Wednesday 31 July 2013

A Multitude of things.

First of all, I must say how heartening it has been to read your sympathetic comments - I find that support is all one needs to get through a crisis - and believe me when  I say that compared with the crises some folk have to deal with, this is a minor one.

Now to the problem of public transport.   Yes, we do have local transport.   The bus company runs from our market town into Richmond with connections on to Northallerton and beyond.   It also runs into Hawes, which is the next market town along the route through Wensleydale and also to Ripon with connections to York.
There are, of course, drawbacks.   First of all, every journey takes a long time as the buses go round all the villages; secondly, there are waits for connections; but most difficult for me is that we do live in a remote farm and it is three quarters of a mile to the top of our lane - and the bus doesn't stop there.   By the time the farmer has driven me to the bus stop in our nearest village he could have driven me into the market town.   So really the bus is not an option - more important is altering the mindset to accept that driving is no longer an option and planning one's life accordingly.   And that I am doing - I have done it before so I know the ropes.

So, what does today hold?   First of all, it is an enjoyable morning for the farmer as our first crop peas in the garden are ready for picking.   The rain at the week-end (over two inches) filled them up beautifully.   In about an hour he will come into the Utility Room with a couple of buckets of peas and he will spend the rest of the morning podding them.  (I find this such a boring job but he enjoys it).   Lunch will be fish with new potatoes and our first peas.   The rest I shall blanch and flash-freeze.

This afternoon is our Poetry afternoon at friend W's.   I spent some time yesterday evening deciding what to read.   We all take three or four poems that we like to read aloud.   It is a lovely afternoon - one of my favourites in the whole month.  I thought you might like to hear my choices - if you don't know them try finding them to read, they are all worth the effort.

First of all I am reading a poem by Nancy M Hayes.   I have no idea who she is, and when I have written this I shall go on line and see if I can find out anything about her.   The poem is in a book called 'The Book of a Thousand Poems' and was given to me recently by friend G.   I am reading it because G tells me that her teacher read it to her when she was small and she loved it so much that she learnt it off by heart.   When she recited it to her father he was so impressed that he found out the name of the book from her teacher and bought it for her.   The poem' s called 'At Night in the Wood'.   As a retired teacher I am always pleased to hear of anything which a child found inspiring (an inspiration which has lasted over seventy years in this case as G is a wildlife fanatic).

Then I am reading a few verses from Basil Bunting's 'Briggflatts.'
The more I read the poem the more I find in it - but then that, surely, is the essence of good poetry.

The other one I have chosen is a pretty gruelling poem by Ted Hughes called 'Struggle'.   I came late to farming - only marrying the farmer after I had retired and become a widow.   But, before we had Foot and Mouth and went out of farming cattle, I did witness quite a lot of calvings, some good, some bad, some disastrous.   This poem describes a hard calving and a sad outcome (well it would, wouldn't it - after all it is Ted Hughes) and is really quite harrowing to read.   There is certainly nothing jolly about it!

So to cheer things up a bit, if there is time, my fourth poem will be Robert Louis Stevenson's 'From a Railway Carriage' which I remember learning as a child.

Isn't it odd how poems one learned as a child stay with us.   Do you remember learning 'Old Meg she was a Gypsy' - or any other poem?
(In my father's day it was 'The Battle of Blenheim').


Tuesday 30 July 2013

I am still here!

After an absence of a few days this is just a quickie to say I am still here!    I have had a 'blip' in my health and have now definitely had to stop driving.   I was not driving for eight months, then a reprieve for another year and a half, then six months without driving.   Now, after only ten days or so of driving again I have had another attack and I think my driving days are probably over for good.

And this is where the value of friends comes in.   I had my attack on Sunday morning very early and spent the day in bed and yesterday recuperating.   Today one friend, W, called and took me into town and then we had coffee and sat and chatted in the Bistro window for an hour.   I had only been home a couple of minutes when friend, G, called to say she was taking me out to lunch.   The poor farmer (who had to get his own lunch on Sunday) had to get his own lunch again today as off G and I went to a local hostelry for a sandwich and then a lovely ride back over the moors near to home.   Look at that sky in the photograph.

Both events have made me feel much more like my old self.   I never cease to be thankful for the love of my friends - what would I do without them?  Friendship is one of the most important things in the whole world.

Friday 26 July 2013

1940 revisited.

This week-end is our 1940's week end here in our little market town.   As soon as our Friday market finished today at around 4.30pm, the square was cleared and folk arrived to set up the various exhibitions.
In the shops forties clothes are appearing.   There is a lingerie shop which has corsets and bras in the window which look like instruments of torture.   One of our dress shops has uniforms for ladies - nurses, WVS, forces etc. and another has very old-fashioned looking dresses and coats.
For me it brings back memories as I can remember it all, but increasingly there are fewer and fewer who can.  On our loval TV news a man of 95, who was a navigator on a Catalina Flying Boat in the war, has his first ride in one since leaving the air force on demob.
Our local Wensleydale Railway is holding special steam days tomorrow and Sunday so that folk in costume can ride up and down on the line, pretending they are back in those times.  And some of the cafes will be serving 40's menus like spam and chips.
I find it all a little strange personally.   I don't want to be a killjoy, but why do people get such fun out of dressing up and pretending they were back in days when really life was awful?
If I go into town in the morning I will try and take a few photographs for you.   But I can assure you of one thing - there will be plenty of men in military uniforms - RAF, Navy, Army, US Army - they will all have a woman in forties dress on their arm - but none of the men will be privates - they will all be officers.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Did you 'do' Latin at school?

I took Latin for my first four years in Grammar School - until in fact we selected our subjects for School Certificate as it was on those far off days.

It never seemed a particularly difficult language as it was so predictable.   Once you had learned to decline a word then as long as you knew the root word then you could have a good stab at things.   Does that make it sound too easy?   Probably.   From this distance away that is how it seemed.

My memories of the language are to say the least 'sketchy' but I do know that I can still remember the 'cases' and I can still decline
amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.  Also I know that often, if I don't know the meaning of a word when I am reading something then quite often I can have a pretty good guess from a Latin word I might be able to dredge up from the depths of my memory. 

There is an interesting article in today's Times about Latin becoming more popular again in schools - and in one school in particular.   That school is in East London, in a school where there are 80 languages spoken among its 900 pupils.   Fourteen selected pupils are having lessons in Latin.    They all seem very keen about it and all find it such a useful exercise.  They are all enjoying doing it.

I was interested to read what Dr Peter Jones, co-founder of Classics for All, a charity which provides some funding for such projects, said.  He says "It opens up the vocabulary of many modern European languages."

It seems that parents of this group are very supportive - and I think that is also a key to whether or not it will be a success.   When I went to school it was not fashionable for parents to 'interfere' in school work.   My father never ever went to a single school function at my Grammar School.   My sister (who was much older than me) always accompanied my mother - I suspect because my mother felt quite unable to go alone.

And yet at home my father was a huge support in my learning.   He would sit with me when I practised the piano; he would help with any research for my homework; we would collect and identify wild flowers; we would play all kinds of pencil and paper games and he would read me reams of poetry (his great love) - I have his poetry books still.

I thought of this yesterday when friend, G, gave me a Poetry Book which she had had since childhood.   She had heard a poem read out at school and had come home and recited it to her father.   He had gone into school to ask the source and then bought my friend the book.

Maybe the two subjects I have written about do not seem related to one another.   But they are really.   Schools are now so multi-racial, new subjects are being introduced all the time, parents are being welcomed into schools and made to feel at home there.  It is worth remembering that children spend at the most six hours a day at school.   The other eighteen - plus 24 hours a day in the holidays - are spent at home.   Learning doesn't stop at the school gate.  In fact some would argue that that is when learning really does start apart from the complicated science subjects.   So if Latin opens up new avenues then let's welcome it with open arms, and an open mind.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

A Day and a Half.

Today has been a hectic day all round.   Tess has been to the hairdressers and has come back looking ultra smart.  I bought her a new collar and lead in red tartan yesterday so she really looks special.   The lady who cuts her feels she may be allergic to some of the grasses as every year about this time of the year her skin becomes inflamed.   Tomorrow I shall see about some anti-histamin.

Our new royal baby is to be called George Alexander Louis I hear - quite a grand name, but I do like the idea of George, one of those old fashioned names which is coming back into fashion.  A very privileged young man he is to be sure.

See you tomorrow with a longer post I hope.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Bliss for a Penny.

It was all so different then.   Now, when almost everyone has a car or can shop on line, Supermarkets reign and competition is fierce.   But back then the unimaginatively named Main Street was our Shopping Mecca.   No TV advertising to tempt us to buy what my mother would have called 'rubbish food'.

Mr Knott, the butcher, was at one end.   Round, fat and rosy-cheeked - the epitome of what a butcher should look like - he stood behind the scrubbed wooden counter in his blue and white striped apron,  the tools of his trade set out in front of him.   A row of very sharp knives, a wooden mallet, a meat cleaver - all looked lethal to me.   I hated having to go there and see the carcases of dead animals hanging on hooks; and worse still, at Christmas, rows of naked geese hanging, their beaks pointing floorwards, and their brothers and sisters outside, still alive in their wooden crates, awaiting their fate.

Further along was Applewhite's Post Office.   Here Mrs. Applewhite would stand behind her wire screen, doling out penny stamps and postal orders, and ready to take my sixpence each week for my Post Office Savings Bank Book.   I had a Post Office Set at home and on long Winter evenings my friend and I would play Post offices, so I was always on the look-out for things that Mrs. Applewhite did that I could add to my stock of ideas.

Houghton's shop was tiny and crammed with 'stuff'.   Mr Houghton was a Potato Merchant so there was always an open sack of potatoes taking up a large part of the floor area.   Then there were the shelves packed with tins of Bisto, Burdall's Gravy Salt, Colman's Mustard - these three were always put together as the tins were the same shape and they took up less room on the shelf.   But,
'horror of horrors' Houghton's sold 'bought cake', a phrase coined by my mother and said in scathing terms.   'Bought cake' never crossed our threshold and I used to look longingly at the Lyon's Raspberry Jam Swiss Rolls in the window of the shop and try to imagine what they tasted like.

The Co-op was our shop.   Mr Clipsham, the manager, would stand behind the counter in his khaki smock and take your order.   I used to have to write our order out for my mother as she checked cupboard and shelves to see what we needed.   It was always more or less the same and we only bought the staples - sugar, butter, margarine, lard, tea, coffee, cheese, bacon -  the rest came from our own garden.  My father grew vegetables and fruit, we had hens, we kept a pig, and when the hens stopped laying we were still alright for eggs because when they were laying well my mother would store any surplus in waterglass under the pantry shelf.   They tasted absolutely awful and could never be fried with the Sunday morning bacon (cut from the flitch hanging from the larder ceiling) because they were given to exploding.   Our bread and cakes were always home baked and you could smell the tempting smell long before you reached the kitchen door.

Mr Jackson lived on Main Street and he brought the milk round every morning in his pony and trap, 'wheeling' the churn down the drive to the back door and filling our jugs and basins with his pint and half pint measures.   Any that went sour would be strained through muslin and made into cottage cheese.

But last of all on Main Street was old Mrs Reason, who made the most wonderful ice cream on hot days.   How did she keep it cool?
Did she have what would then have been a very new fangled fridge?   Was what she called ice cream merely just very cold custard?   I don't know.   But I do know that on hot sunny days she would suddenly put a table across her front door step, spread it with a white cloth, put a box of cornets on it and a handbell and retire to her kitchen.   You had to ring the bell and wait for her to push her way through what Thomas Hardy called the 'penetralia' - a heavily beaded curtain to keep the flies out- with a box of golden-yellow ice cream in her hand.   She would dip the spoon in it and fill your cone with the luscious stuff.   Bliss in your hand and all for a penny.

But then everything was bliss, and a penny went a long way - at least it seemed to be so when you were seven.   But now, seventy odd years later, memory serves to make it even more so.

** The photograph shows my parents with their friends Alf and Edna and also with Mr and Mrs Applewhite from the Post Office.  They were all six on holiday together at the YMCA Holiday Camp at Skegness in Lincolnshire.  I think the date would be 1946.  Left to right:   Mr Applewhite, my mother,
my father, Mrs Applewhite (in a hat!) Alf and Edna.


Monday 22 July 2013

A Feast for the eyes.

Today has been a very busy day.   First the heating engineer  came to service the Aga cooker and the central heating boiler - this meant an early start.

Then both the farmer and I had to be at the Physiotherapist in Crakehall, a village near the little town of Bedale, for eleven o'clock.   And it was when we reached Crakehall that we had a real feast for the eyes.

There is a small piece of waste ground by the side of the beck - but it is not waste ground this year.   Just look at what covers it.   The effect of these wild flowers- ox-eye daisies, cornflowers, poppies and a dozen more- is absolutely stunning.   The farmer needed no persuading to go back on foot while I had my treatment, and photograph the effect for you to see.   Isn't it wonderful?

Sunday 21 July 2013

Another event and no camera.

Isn't it always the way?   As with my visit to BriggFlatts the other day, I went to friend M's for lunch today as we were both on our own for the day.   She has the loveliest front garden, full of herbaceous plants and deep undergrowth.

A duck has laid her eggs and hatched off a dozen or so ducklings in the last day or two.   From inside the house we could watch this careful mother standing on the lawn, ever watchful, while her tiny brood scudded up and down the lawn, nibbling at the grass.   They were delightful and - I had no camera to capture the moment for my blog.

The second we opened the front door they disappeared into the undergrowth - they might only be a day or two old but already they have learned that it is necessary to obey instantly if mother makes an alarm call.   Sad to think that they won't all make it to adulthood.  Cats, stoats, weasels and sparrow hawks, not to speak of traffic if they venture on to the road, will all take their toll.   But for now, all are safe and being well-looked after by a very caring Mum.

Saturday 20 July 2013

A Short Life by a Merry One.

This beautiful little bird hit our kitchen window this morning with such a bang.   I went out to look but couldn't see it, so I thought it had probably flown away.   We have our feeders near to the window and we get wonderful bird life and a wide variety.   But the down side is that when the parents bring all their young, the young are so inexperienced that they tend to fly into the window.   We get this two or three times a day but mostly only a glancing blow, so that after sitting on the ground for a couple of minutes they fly off.

This was quite different - it was a hard knock, and sadly this young goldfinch didn't survive.   The farmer stretched out its wing - it is such a beautiful bird with the most exquisite markings.   What a shame that its life has been cut short like this.   But as the farmer says - the sparrow hawk flies through every day and the farm cats are always on the prowl (although they seem to prefer rabbit) , so chances of survival to adulthood for all the baby birds around are not guaranteed.

But it is sad.

Friday 19 July 2013

Brigg Flatts

Today friend W and I have been to Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria to meet friends P and D for lunch in Avanti - a lovely little Italian restaurant with a really Italian feel.    A slick dining area with a bar in the corner and outside a courtyard garden with trees for shade.   Today, just outside the window where we sat, there was the most beautiful dog.   He was tall and slender and pale honey coloured rough hair.   After our lunch (I had pasta with tiger prawns, chorizo, cherry tomatoes and spinach) I spoke to the dog's owner.   The dog was a rescue dog and was a lurcher - around 5 years old.  My goodness, he had fallen on his feet - he was being loved by everyone around.   I could have taken him home.

After lunch we strolled back to the car and came home via Sedbergh.   On the way we called in to look at Brigg Flatts - one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses in Britain.  And of course I had decided not to take my camera!

Brigg Flatts is down a little narrow lane and is surrounded by about half a dozen old cottages - in days gone by this would have been a little Quaker community.   Inside the building was absolutely beautiful with the most serene atmosphere.   There was even a dog pen where people who walked over the fields to the meeting could put their dogs.

It stands in a delightful cottage garden; there are seats to sit on and enjoy the peace and a lovely man came across and asked us if we would like a cup of tea.   There was a magical atmosphere of peace and tranquility.  I wish I could post a photograph to show you.

If you want a treat though, Basil Bunting the Quaker poet, wrote a wonderful poem called Brigg Flatts.   The first two lines are:-
Brag sweet tenor bull,
descant to Rawthey's madrigal.
If you go on line and Google him you can read the poem.   The Rawthey is the local river and a short time after leaving the Meeting House we crossed in and entered Sedbergh on our way home.

It was a hot and humid day but the cool inside that place made me want to stay there all day.

Thursday 18 July 2013

In the Heat of the Day.

Doctors are recommending that the elderly(sadly that is me) should not go out in the mid-day sun - well eleven to four actually - so at least we are not being allied with mad dogs and English men.  I find this weather quite draining - lovely if I am sitting in the cool, no good if I am trying to walk about in it.

The farmer has gone off to bale positively his last lot of sub-contract baling and has gone armed with a flask of iced elderflower cordial.   Tess is laid on the cool stone floor - I am sitting at the computer in a cool breeze.  A lovely perfume is drifting through the front door - must be roses of some kind I think.   The sun brings out the scent beautifully but it does also make the blooms die much more quickly.

My doctor has just rung me to tell me that I may drive again!!  Yippee - nearly drove myself to the hairdressers but decided that I needed to have the farmer by my side for my first foray - so hopefully it will be after tea tonight.

Tomorrow friend W and I are off to Kirby Londsdale on the edge of Cumbria, to meet our friends P and D for lunch in an Italian Restaurant.  It will be another scorcher but we can drive with all the windows open (and never mind that I have just spent an hour at the hairdressers.)

Friend G called this morning and we sat chatting for a long time (never a hard thing to do is it?).  I had plenty of ham for lunch and new potatoes and I made a lovely salad, which I shall share with you because it really is a lovely combination.

On a bed of lettuce put a mixture of sliced Fiorette pears, sliced Nectarines, halved green grapes and cubed cheddar cheese which have been tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing.   Chill for half an hour.   So refreshing on a day like this.

Keep cool.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

An Interesting Story and a Poser.

First the interesting story.   There is an article in today's Times by Daniel Finkelstein ostensibly about the Arab Spring and how it is all about revolts by the young men.   Makes a lot of food for thought and is well worth a read if you can get to it on line. It is titled 'Arab Spring?  No, more of a temper tantrum.'   Whether or not you agree with what he says it certainly makes you think about the whole issue.

But what amused me was a story inside the article about when, in 1972, the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai met the US President, Richard Nixon, their discussion turned to the subject of history.   Nixon asked Zhou what impact did he think the French Revolution (of 1789) had had on Western Civilisation.   The interpreter asked him and Zhou replied that it was 'too soon to tell'.  The interpreter later revealed that Zhou thought the question referred to the Paris Students' Protests of 1968.  The interpreter revealed that he had realised at the time about Zhou's misinterpretation but that his answer was just 'too wonderful to correct.'

As Finkelstein points out they did have something in common - youth.

Now for the poser.  Our peas in the vegetable garden are in full flower - white flower - and are already beginning to pod up.   But amongst them are three of what the farmer calls 'rogue peas' - with flowers of a totally different colour.  It is obvious that they are indeed peas and no doubt they will be indistinguishable from the others when it comes to putting them in the pot.   But can anyone out there throw any light on what exactly they are?

Tuesday 16 July 2013


Today has meant a visit to our 'local' hospital - twenty odd miles away but nearer than the much bigger one we can use in Middlesbrough.    There is something nice and friendly about a small hospital - everything seemed unhurried and ran like clockwork.   I was seen only a few minutes later and everyone was lovely.

I have been having trouble with my right ankle for some time and some days I am quite immobile.   This is very frustrating.   The Consultant I saw was quite charming and sent me for an immediate X ray (how wonderful it is that these things can be sent between departments instantly these days) and by the time I had got back to him my X ray was up on the screen.   He showed me exactly what the problem was and it was fascinating to see.

The arch has collapsed in my right foot throwing my walking off balance and causing the right hand edge of the leg bone to grate on the ankle bone.  It was clearly visible and I felt a bit better already.

The next stage is an MRI scan to see whether the tendons are bearing up under the strain.   For that I have indeed to go to the larger hospital in Middlesbrough and I am now waiting for an appointment.

So meanwhile, join me on the bench in my new header for a cup of tea and a chat.

Monday 15 July 2013

A Lovely Ride.

The glorious weather continues, with no end in sight.  Interestingly, the talk is no longer about the weather - we are all basking in it.  No talk of 'will I get the hay in before it rains?'

Yesterday the farmer and I had a lovely drive out.  I am now going to tell you where we went and endeavour to insert the photographs in the correct place, following instructions from many of you.

We began by driving through Wensleydale as far as the turn off at West Burton into Bishopdale.   This is a pleasant, wide dale and it was lovely to see all the haymaking done.

Bishopdale leads directly into Wharfedale and after driving down hill for a short distance we turned off down a narrow lane for my favourite church at Hubberholme - it is here that the ashes of JB Priestly, the author, are scattered.   Here the River Wharfe meanders through the pretty scenery.   There are always lots of folk here and today was no exception.   The farmer next to the church was shearing his sheep; the pub over the bridge was still serving lunches; a walking group came out from the back of the church (where there is a footpath to Yockenthwaite) and went into the churchyard to look for Priestley's epitaph; the farmer took Tess down the lane and I went into the church and sat for a few minutes in the peace and quiet (and coolness).   There had been a flower festival and the church was filled with the beautiful scent of flowers.

We then carried on over the bridge (which crosses the Wharfe - you will see that there is hardly any water at all here - where it is in its infancy) and on into Langstrothdale.

The river is rocky here and was full of young children enjoying the rock pools while their parents enjoyed the sunshine.  The farmer took Tess down to the water's edge where there was a little more water, so that she could have a drink.
And then it was up on to the tops of Langstrothdale Chase.   Here the views are magnificent.   On Friday I am going with friend W, to Kirby Lonsdale to meet our friends for lunch and we shall pass Ingleborough, one of the Three Peaks, on our way.   As we drove up the Chase I saw that we were looking at Ingleborough from the other side - so here it is, with its characteristic flat top.
Wensleydale runs across the bottom of the Chase and soon we could see it in the distance.   It was down into Hawes, where all the bunting was out for the Gala and back home again through Wensleydale.   A lovely day out - it was good to see that wherever we looked the hay was in and the hayfields were a golden-yellow and now ready for rain to encourage a second grass crop.   The forecast suggests we shall not be getting any anytime soon.  But  what a splendid sight it all was.

Hopefully all the photographs are in the correct place - so thanks to all those who told me how to do it!

Sunday 14 July 2013

The 'Good' Old Days

The farmer and I sat over breakfast this morning talking about this year's harvest.   The hay and silage has been very good indeed - not necessarily because of the size of the crop but certainly in terms of getting it all in in hot weather.

As for the arable crops - the farmer described these as 'patchy'.   We had such wet weather last year that many of the crops (particularly Winter wheat) had to be re-sown in the Spring.   But there is no doubt that this wonderful weather has improved things greatly - particularly as we had almost half an inch of torrential, thundery rain yesterday.   That really had a chance to get into the ground before it was burnt off by a hot sun.

But, unusually for him, the farmer continued and talked about harvesting when he was a lad.   Threshing in particular - and it was so interesting to hear him talk.

All the farmers in the surrounding area got together and discussed an optimum period for threshing the corn and then booked the threshing machine and the man who came with it.   The farmers then got together again and allotted days to each farm.

On the allotted day all the men would congregate on that farm and would work flat out to get all the corn threshed during the one day.
David told me who would come here (most of them are still alive - some into their late eighties), how the machinery was set up and where (this was after the days of a steam-powered engine to drive it and just into the age of a tractor).   

The big table (which still sits in our kitchen) would be extended to its full length and dinner time would be set by David's mother - who was a very good cook - and at that time exactly the machinery would stop and all the men would troop in for their lunch.   It was always the same - a huge joint of roast beef, Yorkshire puddings (of course), unlimited vegetables and good gravy.   For pudding it would always be four or five huge apple pies with custard for pouring (and sometimes cream from the dairy if it wasn't needed for making the butter).

The lunch would be only a quarter of an hour in length and then all the men would be back at work.   Tea would be provided - cold - in bottles, so that the men could drink it as and when they felt like a drink.

Sometimes the dust would be so bad, said the farmer, that occasionally somebody would be in bed the next day with a bad chest!   Yet they are still all alive (no masks in those days!)

When I think how one machine works thousands of acres today and does the whole job, driven by one man.   Like all other industries, no wonder workers have disappeared from the countryside and no wonder there are so many out of work.

It's not often I can get him to talk about the old times - it was fascinating to hear him talk - so I thought I would pass it on.

Saturday 13 July 2013

The Rains Came Down.

This week-end is a busy one in our village as tomorrow is Open Gardens and Scarecrow Trail.    Tea and cake will be served in the Village Hall from eleven o'clock in the morning; there will be a Plant Stall; lots of gardens will be open for folk to look round; and there will be a trail of scarecrows.   We shall not be taking part as we live a mile or so out of the village down a long lane.   But my son and his wife participate and are, as I write, in the throes of putting together their scarecrow - a tree surgeon up the cherry tree in their front garden.   Although not without the odd gripe here and there, on the whole it is an exercise in village co-operation and as such, really important.

I am pleased that I don't have to make a scarecrow - I would find it so difficult.   Some of the specimens are really imaginative and all take some making.   Dominic has been here this morning stuffing the arms, legs and body with straw.   Frankly, I suggested that he could stand in the garden himself and be mistaken for one because his so-called sartorially elegant gardening gear of camouflage sun hat, faded T shirt, flowered shorts and green wellies leaves a lot to be desired.   When I said so he threatened to go round our little market town with a placard round his neck proclaiming that he is my son (I am quite well known in town).

I smiled and was reminded of an article in a recent Times, when a woman and her husband joined their friends, a French couple, for a week-end at the sea-side somewhere in France.   The woman's husband packed three pairs of shorts (flowered), three T shirts and a pair of sand shoes.   The Frenchman packed three elegant jackets, three pairs of pressed trousers and three shirts for day time and another three for evening, together with cravats for the evening shirts.   In addition he brought loafers, which he fashionably wore without socks.  I originally thought 'how wonderful to have such a husband' but then on reflection I thought how hard it would be to keep up with him - so maybe a camouflage hat and green wellies is alright after all.

I took Tess for a walk up the lane in the heat - it is incredibly hot today.   Because there was a bit of cloud about I took an umbrella.
At the furthest point from home a few drops of rain fell.   I put up my umbrella.  Within a minute it was absolutely pouring, water was cascading down the road and I (and Tess) got drenched.   The only thing that survived dry and intact was my hair - and as any woman will tell you - that was all that really mattered.   The rest is in the washing machine as I write, the sun is shining again and the gardens and the paths around them have all had a good wash and clean up after the frantic weeding - so they'll look nice and fresh.  Everything is ready.

Thursday 11 July 2013


John (Going Gently on my side bar) has a blog today about stuff he and his partner have accumulated over their years together.  It heartened me to see it.   So many people these days are minimalist and have little or no accumulated stuff.   I, on the other hand, in keeping with John's philosophy, have masses of stuff.   You could pick up any one piece and I would be able to tell you where it came from, why I like it and why I choose to keep it - and above all - what memories it holds for me.

I love my stuff and I move it all around to suit my feelings at the moment.   One or two particularly precious pieces are already in my will to go to people who I know will treasure them.   The rest, when I and the farmer die, will no doubt be picked over by anyone in line to inherit any of it and then the residue will be sent to some sale room somewhere.

Does that distress me?   Well, I suppose it would if I thought about it too deeply but in the cool, clear light of day, most stuff and its memories is only important to the person who bought it/was given it/ acquired it in some way.   And memories die with us, don't they, so that piece of stuff would not hold any importance to whoever inherited it.

I am reminded of the Kahlil Gibran quotation:
'Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself....
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls shall dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
Not even in your dreams.'

I have put on photographs of just a few of my treasures and the memories they hold for me.   Those memories will not be passed on to my son or to my grandchildren - they will no longer have meaning.

1.  The embroidered raffia basket which hangs from my kitchen celing was given to me many years ago by a West Indian boy I taught.   I wrote a letter for his father asking his employers for leave to visit his parents still in Jamaica.   As a thank you the father brought me this basket back.   My pupil brought it into school very early in the morning (I was usually in school by eight o'clock) so that no other pupil should see him bringing in a present for teacher.
I treasure it greatly and it holds good memories.
2. The two beaded love birds hang over my kitchen doorway.  I bought them on a holiday in the Taurus mountains in Turkey.   They were made by prisoners in a Turkish jail.  I have had them for years and they remind me of a wonderful holiday with my previous husband.
3.  The oyster catcher was bought on our holiday in Norfolk earlier this year.   The bird is common in Norfolk; it is also quite common in our fields.  Although I have only had it a few weeks, I love it already.
4. The Chinese writing, which is apparently a poem about rural life and is written on rice paper (I had it framed) was bought almost forty years ago in China.  Although I have no translation I love it for its intrinsic beauty.
5. This picture of Venice was painted after a particularly wonderful week in Venice.  Again, it was painted by my first husband.  We were riding up the Grand Canal in a Vaporetto when we passed this beautiful garden so my husband committed the memory to oil paint as soon as he returned home.
6. A painting is

by Toni Bartl, the Czech artist, who was a friend of my first husband.   It symbolises the uniting of a man and a woman and was given to us by the artist on the occasion of our wedding in March 1952.

Nobody will know any of that when we are gone.   Will it matter?
No, I suppose it won't.   The important thing is that I get pleasure from them and their memories whilst I am here.   What my children and grandchildren choose to do with them is unimportant isn't it?

Sorry about the way the pictures have popped up in the middle of the text.   Is there a way of getting them where you want them to go or does Google have a mind of its own?   I would be grateful if someone would tell me.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

The Dreaded Day

Today has been 'the day of the accountant'.   Of course farms, as with all other businesses, have to keep books and employ an accountant to verify them at the end of the financial year.   I suppose it would be possible to work out things like income tax if you were a financial wizard - the farmer leaves it to the accountant - he firmly believes in 'horses for courses' approach.

I keep all out financial ins and outs in a ledger after my own fashion - no book-keeping on the computer, I prefer the thick red ledger in my hand and a pen and ink to fill it in.
The column that always defeats me is the 'contra' column - I pretend that I understand it but in reality I don't if it gets complicated (like it does with the buying of a new tractor and exchanging it for the old one).   So I am always relieved when the accountant comes, sits down at the table with her list of queries and I find that by and large I have done everything correctly.
Now she has gone, I have started the new ledger for the new financial year and I have caught up on the entries, totalled page one (and got it to balance) and filed everything away.   I am left with two feelings - elation that it was all OK and exhaustion over a morning spent going through figures about which I have a bit of a mental block. Isn't it strange how some of us take to numbers like a horse wandering over to drink from the trough, whilst others (among which I count myself in spite of being a teacher) can be led over to the trough but drinking requires a major effort.

All's well for another year so let's celebrate big time.

Tuesday 9 July 2013


Can I first of all say, before I start writing this post,  that I am overjoyed that Andy Murray won the Wimbledon Championship on Sunday afternoon.    His standard of play, his sportsmanship, his ability to give pleasure, excitement, thrills and almost-heart-attacks to millions around the world were a joy to watch.   Also, I am sure that he so wanted to win at Wimbledon, so wanted to break that 76 year wait for a Brit to win the title, that he would happily have played the tournament for no money at all.

But today in the Times there is an article about money, about fashion, about all things to do with sponsorship, that makes me despair of the modern world.

The prize for winning Wimbledon is apparently £1.6 million (far too much says the farmer, whose idea of these kinds of sums is back well into the twentieth century).   Many sponsorship deals will follow - he already sports a Radio Hyperchrome automatic watch which he found time to slip onto his wrist before accepting the trophy.

And yet, through all the fuss, all the 'hype' he managed to maintain his dignity.   All the top sportsmen get this kind of money, so why shouldn't he.   He found time the day after his win to have a knock about at a South London Sports centre with a three year old boy, a policeman, teenagers, a postman and a vicar who brought his dog on court with him.  Then he changed into his suit and went to tea at number 10!

And I love the way when asked whether he intended to 'pop the question' to his long-time girl friend in a radio interview he replied that he hadn't thought about it but that if he had he wouldn't be telling the interviewer first!

Then I read about the fashions among the spectators.   Posh stood out in what looked rather like a petticoat to me, but was apparently a next-season dress by Louis Vuitton and the fashion article I read
(again in the Times) says it (the dress) was saying, "Look at me! I've got these clothes before you".  Apparently she has a 'special relationship' with Vuitton.  The dress that Andy's girl friend wore to the final was a Victoria Beckham dress but the article doesn't leave it at that - there is a 'snipe' suggesting that it was more than a coincidence that Simon Fuller manages the publicity for both Murray and Beckham (Posh).   The article concludes by saying that a cynical person might be tempted to sigh deeply and shout 'Get a Life' - well here is one person who is doing just that.

Congratulations Andy on giving me - and millions of others - an afternoon to remember, the need to buy a new box of tissues, the proud feeling of huge achievement for Great Britain, and something to blog about.   I for one couldn't care less what anyone was wearing and why. 

STOP PRESS    A rabbit was seen, calmly eating off the front lawn at dusk last night - so now we have them in front and back gardens; the farmers comment this time was that if they ate the lawn grass and saved him mowing it then he was all for it.

Monday 8 July 2013

Good and Bad Neighbours.

First of all the good ones.   Yesterday was a pretty hectic day for the farmer.   In the morning he tossed up the grass in his two hay paddocks.   Then he went off with his walking group for his fortnightly walk.   It was so hot that they cut short their walk, so he was home in time to see the end of the marvellous Andy Murray match.  In fact, when he came in I was sitting on the settee in our lovely cool back room, watching the match with tears streaming down my cheeks.   It was the last game - and what a cliff-hanger.

He had a quick cup of tea and then, while I was preparing the salad for tea, he went out, rowed up both fields and baled the hay.  It is surprising what a short job this is as the baler works very efficiently, shunting out bales from the back on to a sledge and every eight bales dropping them in a neat rectangle on the field.

He decided it would be sensible to get the bales into the hay shed before dark, so he went out again while I watched an interesting "Country File" about the Cambrian Mountains in Wales.  He came in to say that his loader had completely broken down and just would not load the bales on to the trailer.   He rang neighbouring farmer G to see if he could borrow G's loader for an hour this morning.   Better than that - G came across immediately and loaded the lot for him and together they got them all into the hay barn - on a Sunday night.   Now if that is not good neighbourliness I don't know what is.  That kind of neighbourliness exists all the time round here and is so refreshing to see and partake in.   I know the farmer would have done the same for him.

Now to the bad neighbours.   These have four legs, long ears and a white bobtail.   For much of the time we coexist on the farm, aahing at the pretty little babies,  feeling sad when myxamatosis strikes.   If we get over-run with rabbits then we ask the shooters to come in and get rid of a few quickly and cleanly, but most of the time we tolerate them.

But yesterday Tess and I went down to the vegetable garden, which is well-protected against rabbits by wire netting all round.   I went for a Cos lettuce for the salad; Tess came along for the walk.  I opened the gate - Tess took off like a rocket, completely missing the fact that the salad leaves, beetroot and parsley seedlings were covered in green netting.   She did a multiple somersault over the netting and made for the cos lettuce row (not protected) where a rabbit sat calmly eating a lettuce leaf.   It shot I know not where.  The farmer has done a recce round the garden today and he can't find a space.  His response to the fact that it was eating my Cos was that if that was all it got then it didn;t really matter as it would be a few less for him to eat (Cos lettuce is not on his favourite menu).

I think it needs to start on his beloved pea rows for him to sit up and take notice.   Meanwhile I continue to tolerate this bad neighbour and hope it keeps out in future.

Incidentally - 108 bales of hay from two small fields - nicely stacked in the hay barn and already commandeered by the two farm cats who can survey the baby swallows from a great height - the yard is full of them and the parents give the cats very short shrift if they venture out anywhere near their babies.

The photograph shows neighbour G collecting the bales in the failing light.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Weather report

We here in The Yorkshire Dales have forgotten what hot weather is like.   We have had only isolated warm days over the last few years and to suddenly have a spell of hot weather is unheard of.   The tar is melting on the lane and there are tar bubbles - as children we used to 'pop' them with our feet and get a rocket from mums when we arrived home and trailed tar into the house.  I am half-watching the Tennis Championships and hear that the temperature on Centre Court is one hundred degrees.

All the doors and windows in the house are open to the elements and there is no cooking today - plenty of salad in the garden so we shall eat that.

Another side effect of the heatwave is that every rose in the garden has suddenly bloomed, after weeks in bud.   Alexander Girault, my favourite rambler, has rocketed up, around the weather vane and along the calf house roof.   Every year we cut him back to curb his enthusiasm, every year he makes his way along the roof again.   I would let him go except he would leave the wall behind and it is the wall I wish to cover.

All the garden flowers are opening their faces to the sun - it is a joyous few days; something to do with the weather coming in from the Azores.   Long may it continue.   The farmer is walking with his group today and then when he comes home he intends to bale up our paddock of hay.   Midgies permitting I shall go out and sit on a bale and watch him.

And the Greem Man watches over it all and tells us that we shall have to accept what comes.

If it is hot where you are - keep cool.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Our Dales villages

The Yorkshire Dales are all full of pretty villages of stone cottages; there is very little new building because of planning regulations, and that that there is is usually hidden away.

Last evening we needed petrol so decided to go on for a drive through Swaledale and back through Wensleydale after we had got our petrol.   It was a beautiful evening (although the midgies were very active) and I had my camera at the ready to take some pictures of our pretty villages for you.   The cottages are built of the local stone so that they fit in with their background perfectly.  In between the villages there is a drive of maybe two or three miles of beautiful scenery, so what's not to like.

The first thing against my photography was that most of the drive was going directly into the low sun.   But even worse was the fact that there were so many cars on the sides of the road that it was impossible to see the lovely cottages anyway, so I put my camera away.

We drove along and I relaxed and just enjoyed the drive.   Two things struck me though.   First of all - the cars.   Most of these cottages are several hundred years old, built long before the days of cars, so nobody has a garage.   Many cottages are in a terrace or maybe semi-detached, which means cars are parked on the sides of the road.   Some houses really need space for two cars, so often they have a piece excavated from the front garden to take one car.
This is not meant as a criticism - everyone needs a car in this rather out of the way place - but it does mean that in the evening, when
 most people are home, every village is choked with cars.

The other thing which struck me is how many of the cottages had been altered, I presume, before the days of tight planning regulations, so that quite often there would be three or four different window designs on one house, or there would be french windows on the front, totally out of keeping with the age of the house.   These things are much more carefully controlled these days and anyone who thinks they shouldn't be really needs to look carefully at villages like these to see what an eyesore some houses have become.

Really, by the timeI arrived home I was pleased I hadn't spent the time taking photographs because it really gave me time to think.

There have been several breaks in my writing of this as I was also watching the Ladies' Singles Final from Wimbledon - over now but am still wiping the tears away!!

Friday 5 July 2013

The Field

We went in the field again for the first time this year - me to wander round and look at things, Tess to sniff for rabbits.   We have not ventured into this field before.   First there was deep snow, then it was wet; after that the grass began to grow and we left it to grow for silage.   Now it has been cut and slurried and the slurry has largely washed in, so today we decided to go there.

One side of the gate sports a large dog rose in full flower and the other side a honeysuckle just coming out;   the two scents, both Summer personified, vying with one another for our attention.

Once in the field we begin our walk.   Baby rabbits scatter at our approach, many of them would fit into the palm of my hand.   It would be a delight to pick on up, but of course they are gone long before we reach them.   A stoat runs out of the grass and I speculate that we may well have saved the babies from a horrible death at the fangs of the stoat - although Mr Stoat is quite capable of going down a rabbit hole should he so desire.

We reach the old barn which once we dreamed of as a home for our retirement but which the Planning Authority turned down as being too small for an extension.   It is falling into disrepair and I push open the door with some trepidation.   The last time I looked in there was a body on the floor - a man curled up, not dead as I at first thought but merely drunk and sleeping it off.   That was quite a scare I can tell you.

Much of the field is bordered by ancient hedges which have been there for hundreds of years - hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, ash saplings, elder,  blackberry briars: then a moss-covered stone wall appears, then a mixture of the two.   I love those mossy stones.   So does Tess as many of the rabbits make their homes in the wall.

White umbellifers scatter along the field margin - in full bloom, their young blooms in a deep pink.   Purple vetch stretches up through the deep grass margin towards the light.  It is strikingly attractive against the mossy gold of the the stone wall.

The heifers in the next field come to investigate us, with the curiosity of cattle everywhere.   And in the field beyond that the grass is cut.   The sun is hot and there is a breeze blowing - perfect haytiming weather for the first time in many years.   The warm smell of drying grass permeates the air.

We make our way back home.  My head is full of the sights, smells and sounds of the field.   Tess's head is full of rabbits.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

One of those days.

It has been one of those days today - I have been out all day - thanks in part to the generosity of friend S, who collected me in her car both morning and afternoon.   Hopefully I shall be driving again by next week as my six months of not driving is up and my health report is good.

This morning was our Wensleydale Writers' Group meeting.   We meet in the Quaker Meeting House - a lovely venue of peace and quiet, very conducive and a pleasure to be in.

This morning our task was to choose a post card from a selection on the table (they are face down so you don't know what you are getting) and spend twenty minutes writing using the picture as a basis for your writing.   Some folk wrote a straight forward descriptive piece, some wrote imaginative conversations - a particularly interesting one was H, who wrote an imaginary conversation between the two daughters of Thomas Gainsborough - her card was a representation of the painting.  Another fascinating one was written by L who had a post card showing a particularly atmospheric section of Hadrian's Wall and who wrote what was almost a prose poem about it.

At the end of our meeting, in the final quarter of an hour, we discussed perhaps running a course for ourselves.   We are going to research possible things we could do (the postcard idea above was in itself very successful and could certainly be one element) and report back at the next meeting.   If any of you out there have been on writing courses and have any ideas, I would be grateful if you could let me know in my comments box.

After lunch it was our monthly Poetry afternoon.   Only seven of us today - it is after all the holiday season.   Here we sit in friend W's conservatory and read aloud our favourite poetry.   Is it just me or does everyone find poetry read aloud so much more enjoyable than poetry read on the page? We had work by Tessimond, Betjamen, Basil Bunting, Norman McCaig, Alun Lewis, John Clare, Edward Thomas, Emily Bronte, Byron, Wendy Cope and from our new member a lovely reading of Young Lochinvar.  Such a civilised couple of hours.

Home again at half past four.   I switched on the television to see how Andy Murray was doing in the quarter finals but I must say that I find it too stressful to watch (is that cowardly?) so I shall wait until the match is over to find out the result.

So altogether a lovely day.   Now the sun is shining.  There has been little or no rain and the vegetable garden is desperate for water.   A mini heat wave is promised for the next few days.   Speaking of heat waves - spare a thought for our friends, particularly those in blogland, who live in the area around Death Valley - in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico - who are suffering a terribly hot spell and where the firemen have been killed in the giant forest fire.  At least we haven't got that to contend with.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

We are surrounded.

Man the barricades - we are surrounded.   We have slurried fields to the right of us,  slurried  fields to the left of us, and also in front and behind.   Comments range from "Good healthy smell round here!" (Tesco delivery man this morning) to "OMG how can you stand it? (friends).

The good news is that it is raining steadily.   We need it - both in the vegetable garden to perk up all our growing veggie crop and, more importantly, to wash the slurry in and with it the smell (hopefully).

After today the weather forecast for the next week is good.   Our paddock is the only meadow which has not been cut for silage (the pastures all have stock grazing on them) and, as usual, the farmer hopes to make it into hay.   I don't think he really needs hay these days, but traditionally we have always made 'a bit of hay' and it makes a lovely stack in the hay barn for the hedgehogs to snuggle into come the winter.   We always have a goodly number hibernate in there.

Grass plus the cutter plus the sunshine equals one thing - glorious, delicious summery smells.   And believe me, round here, they can't come soon enough.

Monday 1 July 2013


I have had several requests for the recipe for the trifle I spoke about - so I am putting on the recipe today.   Trifle is a traditional old English sweet
 which in the English version never, never, never has the addition of jelly.  It should also never be served up to anyone who is counting the calories - you will see why when you read the recipe.   I am sorry if it is a case of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs as I am sure lots of readers will have their own recipe, but it does seem to be a rarity in the US - so here it is.   John (Going Gently) don't even cast your eyes over the recipe.   Please note that any fruit can be substituted for the strawberries I used.

Ingredients:   Trifle sponges, or any sponge cake (or even a swiss roll); Jam - in this case, strawberry jam; custard, amaretti biscuits; sherry (generous); double (or whipping) cream; strawberries.

Cut the trifle sponges in half, spread with strawberry jam and then sandwich them together again and cut in half vertically to make smallish squares.   Arrange them in the bottom of a pretty dish, preferably a glass one so that you can see the layers; pour over a generous amount of good quality sherry.   Cover the dish with cling film and leave overnight in the fridge.

When you are ready to assemble - cover the cake with a layer of strawberries and if they are not terribly sweet sprinkle with a small amount of caster sugar; then cover with one pint of made custard - either 'proper' custard made with eggs and milk and sugar or custard made with custard powder;  leave it to cool - if you put cling film over again it will discourage a skin forming.   Once it is cool cover with a layer of amaretti biscuits (those little circular ones) and finally with a thick layer of whipped up cream.   Put strawberries on the top to decorate.

At this stage, providing I intend to eat it within a few hours, I don't put it back in the fridge as it is best and tastiest eaten at room temperature.

We don't have it very often because it really is unhealthy eating, but now and again as a little treat is fine.   After our friends had gone I divided what was left with my son who came round eagerly with a trifle bowl.  I somehow have to stop the farmer eating it all.