Friday 31 October 2014

Two thousand and still counting.

Hallowe'en,  my birthday (82nd) and my two thousandth blog.  A red letter day.   I have been out with friend W for the day to meet friends in Kirby Lonsdale and the farmer has been to a special sale at the Auction Mart.   Since I got home I have been reading my huge pile of birthday cards and e cards, opening my presents (lots of lovely books to read) and reading letters from friends I only hear from on my birthday.

My son and his wife have just arrived to celebrate with a slice of my birthday cake and a drink.   But I can't let this day go past without a blog, so here are a few thoughts on being eighty-two.

Walking along the street in KL we saw a sign in a shop window and it struck me what a good starting point it made.   It said 'What if the hokey-cokey is all it is about?'

What inde
ed.  I must say that I have really no more idea what life is all about now than I had at twenty one.   In fact I have probably less idea because when you are young, fit, healthy and 'raring to go' you sometimes think you have all the answers.   It is only as you begin to age that you realise that you probably have none of them, and what is more you don't really care.

One of the things I wish had more of is mobility, but then I look at contemporaries who have far less mobility than I do.   Health-wise it is always the luck of the draw and I am not all that far down from the top of the list.

I shall not follow Gwil's suggestion on my last blog comments, that I put ivy leaves under my pillow in order to have 'prophetic dreams' - I am not sure I want those.  Dreamless sleep or dreams about the countryside and beautiful things suits me fine.

My pumpkin burns brightly in the garden, I still burn fairly brightly here on the farm and hope to keep going for another thousand at least.   Happy Hallowe'en to you all.

Thursday 30 October 2014

What to write.

What to write on this, the last day of being 81 and the last post before my two-thousandth, when the weather outside is truly Autumnal, with heavy mist and damp air.   The sun is just visible behind the cloud cover, so I have every hope that by the time I go to the hairdresser at 1pm., the sky will have cleared and we will be having a glorious sunny day like yesterday (ever the optimist).   And after the hairdressers I shall be off to the last class on 'The Art and Literature of the British Countryside' - how I have enjoyed it, and how sad to see it over.   In between, if I have time, I shall pop into the supermarket to buy some ingredients so that I can make today's Lindsay Bareham recipe at the week-end.

If you don't take the Times, do go to it on line and look at her recipe for Porky Pie - it sounds delightful - two layers of cheesy mashed potato and between them a layer of minced pork, apple, onion and herbs.

Yesterday's Poetry meeting was good, as usual.   Eleven of us yesterday and with a really good selection of poetry being read aloud.   How much better it sounds, and how much more understandable it is, when read aloud.   Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Roald Dahl, Carol Ann Duffy, John Betjamen, Edmund Blunden, and many more - something for everyone's taste.

Lunch calls -at least putting the jacket potatoes into the Aga calls - how I love them (and how the farmer doesn't) .   Luckily there are enough new potatoes left from yesterday for him to have.

The sun has burst through and is flooding the hall as I write - can't be bad.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

A Big Day

It's a big day for these cattle on Friday because they are off to market.   Not, I hasten to add, to be bought and killed by a local butcher for Sunday lunch food, but to be bought and sold on as Store Cattle. to survive another Winter and be allowed to grow bigger.

At the moment they are in our paddock, right next to the kitchen window and I have enjoyed seeing them all week.   They are there because they will be easier to catch and transport on Friday morning.   They belong to our friend and neighbour L, but his grass has been almost eaten off, we have plenty and in farming there is always a lot of give and take.

Friday is a big day at our local Auction Mart.   It is the 'Middleham Moor Fair' - the annual show and sale of 350 strong store cattle, suckled calves and feeding bulls.   There is also a sale of beef breeding cattle.   It is here they are destined to go.   They were bought in in the Spring and have been fed, as well as eating grass, all Summer long - with the sun on their backs.

There is obviously some Limousin in there somewhere, although they will not be pedigree.

The farmer will be there to see them sold (as will their owner) and will be happy to stay and have an indulgent lunch in the Auction Mart Cafe as friend W and I are off to Kirby Lonsdale to meet our friends for lunch in the Italian there.

It is easy to look at them and feel sad that they are destined eventually for the pot.  But one has to realise that if there was no food end to the product no-one would breed them and they will have had three years of pleasant life.   They have been drawn in pen 39, so will not have too long to wait.

Poetry meeting today - one of my favourite days of the month.  I shall now go and shower and then sit in the sun and choose my poems - tomorrow I will tell you what I chose this month.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Staple Food

This morning the farmer and I went for our six-weekly visit for manipulation at the Physiotherapist.   Half an hour each on her couch means another six weeks without quite so many aches and pains unless we do something stupid.

By the time we returned to our little market town it was lunch time and we resorted, for the first time in a year or two, to fish, chips and mushy peas from the chip shop. Because the amount of chips is so huge, we shared one portion of chips (and then the hens got a few), but we really enjoyed it all.   Perhaps the fact that we hadn't had it for a couple of years made it more enjoyable.   But the fact remains that is is surely still the staple 'British meal' and is still good value for money.   We don't live all that far from the North Sea and from some well-know ports, so the quality of the cod was excellent.

Then an afternoon spent just Tess and I visiting friend M - an afternoon of chatting to a dear old friend, and a short drive back just before the dark set in.  (I am not allowed to drive in the dark).

Once I have read today's blog posts I shall spend the rest of the evening looking out some poems to read tomorrow at our Poetry afternoon.   I discovered a poem I didn't know by Robert Frost - 'Departmental' - if you don't know it, look it up on the internet.  Half the fun of our poetry afternoons is choosing what to read and what to leave out.

See you again tomorrow - that 2000 creeps ever nearer.


Monday 27 October 2014

Thinking in old money.

Well the hour has been taken off and the nights are dark by around 5pm.   At present the mornings are an hour lighter, the rooks fly over at the time I am drinking my morning tea again, but that always seems to disappear more quickly.   By 5pm yesterday, because it was a cloudy day, it was dark here in the Dales.   And we have another eight or so weeks before there will be any sign that things have changed and it is beginning to get light again.

In the far North things are so much worse - even the North of Scotland suffers long hours of darkness and Shetland even worse, although I find it interesting that they liven up their dark days with all kinds of celebrations and festivals - I suppose it is called 'making the best of it'.

In the middle of Summer the reverse is true of course.   We spent mid-summer's day and the surrounding days way up above the Arctic Circle one year and in Tromso in Norway folk were sitting in pavement cafes and children were playing around their feet at one o'clock in the morning, the sun still just visible on the horizon.

I suppose one gets used to it.   We accept our British Summer Time of one hour forward and our Winter time of one hour back.   And it does make a difference.   Now I see there is a move afoot to make it two hours forward for British Summer Time and just one hour back in the Winter.   What are the advantages and disadvantages?

The farmer immediately jumps into the argument and tells of the times during the war years (when there was a two hour 'daylight saving' for a year or two), to tell how at the time the farm had a huge flock of free range chickens, who wandered around the fields all day and went into their huts at dusk.   Dusk? Around midnight!  Who wishes to stay up until then when they have to milk the milking herd at 6am the next morning?   They used to have to 'round up' the hens with the sheep dogs to get them to bed.

I must say that I do find the long dark nights quite depressing.  Alright, it is rather nice on a cold Winter's night to have all the curtains drawn, the wood-burner ticking over and toast by the fireside at 5pm.   But it does make for a very long evening.

But maybe the lighter mornings would be better for children going to school.   I would like to know the pros and cons.   Can you provide me with a few?  (not that it will make any difference, the politicians will make up their minds and land us with a fait accompli, whether we like it or not.

Sunday 26 October 2014


A post today about friends.   What would we do without them?  Do you know anyone who has few or no friends?  I do, but I really do wonder how they cope through life.   I seem to have friends for every occasion, and see one or two of them most days.   I hope that the  feelings I have for them are reciprocal - I assume they are.

We have had dear friends P and D for the week-end.   P I have known since he was in his early twenties (he is now in his sixties) and he seems like one of the family.  D I have only known for the past ten or twelve years but he has also become as important to me and as much a part of the family.

Last night we ate early (a starter of goat's cheese, leaves and onion marmalade, main of salmon, new potatoes and peas, pud of blackberry and apple pie and cream) and then watched 'Strictly Come Dancing' together.   This morning we went out to Sunday lunch to our local Golf Club with them.   The farmer and I have now come back having eaten far too much, P and D have set off on their journey home to the Lake District and we are settling down for the rest of the day.   But in the Lounge of the Golf Club, while waiting for the call to lunch, were two separate lots of friends - friend W with whom I usually go for lunch there (she also has people staying) and friend G, who I write quizzes for to make money for the Nature Reserve she supports.   All pleasant 'tie-ups', which make the world go round.

I remember doing Venn diagrams at school (don't think I have tackled them since!) and putting people we knew into categories.   Some of the 'circles' would overlap when people would be in more than one 'circle'.   I was mentally doing this with my friends as I began writing this.  For example, friend S would appear in my poetry circle as she is a member of that, she would appear in my 'classes' circle as she is the tutor of the Art and Literature class, and she would be in a circle of 'friends  I often go out to lunch with'.
How very lucky I am to have such an active and full life, full of friends, fun and (today) good food.  Unfortunately baked camembert followed by roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, cauliflower cheese, broccoli and carrots serves to make me lethargic and ready for a doze by the wood burner.   So any further thought on the subject will have to be shelved while I have an afternoon doze.   The clocks have gone back one hour overnight and this change in time always serves to throw out one's body clock too.   Enjoy the rest of your week-end.

Friday 24 October 2014


Each Friday afternoon I go to a class for two hours and look at a diary which has been transcribed by our Tutor - a diary of a Yorkshire man or woman, usually in the eighteenth century.

All the diaries have been fascinating, but today's was the most interesting to date.   It was the 'Journal of the voyage of the 'Hope' from the port of Whitby', written by the ship's surgeon,Thomas Atkinson, in 1774.

Just a short journal it dealt with just one expedition to the whaling waters of the Arctic area around Labrador and Newfoundland.   The furthest the boat got on this occasion was the  island of Disko at the Northern end of the Davis Strait.

It seems as though on this occasion nobody got ill, as there is absolutely nothing about the crew or any illness.   This journal is fascinating because as well as telling us about the weather it tells us about the whaling (absolutely awful stuff -) it also tells us about the native Inuit people they encountered.

As far as the whales are concerned - of course they didn't realise in those days that the whale was actually a mammal, they thought of it as a very large fish (although the record of cruelty to mammals was pretty awful about this time, so it wouldn't have made a lot of difference).   Neither did they understand about the migratory habits of the whale, so some voyages never saw a whale at all.   Others slaughtered sometimes as many as four on one voyage, often dragging them on to ice floes for butchering and processing.
The work was dreadful in the most terrible conditions.

Most fascinating of all however, is their sighting of 'an Indian in his canoe'.   He tells us how they could plainly see how he was dressed and could also see his darts and harpoons and the two large seals he had killed which were lashed to the sides of his boat.   The 'Indian's'
manner suggested that he was familiar with the whalers.

Having had an afternoon of reading this journal we all agreed that it was good that whaling is now banned in most countries in the world. (note that I say 'most' and not 'all).

Sadly the Inuit were in many ways exploited - it is a thorny problem as to whether these native peoples would have been better left undisturbed.   They occur all round the world and seem to have had a bad deal wherever they are.   With these particular Inuit people, they were used by the whaling fleet in exchange for various goods, but in addition the Europeans gave them measles, tuberculosis and other illnesses to which they had no immunity, so that whole tribes were wiped out.

It was altogether an fascinating afternoon, which left me with much to think about.

Wednesday 22 October 2014


Today, friend W and I have been to a metropolis.  Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but coming - as we do- from a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales, it certainly felt like it.

We went the forty or so miles to the large 'out of town' Shopping Park.   There we wandered round the large store we had gone to see.   There were mothers wandering round bottle feeding babies as they went; there were old ladies (who made us feel quite young) in bath chairs being pushed round; and there were even one or two extremely tiny babies - maybe two or three weeks old - being pushed around in prams with a thin blanket covering the whole pram - maybe to keep off germs or to help baby to sleep, I don't know.  I felt a bit like a country bumpkin.   And to think I used to live permanently in this kind of environment.

I began life in the deep country (first twenty-eight years) and I shall definitely end my life in the deep country.   The bit in between was spent in cities and although I was happy (and very fulfilled) while I was there, I am a country woman at heart.

Are you a townie or do you prefer the country? 

Incidentally - in nine days time - on October 31st (Hallowe'en) I shall be eighty-two years old.   I shall miss out one or two blog posts between now and then so that on that day I can publish my
2000th blog post.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Hurrican Gonzalo

When we got up this morning we thought that the tail-end of Gonzalo had missed us, as it was a pleasant morning.   But no, it just hadn't arrived.   Later in the morning it arrived in force; there is a very strong gale blowing and one minute it is brilliant, glishy sunshine, the next minute pouring with rain.  I can't stand up outside the kitchen door, so I am staying put today.   Even Tess was reluctant to go out with the farmer for her lunch-time walk.

I had thought to go and visit friend M this afternoon, but have been unable to raise her on the telephone so I decided to stay at home.   As I had one of my periodic bad nights, perhaps it is just as well.  One thing is for sure - there is hardly a leaf to be seen on a single deciduous tree visible from my kitchen window.  Left to the wind all the leaves come off and (hopefully) the wind sweeps them into heaps too.   As I once read an old man said, "I don't bother sweeping up the leaves in Autumn, I leave old Borealis to do it for me" (Borealis being the North wind).

Monday 20 October 2014

The third sighting.

Yes.   It happened.   Later on Saturday evening, watching the  television, settled down for the evening, slippers on, drink in hand (campari and tonic), 'Strictly' progressing well on the screen (apart from the glimpse we would rather not have had of Brendan's split trousers) IT arrived.   It scampered across the floor towards the screen as though it intended to do the Cha-cha and shot behind the television into the corner.   I screamed.   The farmer laughed and derided me suggesting I was far bigger than it was.  After pleading he agreed to get up, get a glass from the corner cupboard, find a card and trap the thing.   Bringing it VERY close to my face as he went out, he took it into the yard and deposited it on the hedge of next door's vegetable garden.  I hope it decided to over-Winter in mybrother-in-law's house now.  Was it the same one?   I sincerely hope so - I don't want two of that size in the house.

Our friends from the Netherlands brought us a huge quantity of bulbs when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago.   Yesterday the farmer dug over a bed just outside the landing window, dug plenty of manure, compost and grit into it and scattered about a hundred tulip bulbs and planted them.   Now, every time I go upstairs in March and April I should be treated to a wonderful display right outside the window.   We have to look forward to the Spring bulbs don't we?   That's how we get through whatever Winter has to throw at us.

Saturday 18 October 2014

The Beast in the Bathroom.

Picture the scene.   It is four-thirty in the very early morning and the farmer's wife has got out of bed to go to the bathroom.   The farmer is fast asleep and she doesn't want to wake him, so she creeps out on to the landing and into the bathroom, shuts the door and pulls on the light, crosses to the far side of the bathroom and sits on the loo.

From the far corner of the bathroom the beast emerges from behind the pedestal of the wash hand basin.  First one leg, then another, until all eight legs become visible and a VERY LARGE  body in between.  Upon catching sight of me it stops, rises up on its long legs and looks at me (well I presume it does but I am not at all sure where a spider's eyes are located).  

Not wishing to wake the farmer because he might not get back to sleep again (and also not wishing him to think me an absolute wuss - he is more than half way there already), I sit transfixed and think.
This seems to be exactly what the spider is doing (do spider's have brains?) and for a while we share this game of statues.   Then, suddenly, without warning, it sets off at breakneck speed across the bathroom floor in my direction, seemingly aiming for my feet.   I raise them from the ground (as far as I can) and we repeat the whole charade.

Finally I waft my feet about and it sits very still.   I leap off the toilet, shoot out of the bathroom, pull out the light switch and reach the bed in double-quick time (didn't know I could move this fast these days) and then make sure the duvet does not touch the bedroom carpet.  (Can spiders jump?)

Later in the morning I go into the Library and find they are putting up their Hallowe'en decorations.  As I push open the door the young Librarian is just holding a very large black card spider ready to hang from the ceiling.   There has to be a third spider-sighting.   Will it be tonight in the middle of the night?   Has the spider taken up Winter residence in the bathroom?   Can I ever escape from the beast in the bathroom?   Watch this blog.

All this reminds me of long ago, in my prev ious life, when I lived in middle England and my first husband worked as a Civil Servant teaching young men in a maximum security prison for young offenders.   You can imagine - he knew young men very well and stood no nonsense (he was always very popular with his 'students' I have to say).

One year we had been away on holiday and when we returned a lady who lived in one of the houses that faced on to the bottom of our back garden came in to see us.   She was a Special Constable and said that she didn't want to alarm us but while we were away she had seen a young man from higher up the road come down to our back garden very late one night - in the dark - and tip something over the fence into our shrubbery. She told us that she suspected drugs.

Taking the bull by the horns my husband went immediately to the house and confronted the young man, whose parents were away.  He looked very shame-faced on hearing the accusation and immediately confessed.   He was scared of spiders and he had 'rescued' one from the carpet in their sitting room using the glass and card method and thought if he put it in our garden then it was too far away from his house to return.

My husband's reply (which I have never forgotten) was, "Any time you want to put a spider in our garden, you just help yourself mate!"


Friday 17 October 2014


As Ronald Blythe says, there are one or two days in every month when, even if you had woken up from a long sleep, you would know exactly what month it was.   Today is going to be one of those days - or so it seems.

It is only nine o'clock in the morning but the sun is breaking through a thick mist.   When I got up at 5am (couldn't sleep, another story) and looked out of the bedroom window, there was thick mist swirling but I could see a sliver of crescent moon through the mist.

Where the sun is breaking through it is a deep golden colour, almost as deep and golden as the leaves on the young beech trees up the sides of the Lane.  The said lane is ankle-deep in dead and dying ash leaves, which always fall well before the beech here.   And everywhere there are Autumny smells - dying foliage,  the sharp smell of the rotting, maturing manure heaps every few fields (not an unpleasant smell at all now that it has been spread out), the smell of newly ploughed earth.

And, of course, in the garden there are the last few flowers - the rudbeckia, the schyzostlyus, the crocosmia - and that most poetic of all - the last few roses of Summer; and this year there are a lot of them.

Yes, it couldn't possibly be any month but October; and in all its glory today.   I shall forget about the Winter coming on because October always makes me happy.   It is after all my birthday month and always makes Hallowe'en special for me.

So enjoy your October day if you are getting a good one too.   Alright, it might go and spoil itself later, but I shall enjoy it while it lasts, go and have a shower and go off to meet the 'girls' for coffee as I do every Friday.

Wednesday 15 October 2014


Following the visit of my Grand-daughter who is just beginning her teaching career and who is so enthusiastic about it all, I got to thinking about what is important in teaching.   And I came to the conclusion that the most important quality a teacher can bring to her pupils is to be inspirational.

I would have thought that in these days of social networking, where every teenager I meet seems oblivious to the world around them as they walk down the street fiddling with their telephone/i-pad/whatever, to be an inspiration to your class, in whatever subject, is even more important.

I sat and thought about my own school days.   My Junior School teacher, Miss Kirkbride - long past retirement age but kept on because it was wartime - was in many ways a good teacher (even if she did sit in your place while you stood beside her when she marked your 'sums', so that she could slap your legs if you got one wrong).  I remember her once running a project during the Summer term when we had to collect labels from around the world - this in war time remember.  Then she mounted a map of the world and we marked where Fray Bentos Corned Beef came from, where peaches came from.  It definitely sparked off my interest in Geography, which has never left me.

In Grammar school my English teacher, Miss Ryder, a quiet, unassuming lady inspired me from day one.   When I got my homework back I could see at a glance that she had read through my essay and had marked everything that needed marking - every punctuation and spelling mistake but also (more importantly) she would comment on anything she thought was interesting, or she would expand on what I had said. This also applied to Mrs Lucas, our History teacher - being the only married member of staff and also being (in our eyes) terribly glamorous, we clung on to her every word.   But again, she took our History essays seriously and when they were returned to us after marking she would have struck up a dialogue.  I always hated Science - I can't blame Miss Judge, our teacher, but she certainly didn't help.   For a start  we had never had gas in our village so I was pretty scared of a Bunsen burner, but she never attempted to calm my fears.  I vividly remember one homework where she showed us how to do some scientific equations and then gave us ten to do at home.   I hadn't understood at all.   She just marked all ten wrong and we carried on with the next lesson - no effort was made to keep us back and go through it with us (I know I was not the only one who couldn't do them).

If a teacher is an inspiration to the class then some of the discipline problems will disappear because each pupil knows you are interested in them.   It is the quality all teachers should aspire to in my opinion.   In Inner City areas many of our pupils come from homes which are substandard, often they live in family groups which are less than perfect too. (I am not saying that these two things only apply to inner cities).   But if they are to climb out of, or rise above, things like this they need the help of good teachers.

A lovely letter in today's Times underlines this.   A lady in Oxfordshire writes of a child in an East end of London school who had at last been moved into a high rise block of flats from very substandard housing.   Here is her letter:
'We have a lavatory - in a bathroom - which is just for us, me and my mum and dad.   I go to bed in a room which is mine, just for me.   I looked out of the window and all I could see was fairyland.'

When I started teacher training our Education Tutor (who shall be nameless) asked us all to write an essay telling her about what we had done in our lives so far.   This was the first essay of our training.   They were returned to us about six weeks later - there wasn't a single mark on any of them apart from a C at the end of every one - it is obvious she had never read them.   A lack-lustre woman, no good at teaching or marking, and certainly no inspiration to anyone.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

The Sheep Arrive.

The over-Wintering sheep have arrived today all ready to eat the grass off all our fields as the Winter months progress.   They have come considerably later than usual because there has been plenty of grass for them in their Summer home on the tops.  Their Summer home is on the Buttertubs (anyone who watched the British stage of the Tour de France when it came through Yorkshire will know that the riders came over the Buttertubs).   Many of the sheep are grown lambs that were here earlier in the year - they will all stay here throughout the Winter (if it snows and the grass disappears then the farmer will feed them every day.   They are a very hardy breed - Swaledales.)   It's nice to have them back.

Monday 13 October 2014


My eldest grand-daughter, the one who married earlier in the year, has been down on a visit and, as usual, it has been a joy to see her.
She is now happily settled into teaching and loving it - it is so nice to hear her speaking about it with such fervour.   It reminds me of how I was when I first started - one feels one can really change the world.   I have a theory that once teachers lose that feeling and sink into that 'you can't make silk purses out of sow's ears' mode they should be retired from the profession as they are no longer a credit to it.

And speaking of teaching I have just read Sheila Hancock's first novel "Miss Carter's War".   I enjoyed it tremendously although it did get a bit tedious towards the end.   Novels which go 'in progression' through time are difficult I think.   There are some passages in italics which hark back to her wartime experiences, but the book is principally about teaching children and those parts I enjoyed very much.   I felt that Sheila Hancock really understood the problems.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Another day.

This time of year, every time there is a day like today, we ask ourselves 'will this be the last day of Summer?', for it is still, warm and very sunny.    The horse-chestnut trees in particular are a deep orange colour, the ground is littered with ash leaves and time seems to be standing still.   Tomorrow is forecast to be wet.

The farmer and I together with friend W. have been out to lunch - proper Sunday lunch - roast beef, roast pork and roast lamb between us - and delicious it was too.   Then we sat for a long time over a cup of coffee before beginning the short journey back home.

Taking Tess for a walk then I passed the meadow where the ten heifers are.   They were all lying full length in the sun - I couldn't help wondering whether they were asking themselves the same question I asked earlier - 'will this be the last day of Summer, moo?'

Driving through the village it was good to see various folk around doing jobs - friend C was cleaning 'his' section of the village beck out (the section which runs across the front of his garden.)   I was pleased to see that he was leaving the glorious golden mimulus and just clearing out the weed and digging a layer of mud and pebbles from the bottom. At the village pub garden the bonfire for November 5th (Bonfire Night) was already under construction - old doors, palettes, window frames - all piled high.   What a blaze that will be.   Friend T was out tending his begonias, which cover the front of his house and make such a splendid show every year.   It is as though everyone is thinking the same as me - will we get any more days like this when doing chores is pleasant work?

Looking at Cro's blog today (Magnon's Meandering on my side bar) it was really interesting to compare the French village photographs with our village.   There is really no comparison at all.   All the houses in the French village look so ancient, as does the church.   I suppose the only similarity is that as in our village, these houses and cottages were built long before cars were invented, which means they were built too close together for space for modern vehicles, so they are left on the road.

Another feature today is the quantity of spiders' webs everywhere.   I suspect they are always there but because the sun is getting low we can now see them more easily.   As I sit here typing I look through the hall window and the gap between the Scots pines is festooned with shimmering lines of gossamer.   They are so beautiful, unlike the huge spider which friend W had to capture last night by the glass and card method and eject from the house.   Of course it will be back, but she didn't care to sit watching it perfect its dance steps across the carpet all evening.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Life's Little Mysteries.

About three years ago I lost my lovely little curved nail scissors.   They had been expensive to buy but well worth it and I treasured them greatly and have missed them every day since.  By now I had convinced myself that I would never see them again and that I must have somehow thrown them out.    The bedroom (they were always kept the cabinet there) has been spring-cleaned and autumn-cleaned each year, the bed moved and all the furniture - still no sign.  Until this morning.

The farmer is walking with a group today (a glorious Autumn day incidentally) and had to be off early.   We also had to be at the Medical Practice by half past eight for our yearly flu injection.  As we were back from this quite quickly I suggested that there was time before he went for us to strip the bed and put on the new electric blanket (the old one was on the blink).

We stripped off the sheets and pillow cases for washing, we stripped off the mattress cover for washing, then we removed the faulty electric blanket and there - in the middle of the mattress were the nail scissors!  That was under a fitted sheet, a mattress cover and an electric blanket.   The sheets have been changed every week throughout those years.

So I ask - how did those scissors get there?  (no saucy answers from the likes of Tom and John please).   All the bottom sheets I have are tightly fitted, as are the mattress covers and the electric blanket was tightly tied down.

One of life's little mysteries.   Not quite so grisly as the one I read in today's Times about Sir Ran Fiennes who, after sawing his fingers off (he had severe frostbite) he decided that as they were so personal to him he would keep them and he put them in the drawer in his study(!), from which they eventually disappeared and he has never found them.   His wife swears she hasn't touched them (who, I ask, would wish to touch them?) - the writer of the article in the times suggests he look on e-bay in case somebody is trying to sell them.

Have any of you lost anything in an unexplained way - and never found it again - or (like me) found it after a few years?

Friday 10 October 2014

Travelling menageries.

Another class this afternoon, this time looking at the Diary of  Henrietta Matilda Crompton  who was born in Yorkshire in 1793 into a very rich family, rich enough to spend each 'Season' in the city of York, entertaining, going to various events like balls, races, theatres and generally dressing up and being seen in the social setting.

It was a really interesting afternoon - we have a very good tutor who gets us all involved in the discussion.   But an aspect of it about which I really didn't know anything was the Travelling Menageries.   In those days folk knew little about the care of animals or 'beasts' as they thought of them.   They were kept in conditions described as 'the finest health, condition and cleanliness, the interiors being rendered warm and comfortable by continued fires being kept'.   At nine o'clock each night all the animals were fed.

These menageries (elephants, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, ocelots, panthers, polar bears etc.) travelled around the country - they would make huge caravans on the road - some of the trailers would be pulled by horses and some by elephants (there are quite a few pictures on Wikipedia if you want to look at them).

When you think of today's Safari Parks and the fact that we can all see these animals in various wildlife programmes even if we don't want or can't afford to travel to their native countries to see them it is really quite distressing to imagine the life these poor animals had.

I don't think this attitude to wild animals has changed for the better in all parts of the world, but maybe we are slowly getting there.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Today's new class.

Today I started a new afternoon class on The Art and Literature of The British Countryside.   It will continue every Thursday throughout October.   It was really interesting and there was a group of ten of us, all happy to join in and participate.   Today's
topic was 'Rural Life and the Landed Classes.   We looked at the
Luttrell Psalter, The Nun's Priest's Tale (my favourite piece of Chaucer) as well as the paintings of Thomas Gainsborough amongst others.   It is so good to get together and chat about things we are all interested in.

After yesterday's class on Moving to Music for the over 60's I feel really fit today - plenty of energy, which just goes to prove that it doesn't do to sit around.   Tomorrow an afternoon of Diaries of Yorkshire Women of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.   Golly my head will be so full of information.

However, I was brought up short as we left the class (in the absolute pouring rain incidentally) when a lady who had been in the class with me let me share her umbrella as we crossed the yard to our cars.   She said how much she had enjoyed the afternoon and I agreed, saying that I had been to a previous class run by our tutor.   She asked me what it was about - I knew it was also on Art and Literature - but I had to admit that I couldn't remember the subject.   Now, three hours later - and I still have not remembered, so I am signing off, going upstairs to the study and looking out the papers from that course.   I am ashamed.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Sorry Mr Squirrel.

Doing a rough check on what has done well around the farm this year and what has performed poorly -I would say that the biggest disappointment has been the apples and the plums.  In both cases these have been largely non-existent.  Walnuts too have been a disappointment.

Everything else has performed to perfection.   Raspberries, runner beans, peas, broad beans, sweet peas, onions - all these in the vegetable garden have done very well indeed.

But it is in the hedgerows that the real burgeoning has taken place.
Every holly bush and tree is covered with fat, red berries (although whether they survive until Christmas or not will largely depend on the weather), every crab apple tree has branches hanging low with red or golden fruit (the cattle are waiting for them to drop off because they seem to enjoy their sourness), the sloes, which are almost ripe, are more plentiful than they have been for years.   But the crop which amazes the farmer - the best crop he can ever remember - is the hazelnuts.  We have quite a few hazel trees in the pasture hedges and every one is thick with nuts.   Yesterday the farmer picked up those which had fallen off in the breeze (I forbid him to get up the trees to pick them when he has a severe balance problem) and brought them home, and today he has added more to the bowl.
  I have to tell you that I had one or two last night and they are absolutely delicious - so fresh tasting and quite unlike the ones you buy in the shops, which have been picked for a few weeks.   So I am sorry Mr. Squirrel.   I know you have been hanging around for a few weeks just waiting for the nuts to ripen, but we are hoping to get at them first.   You can stick to the ones at the tops of the trees - you are agile enough to get up there with no effort at all.

I hope you like the bowl.   It is hand made of white ash, by Richard le Blonc and I bought it in Cheticamp, a lovely coastal village in Nova Scotia.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Disaster in the washing machine.

Well perhaps disaster is too strong a word, maybe nuisance is a better one.  Whichever way you look at it I somehow got a tissue in with the washing this morning when I put a load on to wash.   And sod's law being what it is, the load was the dark clothes.   There is now a line full of navy blue underpants covered in white flecks, black T shirts ditto, red T shirts ditto and five pairs of black socks that have developed measles.

It did strike me as I passed the washing line earlier this afternoon on my walk with Tess that the tissue in the washing machine was a jolly good metaphor for so many aspects of life.   Not sure what they are but when I think of one I will let you know.

Monday 6 October 2014

Back to normal.

My boffin, as Virginia calls him, came this morning and sorted my computer out.   After an hour it was business as usual.   Apparently part of the trouble was that we are a business (the farm) as well as a person (me with my personal e mail) and BT are intent on combining the two things together (my boffin says they should have done this in the first place really).

The password, which I put in so many times over the past two days and which was rejected each time, was accepted this morning.   Apparently it is my personal site password and not the business one (we don't actually have a business one).

S till, ours not to reason why is my philosophy.   When I go into town in the morning I shall buy a spanking new notebook and neatly copyin all my passwords/ favourite names/first pets and all the rest.   In the meantime I shall sit back and enjoy the fact the everything is working again.

It has been an awful day here today.   After a perfect Autumn day yesterday it has poured with rain all day today - well over an inch of rain here on the Eastern side of the Pennines and probably twice that much on the Western side, where all the trains have been disrupted by fallen trees on the lines and rising water levels.   Autumn has arrived in spectacular fashion.   Our neighbouring farmer and friend was talking to the farmer this afternoon and said that the River Ure (which rises in the high Pennines, on the watershed) was rising fast and 'banking' - let us hope, as it has now temporarily stopped raining, that it begins to go down as fast as it comes up.   The river, and also our other river, the Swale, can rise up to twenty feet in an hour in really wet weather.

Not many houses flood but cattle and sheep always make for the highest ground they have got in the field and do sometimes have to be moved for safety.

Sunday 5 October 2014

If it ain't broke.......

Why is it that every now and again everything has to be turned a*** over tip when some whizz-kid decides to up-date one way of doing things on the computer for something 'better'?

I am not all that computer-literate.   I don't, on the whole, surf the internet unless I wish to buy clothes (we live a long way from shops and in any case trying the clothes on in changing rooms is a no-no).   What I do regularly I am happy with - I blog, I answer blogs, I shop, I visit Amazon, I search for different poems to read at our Poetry afternoons, I take photographs and feed them in, I order my weekly shopping from Tesco and I have lots of e-mails.

Suddenly BT have decided to 'update' their system of e mails and I am stuck, well and truly.   I  was sure that I knew my password  - in any case BT remembers it for me - so I began the process of up-dating to the new system.   I quickly came up against a problem as BT said my password was not correct.  When they directed me to making a new password they asked for my security 'favourite name'.   Did I at one time put one in?   If so, I don't remember.   That is when the trouble really started.

I spent an hour trying to sort it out.   Yesterday friend S very kindly also spent an hour, ending up chatting 'on-line' with a 'helper' about it all.   Last night my son spent another hour trying to sort it out.   All to no avail.   The result is that my e mails are no longer accessible and this means that tomorrow (hopefully, if he can spare the time) the man who looks after my computer for me will have to come and sort it out.

This is really another irritating thing about advancing years.   Obviously I need to ring up BT and discuss the issue but I can't because I hear very poorly on the telephone, being very deaf.  I feel like beginning to make a list of all the disadvantages to being over eighty.

1.   Can't hear properly on the telephone.
2.   Having to deal with 'cold calls' is driving me mad (I have to get up, get to the phone,answer it only to find someone is trying to sell me solar panels (we already have them in any case) - and why is it always a meal times?
3.   The format on my computer changes and I am thrown into a state of confusion.

Enough of this moaning - I am still alive and kicking and enjoying life apart from 1,2 and 3 above and what is that compared with what some folk have to endure?

Lovely day here - the last for a while according to the forecast.   The farmer is going mad in the front garden, cutting everything back, digging up the invasion of Japanese anemones (no, he will never win that battle as their roots are under the path).   I am off into town once the shops open at 10.30 - we need milk and I need a nice new notebook in which to copy (neatly and in an orderly fashion) all my passwords.   I might even find that favourite name that BT are hounding me for!

Saturday 4 October 2014


The leaves - particularly the ash leaves - are falling in great showers here today in a brisk wind, and covering the new tarmac.   The pine needles from our Scot's pines are falling in their thousands; no matter how many barrow loads the farmer sweeps up there are as many and more by the next morning.   Within an hour of our window sills being painted last week by the painters, each sill was covered with pine needles.   Luckily it was fast-drying industrial paint, so it was dry and they didn't stick.   I went round and religiously swept them all off, today the wind is doing the job for me.  (as the old man said 'never bother to sweep up the leaves, let borealis do the job for you' - as he will sooner or later).

This morning was our village coffee morning, always on the first Saturday of the month - and today it was especially well-attended.   By half past ten the village hall was full and the talk was too loud for me to hear what anyone was saying (hearing aids have a nasty habit of picking up every sound, not just the one you want to hear).

There was the usual cake and produce stall, as usual staffed by A, and she had made - and brought for me - a couple of lasagnes made with minced turkey and without the celery she usually puts in.  If you haven't tried lasagne with turkey do give it a try - it is jolly good and, of course, very low in fat.

There was the raffle with a large selection of prizes.   I do not wish to win chocolate or sherry or wine, and I have enough 'stuff' without winning any more - so I always put a couple of pounds into the box but don't have any tickets - that takes care of that.

There is also a stall run by a lady who makes the most delicious Indian food.   She always has a slow cooker with her so that her main dish of the day can be tasted before you buy it - good idea, don't you think?  I bought a vegetable rice, a chicken sweet and sour balti and a chicken and coconut malay.  The sweet and sour we had for lunch with the vegetable rice and the rest of the things I bought went into the freezer for the busy days to come, when I am out on my afternoon courses.   That is the meals for this week taken care of.  (My mother would turn in her grave at my laziness in buying food rather than cooking it from scratch).  The lunch was quite a surprise to the farmer - I don't think he has had Indian food before, but he quite enjoyed it.  Very hot, but plain yoghourt was delicious after it.

Food habits are changing so much aren't they?   When I was a child we had good plain food - my mother was always a good plain cook.   I don't think she ever bought a cake in her life, and yet there was always plenty of cake on the table. She was always highly suspicious of what she called 'bought cake'.  When I think back, she seemed to spend most of the day either doing the washing, cleaning the house, or cooking.  Now I have usually done all that in an hour (or a variety of machines has done it for me.)  The result is that I can go out and about meeting friends, drinking copious amounts of coffee and attending classes.  Can't be bad, can it?

Friday 3 October 2014

Keeping the old brain active.

This afternoon friend W and I started the first of a session of classes.   There will be a class on a Thursday afternoon (the art and literature of the English Countryside) and a class on a Friday afternoon (Dear Diary with a Yorkshire accent).

This afternoon we looked at the Diary of Faith Gray, a woman who lived in York in the eighteenth century.   It makes fascinating reading charting her life, the birth of her seven children and also a catalogue of the good works she became involved in.   She was obviously interested in keeping children off the streets and helping them to learn some kind of trade so that they could earn a living.

Driving home afterwards we discussed why we go to these classes.   We obviously do not remember everything we hear, read and discuss, but it does give us a look at peoples' lives and it does mean that (while we can) we are getting out and getting involved with other people.   The same will be true of the art and literature class which begins next week.

So yes, it is worth it.   Should we live to be really old (!!) and lose our mobility, then will be the time when we may have to stay in.   In the meantime - we need to get out amongst folk and keep learning.   If you don't use it you lose it.

Incidentally, whilst I was out, that sneaky farmer used his chain saw (which I had expressly forbidden him to do because of his balance problem) to saw down three dead  fir trees in the front garden.  In the centre of the largest was a nest which looked suspiciously like a robin's nest.  I hope it was the one who built in the watering can earlier in the year - do you remember the farmer inadvertently picked up the can and disturbed Mrs. Robin and she never returned to her eggs.

Thursday 2 October 2014

The National Health Service

Our nearest hospital is The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, about twenty five miles away.   It is a known and trusted hospital and most people here would choose to go there.

Our nearest large hospital is The James Cook University Hospital in  Middlesbrough, about forty miles away.   It is a state of the art building, much more modern and much larger than The Friarage but not nearly so well-trusted by 'the locals'.  As an incomer I personally have no difficulty with James Cook, which is where I go for almost all of my treatment - and the farmer and I have got the journey worked out to a minimum.

Now they are closing parts of the Friarage Hospital and re-directing patients to Middlesbrough - mostly children and over night care in emergency.  Parents of young children are naturally worried that in an emergency their children have to travel an extra twenty miles in the middle of the night.

I was thinking about all this when our friends were over from The Netherlands.   In so many ways we are so very lucky with our National Health Service.   It has been going so long that we tend to take it for- granted.   Yes, there are huge flaws in it, but by and large we get good treatment and we don't have to worry about paying for it.   Our Dutch friends have to pay around £1200 each per year for their medical treatment. The cost of treatment in USA is even greater.

I think it is worth bearing this in mind  even though we could almost all of us tell a story about something that was badly organised, or went wrong.  I for one am jolly pleased I live in the UK. 

Wednesday 1 October 2014

At last!

At last the prevailing wind is blowing from the West and the farmer can have a bonfire.   The huge pile of rubbish (being replenished with various  hedge cuttings as I write this) is burning.   For the last few weeks what wind there has been seems to have always been from the North which would have meant that all the smoke would have arrived at the farmhouse - not good.

Now all the 'rubbish' can be burnt before the week-end, when it is forecast there will be rain.  If it had to be left until after then the whole pile would have to dry out again. 

This Summer has been remarkable - at least July and September have been (a bit of a blip in August).  It has brought to mind the Summers of my childhood, when we used to set off on our bikes after breakfast, a pile of sandwiches and a bottle of orange in our bike bags, and go somewhere for the day - fishing with our nets in some little beck somewhere, swimming in the river, blackberrying, gathering mushrooms - we always found something to do.   There was so little traffic in our village so the roads were relatively safe.  And - above all - the weather seemed always to be kind.

There must have been bad Summers, mustn't there?  Perhaps I choose to forget those.

The field opposite, where only a couple of weeks ago they were cutting the corn, has been 'mucked' and then ploughed and resown both together - all in the space of a day.   The field in front of it, alongside the lane and right opposite our farmhouse, has been sprayed off - you will see that the grass is yellowing and dying.  This afternoon they are spreading a thick layer of slurry (thank goodness for that West wind) - soon, says the farmer, it will be ploughed and sown too.   This field has been grass as long as the farmer has lived here.   The farm has recently been sold, so it is all change.

I just went down the yard to have a look at the state of the bonfire after my lunchtime walk with Tess (and a long chat with E, an old farmer friend,)

 and Blackie, ever the opportunist, met me on the lookout for a saucer of milk.  I actually managed to snap him in the middle of a miaow!