Friday 28 February 2014

Spring is busting out all over....

well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but all the species crocus are in full flood and my lovely purple striped ones (my favourites) are beginning to put in an appearance.   Those bright, dark purple ones always remind me of those bright purple boiled sweets we had as kids, we always called them pin cushions.

Best of all the Lenten roses (hellebore) are in full bud and a bit more sunshine will bring them out.   Beautiful.

And to add to all that, another harbinger of Spring is that Mike, the hedge-cutter, is here with his fancy machine.   We like to get our hedges cut in good time to give them a bit of time to grow before bird-nesting time.   The hedges in the photograph here are usually home to the nests of hedge sparrows and yellow hammers.   Blackbirds seem to prefer the holly hedges which are higher.   There are plenty of those round the vegetable garden.

March tomorrow - it can do what it likes in the way of weather now can't it, because we know it won't be for long.   Incidentally, speaking of weather, how quickly the Somerset levels and the banks of the Thames went out of the news once the sensationalism had been taken out of it.   I for one would like to know - has the water begun to recede, how are they all coping, has any of that promised money from the Government filtered down, has the clean-up begun?   But of course, it is not news anymore is it?   The papers have all moved on elsewhere.

Thursday 27 February 2014


Ankle update - there is nothing more that can be done other than a quite dangerous operation which, if unsuccessful, will make matters much worse.   Arthritis has set in and it looks as though I must grin and bear it the way things are.   I am going to discuss matters with my G P but in the meantime I shall just soldier on.

Hen up date.   The pen is in place, the pop hole is open but as yet no hens have been forthcoming.   After all, as friend S, who also bought three, says - they have never seen the sky before so give them a chance to get used to the big wide world.  They are eating their layers pellets and corn happily but looked with suspicion on a crust of wholewheat bread which the farmer gave them yesterday.   The old hens would have fallen on it like marauding hordes, but these little dears have never seen such luxury before.   What breed are they you ask.   They are hybrid layers, that is all I can tell you - obviously from their colour there is some Rhode Island Red in there somewhere.   In the past I have had Black Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, White Sussex - all have been pretty but none of them really good layers.

There seems to be sabre-rattling today between US and Russia over the small enclave on the edge of the Ukraine.   Have you noticed how it is always the men (sorry male followers) who get in this state?   The men get  bullish, the women are left to pick up the pieces.   It was ever thus.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

New hens and other things.

The six new hens arrived last evening, just as darkness was falling.   Their side of the hen house was separate and they went in quite happily and started eating their food.   They are still very young and the farmer predicts it will be almost a couple of months before they are of a laying age.   The cockerel has not seen them yet - they need a few days to acclimatise before they come out into the big wide world - we have such an expanse of fields and no enclosed space in which they can wander, so best to keep them in.   Meanwhile the farmer is doing hasty repairs to a wire pen so that it can go over the pop hole and they can come in and out into the sunshine if they so wish (hope it doesn't pour with rain).

This morning friend W and I decided we would try the new Pilates class for Beginners.   Wow!   We came home after the hour exhausted, aching and with pains in muscles we didn't even know we had.   We have already decided that it is too strenuous for us - even getting up and down on the exercise mat requires real concentration on my part.    However, I shall keep my exercise mat out on the spare bedroom floor so that I can do my daily, much gentler floor exercises - they really do keep me more supple.

Tomorrow another visit to the Orthopaedic specialist who is looking in to possible treatments for my ankle.

Quite Spring-like here today - now some snow on high ground is forecast for the weekend.   Still by then it will be March - so let it snow if it wants to - not like snow falling in November is it?

Tuesday 25 February 2014


There is an article in today's Times about the pressure on young people to 'up' their glamourous looks.   The case in point being Rebecca Adlington the Olympic Gold Medallist Swimmer, who the press keep pointing out, has a rather large nose.  How dare they keep pointing out such a personal thing?   Is it anybody's business other than Rebecca's and if she is quite happy with how Nature intended her face to be then so be it.

So many of the Olympic medallists, Wimbledon stars etc. have become Glamour models, appearing in all the glossy magazines, wearing designer clothes, and of course reaping in thousands of pounds in the process.

There is a cult of glamour/stroke beauty now in society which can be so very harmful to so many young people in my opinion.   If you happen to be pretty/good-looking and can afford to dress in a so-called glamorous way then you are going to attract the cameras.  The rest of society just has to get on with life - and surely that is better in the long run.

None of this attitude was around when I was young.   I pondered on why not and came to the conclusion that television and the popular press should share the blame.   People like Posh and Becks attract publicity whenever they step outside their own front door and women and men strive to stay slim like Posh, cover their bodies in tattoos like Becks, emulate their life style.  The nearest we got to it when we were young was by going to the cinema and then trying to do our hair like Veronica Lake's.

And were we are the poorer (I don't mean in monetary terms because we never had much money to spend on ourselves anyway) for it?   I don't think we were for one moment.   To be honest, I don't ever remember giving that sort of thing a thought.

Now we are seeing people like Wayne Rooney earning £300,000 a week  - I suppose every boy in the country will be striving to become a Wayne Rooney lookalike!

Hens.   The farmer is going with friend T to collect the point-of-lay pullets after tea tonight.   Our Buff Orpington Cockerel doesn't even bother to come out of the hen hut on wet days at the moment.  All the hens come out, cross the yard and go and stand dejectedly in the straw barn.   He stands in the pop hole of the hut looking out but doesn't bother - they are such old girls I don't think it is worth the chase.  Reminds me of a little old bantam cock we had called McKenzie (he came in a box with McKenzie on the side) and outlived all his bantam hens.   He used to wander sadly around the yard scratching and looking really lonely until one day we bought him three new bantam hens.   We watched as he came disconsolately round the corner at dusk - he spotted the three hens, stood in amazement, puffed out all his feathers and crowed his little beak off.   (He outlived those three too).

Monday 24 February 2014


For at least the last fortnight (a friend staying for the week-end first noticed it) a kestrel has visited our bird table every day looking for a tasty snack.

Sparrow hawks sweep through almost daily - they appear out of nowhere, sweep low and sometimes snatch a small bird off the feeders.  Then they disappear over the hedge and are gone.

Occasionally we find a heap of feathers beneath the table - usually those of a pigeon or a collared dove - and we presume this is the sparrow hawk too.

But the arrival of the kestrel is a fairly new occurrence.   He makes no attempt to hide, usually sitting on the grass and just watching.   I have never seen him catch anything - but then if I can see him then I am sure the numerous small visiting birds can too.  When he is there, there is not a bird to be seen.

I took a photograph of him this morning through the kitchen window.   He is on the grass beside the clothes post.   It is a rotten picture but I dare not go any nearer.  When I did he immediately flew off.

I suppose it is inevitable that when we attract so many birds into such a small area, the birds of prey will home in on it as an easy source of food.   However, these small birds seem to live life on the edge and do seem to watch out for one another, so as far as I know only now and again does one fall victim.

The farmer is going to the funeral of a respected Dales farmer today.   The gathering is at 1pm and there will be food afterwards, where all the farmers get together and chat - and also show a united front of support for the family.   I had never encountered this kind of funeral until I came to live up here - but now it has become common place.   It is certainly true that when you are young you search the Marriages column in the local paper,  then after a few years it becomes the Births column and finally, in old age, you really only need to look at the Deaths.

If you are one of these people who looks at the column and wonders whether it will be your turn next then you need to take my father's advice.   He always used to say that there is no point in anticipating death because however you imagined it would happen, it would almost certainly be a completely different way.  His method of dealing with these feelings was to get out in the garden and do a bit of weeding.   Luckily I am not to the imagining stage yet - because my weeding days are long over.   If I bent down to weed then I would probably end up face down in the flower bed.

New hens tomorrow!!

Sunday 23 February 2014

Pictures in my head.

From the age of about ten I became organist of our church.   My parents were strict Methodist and the chapel  played a large part in my childhood.   Although I am no longer a practising Christian, I do not regret those years;  being part of what was in our village a large group of folk, young and old, and constantly having lots of social activities, have stood me in good stead throughout my life.

As well as playing for services I also accompanied the choir, which was a strong and active one, on their forays to surrounding churches.   When I think that I played things like The Messiah at Christmas, on the organ, adding the foot pedals (which I could only just reach), I just don't know how I did it.   I suppose my young brain coped better than it would now - and the innate musicality of my whole family would also play a part.

We had so many social activities.   In the Winter there was always Christmas of course - the services, the parties, the Winter stage show (which makes me cringe when I think of it now, but which in those pre TV days was always guaranteed a capacity audience).   In the Summer the highlight was the Sunday School Anniversary.   This took months of practice.

Early in the year the particular booklet of songs would be chosen.   The choirmaster did this, so I have no idea where it came from.   Then all the songs would be rehearsed - not by the choir but by the children of the Sunday School.   Every child would also learn a recitation off by heart - some of them would be quite long but we took it very seriously.   Even I had to learn one and would pop off the organ seat to stand and recite.

On the big weekend we would spend the Saturday afternoon going round the village on a dray pulled by a cart horse who was patience itself.   Every now and then we would stop and sing one of our songs (there was a harmonium on the dray for the accompaniment)
while somebody went round the houses collecting money for that year's chosen charity.   Then we would all go back for a tea in the school room - always potted beef sandwiches, caraway seed cake and 'fancy cakes'.   In the evening it would be games - never my most enjoyable thing - I hated (and still do) party games.

The other  summer highlight was the Sunday school outing.   There were four venues - Bridlington, Scarborough, Hunstanton and Cromer - and these never varied.

Last evening there was a history programme on television about the North coast of Norfolk - most interesting and definitely the subject of another post one day.  When the presenter arrived on the harbour front at Hunstanton I got this amazingly clear image in my head.   It was so clear that I was really bowled over by it.

Peter, Margaret and I were rowing round Hunstanton harbour in a rowing boat.   We were all around twelve years old - no lifejackets in those days -and I was wearing my best coat.   It was a light sandy colour and it buttoned up to the neck - I thought I looked the bees knees in it.  I don't think I have thought of that day for at least sixty years.   It has laid there, somewhere in the filing cabinet of my brain, waiting for the right trigger to release it.

Now I can't wait for an image of Bridlington harbour to appear on the T V screen to see if a similar picture pops up.   Did we row round there too?

Is this a phenomenon of old age?   Do our brains throw out these images much more easily as we advance in years?   I was in Hunstanton only last year, standing looking out over the harbour, and I didn't remember it then.   So what suddenly triggers it?
Do you have flashes of memory like this - and if you do - please tell us about one of them.

Saturday 22 February 2014


Up here in the Yorkshire Dales there are a lot of holiday cottages for hire.   In fact we have several redundant farm buildings which we would convert into cottages if we were younger, but the hard work involved is now too much for us. (we should have done it many years ago but of course until Foot and Mouth disease put us out of milking, the buildings were not redundant).

Many of these holiday cottages take well-behaved dogs and, being a dog-lover I find it interesting to see the huge variety of dogs who appear up here in the school holiday periods.  

I try to speak to them all - and their owners.   In all the years I have been doing this I have never yet been rejected.   I find pet-owners are only too pleased to chat about their dogs and the said dogs are only to pleased to be made a fuss of.  We have some lovely breeds and some really interesting cross-breeds (Bedlington terrier and Lurcher springs instantly to mind).  They tend to congregate in our little town on damp days when walking in the countryside is not always an option.

This morning has been the monthly Farmers' Market in our little town.   It was a really good one this morning and although there were not all that many stalls they were all good quality stuff - various meats, baking, home-made ginger wines, cheese, walking sticks, garden plants etc.  I bought two Scotch eggs from a lovely,
chatty man.   I looked at his stuffed pork roll, which looked so appetising but which was far too much for the two of us this week-end.   When I suggested to friend, W, who was with me, that really this looked so good but that I needed someone to help us to eat it, the man on the stall suggested he come to dinner tonight at 7pm!   And we all had a laugh.

Then W and I went into a local cafe for a cappucino (in fact we had two!).   A young couple arrived at the next table.   The girl had a diet coke, the young man had a coffee piled high with cream and a large (very) slice of cream and chocolate layer cake. We smiled in their direction and remarked that there really is no justice in the world - we are all watching our weight, he was eating as though he was starving, and would not gain an ounce.   We were all agreed.

The point I am making in all this is that contact with others, communication, a pleasant attitude goes a long way to alleviate the feeling of loneliness which some people have.   Obviously if you can't get out of the house it is a very different matter, but once out and about then my attitude is that very rarely do people react unfavourably it you speak to them.   In other words - chatting makes the world go round a lot more merrily.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Cats or Dogs?

Are you a cat person or a dog person?   For many years I had Siamese cats, which are almost a cross between the two.   When I moved up here into the country, from a city, I made the mistake of bringing my Siamese with me.   He adored my next door neighbour and she would have been delighted to take him, but I thought he would move happily.   Sadly he didn't - he hated it up here and lived for only a short while.   Although he was quite old I always felt he would have been happier staying behind.   Whoever said, "I am the cat that walks alone - all places are alike to me" certainly didn't know my Sam.   An amusing story about him, which I may have told you before -
My neighbour was rather posh and used to have little afternoon tea parties on her terrace during the school holidays (she was Head of French in a Girls' Grammar School).   She set out the tea and then took her friends for a tour of her garden.  When they got back to the table, our Siamese was sitting in the middle of a silver salver of strawberries eating from a jug of cream with his paw.

Once settled up here in the Dales I began to think it was a more suitable environment for dogs and so I bought my first dog, Algy - a black pug.   He was adorable.   Anyone who thinks pugs are lap dogs has never known one.   As the owner of the kennels where we took him when we went on holiday said - he was more like a battery power pack!

Then some folk in our village went to work in Japan.   They had a German Short Haired Pointed called Oscar and they called one day to ask if we would rehome him.  We did and he was a wonderful dog.   He got on well with Algy and guess who was the boss ??
If Oscar lay in front of the Aga on the rug and Algy came in, he would climb over Oscar and push has way to the nearest part.   They never had a cross bark.

We also had a male tabby cat called Maxi, who got on well with both and spent most of his day curled up in a chair.   That is until we got two new farm cats - Blackie and Creamy (guess what colour they were?) - within a month he had become an outdoor cat and obviously preferred it.   Sadly he eventually got run over in most distressing circumstances, which I still can't bear to think about.

Algy died at a good old age and then four years ago Oscar also had to be put to sleep - again a good age for the breed.   Then, after a week during which I couldn't bear a dogless house, we bought Tess, a Border Terrier, and what a joy she has been.  And luckily she gets on very well with Tip, the farmer's Border Collie, who is himself a very good age and arthritic now.

People who are not 'animal people' miss such a lot in their lives in my opinion.

Regarding my son's cats - they are now down to one, Sinbad, who is himself a rescue cat who found them.   He is the most beautiful, long-haired tortoiseshell, very affectionate.   About two years ago he came in with a very badly damaged front leg - it seemed that someone with an air gun had shot at him.   The vet had to amputate his left front leg  which has left him quite disabled.  He leads a very quiet life but seems happy and contented.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Spring cleaning.

Well, let's face it, it might only be showing faint signs of Spring but at least it is a dry day and really the cattle could not trample about in deep mess any longer, so today's the day, come what may.

The farmer went across to our opposite neighbouring farmer, G, to borrow his big, deep trailer (that's the good thing about farmers, they are all quite happy to share any bit of equipment), and set about cleaning out the loose housing.
The first thing to do was to persuade the cows to stay put inside while he cleaned them out.   There are forty or so in there, so he needs to be persuasive.   Once they had realised that there was no way they were going to pastures new they were happy to get back to what they do best - the serious business of eating silage.

Now all that was necessary was to use one tractor and digger to scoop up large dollops of manure and put them into the back of the trailer.  Once it was full it had to be transported to the pile in one of the pastures, there to rot down ready for spreading.
I nipped round the back of the trailer during the brief interval between digging up and loading up, so that you could see the stuff.   O K, I know it isn't the most exciting photograph you have ever seen, unless, that is, you are a keen gardenerin which case you may view it with envy.   I must say that it is one farmyard smell I don't really object to - it is always a good, healthy smell.   The only time it is unpleasant is when you pass a cattle farmer who has come to our Friday market without changing his wellies (and believe me that is not at all uncommon).

While in the process of borrowing the trailer the farmer discovered that friend G has lost two calves this week.   He has a large suckler herd and two calves have been lost during the calving process.   This is always distressing, both for the cow and also for the farmer - it is after all his livelihood.   Luckily a cow had also had twins so he is now in the process of persuading one of the bereaved cows to take on another calf.  I hope it works - it doesn;t always, but when it does it is a lucky ending for all concerned.

On another sad note, my son and his wife have lost their old cat this week.   He was a lovely cat and really didn't look sixteen years old.  He has had a long and happy life but sadly developed liver failure.  We are all very sad - and I am sure that their other cat, Sinbad, will also be missing his friend and playmate.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Itchy feet.

Sunday - brilliant sunny day; Monday - thick, chilly fog;
 today - lovely sunny day again.  Yesterday and today we had appointments at the hospital (all is well) which meant the same drive twice over.

Everywhere is beginning to look as though it is waking up.   Snow drops and aconites are out everywhere -oh yes, the sun definitely bringing them out.   It is actually 8 degrees today - the warmest (relatively speaking) for a long time.

It is not just the farmer and I who are noticing it.   The cows are getting itchy feet.   It happens every year.   Two days of sunshine, a slight smell of the grass growing and they want to be out there.   If the loose housing gate was left for a moment I know what would happen - they would be off down the field like rockets, tails up in the air, churning up the grass and flinging mud everywhere.   The farmer and his dog would hotfoot it behind and there would be a few choice words.

The sheep, on the other hand, munch on, and seem to be oblivious to the sunshine.   Later on - perhaps the middle of March, they will begin to be restless and ready to get back on the tops.   These are last years lambs and so they will not be lambing themselves this year.

At present a state-of-the-art slurry machine (driven by a contractor) is spreading slurry on our fields.   The machine is huge - very wide with about thirty tubes sticking out of it and a two mile long pipe connected to the slurry tank so that there is no need for back and forth journeys.   I was hoping for a photograph but he seems to have gone for now.   In any case, to make a real impression it would
need to be a smelliegraph, to coin a new word.

Monday 17 February 2014

Is blogging an age thing?

My last post seemed to attract a lot of interest, and almost everyone who replied remembered the day we went over to decimal currency.   That means that all these people must be well into their forties and it leads me to think that blogging is for the forty to eighty plus age group.  What do younger people use?

I would find it hard to do without blogging now - it has opened up a whole new world to me and made me such a lot of friends - some of whom I have met, both at home and abroad, some of whom I have entertained in my own home, and many that I would dearly love to meet because I really do consider them to be friends.

That daily contact with folk who are interested in the same things, or who show me a side of life, or a place in the world I wouldn't otherwise see, make a much fuller life for me at any rate.

It is also good for the old brain to have to think of a new topic each day, to have to research it if necessary, to have to physically sit down and type it in and then to have to go down my side bar reading all the blogs for the day and commenting on them.   Just like having a lot of interesting conversations face to face as far as I am concerned. 

So thank you dear bloggers for making my days - rain or shine - (or thick fog as it is today) brighter.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Do you remember?

It is forty three years today since Great Britain 'went decimal'.   I remember it well - but of course you have to be of a certain age to recall the day when you walked into a shop and all the prices looked as though you were in a foreign country.  I remember going into Marks and Spencer after my day in school and finding Golden Delicious apples were seventeen pence a pound (about three and fourpence in old money) - somehow the price is ingrained on my memory.  (G D apples must have tasted better in those days too, because now I wouldn't think of buying them, they are absolutely tasteless).

There is a photograph in yesterday's Times of Lord Fiske (Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board) standing behind the counter at Woolworths in the Strand.   All the shops were expecting a day of crisis - the article says that Harrods had trained 75 'decimal pennies', girls dressed in boaters and wearing blue sashes, but that they weren't needed.

Why, oh why, didn't we go completely metric at the same time.   We still seem to have a mixture of both and I find it so confusing.  My little aid, which I keep on the shelf above the Aga - and woebetide anyone who removes it - is my British History Ruler.   On one side it lists (starting at Roman times) the kings of England, starting with William I in 1066 and ending with Elizabeth II in 1952.   You can't imagine how useful that can be - my rhyme, starting with Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste,Henry, Dick, John, Henry 3 - stops there so I do often refer to my little ruler.   One the other side it has thirty centimetres - and by golly that comes in useful too.  How many of you can estimate the length of your kitchen in metres?  I certainly can't. And those thirty centimetres are near enough a foot.

Apparently Lenin said of the English that there was a plank in everyone's head beyond which no new idea could penetrate.  Well he was certainly proved wrong with our decimalisation.   How quickly could you translate 137pence into the old system?   And how quickly could you do an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division sum in pounds, shillings and pence?   Don't bother to even try - it is just a waste of time. (the farmer and I tried over breakfast and got it hopelessly wrong in our heads.  We were about to get a piece of paper and a pen when we decided it was a pointless activity!)

Something strange is happening outside today - the sun is shining.   Long may it continue.

Saturday 15 February 2014

The Snow Line.

Coming, as I do, from the lowlands of the country (Lincolnshire) where the land is all flat, the horizons are far away and there is no hill in sight (Lincoln Cathedral is built on one of the few hills and is therefore visible for miles around), I still find it strange that whichever way I look the land rises up and the view is limited.

This does however lead to an interesting phenomenon, which I still marvel at - and that is the 'snow line'.   The forecasters will say that there will be snow above, say, six hundred feet.   Our farm is six hundred feet ASL and quite often I will look at the hill leading out of our village and there it will be.   Straight across the middle of a field will be a line - below it green grass, above it snow.

This was so when we went down to our Feed Merchants one morning this week.   Water was lying everywhere in the fields and many of the roads were flooded - perhaps two or three inches of water running across the road where a beck was overflowing.   There at East Witton Fell was the snow line; I tried to capture it from the moving car.   It is not a good photograph but you should get the general idea.

And, speaking of snow, wonderful news about Lizzie Yarnold and her winning of the Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics.   We have never enough snow here on a regular basis to make us shine at the Winter Olympics but how wonderful to see a young woman with such dedication that she has, literally, devoted the last five years or so to winning the Skeleton.   We watched her do it - it looked absolutely terrifying - 85 miles an hour, head on.   And she was so cool about it afterwards.  I do so admire that kind of dedication.

Water lies in all our fields.   The sheep do not seem to mind; they eat their way round the puddles, huddle up against a wall when the wind blows too strongly.   But of course, they have a warm woolly coat - us lesser mortals huddle up against the fire and just wait for the first signs of Spring - she has deserted us again, hasn't she?

Thursday 13 February 2014

Plenty of fuel for the log burner.

A wild night here.   The forecasters promised gales of up to one hundred miles an hour on Western coasts and some coastal flooding.   But by the time the winds had traversed the Pennines they had eased somewhat and were only reaching about eighty miles an hour.   According to our local forecaster they were due to 'peak' at around 9pm and sure enough, they duly arrived dead on cue.  She also suggested there might be four inches of snow by morning.

Unable to sleep I get up at 1.30am and peep round a curtain to look at the scene outside.   It is beautiful.   An almost-full moon casts a ghostly light on the snowless fields.   The wind, still high, rattles and shakes the Scots pines; planted in 1927 to protect the then newly-built farmhouse from the prevailing Westerly wind.   At almost one hundred years old they are tall and rather spindly but hopefully planted near enough together to hold one another up should one fall foul of this awful wind.  

The scene invites an Impressionist painting.   I wish I could capture what George Moore, the Irish writer, called Impressionism - "the rapid noting of elusive appearance."

Once downstairs I indulge in another cup of Horlicks and share a Rich Tea biscuit with Tess who has come out of her sleeping crate and is now snuggled down in her basket by the Aga.   She can't stay in that all night as she has cleverly discovered how to open the hall door and find her way up onto our bed.

At 3.10am I put down my pen and leave this on my laptop for morning.  Climbing the stairs I look round the curtain again.  How I envy Monet, able to catch a tantalising sight of Rouen cathedral from his hotel window he began a series of thirty paintings, catching the same scene in different lights. I'm sure most of us have a loved view we would like to commit to canvas at different times of the day.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Aching muscles.

This morning I am aching because yesterday (after an absence of two weeks staying with my daughter in law) I returned with friend W to our 'Exercise for the over 60's' class.   This morning my body is reminding me where I went!

But it is important to go wouldn't you agree?   It is so easy as one gets older to sit around.   I think walking is the best exercise but sadly with my ankle pain walking is always difficult, so I must find exercise where I can.   I wish you could see us all (there are usually about ten of us there), particularly when we do floor exercises; the getting down, turning over and getting up I would imagine resemble a beached whale.  By far the most nimble of us is a lady in her nineties!

For the last two mornings we have woken up to a covering of snow - just a faint icing on the land and really rather pretty.   Yesterday it had gone by about ten o'clock as the sun came out.   This morning at present the sky is grey and the temperature is hovering around freezing, so maybe it will take a little longer.   The robin doesn;t seem to mind though and is chirping away as I write this.

The farmer spent most of yesterday by the fire.   On Monday he had a small operation just beneath his left eye, to take a sample for analysis.   He had a local anaesthetic and we are wondering if it penetrated his sinuses because within an hour of coming home he had a streaming 'cold' and during the night quite severe pain down his left leg.  Both are almost gone this morning but as a precaution he intends to do the minimum again today and come in to keep warm.

Weather permitting I am going out to lunch with friend S - but as she lives in a village deeper into the Dales than here I just hope that 'her' snow and ice has not made it hard for her to get out on to a main road.

Poor old Thames valley is suffering as well now with flood water - and the various agencies (at last they appear to be pulling in the same direction) have said it will be months before things are back to normal.  More rain and strong winds are forecast for the weekend - will it never end?

Monday 10 February 2014


Spring has given us yet another tantalising glimpse today with wall-to-wall sunshine and a pleasant wind blowing.   A good day for washing so I have done four loads - they are flapping on the line as I write.   Tomorrow strong winds and heavy rain are forecast so we have to make the most of today.   The birds are certainly doing that - dare I admit that they nearly drove me mad when I was pegging out the washing - robins, sparrows and blackbirds competing to see who could sing the loudest.

The farmer is back from hospital with nothing to show for his operation but a tiny plaster on one cheek and a note to go back next Monday to have the stitches removed.   So far, so good.

Looking at what is on offer on the television tonight I see that it is the third in Jeremy Paxman's series on the First World War.   If you have been watching it then I am sure that, like me, you will have been impressed by his presentation, inundated with things about this period in history that you did not know, and above all horrified and appalled at the loss of life and the terrible suffering.   Really it should be compulsory watching - particularly for world leaders, who are very good at getting us into scrapes and detailing what we do about them, but never prepared to roll up their sleeves themselves.

Have you noticed while I am on the subject of leaders (and I will not use a capital letter) how every agency is blaming another one for the current crisis on the flooding in the South of England. Less blaming and more getting their finger out and doing something would be far more praise-worthy.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Friends to stay.

Here on the farm friends P and D have been staying for the week-end.   The weather has been pretty awful and they drove over the top of the Pennines, from the Lake District where they live through very wet and windy conditions.   They arrived for lunch yesterday.

For lunch we had a really lovely soup which was recommended by a blogging friend but sadly I can't remember for sure which one it was.   I have a feeling it was probably JoAnn, but thanks for the recommendation whoever it was - the soup was delicious.  The soup was for roast chicken with roasted vegetables and can be found at
In the evening friend W along with my son and daughter in law (only two and a half weeks after a new hip but doing very well indeed) came for a meal and we had a jolly, chatty evening.

During the afternoon the local Hunt came past.   Seeing the hunt is one of the farmer's highlights and he stood at the gate and watched. I grabbed the camera - sorry I completely missed the lovely hounds streaming along down the lane, well in front of the horses, but I just caught the Huntsman bending down to have a quick word with the farmer - remarking on the terribly wet fields and how they were therefore sticking to the roads as much as possible.

This morning, surprise, surprise, more gales and more pouring rain.  We went part of the way back with our friends, stopping in Hawes for a Sunday lunch of Roast beef with horseradish sauce, Yorkshire puddings, red cabbage, creamed leeks, roast and mashed potatoes and lovely gravy.  Too much beef on my plate has resulted in a lovely doggy bag, much appreciated by Tess!

The farmer is off into hospital in the morning for an operation on his face, to remove a sample for analysis - so an early start.   At present he is out feeding the cattle double rations so that he can leave them early in the morning.

One thing is for sure - when he comes in he will not need any tea after that enormous lunch - but then what am I going to do with the trifle which is left from last night?

Friday 7 February 2014


A couple of days ago a farmer quite near to us (three or four miles away) lost his entire stock of straw for the rest of the Winter to a disastrous fire.   It is the fear of farmers everywhere because straw (and hay too of course) is so inflammable.

Rumour has it that the straw was ignited by a spark from the straw chopper which was chopping straw for adding to the evening feed.   The farmer was, apparently, quite close at hand but had to move his livestock - he is both a dairy and a beef farmer and all the stock were too close to the straw for comfort.

Whatever the reasons and outcome, the fact remains that he is now without straw for the rest of the Winter and will -hopefully- have to buy in new supplies.   Straw is used for bedding down the cattle (at this time of the year they are all inside) and is also chopped and added to various other ingredients in a balanced feed.  By this time of the year there is not a lot of it about.

Farming is always a risky business as those farmers in Somerset know only too well - more rain and strong winds forecast down there throughout the weekend and again early next week.   Will it never end?

Thursday 6 February 2014

The Rules for a Good Housewife.

The Times printed a page from Woman's Weekly of one hundred years ago earlier this week.   The page gave woman tips on how to be a good wife.

Looks were terribly important - the wife should endeavour to keep a hint of mystery in the relationship and should pay particular attention to how she dressed, how she maintained her looks and how she presented herself in her husband's presence.

It was also important that she had his dinner ready on time.   That one struck a cord with me as my mother used to stand in the front room window and watch for the bus carrying my father home from work when it went past the window to stop a hundred yards down the road.  At this point she would rush through, put hot water in the bowl and lay out nail brush and towel so that he could wash his hands at the sink and while he was doing this she would put his dinner on the table and pull the chair out for him to sit down!

Another thing the article suggested was that a woman she do exercises to keep her figure in trim and should on no account allow flabby upper arms!!  For some reason whoever wrote the article in the Times said that this flab was referred to as 'salt cellars'.   

I know this is not true.   Salt cellars referred to that hollow at the base of the neck and between the collar bones.   So yesterday morning I sent an e mail to The Times telling them this.    And lo and behold I have a letter printed in The Times today.

Fame at last.

Tuesday 4 February 2014


Spring popped in for a short visit at 2 o'clock this afternoon.   She didn't stay long because a dark cloud sent her scurrying away, but while she was there the blackbirds, the blue tits, the great tits and (of course) the inevitable robin sang their little heads off.

The cascade of snowdrops down the rockery in my son's front garden could almost be seen opening up to the sun and it was warm enough for my daughter in law and I to walk up the Lane for about two hundred yards and back, accompanied by Sinbad, their three-legged cat who rarely strays from home but felt Spring too and so came along for the walk.

Tomorrow more wet and windy weather with heavy rain in the South West particularly - and I am sure they don't want any more down there.   It was good to see Prince Charles down there in his wellies, walking in the water and chatting to the residents of the Somerset levels and really getting amongst them - very different from the Environment Minister last week who didn't even bother to get his wellies out of his ministerial car (even assuming he had bothered to bring them).

Monday 3 February 2014

Five generations.

Well here you have it.   After yesterday's post I thought I would just show you five generations of my family.   I am rather short of time today but the photographs (apologies for the quality) show my grandmother, my mother, me, my son and his first-born daughter. As  she is shortly to be married, perhaps I shall live long enough to see a sixth generation!
Sorry that blogger has chosen to put them on backwards but I don't think there is any doubting which generation is which,  What strikes me forcibly (and I have not noticed it before) is how like her father (peeping out of the old shed hole) my grand-daughter is (in the yellow waterproof  climbing on the fence.)

Sunday 2 February 2014


In yesterday's post I received a packet from my niece.   It contained a book called 'Friendship was not rationed', written by an eighty-year-old who lived in the village in Lincolnshire where I lived until I was in my early twenties.   It is not well written - just a simple book about life in the village during our childhood, mainly recalling individuals, where they lived and such like.

I rather enjoyed the hour it took to read it; most of the people mentioned had been long-forgotten.   The village has now become a dormitory town next to Lincoln itself and in the form it was when we were kids it no longer exists.

Also in the packet were two little poetry books - Omar Khayyam in a tiny leather-bound edition which I had bought for her father (my brother in law) in 1945 and inscribed in my hand writing inside the front cover and a tiny book of Tennyson (Lincolnshire's poet) which my niece had bought for my father around the same date.

I could not bear to have been parted from either of them and although I already have copies of both I shall treasure them unless my son wishes to have them.

I e mailed her to ask how she could near to be parted from these things and she said she was culling her book shelves and found she had absolutely 'no sense of continuity' so could easily get rid of them.

This set me thinking.   Is continuity important?   Maybe not these days.   When I was a child I honestly don't remember a single divorced couple in our village.   There were two children to my knowledge born to unmarried mothers (amid a great scandal) and I remember asking my mother if you could have a baby when you were not married - her answer was along the lines of Thora Hird in Last of the Summer Wine - Drink your Coffee!   And yes, I do know the old adage that it is a wise child that knows its own father.

Please do not misunderstand me (as my son is wont to do) - I am not in any way against divorce - in my young days I am sure many couples stayed together because separating was not an option financially - children brought up in unhappy homes often suffered greatly - and these days, thank goodness, things are much better for all concerned.

But a friend told me that her grandson seemed to be the only child in his class who had the same Mum and Dad he was born with and I just wonder if this makes continuity so unimportant these days.   If you have half brothers and sisters and children living in the household who are in no way related, does it make keeping track of one's ancestors more difficult, or less interesting?

I would have said that maybe it was an age thing, except in the case of my niece she is seventy years old and comes from a very stable background.

And to go back briefly to the book about my home village - the author says how the village rector 'kept the village together' - I must say that although I was brought up a Methodist, I do remember the rector and his influence.   I was reading Ronald Blythe this morning and he was writing about the vicar and poet George Herbert, vicar of his parish for only three years before he died of consumption in 1633.

His view of the duties of the vicar was that he should know a bit about farming, doctoring, herbs, literature, music, art and about human behaviour and nature.  He saw his job as far more than preaching on a Sunday.   He saw it as going round his parish and talking to everyone, 'trying to bring something higher to their lives' than their everyday worries.   He speaks of 'creeping into even the poorest cottage even though it smell never so loathsome' , listening, lending a hand and generally helping to sort out problems.   I am sure he had no problems with continuity - dying so young he must have been  certain that he was part of a line that went down through the ages.

I remember him well - his visits to us usually coincided with afternoon tea time.   My mother was a good cook and I am pretty sure he knew it!

Saturday 1 February 2014

Winter is here.

Outside, the wind is howling, the sleet is horizontal and we are now staying in by the wood burner for the night.   Yes, at last, on the first day of February, winter has arrived.   And yet all day here the sun has been shining and there is quite a bit of warmth already in the sun.

We have not had snow here but it is on all the hills round us and there is a biting wind.   The forecasters tell us that the temperatures will go up again tomorrow.

Because the winter has been so wet and mild, so many plants are further on than they should be.   The hazel and alder catkins are coming out - on Thursday the farmer found some which were long and heavy with pollen.   This means there will be no hazel nuts this year as there will be no bees out to pollinate the catkins when they need it.

Our friend and neighbour has lambs, so the lambing season has started.   I shall ring him in the morning to see if I can go round and photograph them - if so they will be on my blog shortly.   Very few farmers round here start this early because of the risk of bad weather - the advantage of course is that the lamb is ready for market early and fetches a better price.  A short life but a merry one as they say - no room for sentimentality in farming I fear.