Monday 31 March 2014

Something there is.....

Robert Frost certainly knew all about walls.   He knew that they could come down at the drop of a hat.   If sheep find the slightest weakness they will work away at it until they can scramble to the top and jump down the other side.   Cattle will lean up against the wall if it is windy, sheltering but also pushing the wall out into a bulge which eventually gives way.   Rabbits rear whole families in walls, as do stoats and weasels (pantry full of baby rabbits near at hand!).   Walls were built for several reasons:
To separate fields which may belong to different folk.
To give a modicum of protection against the winds that blow in these parts.
To utilise the indigenous material - no spare money in those days to erect fences, collect all the stone around and build a wall with it.

As regular readers of my blog will know, the farmer bought a new field in the Autumn, a field which sits among our fields, so that the farm is 'neatened off' as it were.   The grass was grossly neglected.  Already, after these few months, the grass is improving due to careful management by the farmer.   And it will improve still further as it undergoes fertilising, harrowing, rolling, sensible grazing.

What will not improve is the stone wall which separates the field from the Lane.  There had been racehorses in the field before (our farm is quite near to the racing town of Middleham) and they were friendly and would come to the wall when people passed by, nudging it over.

Yesterday I pointed out to the farmer what a mess the wall was, how it failed to live up to the standard I expect of his land.    This morning, looking out of the kitchen window, I see he is mending it.
Golly, is that a coincidence or does my chivvying count for something?***   Whatever the answer to that question, we now have a smart wall along the side of the lane.   And I can misquote the rest of the Frost line - Something there is that does love a wall! 
***  Alas!  Scoff ye male readers!!  The farmer was not mending the wall at all.   When I got closer, I found that what he was doing was digging a channel to let off an enormous puddle of water in the gateway.   I should know by now that with almost sixty years of farming experience he is not going to alter his priority list for someone like me who has been around for a mere twenty years.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Don't bother to tell the birds.

Spring is officially here, the clocks have gone forward one hour, British Summertime has arrived but the sun has decided to give us a miss today, although I think he is shining forth further down the country.

None of this matters to the wildlife.   In the holly hedge we have just seen a long tailed tit with a beak full of nesting material; in the fields the call of the curlew is everywhere; on the beck - oh joy of joys - the marsh marigolds are out.   The farmer climbed the barbed wire fence into the plantain to take these two photographs for me. The marsh marigold/kingcup/ water blob is my favourite of all the flowers of Spring (closely followed by the cuckoo flower/milkmaid which follows on in a few weeks).

There comes that day - and it has arrived - when, regardless of the weather at the time, Spring has taken over.

                                                 * * * * *

How different it is living in the countryside to living in the town.   When I lived in Wolverhampton, where we lived for almost eighteen years, I knew only my immediate neighbours.   Here, in rural Yorkshire, although we live well out of the village, we know virtually everyone, either personally or through perhaps one intermediary.  Not being out at work all day helps, as does the monthly coffee morning in the village hall.

Some folk hate this life style, saying that you really can't sneeze without the whole village knowing you have got a cold. (I am reminded of Mrs Rachel Lynde in ' Anne of Green Gables ', who sat at her window all day knitting dishcloths and not missing a thing.
On the other hand, there are many times when this 'closeness' is so important.

A long-standing member of the village community has passed away this week and within a day or so everyone knew, everyone will be passing on their sympathy to the grieving widow, giving her their support and letting her know that we care.   That is what village life is all about.

When I was widowed, after only three years of living in the village, in 1991, someone did the washing of the sheets during the last few weeks when I nursed my husband at home, someone else popped round with a home-baked cake, a neighbouring farmer would call with sticks chopped ready to light the fire.   That support was what kept me going over a difficult time.

There is a support system, albeit informal, in villages and I for one am really pleased to be part of such a community.

                                          * * * * * * *

Saturday 29 March 2014

The Shame of it.

I am here today to bare my soul.   This is a post of confession - all right, you all hate really personal posts which disclose intimate details best left unsaid - but I need to confess and to get it off my chest.

I have visitors coming to stay in a couple of weeks, so I thought I had better make a start at tidying cupboards before they came.  (they are relations and will no doubt help with meals, opening cupboards and drawers at will).

Now I must say that I am quite a tidy person in the places which are to be seen.   But what goes on behind closed cupboards and drawers is a different matter.   Today's post therefore poses a list of questions, all relating to my spice containers on one shelf in my cupboard.

1.  Why do I have three small jars of sage, all opened but all three
quarters full?  This is a particularly interesting question as I have a good sage plant in my garden.

2.  When did I ever use poppy seeds, and for what?

3.  How is it that the 'best before' date on one jar is 2006?

4.  We neither of us care for curry so why have I got a jar of curry powder, opened, and what did I use it for?

And all of these, of course, beg the question, when did I last clean out the herbs and spices box?

Well, I have done so now and I keep opening the cupboard door just to make sure that it is still immaculate.   But two things strike me as very important:

1.   I must not let it get like that again.
2.   I need to take lessons from Frugal in Suffolk and Frugal in
Derbyshire on how to be less profligate.

Friday 28 March 2014

The Great Divide

I seem to remember, some years ago, visiting a place in either Canada or (more probably) the USA, where the height of the land dictated which way two major rivers flowed - I suppose you could also call it the watershed.  In other words - we stopped at the very highest point before we began to go downhill again.  Maybe one of my American readers can enlighten me as to where it was - I rather think one of the rivers was the Colorado River.

We have our own Great Divide here in the Dales, albeit on a much smaller scale.  The place where the rivers which flow into the North Sea and those which flow into the Irish Sea start.

Friend W and I crossed it today.  We went on one of our journeys to Kirby Lonsdale in Cumbria to meet friends P and D for lunch in the wonderful Italian Restaurant called Avanti.   Do visit it if you are ever in Kirby Lonsdale - it is such a lovely place with a great ambience and the most super Italian food.  I promised them I would give them a mention on my blog!

When we left here in was pouring with rain and as we climbed higher into the Pennines we expected the weather to change - it almost always does when you get to the high point.   The difference today we that it was pouring with rain in the East and the sun was shining in the West - usually it is wetter in the West.   After our lunch and a look round the lovely little shops in KL we came back, as we almost always do, via Sedbergh and I have to say that the views of the Howgill Fells in the misty sunshine were exceptional.

The whole journey was one where we were accompanied by daffodils - several places where there were fields of wild ones; one lovely churchyard between KL and Sedbergh where the whole of the grass seemed to be covered by tiny wild daffodils and then yards of grass verges which had been planted.   What a joy.   By the time we returned into the Dales, it was raining again. but we got our sunshine from those flowers!

The lambs over in Cumbria are a little further on than ours - probably born two or three weeks before ours.   They were tearing up and down the fields in groups, stopping after one made dash, turning and dashing back again.   I saw one mum grazing on the top of a hillock.   Her baby, full of the joys of Spring, was standing  by her side and literally springing up and down on the spot.

Spring is almost in full flow, in spite of the weather.   Now that April is due to arrive in a day or two, Spring is quite unstoppable, whatever the thermometer might tell us.

Sorry there are no photographs to show you of our journey, but I thought I would just enjoy it without.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Haircut day has arrived.

At last it is the day for Tess to have a haircut.   No matter that I always make the appointment for late March, expecting the weather to be a little kinder by then, the hair cut day always seems to coincide with a cold spell.   And so it is today.   Not that she seems to notice.   She only has one thing on her mind when she steps out of the back door - RABBITS - and there are plenty of them around at the moment, so she should be preoccupied.

To show you the transformation which will take place later this morning, I have taken a photograph of her in her present state.  It is not a good photograph - she was totally disinterested (she is never a Prima Donna) and even refused to look in my direction.   Still, at least you can see the length of her hair.   Later in the day - after my afternoon at our Poetry meeting, I will post a shot of the smart, new Tess for you to compare.

On the subject of our Poetry afternoon, always one of my favourites, so far I have only chosen two poems.  Several times this week I have come across the Kipling Poem "The Smuggler's Song" (watch the wall me darlin's while the gentlemen go by) so I am reading that, although we have had it many times before.  It is an old favourite.   Also Hildred (day by day on my side bar) quoted the first verse of a Christina Rossetti poem about the coming of Spring. It is a lovely poem, so I am reading that too.    Now I must look for another two poems to take - always a lovely occupation over a cup of coffee.

See you later in the day with an 'after' photograph. 

Well, here I am later in the day but alas no photograph.   She would not stand still and in artificial light there was too much glare, so I will try and put one on in the morning.   She certainly looks (and smells) considerably better, although I like her best after about a fortnight's growth of hair.   As to wearing a coat to keep her warm - we tried that and she absolutely hated it.   When the farmer took her for her afternoon walk (after the haircut) she chased so many rabbits and got half way down so many rabbit holes, that he finally had to put her on the lead and literally drag her home.   So I don't think she really felt the cold.   When I came in after Poetry, she jumped on my knee and had a good nap.   I must say it isn;t often I can bear her on my knee because she eats sheep poo and usually smells awful - but today she only smelled of shampoo.

And speaking of our Poetry afternoon, as usual it was my favourite afternoon of the month.  We always go to friend W's and sit in her lovely conservatory, where there is plenty of room.  Today there were only eight of us.   We managed only three poems each but had plenty of time for discussion in between - not deep discussion, just a light talk about the poet and/or about the poem. I can't remember all that was read but there was poetry by The Prophet, Khalil Gihlbran, Douglas Dunn, Sir Walter Scott, Rupert Brooke, Philip Larkin, Charles Causley among others.   Friend S always reads lovely funny poetry - a brilliant one today which had us all in fits of laughter and which often lightens the atmosphere after a particularly sad poem.

Throughout the afternoon the rain poured down on the conservatory roof - we didn't care at all. W's conservatory has under floor heating, we were warm and cosy and amongst good friends.  What more could you wish for?

Tuesday 25 March 2014

What a find!

Last week, while ploughing a field, our friend and neighbouring farmer unearthed a pair of quernstones.   You will see their construction from the photograph - the stone on the right of the picture goes under the stone on the left.   The hole in the side of the top stone would be for a stick and the hole in the top would be for pouring in the grain to be ground.  . They are made of millstone grit, which occurs in fairly large quantities on Whit Fell, about two miles from where they were found.  It is estimated that their date is around 900BC.

It is not the first artefact that has been found in that field, which has been ploughed several times over the years, and it does suggest that there was a settlement there in those early days.   A clever site to choose if I may say so.   The field is on a South facing slope, to catch the full sun.   It is just below the top of the hill, to be sheltered from the North wind, and it is within a few hundred yards of Burberry Gill, so a source of water near at hand.   Also, there would be a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside (apart from the North) so that it would be only necessary to post a look-out on the North side to watch for approaching 'enemies'.

As usual, our friend is over the moon at unearthing such a find.   He is a man who loves this land and who loves to research its history.  It was good to handle the stones, thinking that nobody had handled them for all those years.

What a find.

Monday 24 March 2014

Lack of inspiration

Somehow I am sitting here and feeling a total lack of inspiration.   Not sure why because it is total sunshine outside (albeit  freezing cold) and the washing is flapping on the line, and obviously drying, so I can get out the iron shortly.   Are you an ironer, or are you one of those who fold and hope for the best?   I am afraid I iron everything, even the dusters (so that they dry quickly) and shall not break the habit now.

I didn't do a post yesterday because I cooked a major (for me) Sunday dinner, which involved a lot of fiddling about.   It is not my sort of food but sometimes I feel duty bound to cook a meal which the farmer loves.  So we had a pot roast of rare breed Highland beef with roast fennel, potatoes and onions, a casserole of red cabbage, apple and onion, and Yorkshire puddings.  The farmer was pretty chuffed - especially by the gravy with onions, which he loves and rarely gets.

In the evening it was three solid hours of television!!  Blandings I find quite unmissable, the News, Country File and then the introductory programme for Lambing Live, which is to start tomorrow night, coming from the Scottish Borders.  I think the farmer finds it pleasant to watch another farmer working so hard while he is sitting in the comfort of his arm chair!

On Saturday night friend W and I went to a Jazz evening.   We were not sure what we were going to get and what we did get was one singer and one guitarist, playing and 'singing' songs in a jazz style.   Neil Young, the Beatles, Jerome Kern, - songs both of us like - but we prefer them in the conventional style.  Two hours of this was rather a long time and we were not unhappy when it came to an end.

Change of subject - friend S bought some new hens on the same day that we bought ours (the farmer and S and T went together to buy them).   I have just had an e mail from S to say that hers have started to lay.   I must say ours still look a long way from laying, but we had better keep a weather eye on them, because they didn't lay in the nest box.

Well, that has filled my space today - sorry if it is a bit boring.
I have a busy week this week.   Hospital tomorrow for a steroid injection in my ankle; Poetry on Wednesday; trip out with friend W on Thursday: trip over to Kirby Lonsdale on Friday with friend W to meet friends for lunch; out to dinner on Friday evening with the shooting syndicate (do I eat a very light lunch (gorgeous Italian restaurant, where I love the food)) or do I eat a small meal in the evening at the Carvery (not my kind of food at all)?

Saturday 22 March 2014

Spring, sweet Spring

is the year's pleasant thing.   Don't know who said it - probably in a poem I suppose, but no doubt one of you will know.   The whole point of quoting it is that officially we are now into Spring and there is half an inch of snow lying on the grass.   The shower has passed and the sun is coming out, so it will be gone in no time.   But it is colder than it has been for some time.   Interestingly, we chart rainfall and so far this month we have only had half an inch, which explains why the fields are drying up so well.   Now we need warm sunshine to kick start the grass into growing.

Now for today's thoughts for you to get your heads round.   I read in yesterday's Times (where would I be without it?) that a school has banned teachers from marking work in red ink and said they must use green ink in future as it doesn't present such a negative image to the pupils.

Having been a teacher in a Comprehensive School for some years, I have strong feelings about the marking of pupil's work.  First of all, no teacher should EVER return a book to a pupil unmarked, even if the teacher has to sit up all night to do the marking.   That, above all other things, presents the most negative image.

Secondly, said marking should ALWAYS be positive, whatever colour it is.   I personally think marking is like a written conversation with a pupil.   Ticks and/or crosses serve no good purpose at all.   If the work demands all ticks, then some really positive comment should be writ large - if the subject is English, then perhaps a suggestion of a book the pupil may like to read - or a suggestion of ways of extending the piece of work.   If the subject is more scientific - say maths - then if the answers are wrong there absolutely must be a follow up.   Maybe an extra ten minutes at break or after school - something which helps the pupil to understand without drawing attention to his/her inability to get the answer correct.

Often I would write a few questions at the end of a piece of work - and I would expect answers, either written or in a conversation in class.   This kind of marking builds up a sense of respect and trust between the teacher and the pupil.  Yes, I know teachers are stretched to the limits these days.   Good teachers always have been but that is part of the job.

Thirdly, from a parents point of view, parents should keep an eye on how their child's work has been marked.   I remember with shame how I never looked at my son's books when he was doing French O Level, assuming that as we were paying heavily for his education he was getting the best.   Never assume any such thing.
He did rather badly in his exam and when I looked at his French work books (the subject was taught by the Deputy Head of the School, incidentally) I found that they had never been marked at all.  Did I follow it up?  No.   Should I have done?   Yes!  School is also a 'conversation' between parents and the staff of the school.   Gone are the days when parents never questioned anything.

Fourthly, from a pupil's point of view:   I remember Science, a subject which was always pretty much a closed book to me.  We had some sort of equations taught in one class and then homework set on the same subject.   I had not understood it at all and needless to say, I got the whole homework wrong.  I was just marked as wrong, there was no follow up at all, and that was where the sense of failure in that subject set in.   I switch off at anything scientific.  I am not suggesting that a bit of positive marking might have made me an Atomic Scientist, but it might have helped to make me feel a little less of a failure.

So, to sum up, I personally don't care what colour the marking is in.  Maybe keep to black ink is the answer then any impressions the pupil may get from reading the marking are not influenced by colour.   The only important thing is to keep all marking POSITIVE and the build up a two-way conversation on the page.   That is how to earn the respect of every pupil in the class.   However disruptive a child may be, he or she needs to feel that the teacher is trying to help, is trying to bring out the best in them.   That is all the matters.

Friday 21 March 2014

This and that

That distinctly un-Springlike wind is still around and our Market Place is a no-go area, as it was yesterday.   One or two market stalls are braving the elements - mostly the more sturdy stalls - but buyers are few, other than everyone collecting their fruit and vegetables and fish and sausage.   The garden stall is there and is laid out with row upon row of primulas in the most wonderful colours - a joy to behold but always rather a disappointment when you get them home.   If you bring them indoors they pine for the fresh air and quickly begin to die; if you bed them outside they don't care for frost because they have been raised under glass.   So you can't really win with them unless you want them for just a day or two.
Home again now.   Meeting friends, as usual, for our morning coffee in our local coffee house - I wouldn't miss that for the world.   What is better than friends getting together for a laugh and a chat - isn't that what makes the world go round?

The oil man has just been and filled our oil tank.   The last village he went to, about six miles away, had the most horrendous hail storm while he was there.   We have had brilliant unbroken sunshine, albeit it with cold and wind, all day.   This is the price you pay for living in the Dales, or in any hilly area come to that.   And as for the Pennines, it can be totally different weather West and East of this really not very high range.

When I think of Linda at Colorado Farm and Parsnip in Tucson - both of them looking out onto the most beautiful mountain ranges, I am very envious.

I have just spent an hour dealing with the chore of a failed Vat return.   I am sure it was my fault - somehow I failed to register the claim.   But I have had to go through it all again, write letters and hope they will accept my letter as I just can't see how to get back on the site for dates which have now passed. 

Sometimes, I just wish that computers had not been invented and that all business had to be conducted through snail mail - but then, if that were so, I wouldn't have this daily contact with all my virtual blogging friends would I?   I can't have it all ways - so here's to computers, blogging, and the hope that one day I master the art of dealing with Government Deparments and understanding their wording.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Out like a lion?

Well, March came in like a lamb so, traditionally, it should go our like a lion.   If this is true then all I can say is I sincerely hope that the 'lion' has not arrived already - it is only the 20th, so eleven more days to go.   But today is awful.  The temperature has dropped by ten degrees, the wind has strengthened to strong gale force, the rain is now coming down hard and the day is altogether in deteriorating mode.

The farmer and I have just been for our six-weekly 'tweak' at the Physiotherapist.   The farmer goes for manipulation on his farmer's shoulders (carrying heavy bales of straw all his life) and his farmer's knees (jumping down out of his tractor cab instead of using the steps).   I go for manipulation of what my Physiotherapist calls 'Teachers' Back) - this involves twisting my body in two different directions - a manoeuvre I hate but which does make my back feel decidedly more comfortable.  She also works on my ankle and my arthritic knee to disperse some of the fluid.   Oh the joys of getting old.

It is also my day for the hairdresser.   I crossed the Market Place to go into the Newsagents to pay the newspaper bill, but the wind had other ideas.  Somehow the Market Place really funnels the wind - it certainly did so today, sweeping me almost off my feet and blowing me a hundred yards down the car park.   I was just in the act of falling over when I managed to grab hold of a car door handle and cling on until that gust had passed.

I am now home again, the wood burner is glowing and I have just treated myself to a cup of coffee and a Yorkshire Curd Tart.   If you have never sampled a Curd Tart then do google it and have a go at making them - unless you are lucky enough to live in Yorkshire, in which case every cake shop on the street will sell them.

Interesting how each region seems to have its gourmet speciality, isn't it?  Cornish clotted cream, Eccles cakes, Chorley cakes, Bakewell puddings, Lincolnshire sausages, Welsh cakes  - there must be many more.   Any where you come from?

I see from the news that there is a possibility that some wreckage of the missing aeroplane has been found.   What a mystery that is.  Oddly enough I have been reading a novel about an aeroplane catastrophe - 'The Pilot's Wife' by Anita Shreve.   She is an excellent writer of readable stories - if you haven't tried any of her books, look out for them = they are all published in paperback.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

A Jolly Jaunt

Yesterday afternoon I went to see friend M, who lives in the village.   We have been friends for many years and enjoy one another's company.  

My mode of transport was 'different' to say  the least, but beggars can't be choosers - I hitched a ride on the farmer's tractor as he pulled the slurry tanker between the slurry tank and the fields.   Climbing down the steps of the tractor was a bit hairy - three metal steps and then a big gap to the ground, but I managed it.   It wasn't a smooth ride; although the tractor has a passenger seat the journey was somewhat rocky.

As always, we covered a wide range of topics during the afternoon - we never run out of things to chat about.   But we did have a laugh (well you would either laugh or cry wouldn't you) about how, as we get older we often have to search the filing cabinet which is our brain for a name from the past.

Later, talking about the death of Clarissa Dickson Wright and about other television cooks, we tried to think of the cook who used to be the Head Chef at our local Swinton Hall hotel, and who also took part in a programme (the name of which we couldn't remember!!)
to try and educate a dozen or so girls in their teens into becoming 'ladies'.  I think the prize for the one who finally won, was a sports car or some such luxury.   To no avail, we could neither of us remember.

During the evening I suddenly thought of the dilemma and called across to the farmer, to ask him.   I got half way through the first sentence and the name popped into my head - Rosemary Shrager.
Now what makes that happen?   What triggers the brain to suddenly and unexpectedly throw up the word or name you have been searching for for hours?   Is it something that only happens as one gets older - or does it happen at any age?   Answers on a postcard please (preferably one of those old, rude ones which you can't seem to get any more)

Changing the subject - today is Budget Day - why do they persist in having such a day?   I think it is a sop to try and kid the public that they are getting something special.   Surely all these changes could just as easily be made in the day-to-day running of the country.  Is there really any need for everyone to feel they have something to celebrate if there is 1p off income tax or some other such 'sop'.  I often wonder if that red box which the Chancellor holds on the doorstep of Number 11 really just carries his sandwiches (probably made of caviar and pate de foie gras)

Can anyone give me a rational argument as to why Budget Day is important?

Howling gale here today so no muck spreading - we want it on the fields, not on the hedge, the wall, the lane and (worst of all) the farm house windows!  Instead it is back to fencing which the farmer is doing to keep the bl**dy sheep in, to use his expression.   He is not a lover of sheep, especially as they are getting itchy feet to get back up on to the tops.

Tuesday 18 March 2014


Where would I be without the good old Times to provide me with starting points for my daily blog?   Up the creek without a paddle most of the time I am afraid.   Somehow the Times gets my brain working early in the day (I read it and do some of the Mind Games over breakfast - stops the need for intelligent conversation at that early hour).

Starting points today  revolve around fat. First of all the death, at the age of 66, of Clarissa Dickson Wright - the remaining one of the Two Fat Ladies, who used to whizz around the country on their ancient motor bike and side car cooking enormous meals which seemed to consist of butter, cream and something Dickson Wright had shot.

Always larger than life (in all senses of the phrase) and with a penchant for over-spending, a recovered alcoholic, definitely upper class - and yet compulsive watching in her cookery on TV days.

Fat (around her hips or in her cooking) never bothered her in the slightest, and now I see in the Times that Scientists, after forty years of telling us that things like butter and bacon are bad for our hearts, say that there is little or no evidence to prove any link between fat and the heart.  Apparently, the best way to stay heart-healthy is now deemed to be don't smoke, stay active and eat a healthy diet.  I may well go back to bread and butter instead of that disgusting bread and some spread or other, although I would add another way to stay heart healthy and that is to choose to be born to parents who themselves have healthy hearts!

And I shall certainly call Kingsley Amis's quote to mind whenever I have any feelings of guilt about my diet.   He said, " no pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a retirement home."

The trouble is that with us ladies (note the polite word, Tom) there is a tendency for all fat to settle in one place.   Or as my father, rather more rudely, put it - "when to the age of forty they come, men go to belly and women to bum."

Monday 17 March 2014

Crisis in the hen hut.

When the farmer let the hens out yesterday morning, one failed to emerge.   On looking inside he found that one of our new 'point of lay' pullets had died overnight, so we were down to 5 new ones.  Hens do have a nasty habit of dying for no apparent reason, but it is still sad as they were settling in so well.

The remaining 5, along with my old hens and my Buff Orpington cockerel, wandered around in the field all day, pecking about and generally enjoying themselves.   If there was any bullying of the new ones I certainly didn't see it.  Everything seemed fine.

When the farmer went to shut them in at dusk, the old hens and the cockerel were perched in their usual place.   Of the new hens there was absolutely no sign.   By this time it was almost dark.

So, suitably clad (it was cold and windy) we wandered around the yard with flash lights, calling them - not a sign.   After half an hour of searching we found two of them perched on the straw.   We caught them and put them in the hut and began to search again.   After ten minutes or so we found another two - this time sitting in the tractor cab.   One left - and there was no sign.

This morning there is still no sign of it.   They have all been fed and are out again, so it looks as though one might have disappeared.  I wondered about a marauding fox but the farmer says they are more
likely to be around in the very early morning.

I hope she turns up - it is so sad to lose one and not know where it has gone - but I fear we shall not see her again.

On a brighter note - a long-haired black and white tom cat seems to have adopted us as foster parents.  Blackie and Creamy seem quite happy for him to be around and he is always there for food morning and evening, but won't allow us anywhere near him.   Should he get tamer then perhaps we can catch him and take him to the vet to get him some injections - but that seems unlikely as the farmer says he doesn't seem to be a cat who has ever had a 'proper' home.

Who was it who said, "I am the cat that walks alone; all places are alike to me."  ? 

***Update.   She has turned up and our worst fears were unfounded.   She appears to have spent the night under the tractor and when the farmer started it up this morning she strolled out as though that was a normal place to take up residence.

As for the cat attacking her - the farmer doesn't think it would happen, particularly as the cat is well-fed (by us as he joins our two for their twice-daily feed).

Sunday 16 March 2014


I have been deaf since I was in my early thirties.   It is a family thing.   I did not start using a hearing aid until about twenty years ago.   Why?   Because my hearing loss is a mild one and I thought that by wearing an aid I would just become lazy at listening.  (Does that make sense to you?)

I had new hearing aids about six months ago and had my hearing checked.   It has not deteriorated at all.   I was astonished as I would have sworn it had got much worse.

No.   What has got worse is my ability to listen.   When one is slightly deaf the temptation is to not try and listen very hard, so that eventually one really forgets how to listen.   Most information floats over one's head and if one really needs to hear something then a dig in the ribs and intense concentration are needed.  Yes, I had still become lazy at listening.

When I was teaching, long before I had a hearing aid, my class in Comprehensive school knew that during the calling of the register they had to sit still - no chair scraping, shuffling etc. or I would get really ratty.   As a reward for this throughout the term I would always provide goodies for the last afternoon - sweets, crisps and the like.   Bribery - yes - blatant bribery, but it worked a treat.

Now, there are some things which I find very difficult to come to terms with - here is a list.   You might find it useful to bear in mind if you have deaf friends or family.

1.   Walking down the lane with the dog, it is terrifying if a cyclist whizzes past, just missing me (so far).   I have not heard him/her coming and could easily have stepped into the path.   Moral here -
why is it not compulsory for cyclists to have a bell on the bike?  Sometimes I feel like pinning a large notice on my back saying DEAF, MAKE ME AWARE THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO PASS.

2.   Music is distorted.   Hearing all the parts in orchestral music becomes difficult and the real joy of listening goes.   I play the piano to a reasonable standard but before I start I have to strike doh several times in all the octaves, so that I establish the key really well.   Otherwise I am half way through the piece before I am really hearing it correctly.

3.  We have an Aga in our kitchen.   On very windy days (like today), when the wind is in a certain direction, the noise of it in the Aga chimney is dreadful.   It becomes so very tiring and I have to switch my hearing aid off.

4.   In a room full of people a hearing aid is useless.   What it does is to amplify everyone's voice, so that nobody's voice can be picked out.

Yes, wearing a hearing aid is certainly an improvement on not hearing, but it doesn't solve all the problems.  Still, at least I don't live in the age when I would have had to go around with an ear trumpet.  (although - if you have been following my blog and know that I am intent on updating my image for Spring - thinking about it, it might have been rather dashing.   Rather like wearing a large purple hat with pink roses on it and sod what people think!)

Saturday 15 March 2014

This and that.

After days of warm, sunny weather, it is suddenly cold and blowing a gale today.  In other words, back to Winter - very disappointing, but typical of British weather at this time of the year.  Even Tess was pleased to get back into the house after her lunch-time walk (taken by the farmer as, quite frankly, it is almost too windy for me to stand upright).

So now, after a morning drinking cappucinos in a local cafe with friend W, I am inside for the rest of the day.   There is a huge pile of office filing which needs doing - but I have to get myself into the right mood to do that - and at the moment I seem to be successfully practising aversion therapy.  I really don't know why I always let it build up into such a big pile.  If I filed it as it came in it would not present a problem.   But there is something rather cleansing about getting rid of it all.

A friend lost her cheque book yesterday and spent hours searching for it, only to discover it was in her handbag all the time.   If I lose anything like that I usually end up tidying everywhere, cleaning out every possible hiding place, putting everything away - and then when I find it (usually in a simple place) I have this marvellous feeling of everything now being in the correct place (until the next time.)

Are you a tidy person?   I seem to be tidy on the surface but open a drawer at random and the answer may be quite different.  One drawer in the kitchen is full of variety - paper clips, batteries, elastic bands, string,  bulldog clips, even my little hammer.   Often difficult to get the drawer closed, it is still the first place I look for anything which might be missing.

                                               * * * * *

Isn't the problem of the missing aeroplane strange?   The mystery deepens each time I listen to the news and I feel so sorry for all those who have loved ones on the plane.   These days the 'in' word to use is 'closure' - and I can see in this instance that it is a useful word to describe a situation.  Until it is either found intact (but where on earth could it possibly be?) or wreckage is spotted - then the people left behind cannot begin to grieve.

                                               * * * * *

Did you know that today is the Ides of March (Macbeth?) - I always remember the date because (and this makes me feel the most ancient person on the planet) Sixty-two years ago today was the date of my first marriage (to the father of my son, Dominic).  How strange the concept of time is - sometimes it seems like only yesterday and at other times it seems like it is in a previous life.
There is an old lady who lived in our village for many years, and is now resident in a local care home, who was 108 one day last week.   She still has a clear mind but in the body is now very frail.

It is now twentyone years since I married the farmer - how lucky I am to have found (and married) two such wonderful men.  Both have been pillars of strength - maybe the most important characteristic - throughout the marriage.  Incidentally I read that there is a possibility that marriage is coming back into fashion.  I belong to that generation that would feel decidedly uncomfortable cohabiting - although I have absolutely no objection to the condition as long as it doesn't involve me.

Enjoy your weekend.


Friday 14 March 2014

Death of a hero.

One of my all-time heroes has died today.   Tony Benn has died at the age of 88.   I have always admired him since my teenage days - not so much for his politics (although at one time I was a fervent Socialist, as he was throughout his life) as for the way that right from the early days he stuck to his principles.

I am writing this without checking his background on the internet, but I believe he was originally Viscount Stansgate and that he renounced his title and even shunned being called Anthony Wedgewood Benn - preferring instead to be called just Tony Benn.

About fifteen years ago my son and I went to Thirsk to hear him give a Lecture in the Town Hall.   His speech was rivetting - and all without notes.   What amused us too was that he smoked his pipe on and off throughout the evening, standing under a huge sign which stated 'No Smoking in the Hall.'

The passing of a great statesman I think - although I am sure not all of you will agree.
                                            * * * * * * *

How can the weather today be so different from that of yesterday?  Although it is still dry, there is a gale blowing - a really drying gale - and it is quite cold.   There is a thick haze everywhere.  I have never understood how there can be a gale and a haze at the same time - but there you are, there is certainly one here today.

                                         * * * * * * *

The farmer moved the sheep into the Barn Pasture this morning.  He found that he missed Tip, our old sheepdog who died last week, and had to resort to shaking a bag of sheep nuts.   Most of the sheep followed him and of course the rest eventually followed - like sheep, as they say.   Then the hay racks were moved - no bunny nests underneath and quite a lot of spare hay left for a bunny feast tonight - I expect a midnight 'rave-up' among the rabbit community.   I just hope the rabbit shooters are not out 'lamping'.  (don't ask if you are not aware what this is.)

                                         * * * * * * *

For the first time this year our little market town had a more or less full market of stalls today - it started off warm and sunny and the stallholders were out in force.   By lunch time that gale was blowing directly up the Market Square (as it does) and I suspect that most of the stallholders would be packing up and going home early.   Such is the capriciousness of the March weather.


Thursday 13 March 2014

Sunshine again.

As the old song says (if you are old enough to remember it!) - the sun has got his hat on, and he's coming out today!  (wonder why it is a 'he'?)   Lovely day again.
Yesterday our newspaper printed a photograph of the same date last year when there was about a foot of snow in the Yorkshire Dales and we needed the snowploughs out.  What a difference a year makes.   And how easily we forget the awful weather once it has passed.  (only Jonahs will remind us that there is still time for some awful weather this year.)
Today there is a photograph in the Times of a tearful lady just beginning the clear up in her house in the Somerset levels.  According to the write up there was four feet of water in the house and the water was contaminated with sewage and dead animals.   I can't begin to imagine how awful it must be for them all.
Shortly the farmer is taking me over the tops to Richmond (only a short journey) to the Orthotic Clinic -  my foot is still under treatment.   Then it is straight to the Hairdresser for my weekly appointment (and a half hour's total relax).  I just hope that the sun is still out when I get back home, so that I can have a nice walk with Tess.
Yesterday it was very difficult to get her away from the sheep feeder.  It was full of hay and there was something very interesting underneath which caused her to prance round the feeder on her back legs, barking and getting very excited.   I wish I hadn't told the farmer because he immediately decided it was probably a rabbit's nest and that he would 'deal with it'.
Half of me loves the rabbits - they are pretty animals - but they do often get myxamatosis, which is such a cruel illness - and also ten rabbits eat as much grass as one cow.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Hard work beckons.

Another absolutely fantastic Spring day.   How quickly the sunshine makes us forget the awful wet weather of the Winter, although of course it will not be like that in the South West, where they will be cleaning up for many months to come.

The bonfire of yesterday is now reduced to a sprinkling of ash in the field.  The field looks tidy - and what's more it looks loved.  It has not been looked after for years and one reason the farmer bought it when it came on to the market was that it stood between our fields and it really annoyed him to see it so neglected.

This morning he has gone with tractor and trailer the fifteen or so miles to buy stakes and rails - so necessary here to repair fencing before the stock are let out for the Summer.

Now the jobs begin to pile up.  There is fertiliser to be spread on the fields, all the grassland needs harrowing, all the fences need repairing, all the 'muck' removed last week from the loose housing, needs spreading.   Cattle go out towards the end of April/beginning of May - which will be here before we know it.   So it is all stations go.

I meanwhile have been compiling my next Quiz.   I produce cryptic quizzes for our local Nature Reserve, in order to raise a bit of money for them.  I really enjoy compiling them and we are beginning to get quite a following of folk who enjoy doing them.  At £1 a sheet most people are happy to buy one and look forward to a bit of brain work.   Wish you all lived near enough to join in.

If it is sunny where you live - soak it up - good for the old bones.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Creatures of Habit

Since I married the farmer almost twenty one years ago one thing has remained totally constant - the times at which we eat our meals.
This has remained constant as far as the farmer is concerned throughout his life and I suspect it is true of many farming families.
When the breadwinner works from home and is often several fields away, doing something like ploughing a field, harvesting a crop, managing livestock, then he needs to know more or less exactly when to break off what he is doing and come indoors for a meal.

Our meals, set in stone, follow a pattern:  breakfast is at seven (and I don't mean five minutes past), lunch (our main meal of the day) is at half past twelve, tea is a five o'clock and our supper drink is at ten o'clock. 

At first I found this an odd arrangement because over the years, in my first marriage, meals had always been moveable feasts.   But now, after all this time, I find there is a certain logic behind this and it does split the day up nicely into neat portions.

This morning's 'neat portion' was exercise for the over sixties with friend W.   One hour's concentrated exercise - I suppose that by a young person's standard the format is gentle, but believe me marching on the spot with knees raised and arms swung does get a bit tiring after five minutes or so.   We come home having exercised most of the muscles in our bodies - and we feel better for it.

After lunch there is always the dog walk.   The moment I put my empty coffee cup on the table (every dog owner will recognise this) Tess appears at my side and fixes me with a stare.   If I need to go to the bathroom before the walk, she waits on the bottom step and stares at me as I come down the last few steps.

It is now half past seven in the evening - my first opportunity today to actually switch on the computer.   Still, all this activity is far better than sitting about wondering what to do.  Wouldn't you agree?



Monday 10 March 2014

Tidying up.

After all that hedge chopping and tidying up, the time has come for the farmer to get rid of all the debris.  Today was the perfect day to begin the clear  up.

I don't know what it has been like where you live, but here it has been a perfect Spring day with wall-to-wall sunshine from dawn 'til dusk, only a slight breeze (just enough to dry my washing outside, which made it smell beautifully when I brought it in - fresh air and Spring smells up on the airer as I write.)

Just the day to collect all that chopped off holly and hawthorn in our new field, pile it all  into a huge heap and get ready to have a bonfire.   I love bonfires - we have a license to have a bonfire in our fields for the burning of stuff like this.   I have now made the farmer promise that he won't have the bonfire in the morning, when I am at my exercise  class.  You can see from the photograph that there is quite a pile of it.

I also managed to capture a rare photograph of the farmer himself - he tried to hide behind the tractor but I was too quick for him!

Tess was singularly uninterested in the proceedings and spent the time poking her nose down rabbit holes, presumably smelling baby rabbits.  Incidentally - on that subject - did you know that the mother rabbit covers the entrance to the hole when the babies are born, in an effort to stop predators like stoats and weasels getting in while the young are so vulnerable?

 Coming back up the field I photographed one of the lovely old, gnarled hawthorn trees.   They have certainly been there as long as the farmer can remember.   They at one time formed a whole hedge across the pasture (it was originally three fields) (this kind of hedge is called a 'cam' up here in the Dales), but one by one- over the years- gales bring them down and he saws them up for the woodburner - hawthorn makes super logs for burning.

The tree called to mind one in a field when we were children - it was so full of ivy that the ivy formed a kind of platform which held our weight, so we used to carry a picnic up into the tree and watch the world go by.   Those were the days.

All around on the moors they are burning the heather (grouse moors) - it is the first time this year that the weather has been dry enough to get on with the job.  The horizon is full of smoke spires and there is a smell of burning heather in the air.  Yes, folks, Spring certainly seems to be winning as far as today is concerned.  (famous last words.)

Saturday 8 March 2014

Another sad happening.

Our dear old sheep-dog, Tip, died suddenly yesterday afternoon.   He had been for his usual walk with the farmer and Tess in the morning, come back and eaten his breakfast and seemed fine, although he has been a bit arthritic in recent months.   When the farmer went in to take him for the evening walk he had died - presumably from either a heart attack or a stroke.  This morning he has been buried in our row of loved pets, alongside my pug, Algy, and my Pointer, Oscar - right outside the kitchen window and under the apple tree.   Rest in peace dear old Tip.

Now to the subject of today's blog - Money.  Is there any other topic in the world?  Does the whole world revolve around it?   I fear it does.   I pick three stories out of today's Times - three stories which I find absolutely appalling - I despair of the way things are going.

First the price of milk and how here in the UK the big Supermarkets have decided to have a price war and to target milk as a Loss Leader, because every customer buys milk.   Four pints of milk for £1 - or 25p a pint.   No loss to the farmers say the other supermarkets, who of course have all followed suit.   For how long I wonder?
It is no coincidence that Dairy Farmers are going out of business rapidly - the reason is that they cannot make it pay, they are not given enough for their milk.  This devalues the product in the eyes of the customers and there will be a knock on effect on farmers - mark my words.

Secondly - a headline in the Times financial pages which literally made me gasp.  "What the Crimea Crisis means for your Portfolio".
Has anyone thought to ask what the Crimea crisis, and the crisis in the Ukraine means to the people of the area - civil unrest and uncertainty, bloodshed,  people in Ukraine feeling Crimean and vice versa.  I would guess that the Portfolios of folk in the West is the least of the worries of the ordinary man and woman in the street.

Thirdly - are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker?   If the answer to that is a coffee drinker then it looks as though it is going to cost you far more in the near future because much of the coffee crop in Brazil, where most of the world's finest Arabica coffee comes from, has failed because of the weather.   Will the industry absorb the cost - of course not - the customer will pay more for the coffee (and I understand sugar too) - and I will bet you a pound to a penny that the producer doesn't suffer much - it will be the pickers over there and the buyers over here who will pay the price

End of rant for today.   
Cheer up and look at my two Spring pictures for today - I am sure that, like me, you need a bit of cheering up. The first celandines on the side of the beck and the first Tete a tete daffodils outside the back door.   Spring.

Friday 7 March 2014

Friday already

I'm sorry that I didn't have time to put on a post yesterday but it was a busy - and also traumatic day.  A family we know quite well lost a beloved daughter in law in a terrible farm accident - sudden and quite unexpectedly.   A death so near means that one stops and really thinks about the phrase which is bandied about "in the midst of life we are in death."  So much fall-out, so many people's lives changed for ever.   It does serve to make one realise that every single minute is important.  They are certainly in our thoughts.

Today, market day, is bright with sunshine, cold and blowing a gale - good for drying up the fields, as the farmer quite rightly says.   And driving down to our feed merchants after lunch there was certainly less water about and the fields began to look a bit drier.   Long may it continue.

Then it was back to make a birthday cake for my son, who has a birthday on Monday.   He is a fruit-cake addict and they are so easy to make, so one is in the oven as I write.   I must say the fact that he will be fifty six on Monday makes me feel very old indeed.

Until tomorrow.....

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.   After the feast of pancakes with fresh lemon juice and sugar (all you US readers who never have pancakes that way, do try it - they are so refreshing after maple syrup I promise you) now is the time abstemiousness,  for the giving up of something you really like, for the period of Lent.

I am in no way a religious person, but old habits die hard and I can't help but wonder what I could give up from now until Easter.   Friend M used to give up her favourite tipple of a little whisky before bedtime - don't know whether she still does.   Me, I am still wondering - I shall probably give up eating cake.   It is not good for me anyway.   I am not all that keen on chocolate, so that is no good, but cake - well that is a different matter.   Once forbidden I know my thoughts will dwell on the odd cream cake, doughnut, battenburg although I rarely eat them these days.   If one believed all the food advice you read these days then all sweet things would be forbidden - bad for you.

Where did all these ideas come from?   Being a child during the war I don't think we worried about anything we were given to eat - being country children we were never at all short of food but toast and dripping (with lots of salt on it) was never turned down and I  am still here to prove that it didn't do me that much harm.

Its years since I had toast and dripping (or any dripping in fact) but I have to report that my mouth is watering at the thought.

I am still enjoying 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' by Roger Deakin.   I have read it many times before but I never cease to find something new in it.   He writes in February about looking for a piece of architrave in one of his sheds.   He says 'half the tin roof has rusted through and caved in'.   Instead of mending it (which would have meant he would have to cut down some brambles) he moved all his bits of architrave to the other end of the shed and let the roof fall in.  Also the rabbits have made their homes in the earth floor.   After searching through various bits of this and that he found that all the bits of architrave he had saved were too short for what he wanted.   The farmer would sympathise - we have one or two sheds about the farm that fall into that category.

Much cooler today and only peeps at the sun now and again. The farmer is still working his way through that enormous, spreading holly hedge. (photo at top)

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Getting Fit

Another nice day here today - not quite as warm as yesterday, a sharper wind blowing and a hazier sun, but still dry and a pleasant day for a walk.

It is the over sixties exercise class this morning - an hour of concentrated exercise, which covers just about every muscle in the body.   Friend W and I go together and feel it is doing us good although we come out of the hour's class pretty shattered.

Also Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) today, so lemon juice pancakes for lunch.   A great tradition in the UK and not one to be missed.   The maker of the pancakes has to be strong minded otherwise he or she gets hardly any because of making them for others.   As there are only the two of us we take it in turns to make them - I make the farmer's and he makes mine.   All very civilised.

In spite of being tired I still needed to take Tess for her afternoon walk and we did the same one as yesterday, down the pasture, through the muddy gateway and up past where the farmer is cutting back the holly hedge.   We like to leave holly where possible as the birds (particularly the blackbirds) love to nest in it.  But the farmer measured and the holly had come out almost three metres in to the field.  This is a field he only bought a few months ago and it has been badly neglected.   Imagine three metres each side of the field, that means six metres of unproductive grass land.   It won't do, so I am afraid it has to be cut back and put on the bonfire.

Astonishingly the ground had dried up tremendously since yesterday lunch time.   Our pastures are mostly medieval and still show the rigs and furrows of that system of farming.   Today the rigs are quite dry although there is still a lot of wet in the furrows.    Also I was able to take a short cut coming back by crossing what was a stream yesterday and today is just a trickle.

A frustrating walk - one because my ankle is really not up to walking (but if I don't walk on it, however painful, it will just sieze up in time), but also because Blackie, the farm cat, insisted on accompanying us and on walking about six inches in front of me and weaving back and forth.

Home again now, slippers on, blog on shortly, then wood burner lit and feet up is the order of the day.

Lovely thought for the day, a quote from Roger Deakin's 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' which I am re-reading at the moment.   He is talking about friends:  "I want all my friends to come up like weeds and I want to be a weed myself, spontaneous and unstoppable.  I don't want the kind of friends one has to cultivate".   Amen to that!

Monday 3 March 2014


George Moore, the Irish writer, called impressionism 'the rapid noting of elusive appearance.'   This morning, with my second cup of breakfast coffee, after the farmer had gone out for his morning walk, I thought how true that was also of the arrival of Spring.   In the same way that Monet caught a sudden shaft of sunlight on the waterlilies in his garden pool, we see sudden flashes of something or other which might indicate that Spring is on its way.

One which has been in evidence for a week or two now on sunny days popped up in the book I was reading (Roger Deakin's Notes from Walnut Tree Farm) when he mentioned the arrival of gnats - he called them 'the outriders of Spring.

Today is a lovely, still, warm sunny March day.   A Monday which my mother would have called 'a good wash day'.   A true daughter I have just pegged my washing out on the line in the full sunlight.   Gnats are dancing in shafts of sunlight, the birds are going mad - robins, sparrows, blackbirds, a wren - all vying to be top bird, and the ground, still very wet from the months of rain, is actually steaming.

I don't know what it is about Spring.   The other three seasons all seem to merge into one; but by the time March comes round we are all desperately searching for signs that Spring is coming.   We call out to walkers passing by our farm 'aren't the nights drawing out?', or we remark that we had tea without putting the light on, or we didn't light the woodburner til early evening.

Well, I can feel it in my bones and I am sure you can too.   And if anyone tells me Spring began on March 1st - whatever the Met Office may say - it jolly well didn't.   The first day of Spring is March 21st - almost three weeks away yet - so I shall continue to watch for those outriders.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Meeting people?

Yesterday was the first Saturday of the month, which is always our Village Coffee Morning.   Aren't we lucky (and this is so in all villages I am sure) that there is always a nucleus of people in a village who are willing to give up their time to organise such things?

Now that I can no longer drive I am reliant on others for my outings.   The farmer is marvellous, ferrying me back and forth most days; but friend W is fantastic and always calls for me on her way to the coffee morning.   After paying our £1 entrance fee, which covers coffee and biscuits (coffee served in thermos jugs so that you can have as many cups as you like) there is always a raffle with donated prizes (run by friends J and M), a cake stall (run by friend A) and various other bits and pieces.  And there we sit for most of the morning; friends and acquaintances come and go and we chat, learn lots of village gossip (another feature of villages and one which - although it often has its disadvantages- also has many advantages.)   Once the raffle has been drawn we come home.

Last evening friend W and I went out again.   The Roman Catholic Primary School in our little town closed a couple of years ago and the building has been converted into an Arts Centre.  So far it seems to be a huge success.   What was the school hall is now used for a cinema, for keep fit and Pilates classes, and last night for a lovely concert.   Two singers - a soprano and a mezzo - sang songs from the Opera, folk songs and songs from musicals.   These two ladies are professional singers who are freelance, their voices were just right for the hall, tables had been set out and the bar was open so that the thirty five or so audience could sit with a glass of wine and listen to the delightful voices.  It would have been a sad occasion if the audience had sat in a couple of lines across the hall.   As it was the tables filled the hall and made it a very jolly, informal evening.   We came home at 9.30 having had a lovely time.  Isn't it good when things like that are such a success?   TOSH (The Old School House)
deserves to be a success as everyone is working hard to make it so.

Well, as the farmer has just pointed out to me - March has come in like a lamb so will probably go out like a lion.   I shall worry about that when it comes.  For now, on the whole, the fields seem to be drying up a bit, although never a day passes without a few millimetres of rain in the rain gauge.   Have a good week everyone.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Air ambulances.

Yesterday our local Auction Mart held a massive sale in aid of the Air Ambulance organisation - such a boon in this area.   A huge number of local businesses, local farmers and countryfolk donated things such as a day's shooting, a bottle of whisky, bales of straw and hay and the like.   Apparently the whole thing was a great success.

Our nearest hospital is The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, which is about twenty five miles away.   The next nearest, and the large one where the really sophisticated equipment such as scanners is located, is more than twice that far, so you can see how very vital these air ambulances are.   I was certainly glad of one when I had my attack just over three years ago.   To be helicoptered out of our paddock and into James Cook University Hospital in a very short time certainly helped me, although I knew nothing of it at the time.

But yet again on Friday three Air Ambulances were needed very close to where we live, when two cars collided on a cross roads.   All three occupants were local young men - all are in hospital very seriously injured.   At present that is all we know, but I am sure that whatever the situation the fact that they could be airlifted out quickly is bound to have helped.

When will these young men learn?   In my young days it was motor bikes and I was under strict instructions never to go on one.   Now days I suspect that no girl would ever go out with a boy if he didn't have a car.   Times have changed.   What has not changed is the devil may care attitude that accidents 'can't happen to me - always to somebody else.'   Let's sincerely hope that all three young men make a full recovery.