them into a clip frame and the poor old farmer has to knock another nail into the wall of the utility room.
A new clip frame has arrived this week and I have enough cards to fill it.
I already have one large life-sized statue of a hare and today a new one has arrived - courtesy of the farmer - as my early Christmas present.
I always say that some images have 'hare-ness' and some do not, but this statuette (as you will see from the photograph) definitely has it in spades.
I have always loved the hare.   Lincolnshire, which is where I was born, is a fenland county and typical hare country.   They were familiar animals when I was a child and I have always loved them.  Less familiar now, because they have been persecuted and also the structure of farming has changed and not in their favour.   My mother's favourite meal was jugged hare, but we will draw a veil over that - sufficient to say that I never ever tasted it and even the smell of it cooking made me feel ill.
Hares are surrounded by magic.   The goddess Freya had a hare as her familiar and the animal is steeped in folklore.   They never go under ground, as rabbits do, but birth and rear their young, mainly in furrows of ploughed fields. 
It is said that they sleep with their eyes open and that they dance to the music of time.   In Spring the males box and I have often seen this happen here in the Dales from my bedroom window, as the field opposite seems to attract them in Spring.
I hope you love my new hare as much as I do.  I keep going into the room to admire him.

Monday 19 November 2012

Village Halls

There is no doubt about it, our village hall is the hub of village life.   Because our farm is about a mile out of the village, the only way I get to see other villagers is by going to things in the village hall.

On the first Saturday in each month there is a coffee morning to which villagers of all ages go - and I try to always go to that.   In addition there are mother and toddler groups, there is a study group (they meet every wednesday evening in winter and walk every other sunday in summer) , there is a weekly art group and there are also one-off events.

One such one-off event took place yesterday when D, a friend in the village, celebrated his eightieth birthday by having a hundred of his friends to a birthday lunch.   J, his wife, did all the catering - and a delightful spread it was too.   We sat at tables for eight and there was great jollification.

I have attached a couple of photographs of the event.   Notice the 29 on the cake - that is not meant to be his age but is to indicate that his birthday is on the 29th of the month and that they will be visiting his son and his family in France on that date - hence the early party.

Such happy events are the staff of village life.  I don't think these kind of events could possibly take place in a town.   I have lived in both villages and towns and on balance, in spite of the disadvantages, I do think I prefer village life.   The odd trip to town comes in very handy (I am having one such this Thursday when friend W takes me to a large shopping centre) but walking the busy streets of city centres is no longer for me I am afraid.

Are you a villager or a townie?    

Saturday 17 November 2012

The end of the celebrations.

Today saw the end of my birthday celebrations when friends took the farmer and me out for lunch.   I must say that I have been deeply touched by the way everyone has rallied round and made my birthday such a lovely occasion.    I know it is only once every ten years that one has a big O, and eight of them is a red letter day indeed, but friends and family have really made a tremendous effort and I thank them all most sincerely.

Today, a gloriously sunny day, saw us driving across through Ribblesdale again, past the three peaks and on to Kirby Lonsdal - the second time this week.   After a wander round the very pretty gift shops and a few purchases we met our friends in Avanti, our favourite Italian restaurant, for lunch.

Sadly A couldn't make it as he had picked up a nasty tummy bug - if you are reading this get well soon A.  So the five of us had a delicious lunch - puds are shown in the photographs below but the whole meal was a delight.   The restaurant has a real Italian flavour, not least because dogs and children are more than welcome.   In fact toddlers seem to roam around and be welcomed by all and sundry.

Afterwards a trip round the supermarket bought the ingredients for making the Christmas puddings, so after tomorrow, when we are going to a friend's birthday lunch, I shall make the puddings and we shall all have a stir and make a wish.

As we were leaving the restaurant my friends presented me with the most beautiful bouquet of white roses, chrysanthemums and lilies.
The flowers my grandchildren sent me on my birthday were just going past their best, so I have hung the roses from that bouquet up to dry out - and the house is still full of flowers.

The return journey, with the sun low in the sky and the shadows making stripes on the hills as we drove along, was so beautiful.  The autumn leaves are almost all fallen and lie in deep ribbons along the sides of the road.   I kept my eyes open for bushes with berries on them as we know there are waxwings in the area; over from Scandinavia, these wonderful birds are searching for berries and going ever further westwards as they gobble them all up.   They should head for the supermarket car park in Kirby Lonsdale where we parked - it is full of berried shrubs and not a bird in sight.   

Friday 16 November 2012

Getting ready for Christmas.

Friend, W, has just sent me an e mail to ask if I wish to go shopping for Christmas with her this week.   When I think that Christmas is only five weeks away next Tuesday, the answer has got to be yes.

I love Christmas and I love the giving of presents.   I make lists and lists of lists and I tick and cross as I go.   I print out my card envelopes and get them all ready in good time.  I start relatively early and try to have everything well in place.

But I have got into the habit of making four cakes for family and friends and four Christmas puddings - and they are still to be done.   So yes thank you, W, this should kick start me into thinking hard about dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

Each year I put away the decorations for another year and the next year I get them out of their boxes like old friends.    There is something about Christmas that is good for the soul and I would not like to get into that mode which says I am not buying any presents or sending any cards this year.  (mainly because I like to be on the receiving end too!) - and really expense does not necessarily come into it - I love tiny home made gifts just as much.

So this week sees the freezer receiving food specially for the festive season and a real start being made on serious gift buying.  The farmer is probably my most difficult one to buy a present for as he never wants anything - but this year I have had a brilliant idea - all will be revealed on my blog on Boxing Day. 

Thursday 15 November 2012

Back to normal.

Whatever normal is.   I have had a visitor staying for a few days and it has been lovely.   We have spent many hours down memory lane.   My visitor was my niece and as there are only eleven years between us, in many ways we were like sisters.   Each time we meet there is a lot of catching up to do.

Also we have been out and about.   Yesterday we went to Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria - about forty miles away through spectacular scenery.   We had a mooch round the shops, already full of Christmas things, and a walk to Ruskin's Lune View, which I have talked about on here several times in the past.   After a lovely lunch of Blackened salmon served on a bed of saute garlic potatoes with tzatziki we came back by a different route.   Sadly dear blogging friends, I blotted my copy book!

Driving along a narrow road I pulled over too far to let another approaching car have more road and caught my wing mirror on a piece of hedge which was sticking out.  'Bang' the glass in the wing mirror broke.   I do hope it is not seven years bad luck.

The farmer was wonderfully unfazed by it (it is his car).   This afternoon he has gone into Northallerton to take my niece to the station to catch her train home and to get a replacement wing mirror glass.   I did offer to pay for the mirror but he turned down the offer - it is wonderful being married to someone who goes along with such an even temper and in such a state of generosity.  He has earned a lot of Brownie points in addition to the pile he already had.

This morning we have walked round Richmond and called in the King's Head for hot chocolate and a toasted teacake - neither of which we really needed - so now I am feeling over full of food.
Still, chatting over old times has been lovely, as it always is.

Tomorrow I hope to be back to normal.  Today has been voting day for the new Police commissioners.   No-one has been round to canvass for votes here, there have been no fliers pushed through letter boxes - I have no idea about who is standing, what their policies are, what the job entails.   I shall therefore not be voting.  If the candidates can't be bothered to call and discuss it with me, I can;t be bothered to go and vote.   Some people are predicting a turn out in single figures.  Tomorrow will tell.   Did you vote?   

Monday 12 November 2012

Do they ever long for home?

We live quite close to Catterick Garrison where there is a large contingent of Ghurka soldiers originally from Nepal.  Over the years many of them have brought their families over,so it is quite usual to see elderly Nepalese men walking along the pavement, their wives following at a respectful distance; or to see them in the supermarket shopping in the aisles of World food, or getting a selection of vegetables; or to see them sitting in the Doctor's surgery, as my friend G does from time to time.

They seem to have fitted in very well.   I must say that the Garrison is very well kept.   It is neat and tidy and there a lots of lovely trees, so that this time of the year the Autumn colours are spectacular.

Today is a typical November day.   It is not particularly cold but it is damp and foggy and any leaves which remain on the trees hang wet and look ready to fall.   On the ground the fallen leaves have formed a damp, soggy mess.

We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, The Yorkshire Dales, where the hills are spectacular, the rivers wind through the valley bottoms, and people come to holiday here from all over the world.   So in many ways the Nepalese are very lucky.

But I do wonder just how much they miss home.   How much do they miss those snow covered mountains, those sparkling snowfalls, that sharp, icy cold accompanied by bright sunshine, the familiar sights and smells of their local markets, the colours, the familiar faces?

When I said this to my son he said that what was this compared with the fact that they had warmth, central heating, hot baths, unlimited water and food - and varied food at that - and most of all, health care, so that in the event of them getting some absolutely awful health condition help and good care was close at hand. 

I am not sure in my heart of hearts that this fully compensates and I suppose the only way to find out would be to ask them - which, obviously, I am not able to do.  What do you think?    

Sunday 11 November 2012

A Time to Remember

Watching all those old veterans - the Chelsea Pensioners, the remaining members of Bomber Command, the standard bearers of the British Legion; and watching all those young faces marching proudly at the Royal Albert Hall Festival of Remembrance last night; and seeing all the politicians etc. standing there - I had one thought.   Those dignified parents who spoke of being so proud of their son who died fighting in Afghanistan just emphasised my thoughts.

Will we ever learn that war rarely achieves anything other than terrible suffering.   As somebody said (I think it was Laurence Binyon) 'They grow not old as we that are left grow old.'   But all those who die fighting in terrible wars, given the choice, I have no doubt would prefer to live to a ripe old age.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Down on the farm.

Here on the farm there is a raw North easterly wind blowing.  The sun is shining but it is pale and watery.   Because I have a visitor coming to stay next week, I have done the week's washing today and have just been out to fasten it onto the washing line, so I have put the kettle on to make a cup of coffee and am writing this while the kettle boils.

Most of our animals (other than sheep, of course, who would absolutely hate to be inside - they are bred for the hills and dales) are inside now.   Three pedigree British Blue cattle (a relation of the Belgian Blue) still spend their days eating the grass in the paddock, supplemented by a bale of silage, which they eat eagerly.   They will be going home shortly.   We no longer have cattle of our own, but have them for other people over the Summer months.

The milking herd belonging to our friend and neighbour have also gone in and those in calf spend their waiting time in our loose housing.   In deep straw they look so content and comfortable and they have a plentiful supply of silage whenever they choose to eat it, and a new salt lick as soon as the old one wears down.

But the sheep continue to roam throughout our fields, wherever they wish to go - they have to be well fenced in as these are sheep from the tops of the fells and are used to roaming at will.   Occasionally they find a way out and wander off into adjoining fields, but as we all watch out for one another round here, they are soon rounded up and brought home.

But one animal - loved by me and hated by the farmer - is out in the open and enjoying the grass.   They have even - shock, horror - found their way on to the lawn where the bird feeders are and have discovered a liking for fallen sunflower hearts.   Yes - it is, of course, the rabbit.   I managed to catch one on camera this morning just before the farmer had time to bang on the window and scare it away.   They are such pretty animals - but did you know that ten rabbits eat about the same amount of grass as one cow?   You can see why the farmer is not over-thrilled when he sees a rabbit warren in the hedge of the pasture! 

Have a nice week-end.  

Friday 9 November 2012


Do you take a daily newspaper?    We actually take two, as the farmer has always taken the Yorkshire Post and I have always taken the Times, and neither of us is prepared to give it up.   I would feel absolutely bereft without my morning paper, even though the farmer has to drive into our little market town at 6.45 every morning to collect it.

Sometimes I get very annoyed by what they say.   This is particularly true of the television critics.   I have really enjoyed Michael Palin's trip to Brazil which the critics dismissed as flimsy and rather boring.   Last night Michael Portillo was on television following Bradshaw's train routes across Europe.   Again it got very poor reviews but we watched it and really enjoyed it.   I suppose the moral is to stop reading the reviews and make one's own mind up.   There is always an 'off' switch.

Of course you cannot believe everything you read - you only get one paper's version - there is always a political slant to start with.   But the quality of the writing in the Times suits me fine and I wouldn't be without it.

Sometimes I read a snippet of information which I am very grateful for and this happened yesterday, when I read a short piece about Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.   They are two of my favourite poets and two of my favourite poems are Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' and Thomas's 'Adlestrop'.    How interesting to read therefore that the two were great friends and that Thomas, a troubled man at the best of times, was undecided whether or not to fight in the First World War.   He decided to volunteer and as a result Frost wrote 'The Road Not Taken',   As we all know, Thomas was killed at Arras in 1917 at the age of thirty-nine.

He wrote 'Adlestrop' about the blackbirds singing (and indeed in an early algebra book he wrote 'I love birds more than books') and, sadly, on the last page of the diary he kept at the front he wrote
'The light of the new moon and every star
and no more singing for the bird.'
One can't help feeling he had a premonition about his death.

Frost, on the other hand, lived to the ripe old age of  eighty-eight.  He is buried in the family grave at Long Bennington in New England,    Long Bennington is a lovely, picturesque and peaceful village and the churchyard, at the back of a typical New England wooden church, is his final resting place.  I went there some years ago and was strangely moved by standing at his grave.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Is there anything to smile about?

At this time of the year it is often difficult to find anything to smile about regarding the weather here in the Yorkshire Dales.   Alright, the sun is shining and it is not raining - there you have a couple of pluses; but on the other hand there is a strong Northerly wind blowing and it is bitterly cold.   Added to this, the weather has been so wet over the last few months that all the fields are full of holes where the beast have trodden.   You take your life (or rather your ankles) in your hands every time you make a step forward.   It is gradually drying up everywhere, but there is not much joy to be had from a walk in the fields.

The hedgerows are more or less bare - just a few berries on the topmost boughs of the holly and a few hazelnuts here and there on the hazel trees.   That is about it.  So the winter visitors will have small pickings and quickly move on.

So this afternoon, walking round the fields with the farmer, I determined to find at least four things which were likely to make me feel better about the forthcoming Winter - likely to make me feel that however dire the weather gets, if one looks carefully enough, there will always be something to get pleasure from.

So, here are the four things I found, for what they are worth.
Beautiful patches of lichen on an old gate; the last few glowing rose hips not taken by the birds; honesty seed pods under the hedge; the last couple of roses in the garden.

Another thing to smile about today is that my dear friend, M, who has been in hospital for a few weeks, is coming home today.   I have just taken her some eggs from my hens - with their golden yolks they are bound the cheer her up.

Enjoy the sunshine if you are here in the UK.   If you are in the US - then I hope you got the President you wished for - and if you didn't then you can't help but admire Romney's graciousness in defeat. 

Wednesday 7 November 2012


Today was the day for the meeting of the Wensleydale Writers' Group.   I put this month's piece from me on to my blog a few days ago and three people helped me with good advice on improvements.  I took that advice and it was certainly much better as a result.

Several folk were not well today, but there were still nine of us there and we had a really interesting morning reading and criticising one another's work.   It is always such a useful exercise.

I had hoped to take a photograph of our meeting place to put on today's blog.   We meet in the Quaker Meeting House which is a pleasant, bay-windowed, semi-detached house with a lovely air of peace about it.   There is a magnificent monkey puzzle tree in the garden next door (araucaria) and I hoped to take a photograph of that too.    I forgot to take my camera!

So I took it round the fields on our after-dinner walk.   Brilliant blue sky, strong westerly wind blowing the leaves off the trees, and the crab apples too, although there are plenty still hanging on by the skin of their teeth.   The cattle love these and once they find them they will be eaten up in no time.

There must have been rain about somewhere as a faint rainbow showed up in the Northern sky.   Luckily it didn't reach us on our walk.    We saw very few birds; the fieldfares and redwings who paid us a fleeting visit a few days ago seem to have moved on - and left us a few holly berries for Christmas, but as the great day is still seven weeks away, I have very little hopes of any berries left on the day itself.  Still I don't begrudge the birds full tummies.

There are fungi everywhere.   The damp weather seems to have made it a very prolific year for all kinds of fungi.   Luckily this strong wind is beginning to dry up some of the very wet patches in the fields, but every field that has held beast is absolutely peppered with deep hoof prints.   There will have to be a lot of harrowing in the Spring.  

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Frustrations and Delights

These are about equal today.

First of all, it is a perfectly horrible day.   There is a strong, cold wind blowing - seemingly from all directions - and it is raining at the same time.

Secondly, as I came through the door at lunch time, laden with shopping, thoroughly fed up with the weather, the phone is ringing.   So I put the shopping down, remove my hearing aid, dash to the phone, only to find that it is yet another cold call.   Why are we suddenly getting so many of these?   I belong to the Telephone Preference Service, but this does not seem to make any difference to the number of calls I get - usually 'Good morning Mrs Thistlethwaite and how are you today?'    Luckily, I am still too polite to tell them and I hesitate to say they should be banned by law because this might be doing people out of a job, but they really do come at the most inconvenient times.  I am afraid I just quietly put the telephone down on them.

Then this afternoon I needed to use the internet.   First of all to submit our VAT return.    The site just would not take it and kept telling me I had made an error.  After trying four times, I decided to try once more and then abandon hope - and hey presto it went through like magic.   Then I tried to buy a Christmas present for my grand-daughter on line and each time I got to the checkout it told me that my card number was wrong.   I tried this three times and then gave up.   Then I tried another site with another present in mind.   I got right to the end at the checkout and it told me I had to enter my password and I haven't got one as I have never bought from the company before.   I gave up and shall use an old-fashioned stamp, cheque and envelope.

So, before I expire with frustration let me tell you about the three things which have kept me sane today, made me laugh and filled me with joy.   First of all - dawn.   Imagine me sitting up in bed, drinking my early morning cup of tea and looking out of the bay window in our bedroom, which faces South and East.   Deep strips of crimson cross the sky; in front of them bare trees line up along our neighbouring farmer's driveway; along come the morning rooks - about forty thousand of them, we estimate - who roost in Forty Acre Wood and fly in front of our farm to their feeding grounds each morning at this time of the year.   Great flapping pieces of carbonised paper is how Ronald Blythe described them - believe me it was a sight to behold.

Later, driving to the supermarket, there was a stretch of road where so many beech leaves were falling in the strong wind, that it was like driving through a shower of pennies.   That was a sight to behold too.

Finally, a story in today's Times, which, if you are also a certain age, will make you laugh and also maybe have a slightly guilty feeling of deja vu.   Sir Peter Hall,founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former director of The National Theatre, now in his early eighties, had gone to a West End Performance of Chekov's 'Uncle Vanya'.    By the final act's soliloquy, he had fallen asleep.   He awoke suddenly, after dreaming, forgot where he was and shouted 'Stop, stop, it's not working.   It's just not working!'   He says he is mortified.   So would I be too - but can't help feeling - there but for the grace of God.   

Monday 5 November 2012

End of celebrations and start of new week.

Yesterday saw the end of my birthday celebrations with a Sunday lunch out, courtesy of the farmer.   The house is still full of the sight and the scent of the flowers from the grandchildren and my god-daughter and my 80th birthday balloons still hang by the door.
The pumpkin stands out on the bench forlornly waiting for somebody to remove it.  But, what a lovely birthday I had, and thank you to everyone who helped to make it so enjoyable and happens to be reading this blog.

Yesterday morning dawned cold and very foggy, but we had booked into a lovely inn in the village of Grantley, near Ripon, for Sunday lunch, so we set off nice and early.   The Grantley Arms is a friendly, hospitable venue for a special lunch.   It was full of happy, chatty people and our table had been reserved.   There was a jolly fire glowing and delicious smells emanating from the kitchen.

After studying the menu for a long time the farmer opted for what I knew in the first place he would have!   He had soup (cock-a-leekie) followed by roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  I opted for pan-fried smoked haddock with Welsh rarebit (if you have never thought of this as a combination, try it, it was absolutely delicious) followed by roast pork with lots of vegetables, mostly roasted.

We decided against a pudding but when coffee came it was accompanied by chocolate truffles and shortbreads, rather spoiling our saintly feeling of doing without a pudding.  All delicious.

Our journey back was through the fog until we got two or three miles from home when suddenly the sun came out and we arrived home to a warm welcome from Tess, sitting waiting for her walk.

So, back down to earth this morning.   The farmer has been cutting briars in all the farm hedges every fine day for the past few weeks.   When we have our winter sheep it is important to keep these briars cut back, because the sheep get caught up in them and can't escape.  This morning, a fine, bright one, he is gathering them up in the bucket on his tractor and dumping them in a heap to burn.   What a shame there are no children in the family young enough to still enjoy a bonfire.   Time was when all his parent's grandchildren came for Bonfire Night (which is tonight) and there was a giant bonfire in the field and fireworks, followed by sausages and roast potatoes in the kitchen. 

Hmm.......I suppose I could still do the sausages and roast potatoes couldn't I?    Better get on with them then.   See you tomorrow......    

Saturday 3 November 2012

Coffee Mornings.

One of the nice traditions which has grown up in our village is the monthly Coffee Morning, held on the first Saturday in each month during the Winter.

I usually go with my friend, W, and her dog - Sophie.   She is good to go with as she lives in the heart of the village itself, whereas I live a mile outside down a country lane.   This means that she can tell me who's who as they come in through the door.   That way I meet a few new folk each month!

This month I heard on the grapevine that K (a lady with a reputation for good baking) had baked some quiches for the cake stall, so I managed to get there just as the village hall door opened at 10am - and I immediately bought a quiche.   That means half my baking done for the weekend - so thank-you K.

Sadly my dear friend, M, who usually does the raffle, was in hospital and so unable to be there.   However, it was run efficiently by two other friends, D and J, and I even won a prize.

Just as important as the coffee and biscuits (and the cake stall) is the chance to have a chat with various people I rarely see.   Our village has recently suffered severely from flooding, with many of the houses badly affected.   Alright, by Hurricane Sandy's passage down the East Coast of America, our flooding was nothing.   But if it has done anything good it is that it has brought the village together with a community spirit.   What we would call the Dunkirk Spirit I think.

Back home lunch cooked, a walk round the fields with the farmer and Tess, a decision as to where we intend to go for Sunday lunch for my birthday (The Grantley Arms, as it happens but more about that tomorrow) and now it is time to catch up on a few blogs - I always enjoy that.   

Friday 2 November 2012

Living in a small place.

There are many advantages to living in a small place rather than in a large town.   I know that is a statement that not everyone will agree with - I suppose it depends upon the kind of person you are.
I have done both.   As a child I lived in a small Lincolnshire village where everyone knew everyone (and looked out for everyone too).   This kind of life continued until I moved in my early thirties into the small cathedral city of Lichfield.   This was the largest place I had ever lived in, though by city standards it was quite small.   I suppose that was a good thing, as it broke me in gradually.

Then I moved to a large, industrial town in the Midlands.   Luckily we lived well on the outskirts, had a large garden and were within a couple of miles of beautiful countryside.  However, I taught in an inner city school with a multi -racial intake - a large number of indigenous, white children; a large intake of children from the Caribbean and also a large intake of Punjabi Sikh children.   I think in many ways this was a good mix and I thoroughly enjoyed the ten or so years I taught there before I took early retirement.   I look back on the times there, the children (who I think of often), the friends on the staff (many of whom I still keep in contact with), the interesting times we had.

Now I am back in the country again, living - as readers of my blog will know all too well - on a farm down a lonely lane.   But we are only one mile from our little market town and that is a super little town.   You go into town to the Post Office, or to the local shops, and you always meet someone you know, someone to pass the time of day with, or to pop into a cafe for a cup of coffee.

And, really, it does have all the amenities the farmer and I need.  People say that there is little for young people to do but as far as we are concerned - we have everything we need.   There is a nice little intimate cinema, showing the latest films, within ten miles (and a lovely cafe attached); there is a good Public Library just down the road; there is a first class delicatessen; we have one of the top Auction Houses in the country on our doorstep; we have a thriving Tourist Industry (it has suffered rather this year with the bad weather); and we even have our own Brass Band.

Some time ago, a friend who plays in it sent me two photographs of it to post on my blog.   Sadly my skills, for some reason, are not up to it and although I have them in my computer I am unable to move them to any place where I can access them for putting on here.   I saw that friend this morning when I was returning from coffee with friends (and the farmer from the Auction Mart - another good facility for farmers) and it reminded me.   I have just tried to access the photographs again, but I just can't get them into the right place.
So you will just have to imagine it I'm afraid - but it would be rather nice if you could hear them.   Another thing we have in the area is a yearly Brass Band Festival and Competition and our local band do very well indeed and make a glorious sound.

So sorry J if you are reading this - I have given you a mention and one of these days I will find out how to put the photograph on here!    

Thursday 1 November 2012

The Morning After

What a lovely birthday I had.   Thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes.    I was inundated with flowers from all quarters and today every room has flowers - roses, chrysanthemums, lilies and greenery everywhere.

Being hallowe'en one of my grandchildren always buys me a pumpkin, the farmer hollows it out and puts a light in it and it sits outside glowing all evening.

In the afternoon I went to our monthly Poetry meeting.  What a celebration we had.   Isabella had dressed up as a Witch, complete with long grey hair, a pointed hat and black veiling.  She writes very good Dot and Bella stories (about herself and her friend D) and read one about Dot and Bella on Hallowe'en.   Then we all read our favourite poetry.

W had decorated the room with balloons and A had baked a cake with candles on it.   What a lovely afternoon amongst dear friends.
In the evening my son and his wife came round for a couple of hours so that was enjoyable too.

Now it is back to earth with a bump this morning although a jolly ride through pleasant Autumn scenery to our feed merchants lightened up the morning.   All the way through the colours of Autumn they were harvesting the whole=crop maize.   The ground is very wet but it is not going to dry out at this time of the year and harvesting it is vital to winter feed.

I have put a few photographs on of our ride, amongst the colours of Autumn and also a photograph my friend G took of me on the eve of my birthday.  If I had remembered to take my camera to Poetry yesterday I could have posted some of the celebrations (including a Happy Birthday flag on W's flagpole outside) - but I forgot and left my camera at home.   Put it down to advancing age.