Wednesday 31 December 2014


I have little spare time today as I am cooking a pot roast of beef and a fish pie for New Year's Eve supper with family and friends - my last bout of 'Christmas' entertaining.   But yesterday all three of my grandchildren came for a meal, together with one husband and one partner.   It is so rarely that I get to see them altogether  that I took a photograph of the five of them - just to remind me how wonderful they are and how proud I am of them all.   I thought you might like to see it.

Monday 29 December 2014

A Christmas Present.

I thought that readers of my blog might like to see this lovely picture which was one of my presents at Christmas - from the artist herself.   It is a lino cut of cattle grazing just below Lady Hill in Wensleydale.  If you wish to see more of Denise's work go to her website at Denise

We are being very lucky with the weather here in the Dales - still, sunny and very frosty.  Just the right kind of weather for 'slurry leading' and that is exactly what the farmer is doing.   He has taken a couple of loads from the midden at the back of the loose housing, and now he is collecting loads from our friend and neighbour's slurry tank to spread on the frozen fields at our farm.   The ground is nice and firm with frost and the tractor and slurry tanker will make little or no impression on the ground.

Too cold to hang out the washing today, so it is drying indoors.   This will be the last week to hang it on the rack above the Aga, as the farmer has bought me a tumble drier - which comes next week!!
Have a good New Year's Eve.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Over for another year.

Thanks for the Christmas and New Year Greetings everyone - much appreciated.

Now Christmas is over.   The turkey is almost all eaten (only bought a crown) and the orange-flavoured ham has just enough left for a sandwich at tea time today.  All the many Boxing Day vegetables (red cabbage, ratatouille, swede and carrot mashed, carrots, sprouts, peas, roast parsnips, jacket potatoes) were eaten
again yesterday and what is left has just been given to the hens as a treat.   They descended on it all as though they hadn#t eaten for a month.  The fridge is almost empty except for remnants of Camembert and Brie - which will soon disappear.   Then tomorrow it will have to be fill the fridge again day as all my grandchildren (all vegetarian) come for a buffet meal - and then for New Year's Eve, when I always make a large fish pie and this year a topside pot roast too.  But so far everything has run smoothly and it has been great fun.

Yesterday the farmer and I were alone and we spent the afternoon doing a jig-saw of scenes from Downton Abbey (which we actually don't watch) - it was a really interesting one to do.   But when we finished it there was a piece missing.   We searched the carpet thoroughly as Tess adores chewing up a piece of jig saw, but there was absolutely no sign of it anywhere.  Later in the evening we were having a game of Rummikub when the farmer dropped a tile by his chair.   When he bent to pick it up the lost piece of jig saw was right next to the tile.   How is it that you can miss things like that?

My Christmas books are delicious.   I have already read the second book written by Alan Johnson about his rise to political fame from an extremely poor childhood.  The first one was bought me when it came out.   This one - Please Mr Postman - has been just as interesting and I was quite sorry when I finished it.

Now I have started H is for Hawk - by Helen Macdonald.  Absolutely fascinating reading - and beautifully written.   Books are the very nicest presents aren't they?  (although my shelves are full to bursting and I am constantly trying to cull one or two books to make room for the new ones.)

We have missed the snow here apart from a sprinkling on the hill tops in the distance, and the weather yesterday and so far today is wall-to-wall sunshine, although almost freezing.

Salmon and new potatoes for lunch today - a light food day methinks.   Have a nice day.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

A Very Happy Christmas and a Joyful and Peaceful New Year to all my blogging friends.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

A New Bed

You have read before about 'our' pheasants - because the farmer feeds the wild birds all the year round, we get a huge number of pheasants at the bird table.  (they are probably the most common bird around here because we are surrounded by 'shoots' where gamekeepers breed (or buy in) young pheasants especially for shooting.)

These pheasants become quite tame, particularly in the Winter time when the weather is cold and food is scarce.   Also, because they roost up in the trees to escape predators (foxes mostly), we have a good stand of Scots Pines which make excellent roosts.  At least they do when the weather is reasonably calm.

But the last few days and nights we have had violent weather and it really must have been a nightmare for them clinging on to the branches.   We have been quite worried about where they would be.
I wish they would roost inside the cattle shed, which is open sided and has rafters which would be ideal - but they don't seem to like being under cover.

We need not have worried on their behalf.   Tonight we just happened to spot as we drew the curtains across, exactly where they were choosing to spend the night.   Next door my brother in law has a vegetable garden surrounded by a high privet hedge.   As it began to get dark the hedge side was dotted with  pheasants on the sheltered side - they had moved downstairs so to speak.

They are not daft are they?

Monday 22 December 2014

Pre-Christmas weather.

Our journey back from Hawes after our stupendous Christmas lunch yesterday was through a very misty landscape.   How different it became by around eight o'clock yesterday evening when the wind became what I can only describe as 'very violent'.  The wind came from the West (so a 'warm' wind) but was quite terrifying as it howled around the house.   It was still going strong when we went to bed and it was really quite scary.   It reminded me of a similar occasion many years ago when the conditions were like this and a friend's elderly mother sat with her hat, coat and gloves on all night in a kitchen chair, declaring that she was sure that the end of the world had come.

This morning the wind has not abated and, as usually happens when it is rather wet and the wind is from this direction, the River Ure has burst its banks in many places and the fields are flooded. Our only lake, Lake Semerwater, flows into the Ure via the shortest river in England, the Bain, and the water flows out of Semerwater much faster when there is a gale blowing.   The farmer and I have just been down to the feed merchants and on both sides of the road there is water standing, and what is more, there was more of it on the return journey than there was on the journey down.

Christmas is getting near now and the jobs are piling up that can't be done until nearer the time -making the stuffings, making the cranberry sauce, making an almond tart and maybe some more mince pies.  It is too early for these jobs, so the gang are meeting for coffee in the morning.   That will make me think it is Friday and my whole week will be thrown out of joint.

On our return journey the farmer bought me a tumble drier, which will be arriving shortly after Christmas - a nice appliance with which to start the New Year.

The gale blew slates off the farmhouse roof and three sheets of tin off the hen house roof.   Luckily there is wood under the tin so the hen house is not open to the elements, but it will have to wait for repair until the wind drops.   Similarly we can't contact the builder to replace the slates on the roof until it is calm weather.   Still, small worries compared with some. 

Lovely white roses arrived this morning - another Christmas present.   The house is full of flowers and plants - lovely presents as I get such pleasure out of them.   If it is windy where you are, keep both feet on the ground.

Sunday 21 December 2014

The Firsy Day of Christmas.

The farmer took a friend and I out to lunch today to our favourite farming restaurant in the nearby market town of Hawes.   The place was fully booked and I would guess that almost every table was a farming family of grandma and grandad/sons/daughters and  grandchildren. (I would also guess that Grandad was paying!).   There were a lot of fresh complexions, a lot of rather round tummies and absolutely no airs and graces anywhere.  Good straightforward food of turkey or beef (home reared in both cases) with stuffing, bread sauce, roast and mashed potatoes, sprouts, red cabbage, swede, carrots, roast potatoes and parsnips, good gravy, plenty of sauces and go back to the self-service as many times as you wished.  Oh and I forgot the Yorkshire Puddings (no meal is served without these giants of local food up here).  Puddings, apart from Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, were a selection of various trifles, pavlovas, profiteroles and the like.

And yes, we all partook of everything available.  I now feel as though I shall not eat again until Christmas day itself, although I expect I shall feel totally different come tomorrow morning.

Home again now, travelling through the Dales on a very indifferent kind of day with views limited by heavy mist in places and fine rain falling  - but my goodness, how green the grass was everywhere.  Still growing, says the farmer.

We had a cow this morning aborted a calf six weeks before delivery time - fully formed but born dead.  Always a sad happening.

The photograph is just to show Dales folk enjoying their Christmas dinner.

Saturday 20 December 2014

A Mad Moment proves to be a good idea.

Friend W and I decided it would be a good idea to go over to Marks and Spencer at Teeside Park today for last minute goodies for the Christmas table.   But yesterday was a dreadful day weather-wise and we wondered what the weather would be like today. Then we both secretly began to worry about the crowds, particularly when the Yorkshire Post named today as 'Panic Saturday'.  But we neither of us voiced our fears so we set off at 8.30 this morning, when it was barely light.

And what a jolly morning we have had.   A pleasant journey there (takes about an hour) on almost empty roads until the last half mile when the traffic began to pile up.   But we found a place in the Car Park easily and at half past nine we were in the food department, along with A LOT of others, looking at goodies.   I hardly wanted anything - she was the same - but we both came away with all kinds of little extras which save time (in my case - a lovely ham joint all ready for the oven, a carton of 'posh turkey gravy', a carton of ready-made bread sauce (only two of the party like it), cocktail canapes and a couple of bottles of good wine.

We loaded up her car and then went back inside for a coffee and a mince pie in the cafe (which was not particularly busy) (everyone was too busy whizzing round the store).

We were especially impressed with how pleasant everyone was - the men pushing trolleys for their wives/girl friends gave way to us two 'elderly' ladies; the staff were all pleasant and helpful; nobody pushed and shoved - it was a thoroughly lovely, Christmassy experience.

Now, two microwaved jacket potatoes later, I am just going to take Tess for a walk as the farmer is shooting today.  Then it will be light the wood burner and settle down ready to watch the final of Strictly later on tonight.

I really feel that the Christmas season has started.   Tomorrow three of us are going out for Christmas lunch to a local restaurant.   I shall hide the scales until after Christmas. 

It is worth pointing out that friend W (who used to work for M and S long ago) found an assistant and asked her to pass on to the Supervisor her praise for the efficiency and pleasantness of the staff on such a busy day.  I have just sent M and S an e mail saying much the same.   People are quick to complain, so we both thought that praise was important.

Friday 19 December 2014

A few stories.

Folk seem to fall into two categories about cleaning and Christmas.   There are those who say there is not a lot of point in giving everywhere a thorough cleaning when all the decorations and pine needles are going to be creating a mess anyway.   There are the other kind - of which I am one - who get delight in having everywhere spick and span before any decorations go up.

To this end I suggested to the farmer as we drove back from the market this morning, that he help me this afternoon to clean the utility room (where almost everyone enters the farmhouse, our front entrance being rarely used.)   A look of horror passed over his face and he assured me that it was only about six weeks since it had had a thorough clean (I do have a cleaner each Monday who cleans it anyway).  He was lying.   I recognise a lie when it jumps into my ears and moving the long (and heavy) sideboard revealed a mountain of dust, cobwebs, dropped dog biscuits (which the dog has been trying to get at for weeks) and so much dirt that even the farmer had to admit that 'maybe it was a little longer since the sideboard had been moved out.' 

This was followed (the whole joint operation took no longer than three quarters of an hour) by cleaning the vestibule - the front entrance, rarely used but with a beautiful tiled floor which does need an occasional wash.   So the vestibule was duly cobwebbed, mopped and thoroughly cleaning.   Windows were also cleaned and now I feel a lot better.

There is a moral to this tale though.   Thorough and rather frantic cleaning of ceiling corners, architraves, window frames and the like with a feather duster does eventually lead to a great deal of moulting of said duster.   There are now so few feathers left that it would be a farce to use it for the purpose for which it was intended.
So a new one is on the shopping list for the next big clean behind the giant sideboard in the utility room. (easter?)
And speaking of moulting feather dusters reminds me that I must tell you of a wonderful advert which has been in the 'Pets for Sale' column of the newspaper this week.   There is a high fashion here for certain cross-breed dogs like Yorkiepoo (miniature poodle/Yorkshire terrier)  and Labradoodle (labrador/poodle).  There has been an advert for Yorkiepoo dogs for sale which says they are 'non-melting' - obviously meaning 'non-moulting' - but can't help wondering whether they have been sold.  The ad has disappeared.(or melted).

I'll sign off from my sparkling farmhouse - sitting and dining rooms to be attacked later - brass to clean, windows to clean etc.  Once my cleaner has been on Monday, that is it - decorating will take place and we shall be ready for the celebrations. 

Thursday 18 December 2014

Well, it looks as though Blogger has changed its mind again because now you don't have to put robot numbers in - you seem to have a choice.   The wonders of computers sail right over my head.  I still can't do links - can anyone tell me in easy language how to do them - it would save me having to write 'on my side bar' every time I wanted my readers to refer to a particular blog.

A week today and it is Christmas day.   Barring my on line grocery order (booked for Tuesday morning - I had to book it on November 23rd in order to get a spot, that's how manic people get) - and a spot of 'goody' shopping with friend W on Saturday morning I have finished everything.

I sometimes wonder if the women didn't do things, would it get done.  (outrage expected in my comments from the few men who 'do' Christmas).

I personally love it and get pleasure from all the preparations.   And as for those who say it is a time when families get together to fall out - well all I can say is that I have never found it so, but maybe I am just lucky.

Christmas Day - just the farmer and I - will be spent on a new giant jig saw puzzle we have bought, interspersed with games of Rummikub and a bit of television when there is something we want to watch.  Boxing Day the family and friends come for lunch and buffet in the evening.
Last evening there was a television programme where Giles Coren and  his brother in law discussed the twelve wines of Christmas.   The programme was interesting in that we visited various places at home and abroad, where liquor was produced.  But all I can say is that if we all approached Christmas intending to drink all the liquers, egg-nogs, wines, spirits and mulls they recommended we would be so 'blotto' Christmas would pass in a haze.   Maybe for those who end up falling out with their families, this would be a good idea.  Just don't get behind the wheel of a car though!

Wednesday 17 December 2014


Today was our last Poetry meeting of 2014, when ten of us met for an afternoon of Poetry in friend W's conservatory.  We had company this afternoon in the shape of an all playing (saxophone), all dancing bear which W had bought and which sat on the table in the centre of the room, giving us a burst of his playing now and again when one or the other of us pressed the right button.

Everyone had searched for Christmas=themed poetry and it was surprising what we had all found.  Highlight of course had to go to friend S, who is a Lancashire lass through and through, who read an  'Albert' (of horses head handle fame) poem about Christmas in her wonderful Lancashire accent.   J, who loves Betjamen, read his Christmas - also a favourite with us all.

Our January meeting date was fixed.   I know that we all feel the same about these meetings once a month - there is nothing to equal them - lovely poetry, good friends and a lovely room to hold the meeting in thanks to W 's hospitality.

Christmas is creeping up on us - come tomorrow morning there will only be a week left to go.   I really don't know why we get in such a state about it as really Christmas dinner is quite an easy one to cook once the turkey is in the oven, and so much of it (cranberry sauce, stuffings, red cabbage) can easily be prepared the day before and warmed up on the right day.

All my menus are prepared and shopping lists done - if I forget anything then just too bad, I have enough in the freezer to feed an army in any case.


Tuesday 16 December 2014


The farmer informed me at about eleven o'clock this morning that a load of straw was arriving at a quarter past twelve.   As he has to unload this using his tractor and working from the farm gate it takes quite a long time, so it was arranged that I went into town to do the one or two jobs I had to do and that then I got fish and chips to eat before the straw arrived.   We don't have this very often so that when we do we always enjoy it (with mushy peas and plenty of salt and vinegar - despite health warnings).

So off I duly went, sailed through the jobs I had to do, finding Christmas cake decorations easily (why don't I save them from year to year?  I always mean to and then they go missing, perhaps there is a great stock of them somewhere which will be found after I die and fashioned into a memorial), no queue at the Post Office, paying the newspaper bill for the week was easy and quick.   And so, after ringing the farmer   on my mobile to tell him I was just about to get the fish and chips (he could warm the plates and set the table while I was on my way home) I went into the shop.   

There was only one customer in front of me, obviously a man who knew the staff well, and they were having a laugh and a joke together. I had taken out my hearing aid to speak to the farmer on my mobile (luckily) so the worst of the language was out of my hearing.   But I did hear the shop assistant say several words (they were pretty loud) which I wouldn't dream of saying (or even repeating).   When she saw me coming in she put her hand over her mouth and looked quite embarrassed.

I smiled and put her at her ease and she was charming, commenting on the lovely sunshine and the convenience of having fish and chips for lunch.   But it does beg the question: who was in the right or wrong?   Is such language acceptable these days - particularly from a woman?   Am I the one that is old-fashioned?

I don't care to hear bad language from anyone, always believing that it is often poor vocabulary that causes folk to use it.   But I care to hear it even less when the speaker is a woman.   Is nothing sacred any more or is this a feminist issue that I have missed?

Monday 15 December 2014

The big day.

As you all know, we house our neighbour and friend's cattle over the winter; this usually means in-calf heifers from the milking herd of pedigree Holsteins.

Bit by bit they have been coming in, being brought round by the road from their farm, to spend the winter months in deep straw, awaiting the birth of their calves in the New Year.   But today saw a large influx as the very last came out of the fields (where there is still plenty of grass for them) and into the barn.   This was not so much because the weather is against them - they don't need to overeat when they are in calf and there is still plenty of sunshine most days.  The reason they have come in is because they need to be kept together for tomorrow and also easily accessible.   It is a big day.

The TB tester is coming to test the whole herd for TB.   This is always a tense time for farmers and although we are not in an area where TB is a real scourge, it will still be a great relief when the testing has been done.   We have our fingers crossed that every single cow will test negative.

Sunday 14 December 2014


Have you noticed how the smallest of things can trigger a memory of a happening many years ago and bring it all back as though it were yesterday?

I had absolutely no cake for tea unless I broke into my Christmas Mince Pies which are frozen and in the freezer for chance-callers over the Christmas period.  So I decided to make some fairy cakes (or queen cakes as we always called them when I was a child) - they only take a few minutes to make and are not absolutely loaded with calories, which the farmer and I are both avoiding in the run-up to Christmas.

And as I was beating the mixture the memory came flooding back. My Uncle Albert was a confirmed bachelor and lived alone in a lovely cottage in a village in Lincolnshire.   He had lived with his mother until she died and had carried on where she had left off - keeping the house cleaned and polished, the silver gleaming and everything neat and tidy.   His hobby was embroidery and he embroidered each of his nephews and nieces a tablecloth for a Christmas present (I still have mine more than sixty years later and it is beautiful).   His day job was being a plate-layer on the railway - what could be more different?

It was while doing this job that he met his wife, my Auntie Jessie.  She was a spinster, also living alone, and her garden backed on to the railway line.   Whenever Albert was working in the vicinity of her garden they would chat, she would bring him tasty little cakes (and it is rumoured port wine) to the fence.   They married and Albert, who had visited our house regularly, began to enthuse about Jessie's cooking.

My mother, I think, was rather jealous of Jessie's ability in the kitchen - and particularly of her Queen cakes.   If Albert was working near our house he would pop in for lunch and if I was at home (I was a very young child) he would give me Jessie's Queen cake from his lunch box.   And so it was that I began to enthuse about Jessie's Queen cakes too.

Mother asked her for the recipe, but it was jealously guarded.   Mother insisted that she used her butter ration to make them (it was war time) while Jessie insisted that she only used margarine.   The feud continued for as long as I can remember.   Mother would try to make them but she never succeeded it getting them as good.   Jessie triumphed.

And obviously she is doing so still - she must have been dead for at least forty years and yet I still remember her superiority in the Queen cake department!

Friday 12 December 2014

Magic or what?

Getting up in the night and looking out of the window was to see a magical world.   Snow was falling, it was still and silent and all the fields, walls and hedges were covered with icing. 

At day break, as the sun rose it came up into an almost clear blue sky.  The temperature was just above freezing so that the roads and footpaths were not slippery and it really was a lovely day.

It is market day in our little town and the Christmas tree stall was doing a roaring trade, as was the greengrocer.  Our meeting for coffee (a group of us meet every Friday) was, as usual, a jolly affair.

But by afternoon the sky had gone from that lovely deep blue to a pale, icy blue.   The wind has risen and the ice was back.  It is really not a nice day at all.   The trouble is that after such a mild winter up here in the Yorkshire Dales last year, we are just not accustomed to it.   Say this to the farmer and he will tell you tales of when the snow was wall-height and they were having to dig the sheep out.

I have just been into town again and coming back I must say that I looked at the sheep, digging into the covering of snow to get at the grass, and marvelled at how hardy these Swaledale sheep are.   This morning they have had a pedicure and antibiotic where necessary and all have had a drench against fluke.   They would not survive indoors, however much we feel like bringing them in and keeping them warm; they are bred for wintry conditions.

The weather forecast says it will gradually get warmer over the weekend.   Well, it can't come soon enough for me.   The only thing that keeps me cheerful is that if I lived in Norway it would be dark as well.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Birds (the feathered variety).

The farmer spends a fortune on bird food.   We buy it from our feed merchants, along with the hen food and the dog and cat food.   We feed the birds all year round, but moreso in Winter - and this kind of weather especially.

They get peanuts, sunflower seeds, mixed seed, niger seed. fat balls, dried meal worms and kitchen scraps (in moderation).   The meal worms go on to the bird table and the robin guards them with his life - they are an aggressive little bird despite their pretty appearance and robins would kill for a dried meal worm!

The greater spotted woodpeckers like the peanuts best of all and when they are around all the other birds keep away - there is definitely a pecking order.

The blue, coal and great tits adore half coconut shells filled with seeds and fat.   We buy two each week and both are gone in two days.   Then they turn their attention to the niger seeds and the mixed seed.

I also throw suet on to the ground when the weather is really bad, because the blackbirds really love this.   The goldfinches and greenfinches prefer the mixed seed and the sunflower hearts.

But none of this prepares us for the biggest surprise of all - it happens every year.   Once the cooler weather comes we get - literally - a flock of pheasants.   At present we have eleven hens and one cock bird, but I have no doubt the number will increase; last year we ended up with twenty four hens.   I don't think they leave the bird table and the garden all day.   They come in and stand waiting for the poultry wheat the farmer throws down for them - they gather round his feet for it and never move away. Then they spend some time under the bird feeders hoovering up the smaller seeds which have dropped when the small birds are feeding.   Then they all go into our front, walled garden, where they scratch about in the soil for grubs. Once they have had their fill they stand about in the sun, or in bad weather they huddle under the shrubs looking thoroughly miserable.

Later in the afternoon they go back to the bird table to peck at any small seeds on the ground, and then they sit in a row on the garden wall and wait for evening.   Just before sunset they fly up into the Scots Pine Trees and roost for the night. How they manage on these very stormy nights I really don't know - they must have to cling on like mad and surely get little sleep.

I am sure if we had a hen hut for them they would probably go in it.
We just hope they stay here.   There are so many 'shoots' around the area (including ours) and if they stay here then they are safe.   It is almost as though they understand that.

But whatever the reason, we look forward to 'our' pheasants coming each year and taking up residence.   There is always at least one hen who rears her young in our front garden.   I think they must know instinctively that we mean them no harm.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Stormy weather.

The weather here has been absolutely awful, with the first real storm of Winter coming in off the Atlantic.   This means the for once the Western side of the country has had it much worse than we have over here in the East.   The winds have been very strong in the far North, but here in The Dales we have really only caught the tail end of the storm.   However, that was quite enough for me; each time a squally shower arrived the wind picked up and the sky went black and for twenty minutes or so it was awful.   I must point out that in spite of this, the lady in our exercise class who is over ninety years old, still walked up through the town from her bungalow to join in as usual. 

Tea in the cafe afterwards was a jolly affair and we all received a hot mince pie with our pots of tea, courtesy of the cafe.   What a nice touch.

 One good thing about wearing a hearing aid (the only thing as far as I am concerned) is that when I take it out at bedtime it doesn't matter how the wind screams and the windows rattle, I can't hear a thing!   More nasty weather on the way for tomorrow.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

'The Goose is Getting Fat'

How customs change over the years.   When we were children we used to go round the village carol singing.  When we had finished singing the carol we would recite the rhyme
'Christmas is coming,
The goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny then a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny then God Bless You!
Then we would knock on the door in the hope of a coin or two or a sweet each.

These days children don't seem to go round carol singing in small groups any more - sad, but with all the traffic about then perhaps it is as well.   Carol singers in our village, if they come at all, would come in a large choir.

Luckily some customs do continue and I love it all.   What I do not like is leaving everything to the last minute, so I like to plan the whole thing and tick things off my list - and this I am doing.

Today it was the day for buying my Christmas plants to cheer the house up.  We are very lucky here that we have a huge wholesale/retail place where the plants are first class quality.   The farmer and I went together this afternoon.   It is a lovely journey of around ten miles or so, through pretty countryside.  Once there we bought two holly wreaths (for two graves we keep up at Christmas), an azalea plant in full bloom (which is now cheering up my kitchen window sill), two cyclamen in full flower, a poinsettia, and a bowl of deep pink hyacinths just coming into bud.

Driving through our little town there are twinkling lights everywhere.   Decorating the house here is a job for Christmas Eve.  My next job is to write out my Christmas menus and make sure everything that can be bought in advance is bought and in the freezers.

I love the whole thing about Christmas and shall keep it up as long as I am able, although today's visit to the Physiotherapist has meant that this evening I am finding it difficult to walk after her half hour's work on my ankle and my knee.  Hopefully today's suffering will mean tomorrow I shall be skipping like a two year old - well perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration!  But it is our last exercise class before Christmas and we are off for afternoon tea afterwards.

Monday 8 December 2014

Dealing with various issues.

Several things were raised by people who visited my blog yesterday, so I thought I would answer them all for today's post.

First of all Donna Tartt's 'The Goldfinch', which I believe reached number 5 on the Best Seller list.   A friend, S, lent it to me and I must say I am finding it a struggle.   I think I rather agree with Rachel who says that Donna Tartt always seems to use one thousand words where any other writer would only use five hundred.  It is certainly not the best book I have read this year, but I shall soldier on.

The same friend, S, also lent me 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.   Now that I really did enjoy - so much so that I intend to read it again.  It is so well written and such a gripping story - if you get a chance to read it, please do.

The other issue raised by readers of my blog is the issue of mistletoe.   I love it - I love to see it growing on apple trees although it is a parasite and I presume that the growers in Hereford and Worcester are happy for the trees to die if they get a good crop of mistletoe at Christmas.  Certainly driving through the county there are many orchards which seem to be given over entirely to its growing.

Now to the weather, which has taken a decidedly wintry turn here, and I understand we are faring much better than those further North.   There is a strong, bitterly cold gale blowing and although the sun is shining in a pale, wintry sky, every now and then clouds rush in and we get a wintry squall.  There is a strong urge to keep warm on my part especially when Heather reminded me of the 'old days' when the inside of our bedroom windows used to freeze up each morning.

Finally to last night's snooker final, which was absolutely gripping.  It is a sport which usually leaves me cold, but when the underdog (Trump) comes from 9/4 down to level pegging (when the winner was the first to reach 10) I put my book down and watch.   The favourite (O'Sullivan) did finally triumph, but not before Trump gave him a scare (as he admitted in his victory speech).

Sunday 7 December 2014

A First Taste of Winter.

Well, it had to come didn't it; that first morning when the wind was blowing from the North East and was strong and cutting. And when one minute there would be a 'glishy' sun, the next black clouds would cover the sun and heavy sleet/snow would fall for a few minutes.   In other words it is a day when it is better for staying indoors by the wood burner than it is for walking.   The farmer kindly took Tess for her lunchtime walk - I couldn't face the cold.

I imagine the television will be on before long as it is the Snooker final from the Barbican (O'Sullivan v Trump) and the farmer is a keen fan.  I am not but I must say that last night's cliff hanger of a semi final did find me putting down my book (Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch) and watching the action.

Our little town switched on its Christmas lights last night and Santa made a visit to the market square.   Tonight our village is doing the same (mince pies and mulled wine added).   We just have to face up to it - Christmas is creeping nearer.

We resist decorating until Christmas Eve when we make a real day of it, putting up the holly wreaths and the lights, stoking up the fires, heating the mince pies and starting Christmas from that point.   There will be no berries left on the variegated holly tree which stands just outside the kitchen window - a blackbird visits daily and takes a few at a time (well, I presume it is the same bird).   I don't really begrudge him his feed - his need is far greater than ours.

When I lived in the Midlands my then husband and I used to visit Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire at the beginning of December to see the Mistletoe Auction (and hopefully to buy a bunch to hang in the doorway).   Driving through Herefordshire and Worcestershire you realise just how plentiful mistletoe is as it hangs in great swags from all the trees in the apple orchards.   I have tried poking a seed down into the branches of apple trees many times over the years but I have never succeeded in getting one to grow.

As I write this the sun is shining again.   The farmer has just come back from his walk and tells me that Tess has jumped into my chair by the Aga and settled down on my cushion for the afternoon.   She is not allowed on the furniture, but I just haven't the heart to move her (and what is more she knows it).   I am far too daft with that dog. 

Saturday 6 December 2014

Brightening the day.

Comments on my yesterday's post about how such posts brighten the day, leads me to think positively about just such an activity.   Every time I switch the news on on the television (once a day only - at the tea-time slot) it is always doom and gloom - either world affairs (which hardly bear thinking about) or home affairs (government) or murders and mayhem (so very depressing). Our local news is usually worse.  Almost always the headline is about a murder or a mugging or some poor soul who has gone missing - and the rest of the news is usually dominated by our local football teams - Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and York (sorry Rachel, but I do find this boring); about Managers who come and go (I have never understood how a Manager can make a lot of difference = he isn't actually kicking the ball, is he?)

So this is really a plea in the run up to Christmas - shall we all make a gigantic effort to be upbeat on our blogs, to be cheerful and to look for the fun in life?   It is going to be hard, I know - but do let's try.

Here's a start.   There were thirteen hen pheasants eating around our bird table this morning.   Our black farm cat suddenly appeared and ran through the middle of them, pretending to ignore them all.   They rose as one bird and chased him off their patch - I have never seen him run so fast.   Pheasants 1, Blackie 0.

Afternoon - came back from the village coffee morning - lovely atmosphere, glorious log fire burning in the grate, delicious mince pies with brandy butter baked by K, who serves them every Christmas.   The farmer is out shooting, so decided to make mince pies for the freezer.   Just started when I happened to look out of the kitchen window - and look what was going past.   I was too late to capture the hounds, or the lovely Shetland Pony being led past - but here are some of the riders, the Huntsman, the chap who follows on the quad bike with fence posts to repair any fences they knock down - and a huge trail of hunt followers in their four tracks.   Watch out Mr. Fox!

Friday 5 December 2014


I was a school-teacher for many years - starting off teaching children (and adults) with learning difficulties, then Primary school for a short while, and finally the bulk of my teaching career in Comprehensive heading a unit for children with learning and also with language difficulties (this was an inner city school with a large, new immigrant population with many non- English speakers).

Of course all teachers remember some pupils and forget others - we can't possibly remember them all.   And I have to say that usually the ones I remember were either the difficult ones with behavioural problems (but who often were such lovely children underneath that exterior layer), and also many of the children with learning difficulties.

My first school was what was then known as a 'Special School' for children with fairly mild learning difficulties.  Some of these children I shall never forget because of the pleasure it gave me to teach them, and to see them make tiny steps of progress.

Every Christmas I remember one little boy in particular and I would like to tell you about him.   He was around nine years old, an only child and very much loved by his parents.  He came from quite a poor family, but what they lacked in material things they more than made up for in love.

S, the little boy, rarely spoke - a mixture of shyness and difficulty in speaking I think.   Whatever the reason whenever any school play  happened, S never got a speaking part - for obvious reasons.

We had a Ladybird Book on Saint Boniface and my class loved it.   I can't remember the story except that it involved Boniface crossing the sea in a boat to tour Europe, and I rather think the a Christmas tree was involved.

I recorded the story in brief on tape (yes, it was that long ago) and decided that if the class acted it out they could do so in mime.   And this meant that S would not be left out.   And so it was that S became Saint Boniface.   I made him a canoe like boat out of cardboard.   The whole thing was in mime and we finished by singing the carol 'O Christmas Tree' - the class sang and Boniface stood in the front and held a small Christmas tree covered with sparkling lights.

He was so excited that he told his parents which night to come and he had got the wrong night.   They arrived to find the school in darkness and had to come again (quite a few miles on two buses) the next night.   But it was worth it - they were thrilled, S got a standing ovation, his mother was in tears of pride.   I have never forgotten that night and I think of it every year as Christmas approaches.

Thursday 4 December 2014


I have just sent my niece an e mail to make sure she will be in when a parcel arrives by post.   Yes, I could have phoned, but I rather like rambling on in an e mail - and she would probably have been out anyway.

And it struck me as I wrote it just how much the elderly miss out on if they refuse to embrace modern technology.   So many folk I know say they are too old to bother with computers.   Other friends, particularly those I meet with for coffee each Friday morning, have mobile phones, i-pads, laptops, and get such a lot of fun out of them.   They all feel their lives are fuller with all this modern 'stuff'.

There really is no need to learn  more than how to send (and receive) an e mail, although I would guess that once that 'skill' has been learned most folk would wish to venture further.

If the weather is cold, wet, windy, snowing (or any combination of these) and I don't have to go out, I can switch on the laptop, go to my blog, read everyone on my side bar, put on a post of my own and before I know it, it is tea time.  The farmer is unlikely to be in however severe the weather - he has a very large shed and there is always plenty to do, particularly sawing up logs for the wood burner.

And, speaking of the wood burner, a large holly tree, which has been dead for some time, fell over in the field yesterday.   I must say I love holly, and the thought of burning it at Christmas is a good one.   It has been dead for so long that it is well-seasoned - and nothing burns better than holly wood.   So the farmer now has plenty to do getting that lot sawn up.   Good job he has a chain saw certificate!

Wednesday 3 December 2014


Some days can be jolly frustrating, can't they?

Today is Exercise Class at 1.30pm, and I arrived to be told that the tutor was unable to come as her car had broken down.   She had only just rung, so there had been almost no time to work through the list of those intending to come.   T is pretty well down the list, so I made a useless journey.

Thinking to salvage something I went round to our Medical Centre to collect a Prescription from the Dispensary, only to find a notice saying that in future the Dispensary (from December 1st) would close from 1pm to 2pm.

The saving grace is that it is a glorious day - sharp cold and sunny and still.   There was a hard frost, which has fetched the last of the leaves off the trees - and made the robin's song clearer than usual.   How lucky we are to have that little bird singing all Winter when all the other birds lie low.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Waiting for Wednesday.

A friend has lent me the book 'Waiting for Wednesday' by Nicci French.   Nicci French is a pseudonym for Nicci Gerard and Sean French, husband and wife journalists.   It is a murder mystery and I have really enjoyed it.   If you like a good murder, then look out for any of their books as they are always very readable.

But it is highly complicated.   There are two or three strands/stories going on at the same time and they become interwoven and then go off at tangents from one another.

The writing of this kind of book really interests me.   How does the writer keep tabs on all his/her characters, making sure there is continuity and making sure that the story follows through?

In pre-computer days I can only think it would have to be done with hundreds of cards stuck on a huge wall board, with arrows leading from one to another, sometimes intersecting, sometimes moving apart.   Now I presume it can be done on some kind of giant spread sheet (which goes right over my head.)

Does the author (or in this case authors) decide right at the beginning who is the murderer, or does this maybe evolve as the story line builds up?

And are there little flaws, which the reader probably misses completely, but which the authors spotted too late?   I suspect there are, but I certainly have not found any.

Do read it if you get half a chance - and let me know what you think of it.

Monday 1 December 2014

Good fences make good neighbours.

 So, December has arrived.   You could be forgiven for thinking it was still dull November if you looked out of the window, for it is dark, dull, misty and thoroughly miserable out there.  I can't believe that yesterday we were lucky enough to go out over the top of the Pennines in such glorious weather.

Most of the cattle are gone back to their owners for the Winter.

All the rest are
 in our loose housing waiting the birth of their calves (our neighbour's milking herd).   But this does not mean that farm work is done for another year.   The farmer disappears after breakfast and returns exactly on time for his lunch (12.30).

Today has been his day for inspecting all his hedges, fences and stone boundary walls.   Cows are pretty ungainly, heavy creatures and can easily dislodge a few stones from the top of a wall, or knock over a couple of fence posts and barge through the wire fence in order to get at what looks to be a delicious piece of grass.  Sheep , on the other hand, take delight in pushing through hedges - I suppose their wool protects their skin if the hedge is sharp and prickly.

But whatever the reasons, Robert Frost was right when he said 'Good fences make good neighbours' in his poem 'Mending Walls'.  The farmer is making notes, measuring, weighing up, and tonight he will be making a list of the stakes and rails and wire netting he needs to make his repairs.   Once these come, he will wait for a reasonably nice day, tootle out to the field on his tractor and make the necessary repairs.

Then he can let the sheep into the offending fields and (hopefully) they will stay exactly where he put them.   But don't bank on it.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Ravenstonedale Chase

Today the farmer, Tess and I have been through Wensleydale, along to The Moorcock  Pub (on the edge of the Carlisle to Settle railway) and then up the side of the railway as far as Lady Anne Clifford's Pendragon Castle, where we turned left across Ravenstonedale Chase and through to the village of Ravenstonedale for lunch in The Black Swan with my God-daughter and her husband.  It is a gloriously wild, untamed area up there with miles with no habitation.   You really get some idea of how very bleak it must have been in Lady Anne's day.

Lunch was splendid (baked ham with mustard and ginger sauce

for me and brisket of beef for the farmer), the company was first class, and - for the first time in four long days - we saw wall to wall sunshine.   It has been foggy here since Wednesday morning, and today the sun shone.   There were clouds, which always makes the Dales exciting because some areas will be in sunshine and some in shade, making for fine views.

Coming back, the sunset was spectacular and I managed a shot, although do bear in mind it was (as were all the other shots) from a moving car.   A lovely day out.

Sorry it is a hurried post, but there is a queue to use my computer. Sorry also that my pictures have appeared in the middle of the writing.   Can you spot the farmer walking Tess up on the Chase - fairly high up on the left of one of the pictures?

Saturday 29 November 2014


It is often said that 'old' people become invisible in the street; that we go about our daily tasks and nobody notices us, unless we dress outrageously, or sing loudly as we walk along.

We were talking about this at our Friday coffee group when one of our friends spoke about being in a shop in our little market town.   The shop is a popular one , selling 'home made' cakes and pies - perfect fodder for the working men of the town, who pop in for a pie for elevenses or a cake to eat with their coffee.

She was in there waiting to be served when a young workman came blustering in, pushed in front of her and ordered his pie or whatever.   She wondered whether to accost him and say that she was first, but decided against it in case she got a mouth-full of abuse.   Straight afterwards, another young man, obviously a colleague, came in, joined the first young man and placed his order. All this time our friend stood waiting to be served.   To add insult to injury their loud voices were peppered with foul language.   She felt like telling them to curb it, but decided against it.   My question is this - when the first young man pushed in front of her, should she have said 'Excuse me but I think it is my turn.'  And when the second chap arrived and the bad language started, should she have told them to curb it (and risk a mouth-full aimed at her)?

Talking it over with the farmer last night, his opinion was that it should have been up to the shop assistant  to a) serve my friend first and b) tell them to curb their language.   This begs the questions - did she realise that my friend was first (invisibility theory at play here, although my friend does wear a red anorak), and also would the complaint about the language (to which she may be very used) just mean that they wouldn't come into the shop again and the shop would lose custom?

This kind of dilemma must be played out a dozen times every day in some shop or other.   As elderly folk we really should not put up with such behaviour, but what can we do about it?   I am sure my friend will be interested in what you have to say.

*On reading this through, another thought occurs to me.   These two young men, most likely living in our little town anyway, have no doubt got mums and grans at home, and would not dream of using that kind of language in front of them - and most likely go our of their way to be helpful at home.   So what happens to them to make them so different once they are in their working environment?

Thursday 27 November 2014


It seems that Winter has more or less arrived.   I know that officially it doesn't start until the 21st December, but today is a typical Winter's Day and I hate it, especially as it is only November.   A day like this at the end of February is to be tolerated because you know Winter is almost over.

November 25th - a dull, dark day - never getting even a vestige of daylight.   A deep mist cloaks everything and hangs low in the fields leaving its taint on the cobwebs which hang heavy in the hedgerow.

Everythings looks to have gone into hibernation.   Even the rabbits seem to be absent from the fields, although they must come out to eat at some point.   The hens, who could spend the day happily in the hen house in their clean, fresh straw, choose to come out into the farm yard and stand about in small bedraggled clusters, heads down, thoroughly miserable.

In our little town the Christmassy windows of the shops are making an effort to cheer the place upbut there is hardly a soul about to appreciate it.

Our wood burner is out of action for a couple of days as we wait for a new glass (the farmer was adding the new bits he had bought and he accidentally dropped the glass, so we are waiting for a replacement which should be here tomorrow) so we have the central heating on - not the same without that lovely red glow.

All the cattle have gone now and the fields are empty and forlorn - and they will stay like this until Spring - which I must say seems a long way off today.

Wednesday 26 November 2014


We had to go to our nearest town, Northallerton, this morning and the farmer went into the Heating Centre to collect a parcel and I sat in the car in the car park.   There were about a dozen other cars there and I found it interesting, as people came out of the centre, to speculate which car they would go to.

First came a lady, possibly in her seventies, but very smartly turned out.   Hair grey, swept into a chignon held up by a tortoiseshell clip, black trousers and jacket,  knee high red boots, she was slim and elegant.  I guessed right - a Volvo sporty car a couple of years old.

Then came a middle-aged couple, both overweight, both wearing fleeces (I hate fleeces), both looking a bit scruffy - again I guessed right when they approached and got into an old banger.

A man in a check jacket and wearing green wellies - a Range Rover - right again.

At this point the farmer came out so the game was over, but we went into our Farming Merchant's shop next door to go up into their cafe for a coffee and a scone.   Not surprisingly the cafe was full of 'farming types' all eating heartily.   The food was good and definitely substantial - we had a scone each and they were huge and cheap! Anyone seeing these folk would know they were farming types.

All the way home I was thinking about how we project our image to people.   If, like me, you have moved around the country, had various jobs and lived various life styles, then you must surely have developed several different persona.   Does this make us more complex characters?   Or do we just have a wider experience of life but possibly on a more superficial level.

The farmer is a farmer, is a farmer.   He has never lived anywhere other than here on the farm, and all his experience has been in farming so that he has a deep knowledge of all things farming.   My experience on the other hand, spans only twenty or so years.

All a bit complicated I know - and I am sorry if you think I am writing rubbish - but it really interests me, even if I am not putting it very well.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The passing of the old.

A village stalwart has passed away this week - a charming lady who has had far more than her share of illness over the past few years, and a lady who has been a pillar of the community as long as I have lived here - and many years before that.   In old photographs of the village she is always there - arranging the flowers, singing in the choir, helping at village occasions.   She will be greatly missed, not only by her family but also but the village and the church community.

Her passing made me think of village characters who pass away and I knew that somewhere in one of Ronald Blythe's books there was a passage on just such a theme and I was pretty sure it was under an article on All Souls' Day.

So this morning I looked it up and read it.   He says, 'I am suddenly struck by how swiftly they vanish.  Here today and gone tomorrow.  Why hasn't the village collapsed as prop after prop is taken away?   How is it that church-wise they have all gone without leaving an unfillable space?   Something strange here.   Is this what mortality is?

Even after all these years since my first husband died (23) these words are so real - that is village living I suppose. Whatever the answer is I know that the whole village will mourn her passing.

Monday 24 November 2014

Three cheers for us oldies.

He's done it!   I did a post about him when he set off - so here's one when he has arrived.   Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, at the ripe old age of 75has arrived in Guadeloupe in his 60ft yacht 'Grey Power', after coming Third in the solo trans-Atlantic race Route de Rhum.

He was the first man to sail solo and non-stop round the world in 1968/9.   He says about this recent race that he is 'absolutely over the moon to come third.  It is quite fantastic.'   All I can say is well done Sir Robin - I absolutely agree with you.   Three cheers for all of us oldies.

And while we are on the subject of 'honours' for G B - well done too to Lewis Hamilton on becoming World Champion in Formula 1 for the second time.    Wonder what he will do when he is 75.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Busy days

I had no time to post yesterday -out with friends, as usual, in the morning (couldn't miss that) and then 'Dear Diary' class in the afternoon (only one more to go, so shall really miss that after next Friday).

Today the farmer is shooting and I have been to Teesside Park Shopping Centre with friend W.  It is a venture into the 'real world' from our quiet little backwater (long may it remain that way) but it has meant that shopping in M and S has put a whole load of Christmas food into the freezer - the turkey, a nice joint of beef, a couple of vegetarian dishes (moussaka and a cheese, potato and onion pie) and two packs of 'ready to roast' parsnips.  A chunk of my family is vegetarian, so I always have to be prepared.   A couple of quiches without chorizo and a couple of pizzas and I am ready to go.   Luckily they all adore my trifle, which is made in a trice, so that's it really. 

Friends are coming to tea tomorrow, which will be nice - a nice chat and a nice little afternoon tea.   What's not to like?

All our friends in the US seem to be having a terrible time with snow - here in the uk I think we just hope we don't end up getting it too.   So often, what starts over there finds its way over here later.

Our journey to Teesside Park (due East from here) was a journey in and out of fog.   Sometimes the sun could be glimpsed pushing its way through the cloud, other times it was dark with thick fog.   When we came out of the shop the sky was blue and there was a glorious sun shining.    But we came back through fog again before the sun met us near to home.

I was reading John Clare's Shepherd's Calendar for November the other day - my goodness, how well he knew his countryside and the seasons.   As the poor man spent so much of his life in what was in those days called a 'lunatic asylum' one wonders how much better a life he would have had these days - drugs have made all the difference in so many cases like his.   Thank goodness such places, with their draconian ways, no longer exist.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Barking Mad

When we let Tess out into the yard last night at around ten-thirty, for her last wee before we went to bed, she went out of the back door in an absolute frenzy - and barked and barked.   Up and down the grass under the pine trees she roared, barking all the time and going mad.

The reason?   A huge flock of geese were flying over and chatting amongst themselves as they made their journey.   I love to see these skeins of geese fly over in the day time and to see in which direction they are flying.   But these were airborne well after dark - it had just not occurred to me that they made journeys in the dark.   But when you think about it, all the birds who migrate must travel in the dark as well as in the light, or they would never get there.

Sorry I missed them though. 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Fitness League

'Fitnessbeing relative, of course.

Wednesday is the day that we go to the Fitness League class for an hour of strenuous (for me) exercise for the over sixties.   It is done to music, which does help as it keeps us all moving.   But it is jolly hard work and I always come home feeling better for it but also absolutely staggering with the effort.   Today is no exception.

If John is reading this and wondering whether an exercise class might help him to lose that extra weight, I should tell him that one of the highlights of this class is a lovely lady who absolutely loves baking and who turns up each week with a box of cakes for afterwards (this week butterfly buns with butter cream studded with ju-jubes - delicious).

The news on the television has just shown fifteen feet of snow in some parts of the United States - the weather man assures us that it is not coming here - let's hope not, we don't want snow as early as this do we?

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Out to lunch AGAIN.

Out to lunch today with friend S - poor farmer didn't have to fend for himself as we didn't go until just after twelve o'clock, so he came in a bit early for his lunch.   We went to Berry's cafe in the village of Swinithwaite in Wensleydale.   It is always a reliable place to get a lovely meal with lovely atmosphere in which to eat it.   Today there was an added reason for going because about eighteen months ago a large beech tree blew down on the Swinithwaite estate and now someone has hollowed it out by hand to make a viking boat - and we wanted to see it.   It is lovely and I am sure the children will adore it.
Lunch was delicious too - club sandwich with chips and salad for friend S and crab cakes for me - followed by ice cream for both of us and a pot of tea.   Then it was home through the very few miles, stopping on the driveway to photograph their two llamas who always seem interested in what is going on, except when you want to take their photograph, when they are intent upon eating.   And knowing how llamas can spit without warning, I didn't want to get too close!
A lovely surprise through the post this morning from Gayle and the Square Ones (see my side bar) - when a belated birthday card arrived from them.   I love belated cards - they make one's birthday last a little longer.  So, thank you Gayle for making my morning - and especially for the exquisite drawing you had done on the back of the envelope.
Today is a beautiful Autumn day here in the Yorkshire Dales and I must say the Dales looked at their absolute best as we made our journey to and from the restaurant.   Bolton Castle - a fourteenth century castle on the daleside - stood out in the Autumn mist majestically.

Monday 17 November 2014

Sunday Lunches

Out to lunch yesterday (Sunday), the farmer, friend W and I.   Other friends also lunching in the same venue, so that we met and chatted to six other folk while we were there.

The farmer had roast pork (with crackling) and W and I had slow roast leg of lamb - with these came Yorkshire puddings (2 each if we wished), gravy in a gravy boat, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, carrots, diced turnips, roast potatoes and a roast parsnip each.  Are you full up just reading this?   Would you believe that we all had a pudding afterwards, the farmer pear crumble and the two of us raspberry meringue roulade. After coffee in the lounge we staggered out to the car and drove home.  None of us had another crumb to eat on Sunday.

One of the main reasons I like to go out to lunch on Sunday (the traditional day here in the UK for a roast lunch) is that as there are only two of us, any joint of meat I buy will be very small.   When we go out we are eating slices cut from a whole leg of lamb or a very large joint of pork or beef - and it tastes so much better.  

The farmer and I were talking at lunch time about our childhood and Sunday lunch and we both agreed - our parents bought a large joint (and usually rotated between pork, beef and lamb with maybe a chicken now and again, although chicken was a luxury food in those days and chicken for us was usually old hen from our own flock and she had to be boiled and eaten with white sauce.  And mother always had to lie and say it wasn't one of ours, otherwise I wouldn't eat it!)

That large joint was eaten hot on Sunday, cold slices on Monday (wash day) with fried vegetables (remember bubble and squeak?), cottage or shepherd's pie on Tuesday and perhaps even Wednesday as well, with plenty of veg to eke the meat out further.  Our mothers were jolly good managers and  certainly in the case of my own mother there was never that much money to spare.  But by golly we ate well, supplemented as we were by plenty of vegetables out of the garden (no frozen food for us, we didn't even have a fridge).

Not really back to 'normal' eating today - still taking it steady!

Sunday 16 November 2014

My diary

Well, dear readers, how fascinating my one-year diary turned out to be.   I kept it in four spiral notebooks, one for each season, from Autumn 2010 to Autumn 2011 and reading through it reminded me of so many things I had completely forgotten.   There were records of people who had called to see us and what I had given them to eat, records of places the farmer and I had visited (it was the year we went to The Netherlands, so there was quite a lot about the various art work there), it happened to be the year when I had been airlifted to hospital (only a couple of weeks ago the farmer and I were trying to decide how long ago it was) - and there were so many incidents in it about which I had completely forgotten.

I shall certainly pass it on one day to my son, although whether he will want to be bothered with it is up to him.   At present he seems to have little interest in Family History.   And on the subject - it was always spoken in our family about my mother's brother, Uncle Abe, who farmed in the Lincolnshire Wolds where I spent many happy holidays in my childhood, how he had won the Military Medal in the First World War.   A friend has recently researched it for me and there is no record of this at all.  It seems it was a Family Myth - and I would guess that there are plenty of those around.

This morning, now that the early mist has cleared, there is a pale sun shining and it is still - in other words a lovely Autumn morning.   I am enjoying a relaxing morning as, along with friend W and the farmer, we are going out for Sunday lunch.   Lovely not to think about what to cook.


Saturday 15 November 2014

Dear Diary

Friend W and I are still attending a Friday afternoon class in our little market town.   The class is called 'Dear Diary' and each week our Lecturer takes a different diary she has researched in the County Records Office and we read it and discuss it.   It is fascinating stuff.

This week it was a diary kept by two young school boys just before their teenage years.   They lived with their Grandparents in the Vale of York on a small farm.  Their mother had died and their father was a grocer in Manchester, who paid infrequent visits to see them.

We know that later on they both joined their father in the grocery business and moved to Manchester, but here they are aged around 10 (one follows the other in the book, which was obviously kept safe in the farmhouse, where nothing was wasted, not even a simple book like this.)

The date is the early 1840's and so it has survived for over 150 years.   What a treasure, thanks to it being handed down through the family until finally a distant relative handed it in to the County Record Office for safe keeping.   Very thoughtful I would say, when many folk might have destroyed it.   It is invaluable.

There is a lot about the weather, the barley crop, the mowing and gathering in of the crops, the picking and storing of the apples, the milking of the cow, and a lot about what time it is (to the exact second).  But also there are various mathematical puzzles.   I can surmise that Grandmother (or Grandfather) made them do school work in the holidays, particularly maths puzzles, in preparation for their employment in a grocery shop.  They did both go as day boys to a local school.  Here is one puzzle (our tutor did give us the answer the boys gave!)

"How many drops of rain are there in a thundershower supposing that it stretches three miles in length and two in breadth, that during its whole continuance the drops fell at the rate of 1820 per minute upon each square yard and it lasted forty minute."

These diaries are so important when thinking about the past and they are wonderful to read through.   Another friend E, has kept a diary for many years - writing it daily and sticking into it pictures which are applicable to what she has written.  I do hope that in two hundred years somebody is reading that.   It takes some patience to keep it up.  I tried in and managed from Autumn 2010  until the beginning of Autumn 2011,   I have just found it on the bookshelf, so am off to make myself a cup of coffee and read what I did that year.   One of the four Christmas cakes I make each year (three as presents) is in the oven so I have to stay near.

Oh and, by the way, I wonder how many ten year olds could work out that puzzle these days without a calculator.


Thursday 13 November 2014

They are here!

Just in time.   The farmer cleaned out the loose housing earlier this week and spread the 'muck' on the fields.   Yesterday he spread a deep layer of straw and this morning the farmer's son called to say he was walking over the fields with the first cows this afternoon, for their winter stay.
And here they are, complete with the salt licks to aid their digestion (i.e. make them drink more).   All are (hopefully) in calf and all look jolly happy to be inside as it is an awful dark, cold day today. They walked across the fields (the farmer's two sons rode behind them on the quad bike), came in and went straight for the silage.

I love it when they come for the Winter (these will be here until a week or two before they are due to calve unless there are complications) because it means there is always life in the yard when I go down to get the car out of the garage.   Even the farm cats, Blackie and Creamy were out and about, watching the proceedings - I think they are pleased too.

Wednesday 12 November 2014


I have just returned from my weekly exercise class and I am exhausted, as always, so I know if I sit down to watch the antiques programme we always watch over our tea (boiled eggs tonight), I shall not get round to posting a blog today.   And that would never do.  I know it is doing me good to have an hour's strenuous exercise (strenuous for me that is) and our tutor really does put us through it,  I never feel like going and I always come home feeling better for it.

Then tonight there is one of our favourite programmes on the television when Michael Portillo journeys by rail down the spine of Italy.   We watch his programme every week and once we see past his coloured jackets (pink, yellow, aquamarine to name but three) we love the snippets of information, the people he meets, the countryside zipping past the train window  - what is there not to like?  And yet the Times critic (in this case I think it was Andrew Billen) absolutely slaughtered the programme last week, talking of him behaving like a peacock strutting up and down the train.   He gave the programme only two out of five stars.  As friend W and I agreed on our way home from the exercise class, sometimes these television 'critics' seem to have watched an entirely different programme from the one we watched.

I had a lovely surprise in the post today when Siri, daughter of Margaret of Thousand Flower on my side bar, sent me the most beautiful card with a hare on it (I collect hares - pictures, statuettes, cars - anything with a hare on it) and one I have not had before.   So thank you Thousand Flower - it is most appreciated.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

November 11th.

 So many wars, so much killing and maiming, and often it is difficult to answer the question 'for what?'   Today, a particularly poignant Remembrance Day as it is one hundred years since the outbreak of the Great War,  all the usual sights were there.   The thousands of poppies representing all the hundreds of thousands who have died, the stiff, straight faces of rows upon rows of men and women in uniform all trying not to cry, and the old veterans, many of them in wheel chairs, who cannot contain their emotions and who cry openly.

And what I always find almost unbearable is all the children there.   This year, at the Tower of London and at various places around the world (the Menin Gate, particularly so) children stand solemn-faced and speak to the cameras of remembering the dead of the wars.   Some of them have fathers, grand-fathers and great-grandfathers who have died in one or another conflict.   I cannot help but watch them and wonder whether they will take their turn when they become adults.

I'm sure it is necessary to remember, and having a special day to do so is also important - but it does make me question so many things about war and the reason for war - while at the same time feeling a sense of disloyalty to those who have died.   Does anyone else feel like this?

Monday 10 November 2014


Our farm lies about three miles outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary.   In many ways this is a good thing because we get all the benefits of the beautiful scenery without the restraints regarding planning etc., which apply within the Park.

Once you get into the Park (which stretches from Wensley in the East through to Sedbergh in the West) almost every field boundary is a dry stone wall - a huge feature of the area and made, of course, because it is the indigenous material and therefore was cheap in the days when these walls were built (now they cost the earth to rebuild when one falls down and one has to employ a dry-stone-waller).

We do have dry stone walls on many of our field boundaries, but we do also have hedges.   I love the walls - they are home to rabbits and stoats and weasels in the Winter time when the ground may be frozen or flooded and they also house a great number of mosses and ferns.   But I do also love our hedges.

We have some which have been let grow so that the hedges are almost trees, and some which are kept short.   We need this short, thick hedge in order to keep the sheep in during the Winter.   There is nothing sheep like more than pushing through 'flimsy' hedging and moving into pastures new.

But what is most interesting about these hedges is the wealth of different, species to be found in them.   Most of our hedges are a good mix of hawthorn (good berries for birds in winter), blackthorn (sloes for wine and also impenetrable because of spiky stems, holly (berries for Christmas if the birds leave them long enough), field maple (lovely leaf-colour in the Autumn), hazel (some years lots of nuts and therefore lots of grey squirrels and ash saplings which throw up 'spikes' over the summer, only for these to be cut down when the hedge-cutting man arrives - these plants, left to their own devices, will soon grow into small trees, crab apple (again these become trees and provide winter food for all kinds of wild life), with guelder rose, dog rose and blackberry thrown in for good measure. Judging from the number of species it is safe to estimate that the older hedges have been there for four or five hundred years.  There was a 'fashion' for grubbing up hedges in some areas, to make bigger fields, but certainly on our farm this has not been the case.   Here and there are 'thinner' hedges, largely made up of hawthorn trees and crab apple trees - these the farmer calls 'cams' and says they were field hedges long ago, mostly long before his time and the fields have now been made into one larger field.

We also have a plantain which consists of some evergreens and a good stand of alders, along with a few fruit trees (apple and plum) which have been added over the years.

I have just started reading 'The Making of the English Landscape' by .W G Hoskins, which my son gave me for my birthday.  I do hope to learn more about hedges and stone walls before I finish it.
In the meantime I love speculating on who planted these hedges and what made them decide on particular species, and where did they get them from ?

There has been thick fog all day here today.   But I have just noticed out of the hall window that the late sun has broken through.   Here is a photo - not particularly good - makes me feel better about the approaching winter though - there is nothing worse than
a foggy day in November for making you dread the coming of winter.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Miscellany

In yesterday's comments Elizabeth talked of books which she loved as a child.   They struck a real chord with me - The Famous Five of course, almost everyone read those - the characters all became almost part of the family.   But she also mentioned BB (if my memory serves me right the author's real name was W Watkins-Pitchford (hopefully somebody will correct me if I am wrong).  The two books I remember are 'The Little Grey Men' and 'Down the Bright Stream' - I wonder if they can still be bought? - Cloudberry, Sneezewort and the rest, getting up to real adventures on the woodland floor.   How I loved those books, and read them over and over again.

That love of books has never left me and still I come across books now and again which I want to read over and over, and it is these books that I end up buying.   One such book I was bought for my birthday last week - a biography of Kathleen Raine, the poet.   Friend G bought me 'No End to Snowdrops' written by Philippa Bernard'.   Utterly fascinating life, difficult to put down and so easy to read.                    **********

Holly Berries:    The big question is will there be any left by Christmas?   Holly trees and bushes are laden and look divine, but this week the redwings and fieldfares have arrived in force, apart from the blackbirds - and all are tucking into those berries with gusto.   I do not begrudge the birds a single berry - after all, that is what nature intended them for; but I do wish they would hold off for another seven weeks (yes that is how near Christmas is!) .

So, two questions really - did you enjoy reading as a child and if so,
what books really influenced you (perhaps we could make a list, it might make a good Christmas present list for folk who don't know what to buy for their god-children, grandchildren, friend's children and the like).

Saturday 8 November 2014

Carefree days

I came across this photograph of the maypole at a village garden fete in our village - circa 1950.   Two of the farmer's sisters are on it
and when I asked him why he wasn't there he suggested that he had thought it far too 'cissy' to get involved.  (He hasn't changed then).

Of course it was almost forty years before I arrived in these parts but I am sure that similar photographs exist of similar exploits in my Lincolnshire village - because that is what we did in those days.

And they were largely carefree days providing we came from loving, 'normal' families - how lucky we were.   The war was over and things were beginning to get back to how they should be.   And although few of our families had a lot of money our mothers were usually good managers and could scrape together enough for a new dress for the maypole, or the Sunday school anniversary or similar.   As kids, I don't think we ever questioned where the money came from.

No, I don't envy today's children with all their computers, mobiles, i-pads and the like.   We were out in the fields in summer making our own enjoyment and in the winter we were near the fire (burning the fronts of our legs while the backs were freezing!) playing board games, or I spy, or reading, or learning our parts for the school or sunday school play.   Or indeed, trying to memorise exactly how you got the maypole ribbons right (I never did master it).

Alright - call me old-fashioned if you like.  But I suppose it is each to his own generation and mine has long passed.