Tuesday 31 January 2023

Goodbye to January again!

 When you get to 90 you do begin to wonder if this is the last January you will see.    Don't get me wrong - this is not a morbid thought - when you get to 90 you also live each day as it comes and enjoy it.   Any thoughts of the future, certainly in my case, are not at all morbid.

But I can't say I am sorry to say 'good-bye' to January and 'hello' to February tomorrow.   February is a short month and it does mean that it is not long to March and the real beginning of Spring.   Yes I know it is daft to think like this.   It sounds as though I give a personality to each month;  as though poor old January is now sitting there saying  'ah well that's me done for another year and I haven't managed a good old 'kelching' of snow like I used to do.'  (kelching is a Lincolnshire dialect word I think - it certainly (in my mind)) describes exactly what I mean.

We always used to say 'February fill-dyke' -  I wonder if he will (I think of him as a he).   One year since I have lived here he did bring us ten days of good, old-fashioned, deep snow.   The talk of the town as though if was unheard of and how dare February be so unfeeling.

They always say if March comes in like a lion he goes out like a lamb (and vice-versa) which implies that perhaps they have a discussion beforehand (who's going to be the lion this year mate?)

Anyhow enough of this nonsense.    What's the weather like where you are this morning?   Here it is teasing.   When the rookies went over (they get earlier every day and before long they will be long gone when I draw back the curtains) dawn had broken with the most beautiful sky and there was a gale blowing.   I am sure the rooks knew exactly where they were aiming for but the wind had other ideas and they were being blown back and forth and trying hard to beat it.   As Ronald Blythe used to say like a lot of 'black rags' in the sky.

By the time I came to sit here my window was covered with rainspots and the clothes line had a row of glistening beads of water as the sun came out again.   And the valerian has (I swear) grown another inch overnight.   Interesting what Derek had to say about the valerian's tap root - although the gardener cut it down to the ground in Autumn (Valerian is one of his pet hates)it is up and happily spreading along under the hedge, well-sheltered from the frost.

Well, I have just looked at the time - twelve o'clock.  Time for my roast pork Sunday dinner (brought as usual by my carer) to go into the microwave.   See you tomorrow.  If you have time and want a lift to your spirits do go to Si's yesterdays post (Careering through nature on my sidebar).

Monday 30 January 2023

Don't believe it!

   If there is one thing I have learned through living in a South-facing bungalow it is to never believe what you see.  It was a pretty dawn - stripes of apricot and blue and not a cloud in the sky.   Lunch time the sky is pure blue, still no clouds and a sun which makes it impossiible to see friend S, sitting across the room from me, without drawing the blinds because a sun which is strengthening daily is straight in my eyes.  (Don't draw the blinds, we are saving electric because the sun and the radiator thermostat have had a stand-up fight and the sun has won!  the radiators are stone cold but the house is lovely and warm.)  But step outside the front door and you learn the truth.  It is bitterly cold and there is an almost-gale blowing.

 So, what is new today.   Well the talk up here in our little North Yorkshire market town is of the fifteen year old girl in Hexham, Northumberland - a similar town to ours, where everybody knows everybody and nothing much ever happens- has been stabbed to death by a sixteen year old boy from the same school - and a sixteen year old boy stabbed and injured.   That means two or three families damaged beyond repair for ever -and for what?

It is unbelievable that I have been retired from teaching in Secondary education for forty years (seems like only yesterday) but it does seem to me that in those forty years the whole ethos of teaching has changed beyond belief.   If there were drugs in schools in my day I never knew of them.  Of course there were love affairs (and of course at that age one thought they were forever - only when out in the big wide world did one realise there were many more fish in the sea ).   I don't know the circumstances of course - they will no doubt all come out in the sordid but sensational trial which will no doubt follow.   Just at the moment it is all about young lives being ruined and families being changed forever.

On a lighter note - still no spring flowers out apart from the Helleborus Niger but under the hedge was a big clump of Red Valerian.   My gardener calls it a weed and - like the self-seeding poppies which seed all over my garden - he attacks with gusto at the pre winter tidy up.   It is right outside the window in my computer room.   Where he chopped it out it has returned, it is a big clump. it is already a foot high and is full of buds.   I think we can say it is 'cocking a snook' at the gardener.

Maybe more spring flowers will arrive this week as the forecast is more of the same.   I wonder who will win the race.   My guess is the golden crocus.  Time will tell.

See you tomorrow.   

Saturday 28 January 2023

Jack the lad!

 Jack Frost has done his worst (well it was minus eight one night).   He has broken my lovely deep blue pot into five pieces and killed the orange osteospermum who lived in it.My pot and his partner both lived on my front step and Jack killed the osteospermum in that pot too but left me one pot intact.

I look every day for the first signs of life in the garden but as yet no snowdrops and no crocus.   I know in both cases  they will suddenly be there one day.   Both are too far from the window for their leaves to show me where the flowers are - they will suddenly be there one day.   (and you can be assured that I shall shout it from the rooftop so you will know.


My friend G, who - as the rook flies - lives only around three miles away from me, had fourteen species for the Big Garden Birdwatch'   Here I have not seen a garden bird for weeks - I really do wonder if it is bird flu.

For some reason I slept badly last night and I keep falling asleep as I write so I shall sign off.   See you all tomorrow.

Friday 27 January 2023

Gather ye rosebuds.

 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

  Old time is still a'flying.

  And this same flower that smiles today

  Tomorrow will be dying'  Robert Herrick

An old friend came to see me yesterday.Although we live only six or so miles apart, I can no longer go to her (can no longer walk or drive) and she is in many ways more handicapped physically than I but can still drive.

So after a gap of three years or so she rang and came to see me yesterday.   Although  a little younger than me (early eighties) her health - which has  been poor since early  middle age when she had to retire - is far worse than mine.   We both have carers and we both 'soldier on'.

We are both well-travelled -she adores Shetland and has been every year for I believe fifty years or  so  - finally having to stop because her health would not allow her the long journey.   But she has many friends there and is in touch with them regularly.   The same goes for South Africa and Namibia where she has travelled extensively and has friends who are in regular contact and also The Netherlands.

We are both great believers in travel and have spent any spare money on it.

Now of course we are past it so what have we got to show for it? a) a much wider knowlege of the world.   We can look at our photographs.   At the weekend I got out the Atlas and sat with my Grandson and together with our fingers we explored where he had been and where I had been.|Now I can get out my Atlas any day I wish and look up! b). wide circle of friends of many nationalities - we learn their customs, bits of their language  (ni hao, Hallo, Zdravstvuyte - Chinese, Dutch and Russian for hello).  And most of all we see the world - the people, the places, the customs - we gain a wider knowledge of the world and what goes on in it.   There is no better thing than ending up like this - although the information we gain and the understanding die with us.

Now in my case I can add to this the fact that I blog with all of you.  I can 'walk' round the countryside with John and his brother (by Stargoose and Hanglands), visit Trelawnyd with John and 'meet' some of the village characters, (Going Gently), look at the countryside in Germany or USA and various other countries thanks to you all).   And even meet people I blog with or welcome them to my home when they travel near.  Some years ago the farmer and I  met Elizabeth when we went to New York and she took us out for coffee in Manhattan.   My whole world has opened up with all the travel I have done (both physically and virtually).

Listening to my friend yesterday talking about friends she has made while travelling in South Africa, looking at photographs they have sent her of their family as they grow up.   And listening to her talk of the wild life she has seen and made contact with (she has stroked a cheetah)'.

Now all that is left is memories, photographs and chats with friends (not talking to and boring our friends with the details) -and same applies to you dear readers.   I have gone on long enough so will leave you with just a couple of memories that I treasure and think of often:

Flying over the 'bottom' of Iceland on our way to US and seeing a glacier as it met the sea;  and standing on the Athabasca glacier drinking a whisky as our coach waited for us.   Timeless memories especially now that my dear farmer has gone and all his memories with him.



Wednesday 25 January 2023

Looking old

 One thing is for sure - the one certainty is that once we are born we are on the road to death - albeit a long or short road.

Once you get to my age (90) you know there isn't an awful lot of road left.   You can do one of two things it seems to me.   This was endorsed on Breakfast this morning I thought when a well-known singer (so well inown that I had never heard of him) said that at eighty he had been diagnosed with Dementia.   He had originally gone  to seek medical advice when he found that he could no longer do crosswords - an activity he enjoyed several times a day.   As I have explained here several times since my attack in October - some days I can rattle through the Mind Games in The Times and some days I give up - even the thinking is too much effort.

What struck me this morning as he sat on the couch with his interviewer was how smartly he was turned out (absolutely no giving in to old age with his modern haircut, his boots, his suit - all very smartly turned out).    That is what I like to see and is the rule I like to follow.

Being old cannot be avoided, but keeping up appearances is something to be proud of (to me at any rate_).   When I changed to a mobile hairdresser a few weeks ago and she asked me how I wanted my hair done I said, "Look - I am 90 and I can't do anything about that - but do my hair in a style which makes me look sixty!!"   And she did.  I can't do anything about the fact that I can't walk without aids but that dosn't mean I have to do it in slippers or in last years clothes - as long as I can afford to I shall keep up to date in what I wear - if only for myself-esteem.

I know everyone can't afford to do this..   I have a brilliant carer who scouts around to see what there is I never use (a slow cooker used once only before I broke my hip and had to have her come every day and also cook my lunch.)   With my permission she sold it on our local town facebook page then ditto my soupmaker.

I have always been a sucker for clothes.   Now I rarely go out obviously I don't need so many but friend S bought me the most beautiful scarf/shawl in a deep blue/green with leaves and tiny hedgehogs all over it.   I wore it over my best blue flcecy dressing gown when my grandson came on Monday evening.   I felt good and I am sure he would rather see me like that than in dowdy old clothes that had seen better days.   Please don't tell me that everyone can't afford it - I know they can't.   But they can either make an effort with what they have or they can give up on bothering.   I belong to the former camp and that lovely scarf jazzed my outfit up and made all the difference.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Lovely evening

Well yes, my Grandson came and we had such a lovely evening - after almost five years. He teaches English to Chinese adults right down in the South of China and, of course, he has not been able to come 'home' because of Covid (which he actually had at the end of last year.

My first surprise was when my son brought him in at around seven o'clock.   My son came into the room first and I thought it was my grandson!   They are so very much alike.   Another interesting thing was when he spoke - after living in China for almost six years his accent has changed completely.   He almost sounds as though English is his second language - although he still speaks perfect English  it is with a slight foreign accent.   As a teacher of English as a second language myself for part of my career I found it fascinating just listening to him.

We got out the Atlas and he pinpointed exactly where he is teaching (the place is right on the Tropic of Cancer) - it is never cold so he had to buy himself a lovely thick fleecy lined anorak to come home.

He is very happy there - he seems to  love everything about it and has many Chinese friends.  When I was in China many years ago my first husband and I bought a Chinese poem, writte n on parchment and when we got home we had it framed and it is hanging on the wall in my sitting room.  My grandson was able  to point out many of the characters on it(I have had it translated by a Chinese friend I have here) and to explain the whole idea of their written and spoken language.  It is fascinating and one wonders just how children ever learn to write it - it is so complicated to the English mind - although we did learn the symbols for 'forest',  'person' and 'water' on my picture.

We also talked about visits he has made - to Shanghai (where his grandfather lived for three or four years before World War 2), to Beijing and also to small towns around where he works, where he says a foreign face causes people to look at him and point him out to their children, who often try to practise their English with him.

He found the journey extremely tiring - he didn't come via Bahrein (I had got it wrong) - he came via Dubai with a 5 hour stop over.   So the whole journey took twenty four hours.   When I went many years ago the stop over was in Qatar and was only 2 hours).

We had such an interesting evening and it was so lovely to see him again.   I went to bed on cloud nine and slept like a baby.


Monday 23 January 2023


I can't settle my mind to writing today.   It is cold,   One minute it is foggy and the next the sun  breaks through and for a minute I begin to warm up (I am sitting by the full on radiator) and I feel a bit more like writing - then fog descends and it is cold again.   I didn't sleep well.   I kept looking at the clock - the last time at half past five.   I thought i would have another hour and then the next thing I knew my carer was switching the light on - it was seven o'clock.

The other thing which made me sleep lightly I think was that today my dear Grandson, who works in China but is home on furlough, is coming to see me.   It is four years since I saw him (mainly I suppose because of Covid)  and I am so looking forward to seeing him.  At least I shall have something to write about then.   See you tomorrow.

Sunday 22 January 2023

Stoke the fire

Sunday morning 9am.   "Stoke the fire Jack", my mother would say. "It'sirloin today and it needs to go in the oven shortly.".

We only had an oven attached to the fire in the living room - a unit which took up half the wall - two ovens, fireplace and boiler for hot water.   A ton of coal from the coal merchant in September (paid for over the year in the weekly Coal Club (Monday night at Mr Croft's house 6 - 7pm.

My mother didn't need a thermometer - later, when she did have an electric oven she used to say she never looked at the thermometer, just stuck her hand in for a second (and this was someone who baked all her own bread and tea cakes).

Fuel was supplemented by anything my Dad and I could collect on our long walks looking for wild flowers - we would always come across wood in the hedgerow and woods.

Sunday lunch was always special.   My parents were great meat eaters (I am not) and what we ate on Sunday would depend upon how much poultry my mother had dressed for Mr Green the butcher whose shop was opposite our house.   On a busy week it would be sirloin, less busy brisket (my mother loved beef) or sometimes ham (my Dad's favourite).   And always fruit pie and custard.

This would mean, of course, cold meat with 'bubble and squeak' on Monday followed by cold fruit pie.  Bubble and squeak?   All the veggies left from Sunday cut into small like-sized pieces and fried to crispy exteriors in good beef dripping.    Delicious.

My Mum loved her fire oven.   She would often put in a rice pudding (on the bottom shelf or bottom oven if the top oven was still too hot) when they went to bed.  Those rice puds had a taste impossible to replicate today.

Does anyone still cook on a fire oven?   I had an Aga at the farm (oil fired so dread to think how much it would cost to run today)  - I presume you can still get ones which run on solidfuel but I guess they are not popular.   My first ever oven was a Rayburn - lovely but hard work to keep it cleaned out.

How times have changed.   I am not even sure whether Sunday dinner is 'sacred' any more.   Is it? 

Saturday 21 January 2023

That First Kiss

 Do you remember your first kiss?   I don't mean those pecks on the cheek you got from aunts and uncles when they visited or fumbles during Postman's Knock at parties.   I mean your first 'full on grown up kiss.'

I remember mine as though it were yesterday  and was reminded of it when my mobile hairdresser came and she told me that today she was taking her daughter to buy a 'Prom Dress' for the forthcoming Prom at school.   Golly, in my day no such thing took place - the dress was to cost £400.   How many times would it be worn?  More than once?  I doubt it.

Out big 'do' when we were kids was the Sunday School  Anniversary week-end:   going round the village on a cart pulled by the farm horse on the Saturday afternoon, tea in the School Room (potted beef sandwiches, caraway seed cake and 'fancy' cakes) and then - all the tables put away, chairs round the edge of the room and the same old games played - Postman's Knock, Musical Chairs, Spinning the Breadboard, Oats and Beans and Barley Grow.

The couple who ran the whole week end had a daughter M and shortly before the week end she announced her engagement to G (she was in her early twenties.   M would help her mother with the washing up and such like but this time G came too (we were all keen to see him) and he joined in the games - doing all the organising of the chairs for musical chairs and suchlike.

When it came to Oats and Beans (you can read the words on Opies site) the boys make a ring and the girls make a ring outside them.   Everyone walks round singing and eventually come the words: "open the ring and take one in (a girl you have chosen) and kiss them when you get them in".   G chose me and I held my face up to be kissed as I had every year for the previous five years.  But the kiss I received was unlike any kiss I had received before.   I was shaken by it and unsure what to do, so I just stood there until he took hold of my hand and we all swung round to the last verse:-  'Now you'remarried you must obey.   You must be true to all you say.  You must be kind and very good and help your wife to chop the wood.'

The next game was Postman's Knock where a boy goes into the dark cupboard in the corner - a girl knocks on the door, goes in, kisses him and the boy comes out leaving the girl in there for when the next boy knocks.   Somehow I knew that it would be G who would knock when it was my turn.   It was of course - half of me didn't want it to happen but half of me was curious to see if I had  imagined it.   This time in the dark and in a confined space it was more of the same only moreso.   I never told a soul until today and now I am telling you.   But I never forgot it.

Friday 20 January 2023

The Sky

Would you do the same if you had your life to live all over again?    I thought this earlier today as I watched dawn break quite quickly and daylight arrive almost as if by magic.

When I passed the scholarship many years ago (a year early at the age of ten) and went to Lincoln Girls' High School, my parents had to sign a form promising to keep me at school until I was 16 (school leaving age was fourteen in 1942).   They reluctantly did so as that would mean my father would be retired by the time I left - so there was absolutely no thought of my staying on until I was 18 and going on to University.   In fact it never entered my head.   I knew that at 16 it was leave and get a job in an office - and this I did.   I worked in a Drawing Office for a couple of years and from then on I worked for my brother in law, who was a building contractor and worked on church dilapidations, until I married.

It was thanks to my husband that I progressed with my education - I already had School Cert and went on with his encouragement to take further qualifications through the Open University and then - because we lived near to Birmingham - further qualifications there.   My parents thought I was mad and that I really ought to 'start a family' because that was what girls did.  But I married early and left having my son until I was 26.

Then when my son began school I went into teaching - I never regretted it - I loved it and quickly rose through the ranks - loved the young people I taught and got pleasure in helping young people, many of whom had come here from the other side of the world with little or no English. 

I took early retirement when another Comprehensive school closed and it was offered to anyone who was 50 and over.   My first husband was eleven years older than me and  had just retired so it all fitted in perfectly.   I never regretted it and we had wonderful holidays to places like Samarkand, Bukhara, all over what was then the Soviet Union (and cheap as they wanted our currency) so we could go on the Trans Siberian Railway and tour all over. 

This morning I sat looking at the dawn breaking and having my second coffee after my dear carer had gone and thought 'I wish I had studied Meteorology' - because no two dawns are ever the same.   The cloud formations vary from morning to morning and the types of clouds vary and apart from cumulus clouds I know none of them.   

Where would I be if I had gone down that road?   Too late to try now because my brain is not as good as it was at retaining information.   Trying to study with a wandering mind would be useless.

I suppose we could all ask ourselves would we do the same if we had our life to live over again.   Perhaps it is a good job we can't ........I am certain I could never have had two such happy marriages (1 for 39 years and 1 for 23 years) so maybe it is good that I gave cumulus clouds a miss.

Thursday 19 January 2023


 I like to get up at half past six each morning.   My carer comes at 7am for an hour during which she gets my breakfast, tidies round, puts on the washing machine and helps me wash or shower and dress - she has it all timed to perfection and manages to do it all inside the hour.

But at this time of the year there is another reason for my rising time.   I like to rise with the sun.  I can sit in my chair after pulling back the curtains and I can watch as gradually the black sky gets a ribbon of daylight and I can watch the ribbon get wider and wider as I listen to the weather forecaster on Breakfast TV tell me what kind of day to expect.

We have been so lucky here for the past week (hope I am not tempting fate).   The Somerset levels are seriously flooded, Scotland has had heavy snowfalls (I expect the skiers might be pleased about this) and the West of England has borne the brunt of the very cold weather here.

Ice?   Well yes there has been plenty of that.   I watch old ladies - shortly after daybreak-slithering along the footpath past my window.   The path is icy, there is traffic about, so on they go with their sticks and their dogs - pooh bags handy.    As soon as possible (that is as soon as a pooh is in the bag) they turn for home.  I fear for their safety - breakages - hips, legs, arms - are not to even be contemplated - both ambulance men and nurses are on strike today so falling in the roadway means disaster.

After my carer has gone and The Times has arrived I do the Mind Games (while my brain is in good order) but it is cold in the sitting room although the Central Heating is on. (in  spite of having on six layers of clothing - sorry chaps here - please do feel free to skip the next bit of this sentence- bra, vest, pure wool jumper, sweater, fleecy body warmer and shawl ).  Yesterday I had an e mail from the gas board telling me how to unfreeze the outside gas pipe if necessary.  Thinking about this I go over to feel the radiator - sigh of relief it is red hot.   Suddenly Nature's back up appears from the side of my left hand curtain.   Yes the sun - and within five minutes the room is beautifully warm.   Deep blue sky like yesterday.

Only half an hour to go before my weakness kicks in - just time to put on this post.   My weakness?   Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate - drunk with either a packet of crisps or a 2-finger Kit Kat.   Yes I know it is unnecessary but my excuse?  It is three and a half hours since I had my Flahavan's organic Porridge with a banana, and another two  to go before my fish cakes with new potatoes and peas which my carer has left in the microwave are eaten for my lunch.  Life is not all miserable when you reach 90 - trust me!

Wednesday 18 January 2023


 The noble robin - he of countless Christmas cards (or could be she because I rather think they both look the same).   For the first time in all the years I have lived here my garden does not seem to have a resident robin - he who always looks so pert and pretty but who in fact, once he has claimed your garden as 'his' territory does not tolerate another robin anywhere near.

Favourite food is mealworms - or suet from a packet.   He will tolerate crumbs but - rather like Prince Harry= he expects the best.

And here comes the stumbling block to tempt him into my garden.   I can't go out in frosty weather because I might slip and fall.   I could open the patio door and scatter it on the step but - and here is the real fear - might I be encouraging four footed beasties - mice (I know where a family of mice live in my garden and as long as they don't try to come in they are welcome) but even worse  - rats. There needs to be a bird table (and even then some rats can manage to reach the table by fair means or foul).

And as I write this it does occur to me that as far as I know there is no one younger than 70 around where I live - all bungalows seem to be in roads like that up here.  And over 70 nobody wishes to be slipping and sliding to a bird table this time of year.

Now that I am more or less housebound birds play an important role in my life.   It is a month today since the solstice - 28 days since the sun began to return and the mornings began to get lighter and most mornings now I see the thousands of rooks filling the sky as they go over at day break to cover the fields and dig for grubs with their iron-hard beaks.  I wonder who makes the first move.   Is there a chief rook who suddenly makes the first caw to wake everybody?   This morning as I watched them go over - shouting and swooping around- suddenly, at a slightly lower level - a skein of geese flew over.  How neat and orderly.   One leading the V formation - taking not a scrap  of notice of the noisy rooks.

And it struck me that like we humans - we all have our ways, our manners, our habits.   There is some reason why I have not seen a robin this year.   I just hope it isn't the Bengal cat that has taken to patrolling my garden daily.   His owner is one of my carers - she has Bengals and the Tom is a law unto himself; she 'can't do a thing with him.'  So what chance have I got?

Monday 16 January 2023


 As I write this at nine in the morning light snow is falling and the wind is blowing it down the road, but there is blue sky and I am snug and warm; thank heaven for central heating.   I have high hopes for sunshine later (thanks for the hopes from Carol on Breakfast television).   According to her this is only a short 'cold snap' and things should warm up a bit by the week end.   When I think back to my childhood - no central heating, just one coal fire in the living room.   Small fireplaces in the bedrooms but trailing upstairs with sticks and coal meant you had to be pretty ill in bed before you meritted that.

I ventured outside yesterday for the first time since my spell in hospital around my birthday in October. The sun was shining and there was only a light wind blowing so with my trusty Rollator I just had a very short walk along my patio to look if any bulbs were poking their little green heads above ground.   By the garage, in a very sheltered position a few of my dwarf daffodils had their green leaves about two inches above ground and in the side strip of garden one solitary orange wallflower (which I have never planted and which appeared from nowhere last year) had  just one flower braving the weather.   But round on the patio I thought there was nothing to be seen.

I walked (very slowly as I am unsteady on my feet) along the side of the raised garden and there (no crocus, no snowdrops yet)under an 'umbrella' of bronze-coloured leaves, were the rich, fat, pure white buds of my patch of Christmas Roses  (Helleborus Niger)- they never let me down.  Give them a week of sunshine and they will push their bronze protectors out of the way and show themselves to the public.

I walked slowly and unsteadily back into the house, proud of the fact that I had made my first venture forth.   There wont be any more for the time being now that everywhere is frozen and icy but it was a start.

Deep blue sky now and the snow has stopped but lots of puffy white clouds - pretty but suggest there could be more snow to come.

Derek tells me that Ronald Blythe - the writer who has so often given me inspiration for my posts and who had such a tremendous knowledge of the countryside and of writers and poets who themselves wrote about the countryside- has died.   He read it in his daily Telegraph.   I rather think he would have been 100 years old.   I shall miss the fact that he is no longer at Bottongoms Farm.   His books have given me - and thousands of others - much pleasure over the years.   Rest in peace Ronald.

I just wish to add this - I hope it doesn't upset anyone:  I have known for many years that Ronald Blythe was gay but as far as I am concerned it has no bearing on anything to do with him.   I have many gay friends and also a transgender relation but I also have many heterosexual frien ds and relations but I don't deem it necessary to point this out.    I feel deeply that it is only when we can talk about people without bringing this up that we shall have made real progress.   Please don't take offence at my saying this - it is just that it is a subject close to my heart.

Friday 13 January 2023


 There is a lot of it about at the moment and around here it is the main topic of conversation - is the Ure over or can you get to West Witton via Wensley or do you have to go round via Redmire?   If that question is 'double dutch' you can easily look it up on a road map.   One thing is for sure - if the warning signs are flashing it is never safe to ignore them.   It is said that the Ure can rise 20feet in an hour as water comes crashing down off the fells and if it is pouring down around me and my garden you can rest assured it is raining twice as hard on the tops.

But enough of that.   The river was up and the road was impassable yesterday - at the moment the sky is blue and the sun is out.   Open the door (as I have just done) and a harsh winter wind hits you but from where I am sitting the world looks pretty and here and there a snowdrop has dared to push its head above ground.   Roll on crocus time and then daffodil time.

Stay warm.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Old memories

 Do you  have many things in your home which belonged to previous generations of your family, or friends now gone?

James Hamilton Paterson in his introduction for September in Ronald Blythe's recent book (yes I know I am 'milking it' for posts at the moment but you have to admit that it has stirred up food for thought in many of you) touches on this where Blythe is concerned.  This concerns things belonging to a previous generation.

I made a list yesterday evening of things I have - and the answer to my question is 'very few'.   I have a ring which belonged to my mother - not a valuable one but a ring, which I wear occasionally- I have a silver thimble somewhere but don't ask me to find it, I have all my father's poetry books (many of which I bought him as presents) - he loved poetry and had learned many off by heart- and a collection of tiny books which had belonged to my Aunt Nell.   Also I have a wooden arm chair which had belonged to my grandad - not valuable but I do love it.   That is all I can think of.

James Hamilton Preston talkes of visiting Ronald Blythe frequently after he had inherited Bottengoms Farmhouse and garden from John and Christine Nash in 1977.  He talks of Blythe at first treating the house as a shrine to the Nashes (who had been immensely kind to him over the years and who he loved dearly) and speaks of the house as having 'the aura of a museum of Bloomsburyana.'

He tried to persuade him to get rid of some of this old stuff and bring in his own so that the place became his rather than this museum.  And finally he agreed and together they make a bonfire in the garden.   One of the things they burn is a very motheaten chaise which obviously from the state of it had been in the house for a very long time.

 It caught fire very easily and was soon reduced to a pile of dust.   Belatedly Blythe regretted having got rid of it, listing the folk who had probably sat on it:

Dora Carrington, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, EM Forster.- all long dead but revered both by John and Christine Nash as well as by Ronald Blythe.

I couldn't wait to read this passage to  my son who  is himself a writer, and who both literally and metaphorically kneels at the feet of Virginia Woolf who is his favourite writer.   He was - as I expected - horrified.  "I would have kept it.   I would have searched for a very similar fabric and had it restored".

What would you have done?

Tuesday 10 January 2023

My childhood friend.

 I look out of the window this morning; dark and miserable and pouring with rain and set to do that all day  to 4.   What to write about.

I start thinking about 'the old days' - and I mean old days - my childhood which lasted from about 1940 to 48 (born 1932 but can't remember the early days.)

These were the days when things which I still remember happened.

I have spoken before about my schoolfriend J - we are still friendly now (both in our nineties and she still living in the village where we were born) - we speak regularly on the phone although our lives have been so different.  we still have village life to chat about, how we spent hours playing with her farm with its sheep, cows, hens, pigs, goats, toy farm implements, fences. (little did I know then that I would end up marrying a farmer when \I was almost sixty.)

I have had to get the AA road atlas out to look at the route we took to the farm where her grandparents lived in the Lincolnshire village of Fiskerton.   We lived in Washingborough - quite near but separated by the River Witham (little more than a wide stream until it arrives at the Brayford Pool in Lincoln when it encounters the water flowing in from the Fossdyke navigation (built I think by the Romans to link the Witham with the River Trent) when it becomes a 'proper' river until it flows into the Wash around Boston.

So although Washingborough and Fiskerton are quite close together 'as the crow flies' they are a long bike ride apart (and in those days bikes were all we had; none  of out dads had cars.   We would set off when her dad finished work on Saturday lunchtime, riding our bikes as though they were horses (!) along the road as though going to Bardney (where my mother was born, and when we got to Branston Booths we would turn down the lane.   At the bottom of the lane was the ferry!We were forbidden ever to work it ourselves - this was Dads' Work.  (I wonder if it is still there).

It was made of wood and worked with a handle and a chain.  We (and our bikes) would get on and my friend's Dad would wind us across (it was possible to pull the ferry back if the next 'customer'  was on the other bank but don't ask me how.)

Five minutes ride and we were at the farm and a whole afternoon with real animals.   Fun but nothing like the fun setting up her play farm.   But riding there on our 'horses', crossing the river on the ferry and her grandmother's tea after an afternoon with the animals was great fun and still remembered to this day.

Sunday 8 January 2023

Do you know your times tables?

Do you?   Come on now.   Come clean?   I will say two things before we go any further.  1.   I taught for some years, finally becoming Head of a  Department  in an Inner City Comprehensive School.  2Now I am retired and have been for many years so times and teaching methods will have changed since my day.   But let me just say that over the years I held down a good and often difficult job so I do know what I am talking about.   Of all the maths I have ever thought about the one thing I have found absolutely necessary and use every single day still is my Times Tables and I was taught them in JUNIOR SCHOOL and woe betide anyone in the class who didn't learn them and who couldn't recite them up to 13 times at the drop of a hat.

Now Rishi is saying every child must be taught maths whether he/she wants until they leave school at 18.  So let me say this.

Many of the children I taught came into secondary education with a reading age well under what it should be and unable to do anything more than arithmetic and that    at a poor level.    I know in the thirty years since I retired things might have changed but I doubt it.   The same goes for the way teachers are trained.

But the older children get the less they want to learn unless the stuff they are fed is interesting and relevant - they need to ask 'Why are you teaching me this - is it relevant to my future - do I need to know this.'   (I am speaking here of children who are not University level).   They don't wish to read a book or sit doing maths unless they can see a purpose in doing so.

I know dozens of incidents where I have gone into supermarkets and queued at the check-outs and there - on the till is a girl I have taught until a year ago - a girl who could barely read and write and who had poor maths skills when she left but is now in a job she obviously enjoys - rattling through the till with a skill I wouldn't have believed possible, smiling, being polite and businesslike to each customer.   And I realise that RELEVANCY is the word that should be uppermost in teacher training.  And that is not something which applies to  skills like algebra and many other maths skills, any more than reading eg. 'The Mill on the Floss' or 'Moby Dick' if your working life is looming large on the horizon.   Horses for Courses Rishi unless times have changed greatly since my day. 

  • Seeing those girls on the till at Tesco or seeing a lad bring my car back after it being serviced at the garage where he is working gives any teacher who has taught him/her  a great sense of pride and I wonder if they can still say their times tables - alright they can have their mobile   or whatever in their pocket but there is no greater skill in my book at 90 than to be able to remember while doing the Mind Games in The Times that 8 x 7 is 56!

Friday 6 January 2023

Division of Labour

 Response to my yesterday's post about the cleaning of shoes was large and reading all your replies was fascinating and did serve to remind me how times have changed.

In the first instance prices have risen so much and the state of housing is such that really both folk in every couple have to work to keep a roof over their heads.  

Folk living together can no longer be assumed to be husband and wife which means I just have to speak of 'the couple'.

But as far as yesterday's post is concerned what struck me that roles are no longer defined as they once were are they.   It was clear from your replies yesterday that 'cleaning the family shoes was by and large 'the man's job' along with digging the garden, emptying the outside lavatory where needed, seeing to the dustbins.   Cleaning the outside windows was not necessarily seen as woman's work if the situation involved danger(although I clearly remember seeing my mother sitting on the outside of the sash wimdow with the window pulled down to her legs to 'trap' her in.)

But now times have changed.  Both work - especially once children are at school and often before.   Whoever is in first puts the dinner on (and that's another change - our eating habits have changed as we eat frozen meals or quick meals because everybody is hungry and nobody has time or inclination to wait.)

It is just as likely Dad rather than Mum who sticks the washing in the washer, who collects the food from Tesco, who does the washing up.   And (sadly) very few people I know own an iron, let alone use it.

Yes Bob Dylan was right and I don't think it is a change for the worse or better - it is just, as it always has been - how things are.

Thursday 5 January 2023

One's standing.

Do you ever wear "proper" shoes - or what my father would have called proper shoes?   I am beginning to feel as though I am the only person who has never worn trainers.

Reading in today's Times I see that Kiwi are about to withdraw their Kiwi shoe polish from our shelves in this country because sales are so low - the reason being that so few people wear leather shoes.

Today the man is here cleaning my Hall and Sitting Room carpets,   Before he began we  had a coffee and we talked about shoes and shoe cleaning  and the fact that Kiwi were withdrawing from the market.  We both had similar childhood memories although we are miles apart age-wise.

On a Sunday morning my father would line up my mother's, mine and his leather shoes on a sheet of newspaper, get out the Kiwi, a big brush (about 20c long (for buffing up) and a little brush (maybe 10c long) and a clean yellow duster. He would clean all the mud, dirt etc off the shoes with soapy water and leave them to dry.   Then, using the little brush he would rub in the Kiwi using careful circular strokes and leave them to dry again.  Then came the buffing up with the big brush, buffing up until you could almost see your face in them.   Then, finally, came the yellow duster for that final  flourish.  The shoes would be lined up and admired and he would wash out the yellow duster and peg it on the line.   (Of course 'the gentry' would get theirs done by a shoe shine boy - I can remember them on the sides of the road in London- (and I have seen them still in the cities - especially in the far east) but my Dad would always say he did a proper job - much better  than they did.)

I suppose the main reason for the decline is that so few people wear leather shoes - leather being expensive (also trainers can be astronomically pricey if they are 'designer').

Wednesday 4 January 2023

The Big Day

 The big day has arrived - tomorrow is the day when I have my sitting room and hall carpets cleaned.   I have not been looking forward to it because of the 'getting ready' process now that I live alone and am so handicappd.  But today has gone surprisingly well in that I have got all surfaces like shelving cleared and the 'stuff' put out of the way so that the cleaners have a straight run through.   Of course I could not have done it without my trolley with brakes but I am now all ready for their arrival at 11.30 tomorrow morning.   I know it is a daft time of year to have it done but anyone who knows anything about 'Grand Mal' epilepsy  will understand why I consider it to be necessary now

How bare and impersonal it all looks without my bits and bobs around the place - all the little reminders of places we have been and pleasures we have enjoyed.   But hopefully by tomorrow evening or Friday evening at the latest all will be well.

Miserable weather here - not cold but wet and windy and I understand the river is over and that is a nuisance.  See you tomorrow.

Tuesday 3 January 2023

A wander through time.

 My next door but one neighbour has planted a holly bush in his front garden and this year for the first time it has had berries - a good sign he says because now he knows for sure that it  is berry-bearing

I think most of us love the holly - and not just because of Christmas - although especially at this time.  I was reminded as I wander my way through Ronald Blythe just how important the holly bushes were to the farmer.   There are still holly bushes/small trees in our hedges on the farm; they were never cut when the hedges were cut for the simple reason that they served a purpose.   Trimmed back by all means but they were needed in the days of the ploughing with horses (and on the rare occasion when the farmer ploughed a field he still used them for the purpose).   In the days when the plough was pulled by heavy horses the holly bush was the marker to make the first straight furrow down the field.

Blythe talks of the farm workers exchanging the ploughing for digging the trenches in the mud of the dreadful first World War and of still working with the horses.   When the   use of horses died out on the farm and the tractor came in the whole face of farming changed.   My farmer's Dad used to still talk with affection of the old heavy horses they had over the years - their names, their temperaments, how they worked.   They were as much part of the family as was the dog who worked the sheep.

Now as new people arrive by the score into the countryside I wonder just how many look at the holly bushes standing upright above the hedges and left higher although cut back neatly when the hedge is trimmed and realise that they were there for a purpose.   I bet the blackbirds know where every single bush is.

Monday 2 January 2023


What?   caw the rooks as they sail over at half past seven after a week of dark mornings.   "you must be mad", they say in their language as they sail over in the distance, easy to spot in the apricot sky of early morning.  Free and joyous to be so carefree - too early to start "sticking" to  mend last year's nest or to even think about it, no heavy rain like the last week. no ghastly wind to battle against;  'sufficient unto the day' is what they would say if we could speak the same language'.

No. let's face it - the central heating has switched itself off and the sunshine is pouring through my window - but on January 2nd nobody is daft enough to say  Spring is in the air.   I might have a snow drop or two out and any day now Si is going to post the glorious aconites he posts every year - but neither flower shouts Spring - more 'yes we know its cold and there could easily be snow to come but we remember the phrase - 'if Winter comes can Spring be far behind?   It is bred into the bulbs!

So let us enjoy each day we get like this and - hopefully - there will be enough of them to carry us through. 

Sunday 1 January 2023

Goodbye to 2022

Twenty past nine and barely light.   Ten days since the so-called "shortest day";  ten days since my carer and I stood in the window at a quarter to eight and watched the rooks fly over against an apricot sky; this morning at 9.20am I couldn't see to read the Times headline at that time.   How contrary the weather is at the Solstice - all the more to just remind us who is in charge I suppose.   One of the few things that so far we have been totally unable to regulate for our own ends.  I have a photograph of the farmer and I standing in front of the Apollo spacecraft - we can go all the way to the moon and back  but we can't   press a button so that so-and-so can have perfect weather for their  wedding day (just as well as farmer x may be desperate for rain that day to make the grass grow).

I have been absent a day or so - it is now New Year's Day and at last we have a beautiful day with clear blue sky and sunshine.   And - it always feels like a complete new start.   

 Oh that it could be that for places like Ukraine, and places like the English Channel where migrants risk their lives daily crossing the bitterly cold sea to get to what they think is a better life and yet where here people queue at food banks to see them through Christmas.   It is a strange old world and all I can do is to say Happy New Year to you all - please do keep reading me and sending me your comments.   Now that I am 90 and housebound they keep me going.   Thank you also for the super Christmas cards I received - they are still giving me pleasure as they wobble in their post-Christmas way.   They will stay a few more days for me to enjoy until Thursday when I am having my carpet professionally cleaned.