Thursday 28 December 2023

Townie or Country Bumpkin.

 Polly Vernon writes today in Times 2 about growing up in an "idyllic fishing town on the River Exe" - a quiet, unspoilt town where everybody knew everybody.   

Sounds wonderful doesn't it?   Except that she loathed it and couldn't wait to get herself off to the life of London.

I grew up in a Lincolnshire village of about two hundred souls on the banks of the slowly moving River Witham - a quiet, unspoilt village where everybody knew everybody.   I found it quite exciting to leave when I married and move a mere three and a half miles away to the life of the cathedral city of Lincoln.

There any similarities between the two of us ends.  I loved my country life.   I knew every house in the village and, because I pushed my only doll in her pram (I call my doll 'her' but don't think there were any 'identifying features') every evening in Summer to meet my Dad and brother, I passed a good few of the houses and according to my family I could "talk the hind leg off a donkey" so talk to everyone I did, and cadged a few goodies on the way.    It was very much a Methodist village so most folk went to chapel on a Sunday and from the age of 10 I played the organ for services.   In other words - not much went on that muggins here didn't know about.

From there to Lincoln was a small move -   I had gone to the Girls' High School in Lincoln and one set of Grandparents lived there.

Then another very countryside move - only about 25 cottages in my next Lincolnshire village and me with a small baby. (and a Yorkshire terrier - and a husband of course).   Everybody knew everybody but too small a village for all that much gossip.

After that Lichfield - another cathedral city but much smaller - and here's a major difference - by then it was college as a mature student and then teaching.  When you work you have little or no time for gossip about the neighbours and their doings.

Wolverhampton followed for 17 years of working in a large Comprehensive School.   I knew my immediate neighbours but no-one else in our little road.   Friends were fellow musicians and free time spent walking in nearby Shropshire Hills.

And so - since 1987 - here in the Yorkshire Dales - first in a small village (joined local societies, was president of local W I, went to various craft clubs), then after the death of my first husband to a fairly isolated farm (Friday Auction Mart plus the weekly edition of the Darlington and Stockton Times kept everyone up to date on gossip/news)with the farmer.

Now into the nearby little Dales town and housebound.  Here the best of both worlds - little town, in the country (my garden backs on to wide open fields, walk over three of them and I would be back at the farm I lived on for 23 years - same rooks or their offspring fly over at daybreak every day.

Big town/city/London?  No thanks.   A few Wolverhampton years (well 'few' of my 91) was good in that Opera/Ballet/Plays/Exhibitions on my doorstep (15 miles to Birmingham) were available as were music groups galore.

Now, cosy and snug in my bungalow, I know many of the folk on my estate,  How?   Get a dog.  Tess, my dearly loved Border Terrier and I walked the paths on the estate twice a day when I first moved here 6 years ago.  Every dog lover loves to chat 'dogs' and dogs, on the whole, once the original 'bottom sniff' is done with, are happy to communicate with one another too.

From my window I see trees, gardens, birds, folk going past (many of whom give me a wave if they see me) - all keep me amused.   Gossip, 'social claustrophobia', (everyone knows everyone else's business) as Polly Vernon says in her article?  Oh yes.   It exists in this little town for sure - as it does everywhere now with facebook I suspect.   How do I get it?   My carers are local.   They keep me up to date!

Are you a bumpkin?  Are you a townie?   If so why?   Do tell.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Yorkshire Pudding.

 Mention of Yorkshire Pudding on my yesterday's post brought forth one or two interesting comments.  I wasn't born in Yorkshire but over The Humber Bridge in Lincolnshire (no bridge in my youth it was ferry from Barton on Humber to Hull).   But it got me thinking about that good old favourite.   I wonder how many 'tricks of the trade' our American bloggers know.   I thought I would pass on a few tips.  Maybe some of you can add to the pool because I have a feeling that a few tips might give some of you a few ideas.   I do hope some of you don't think I am trying to teach my Grandmother to suck eggs.

So here goes with a few tips gleaned from my dear old Mum in the nineteen years I spent at home eating good wholesome food at her table - and for at least the first ten of those years cooked in a good old fashioned cast iron fire oven.  ( Rice pud - just rice, sugar, milk and a grating of nutmeg- popped in the oven at bedtime as the fire was burning down and being let die out- was sublime for lunch the next day)

1.  YPs were traditionally made in a large roasting tin, not in little individual 'pattie'tins.

2.   The mixture was made early - before chapel - on Sunday morning and left to stand.  On the return home, the roast joint ticking over nicely after its short, sharp searing earlier in the morning, the fire would be stoked up high and when the oven was really hot (no thermometer on these old ovens - just open the door and stick a knowing hand in between shelves) the mixture, after a quick stir, would be poured into a large roasting tin with a sizzling layer of beef dripping spurting up to catch your hand with a short sharp shock and left until it was crisp on the outside and hilly in the middle.   Traditionally the joint would be placed on a slatted shelf so that the juices could then drop on to the pudding beneath but I never remember those days.   But if the cook wanted her pudding to come out looking like the Mountains of Mourne the oven had to be HOT. (individual puds were never made in those days).

3.   Good gravy essential.

4.   What to do with left over mixture - or if you chose to make a new mixture - add sugar and sliced or cubed fruit - cubed or sliced cooking apple or - my favourite chunks of new rhubarb - and cooked in a hot oven.   Then serve cut in pieces and dotted with blobs of good old fashioned farm butter and a sprinkling more sugar.   Divine.

Off to toast a muffin.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

A plus!

 One of the advantages of having a carer who also provides my mid day meal is that this year I have scored greatly.   Yesterday my dear friends T and S invited me to lunch - T collected me and brought me home just before dark.   S cooked a delightful meal:  Homemade Asparagus Soup - absolutely delicious, thick and creamy and oozing the taste of fresh asparagus.

Gammon cooked in the slow cooker and served with pigs in blankets and a gorgeous array of roasted veg including asparagus, sweet potatoes, sprouts - all delicious.

Chritmas pud with vanilla=flavoured white sauce.

Then coffee in the sitting room.

A lovely Christmas Day.

Then today Christmas lunch from my carer's Mum - a good old-fashioned farmer's country Christmas lunch:

Prawn cocktail.

Roast turkey, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, cauliflower cheese, sprouts, roast root veg and Yorkshire Pud (well we do live in Yorkshire).

Christmas Pud and brandy sauce - couldn't manage this so am having it for my tea.

Yes - two complete dinners and I never lifted as much as a finger.   I am so lucky.

It will be back to earth with a bump tomorrow when heavy storm is forecast.

Happy 2024 to you all.

Monday 25 December 2023



Wednesday 20 December 2023


 Good morning bloggers all.

I have spent an awful lot of time lately sitting in hospital waiting rooms.   I always take either my newspaper or a book to read as sometimes the wait is quite long.   But although I always start to read my attention is drawn away from the written word and towards 'people watching.'

W, one of my carers, is just recovering from a six and a half hour operation (breast removal and at the same time 'reconstruction').   She is one of the most positive people I have ever met and now, four weeks after the operation, she walked over to call on me yesterday.   She lives lower down my road.

You can imagine, she has spent long hours in hospital waiting rooms over the last few months, so we were 'comparing notes'.

I was quite relieved to find that she was a people watcher too.   Our chat didn't make me feel any less guilty about my attitude but at least it made me feel slightly better.

So here are just a few pen portraits:

I sat next to a man maybe in his seventies.   He had on a really scruffy sweater and his trainer laces were undone.   His hair was unkempt and he hadn't had a shave that morning.  (all minuses in my book).   The receptionist called me to clear up one or two questions.   As I rose Priscilla's front wheels twisted and spun as I pressed on her handles.   The man bent down and straightened the wheels to set her on the right path. 'Be careful love - I'll steady the wheels while you get up'. (a big plus)   When I sat down again he took off his sweater (like most hospitals it was very warm) and underneath he was wearing a black shirt with thin gold stripes - absolutely pristine, beautifully ironed (a major plus).   His name was called.  He got up and went in to see the Consultant   I felt ashamed of my thoughts - yes - I had pre-judged him.

Two days later, in a different, very much larger, hospital the couple in front of me - again scruffily dressed and unkempt-  caused similar feelings.   The wife (I presume) was loudly eating a very large bag of crisps (I could still hear her and I wear hearing aids) and her husband was avidly reading The Sun newspaper.  (two very large minuses).  He was called in.   She continued with the crisps.   His Sun fell to the floor as he got up. (his trainer laces were undone too).

I have been to hospitals a lot in the last few weeks (hopefully no more now that the Palliative Care Team have taken over) but after talking to W yesterday and comparing notes about fellow patients in waiting rooms we concluded we had done an awful lot of pre-judging.   After  she had gone I thought - Perhaps the Sun reader was somebody's beloved Grandpa; or perhaps he helped his elderly neighbour by putting out her dustbin or taking her dog for a walk.

On my hospital visits I made a point of dressing smartly, having my carer give me a shower, having a few squirts of Elizabeth Arden Fifth Avenue.  I felt I owed it to the Consultant to be clean and well-dressed.  But who am I to judge others by appearance?

I felt ashamed and vowed to read my book or chat pleasantly to folk in future.   To be honest I don't think I had ever thought seriously how 'prejudice' does indeed mean pre-judging and so often with very little evidence.

I suppose we all do it but it is something worth thinking about in most of what happens in ur everyday lives.   Rather like me judging today's weather from the very dark morning and a lot of big black clouds.  Looking out of the window, suddenly the sun is shining on the hedge.

I shall in future try never to judge a book by its cover.


Sunday 17 December 2023


The picture on the front cover of the The Sunday Times magazine today is wonderful.   It is the face of a male Orang-Utan.   Sit and look at him.   If there is anyone in the World who disputes that that is the line of animals from which we spring then they need to look no further than this picture.   He is so 'human'.  I know quite a few men who definitely bear a resemblance to him.

Dark, reddish hair attractively fashioned around his head.   Lighter red, gingery moustache.   Rather fetching snub nose and a rather sad 'do come hither' look to attract the ladies I thought .   He lives, sadly, not in his 'proper' habitat but in Raganun Zoo in Djakarta.   In other words he has been imprisoned - may have even been born into captivity for all I know.   And, according to the Zoo what I thought was a come-hither look is actually a look to 'show dominance and scare off potential predators'.

And if he were a free Orang-utan then I suspect those 'predators' would be after clearing him and his group of 'ladies' and offspring off that patch of land he called 'home' (don't speak Orang-utan so can't give you the word in his language but if starlings can communicate in 'cheeps' I am sure he can (see yesterday's post).   And for what?    The answer is of course because they want what he has and they intend to get it by fair means or foul.  And if he won't hand it to them on a plate then they will try their level best to wipe out him and his whole entourage.

I don't know how many millions of years it is since we looked like he does but I can't help thinking we haven't got all that much more 'civilised'.



Saturday 16 December 2023


The poets do have a habit - certainly Shakespeare and his contemporaries - of allying our time on earth with the seasons, don't they?  I can see why in a way - it is what seems to me to be an easy way of dividing  up our lives.   Babyhood/ the popping out of the ground/womb of the crocus, the snowdrop, then the daffodil, then the tulip and so on until we get quite naturally that gentle move away from Spring and into Summer .  Just like our babies turn into toddlers, then  infants, then school dawns and everyone you meet says how quickly the baby they remember has suddenly - in the blink of an eye- become a person in school uniform.

Similarly we can visualise Autumn and then Winter - each Season has its beauty in Nature just as each section of our lives has the same.  In a way I have been lucky - the death of my first husband at the relatively young age of 66 was a great blow but as I was almost ten years younger than he was and as he had suffered greatly as a young man on The Death Railway, it was not the awful shock it would have been in different circumstances.   And he faced the inevitable in a very inspirational, philosophical way.

By marrying 'my' farmer two years later - in a funny sort of way - I went back from what had been the Autumn of my life to an 'Indian Summer'.  In case you have not had a similar experience I can tell you that an Autumn 'new love' is very inspiring and it certainly makes one feel young all over again.  My first husband instilled in me his wish that I should 'start again' if I had the opportunity and he was right.

Now the Winter of  both my life and of the weather outside my computer room window has arrived I share with you some of the exciting things I can see and how much joy they give me.

It is still dark when I get up in a morning and I can draw back the blinds in the sitting room, sit down with my morning cup of tea, put on my specs - all in time to see the rooks go over on their morning sortie.   Hearing aids in means I can also hear their chatter as they go over - even if I can't tell what they are saying.   Some mornings the sky is cloudy and I can't see them,   This morning the sky was a deep apricot colour which enhanced every black feather.

And yesterday Jonathan Tulloch in The Times Nature Notes wrote of something I had never heard before.   He wrote of a 'surprising consolation' for those who happen to have starlings      nesting in the eaves of their homes.   Apparently male starlings sleep in their old nesting places in Winter and at night they sing softly - he says it could be that they are practising for Spring or it could be they are keeping their spirits up.   But whatever the reason they mimic 'curlews, oystercatchers. owls, barking dogs and (not sure I want to hear this one) reversing tractors '!   How wonderful is that?

 Alright - only a few days to Christmas - but even less days to the shortest day.  But already I can see a couple of primroses as I sit here and a clump of pink flowers that have been out - low to the ground - for weeks (can't say what they are as they are too far away).   The Christmas roses (Helleborus Niger) were covered in white flowers.  Then for a couple of days they were laid low by a blanket of snow.  Now they stand up tall again - pure white, clean, wide open blooms.   I love them.

I am lucky enough to have a pebbly patio  which houses nine different evergreen shrubs/small trees. They are in the sunlight at present and every one is a different colour/shade from the almost grey Santolina (with just the odd yellow, rather tattered yellow flower) to the yellow/green small 'tree', the dark green Hebe with still a few flowers, a deep orangey- green bush and a low growing variegated, leafy shrub and a  greenish yellowish 'creeping fern.'

And to end (sorry to have gone on so long) when I went to hospital a couple of days ago I saw on the way that the Gorse had the odd bright yellow flower.   It brings me to the conclusion "Never kiss your girl when the gorse isn't in bloom" - which of course  means you can kiss her always because you can always find the odd flower somewhere on a gorse bush.

Keep smiling.


Thursday 14 December 2023


Just a short update on my medical condition.   I went on the long trip to hospital yesterday to speak to the Radio Therapy consultant.   He explained the procedure and the side effects(not pleasant) and also confirmed that the cancer has spread and there are now 'spots' on both lungs and liver.   Before he told me I had already decided to turn down Radio Therapy - one journey had totally tired me out  - the thought of five consecutive journeys made me realise I couldn't cope.

Today I have had the medical palliative care team of nurses to see me.   They were a delight.   We had lots of laughs.   We have mapped out my route - home as I am now - home with a hospital bed if I need to sleep 'propped up', stay here to the end with the help of palliative care nursing.  If this becomes impossible then into a local (Darlington) hospice. A box of pain treatment drugs is to be brought to the bungalow shortly and left here in a secure box and to be administered by District Nurses if and when appropriate.   A whole list of phone numbers to  ring day and night and regular visits of medical staff.  They left me feeling good.   I have no complaints.

In today's post a Christmas card and letter from dear friends we now live far from but still in contact regularly.   F, more or less the same age as me, has Dementia with Alzheimers - can't remember our lovely walks together, our playing the Brandenberg 4 together, holidaying in Scotland together, barely recognises his wife or his three children.

There are worse things than cancer believe me.  I feel content.

I will try to post again shortly - it is just a case of finding a subject that appeals to me.   Wars and rumours of wars seem paramount and they just appal me.   How dare I feel sorry for myself when I see maimed children    suffering - and also when I think of the weather in Ukraine and the suffering there?

Let's all try to be super-cheerful over the Christmas Season.   A good peaceful Christmas to you all. 

Tuesday 12 December 2023


 I didn't think the day would ever come when I would have a really exciting time shopping.   But that time came this morning.

Our local Independent Grocery Store, Campbells, has just won an award as the 'Best Independent Grocery Retailer of the Year'.   One of my carers volunteered to take me this morning to put together a hamper for my dear friends who trail about the countryside - to hospital, out to lunch, to garden centres, just for 'tootles' round the countryside - when the Hawthorn blossom is out, when Autumn cloaks  the bushes with bright red berries (and before the birds strip them (having no regard for what weather might be to come - first come, first serve being their motto)).  In addition to this T does countless little jobs which need a hammer, a saw or a screwdrive while S makes cups of tea, keeps me up to date with local news, even sweeps up bits of detritus from the carpet.

It is I think about four years since I visited,   To say I was 'stunned' this morning is an understatement.  Greengrocery, butchery, delicatessen, general goods - all superb.   The butchery was so inviting with so many unusual things - a dozen  or so different kinds of sausage, a very large 'chop' or a smallish 'joint' depending on how you view it - but actually marketed as a tomahawk (I'm sure you can imagine it now) - superb cuts of rare breed - a freezer and cold store range of 'meals' (bought two - pork tenderloin in a mushroom sauce, chicken in a cheese sauce).   I could go on. (2 for £12)

We easily 'filled' two fancy boxes - one with fresh food and one with Christmas fancy foods - and I filled Priscilla's shopping bag with goodies for me over the festive season.

Then it was home again for coffee by ten o'clock (we went before parking became difficult) and I came home as happy as could be.   Had I been on a jolly outing?   You bet!

**Even found a bottle of 'Dandelion and Burdock' - can't open it so waiting for Tom to arrive for the hamper - his wrist is a lot stronger than mine!  Haven't tasted that for at least 70 years!

Thursday 7 December 2023


Strange word Imagery.  It conjures up so many different thoughts in my head.   It started this morning with my son sending me a link to Natalie d'Arbeloff's facebook page on which she showed a recent portrait she had painted.  (you may remember I recently bought 'Diego', my latest acquisition, from her some weeks ago).   I don't know the sitter but I can say with certainty that she has managed to capture 'the man'.  Do we know more about him than we would from a photograph?   I think so but I can't put into words exactly why it is so.

I have books and books full of holiday photographs and looking at them brings back memories - may be 'as it was', maybe not.  Our minds play tricks on us with photographs.

Sitting here with a group of friends yesterday afternoon, chatting about 'this'  and 'that' I spoke of one image that has stuck in my mind - recent enough to conjure up easily but in the years to come  - like all such images - it will pop into my mind  at odd moments when I am probably least expecting it - triggered off by some little comment or - in this particular instance probably seeing a Red Admiral butterfly.

Sitting in a friends garden on a Summer's day - in the middle of the lawn stands a Victoria plum tree laden with ripe plums which now and then are ripe enought to fall off onto the lawn.  Dozens lie on the lawn, dozens remain on the tree.   The warm sun is shining and we are relaxing together.  Almost every plum has a Red Admiral butterly on it - a butterfly probably 'heady' with an overfill of what seems to be a magnet for it. The tree is full of plums - and Red Admirals too.   I would guess hundreds of them.  It was a sight for sore eyes - something so marvellous that the image has stayed fresh in my mind.   Better than a photograph?   I don't know - who is to judge?   But I do know that here and now, only perhaps a couple of months after seeing it, the image it conjures up in my mind is more vivid than any photograph and more exciting for want of a better word.

Sitting over breakfast I tried to think of other images that have made a similar impression.   I could only think of one or two - The embalmed Chairman Mao on his plinth (no photograph allowed but none necessary - in my youth he was a hero to me -);  the sight of a glacier viewed from the air over probably Iceland I would guess - as it made contact with the sea.  Seen as we flew to Canada some years ago;  the sight of a man carrying wood on his back as he crossed a frozen river in mid winter on a very slow train journey towards Mongolia from Beijing.

My husband photographed him as we crept slowly up a mountain.   He painted a picture and as I sit eating my breakfast I am looking at the picture.  But the feeling I get from it is somehow not the same as the picture I conjure up when the image suddenly pops into my mind, triggered by something I see on TV, or hear, or am reading about. 

 So there you have it - today's Thought for the Day.  The portrait of the man.

The holiday photograph.

A moment in time captured in the memory without a photograph to back it up.

All have their place.

The portrait delves deep into what the man is really like, tries to give us more about him than a photograph can do.

The photograph - my son has recently sent me a couple of photographs - one where I am sitting with a group of other people - I know them all but have no recollection of this particular group ever being together - and no idea at all of the venue.

The captured moment with the butterflies - to date this memory has much more meaning - but maybe it will fade with time. 

They will all tell us something but the butterflies will fade with me, the photograph will fade and the next generation will have no idea at all of who these women sitting on a grassy bank are, the portrait which will survive long after the subject has gone - folk will know who he is if his name appears on the back,  but looking at him, because he is so well-painted, we will know at least something about who he really is, what sort of man he is, and we can speculate on his thoughts and feelings.  We might be completely wrong but looking at his image makes us want to speculate. 

Wednesday 6 December 2023

I'm back!!!

 Well, after dark, dark days of heavy rain and then snow;  after mildly catastrophic days when the garage roof leaked on to the electrics,  when the kitchen radiator leaked on to the floor (it had been in since the house  was built), when the dining room radiator refused to turn on, when I had to acclimatise to 'living with cancer' suddenly this morning a giant BREAKTHROUGH!   Out came the sun.

'That 'glorious lamp of heaven the sun' to quote Robert Herrick (not that I believe in either heaven or with his sentiments in the poem) has put a different aspect on my world.   Not only is it shining directly into my sitting room, but when I opened the front door and stood in the sunlight the sun was quite hot (even though there was still frost on the lawn.)

After a Saturday and Sunday without full heat I can report the garage leaks have been 'siliconed' along the flashing until I can have a new garage roof in early Spring; I have a new valve on the dining room radiator and a spanking new radiator in the kitchen and I have come to terms with cancer and am amazed at the kindness, efficiency and speed of the National Health Service.  I am now gathered into a caring community of Colorectal specialists, groups of nurses on the end of the telephone twenty four hours a day, specialists in care checking my bungalow (100% OK for staying at home) and the promise of 5 consecutive days of Radio Therapy  quite a distance away (80 mile round trip) to 'shrink the lump' and me being collected and returned home daily.

So let's get back to this morning's best mate - that sun.  I sat in my chair, the sun directly on my face, eyes closed against the glare, and I thought about early man/woman.   Sitting there on a rock in Abyssinia (well eventually it would be) in the heat of the tropical sun having presumably gradually lost most of his body hair, how wonderful to feel the heat - in fact he probably got far too hot and so needed to kill a few of his not too far distant ancestors in order to keep the sun off his 'tender bits' at least.

He would probably feel the night chill and quickly the wearing of some covering would evolve.   I wonder how we developed the urge to move - to find other places, to investigate what 'lay ahead.'  However such things developed there is the inevitable fact that sooner or later these early folk were going to meet up with snow and ice.

No wonder they 'worshipped' the sun.   Even Robert Herrick saw it as a 'glorious lamp of heaven' and that was in the 17th century - long before the days when one could be gloomy and freezing cold just because the kitchen radiator had sprung a leak.

I love programmes (Michael Palin excelled at this) about the tribes in Africa - I love their total lack of what the Victorians called 'modesty'.

And I thought of my recent biopsy when I was asked whether I wished to wear 'dignity shorts' with a flap at the back.   Why have we come this far?  Everyone has a bottom (even the King) - I'm not suggesting we all walk around displaying it but how have we got to the stage where we need dignity shorts?

A dear old man of my acquaintance- never married- now in his nineties and with severe urinary problems will only let one of his carers wash his 'willy' as he calls it.   Even though he keeps ending up in hospital with infection.  And even that carer had to be strong and very straightforward - telling him she had seen more 'willies' that needed careful washing than he had had hot dinners.

So there you have it - my morning's "stream of consciousness".   Well at least it prompted me to get back on line and put finger pad to key pad.   Now I am back I shall continue to post - maybe not quite so often but whenever I feel the urge.   Lovely to 'see' you all again and thank-you for your good wishes.

And I can tell you sincerely that viewing one's end of life from a distance and knowing roughly the journey (I might 'pop off' from some other ailment on the way) is nothing like viewing it when young, middle aged or  even newly retired (I have been retired from teaching for forty years).   I am content with my lot and sincerely hope to travel along with you all for some time to come.


Thursday 23 November 2023

Off grid

 Such a lot is happening in my life right now that I have decided to go 'off grid' for a few days.    Don't worry - I am quite alright but much to sort out.   I'll be back.

Monday 20 November 2023

Is it me?


 Is it old age (and its moaning tendency)?

I don't know.   But this morning I opened a plastic 'tub' of Ovaltine.   I ordered it on my Tesco order.   I don't have milk in either tea or coffee and often think I should drink a little more milk - I occasionally have Horlicks but tend to make that with water and the same goes for drinking chocolate so I picked up the plastic tub - immediately thinking - 'not as tactile as the tin used to be - but at least its orange '(remember 'we are the Ovaltineys, happy girls and boys'?

Miserable dull day here - elevenses time came round - spotted the tub in the tea/coffee corner of the kitchen, read the instructions, poured the set amount of milk into a jug and popped it into the microwave to heat up.   I opened the tub, peeled back the shiny cover on top of the Ovaltine - what a disappointment.   I didn't remember it like that at all.   Didn't it used to be little brown crystals (can't think of a better word)- my Mum used to tell me off for sucking my finger and pushing it into the crystals and then sucking them off into my mouth.

Well it was a dismal brownish powder.   But I put the requisite 5 heaped teaspoons into the mug, poured on the hot milk, stirred well, pushed the mug through to my chair and sat down ready to partake  of 2 finger kit-kat and mug of Ovaltine.

It just wasn't Ovaltine as I remember it.   Pleasant drink but not as I remember it.

A month ago it was Shredded Wheat.  I remember the first time I asked my Mum could I have Shredded Wheat instead of Cornflakes.   Shock horror - 'you won't like it', well my friend Margaret has it every morning.   'Well I'll get a box, but you'll have to eat it all.  I'm not wasting it - so remember that.   Make your mind up.'   I adored it and had it every morning for years.

I bought some a couple of months ago.  Anticipated fat wheaty 'cushions'.   What a disappointment.  Smaller, thinner, not at all like I remembered.   I ate them but they somehow didn't taste the same.

And then there's Cadbury's Chocolate Finger biscuits.   Oh the bliss of big, fat, chocolatey fingers.   They seem thinner now, more fragile, only a thin layer of chocolate and half the length I remember.

And the Victoria plums  straight off the tree a few weeks ago when I fought with dozens of Red Admiral butterflies for the priviledge.   Delicious indeed - but not that mind-blowing deliciousness I remember the last time - many moons ago - when I had access to a plum tree in an orchard (stolen fruit's always the sweetest).

I intend not to put Russet apples on my Tesco order - just can't bear another disappointment.

Off now to make a cheese and pickle sandwich for my tea.  Shall try to eat it without thinking about the past.

Could it be the fading of the old taste buds  - or the enhancing of a perfectly ordinary wartime childhood.

Answers (to quote John Going Gently) on a postcard please.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Read the instructions!

I have just renewed my 'Household Combined' insurance policy for another year.   Gone up?   Of course, hasn't everything?

In all my seventy years of married/widowed/married adulthood I have always - like any good, sensible citizen - been insured.   Even my hearing aids are insured.   And all those countless sweaters that my Carer complains are so numerous that she can't possibly accept another one to hang on the rail - and in any case I have no unused hangers. (I wonder if they are insured against clothes moth which I read is on the increase - I doubt it.   These rich insurance companies who make it sound as though you are important to them("your call is important to us, we are so sorry to keep you waiting  - and listen to the god-awful music another twenty times before we break in to tell you just how important you are to us again - ) and then look down the stocks and shares pages to see how well their shares are doing and realise that you are not quite as important to them unless you never make a claim.

I can't tell you how many pages there are attached to the letter telling me the date I must renew by because the pages aren't numbered but I can tell you that I have just measured the depth of the pile of pages and it is 3 cms.

When I rang to renew she asked whether everything was in order and whether I was happy with the details I admitted that I hadn't read through it - I have had the policy with my Insurance Broker for the last don't know how many years so I am sure it will all be alright - I did set it up in discussion with the Broker.  She did say before taking my card details that I really must read through (all our calls are recorded for training purposes) - then I read out the card details and- Bob's your uncle - file the whole 3cms and that's it for another year.

And, while  I'm at it, I will admit I have just bought a new vac - thick instruction book in twelve languages and tiny print that I should be able to read once my cataracts have been 'doctored'- and I haven't read that either.   I did start but after peering at page one and trying to match B with 'how to recharge after use' I gave up in despair.   When D, my cleaner, came she vacced through and without picking up the instructions picked up a box-like thingy, slotted it in, switched on the power and little blue lights flashed up and down -eureka! done and dusted. I have a special drawer for instruction booklets for all the devices I have bought.   I went through them the other day as it was getting hard to close the drawer, and threw out into the paper-recycle bag half of them which were for mixers,  cleaners, printers (15 differerent languages - how do the Chinese and Japanese and Russians ever learn to read?) and such like that long ago went the way of all flesh.  (and don't get me started on the television manual).

Am I alone?  Does anyone read the manual or does everyone use the 'trial and error' method when using new equipment?   Please reassure me that I am not the only one who just trusts to luck that it will all be alright in the end - even if it does mean deciding I didn't really want to watch the programme on iplayer - really felt more like switching off the tele and going to bed.

Saturday 18 November 2023

Back in thoughtful mode

Lovely quiet day yesterday and today I feel back in my thoughtful mode - so forget trivia today and let's get our 'discussion caps' on!

I love days when I can think of something 'serious' to write about because it always promotes heckles, disagreements, corrections and such and we end up with one of those days when I wish we were all in one room with a drink of our choice and all in full voice (sorry - not an intentional rhyme).

One of the advantages   of going to bed early (9pm) is that I wake early; early enough to watch BBC television in the hour before Breakfast TV comes on and even then one or two breaks for 'serious stuff'.

This brings me to John Simpson's programme which each Saturday gets my brain going.   He is - to my way of thinking, one of the most unbiased interviewers (BBC World Affairs Editor).

This morning he had a ten miinute slot on the situation in the   Is rael/Gaza conflict and possible outcomes followed by a similar length slot on the situation in Myanmar, where the Military Dictatorship seems to be breaking down as various factions of the military begin to form about the country.

All good, sensible listening as far as I am concerned.

Then came 'Our World' and a fascinating slot on the mighty Mekong River.   A river which rises way up in China and flows through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia - all countries making enormous use of its water.

Today they looked at Tonle Sap and the floating villages where the villagers make this large inland lake the centre of their lives.   The  amount of water in the lake is entirely controlled by the ebb and flow of water from the mighty Mekong river.

In recent years China has built a number of Hydro electric dams along the river as it flows through their country.   Now these villages - in I think Cambodia - find their whole lives affected.   The lake is silting up, the fish stocks are getting smaller and smaller.   These villagers rely on the fish as their main source of protein and their main way of making a living - selling the fish to make enough money to be able to pay for their children to go to school. The men they spoke to spoke movingly about not being able to get their children an education - and some days not even getting enough fish to feed their own families.

And I thought of how progress makes us all have to change.   Progress is a necessity and it has always been so.   Even progression from the Stone Age to the Iron Age meant that man had to progress in order to survive and sadly as always 'progress' means 'survival of the fittest'.   Fortune favours the prepared  mind and the ordinary 'working man' - working to feed and clothe his family is the last to benefit.

I thought of my own father - as a small boy growing up in the fenlands of Lincolnshire - joining his family when they all had to 'take' a field of beet and 'single' it.  Beet-singling time meant a bit more money coming in to the family coffers.  Now machinery does the job that took them several days in several hours.

What will the Cambodian villagers do as the fortunes of 'their lake', 'their livelihood' dry up? When visiting the now underwater graves of their relatives (an important part of their way of life) becomes impossible?   They, like everyone else the world over, will have to change, have to 'go with the flow' like the mighty river and let their floating village way of life become a thing of the past.   Sad - but I guess inevitable. 

There will come a day when the old men of the village will sit and recall the days - plenty of chat always beginning with 'I remember when......' 

***If you want to see my wall friend Diego go to 

Friday 17 November 2023


Sorry for the gap.   Slight lack of inspiration plus several days which have filled up with nothing special but time-consuming, here I am again - sitting at my computer on (at last) a morning of bright sunshine and blue sky.

Yesterday was a typical day when I really got nothing done but every minute was full.

Once my dear carer had gone I sat down with a coffee and waited for the paper to pop through the letter box.   After the fiasco earlier in the week when the paper boy put about two inches of The Times through the letter box on a pouring wet morning and I had to peg pages on the line and leave to dry before I could read it (does beg the question - did I really want to read it?) I had an hour to spare as the paper was late.   Only two inches through again - not raining luckily.

Did the Mind Games and the quick cryptic crossword.   Read the depressing first few pages of the main paper and as it was ten o'clock by this time I thought I would do a few needed chores before coffee and kit kat time.

I needed new ink for my printer.  My computer kept telling me that it couldn't find the site I always use -  so I popped over to Amazon Prime - too compicated.   Rang my son - he found cartridge discount immediately and sent me a link.   By this time 10.30.

There are hundreds of different printers/models/numbers etc.  I trawled through, found the Canon section,  clicked what I wanted, filled in endless details, got to the end and it told me to go back to the beginning as I was already a customer - or carry on as a 'guest'.   Stupidly decided to go back to the beginning - had forgotten my password! Chose to let them give me a computer generated one.   After trying to copy it into my password book several times  and missing out a dash or an exclamation mark or an asterisk - I abandoned the idea and decided to order as a guest,  Filled in everything again - got to end and it told me there was a mistake with my e mail address.   There was but I couldn't delete it for some reason.

At this point the phone rang.   I answered it   It was the dear Tesco delivery man (the one in the orange pom pom hat) who said he had arrived with my order but was I alright as he couldn't make me hear .  Ten out of ten for Tesco delivery men who are without exception wonderful, caring and helpful.

He offered to put my frozen stuff in the freezer for me but I had defrosted it and needed to start again - my carer is away next week and much of it was frozen Charlie Bigham meals.   So had that to do before going back to computer.   The order had disappeared of course!

Rang the company (why didn't I do that in the first place?).   Lovely chap answered "How can I help you today?"  My reply, "You can hopefully prevent me having a nervous breakdown!"  Two minutes later he had put me up on screen, rectified the error I had made, checked that I had ordered the correct cartridges (probably though 'poor old dear I'd better check') and Bob's your uncle all done and dusted.

I put the Tesco order away, microwaved my lunch, sat down and ate it.   Switched on the News, drank a quarter of my cup of coffee, fell asleep, woke up as I was pouring the other three quarters on to my trousers!!

Need I say more in explanation as to why I didn't put on a post!! 

** There is an error somewhere in here but having read it through again I can't find it.   Apologies but now coffee time (might even allow myself two two finger kit-kats - or maybe a toasted crumpet with marmalade ).  See you all tomorrow.

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Minor crisis

 Yesterday was quite a day here.   First of all the storm arrived (forgotten whether we are still with Storm Debbie or whether we have moved on to the next letter of the alphabet).   With the almost 24 hours of heavy rain came ferocious gales blowing from a slightly unusual direction.   It was a really unpleasant day - even the usual dogs didn't come out until mid-morning when there was a 10 minute break of sunshine which coincided with a visit from my Chiropodist which gave me a legitimate excuse to sit with my feet up and view what was going on outside. Then the storm came back if anything stronger than before.

When I went into the garage to take something into the recycling bin quite a sight awaited me.   The garage is a brick one and is attached to the side of the bungalow.   The wind had blown the rain into a gap in the flashing and water was trickling down the wall which houses all of the electrics.   I feared a sudden stop to all heating and lighting.

I rang British Gas emergency line (well as far as I was concerned it was an emergency to me) but they were not at all helpful and told me to contact an electrician. (I buy my electricity from British Gas)

Luckily I always use the same chap - P - who lives nearby.   I rang him.   By this time my relief carer had come to help me get ready for bed (I sit in my dressing gown in the winter evenings) but I said I would ready myself as I didn't fancy standing in the garage with P without at least a cardigan and shawl on.

Half an hour later P arrived, surveyed the situation and took emergency measures of rigging up a sheet of heavy-duty plastic which covered the electrics and diverted any trickle of rainwater out on to the garage floor (it wasn't a constant trickle, only when blown in by the gale).  He said he would return this morning.

Instead he rang me to say A, a roofer, would call and survey the scene.   At lunch time A arrived, got out a ladder, took out the flashing all the way along where the garage joins the bungalow (not raining by this time) and re did the flashing with a waterproof silicone.  He surveyed the roof and said the felt did need replacing but really not at this time of the year.   So this is in his book for early Spring but he assures me the felt will be alright until then.  He also looked at the ridge tiles along the bungalow roof and says they are in urgent need of re-conreting in.  This he will do at the first available opportunity - ie a gap in this awful weather and a promise of a couple of frost-free nights.

I paid him for the work he did this morning, he promised to send me quotes but I told him to put both jobs in his "Jobs to be done" book anyway.

It proved one thing to me.   If you find a good, trustworthy tradesman (my son recommended P, the electrician, who does any electrical work for him - and now for me too) stick with him.   Now P has recommended a good, reliable roofer,A.

I can't tell you how relieved I am today and how grateful I am to them both for jumping in during an emergency.  I shall sleep well tonight.  I have just sent both a thank=you text.

Monday 13 November 2023


Living alone my friends are very important to me.   I have various kinds:

Dear, special friends who live near, who visit regularly, who sit and chat and make the days go by, often at a cracking pace if two or three call on the same day.  Because I have had carers morning and evening for the past four years I count my carers in this category.   J, the one who has been coming the longest, is very dear to me - almost like the daughter I never had.  W, an evening carer who live very near, is in hospital at present having a very major operation.   The morning after she had it she texted me at 6am (she knows I get up then) to say the op had gone well and she was out of 'recovery' and back on the ward.   She knew I would be worrying about her.

Telephone friends - one an old infant school friend - phones every couple of weeks and we have a long chat.   Others who visit when they can but live too far away to see every week or fortnight.

And of course there are all of you.   One or two I have met  - Sue in Suffolk, Margaret (who no long blogs but we communicate on facebook - me from North Yorkshire, Margaret from the San Juan Islands off the coast by Seattle,) Elizabeth who also no longer blogs but uses Facebook - we met in New York when she kindly showed us round for the morning.    Others who live fairly near but we have never got to meet - folk like Thelma who lived on the North York Moors, Gerry who lives on the edge of the Lakes.   It certainly stimulates the imagination chatting all over the world doesn't it?   Talk about widening one's horizons.

I wonder if we were to meet whether we would be like we are 'in the flesh' so to speak or whether we would all get a shock when we met face to face!

Now I have a new virtual friend.   I was hoping to show him to you by copying and pasting him.  With that in mind my son took photographs of him yesterday but sadly my copying and pasting is saying 'no'.   So I shall have to tell you about him.

I only have his head and it sits in a little box 11cms by 16cms and he is made of wood mainly.  He is made by the London artist Natalie d'Arbeloff.   He is now on my wall alongside the two pencil drawings of heads I have had for many years.   He has a 'bubble' coming out of his mouth saying 'ASK ME SOMETHING.  ANYTHING.'

Already - since I received him by post on  Saturday morning - it feels like an extra person in the house.  I know that sounds daft but those of you who live alone will see things in a different light.   No - I am not going daft but he is a real personality, I suppose a similar feeling to having a pet (although they are much more 'in your face' and a very much more real presence.)   But I am happy to add him to my list of friends - virtual and real.   I don't intend to hold a conversation with him, but I shall certainly throw any thoughts I wish to ponder on his way.  You never know - perhaps he will throw a few thoughts back my way.   I am calling him Diego after Diego Revera, the husband of Frida Khalo, the Mexican artist.  'My' Diego sends his regards by the way.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Am I missing anything?

It is probably four years since I stopped driving.   I firmly believe that mid eighties is the time.   One's reflex actions slow down, eyesight begins to be a bit shaky.   Then a broken hip, followed by epilepsy made the decision for me.

This means I rarely get an opportunity to go shopping.   I love clothes but it hasn't stopped me buying them - on line means no tiresome changing rooms and using the same sources - Sea Salt, The White Stuff, Hotter, David Neiper, Lakeland Leather, Florence and Fred at Tesco - means I have honed details of size down to a fine art and rarely have to return articles because they don't fit.

My main carer provides my mid-day meal to heat up in the microwave so I manage a fornightly on line Tesco delivery.   I miss the local Deli but have one or two friends willing to bring pate, quiches, cold meat etc. and a friend who happily shops there for me.   

Tescos sell stamps (and now I realise they put them in a brown envelope I don't accidently throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

Another friend tops up fruit at the Friday market and also collects my prescription drugs from the Pharmacy once a month.

Am I at a disadvantage?   Reading the papers and listening to friends who call, I honestly don't think I am missing anything.   In fact I think I score hands down.   Reading today's Times just emphasises that.

Booths - the Waitrose of the North West - have just stopped having 'check yourself out' tills apparently and are going back to a nice long friendly line of  'Till Girls/Boys'.   My carers go to the local Tesco to shop (we have a large Tesco as we live within three miles of the largest garrison town in Western Europe) and come back with horror stories of trying the check yourself out and then being stopped for a spot check.

Our local Post Office is located at the back of the Co-op and opens - in theory - on about three days a week but is under staffed so doesn't always open as promised.

Both HSBC and Barclays have closed our local branches (the buildings both lie closed, neglected, weeds growing out of the cracks between walls and footpaths.)

Luckily since my farmer died I have not travelled by air - and shall not  do  so again but our last flight together was to Amsterdam from Tees Valley - a small, friendly venue but even there going through a computerised check in defeated us and we had to call for help.  Heaven help me at Gatwick these days.

Richard used to be my chosen check out till in my go to Tesco days.   Sadly Richard was killed in a car accident a few years ago so I wouldn;t even have him to chat to - even if there were enough tills to allow him time for a friendly chat.

So, in answer to the question of my title - No I don't think I am missing anything at all by sitting on my bottom in my chair and looking out of the window and chatting to everyone who calls in on me - nice friendly chats too.   I hesitate to ask, "What is the world coming to ?"   But can anybody answer my query?

Thursday 9 November 2023

"Let there be light"

I have never really thought all that much about light until the last few years.   Maybe since I moved back into the Countryside after living for almost thirty years in towns or cities suddenly I have become more aware of it.

This morning when I got up it was just getting light.  When I unlock I always open the front door to see what kind of day is dawning.   Bits of the sky were a light navy blue, other bits were black with heavy cloud.   The rooks were just flying over  from their rookery to their feeding grounds - only visible when they passed over the bits of navy blue sky - when they were flying where there was black cloud they still let me know they were there with their constant cacophony of morning chat.

Because my chair faces a large South-facing window my life on most days is completely governed by light.   This morning, as the still quite warm sun broke through the cloud,  it lit up the waste ground (often inspiration for my blog posts I know) opposite my window - the silver birch whose leaves have turned a beautiful golden (just to defy its name), the ash - a youngish tree - which has lost half its leaves leaving the other half to hang despondently awaiting their fate and another young tree I can't identify and keep meaning to look up whose leaves seem to have gone from green to dark brown almost overnight.

We see more stars here than I ever saw living in urban environments in The Midlands (I 'm sure the Lincolnshire countryside of my childhood had wonderful large skies - and I do remember my father pointing out the planets) and this mornimg, in one of the patches unclouded Jupiter shone incredibly brightly - shouting out to be noticed.

Several nights this week the Aurora Borealis has given a display right down the South of the country.   Some of our fireworks watchers on Saturday night - those who had gone to the top of Penn Hill- photographed the firework display with a background of the Aurora. 

And before  I leave the subject - don't we all feel better on a sunny day.   In desert lands where the sun shines almost all the time  I suppose  they don't notice it - it rises every morning - keeps its face over them all all day and then goes down at night.  Here - certainly during the last month of wet weather - any glimpse of the sun, however rare, has been met with at least mental applause. 

So join me in a round of applause for our dear, dear friend the sun .

I don't want to go on about the Israel/Gaza war  - I try not to 'do' politics - but when I think of the thousands of innocent people - men, women and children - dying or being horribly maimed and damned to a lifetime of suffering if they do survive - and I see on the  News all the hundreds of trucks held up at the border - trucks containing food, water, medical supplies, tents - things to help appease their suffering - I am a coward.  I switch off.   What can I do apart from sending money  and all that does is for a while ease my conscience.

So many in the world - those on the News and many many more hungry, living in alien environments, suffering because of religious hatred, warring tribes - the list is endless.  Appropriately today in a Times Obit to  M S Swaminathan a 'celebrated plant scientist who developed miracle grains enabling India to become self sufficient in food production' who spoke at a conference in 1982 and said in a sentence more than I can say in a hundred posts:

"As we depart for dinner this evening what could be a more satisfying and joyful feeling than knowing that every member of the human family will also go to bed after a nourishing meal?  Until such a wholly attainable world becomes a reality  our task remains unfinished."

Then there really would be LIGHT.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Fun or Contentment?

That is today's - or rather tonight's question.

Yesterday I watched and listened to Barbara Streisand talking about what she intends to do with her life now that she is 81.   One thing above all else - she intends to "have fun."   She says she has never had 'fun' in her life (she had a tough childhood) and now she is 81 she intends that to be her top priority.

Now today in Times2 Robert Crampton speaks of making sure we are aware of what is 'fantasy' and what is 'reality'  and also of opting for 'contentment over 'fun' now that he is 59.

He writes about  his Bruce Lee fantasy of becoming a black belt in Karate - faded long ago, along with his aim to master two or three languages and his 'pootling around the Caribbean on a yacht'.

Of course for us 'ordinary mortals' real life does tend to get in the way of having much of a choice.

When I and my friends were teenagers - the traditional age to have fun - the Second World War and its aftermath tended to overshadow the 'fun' element.   Fun definitely in the days of swimming in the River, fishing for tiddlers in the beck, having 'kissing games' at Sunday School parties but we 'sophisticated' teenagers - as the New Look (remember that?) came in - the nearest we got to good old fashioned fun was Saturday night dances at the Co-op Hall in Lincoln. Dances at The Drill Hall always sounded much more 'fun' but were forbidden to us 'Chapel' girls - soldiers went there to pick up a girl friend! 'soldiers' were absolutely forbidden fruit for us - it was Co-op Hall or stay at home.

Then work to earn money - none of my friends went to Uni - none of us even contemplated it - money was short in all of our families.   You left school at 16 and you got a job.   You paid your mum for your food and lodging and the little you had left from your wages (few if any of us had 'salaries' - that was for the posh girls) you saved up for clothes and the somewhat limited make-up we were allowed to wear. (Many's the time my father, without taking his eyes off The Lincolnshire Echo' he was reading, would tell me to 'go back upstairs and take some of that 'muck' off my face before I went out!' - and I would do it (no argument)

I don't think you can equate fun with enjoyment - we 'courted' we 'married' we had 'babies' and enjoyed (hopefully) the experience.   Then when our children were grown up and flown the nest we had what we called fun (boring more like for our kids).

Can't think when I last had 'fun'.   Do know that most of the time I live a very contented life full of friends,  little - not too tiring - outings, good books, looking at my garden, watching Monty Don working in his garden, just gazing into space and thinking nice thoughts, trying to not think about the mess the world is in.

As for fun - even in lower case letters rather than capitals - no thanks.   Far too tiring.   Maybe Barbara Striesand will find that out - seems Robert Crampton already has. 


 Still going strong here.  I have had the Gas engineer - a lady - and she has sorted my heating out.   Now D who cleans for me is here for her monthly visit.   But I have an idea for a post today so may be back later.  Nice sunny day here - doesn't a nice day weather-wise make you feel better!

Sunday 5 November 2023


 Sorry not to be posting but various things going on and am feeling a bit stressed out- so am having a break for a couple of days.   Am quite well.   See you all soon.

Thursday 2 November 2023

How tall are you?


 I have always - well from being "grown-up"-  been   what my family would call a "big lass".   The expression around my part of Lincolnshire for a young girl of teenage years and my build was "gawky".   Sorry, but that word haunted my teenage years until I met M, my first husband, by that time a quite well-known artist in the area and already at Art School.  He told me how much he admired my 'figure' (flattery would get him an awful lot of Brownie Points) and got me to accept that at five   feet nine inches tall (sorry I don't do metric - but that's another story) my 'bits and pieces' were correctly in proportion.   I never gave it much thought after that,  growing out of being concerned with such things during teenage years.

Of course we (well all females anyway- but I do know men who without their wives around would be hard pressed to say their shirt/trouser/waist size- or height for that matter) know our sizes as far as buying clothes are concerned but otherwise I think we get along without giving size a lot of thought apart from weight gain.

Now, as officially an 'oldlady' I am subjected by my Medical Centre to undergo a Phlebotomy Test appointment once a year.   This involves a trip to the surgery where 3 lots of blood are taken and then height, weight and vital other questions are gone through meticulously.   And what do I find?   My 5ft 9inches of youth has shrunk to 5ft 7inches.

Where have those 2 inches gone?   I still, as I always have, order trousers at 29" leg measurement and they still fit, so my legs haven't got any shorter. And I can still wear jumpers which seem to have been hanging in my wardrobe for aeons and they are not any shorter.   Yet the Phlebotomist assures me we all 'shrink' as we age.   (does that mean if I live long enough I shall become a tiny, wizened old dear?)

Now I read in today's Times that Ron DeSantis - Florida's Governor, who is thinking of running for Republican nomination for President, seems to be concerned about his height.   He is - he says - 5ft 11inches tall but is suspected by some to be wearing 'hidden heels' inside his cowboy boots.  Heaven help us if he - or anyone else- thinks that the most important thing when running for President in what we all are told is one of the Greatest and Strongest positions on the Planet is a man's height.   (Hasn't he ever heard of Napoleon for starters - he didn't do so bad for 5ft 2inches, even if  they did call him (not to his face - there was a guilotine remember) 'Le Petit Corporal').  Has nobody ever thought to inquire about things like Policies, Beliefs, Aims, Intentions and the like?)

Do folk really care about such things?   I sincerely hope not.   Take Rod Stewart (1.78 metres) married for 22 years to Penny Lancaster (1.85metres) - height can't have concerned them all that much can it?  (Sorry - can't convert to feet and inches - haven't got a Smart Phone).

Sorry to post about such trivia - but anything to get away from the subject we are all trying not to think about. (are you still watching the news or are you like me (ashamed to say) steering clear because I just can't bear to see any more suffering, crying children - many too young to understand what it is all about?

See you tomorrow if I haven't got washed away - terrible day here.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Not another....

 ....We're up to C already and it's  only November 1st.  I am speaking about Storms, of course, but I can't spell the C one (no rude jokes please) although I have always liked it as a name.   Whether or not I still like it after the next few days depends how furious it is when it finally arrives 'up North'.   I believe it is set to batter the poor old Channel Islands first.

I woke to rain - quite heavy.   'My' personal pot hole (in the road opposite my drive and an accurate indication of overnight rain.) was full so obviously it had been raining for most of the night. (I have just thought - perhaps I shouldn't write of potholes in this vein - it might give local councils a good excuse not to spend money on repairing them).

Soon after W, my relief Wednesday morning carer, left at 8am a rather reluctant sun came out - rather like a shy weather-warner: one minute casting weak pale light on an otherwise miserably grey sitting room wall, the next nipping behind the next black cloud it found : a 'teaser' sun I suppose you could call it.

The South coast is supposed to welcome it to our shores.   If I lived in one of those  pretty Cornish or Devon coastal towns where the place where the land meets the sea is filled with  cottages, then tonight would be one of those nights when the day after tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.

The only thing all of us can do is to batten down the hatches and wait for it to pass.  Even at the height of the storm, without going into detail as I am sure the horrors in the world at present are on everyone's mind (I certainly hope they are), there are worse things happening than a passing storm, however scary its ferocity.

But stay safe.

Monday 30 October 2023


 What to write about on a gloomy (although not particularly cold)morning when I have to say the weather complements the situation everywhere.

As my regular readers will know, I try never to be political on here.  (I am interested in politics but always have believed there is not a lot of point in going on about it as one never ever succeeds in changing the other man's point of view so it is just a waste of words).

But there is little to smile about either at home or abroad at present is there?

In the Israel/Gaza area people are killed indiscriminately - mothers, babies, children, the elderly, young men, fathers.   The list goes on - day by day until one hardly dare watch the News bulletins.   If I can't sleep I usually get up, make myself a cup of tea and watch the World News.   Not at the moment.

Ukraine - it has almost disappeared from News bulletins - as terrible situations occur to push the catastrophe one further down the list of 'newsworthy' happenings and the 'top' reporters are rushed from place to  place.

And nearer home the ground is totally waterlogged. Many places along the East Coast of Scotland and further inland in mostly Eastern counties too, homes are lost - many of the inhabitants have lost more or less everything and many of them it seems have been unable to afford the high insurance premiums.

Closer still to home and in a facetious way, the pothole in the road is full of water - it has been another wet night.      Almost all the dogs are being walked by men this morning (the women only come out with the sun at this time of day - poor old men are shoved out with threats of withdrawal of privileges in some cases I suspect).

Post has just been pushed through the front door - postman cloaked in winter wear  (wearing shorts up to last week - now I suspect washed, ironed and consigned to the 'Summer Wear' drawer).

Is there anything to lift our spirits?   Let's face it - everything I have written about above ranges from too awful to even contemplate at worst to floods - and the threat of more to come later in the week- at best.

Well I for one am warm and comfortable, have just bought myself a new winter sweater (made entirely from something like recycled plastic?) and have a little stack of presents to open in the morning (my birthday) and a shelf of cards already opened and already being enjoyed and lifting my spirits.  The garden is looking as though it is settling into Winter mode (but if Winter comes can Spring be far behind?) and friends keep calling.   The postman had a bright cheery smile and opened the door and put the post (and a parcel) on the hall mat (the postmen all know I walk very slowly so they save me the trouble of walking to the door.)

So I suggest all of us smile as much as we can - to cheer others up as well as ourselves, and just hope that the killing and cruelty - especially to those in Ukraine and Gaza ends soon.   There is little we can do - apart from perhaps a contribution to any of the major organisations helping out as much as they can in both war zones,.   But a smile - and just a word or two to anyone passing by - is better than nothing and without a doubt cheers up both the giver and the receiver.

See you tomorrow.

Friday 27 October 2023

Back and perky with it!

Yes those of you who said it yesterday - sometimes things take more out of you than you realise.   I had a biopsy and refused sedation as it was a short procedure and in any case I wanted to know what was going on.   Great hilarity from both the Consultant and the four nurses in the biopsy room.  The Consultant welcomed me with  'welcome to the madhouse' and the nurses chatted to me throughout.   Little or no pain, bit of discomfort and funny whirring noises now and again as tiny tissue samples were taken.   Loads of good red blood - well not all that much but a little goes a long way when it spreads out - what is probably a teaspoonful looks like a pond.

Then it was a hour's rest in the recovery room, a chat with the consultant and then home again with S and T who had waited the four hours or so.  Northallerton is not a bad place to wander round, especially on market day but not in dismal rain.

My carer W, who comes for an hour to help me get ready for bed, stayed all night and went just before I got up next morning.  For something to do as we sat chatting I got out the tin of old photographs which I had been labelling the previous day.   Some of them go back several generations and just looking at the clothes is hilarious.

There are photographs of my mum and dad on holiday at Skegness (our nearest seaside place) .   To us it seemed a mighty long train journey (we got on the train at our village station - five minute walk from home down the aptly but not very creatively named 'Station Lane'. Steam train of course, with those windows which you let down with a strap with holes in (and had to be careful if you stuck your head out of the window in case you got a face full of smoke from the engine - or even worse a tiny bit of coal - and yes it did happen sometimes).  Oh the excitement.

There is a photo of mum and dad with Mr and Mrs Ashley and Mr and Mrs Applewhite - all six walking in a line and smiling - all the ladies wearing hats, all the men in trilbies and 'sports jackets' (not buttoned and braces showing).

But the photograph that set me thinking after I had gone to bed was of an occasion when I happened to be staying with my sister and old school friends in the village (few of my friends 'escaped') got together and we all went out for a meal together.  Somebody took our photo and there we all are round the table.   I moved away in 1964 - away from Lincolnshire that is -  I had moved out of the village in 1952 but not  far away.  The photograph was marked 1970.

Looking at it now - a group of middle-aged (very), stout 'ladies' dressed as village ladies did in those days (before mass TV watching in villages reached the stage of  preaching 'anything goes') - I could not identify a single figure.   I guess now (all but one are still going strong) if they saw the photograph it wo  uld be easy for them as they all still live around there. But I only remember them as they were in our school days - in the playground, fishing with a net and a jar for tiddlers in Sandhill Beck, shrieking down the steep hills when it snowed and we had dragged our sledges to 'Hills and Hollows', blackberrying along the village hedges or swimming in the River Witham in the Summer.

Memories, memories = yet again a few tears flowed but my carer and I had a few laughs too.   I don't go back quite as far as skirts almost touching the ground but not far off.

Back to normal today - done a few jobs, had a laugh with my hairdresser as she sashayed up and down the kitchen floor with my new vac  sucking up my snipped=off locks.  looked out on another dismal day - fog this time.   Off to make a cuppa.   See you tomorrow.


Thursday 26 October 2023

A Big Thank-you.

 Thank you to everyone who sent me their best wishes for yesterday.   It wasn't for my cataract surgery - I have had to pospone that for the time being.   A more pressing need arose and friends S and T took me to hospital for a biopsy.   All went well - I turned down sedation and I really didn't need it as the procedure was uncomfortable rather than painful and I arrived home at tea time, could eat the lovely salmon salad my carer had left for me (only a slice of toast and one cup of tea before I went).

My evening carer stayed all night but went before I awoke this morning.   I am having a quiet, restful day to day - I think the procedure took more out of me than I thought it would - today I feel washed out and pegged on the line.   But am here in spirit.   Hopefully I will be back in 'usual' form by tomorrow.  See you then.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

A Short Post

Just a short post to say I am going into hospital today - hopefully as a day patient.   Back soon.......

Monday 23 October 2023

Dog or Cat?

 Or neither?   Or both?

There is an article in today's Times which suggests - according to the Headline - that 'Dingoes were once man's best friend'. Research carried out in Australia at a place called Curracurrang (anarchaeological site near to Sydney)found that dingo bones were buried alongside humans at least 2300 years ago.  The fact that they were buried so close together suggest they  had 'almost human' status.,

Europeans arriving in Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries saw many dingo puppies living in Aboriginal settlements.   They had been taken from wild dens and raised by humans.   When they were about a year old they returned to the wild  as the mating urge took hold and were not in contact with humans again.   (dingoes are thought to have been taken to Australia by Asian seafarers about 4000 years before any Europeans arrived.)

Now they are seen as pests and shot or poisoned because sheep seem to reign supreme over there and sheep are easy meat for dingoes.  But they are still 'recognised' as dogs.

Some folk love dogs, some love cats, some love both and some love neither.   Judging from the number of dogs around here (almost a status symbol amongst the retired on this estate) it would seem the dog reigns supreme.

Cats?   Well one of my carers. W, has three Bengal cats and an ordinary 'moggie' and loves them  dearly, as well as her three Chihuahuas and German Shepherd. (I think from this we can assume she loves cats and dogs equally).

My main carer, J, claims she doesn't like either but I notice she regularly has her daughter's dog to stay if they are going away and she tells me this morning that the cat who lives in the flat above hers considers itself to have two homes.   Its 'official'  home where there is central heating and a winter home with J who has a log burner.   Yesterday J opened a window a little way when the sun came out and then towards tea time lit the log burner.   She watched as the upstairs cat squeezed through the window, strolled across the room and curled up in  front of the log burner.   At bed time the cat had disappeared and she assumed her partner had let it out at some point.   When she got up this morning the cat was sitting on the window cill and pointedly staring at J to be let out the same way it came in.

Most folk feel that dogs are more friendly than cats.  The old saying goes:

Dogs look up to you.

Cats look down on you

But pigs is equal.

I love both (all three in fact) but I certainly get the feeling, as most of us do, that a dog is a faithful pal, who is a real companion and can easily be trained, whereas cats (apart from toilet habits - and let's face it, they are very clean animals, much cleaner than dogs (well have you ever seen a dog clean itself?) -  cats do as they please, stay where they like( ie where the food is more to their liking, where the bed is warmer, where there is a log burner!).

My carer's friend had (note 'had' not 'has') a cat for a few years and then it vanished.   After searching and putting up notices she gave it up for lost or run over on the main road - that is until about a year later when walking along a footpath on the estate it suddenly walked out of the hedge bottom and came up to her calling loudly.  She picked it up, she was ecstatic as she carried it home until she turned up the drive when it bounded out of her arms and hared back up the way they had come, shot back under the hedge and went back into its 'new' home.

Interesting - if whether or not we insure them against illness is a guide to which we love most - in Denmark 72% of dogs have vet insurance and 24% of cats.   Here the figures are 58% of dogs and 37% cats.

So make you choice.   Mine?   I can't have another dog because I can no longer walk it and I don't have a cat because the road is too busy and I couldn't bear to see it run over (seeing 'my' hedgehog flattened on the road a couple of weeks ago was more than bad enough).   Cat, dog or nothing?  (unless you opt for  my friend's Chamelon - Charles - or my carer's son's Lizard - the late Gerald now just a little cross in the front garden.)

Sunday 22 October 2023

What are you reading today?

There  is a very interesting article in The Sunday Times today about education.   It is headed 'Sit down and pay attention'.   I have read it through three times and would love to ring my son and discuss the ideas Colville puts forward, but I know his mornings - writing for a couple of (very early) hours and helping his wife (who is much more mobilely (is there such a word or have I just coined it?') handicapped than I am,   I endeavour  not  to ring in the mornings unless I have to.

Apparently 'performance data' on how well or badly schools have the done (we are speaking here of over 11's = Secondary education) has just been published.   Of course I don't know the criteria on which the schools were judged but the interesting thing I think is that using that criteria the 'top' schools were all ones who had 'high standards', 'firm discipline' and 'strong leadership'   The schools were 'knowledge focused'.

Mi chaela Community  School' which is in Wembley - often called 'Britain's Strictest School' in this survey  also comes out top. The Best.

I have been retired from teaching now for forty years but for most of my working life my career was centred on what used to be called 'the less able'.  (but often capable of doing things I still can't do like turning radiators on,   There are plenty of skills which so called 'less able' can do better than I have ever been able to do - teacher should be able to latch on to these skills and give praise where it is due - make the young person aware that they are jolly good at some things - not worthless because they struggle with catching up with their reading age.)

The difference between living and teaching in Wolverhampton one of  the towns/cities loosely called 'The West Midlands' and housing a huge population of 'immigrant' families from The      West Indies, Pakistan, India  and other places and living up here in The Yorkshire Dales where seeing anybody with a face which isn't white is almost always confined to Indian Restaurants, Pizza outlets and the like (and even then the owners usually come up here daily from towns like Bradford - where their families live.   Family is very important to most 'immigrant' folk.) couldn't be greater.

But it has altered my views in many ways.   I love living here but the one thing I missed greatly when I came up here thirty odd years ago to live was the black faces.   I loved the mixture of races, religions, colours from Asian through to West Indian.   And I always felt, when teaching, how well the children got on together; it gave me hope for the future.

Now - away from it - and thinking about teaching and the emphases attached to various aspects - I begin to wonder.

Everybody needs to read.  I remember my Grand-daughter (now almost forty) trailing me round the streets of the West Yorkshire town where they lived- me pushing the pushchair, Emily looking at the street signs searching for the 'e' for Emily.

Their house was full of books - she could read quite well when she started school.   The early learning is being repeated in the next generation where Ula her daughter is reading fluently and can give you her  opinion on everything - talks the hind leg off a donkey -it is a delight to hear her rattling on about the things that interest her.   It is obvious that Mum and Dad listen to her and discuss with her.

Contrast that with my Carer J.  I suspect she has probably never read a book from pure choice - and W, another carer, is the same.   But my goodness me they are both jolly good at their jobs.   Neither have ever voted - can't be bothered - too busy.   I once asked J why she hadn't gone to University.   Her reply was to question what good it would have done her.   She took her Caring Qualifications  locally and then got on with it.   "I would have had to move away to get on and I wanted to stay here" was her reply.

Reading is the key.   Read well and the options are there.  Struggle with reading and the options begin to lessen.  Dyslexia was jusy beginning to be tackled in my day.   

But sadly it is almost always true that a child from a home with plenty of books, plenty of chat at home (see Magnon's meanderings today for another slant), where talking, discussing, giving your opinion, has a huge head start.   Add to that discipline, a focus on knowledge and an atmosphere that oozes learning as a pleasure and you are half way to improving our schools.

Since I have lived up here I have seen into the lives of folk more than I ever did when teaching (too busy working, bringing up a child).   Now I watch young people passing - they live in a different world from the one I inhabited.

So much is on offer for our children, so much more opportunity than I had.  Our children deserve better than they are getting in many of our Secondary schools.   I love where Robert Colville quotes in his article an advert for teachers from Mercia School in Sheffield.  It wanted teachers 'willing to work ridiculously hard', 'be wedded to their job' have 'high energy' and be willing to accept that sometimes work might dominate their lives.

That's the spirit.  Good committed teachers, an inspired head - firm leadership, and an all-pervading atmosphere that makes every child feel they are an important part of the school community and you've cracked it.



Friday 20 October 2023



If you are planning to do anything today which involves travelling into or through any area of the British Isles where Babet reigns supreme - don't do it.   I promise you, to put one foot outside your front or back door invites trouble.   You will be battered by an East wind blowing a gale, drenched by a solid downpour which has not ceased in its ferocity since before daybreak and - if you are not already depressed by the weather believe me you will be bowed down low after a hundred yards.   And if you ever envied anyone living down the East coast of England try battling your way there today and that envy will turn to joy that you don't live there in a very short space of time.

Of course there are, as always, idiots about.   I have just watched the one o'clock Lunchtime News.   Shots show the top being washing off a lighthouse by huge waves battering the coast and at the same time idiots walking their dogs  close to the promenade fence as giant waves crash over.   Like watching 'Saving Lives at Sea' - one of the few 'watchable' programmes on at the moment  - the only thing it does is raise one's respect and admiration for those wonderful volunteer Lifeboatmen who daily risk their lives - sometimes for folk who have thought they could beat the sea in a foul mood.   The sea in a howling gale is not a force to be reckoned with.

And if you are retired and wondering what to do on this miserable stormy day you could you could do no better than switching on your electric blanket, and going to bed for the afternoon with nothing more sexy than a hot toddy and a good book.  Enjoy.