Tuesday 30 September 2014

A New Lane.

This week the contractors are re-surfacing our lane.   We were given due warning and were told that it would be sometimes difficult to get in or out on to the Main Road, but so far things have run quite smoothly.   This morning, my 'Exercise' morning, friend W was unable to get to the farm (thank goodness for the mobile phone) so at the last minute I had to drive myself and go round the long way - only a slight inconvenience.   The workmen told me that by the time I returned I should be able to get in the 'normal' way .  I had to remove a few bollards - but I managed it and I must say that it is lovely driving over such a smooth surface - plus the smell of tar is wonderful for clearing the nasal passages.

The farmer (who doesn't like to miss anything!) seems to have spent the morning - and so far this afternoon - hovering somewhere near the lane - cleaning up pine cones and pine needles (a never ending job), cutting back the bramble thorns in the hedge and generally trimming back various shrubs.   Now the workmen are nearly to the bottom of the lane, so they will soon be finished and we shall be back to an open lane again.

After an hour's strenuous (for me) exercise this morning I just feel like sitting around this afternoon, so shall spend it catching up on everyone's blog.  Our Tuesday morning class has closed after today as our Local Authority have withdrawn their funding, but luckily there is another class which meets on a Wednesday afternoon - so next week I shall go to that.   This will mean I shall be out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons for a while (classes on Art and Literature and on Diaries on Thursdays and Fridays from this week).   This should mean body and brain exercised thoroughly!!

Monday 29 September 2014


(Pronounced outshmiter).

On Friday lunch time our Dutch friends showed me how to make this dish for a quick lunch.   I find it really strange that although our two countries are separated by only a short stretch of water, our diets seem to be completely different.
 The finished dish is really little different from our bacon and egg, but it makes a complete change and is interesting.   Try it sometime:
Lay a slice of bread on to each plate ready to receive the finished dish.   Lay one or two rashers of bacon (or ham,) per person into the bottom of a frying pan, break an egg on to each rasher and then cover it with a thick layer of grated cheese.   Cook over a medium heat shaking the pan regularly to keep the rashers separate.   When cooked (about five minutes) take each one out of the pan carefully, using a fish slice, and lay it on top of the bread.   Eat!  Enjoy!

Sunday 28 September 2014


Today the farmer has been with his walking group to one of the remotest of the Yorkshire Dales - Grisedale.   A few years ago someone wrote a book on Grisedale called 'The Dale that died.'
So remote and cut off is the dale that it became almost impossible to live there.   In the Winter children were cut off from school, often for several months and even when they could go they often had to walk several miles to get there over wet and boggy ground.

Now all that remains are one or two inhabited farms, a couple of cottages and a lot of ruins.   There is a Quaker burial ground, there is a beautiful packhorse bridge, there are ruined barns and farmhouses (plus one which has been 'done up' and provides a rather nice house - but note there is a four-track outside - essential vehicle in this terrain.)

I am just putting on the photographs he took for you to see.  There is a fascinating one where he peeped into an old ruined barn and saw an old pair of trousers hanging from a beam.   A blue tit had built a nest in the trousers - how resourceful birds are.

Here they are then - what do you think to 'the dale that died'?

Saturday 27 September 2014

I am back.

After a couple of very enjoyable days with our very dear Dutch friends, they returned home to the Netherlands this morning and here at the farm we are 'back to normal'.   A carrier full of bulbs to plant from our friends means that we have spent the afternoon planting some of them.  The tubs outside the farmhouse door have been planted with dwarf narcissi and the old pigtrough with a mixture of crocus and snowdrops.   The job has taken me most of the afternoon and now this is a bit of delay tactics to prevent me having to iron the bed linen ready to air it and return it to the spare beds in the guest room, ready for our next guests.  I love planting new bulbs - it looks forward to Spring as though we haven#t got to get through Winter first.

Yesterday we drove the fairly short journey to the Tan Hill Pub - the highest pub in England at 1732 feet above sea level.   It was a gloriously sunny day with good clear views, so that we could see across the moors to Teesdale and on to Weardale.   The Tan Hill stands fair and square on The Pennine Way, so it is in no way a posh pub - it caters for walkers.   The floors are stone flags, there is a huge log fire burning in the grate, various dogs lie around enjoying the rest, there is a smell of good, wholesome food cooking, and there is a constant stream of folk coming and going.
After a drink we returned another way, coming through Swaledale and back home.   In the evening we went to a pub near to the farm for a celebratory meal for our friends' Golden Wedding.

I though you might like these photographs of the pub - and the little flock of bantams, great opportunists who dashed from one group of folk to the next, always on the look-out for crumbs.   They are not daft these hens (as John is always trying to point out.)

Hope you like the bottom one, showing the farmer in pensive mood.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

a Gap in Blogging.

There will be no post for a few days from today as we have friends coming to stay.   See you all again at the week-end.

Monday 22 September 2014

Divisions of labour.

We do not have clear divisions in our household.  I must say that whatever I ask my husband to do he does willingly, so much so that I try not to ask.   But there are some jobs which we know are 'ours'.

I change the bedding, do the washing and ironing and cook all the meals.   He organises the dustbins, gets them to the gate on time, cleans them afterwards (I don't even know whether it is black bin or green bin week).   He cleans out the woodburner, lays it and re-lights it - if he is around he does the stoking but I am capable of putting a couple of logs on in an emergency.  This sort of division of labout has been achieved 'comfortably' and suits us both.

Then there are the 'suspect' ones.  Who cleans the shoes?   My father was always in charge of shoes in our house and would spend an hour each Sunday morning cleaning off old polish and repolishing all the shoes - we always had the best polished shoes in the road.   Who washes up the things which either aren't suitable for the dishwasher or won't fit in when there have been too many of us?  If I have cooked the meal then the farmer takes on this role without even mentioning it.   If there is another man present he usually hands him the drying cloth and suggests that he might help.

This lunch time, after washing the dog's bedding (I came down in the middle of the night and was nearly knocked back by the doggy smell emanating from her bed) it occurred to me that a clean of the washing machine might be a good idea before I washed my best cardigan.   I had to remove the dispenser drawer.   I read the instructions, I stood directly in front of the machine at the right angle, I read the drawing - nothing worked.   I called in the farmer (who happened to be mowing the lawn), who came in, looked at the drawing and removed the dispenser - all in a flash.    I must accept that there are some jobs better suited to him than to me.   It hurts.

Sunday 21 September 2014

We can see!

For the first time for a week, the sky is clear and there is a slight breeze.   All the heavy mist and early morning fog has gone and the air is breathable.

I am doing the washing a day early because it is a fine day, because the farmer and I are going to a funeral tomorrow and because we have dear friends coming to stay in the middle of the week.   So I snatch at a good, breezy day.

The painters have almost finished painting the outside of our farmhouse - only the downspouts left to do and they will be done tomorrow, weather permitting.   So this morning I suspect the farmer will clear up all his prunings from the front garden.   He has drastically pruned back a lot of bushes as the garden resembled a jungle.   I'm sure it will be better for it come the Spring.

The over-riding sound in the garden is the song of our British robin - clear and strident, he seems to be singing from every bush and tree.   It pleases me because, if you remember, the farmer disturbed a robin sitting on a nest in a watering can in the vegetable garden and she never returned to the nest.   Later in the year I saw a robin venturing deep into a wygelia bush with a mouthful of worms - I do hope it was the same one and that she had nested again.   And now I hope it is her offspring I am hearing.   I have seen plenty of baby robins around - just like their parents but without the red breast until they reach maturity.

The other babies around are the pheasants.   The ones bred for the shooting season have been let out to wander, scratch around and grow fat (they are fed daily at feeding stations) and the Lane is thick with them, half grown and wandering about.   Driving through them is like going through an obstacle course, although I do sometimes wonder whether it is better to be killed on the Lane or to be injured in a wretched shoot and left to die a painful death (you can tell from this that I am not in favour of shoots - and I could never eat a pheasant.)

Speaking of such things, I read in the paper that London restaurants are going to be serving roasted grey squirrel shortly.   No thanks.   As my friend W remarked yesterday - they are just like rats but with a bushy tail.   And would you eat rat?

And speaking of squirrels - many years ago friend M bought me a box bush in a tub cut in the shape of a cockerel.   For years I have trimmed it with scissors and kept it in shape - or so I thought.  Sitting chatting to friend W yesterday I asked her if she though my cockerel was well shaped, she pointed out that it had two 'ears' and that she thought it was meant to be a squirrel - so squirrel it remains.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Estate villages.

Around here in North Yorkshire, we have quite a few small villages which were originally Estate villages - that is where the Lord of the Manor owned the whole village, which was lived in by his workers.
Gradually these villages have been sold off so that now almost all the houses are privately owned.   Often even the 'big house' itself has changed hands.   In fact I don't know of a single Estate village which still exists intact.   I do however, know of quite a few that started off that way maybe a century or two ago.

Such a one is a lovely little village near to us called Constable Burton.   One thing it has is a really thriving Village Hall where the village hall committee put on coffee and cakes, or afternoon teas - all kind of things - and this morning a 'table top sale', to which friend W and I went.   We had a wander round - buying the odd thing and having a go on the tombola.   Then we went on to friend M's for coffee and pastries (very yummy pastries they were too) and a lovely morning's chat.  (funny isn't it, but it only seems to be women who do this - has anybody heard of a group of men sitting chatting all morning over coffee?)

The farmer meanwhile went to a Farm Sale.   Further up the Dale a farm has been sold as the farmer retired and today was the day for selling all the paraphernalia of farming, from hoes, rakes and shovels right up to tractors and muck spreaders.   There was a huge turnout apparently, most of whom had no desire to buy anything but wanted to find out how much things would make.   The farmer bought nothing but he did meet lots of friends and had lots of chats and came home with a lot of information, even if it was not gleaned over coffee and pastries.

Back to out visit to Constable Burton. The Village Green,  is so pretty, particularly at this time of the year when the leaves are turning.   At the bottom of the slope runs our beck (the same one which runs through our fields).   It runs through the Hall grounds before getting to this point.  There is a story that a century ago they used to breed trout in the grounds and a net was stretched across so that the trout could not swim back upstream to our village.   The village lads used to creep down at dead of night and remove the net so that next morning they could catch a big fat trout for breakfast.

Friday 19 September 2014

Are you one of the 37%?

According to yesterday's Times, 37% of us  are scared of spiders.  It doesn't say the percentage of men to women but I suspect (and hope actually, because I rely on the farmer to protect me!) this particular fear applies more to women than to men.

I put my fear down to a childhood deep in the Fens of Lincolnshire, before the days of waterclosets, when we had a 'lav' at the bottom of the garden, which was emptied every Saturday morning in a kind of ritual by my Father.  (emptied under a large damson tree actually, and we had a fantastic crop of damsons!)  This building was inhabited by a particular kind of spider.   It had a largish, spherical body and eight long, very spindly legs and at this time of year the corners used to be full of them.   I hated them, although they never moved or showed the slightest inclination to be interested in me.  I just used to get out of there a.s.a.p.

There is, apparently, a new app - 'spider in da house' which means you can sit in front of the television of an evening and every time one of the gigantic things which scoot a bout at this time of year scampers across the room, the app allows you to identify it.

No thanks, I prefer to let out a scream, pull my legs up on to the settee  and allow the dog to chase it (she never catches it).   I do, however, have a small pocket of courage.  I do subscribe to my father's old ethic - 'if you want to live and thrive, let all spiders run alive', so I am brave enough to resort to the postcard and glass method in a dire emergency.  Then, eyes averted, dark or light outside, wet or fine, cold - a foot of snow - or warm  I will put the glass on the floor, shove the postcard underneath and then carefully carry it outside.  At least I am giving it a sporting chance.

As for undergoing a course at London Zoo (as did Hilary Rose, the writer of the article in the Times) no thanks.  Mice I can tolerate (just), Daddy Long Legs (as long as they don't come too near and catch me with those spindly legs, even earwigs (although that is cutting it a bit fine) but I will leave spiders to my brave hero of a farmer, who can pick them up gently and carry them outside with no trouble at all.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Hide and seek.

The painters are here this morning starting to paint the outside of our farmhouse.   As I write this there are scraping and rubbing noises from the bay windows at the front of the house.   Getting showered (keep the blinds drawn) and getting dressed was a matter of darting from room to room, hoping I had chosen the right room to avoid detection.   Believe me, at my age, my body is not a pretty sight.  (the days when I would happily take my clothes off and pose for someone to draw me are long gone - although I do believe some painters like painting old women).

Age takes it toll, doesn;t it?   I was at a Preview of an Art Exhibition last night with friend W.   I met and chatted to an old friend who I have not seen for twenty-odd years - how she had aged and become infirm.   It struck me forcibly that she was probably thinking exactly the same about me.   When we look in the mirror we see the same person we have seen since the day we were born.   Others only see the person as he/she is today - that's the big difference.   None of us can avoid old age - the best thing to do is to embrace it, grit one's teeth and jolly well keep going.   After all, as someone once said, the alternative to old age is worse.

Well, it's the big day today.   I was about to write that after today it will all die down, but of course it will be at least a week before things on the news get back to 'normal' - then there will be some conflict somewhere which will be designed to catch our attention.   Meanwhile thousands, if not millions, languish in appalling refugee camps around the area with no prospect of return.   Whole generations of children  will grow up without allegiance to a country and with a hatred of the people who have driven them out.   It makes the business of an independent Scotland seem very small fry doesn't it?

Wednesday 17 September 2014


Today (and tomorrow too) has been a busy day - but also an enjoyable one.This morning friend S came for coffee and a chat.
Last night I had made a Moroccan Tagine for lunch today so I could sit and chat  to her until lunch time.   I should have served cous-cous with the tagine but I forgot to get any - the farmer was delighted by this and jumped for joy at the idea of mashed potato instead!

After lunch it was down to the Feed Merchants in Masham - a really lovely little market village/town with a very French feel to it.
On the journey down (it is only about ten miles from home) we pass this lovely little Roman Catholic Church, which I always feel has a French feel to it to.  At last I managed to get a photograph of it, albeit not a very good one.

After tea I went with friend W to a Preview of an Art Exhibition in our local Arts Centre.   It was lovely to see such a lot of people there and there was quite a buzz to the evening.

Now I am home and just about to watch 'Bake Off' - I wonder who will go out tonight after they have made their quite impossible creations.

Tuesday 16 September 2014


Some garden flowers are really 'in your face'.   In this group I would put the glorious sunflower, obviously, but also flowers like the blowsy, brightly coloured peony, the tall, deep blue delphinium, a lot of the yellow flowers (a single daffodil is not in this category, but a whole hillside, now that's a different matter.) and some roses, although I look upon most roses as being subtle and understated for the most part.

Some garden flowers are shy and retiring, hiding under bushes in shady places, or flowering low to the ground so that  you have to really look for them.   The violet falls into this class, in fact many Spring flowers do.  Even the bold snowdrop, flowering even when snow is forecast, pushes up its neat little white head and asks for nothing (it certainly never says 'look at me'!.

But there is a plant just coming out all over my garden, which fills me with joy every year.  It is bright red, yet it is a subtle red, so it doesn't shout.   It spreads, so that one clump will soon become several clumps  and it comes into bloom at a time when almost everything else is beginning to die back.   And here it is - the schizostylis - brightening up my garden today - and I hope giving you a little bit of pleasure too.

Monday 15 September 2014

Swung by an argument.

I normally sit with the farmer and watch the six o'clock National News - the one time in the day when I hear it, as I just can't bear to hear it every hour on the hour - it is too depressing.   But tonight, after hearing the Headlines I have come out of the television room and on to my computer, as I can no longer stomach hours of the 'Scotland Debate'.  By Thursday the votes will be cast, on Friday the Post-Mortem will begin - it will take another week to die down.

All members of my family have loved a good argument and I grew up with my father (ardently Left Wing) debating issues with my Brother in Law (ardently Conservative).   When my first husband came on the scene (also ardently Left Wing), he and my father got on like a house-on-fire, both being on the same side.   Sadly my Dad died long before I married the farmer (typical farming stock and therefore conservative with a small c), but he would have driven my Dad mad because he would never argue about politics.

But during the whole of that time I never knew anyone to change sides.   Dad stayed   Left and my Brother-in-Law stayed Right.  Because, let's face it, our views are pretty entrenched.   We all think we are right and nobody is going to make us change our minds.

So it does beg the question, why is the Prime Minister spending so much time trekking round Scotland trying to persuade voters to vote the way he wants them to - and similarly why doesn't Alex Salmond sit at home and relax and let people vote how they intend to?

By the week-end we shall all know what is to happen and I can categorically state that within a week the whole issue will have disappeared from our screens, as has the war in Syria and the whole Middle East situation - that will return next week once Scotland has sorted itself out.   Why must the media all centre on one issue and do it to death, then let it disappear from our screens as though it is a thing of the past?

I genuinely believe that it is up to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want indepence or not - and as I am not Scots then I don't waste time thinking about the issue.  Looks desperately like rain outside and my washing hangs on the line, so I must fetch it in - that is the area of my thinking at the moment.   Hope that doesn't sound fascetious but I am truly fed up with the whole issue.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Come ye thankful

The congregation will be singing in our local church Harvest Festival tomorrow.   The congregation will be totally different from how it would have been fifty years ago.   The last time the farmer and I counted, he could only think of fifteen people living in the village who were actually born here - the rest are incomers, some from other surrounding Dales but  mostly from much further afield.

In the 'Old Days' all the local farmers would have been at the Harvest Festival, most of the villagers, most of the farm workers, and also usually quite a large Sunday School.   The produce would have been stacked deep in front of the altar and would always include a home-baked loaf of bread and a sheaf of wheat.  The vegetables would have almost all been home-grown and the produce home-baked jams and preserves.   Now I suspect that most of the produce comes off Supermarket shelves as so few people seem to have the time or the inclination to grow vegetables any more.   But, hopefully, the feelings behind it are the same.  And if there is a sheaf of corn it will be because one of the farmers has grown a patch of long-stemmed wheat especially.   These days corn has been engineered to have much shorter stems.

Is it all safely gathered in?   Well, apart from a few fields of whole-crop maize it does all seem to be finished with round here.
Walking the dog down the Lane during the last few days has not been the usual quiet experience I enjoy.   The air has been full of noise and a feathery dust, as giant combine harvesters (owned by contractors who come in specially for the occasion) race up and down the fields and have them cut and then baled into large bales in no time at all.   Gone are the days of the quiet clack-clack of the reaper and then the binder, the barking of the dogs and the shouting of the men as the terrified rabbits and hares ran out as they became trapped in the last bit to be cut, and then the quiet chat of the men as they stacked the sheaves to dry in the sun before they were taken back to the farm on the farm cart, pulled by some faithful old farm horse and put ready for the day on which the threshing man chose to come.   My first sight of the Flying Scotsman was from the top of just such a cart in a field in The Dukeries, where my aunt lived, and where the railway line of the main London to Edinburgh train cut through the middle.

Yes, Autumn has really set in.   We shall pick no more blackberries from the hedge because the devil has spat on them - early this year - in reality the nymphs of the frog-hopper, which cover the berries in spumes of foam.

Another sure sign is that the only bird that is consistently singing loud and clear is the robin - they are everywhere and their song is so uplifting even if, like me, you had a really rotten night last night, when sleep seemed to evade me for most of the night. 

On the way back from taking these pictures the black cat decides to try his hardest to trip me up all the way home in an effort to secure  an extra  saucer of milk.  No chance - bedtime only.

Thursday 11 September 2014

The Times they are a'Changin'

Bob Dylan??   If not then I am sure somebody will point out who it was.

My father, who died in the 70's, talked about hoeing a beet field and hearing a noise and running over the field to see a new-fangled motor-car going past preceded by a man with a flag.   Now I read about driverless cars- a thing of the future on our roads.

Sometimes I used to be sent to the Co-op for my mother's shopping.
There was no 'fancy stuff' in those days.   Her weekly order was always more or less the same, with one or two additions if and when they were needed.  (a new tin of salmon, a new tin of peaches and a couple of tins of evaporated milk if we had had visitors, or Persil if the packet was getting empty, or maybe more household soap in the days before detergents and washing up liquids) .

It ran like this:   sugar, butter, marg, lard, tea, camp coffee, yeast (she made her own bread), dried fruit, bacon.   Her vegetables were mainly from the garden or from a man who came round with a horse and cart once a week.   Her meat came from the butcher's shop opposite our house and was often payment for the time she spent preparing poultry for him.   That was it - simple, good fare.

Now look at the range of food in the shops.  The foreign food (my mother was highly suspicious of foreign food and would never eat any which I served up when they came to stay), the twenty different types of tea, a whole line of different sugars (ours came out of a barrel and was weighed into a dark blue sugar paper which was carefully folded around it (can anybody do that folding now I wonder).  The butter was cut out of huge lump of butter in a tub (Danish tub butter I think it was called) and - again it was wrapped specially in greaseproof paper.

Things change.   Things evolve.   Sometimes the change is for the better, sometimes it is for the worse.   We have little control over it.
 A huge combine harvester cut the field opposite us last evening in about an hour - a job that would have taken several days using a binder.

Now a possible mighty change if Scotland vote 'yes'.  Personally I can't get roused about it.  It is for the people of Scotland to decide - let them decide one way or the other, and take the consequences.   Who are we English to judge?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Where do you come in the family line-up?

In a study done recently by Oxford University, 3,500 12-years olds were quizzed on whether or not they had been bullied by a sibling, and if so - how often.   How did they define 'bullied' - physically
hurt, ostracised, ignored, the subject of lies, rumours, and deliberately hurtful remarks.   At the age of 18 these same 3,500 were quizzed again.   In the original study around 800 of the children had said they had been bullied and when quizzed at 18 these 800 were twice as likely to be clinically depressed compared with the non-bullied ones.   Girls were more likely to have been the victims.

I sat down and thought about it.  I am the youngest of three (two others died in infancy long before I was born).  My sister was twenty-two years older than me (same parents) and was married before I was a year old.  I obviously wasn't bullied by her but I do remember being resentful of her in various ways.   For example, all my friends at school had tennis rackets, my parents couldn't afford one at the time, so I had to borrow my sister's.   Once, at a vital time (match of some sort), I couldn't play because she needed her racket, so I had to drop out.   I still remember that I somehow felt the need to lie about the reason so that I hid the fact that it wasn't my racket.

There were many other occasions, all of them equally petty.   But I do know that throughout my life I had a much easier relationship with my brother (11 years older), who I adored.

Being a parent myself didn't present those problems as I only had one child, but it is hard for parents not to categorise their children as 'the pretty one', 'the clever one' and so on, even if they are all loved equally.

This thinking came as a result of an article by Stephanie Smith in today's Yorkshire Post and also in the light of the news that there is to be a new Royal sprog.   It is all too easy to look at the Royal family over the last few generations and see the differences.

The Queen, who has been the most wonderful Monarch (whether you are a Royalist or not you have to agree on this) was, I understand, brought up in a different manner from her sister, Princess Margaret.  Her Majesty was groomed for the role, which she has fulfilled for so long, from being a small child.   Prince Charles has always seemed so much more serious than his siblings, yet underneath one can catch glimpses of the fun chap he probably is.  This is emphasised in the fact that Princes William and Harry seem to have had so much freer and happier a life - both obviously have great affection for one another.   And when Harry was asked yesterday how he felt about slipping one place down the line of succession, he said 'great' and I am sure he meant it.

Where do you come in the line of your family?   Were you bullied?  Or were you the bully?   Or was everything in the garden lovely?

On a completely different subject - I had my eyes tested yesterday and I need new specs.   When I was choosing the new frames I picked up some red frames with purple sides - 'I rather like these', I said to the optician. He laughed - 'those are really teenagers' frames' he said.   That decided me - I am having them!

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Is it better to travel hopefully?

I am still clearing out 'rubbish' - old jig-saws we will never do again, old books etc.   It is such a good feeling when yet another space has been cleared and the carpet sees the light of day for the first time in a year or two.

In the days before digital photography I always kept a diary to go along with the countless photographs I took.   As soon as we returned home I would dash to the chemist to get the films developed and then, while it was still fresh in my mind, I would mount the best snaps into albums, type up the diary and store them away.

I have enjoyed several holidays over the last few days - most enjoyable has to be the journey up the coast of Norway round to the Russian border at Kirkenes on the Hurtigruten Kong Harald Ferry.
I don't mean I have been; I mean I have sat down with a coffee and read the diary and looked at the photographs.   So many of the incidents I had forgotten and so many memories have been revived (without a horrible bout of seasickness which overtook me on the three hours of open sea out to the Lofoten Islands in a Force 8 Gale).  In that respect I enjoyed reading about it rather than experiencing it!

When I think of the queuing at the airports these days, all the hullabaloo of getting through to the Departure Gate, the rotten food on the flight, my lack of mobility and the packing, unpacking and washing afterwards, I am beginning to agree that it is maybe better to travel hopefully than it is to arrive.

Maybe this is because the only two places I still wish I had been to and obviously will now never go, are Alaska and India.

I first went abroad in 1953 staying in the Hotel St. Petersburg in the Rue Ceaumartin.   It is ingrained on my memory because I was only 21 and every experience was so new.  During my clearing out session today I came across this photograph of me, sitting in a cafe in Montmartre - with the waiter standing by my side.  Ah - those were the days.   It's a tatty old photograph, but you get the idea and maybe pick up a bit of my excitement at the adventure (when I could walk quickly - or even run if I so wished).

Monday 8 September 2014

Country Matters

For the first time in a lot of years we have grey squirrels. Why?   Well the answer to that question is obvious if you walk round the boundaries of our fields - our nut trees are laden with hazelnuts.  The farmer says that when they are ready he will shake    as many as he can down so that we can get them rather than the squirrels.   But one question continues to niggle me.   How do the squirrels know?
We honestly never see one, so there can't be any all that near to us.
This means they are coming from a distance away.   Do hazelnuts smell?   We have never seen any signs of squirrels so it can't be that they patrol every year to see whether the trees have nuts on.   Does 'odeur  de h azel  ' waft around the surrounding area and do their sensitive noses pick up the scent?   Whatever the reason - they are here in force and piles of broken nut shells lie under the trees.   But I don't begrudge them their little feast, so good luck to them if they get them all before us.   I just wish I knew how they did  it.  One of the mysteries of the countryside.

The hunting (fox hounds) season has not begun yet but the hunt came round this morning cubbing.   They come round early (7am), just as it is getting light, bringing their young hounds as well as some of the more experienced ones and they look for fox earths.   They are not intent on killing the cubs, they just wish to have a rough idea of where they are and to give them 'a bit of a run around'.  I don't approve of fox hunting, but the farmer does and it is his farm so I tolerate it and keep quiet.   But my sympathies always lie with Reynard.   'The unspeakable pursuing the uneatable'
is my view.

Tom managed to be the first to mention 'Season of mists.....'   I have always felt that it is 'season of bonfires' and as I go around, that evocative smell of burning leaves, grass and foliage, which means quite often that gardeners have been tidying up for Winter, seems to be everywhere.   I love it.

The other things which are everywhere this year on the trees is horse chestnuts (conkers).   Does anyone play 'conkers' any more?   It used to be secret which method you used to make them hard and unbreakable (vinegar, roasting, soaking) and giant conker fights abounded when I was a kid.   Does anyone play the game now?

Saturday 6 September 2014

The Value of Village Coffee Mornings.

Apart from the months of July and August, when a lot of people are on holiday, our village holds a Coffee Morning at 10am on the first Saturday in each month.  The same group of people do all the hard work each month.   By the time we arrive tables are set nicely, cups and saucers and a plate of biscuits are ready on each table and as ten o'clock comes a thermal jug of coffee comes to each table, plus milk and sugar.   As many refills of coffee as you wish.

Today, the first one of the Autumn, there were fifty people there - a good number for what is quite a small village.   There is always a card stall and a produce stall (a lot of people take items for the produce stall - today there were various cakes, marmalade (home made), and home-made turkey lasagne.   In addition today there was a lady with a slow cooker full of curry, which she was selling in pots.   I must say it smelt very good.

Then there is the raffle.   Lots of folk bring along raffle prizes (bottles of booze, chocolates, biscuits, smellies and the like).   So you can see that quite a lot of money is raised each month.   As far as I know the money raised goes into our church funds (or may be shared with the village hall, I am not sure).

But one thing I am sure about and that is the value of the occasion.
I lived in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands for twenty years, in the top bungalow of a cul-de-sac.   During the whole of that time, apart from the couple next door, with whom we were great friends, and the old man opposite who used to cut through our garden when he walked his dog, thereby cutting off a big piece of pavement and getting more quickly to a grassy area, I did not know a single person on the whole of the road.   I worked, I went out early in my car each morning and returned each evening hell bent on getting a meal ready - no time for anything else.

Here our farm is about a mile out of the village.   If I didn;t go to the Coffee Mornings there are many folk in the village that I would never see or speak to.   As it is I do see them, we chat and the next time I see them in our nearby town we chat again, because I recognise them.   Friend W, who I always go with, lives in the village, walks her dog every morning and collects her daily paper from a box outside the village hall, along with anyone else who takes a paper in the village - so she knows lots of people.   And through her I know them too.   All this is such a valuable asset to communication and I would suggest to you that it is one of the best reasons I can think of for village life.   I am sure that John (Going Gently on my side bar) would endorse that.

Friday 5 September 2014

Howgill Fells

Today friend W and I have been on one of our visits over to Kirby Lonsdale to meet friends from Windermere for lunch in Avanti, the Italian restaurant in the town.  The weather was a perfect late Summer day, there was a faint mist everywhere and traffic, on the whole was light (excepting one irritating BMW driver with a very powerful car, who insisted travelling at about 20mph until W tried to overtake him, when he immediately went up to 40!)

We went over the tops, past Ingleborough, one of the three peaks, past the Ribblehead viaduct and through the little town of Ingleton.  As always we came back via Sedbergh and the glorious Howgill Fells.  They always look as though they are covered in moss.

 These fells lie between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District and yet have a completely different geological make up.   On the whole the Yorkshire Dales are Carboniferous Limestone, whereas the Howgill Fells are Silurian Slate and Gritstone.   I remember reading somewhere once that the dividing line where the two meet is quite obvious and lies not far outside the little town of Sedbergh.

Both the Rivers Lune and Rawthey run close by making the whole area a perfect example of England's 'green and pleasant land' and I never ever tire of seeing them.   I hope you enjoy the three photographs I took as we were going along.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

I like it, but is it art

This afternoon I have been with friend W to Ripon Cathedral to look at the Great North Art Show.   This is an annual event at which some of the North's well-known painters, photographers and sculptors are invited to exhibit.

We wandered round looking at the work, most of which we found admirable.   There were some we were not keen on, one or two we positively disliked and a few which really caught our eye.

It did lead me to speculate on what makes a good painting.   Should one's judgement be based solely on whether one likes a particular work or not?   I used to have this argument frequently with my first husband, who was himself a painter.   He used to argue that whether or not one 'liked' a picture, one should be able to comment on whether or not it was a good painting.

We once went round an exhibition (we always went round separately because otherwise we would get into quite heated arguments) and at the end there was a pile of forms asking the viewers to vote on their favourite painting.   I took this very seriously and went round again giving each picture marks out of ten in my mind.   He didn't go round again but immediately wrote down which one was his favourite - i.e. the one which he considered was technically the best.   He was appalled by my choice!

So - who was right?   Does art depend upon whether one likes it or not, or should one be able to discern the good qualities in a picture even if it is not to one's liking?  (and please don't say 'it all depends upon what you mean by 'good).

Here is a photograph of one of my husband's series of paintings after a visit to Venice.   Sorry about harlequin alongside, but he hangs on a hook (we did buy him in Venice) and if removed takes a lot of getting back again.

I do hope Cro and Tom will both give us their opinion - they are well-qualified to do so - so I shall pop over and ask them to call in.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

In full swing.

The last silage cut of the season is in full swing on all the farms around here today.   For the first time in a few weeks the weather forecast is for dry weather throughout the week.   In fact, over the last hour the sun has disappeared and the sky is now totally cloudy, but all the pine cones on our drive (under the Scots pine trees) are fully open and the farmer says this is a good indication that it will stay dry.   Didn't there used to be an old musical hall song, "And when I got hold of my seaweed, I knew it was going to be wet?"  I suppose indications like seaweed and pinecones are as good as   anything else in forecasting the weather.   Anyway - fingers crossed for all the farms round here as all the grass is down and drying.

My morning was spent in town and then in a coffee shop with friend W.   The afternoon has been spent cleaning silver and brass, cleaning out several cupboards (hard when one has a dodgy knee and the cupboards are at floor level), and ticking the jobs off on the list I made (always the most satisfying bit).

Are you a list maker?   I almost make lists of lists.  Also I cheat.   Today I made my 'jobs intended today' list and then, when I was half way through them I remembered I had to ring and make an appointment to see the Optometrist, so I did that.   Then I added that job to my list and ticked it off.  Am I daft or am I daft?

Monday 1 September 2014

Susan Hill's Writing.

Do you know the work of Susan Hill?   If not I can really recommend it to you for a good read.   I rarely find one book of hers in the Library which I haven't read, but on Saturday morning I found one.  It is 'The Various Haunts of Men' (the title is a quotation from George Crabbe 'The various haunts of men require the pencil, they defy the pen.'It is a Simon Serrailler mystery and if you like the books of Ruth Rendell, you will like these.  I found it quite unputdownable and even got up to read it when I couldn't sleep last night (this meant a two hour sleep this afternoon as I was shattered).

Please note that I have gone on to less bold type - hope everyone can still read it.   I am thinking about redesigning my whole page but hardly dare in case I lose the whole lot.   Courage is needed.