Tuesday 30 June 2020

Warmer out than in.

Today is one of those days when it is much warmer out than it is inside.   The wind has almost dropped (make the most of it as it is set to return by the week-end).   There is little or no sun but it is not cold.   Inside I shall no doubt have to put the central heating on after tea as already the whole house is getting chilly.

Tomorrow morning, very early, is our waste - garden bin, plastic and paper- collecting day and it has to be put out tonight.   Because of my age and mobility problems the men collect mine from the gate at the top of the drive but I still have to get the plastic and paper out of the garage - I must remember to do that before bed time.   Getting the green bin out meant I had to pass my side garden - I feared the worst after several days of severe gales but apart from three or four clumps of one plant (no idea what it is - just pretty but small red/pink flowers- most of the plants have stayed more or less upright.

I walked round the block - didn't feel like it after several days in - but made myself do it, had a couple of pleasant chats on the circuit, came back, made myself a cup of tea and then came to put on a post before Flog It.   It is a programme which fascinates me - people bring in things for valuation which are so obviously worth little or nothing (yes, there are exceptions), get quite excited at getting perhaps £80 for the item - which when Auctioneer's Fees and VAT are taken off makes the whole thing hardly worth the effort.   And many of the items which one glimpses in the queue are so obviously worthless - why do people bring them?
And sometimes people pick up an item at a Car Boot Sale which turns out to be quite valuable - there was one item last evening- I am not a Car Boot Sale Fan - and have only ever been to one.  Are you a fan of such things?   If so I  would love to hear what kind of things you look for and what bargains you have picked up.

Anyone who is a fan must feel very neglected this year as because of Covid all such events have been cancelled.   I think it is the crowds which put me off. 

The other events which I guess will have been cancelled will be the Agricultural Shows.   Up here each Dale has its own show and - certainly in the old days - such events may well have been the only 'holidays' the farmer got.   My farmer never missed a single year at the Wensleydale Show, held in the fields just behind my bungalow now.  There was so much to see - the livestock, the machinery, the equipment, the competitions, the events in the Showring and also - most important - the big tents for everyone to compete with their fruit and vegetables, knitting, crochet, flower arranging, baking, stick-making.   How they will miss it all this year.

Time to go and put the kettle on.   Have a good evening and if you are in an area where it is chilly - put that central heating back on - or another couple of sweaters.

Monday 29 June 2020


How quickly Mondays come along don't they?  Weather-wise it is still just as unseasonably windy and cold but so far much drier than it has been over the week end.   At present the sun is out and sitting here in my computer room it looks quite nice outside.   But I have just opened the front door to E, a friend, who promised to take a parcel to the Post Office for me and I was met by an icy blast.  What variable weather we have here in the U K.  Can you remember the heat wave we had last Monday and Tuesday - too hot to move about almost.

I am walking on air because the chiropodist has been for the first time in twelve weeks.   She came by appointment at mid day decked out in full PPE gear and insisted I wear a mask while she was here.   Her instruction as she left was to wipe all door handles with disinfectant and wash my hands well.

Lunch was crisply fried Jersey Royals (I boiled them earlier in the morning) with some good quality roast ham slices, three large fried tomatoes and a fried egg.   It was delicious and I was eating it within a quarter of an hour of my chirpodist leaving.  I don't expect to eat much more today.

The field behind my bungalow is full of rooks and they are making such a din.   Every now and then a group of them rise up into the air and fly directly  into the wind.   Of course it is too strong for them and they are stationary for a minute, hanging in the air, before they drift back to the ground.   I made me think about swifts - those mysterious little birds that we know so little about.   They nest here, the young are fledged here and then in a very short while they take off for a thousands of miles journey to Africa - hardly if ever letting their feet touch the ground again.   What must it be like for them in gale force winds?
What a mysterious world we live in.


Sunday 28 June 2020

What can I do?

I don't know why but this was a question I knew never to ask when I was a child.   I was expected to fill my time usefully.   I suspect my mother, one of eight, never had any spare time - there would always be some job she had to do to do with looking after the others and I think this made her feel that I should easily be able to fill my time without asking.   I never found it difficult.   It was like being an 'only one' although I was one of three - five really but two died in infancy before I was born - because we each had eleven years between us.   My sister was married before I was born and my brother was in France fighting in the Second World War by the time I was seven.

I never found it difficult.   I was always a great reader, I played the piano from an early age, along with my father we 'collected wild flowers', picking just one bloom, identifying it, pressing it and then I would put it into an album and label it.   Albums, hard-backed notebooks - anything like that I loved so people always knew what to buy me for birthdays and Christmas.   Craft work was not encouraged - my father's sisters were tailoresses or milliners and my mother, who always felt inferior because she had been in service, did not like the idea of comparison so I was never encouraged to do anything which involved a needle.

Since those days there has been a lifetime of filling every minute - music making, travelling, crafting, writing, gardening, reading, never enough hours in the day - and teaching as well of  course.   Now, suddenly, comes Covid 19 and the question arises again.   Arthritis means no more music making or travelling, there is only limited gardening, writing my blog each day is a life line, reading means a steady supply of books (anything I fancy from Amazon - no money spent on lunches out means I dont feel guilty about this) and when there is nothing else to read I go through my bookshelves to reread something I fancy.

Which is why today, for at least the third time, I am going down Africa from Cairo with Paul Theroux.  ('Dark Star Safari').   What do people in lockdown who dont read do with their time?   I know a lot of you are crafters (as I used to be before arthritis set in) and a lot of you are cooks and bakers.  Now I live alone the latter would just mean more weight gain so is best avoided.

So please tell us - what are you doing to fill your time during lock down?   If we all pool the information then perhaps we will all find something new to hold our interest.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Feel the difference.

A fresh, airy day with absolutely no humidity - that has, as the Weatherman said this morning,  'gone back where it belongs - in the Mediterranean'.   'Too windy for June' he also said apologetically, as though it was all his fault - and that we must expect the odd heavy shower.   Too right.   When I drew back the curtains at seven o'clock it was raining steadily but by the time I had eaten my Weetabix the sun was shining.   Then later in the morning, after our Saturday morning Zoom coffee morning, I happened to glance out of the window again - the rain was coming down in sheets and my back patio was flooded.   Now the sun is shining again.

My poor rose - covered in blooms - is laid low and all the flowers are heavy with rain and many on the floor.   I just hope as they dry up they will be upright again.   Luckily I can't see the side garden from the computer room so I don't know how it is faring - perhaps as well.   I think it is this kind of weather that makes us English preoccupied with the weather, especially if we are gardeners.

At least this weather was expected, unlike the awful storm of two or three Summers ago when the village a mile away, where my son and his wife live, had catastrophic flooding with many houses flooded.   My son lives on a lane which is not a made-up road - the people who live on it have to maintain it themselves.   The lane was completely washed away and only a group of kind hearted volunteers, along with donated materials, made the lane up better than it had been before.   Now, whenever heavy rain is forecast sand bags are distributed around the village in advance.   My son rang me from his garden yesterday morning to say that the man who does this was just bringing a pallet of sandbags down the lane 'just in case'.   A very pretty beck runs down the side of the lane, which has a house which used to be the village mill on the side of it.

Our river - the Ure - winds its way through Wensleydale (which used to be called Uredale),and  is a very pretty river until heavy rain falls at which point it becomes a raging torrent and blocks the road in various places.   They say it can rise twenty feet in an hour and go down just as quickly.  Like everywhere I suppose, we are at the mercy of the weather.   The sky is now totally blue with just the odd puffy white cloud here and there.   But for how long?

Each year I have frequent visits from a large ginger Tom cat who chooses to sleep under my hedge often during the Summer.   He is there again today and stays there even when we have a downpour, which must be soaking him through.  I have just taken a photograph from my window - he is a long way away but hope you can see him.   Now I shall try and put the photo on my blog using our new blogger - so far I have managed it quite well - so let's see what happens.

Friday 26 June 2020

British Summer Time

Three fine days and then a thunderstorm they say.   Well true this week - three days of sunny weather   getting hotter and hotter and humidity rising.   Then today plenty of black clouds around and still high humidi ty.   As the day went on clouds rolled in and out, sunshine came and went.   An hour ago a storm erupted - heavy black clouds, spectacular lightning, loud thunder, heavy downpour - now away it goes and the air feels fresher.   Will it return?   Only time will tell.

At one time such a downpour would have flattened the corn at this time of year when it is just beginning to ripen, but not any more as in corn growing areas (not here)  wheat and barley have been bred with shorter stems.    But it certainly does its worst on the taller plants in my herbaceous borders - but I hate to see plants tied up and restricted so I let them grow and take their chance.   Strong winds are forecast for the weekend - so plants beware that too.

I shall now go an prepare myself for a one hour feast of Monty.   He is on early tonight - half past seven - I don' t like to miss a min ute of the hour long Gardeners' World - as somebody said - he has become a National Treasure to rival Mary Berry.
I learnsomething new every week.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Another scorcher

Up with the lark this morning, or even before it, as the bedroom began to hot up and I was wide awake.   I have a routine of walking round and opening blinds and curtains as I go and when I reached my computer room I sat down and so have not yet got any further.

Outside my semi wild self-sown poppies are being swiftly brought into flower by this hot sun and my pinks are scenting the whole place beautifully.   Already I can tell you that I shall be doing little or nothing today - too hot for me but an odd ten minutes in the sun now and again will boost my Vitamin D levels.

I am pleased to find out that there are bats around here.   We had a colony on the farm - they never seemed to increase but there were always half a dozen or so.   Last night when I opened the front door to say a last good night to outside and see that everywhere was quiet (as I do every night) there was a bat flying directly towards me as I stood in the doorway I was sure it was going to fly in.   But of course it didn't - with its magnificent radar system it veered away at great speed.   I love them - they are such strange creatures.

The Times has just popped through the letter box so I shall be away to have my two rounds of toast and honey and a banana.   I may well be back later in the day. 

Back indeed at half past two in the afternoon.  My whole body seems to shut down in this hot weather and I am fit for nothing, so I am carefully keeping in the shade and reading The Times.  The weather report for today is really interesting.  Each year more than 100 million tonnes of dust from the Sahara is blown over the Atlantic Ocean - some of it even reaching as far as the Amazon.  It's not all bad news though because much of it settles on the Ocean and sinks to the bottom fertilising the growth of phytoplankton and when this sinks to the bottom and dies it locks the carbon away and helps to  limit global warming.  The dust also acts as a sun shield and cools the surface of the sea by a degree thus starving hurricans of the heat they need to develop.   But for those with chest problems this is not good news.   This year is particularly bad apparently  - but amazing to think of this going on around us while we are so unaware.   I do remember one year when my car was covered in what the weather man said was dust from the Sahara so it does happen every year but to differing degrees and this is a particularly bad year.

Tomorrow thunderstorms begins to creep in and by the week-end our temperatures will be 'a little bit fresher' to quote the weatherman.   Can't come soon enough for me - maybe I would feel differently if I was basking on a Welsh beach.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Today's Food for Thought.

A short walk with Percy yesterday because this sudden very hot weather is  playing havoc with my arthritis and I am finding walking very difficult and spending much of the day with my feet up.   But half way round the walk a lady I know opened the door as I walked past, to have a chat - she had obviously seen me approaching and, as we both agreed, it is important to speak to a few people every day.

We have an interest in gardening in common so we discussed her front garden, which is well set out and we discussed the hot weather (very unusual up here in the Yorkshire Dales I must say).  Then I asked her if she was a local (she is my age and a widow).   Oh no she said.   I asked her where she came from and her answer was Swaledale.  We live on the edge of Wensleydale here - Swaledale starts about a couple of miles over the hill to the North West - not exactly a million miles away you will agree.

But she does not see herself as a local.   I find this astonishing as an 'absolutely not local' but locals  here are still quite 'parochial'.   This will disappear before long as more and more 'incomers' arrive.  My son was speaking to his new neighbours yesterday and they have moved up from Kent.  And I remember a few years back my farmer did a count of how many locals there were in the village - he could just count them on his fingers.

I sat yesterday evening and did a  quick count of the friends I have made since I moved up here - many, but not many who are actually local.  My  now 'local' friends come from Huddersfield, Oldham, Halifax, Leeds, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Sunderland, Lichfield,  to name but a few.   I have possibly half a dozen real locals who I would call friends.

My farmer was born in the house where he still lived when he died.   He could not bear the thought of moving - it was home.   Until we met he had had one foray to Majorca with Young Farmers as a teenager and with that he was content.   I have spent all my money on travelling and have been to so many places all over the world.   After a couple of years he adopted my life style and together we went around the US and Canada, Scandinavia and parts of Europe. 

But now, when my travelling days are over,   I often think - does it matter whether or not you move from place to place?   Is it just whatever floats your boat?  Is all that matters your happiness or is it important that you see how people live, gain experiences, see beautiful works of art.  So often in travel adverts you see Registan Square in Samarkand and I think - I stood there.   But does it really matter?   All my travel experiences will die with me and I am no more likely to feel happy and fulfilled with my life than someone whose horizons go no further than Swaledale and Wensleydale.


Tuesday 23 June 2020


My gardener has just arrived to cut my lawns and is already complaining about the humidity although the sun isn't shining.   Even before he starts there is a delicious smell of cut grass because the field behind my house is having its second crop silage cut this morning.   And it looks to be a good crop judging by the amount of grass that is shooting out of the top of the machine and into the following trailer.

The farms around here are all quite large; small family-owned farms, where the ownership goes back several generations, are often just not financially viable any more.   And when one becomes empty a neighbouring farmer or a syndicate will buy the land and add it to their existing land and thus does a lot of farm history disappear for ever.   Our 'Peacocks'(which presumably belonged to a Mr Peacock in the distant past) is now part of a larger farm and the name will just die out.

Does it matter?   Probably not.   The whole way and manner of farming has disappeared as with so many ways of life.  Gone are the days when if you passed a field there would be half a dozen men working it, whatever the crop.   If it was wet they would still be working, sacking draped across their shoulders, working in all weathers and going home to their farm cottage, usually a 'tied' cottage, to a wife and a brood of children and usually a good hearty meal on the table and a good fire in the grate because tied cottages usually had good gardens and often a pig sty and a chicken run.  But they were still 'tied' - the job went with the cottage.

Now one big, spanking, expensive machine does    the work that half a dozen men did and often the tied cottages have been renovated and let as holiday cottages, or sold and joined together to make one lovely country cottage. And most people (if they even glance in the direction of the land) are people who have come into villages from outside and don't know anything about the old lives.  And no longer is it just one crop of hay feed, where the farmer has to keep his eye on the weather and judge exactly when it is right to cut - now with modern methods of feeding two, three or even four crops of silage can be reaped each year.
And nobody wants to work on the farm any more - too hard work.

And so this morning I can sit in the window and watch D mowing my grass with a modern mower and the farmer's sole employee mowing the field beyond for the second time this year.   The old times may well sound romantic in the poetry of the day and look romantic in a Constable painting
but the truth is nobody wants to do back-breaking work if it is unnecessary do they?   Nostalgia is all very well but best viewed from the comfort of one's arm chair.

Monday 22 June 2020

Interrogating silence.

Those of us who live alone and are now in Lockdown here in the UK have had almost three months of enforced isolation.   Three months where there has really been no 'encouragement' to shower, to get dressed, to prepare proper meals.  Nobody would have known if we had stayed in bed or stayed in our dressing gowns all day.  There has been nobody to call out 'is the bathroom free' or 'what time's lunch' from somewhere else in the house.   And because nobody has been likely to call apart from the paper girl at eight o'clock and the postman around lunch time - and Edith from down the road, who rings the bell if I forget to take the milk in off the step - a sort of silence has settled over the place and it never goes.   It gets ino the brickwork and into the soft furnishings, into the cupboards and into the garage, so that wherever one goes everythings is silent.   A pet would make a difference of course - if Tess were still here I wouldn't be alone;  Rachel with her four black cats always has company, as does John with his menagerie - fairly silent as cats are (until they are getting hungry) they still have a presence.   And John spends a lot of his time communing with his dogs.

Now for most of my friends it is getting a bit tiresome - we are ready for some sort of release.  We are forgetting our words, struggling with remembering things, unable to do simple things on the computer - our brains are going into neutral.   And yet how lucky we are to have so many ways in which to spend our time.   We have access to many books, we can choose what to watch on television, we can chat to friends who call (while following the safe distance rule,) we can Zoom as long as we like, we can blog, we can go on Facebook - the list is endless.

Think how much worse things would have been a hundred years ago if a global pandemic had arrived then.   No television, not a lot of people had transport, we would have been much more isolated.   But maybe we would have been much more adaptable at dealing with it.   And we would have known so many people around us - not like today when populations move around so that you can't be sure you will know your neighbour. 

My son was speculating the other day on how they would have coped with the global pandemic that was the Great Plague - whole villages would know one another - there would be few strangers - and all would share the trials and tribulations, and would have shouldered the burdens.

But to some, like George MacKay Brown, up there in Stromness in the Orkneys, that silence that comes of isolation, of seeing no-one, of no communication for most of the week, was his chosen way of life.   He lies now in St Magnus Cathedral in Poet's Corner alongside Edwin Muir, his friend and mentor.   He spoke a lot in his writing about interrogating silence - now he lies in the silence of that great cathedral - the kind of silence that we in our own homes are beginning to feel - a silence that is never ending.

Sunday 21 June 2020


I love the word - Thomas Hardy was fond of it too.   In his day I can just imagine how it could be used.  He lived through the First World War and so would be witness to a generation of women who became 'Maiden Ladies' or as so many called them 'Old Maids' - a generation of women unlikely to marry because their men had been killed on the battlefields of the Somme or Paschendale - and who were mostly left to a life of solitude.   Many of them had private or secret lives about which the rest of society knew nothing.   I had four such Aunts (I have written of them before) - they always loomed quite large in my life (they were my father's sisters) but of their inner thoughts and their lives I really knew absolutely nothing.   It was only after her death that I found out that Eve had given birth to a child and had it adopted - but it had died in infancy - what a secret to carry with her all her life (she lived into her eighties) her innermost thoughts must so often have dwelt on it but it was for everyone else 'behind closed doors' - not to be mentioned.   Another of the four - Nellie - had an officer boyfriend who turned out to be married.  After her death (she left her money and all her private belongings to my brother) he found a box under her bed.  In the box were all the things he had given her - pressed flowers, pretty lace-edged handkerchiefs, tiny leather bound poetry books of love poetry with relevant passages underlined.   I have them now.   I have access to a secret world, a sad world and one hidden away, impenetrable.

As a small child in the thirties and forties I remember one or two elderly (to me they seemed very old) ladies belonging to this era of forgotten maiden ladies.   One lived in a neighbouring village and on hot days in Summer we would trudge over to her cottage in the village to go to her cottage and ring a bell outside the front door.   This would bring her out through a curtain hiding the rest of her house away, to serve us with a delicious ice cream - tasted like frozen custard and probably was just that - golden yellow and divine.
What was hidden behind that curtain we never knew - we always wondered, and guessed but in the end there came a Summer when she was no longer there to serve us and I suppose about the same time Eldorado (Stop Me and Buy One) men on their bikes began to come round in Summer and we quickly forgot.

At the moment I have a couple of friends who are trying to sort out their affairs and throw away years of unnecessary bits and bobs - things which probably have great and deep meaning to them but which have no meaning at all to the next generation.   Things which, when they are gone, will be left to be sorted out otherwise.   A bag for the tip, a bag for the charity shop, trinkets for some antique dealer to sort through and decide whether it is worth trying to sell them.   Things which have meant such a lot and have such memories but not for anyone else.

Our innermost thoughts, our innermost secrets, things which, when we die, will die with us or become meaningless - just trinkets in a charity shop.   Do we all have them?   I suspect the answer is yes.   When I moved here I had a really good going over everything,making sure I packed a box each day for the charity shop. a box to take with me, a black bag for the tip.   I was so pleased with myself when I moved in - I had nothing that would need to be gone through and then speculated on.

But I can't help feeling that these things creep up on one - a saved card here, a pressed flower there, 
things which have meaning to me.   My dear grand daughter sent me a sketch of a birch tree at the beginning of lock down and with it came a tiny bunch of birch twiglets from the tree itself.   Throughout lock down I have kept those twiglets, tied with a piece of ribbon, hanging from the bookshelves.  They are meaningless to anyone else but they are symbolic of hope for the future for her and for me, part of my penetralia I suppose you could say.

Saturday 20 June 2020


This postcard came through my letter box this morning.   Thank you so much Rachel.   What memories it brought back.   It is a postcard of an old L N E R Railway picture - they were up on the walls of the old railway carriages when we went on our annual week's holiday to Skeggie when we were kids.   Or sometimes it would even be to Cromer - and once to Hunstanton.   Always to Boarding Houses  - bed and breakfast and then out of the house by ten oclock, regardless of the weather, and don't come back until half past six to get washed and changed for the evening meal.  Your sandals would be full of sand and you would have to take them off outside and shake them well onto the garden so as not to tread the sand inside.

And reading this morning in Ronald Blythe's 'Word from Wormingford' about Marsh Marigolds - my dear farmer's and my favourite flower.   Water blobs we called them when we were children.  The farmer would come in for breakfast one morning - after putting the cows in the pasture after milking - and say 'the water blobs are out on the beck' and together, after breakfast we would go down to look at the first blooms.  Said to have been brought over with the Vikings - they never failed to disappoint.   Today is the farmer's birthday.   He  would have been seventy seven today.  Memories.

Friends P and D motored over today for a picnic on the patio keeping our distances.   We made our own sandwiches and I made a communal coffee.   They stayed for three hours and then set off for home and their Zoom dinner party this evening with friends of D's from his school days.  The memories they must share become more and more precious as they get older.

I sat in the garden with them in the (mostly) warm sunshine.   We chatted, we laughed and P and I, friends for almost fifty years - and I don't remember us ever having a cross word - reminisced about places like Stokesay Castle which we visited regularly when we lived in the Midlands.  And it brought back memories of going there with M, my first husband and the father of my son D.   We were married for thirty nine years and  I have so many happy memories of our years together.  And it all made this horrible Lockdown seem not so bad after all   How lucky I have been to have had two very happy marriages - one of thirty nine years and a second of twenty three years and so many happy memories to look back on.

Friday 19 June 2020

Another Friday=

How quickly they come around - and I usually think they are Saturdays arriving in any case.   But another Friday arrives and it is a damp one.  I did blog yesterday but sadly Gremlins invaded my computer (or most likely my brain) and when I switched on late evening to add to my post my photograph and a large part of my earlier text had disappeared.   I tried but couldn't get the photograph of my jar of honey back - and this morning, when I switched on, the whole thing had disappeared into thin air.   Now I can't get today's photograph to download so I am sitting here trying to keep my cool.   As I am frequently told by my more computer-literate friends - it is never the computer's fault - always that of the operator.  So sorry for no post yesterday.

Looking out of the window sitting here at my laptop I see that it is raining heavily.   Isn't it usually the case - we are desperate for rain - eventually we get some - then it really doesn't have any idea when to stop.   Luckily I did get a short walk with Percy in this morning before it began to rain.   Then I had the most delicious lunch and I took a photograph of it.   Cro often puts his lunch on his daily blog so I thought I would too today - but my computer is refusing to cooperate.   So all I can do is tell you what I had - I had the most deliciously cheesy Lasagne with steamed asparagus and followed it with a bowl of English strawberries.  Many companies round here are cooking and delivering ready-to-eat meals as a way of keeping their business going during lockdown.   One such company up here is Fairhursts - well-known caterers in the area and with a good 'farmhouse cafe' usually.  They are delivering ready meals for two (or in my case enough for two days for me) and today I had one of their Lasagnes.  I think the best I have ever tasted.

All that and now it is Gardeners' World tonight and a whole hour of Monty Don - one of my favourite programmes.   Like my father before me, there is nothing I enjoy more than watching somebody else in the garden doing the hard work I want doing.

Sad to see today that Dame Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103.  I think it is difficult for today's generation of young people to imagine the pleasure and the sheer influence she had on young men and women during World War II and isn't it good to know that she has herself had a long and happy life -richly deserved.

Looking out of the window the rain has stopped and the sun has come out.   What a difference it makes.   Have a good evening and hopefully, gremlins notwithstanding, I will see you tomorrow. 

**Beaten the gremlins!!

Wednesday 17 June 2020


Sorry I missed posting yesterday but for the past two days I have felt quite energetic and I have to take the bull by the horns on such days and get a few jobs done.   I did go on line at around ten last evening, intending to put on a post - but I was just too tired to think of anything!

 I woke up this morning and still felt tired, so no such luck with doing much in the way of jobs today.   But all was not lost.   Once friends knew I had bought a new printer I was inundated with offers to instal it for me.   I could never do it myself.   A said he would do it but after I had accepted I realised that he was working full time and so when S and T offered I accepted and rang A to say he needn't come.   All I can say is that after seeing S instal it I could only say I would have had a nervous breakdown before I had got far
into the instructions with installation.   After they had gone I had to disinfect the computer and printer and all the door handles and such like.   Luckily the whole operation could be achieved without them coming into most of the bungalow.
All the gardening done today was to sweep the patio and I found that jolly hard work. I managed a walk with Percy but really the atmosphere is so very heavy today that everything is a major effort.

Now, at a quarter past seven in the evening, the sky is very cloudy and I begin to wonder whether we shall see some of that thunder and storms which seem to have plagued the Eastern side of the country.

In the garden my rose is out at last, as are some of my pinks and the scent is divine.   My poppies, which are all self-sown are growing so fast that I can almost see them growing.   I promise that when most of them are out I will post a picture.
I will hopefully be back to normal tomorrow (The Repair Shop and The Sewing Bee tonight, so that means a lovely relaxed evening.)


Monday 15 June 2020

A Visitor.

For the past few days I have had a couple of visitors permanently in my back garden.   A pair of woodpigeons have - one or the other - spent all day foraging in the deep layer of bark chippings under my yew hedge.   Back and forth, back and forth they have been going and spending no time at all away before they are back. They must have a nest somewhere near and finally yesterday I realised that if I sat in the front window I should be able to see more or less where it was - and sure enough I saw that it was in a clump of teenage ash trees on the site opposite my bungalow.   Straight across the road they would go into the trees and a couple of seconds later out they would come and back across the road again.   Each evening I am going out with a dustpan and brush and sweeping up the bark on the patio and putting it back where it belongs.   A small amount of effort to pay for watching a couple of very diligent parents.

Monday morning

....Bright and early - up with the lark (if we ever heard one around here).   My printer has broken, I have bought a new one on line, it has come, I have disinfected the box, it has sat in my kitchen for three days but there I have come to a full stop..    I can't get it out of the box and carry it through to my computer room and connect it, although it looks easy to connect.   My son, who is still in lockdown with his invalid wife, does not wish to come in house to do it, quite understandably.   But it does mean that unless I send communications by e mail or pdf file I am out of touch.   I don't like that.   To add to my troubles I have run out of both first and second class stamps, I have run out of good quality writing paper and envelopes - I feel totally out of touch.   Yesterday I went on line to try to buy first and second class stamps from The Post Office site.   Three times I went through the process of getting to the check out to pay.   Three times the screen told me I had done something wrong.   I went back to the beginning and began again but I never got to the end without intense frustration and severe chastisement from the screen to tell me to go back and fill it in properly (I was only putting in my personal details!).   I gave up - and in any case that still left writing paper and envelopes.

This morning I arose at half past five.  The world was largely still asleep.  Shower, medication, donning of rubber gloves, face mask - the full works - I drove down the mile to the Newsagents, already open for early morning paper girls and boys who deliver.   Apart from the two assistants the shop was empty.  Entry at the front - large bottle of hand sanitiser - large screen - paid the bill up to last Saturday, bought writing paper, envelopes, first and second class stamps, business envelopes, a Bounty Bar and a Mars bar as a treat for getting up so early - exit by the back door, drove home, washed my hands well singing Happy Birthday to me twice (as recommended - it it isn't my birthday) and by quarter past six I was drinking my coffee and eating my Weetabix.  I am feeling pleased with myself and marginally smug.   Oh, and by the way, don't try wearing hearing aids, specs and a mask - it really doesn't work.

Sunday 14 June 2020


Here, in  a little quiet backwater, all seems to be going on as normal.   Most people seem to be following the lockdown rules, nobody is protesting about Black Lives Matter (they absolutely do - of that there is no doubt, but does it make the cause any more real if we march and spread hatred - surely that makes it worse).  We complain that we are tired of lockdown - particularly those of us over 70 who can see it going on throughout the winter and don't know whether we can take it - we seem to be living in a surreal world.

I look out of my window sitting here at the computer.   The pinks are beginning to open - a two-tone pink one and a deep red one so far.   The side garden looks so happy after the rain and various plants are in deep bud and ready to burst forth.  The sun is out and it is warm and everything in the garden is saying 'thank-you' for the life saving rain. 

Is it wrong of me to ignore all the protests?   Today is three years since the terrible Grenfell disaster - the effects of which are still not resolved.   Thousands are still dying from Covid19.   The hatred between the various groups in the BLM protests throughout the world is so strong that you can almost touch it.   I am almost 88.   Is it wrong of me to think of my garden and get pleasure from it and yet do nothing about all the other things - what can I do?   Yemen, .Syria, Afghanistan,poverty and hunger in parts of Africa - and so it goes on.   Inequality has always been with us and it wont go away - unemployment looms large in the not so far distant future.   And I contemplate the beauty of the plants in my garden.  Am I wrong and if so what should I be doing because I for one have absolutely no idea.

Friday 12 June 2020

Disaster strikes.

Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was certainly a very unhappy half hour.   I made a batch of carrot, onion and sweet potato soup for my lunch - it was delicious.   Then, to follow, I thought I would try Cro's pasta with tuna, onion, red pepper and cream.   I put on the pasta, chopped up the pepper and onion into some olive oil and put that on to gently cook opened a small tin of tuna and a small tub of cream - and promptly went down with a crash on to the kitchen floor!!

I could not get up however hard I tried.   I didn't think I was hurt although I had gone down with a bang;  I shuffled over to the dining chair and tried to turn over on to my knees and get up on the chair but to no avail.   I pressed my alarm button and asked for my son to please come and help me up.  In the meantime the pasta was boiling dry and the pasta/onion mixture was beginning to burn.   The smoke alarm began to bleep.   I began to cry in a heap on the floor.   Then I pulled myself together, shuffled over to the hotplate and was able to reach up and turn both the pepper mixture and the pasta off.   At this point my son came in, hauled me up off the ground -crisis over, disaster averted.

I put on the electric blanket and went to bed for the afternoon and slept the hurt away.   It was pouring with rain when I got up this morning and it is still pouring with rain now.   On the plus side - North Yorkshire Sport left a bag hanging on my door.  It held an exercise 'strap' and a booklet of .useful exercise for me to do, a pack of tea bags, a cylinder of crayons in case I enjoyed crayoning (I don't)- all very welcome so thank you N Y Sport.  Also friend L collected my medication from the Chemist and they had kindly also included some hearing aid batteries for me.  And, finally, if any plants in the garden were really thirsty then I think we can be assured that they no longer are.   And 'my' blackbird doesn't seem too bothered by the rain - he is singing his yellow beak off.

Thursday 11 June 2020

Me basking in the daisies.

Look what came through my door this morning - a portrait of me basking in the grass among the daisies and dandelions.   My great grand daughter, Ula, aged three, did it for me.   It seems so long since I saw her because of lockdown and what a delight it was to get this.   A pressed dandelion and a pressed daisy stuck on and enough green for me to know I am lying in the grass.   It has pride of place on the mantelpiece in my sitting room and I am so pleased with it.   Thank you Ula.   I am sending you a thank you note and will post it to catch tomorrow's post so watch out for it.   Your Mummy got the wrong address and put 9 instead of 19 but the Postman rang the bell because he thought I lived at 19 - that was clever of him.

Yesterday I had my friend D's twelfth 'Lockdown card' - each Saturday he posts me a card of a flower from The Lake District.   I watch out for it coming and each week it too gives me such a lot of pleasure.   We never thought it would go on so long - up to twelve now and no end of lockdo wn in sight for people of my age.   Thank goodness for all the lovely kind people about who ring me, send me letters and cards, generally help to keep life flowing along.   I thank every one of you.   You know who you are.

A chilly day here and just starting to rain again - but we really did urgently need water in the gardens so we have no cause to complain.   I seem to remember that a couple of years ago when I had my first Summer here we had a very dry spell at this time in the year and everything looked as though it was dying - except the Mares Tail of course!

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Wet Day

A gloriously wet day here today - the garden looks so good - a lot of work done on it yesterday and then a really good water today.   What could be better.   I see the Mares Tail is just coming through.   It has to be at least twenty centimetres tall before it is beaten down and sprayed with weed killer so much to my gardeners horror that does give time for the wonderful big pink poppies that have seeded themselves all over the place  to grow a bit taller, flower and spread seed.   Actually Mares Tail is not ugly to look at, it is really quite an attractive plant, but - like Ground Elder and Creeping Buttercup - if left to its own devices it will take over the whole garden.

This morning I got up, had my breakfast, tidied the whole bungalow, set off the dishwasher, took my book and went back to bed.   I had no intention of going out in the rain, I had nothing specific to do, the bungalow was chilly so I thought bed was the best place.    I didn't get up until almost mid day - dozed, read, did the mind games in The Times- after lunch (fish pie with savoy cabbage - half yesterday and half today) I went through the house with spray polish and a duster (I hoovered through the day before yesterday) and when the rain eased off for half an hour I tidied up on the patio after yesterday's gardening.

My ankles and mobility were so very bad last evening after my afternoon working in the garden that I feared I had overdone it and would still be unable to walk today - but I am back to normal which pleased me greatly.   The Repair Shop and The Sewing Bee this evening -always a favourite day of the week.   See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

A Busy Day

For me today has been a very busy day.   My poor ankles don't know what's hit them and now, at a quarter to seven in the evening, I can hardly walk and once I have finished this I shall put my feet up and watch television - and hope to stay awake until bedtime.

I had a Zoom coffee morning with 'the girls' and for once managed to stay on for the whole forty minutes - Zoom behaved itself this morning.   At that point my gardener came to mow the lawns and I discussed one or two things with him, including a space in the herbaceous border - I don't believe in spaces - I like the border packed so that I can't see any soil.   So he carried on mowing and I set off into town for the first time in twelve weeks - to The Garden Centre to buy two plants to fill the empty space.

There were only a few there and the whole place was well marked out with a pleasant young man standing to assist with waiting distances and such like.   He kindly carried my plants for me.   Of course, as always, I bought more than the two plants I had intended to buy.   I bought another Gallardia - I have one and it is out and has dozens of buds too and also a Scabiosa (white with a pink tinge) - these two to fill the space in the border.   I also bought a grey-leafed evergreen shrub which has yellow daisy-like flowers - he has put this into a pot for me until we have attacked the mares tail one more time - then we shall plant the bed up with shrubs and ground cover.   I bought two plants to put in my side border which I can manage because it is on the flat - a verbena and a heuchera with a bronze leaf.    Then I bought some new herbs for my two planters - my last year's herbs are a sorry sight.   Then after lunch I planted the ones for my flat garden and also the herbs which go into planters (mint, thyme, parsley,chives and chervil).   By this time, tottering about and in danger of falling, I came in for a rest.

Now I am very tired but also very satisfied with my day.   How do people manage who have no interest in gardening I wonder.

Monday 8 June 2020

Monday and the sun

Only for a short while but what a difference the sun makes.   After a few days when the dull, dismal and mostly wet and windy weather really got me rather low for the first time since lockdown began, I suddenly feel much more upbeat today.  Tiny bits of blue sky are showing through the clouds here and there and in the garden the pink daisies are coming into bloom and the buds on the pinks are beginning to open.   Forty minutes on Zoom with friends this afternoon has also lifted my mood - a laugh is always good isn't it?

I was hoping my gardener would come today - it hasnt rained so far and as my lawn slopes quite steeply it drains quickly and is probably dry enough to mow.   It is now more like a meadow after seventeen days since it was cut.   The vetch, the buttercups and a tiny yellow flower I researched and named last year but have forgotten the name of this year are taking over.   I almost wish I had the courage to leave it as a 'meadow' - but alas I haven't.

Round the block with Percy after lunch today - the fresh air felt good and the wind was only light.   The postman left a parcel - new trousers to try on - shall do this at bed time (or first thing in the morning) - the effort of getting undressed and dressed again is just too much these days.   And speaking of Percy reminds me that I have left him outside the garage doors and need to bring him in - I have left him out all night a few times and he is rather tempting so best to put him in his stable.   See you tomorrow.

Sunday 7 June 2020

Flaming June.

The central heating is on and I am still not all that warm.   It is a quarter to ten and I am thinking I might go to bed soon so that I can put my electric blanket on and get really warm.   I am in woolly jumpers just as I would have been in Winter.    Our weather is playing tricks and according to the forecast on Country File it is likely to do so all week.

I am ashamed to say that I got up at seven this morning, made my breakfast on a tray, got my book and went back to bed.   And there I stayed until eleven o'clock.   It was raining quite heavily outside, at present I can't go out for Sunday lunch, so there really was nothing to get up for.   I finished the book and then got up and had a shower.   My neighbour called and we chatted on the doorstep, observing social distancing for ten minutes or so - but it was cold.

Hardly anyone has passed my bungalow today - usually there are folk passing all day on their 'allowed' fresh air time- but not today.   I think everybody has been using the weather as an excuse for staying indoors. The day has been so very uneventful that I really can find nothing to say - except see you tomorrow.

Saturday 6 June 2020

March in June

No, I am not organising a protest march - March the month I mean - today is not a June day it is a March day.   It is blowing a gale, it is raining and it is cold.   I for one will be quite pleased when it is time to draw the curtains after tea (early of course) and settle down to watch 'This Farming Life' at 7pm on BBC Four.   I know I said last week that usually when I cleaned out my wardrobe and changed to my summer tops and trousers - putting my winter clothes away until October - it usually turned cold for a day or two - but this is ridiculous.

My bungalow faces North to South, the sitting room and kitchen have the South-facing windows, so in the intervals between showers when the sun comes out this does warm the place up a bit but my computer is in a North-facing window overlooking the back garden so I don't get any benefit from the sun at all.   But what I can see is that in that bit of garden where there is still nothing planted the Mares Tail weed is coming back just as strong and healthy as last year in spite of three applications of the specialised weed killer.
It suggests you wait until the weed is at least twenty centimetres high before you attack it and this year it will get a good beating with a stick before the killer is administered to see if it does make any difference.   Then, after a month, when the top growth has died back my gardener and I intend to plant it up with shrubs and let it take its chance.   Bits of the weed have already crept under the path to the other bits of garden so I  shall go round there with my scissors and cut the fronds off at ground level.   These things are sent to try us and in these awful days of Covid and the terrible Black Riots - I really shouldn't be bothering my head with such trivialities.

On the bright side the roads are still almost empty up here, the air seems to be clearer, there are only a few aeroplanes going over now and again (we are close to an RAF station), the birds seem to be singing especially loudly this year, there are so many things to be pleased about for now that we really should be concentrating on those things
rather than on things that we can do little or nothing about.   I shall try doing this to dispel the cloud which seems to be hanging over my head a little today.


Friday 5 June 2020

Haymaking and other jobs around the farm.

Taking a book up to friend W's yesterday I couldn't help but notice the fields - all either cut grass, yellow and waiting for rain so that the grass could begin to grow again for second-cut silage, or full of sheep with their fast-growing lambs - not that far off their short (but merry) lives ending as they reach the required weight for the butcher.   How very different it would all look for our forefathers if they could but see it - and indeed how different it will look no doubt in another hundred years or so.

The grass was only cut once and cut for hay.   Before it was cut the farmer would survey the scene, watching for signs from the dawns, the sunsets, all manner of things which foretold what the weather was likely to be like in the week or so ahead.   The cutting day had to be right - it really was all or nothing for the winter feed.

The farmer was born in 1943 and at about that time I was going to spend  the Summer with my
 Aunt in The Dukeries and all the way there keeping my fingers crossed that they hadn't cut the hay.   It was such fun to be there from the beginning.  There from the day when one of the farm horses pulled the cutter into the field of dry grass and began to cut it down.   Quite modern that cutter after years of just the long-handled scythe.   Round and round the field he would go at a steady pace.   The two or three collies would be there waiting, knowing all too well what would happen when the last couple of rows were cut.   Out would race the rabbits and hares - the dogs so excited that usually they caught nothing - too much to choose from.

Then would come the days of waiting for it to dry.
Waiting for the grasses and the wild flowers first to wilt and then - if there was the hoped-for hot sun- to dry to a crisp.   Us children used to search through the grass for the nodding grasses - the  tottering johnnies we called them - they went so well in a jam jar with the ox eye daisies that usually grew round the edges of the fields. The farmer would watch the sky anxiously and then one day, if all went well, the horse would be back, pulling the hay cart.   Everyone would muck in - all the women would come too.   They would have hay rakes, picnic boxes, bottles with cold tea in them, all kinds of drinks.  And they would get set in.   When the cart was full us kids would pile on the top for the ride back to the hay stack.

And meadows they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids and shouting boys,
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play.

So said John Clare in the early 19th century.  Constable painted a picture The Hay Wain, equally idyllic.   Perhaps it was not quite like this - everyone got sweaty, tired, dirty, hungry and few had baths and hot water to go home to without a lot more effort.

My old father in law could remember these days and lived to see a transformation.   I know which he would prefer.   Although having said that, even when we made silage instead and only kept a couple of fields for his sake and the sake of nostalgia he would watch the weather carefully and proclaim the choice of date for beginning and then once the tractor had cut and the hay had been laid out to dry he would be round the edge of the field 'piking' up the remnants for an extra bale when it was baled.   My farmer used to complain that this was a nuisance and more trouble than it was worth but old habits die hard   In his day even the bits that had blown on to the hedges would be a treat - for the horse pulling the hay cart.   He would be allowed to go round and gently pull of the sweet smelling stalks of crisp golden hay.   A treat for all his hard work.   By the time I came along the milk herd would be allowed in the field once the bales had been gathered in and how they would enjoy galloping round piking in the hedge-bottom and pulling the strands off the hedges.   Nothing went to waste. 

There were always bits of the field that were left - any curlew's nest (my farmer knew where they were and noted them carefully) was roped off with sticks and binder twine - give them at least a chance to survive - and they usually did.  And the same went for the nests of pheasants. 

How different it all is now.   The romance has gone - if it ever existed other than in poetry and painting - which I doubt.   In its place - efficient one-man farming and a good crop of winter feed and you could almost say regardless of the weather except in the most extreme circumstances.
And that's called progress.

Thursday 4 June 2020

This and that.

Early evening and looking out of the window I see that it is raining heavily - not just a drizzly mist as we had yesterday but a really heavy downpour.   Already the sun is trying to break through so it won't go on for long but what a welcome my plants will be giving it.   They have perked up already.

I notice on the parts of my garden which are planted up (ie the parts that have no mares tail) that there is such a lot of bird life.   I know several sparrows and a blackbird nested in the hedges and now their offspring are fledged.   Because the garden is mostly rocks they are jumping around from rock to rock, still expecting to be fed by busy Mum and Dad.   I would love to feed the birds.   I always have done in the past but now I no longer feel up to filling feeders and I would have to climb steps to do so anyway.   So I feel it is best not to start.   I don't scatter seed and bits of food on the patio because I think that just encourages a visit from vermin.

The central heating is back on today.   We were warned here down the East Coast that the temperature would drop over the past two days and it is really quite cold - certainly cold enough for the central heating to be back on again. Are we clapping for the NHS again tonight?   Nobody seems sure.   Apparently the lady who first thought of doing it feels we should stop while everyone is still doing it rather than go on until it begins to tail off.   But I see in the television schedule that five minutes is allowed for it at eight o'clock.   Perhaps we shall all do the same - open the front door and see whether others are doing the same.   I have mixed feelings about stopping but I would hate it to just tail off which would suggest that our appreciation is tailing off and I am sure that for everyone nothing is further from the truth.  NHS workers must all be absolutely exhausted by this pandemic and yet they keep going - they are a brilliant lot from the ancilliary staff right up to the surgeons - doing their job, working all hours, often neglecting their own families,  we are all very lucky to have them.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Joyful Morning

For a gardener in a drought is there anything better than drawing back the curtains at seven in the morning and finding rain pouring down the window?   If there is than I don't know it.   I don't know how long it has been raining, it certainly hadn't started when I went to bed at eleven, although there was a feel of rain in the air.   But now it is really raining quite heavily.   If it pours all day today, tomorrow and the next day we shall still be desperate but at least it means that my three new herbaceous geraniums will now hopefully survive and my newly planted-out antirrhinums will not need watering with the can today.   Already everything looks happier than it has done for a while and the vetch in my front lawn can enjoy life a little longer before it is mown away.   I have never had vetch in my lawn before and now it has almost taken over not just my lawn but several others along the road.   Where do these things come from?   I have not had my morning coffee yet - just had to put this on.   I have just heard The Times pop through the letter box so I shall sign off and go and make the coffee and read it over my toast.   I'll be back later to add to today's post if anything more spectacular happens.

It is now mid afternoon and after raining on and off all morning it has now stopped, the patio has completely dried up and there is a sharp, cold wind blowing.   How much rain we have had is anybody's guess - certainly not as much as we need but better than nothing.

I am reading the most beautiful book lent me by friend W who had herself been lent it by another friend.   Beautiful is just the word to describe it.   If you love the countryside, nature,  growing up through late teenage years, - any or all of these things you cannot help but be charmed by it.   I have read one of his books before 'The Gallows Pole' - we read it for our book group some time last year - very well written but for me at any rate this is in quite a different league.   I am finding it hard to put down.   I read a chapter after lunch while drinking my coffee and I could have continued all afternoon had I not had all my jackets and all my trousers out on the bed while I cleaned out and reorganised the wardrobe.   The book in question is 'The Offing' by Benjamin  Myers, a writer from the North East who now lives in The Calder Valley.

Strawberries and cream for pud at lunch time.   Will I ever tire of them?   Certainly not this year when the sunniest Spring on record has made them as sweet as honey.

Tuesday 2 June 2020


Look what arrived in the post this morning from Gayle, Winston and Agatha (two little square black dogs) in Tucson.   A lovely surprise - it cheered me up - so thank you so much to the three of you and kisses all round.

Us gardeners are anxiously peering out of the windows at twenty past seven in the evening.   The wind has dropped - it is very still - the blue sky has disappeared and in its place is thick black cloud and it is very warm.   Praying for rain is an under statement here at the moment.   The sun has just broken through - not a good sign I would have thought but we shall have to wait and see.

Bouts of ironing interspersed with lots of sitting with my feet up and having another cup of tea means that at last I have my Summer wardrobe of T shirts and blouses in place and my Winter jumpers put away for another year.   Cold weather is forecast for tomorrow!  (it happens every year).
Just the trousers and jackets in the other wardrobe to do now and I might well leave those for a couple of days before I start again.

It is nice to have people beginning to call again even if we do still have to obey the rules and stay well apart.   Today a ZoomCoffee morning at 10 with the friends where I just cannot seem to stay on line.   A tea party on Zoom on Monday with friends in The Lakes and I stayed on happily with no effort but today - with friends just down the road - and after twenty minutes I just came off and couldn't get back on again.   All very odd and it happens almost every time.   But real contacts, rather than on line, meant that first H next door, then S and T and then W to bring me a book to read - all called this afternoon which made the time fly by.   I have now put out all the recycling on to the front path for the men to collect in the morning.   We are very lucky in the we have an excellent collection team here.

Monday 1 June 2020


Make the most of today -- it may be the last good day for a while - or so say the weathermen.   Now they are saying tomorrow will be alright but it is all downhill after that.   That big swirling jet stream is pulling cold air down over us - all this orange on the weather map and then a creeping blue swoops down from the Arctic bringing a North wind and cold  air.   But sadly no rain.   Walking round my garden where the sun is on it all day is quite depressing as every single plant is suffering from lack of moisture and suffering badly.   Two of my new herbaceous geraniums are in danger of dying - one I can reach to water - but the other two are in a part of the garden inaccesible to me because I am not steady on my feet.   I am hoping the gardener comes tomorrow so that he can give them both a much-needed drink.

True to form it looks as though the cooler spell of weather destined to arrive shortly coincides with my cleaning out of my winter wardrobe and the putting in of my blouses and T shirts.   Just in case I have left in a couple of jumpers.

The dreadful riots in the US fill me with horror and make me so glad I don't live there.   That any society can treat a man like that just because of the colour of his skin is, and always has been, way above my comprehension.   Much of my teaching life was spent in multi racial schools and many of the children I remember with great affection were black children.  I am thinking back to the seventies and eighties but I really don't remember any racial tension around where I worked at that time.  What a sorry state our world is in at the moment.

Our schools have reopened for some years from today but as yet it is impossible to say how many parents have taken up the offer to send their children back.  I am not sure whether or not I would as a parent or whether as a teacher I would be happy going back.   Luckily I am no long in a position to have to make that kind of decision.