Friday 31 May 2013

It's that time of year again!

I can't believe it - this morning at six o'clock the sky was an uninterrupted blue and the sun was shining fit to burst.   I couldn't resist getting up and taking this shot of our Rowan Tree just coming into blossom.   Now, as I write this at a quarter past three in the afternoon

, it is still a lovely sunny day.   Proper Summer weather.   Quite unsettling.

On my walk down the Lane after lunch every bird in the vicinity was singing (male birds of course - females were far too busy doing chores of one sort or another).   The air was full of bird song.   Dare I say it, but after one hundred yards of edge-to-edge chaffinch the song does get just a little bit boring.   But I am sure you will agree that the sound of Summer is that of bird song.

On the subject of the smell of Summer it is a different story.   Round here in farming country don't imagine that the over-riding smell of Summer is blossom, roses, Summery smells.   Today there is only one smell around here and I can tell you it is very powerful.
Farm yard manure.   Every farmer hereabouts is busy cleaning out his Winter housing and piling FYM in a field ready to mature and then spread around. Don't get me wrong - I rather like the smell of manure - it is certainly preferable to the smell of pigs for example.  I am just telling you that it is 'that time of year'.

It is also time for the Appleby Horse Fair.   At this time of the year Appleby in Cumbria sees the arrival of the travelling community from all over Europe and many of them take quite a long time getting here.   Some folk come with horseboxes and lorries, others travel at least part of the way in a traditional covered gypsy caravan.   One family of travellers always stay for a couple of days on the Car Park of our local Auction Mart.   They bring their horse box for the horses and a lorry for carrying the traditional covered caravan.   I think that from here onwards they travel in the 'proper' way, clip-clopping along the road in the horse-drawn vehicle.   They are a lovely sight - a bit of a hazard to traffic but no more so than the hundreds of motor cyclists we get tearing through here at the weekends.   And for my money - keeping such a tradition alive is very important.   I would love to go and see it all - it is not all that far from here - maybe forty five miles or so - but the thousands who go clog up the place so much, both with their paraffinalia and also with their activities - riding up and down the main street, washing their horses in the river etc. that I think it is probably more prudent to stay away.

But sufficient to say - it is that time of year again.  Sorry to say that two of the photographs have appeared too early but Blogger decided to put them there and who am I to argue with that (i.e. I don't know how to move them to anywhere else!)

Thursday 30 May 2013

Beware of the Bull.

You used to sometimes see such a sign in a field - they seem to have all disappeared now.    But that does not necessarily mean that all bulls are safe these days - nor cows for that matter.   A cow with a young calf can be very aggressive indeed - in fact someone was killed up here in The Dales only last year in such an incident.

When I look out of my sitting room window I look out onto what is called a 'suckler herd' - that is a herd of cows with young calves at foot.   This time of year there is also a bull in the field with them.   He considers these mature ladies to belong to him - he keeps them in order, he looks after them, he mates with them when the time is right and he keeps his eye on his offspring.   He is a big, lumbering British Blue bull and his owner has always described him as a very docile chap.

And yet two years ago he had a bit of a limp so G, the farmer, decided to get him indoors and investigate the limp before it got any worse.   So far so good; that is until the moment when it was time to actually go into the shed.   At this point - being separated from his ladies - he had had enough and he turned and knocked G down, pushing him into the corner.   It was only the timely arrival of G's father D with a handy pitchfork that saved the situation and resulted in a lot of bruising rather than something much worse.

The moral of this story is that you can never trust a bull - or a cow - they need to be given as wide a berth as possible.   I have walked on footpaths up here where bulls have actually been laying across the path and the walker has had to go round them.   I have always found it scary - farmers usually say 'they won't hurt you - only dairy bulls are really nasty' - I personally take that with a pinch of salt.

The farmer has gone to a funeral.   One of our local veterinary surgeons has died suddenly at the age of 84.   He was greatly respected by everyone who knew him and was at one time one of the advisors to the popular TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small'.

The funeral started at 12 noon but the farmer went down into the town at 11am, knowing that there would be hundreds at the funeral and that only an early arrival would ensure a seat inside the church rather than standing outside in the rain. Funerals up here in The Dales are really important occasions.   Everyone who has known the person who has died will go to pay their last respects.   There will be a 'wake' afterwards at which everyone will mingle with folk they have known for years - and often only see at funerals.   I hope this practice never dies out - it is surely a comfort to the families concerned and it is also a tradition that needs to live on.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

My heart lies in the flat lands.

We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.   The rolling hills, the dales, the rivers, the waterfalls - we seem to have it all - draw visitors from all over the world.   It is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - and rightly so.

And yet...and yet... whenever I return to the flatlands of Lincolnshire and East Anglia I know that that is where I feel most at home.

Is it something to do with having been born there, with tracing my ancestry back for generations and finding all my antecedents have been born there too?   I can surely say with certainty that the flat country is in the very fibre of my being.

I felt it recently whilst on the coast of Norfolk.    The straight, flat horizon, the wide sky, and the dawn - where just a suggestion of light stretches for a whole one hundred and eighty degrees without any interruption by a hill or a tree or a house; just flat marsh land.   And, if you look closely, patches of Brent Geese standing, backs to the wind, silent and still, waiting for a bit more light before they begin to feed.

And when the sun goes down, that same straight line of deepening red that tells it as it is, with no subtlety, no hiding behind or peeping out.

I wonder if this is reflected in the character of the people who live there.   Do they lack subtlety and tell things as they really are without any need to embroider the facts.   Or to put it another way - are they blunt and to the point?   I rather think they are.

As I muse on this and watch the light slowly filling the marsh, the Brent Geese rise suddenly, startled by some noise or some movement, calling as they go.   They take off into the wind and are quickly joined by other flocks I have not seen but which follow the call to move.

Then the skylarks begin to rise.   I can't see them but I hear them and their song is soon joined by that of a cuckoo.   Such a rare sound these days.

The tidal race comes up the creek and fills the pools and lifts the boats moored on the Quay.   The seagulls lift off the mudflats as the water rushes in.   They wheel and call and watch for any morsel of food that might come their way.

Another day has begun.   No hills, no trees, no houses, just the wide, flat salt marsh - the flat lands.   And I love them with a passion that only fully comes to me when I return.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Home thoughts from abroad.

To Norfolk on holiday we pass through my beloved Lincolnshire.   It doesn't seem all that much changed although it is more than fifty years since I left it behind.

Being a passenger in the car allows me to look around and everywhere there are memory triggers.   Signposts - Bishop Norton - I remember a girl at school from there.   Twenty minutes later her name pops into my head - Phyllis Sellars - wonder where she is now.

Potterhanworth.   The self-important Bus Inspector at the Lincolnshire Road Car company bus station.   In those days everyone used the bus and we knew the services off by heart.   But that didn't stop him standing by the steps before we were allowed on and reciting = The Sleaford Bus, calling at Washingborough, Heighington, Branston, Potterhanworth, Nocton, Dunston, Metheringham, Digby, Blankney, Scopwick, Ruskington, Dorrington and Sleaford.   I count the names off as we pass by.  No Lincolnshire Road Car these days - we all travel by car.

We make a detour to my home village.   It is unrecognisable.   What was a village of 300 souls is now a Dormitory Town of over twenty thousand.    In knew everyone.   I was always a gregarious child, some would call it nosey, and I would call in on people unannounced.   Usually I was pushing my doll's pram and I would be welcomed and would sit in the garden with a glass of something or other, or a cake, or a sweetie.

At night, in the Winter months, we would play Pencil and Paper games - wildflowers beginning with each letter of the alphabet, birds, countries, and (my favourite) naming all the houses in the village from 'The Bridge' to the end of 'Fen Road'.   I could name them all, and in the right order.   I expect that was why it was my favourite game.

My favourite house name was 'Emoclew'.   Mr and Mrs Ellam lived there.   Few people noticed that it was 'Welcome' spelt backwards!

Everywhere is built up now apart from the flood meadows beside the River Witham.    They often flood in Winter so are no good for building land.   We pass them and I look at the trees and hedges.   They look just the same.   We would build endless dens in Summer.   We would fill jam jars with cow parsley to make them look homely.   We would cadge bits of old crockery from home so that we could sit at a table (an old bit of wood) and eat our sandwiches (playing at houses.)

I don't suppose children play there any more.   They will be inside with their Play Stations.   They will be missing all the thousands of tadpoles in the Sincil Drain - and later on, little frogs.    They will be missing the sense of freedom, the muddy feet after rain, the joy of jumping on icy puddles after a hard frost.

You can't put the clock back and no doubt I look at the past through rose-tinted specs.   But as I pass those road signs again on my way home at the end of the holiday, I feel an intense nostalgia for those early days.

Monday 27 May 2013

My header.

The rape field in my header has been much admired by all and sundry.   I have to say - as some of you guessed - it was taken during our week on holiday in Norfolk, where it is a big crop - acres and acres of it as far as the eye can see.

We do get a few fields around here as we are just on the edge of arable land, but on the whole our fields tend to be grassland for sheep and/or cows.   For one thing our land stands at 6 to 700 feet
above sea level.   For another, we are not really in an arable area apart from some farmers growing feed (barley, wheat etc.) for the feed for their own cattle over Winter.

For this reason it is a joy to drive through these golden fields, although a little goes a long way and I think a lot of fields of rape is rather tiring on the eyes.

One of the things the farmer enjoys most on any holiday, wherever it is, is to look at the fields, see what sort of condition they are in (fences, crops, quality of the soil) and see what crops are growing.
The hugs fields of wheat in parts of the US and Canada took his breath away - as did the huge herd of cattle.

Here most of the farms are quite small - maybe something like 150 acres average - but every time a farm is sold then it seems to be bought by someone who wishes to enlarge an existing local farm.   The trouble is that it is no longer financially viable to run such a small enterprise at a profit. Such days are long gone.

Today is a Bank Holiday here in the UK and the farmer is taking a day off from farming to work on the front garden - a never ending job as it gets overrun with couch grass which has its roots under a concrete path.   As the day does on it is getting more and more cloudy and the wind is getting up making it cooler too.

What have I done?   Three loads of washing, two of which are now dried and ironed and up on the airer.   Very mundane stuff for a Bank Holiday wouldn't you agree?

Sunday 26 May 2013

A Gentle Walk.

As the ankle continues to improve, Tess and I went on a gentle walk yesterday.   Correction - I went on a gentle walk, Tess tore about the fields after sundry rabbits.

The sheep and lambs have settled in well and I think you will agree, look very pastoral in their pasture.   The sheep are losing their wool rapidly.   It hangs off them in great loops and every hedge bottom is full of 'scratchings'.   It must be so irritating for them.   The farmer was discussing it at the Auction Mart of Friday with fellow farmers and apparently it is happening everywhere round here this year.   They decided it is due to the weather.

In the well field the milking herd graze, their limit of grazing controlled by an electric fence.  If you look at the photograph you can clearly see how they have grazed the dandelions away as they move across the field. As the dandelions have not yet seeded, you would think that eating the heads off would mean far less dandelions next year - but not a bit of it.

At the far bottom of the pasture the sycamore is in full leaf.   At this time of the year it is the most beautiful tree and I love it dearly. Sadly, later in the year, sycamores always become really sticky-leaved and tatty - so I have to enjoy it while it is new.

The farmer has gone walking with his Rambling Group today (no fancy clothing, fancy hats or maps - these are Dalesmen who know exactly where they are going and certainly won't spend their hard earned money on fancy gear - they aren't Yorkshiremen for nothing.)

So Tess and I are on our own.   There are plenty of jobs to be done, but whether I get them done or not - in the lap of the gods.   The sun is shining and the forecast is awful - so the chances are not good.

Saturday 25 May 2013

A Nice evening out.

Last night a friend held a private view evening of her work, to which I went.   It was held in a Gallery in our little market town.
Denise Burden (go to is a painter and print-maker and her work on view last night showed just how diverse her output is and also just how much she has achieved in the past six months or so.

There is a vivacity in her print-making; she often includes words from poems in her pictures.   One of her favourite poets is Cavafy and he features quite a lot.

It was a lively evening with a good crowd, a lot of interest in her work, and a huge amount of admiration for her output.

I couldn't resist buying a print and have left it with her for framing.
The print is called 'Octet' and shows eight musicians.   One of the things I really admire is the movement she gets into things.   These people in the picture are playing vigorously and by golly you can see that in her depiction of them.You can see that same movement in her business card which shows a guitarist - there is a sweeping
movement, a fluidity, which I admire so much.

I urge you, if you live in the area, to visit the exhibition, which is at Warlands Gallery in the Market Square.   For those further afield, do go to her website and see what she has on offer.

Thanks Denise (and Alex, her husband, who is a great support) for a most interesting eveing.

The cow photograph is a brilliant rag rug she has made which looks so good hanging on the wall.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Horizontal sleet.

Ah the joys of the English Spring (especially with a Bank Holiday looming) - as I look out of the hall window we have horizontal sleet whizzing past and a cold North wind blowing.   Friends in Scotland on holiday must be wishing they were back home I should think.

I am having great difficulty in putting new bloggers on my side bar.
Why do they keep changing the method of doing these things I wonder - I presume it is just to confuse.  I managed to get my three new bloggers (twiglet, welsh hills again and The maple syrup mob) on to my side bar but they came up in bright red at the top.   When I put the last one on (twiglet) the other two disappeared completely.

I think the trouble with us silver surfers is that we have to keep doing things over and over again for it to be retained.   If we have a few weeks when we don't do a particular thing then when we come to do it again we have completely forgotten the routine (and no saucy comments from either John or Tom please.)

The farmer and I are both off to our Physiotherapist in a few minutes for our six-weekly going over - we come out feeling worse than when we went in but after a few days the effect is transforming.   My arthritis is getting so bad that I am looking into the possibility of getting a mobility scooter so that I can once again go down to the bottom of the lane - how I miss the wood and the fields down there.   Will the orchids be out yet?   I don't know but we shall shortly be passing in the car, so if any are out I shall get the farmer to stop and take a photograph for you.   So probably see you later. 

After lunch:   Yes the common orchids were out at the bottom of the Lane - hundreds of them.   I took this photograph from the car window.   They give me the same thrill every year.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

All Change.

Yesterday was a day for change here on the farm.   Early in the morning the last of our in-calf heifers went off into the wide world - well into the grass where they began eating the moment their feet touched the ground.

In the afternoon the first of our Summer beast came - twelve Limousin X or British Blue X heifers.  It did not run smoothly.   We over-Summer them for our friend G who brought them across from his farm which is almost opposite oursHe opened the back of his cattle wagon and off they went like rockets down the top pasture, kicking their heels and waving their tails in the air.  The farmer was
busy walling a little way down the road and as G went back home he stopped to have a chat.   They suddenly realised that one of the heifers had come back and was waiting to get into the wagon!

This particular heifer had been rejected by her mother last year and G had bucket-fed her throughout the Winter.   No way did she want to leave her 'Dad' - this was her first taste of the big wide world and she didn't like it at all.   She had broken down one fence and jumped a wall and a gate to get back to where she could hear his voice.   He took her back home with him and put her in a small paddock with one other heifer he had kept back and now she seems happy.

Then early in the evening another eight cattle arrived from friend B - four heifers and four steers.  They were released into the barn pasture and again they went off at a fair crack.

So that is the reason you are getting no photographs of said beasts - they are far too flighty to approach - I will give them a week or two to settle down.

As the farmer was walking our dogs round this morning he came across a hen pheasant with a group of chicks in one of the fields.  They all appeared to be thriving and we are hoping it is the ones which hatched in our front garden (we have found the nest under a hydrangea bush - a lot of broken egg shells).  I was worried about her ability to lead them out but the farmer said she would fly over the wall and then call them through the gap under the gate - seems she may well have done so.   It is a fact that these ground-nesting birds always lead their young away from the nest site very quickly so as not to attract predators.

I understand from a farmer friend that the curlew are already nesting - should the farmer come across a nest I will photograph it for you - we have plenty of curlew who nest around here but their nests are quite hard to find.   What a busy time it is for the wild things.   Judging from the alarm calls from a couple of blackbirds when I hung washing out yesterday morning, there are baby blackbirds about.   And we have two male yellow-hammers eating the seed at our bird table, so they must be nesting nearby.   The cold weather doesn't seem to discourage them one little bit - they just seem to be getting on with it.


Tuesday 21 May 2013

Visiting churches

As regular readers of my blog will know, I am a great fan of the books of Ronald Blythe - particularly The Wormingford Trilogy.  If I have difficulty sleeping I get up, make myself a cup of tea and pick up any one of the three for a read.   Just before we went on holiday I did this with 'Out of the Valley' and came across a mention of the beauty of Blakeney Church and as we were staying in Blakeney I put it on my list of places to visit.

Even the church gate, covered as it was with almond blossom, was beautiful.   Sadly I never thought of taking photographs of the interior but sufficient to say that it was indeed beautiful.   The stained glass, the pew end carving and the carving of the pulpit were exceptional.  It gave us the taste for visiting more.

These Norfolk churches (I suspect many were built with the proceeds of wool sales) sit squat on the flat ground for the most part and have towers rather than spires.   You enter the church expecting it to be low but you couldn't be more wrong - every church we visited was cathedral-like inside with great vaulted ceilings.  Enormous empty buildings yet each one had such charm.

Marston - the next village along the coast from Blakeney - sits on a slight rise and is interesting because its tower appears to be built of part stone and part red brick.  Parts of the church are Saxon - there is the most exquisite rood screen dating back to the 15th century.  It has been very well restored about twenty years ago.  The saddest thing is a tomb in the floor (just a slab) noting the death of Suzanne in the 17th century.  She died in childbirth at the age of 23 and her baby girl died eight days later.   Apparently her husband, John, was Lord of the Manor and he did marry again and have two sons.  Ominously Suzanne's tomb also holds the remains of one of his sons, aged 15.  What horrors childbirth held in those days - and how easily death came to young people.   How lucky we are.

We visited Stiffkey church which has the ruins of an even earlier church in the churchyard.   And we also visited Binham Priory where the atmosphere was so sublime that we just sat and soaked it up.

A visit to the shrine and the gardens of Walsingham Abbey completed our churches tour - it was a beautiful day when we went there and again the peace and serenity made it easy to just sit and relax.   And to complete the day we found a restaurant in a converted Barn about a mile away which sold the most delicious cake imaginable.   Did we need cake after a full English breakfast and the promise of a three course meal in the evening?  Of course not, but I did tell you that we had both gained weight.


Monday 20 May 2013

Returning to normal.

We are still feeling tired after our holiday - I think probably because we both relaxed so much and took our time.  Today we
are a little more energetic than yesterday, so we are getting there.

No news of the pheasant chicks I am afraid.   We feel Mrs Pheasant may have led them out of the garden and into the fields, feeling that things would be safer there   Sad that she thinks that because we would really be better protection than all the predators she will encounter in the fields - foxes, stoats, weasels, raptors.   Still, they have to take their chances and - as always in nature - it is the survival of the fittest.

Speaking of animals and of their protection brings me neatly to another thing we did on our holiday.   We visited an Animal Sanctuary - and what an eye-opener it was.   How can people be so uncaring of such beautiful animals.   Some of the Shire horses looked so sad and yet the owner said they were all so gentle - huge great things, one of them almost 20 hands high (a mare) and yet always gentle.  There was also a badly-treated Apaloosa mare who had given birth to the prettiest foal only a week ago and they hadn't realised she was pregnant!   She was so protective of it and didn't even care for me taking a photograph of it.  And maybe saddest of all was a stable full of donkeys - why are people so very cruel to donkeys.   The farmer scratched the ears of the one in the photograph and I think it would have stood there all day and let him.
 While on the subject of 'animals' our house martins have returned whilst we were on holiday and they are already busy building and refurbishing their nests under our eaves.   Welcome back you glorious birds.

It amused us how pigeons and stock doves had taken advantage of an animal sanctuary - they were nesting everywhere and helping themselves to food.

There was a carriage museum and we were so interested in some of the old carriage.


Sunday 19 May 2013

Away on holiday.

I am back from a lovely holiday on the North Norfolk coast at Blakeney.   We went away on Friday May 10th and stayed over night at my favourite hotel (The White Hart) in my home city of Lincoln.   I have put a photograph on for you to admire the wonderful Minster which stands on top of the only hill for miles around in what is essentially a very flat county.   We had a pleasant stay there over night, having called to see old friends on the way down - friends I had not seen for fifty years!

Then on the Saturday morning we went on to Blakeney - an interesting place where the sea has receded over the years, so that now it is separated from the sea by a vast salt marsh area covered in marsh grass and alive with birds - particularly Brent geese.

We stayed at The Blakeney Hotel and had a room on the top floor, with a balcony overlooking the marsh.   What we found fascinating was the way the tide came in so fast up the creek.   One minute there would be hardly any water there and five minutes later the water would be racing in.   To non-sea side dwellers like the farmer and I the sea is an endless source of fascination.

When we arrived the day was almost over and the tide was in.   I have put on a couple of photographs taken from the balcony in front of our room.   Had the weather been really inclement the whole week, I could have sat and watched the scene out of the window without moving far, other than for the hotel's delicious food.

As it was we seem to have fared better than most areas of the British Isles in that, although it has been quite chilly, it has been dry and we have not had to resort to rain wear or brollies.

Next morming we stopped to look at Blakeney church - it has the most beautifully carved pews and lectern and really interesting stained glass windows.   Then we drove along the coast road through Salthouse and I could not resist stopping to photograph these ducklings on the side of the road.

Which brings me neatly to my next point - the hen pheasant who seemed to be sitting on eggs in our front garden when we went away has produced at least twelve chicks which we keep catching sight of in various areas of the garden.   As everything has grown up well in the week we have been away she has plenty of cover for the chicks.   I will try to get a photograph for you if I can.   Meanwhile - back to the washing and ironing.

But if you ever want to trip down to Norfolk I can really recommend

The Blakeney Hotel - beautiful bedrooms with lovely views, friendly staff, gorgeous food (both the farmer and I have gained three pounds and are now on a strict diet to get it removed.)     

Tuesday 7 May 2013


A group of serious walkers has just gone down the Lane.  Twenty or so of them, all in expensive walking boots, maps round their necks, a variety of hats as befits the warm, sunny day, all with fancy sticks - some with two, some with one.  My goodness me, walking these days is really serious stuff.

I watched them pass and it reminded me how we have got out of the habit of walking because we have to; our walking now is mainly done for leisure activity.   Alright, we might walk two hundred yards down the road to catch a bus, or if we live in a town we might walk a few hundred yards to go to the corner shop, but on the whole we don't walk any more.   We have no need.

And I thought of my father who was a great bowls player and who used to walk with my mother and me after work three or four nights a week (work from 7am to 5pm, dinner, an hour in the garden, a wash and then a two mile walk) to play Crown Green Bowls.   This was in the days of Double British Summertime (i.e. the war years) and it never seemed to get dark.   We would be walking back in the dusk at 10 o'clock and I would be late to bed.  But at least my Father went to work on the bus.   We never had a car and he never learned to drive.

My grandfathers would no doubt have walked even further because that was the only way most working people got from A to B - and certainly in the case of my grandfathers they would do physical work all day and then walk home - and think nothing of it.

With each succeeding generation the need to walk has got less and less until now walking seems to need all the fancy gear.   Yet see television pictures of some of the Third World countries, particularly those in Africa and you see women walking miles and miles to market or to collect water.   You see men walking sometimes hundreds of miles throughout the dry season to find water for their cattle and you see  children, often hungry for education, walking a dozen miles to school every day.

Now, without a second thought, we tend to back the car out of the garage just to go a short distance.   The times they are a'changin' as Bob Dylan famously said in quite different circumstances.   

Monday 6 May 2013

Down on the farm.

Friend S, who reads my blog regularly although she doesn't blog for herself, says she enjoys my blog more on the days when I write about what is happening on the farm - so I thought I would bring farm life up to date.

All the sheep have gone back on to the fells and the fields are largely empty except for a small group of dry cows, who are let out every day to enjoy the sunshine and then taken in at night.  While the fields are empty they have all been harrowed, rolled, fertilised with 20:10:10, slurried and now left for the grass to grow (which it is doing with the sunshine we have had over the past few days.)

All the fences damaged by wind or water over the winter months have been repaired and are now in good order, and all the stone walls have also been checked for damage and repaired.

We still have a loose-housing barn full of in- calf cows and they are staying in for a little while longer as they are to be freeze-branded one day next week and it is easier to have them all 'captive' for that operation.   It is not at all painful and every one ends up with a number stamped on its rear end so that it is easily identified.

In a couple of weeks time sheep and lambs will come into the big pasture and heifers for fattening into the other pastures.   Then the rest of the fields will be left to grow until they are ready to be cut for silage.    This operation will be late this year because the weather has been so cold.

Today the catch has broken on the loose-housing door so the farmer is busy welding it together again as I write this.   Once the cows found out that they could push the door open they would be out and away into the fields - they can already smell the grass growing and are getting restless.   

Sunday 5 May 2013

More salad items.

Following on from the cucumber theme:

I am very busy at the moment and life is quite hectic, so time for blogging is short.  But here are a few ideas which give more food for thought on the business of writing.

Morning AJ (on my side bar) talks of studying to be a journalist and learning to be concise before going to University and having to be writing longer essays and thus having to learn to expand that conciseness.  That's an interesting reversal of the process.

In the Times magazine yesterday there is an interesting article about John Le Carre, in which says says - "The cat sat on the mat is not a story, but the cat sat on the dog's mat is the beginning of a story."

Another lovely story in the article is about his dislike and distrust of George Bush (re the Iraq situation) - apparently he still has a rubber figurine of Bush in his bathroom so that he can stare at it while urinating.  I would guess that most of us could think of somebody we could have a figure of in our bathroom, even if only metaphorically.

And I did like Cro Magnon's comment on my previous post that Yeats always got his friend Lady Gregory to look through his work and suggest words he could eliminate without altering the meaning.
Anything that Yeats did is good enough for me - I don't know about you.   Have a good week-end. 

Friday 3 May 2013

Passing the cucumber test.

There is an interesting article in Times 2 today (by Richard Morrison) about a book by Malcolm Gladwell.   The book is called
"Blink" and Gladwell is a New York journalist.

In the book he contends that the whole of life is like a cucumber - you don't have to eat the entire cucumber in order to know what cucumber tastes like.   You really only need a slice to decide whether you like its texture, taste and juiciness.   Then you can make up your mind whether you like cucumber or not.

He suggests that your first impression of anything - people, works of art, music, books, is almost always the correct one for you.  He suggests that this is because your brain can process signals very quickly and come to a real assessment.

Because of this view there is an annual competition called Virgin Media Shorts which has been going for six years and which challenges anyone who would like to be a film director to show viewers what they can do in 140 seconds or less.

I think this can probably be translated to other disciplines too.   I read his article for exacly 140 seconds and managed to get to 300 words.  I think it would be possible to say something "amusing, beautiful, wry, political or profound" (to quote Morrison) in 300 words - in fact in a lot less.

I think it could also be used in a musical composition - not sure about visual art though - may be it would take longer - although I do think some Picasso drawings which are inspirational probably took hours to think about and only a short amount of time actually putting pen, pencil, charcoal or whatever to paper.

When I think of some of the turgid books I have tried to read; books which have a message but which lose me after a couple of chapters because I become  choked with a mass of words I definitely think it would be worth a try.   What do you think?  Do you fancy having a go?