Saturday 29 April 2023

Lovely surprise.

 This morning brought such a pleasant surprise.   My carer had been and gone and I had just sat down with a coffee - and with the whole day stretching out in front of me - when the phone rang.   It was S -from the Isle of Man - saying they were staying about a mile from my bungalow and could they pop in for a cuppa.   Could they???   Of course they could - please,

Half an hour later S and her husband arrived with lovely gifts - a large piece of fruit cake and joy of joys - a jar of home-made lemon cheese.   She read about my mother making it and how much I loved it.  If you have never ever had home-made do try it - the taste bears no relation to that bought in a jar. And what is more S had made it in a few short minutes in the microwave. (My mother made it in a double boiler and it took a long time.   Oh the joys of the  microwave).

We had a lovely chat for a couple of hours,Then

Then a quick tour of my garden (like so often the tulips have almost finished and there is a bit of a lull in colour until the early Summer plants start doing their thing.)

Far too soon it was time for them to depart but thank you S and husband (sorry forget your name - don't think it was mentioned).   You gave me a couple of hours of your time and it gave me a lot of pleasure.

I am off now to find your e mail address (I hope) so that I can send you the information you requested and I forgot to give you. Then it is out with the bread and butter and that jar in the fridge and guess what I am having for tea!

Sue**  Just thought - rather silly to put info in an e mail but if you care to ring me I will give you the number over the phone. x

Friday 28 April 2023

Thoughtful Mood today

I have done a lot of thinking over the past couple of days about the state of farming after reading 'English Pastoral' (my post a couple of days ago.)

Really what it is all about is Caring for our beautiful Countryside versus Money isn't it?  The small farmers (in acreage not height), certainly in the past, have always seen themselves as Custodians of the Countryside - even if they have never put it into words.   They needed - and wanted - to make a decent living, they hoped for a son to carry on after them, and they wanted - and expected- to work all day every day.   The very word 'holiday' was anathema to them.   Who would want to leave the beautiful fields with their constantly changing wild flowers, their nesting curlews, hearing the first cuckoo, watching a new calf/lamb/foal take its first steps in the grass and within a couple of minutes see it as 'home'?

But then 'progress' intervened.  (Sadly wars always make us take giant leaps forward  'technically' - machinery gets more efficient and less liable to break downs.  Everything takes a giant leap forward.)   I think we got our first tractor in 1947 - a grey Fergie of course and it stayed in the barn, covered in dust and cobwebs when I came on the scene in 1993.  We by then had another Fergie (by this time in use as the 'Mucker-outer) and an up to date tractor (for 'best').

We still made a couple of fields into hay (for old-times sake) and anyone in the neighbourhood who kept a horse knew they could come to us for their winter feed.   When the farmer had cut, the sun had dried and the farmer had baled and led to the barn, my father in law, well into his eighties, would go round the two fields with his old wooden hay rake and 'scratch' every last blade/stalk of hay from the hedge bottoms.*   He would spread it out on the field in the sun for the day and then collect it up (perhaps a couple of bales worth) to feed to some animal/s he thought would enjoy it (an off colour or newly calved cow?).   Nothing was ever wasted.

Then along came the big contractors with their massive, expensive machinery and did the silaging - done in a day - or two at the most weather permitting (the one thing that doesn't change) and all the farmer had to do was lead in the bales and pay the bill.

Auction Mart (a mile down the road) every Friday to keep a keen eye on calf, cow, sheep prices and calculate the optimum time to take stock in to sell, talk to all the other countrymen, have your dinner with them in the canteen (run for years by the same woman who knew them all by their Christian names) and never a sign of anything other than a roast joint, a good stew or a beef pie (words like risotto, paella and the like were never heard in the canteen - they would have been seen as swear words).

And so it has gone on, year after year - small farmers dying, their farms sold usually to other bigger farmers to increase their acreage  and usually in this area to  increase the size of their milking herd.Bigger farms, bigger and more modern machinery, large sums borrowed from banks, increased production, diversification necessary in order to pay the bank each month, every single inch of the land used for increased production.   And what of the wild flowers and the bees that need them?   What of the becks and streams which used to have trout - and otters?  Like every other industry - because yes, that is what farming has become, no longer just a way of life.

Yellow rattle, the scourge of grassland for every farmer, weakens grass  so that wild flowers can increase and  also the perfect flower for a particular butterfly to use to lay its eggs.  Killed -farmers need every blade of grass.

It all boils down to money and it saddens me.   No one is to blame - it seems to be the way of the world.  Not just in farming - village shops have been replaced by supermarket delivery vehicles - a steady stream past my window every day.   The day of the 'small' man - his own boss - working hard seems to be passing.   We still have good, trustworthy plumbers, joiners, electricians, briklayers and the like.   But no apprentices - I don't think there is such a thing officially.   Now and then here lads pop up fresh from school working with established tradesmen.   But I don't think the official word 'apprentice' exists (perhaps someone will correct me here).

Sorry to be moaning but I feel that progress (so called) has overtaken me - maybe it's my age- maybe I have become an anachronism. Can't we somehow find a middle way?

Thursday 27 April 2023


Not a lot happening today other than a Tesco delivery between one and two (toasted crumpets for tea!)   It is still chilly but 'my' baby blackbirds are now pretty well feathered and are out and about in the garden this morning, still- yellow bills either open for food or cheeping reminding frantic mum and dad that they are hungry.

Most of the daffodils are now dying - flowers going brown and in need of cutting off when the gardener arrives- and leaves flopping all over.   Some folk cut them off because they are unsightly but the goodness in the leaves needs to go back into the bulb first.   Some folk bend them over and fasten them with an elastic band - I hate that - I would rather have floppy leaves.   Tulips are still giving a good show but two or three warmer days would finish them off.   Grape hyacinths with their brilliant blue flowers are popping up everywhere reminding me just how invasive they can be (but how beautiful).   But the kings in the garden at the moment are undoubtedly the various clumps of purple Aubretia and a huge mass of Asperula odorata. 

My eyesight is very poor and I can't  identify the plants at the top of the garden by their flowers (that means all the clumps of herbaceous geraniums - already good green clumps - will be  working   hard this year to put on a good show. )  As for the osteospermums, Derek has lost all of his to Jack Frost sadly,  I think mine have all survived - plenty of clumps which I am pretty certain are them but only when flowers appear, as they surely will after a day or two of warmer weather, will I be certain.

I have been invited to a Coronation Party higher up the road.   They had a Jubilee Party which I went to.   I have said this time that I will see how I feel.   I am walking out with Priscilla every day - I am going shortly- and will judge later how far I can get before deciding; might 'see you later' if anything momentous happens that is Newsworthy.  Well it has been (for me) a busy day and now, at seven o'clock I am very tired (my gardener came this afternoon and said how tired I looked).   My friend phoned to cancel a visit - he phoned yesterday and I was too busy to answer the phone and never had an opportunity to ring him back.   Today he called again just as my Tesco delivery and my gardener arrived at the same time.   All small things for the able-bodied but very tiring when every step is a huge effort.   Now my evening carer has gone after getting me crispy toasted crumpets (just how I like them) and a cup of tea.   I am signing off now and returning with a glass of apple juice to the sitting room to take my seven o'clock drugs.   Hopefully see you tomorrow.

I did manage to walk 'round the block ' slowly.   Anyone who has regularly read my posts might remember my resolve to try and speak to six people each day.   Well today I did myself proud:

1.  Two men lopping trees on the estate as I passed.

2.   A man walking a young Labrador bitch - I see him regularly passing my bungalow every day but this is the first opportunity to chat.

3.  The gardener and his assistant - firstly as he told me what he intended to do today and then again when they came in to be paid and to have a coffee and a two finger Kit Kat each.

4. D - a passing handyman and friend of my gardener who came up to us to discuss possible changes to my hedge if the frost has really killed it.

5. Both my morning and evening carers both of whom are cheerful and helpful.


So a good day all round. 

Wednesday 26 April 2023

A Pastoral inheritance

I am reading James Rebanks 'English Pastoral'.   It is absolutely beautiful - his way with words is superb.   I have just read the introduction 'The Plough and the Gulls' twice because his turn of phrase brings every single paragraph to life in front of your eyes.  He writes of being a child and sitting on the tractor with his grandfather(on adjustable spanners, a wrench and a socket set) so that his 'backside aches'.   And he speaks of his grandfather ploughing the field and the plough being followed by gulls 'rising and falling in hungry tumbling waves'.  And of the rooks, further back,marching across the field.  He speaks of being a boy and living through the last days of an ancient farming way of life.  To keep furrows straight his grandfather uses two landmarks - an old Scots pine and a gap in the wall on a distant hill.  His grandfather tells him of a young ploughman he knew who used a white speck as his distant sightline for the first furrow.   It turned out as a very crooked first furrow because the white speck turned out to be a grazing white cow! 

And of course it brought to mind my own entry into upland farming - late, at the age of sixty when after being widowed I eventually remarried 'my' dear farmer and came into a farming family of my farmer and his father 'Bert' who was already in his eighties but was active all day.

There was a milking herd of Holstein cows and the farm was on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.   Reading James Rebanks brought it all back as though yesterday.

Father and son, farming together - with no next generation to pass it on to as many farmers married so late.   Like so many other farms in these small holdings the young lads had no time to go 'courting' and mostly remained batchelors (three in our lane alone).   Milking twice and day and looking after heifers, cows and calves, caring for upland sheep down from the fells in Winter (we had sheep from the same upland farmer every year) - they came in October and stayed until the weather was right for them to return in Spring to their uplands with their lambs.  These were hefted sheep and knew their place so now it was time for the ewes to teach their lambs their skills.

All grassland( most ofit had been ploughed to grow food I believe during the war) there was plenty to do - fencing, hedging, stone walling, feeding the grass, moving the cows regularly and keeping them to their share with electric fencing, cleaning out the becks every year, calving, silaging, haymaking - always plenty to do.

My father in law - already into his  eighties - was slowing down but always out on the land whatever the weather.   But I wanted to work too while I was just about 'young' enough to do my part.

I read up about calves and knew that the 'old fashioned' method of bucket-feeding was wrong.  Calves in a milking herd are removed from their Mums once they have got that first feed colostrum but the calves stomachs are not fully 'working' when they are very young so they need their heads back so that the milk got into the correct stomach.  So I went out and bought bottles and  and asked my father in law if I could please take over the calves (there was no hesitation - he knew I wanted to be part of the farm and he gave in gracefully.  I asked if he minded me changing the way of feeding and he said - 'you're in charge now - you do what you want!  There were often half a dozen to feed twice or sometimes three times a day and I loved it.

The next step was to take down walls which made separate pens and let the calves all mingle together - even that was accepted without comment.

And so I began to learn.

We weathered foot and mouth and never went back into milking after losing our herd.  And quite quickly things began to change.   Just as they have done over the years in all industries.   Small farms were sold as the generations had no-one to follow on.   And they were almost always bought by local farmers who wished to 'get bigger'.   And so the small farms began to dwindle and the bigger and bigger farms began to sprout enormous machines to plough, to silage - everyting got bigger, more expensive, contracted out.   We had our silage done by farmers from a much bigger enterprise - all we did ourselves was to collect the wrapped bales and  stack them ready for winter feed when the cattle were in.  The contractor came in and cut the hedges and cleared the 'rubbish' - we stacked in and burnt it.   And so it went on.

When my dear farmer died six years ago with a glioblastoma (a very aggressive brain tumour) our farm 'disappeared' as it was divided up between two separatefarms.

All in the cause of 'progress'.  Less men needed to work the land, just as less men needed in industry as machinery developed.   My Dad worked in Ruston and Hornsby in Lincoln - the largest employer in the city-  for fifty years but now the whole factory complex has disappeared.   The siren would sound at five o'clock and hundreds of men would pour out on their bikes- I don't know what stands on the site now.

Our fields are ours no longer, their names have disappeared.  Progress moves everything on.   No village shops now - plenty of supermarkets who will deliver your order (Tesco bring my computer-ordered wishes to my door).   The whole fabric of our world has changed - just as it always will continue to change.  

We had one 'hedge bottom' thick with cowslips and another where there were dozens of orchids and a corner where fritillaries grew - I guess they have all disappeared now.   The farmer and his Dad knew where they were and deliberately 'missed' those bits when they spread fertiliser.

Progress always comes at a price doesn't it?Luckily memories live until I die and I, like all of us, will enjoy looking back and remembering.

See you tomorrow.  Have a good day.

***   Must tell - I have just walked along the path in front of my bungalow and a fully fledged baby blackbird stood in the middle of my lawn calling for reinforcements as I passed.   Both Mum and Dad, who must feel I am 'safe' flew up and stood guard and all three stood and watched me.  I felt very priviledged.


Monday 24 April 2023

Running out of time.

 Just a short post tonight as I have followed Mastermind all through the series and it is the final at 8pm.

Friend M came round this afternoon for a chat and as we are both interested in gardens I went into my back garden (my pride and joy although I can no longer do more than give instructions to my gardener!) with her for a look around.

In spite of the weather having turned quite unspringlike over the past few days, the garden has shewn a remarkable change since Friday (the last time I was in it).   Everything is burgeoning - seedlings are beginning to stand on their own   two feet around the pink Hellebore, herbaceous geraniums have doubled their clumps in size I am sure although none of them are yet in flower,  and more self-sown cowslips are popping up here and there -presumably brought into the garden by the birds from the field behind the wall.

This is how I love a garden to be.   Make the soil as fertile as you can, keep the weeds down as much as you can and tempt seedlings which fancy your garden as a good place to be to arrive - I can assure them all even though I do know they can't read this, that every single one of them is welcome (I can always weed out the dandelions which don't need a welcome - they will arrive anyway - they have always been pushy!)

See you in the morning.

Saturday 22 April 2023

A wandering mind

 It is the middle of the night and sleep eludes me.   After laying awake for the first two hours after getting into bed I have come to my computer (I sleep in my computer room) in the hope that a short while on my computer might help my brain to shut down enough for me to get to sleep.

My son (a radio ham) informs me that Saturday (it is now early -2am ish- on Sunday morning) April 22nd was Marconi Day.   The day changes each year as the  festival always falls on the nearest Saturday to Marconi's birthday, which was on April  25th.

April 22nd was my first husband's birthday and - although he died as long ago as 1991- I always try to remember to call my son to remind him of that.   His dad, Malcolm, would have been 99 today.

When I find sleep difficult my brain runs along making all kinds of connections to suit itself and I thought of Malcolm and then of Marconi and then of the fact that the farmer and I, some years after we married (1993) went to St John's in Canada and were taken to  what I remember as little more than a hut which was where Marconi  is said to have received the first trans Atlantic signal - a fact which is open to dispute but has led to Marconi being celebrated on the day.  I just remember the spot as being on a headland overlooking the Atlantic.  The pretty town of St Johns I remember well.

It prompts me yet again to start going through my photograph albums - surely I took a photograph there when we visited.

Then my mind made another jump to I suppose a slightly related event and that is that at 3pm this afternoon I must make sure my mobile phone is switched off because the Government here has decided to send out a test signal all over the country which will be picked up by all our phones.  As my carer said this morning - it is so that if the Russians decide to drop a bomb on us the government can warn us!   Not sure what we are supposed to do though.

I wonder if I go back to bed now I might go to sleep.   This is the second bad night in the past week - last time I spent an hour trying to recall the words of my favourite Christy Moore song - 'Ride On' (finally next day I found it on U Tube and did a 'sing-along' with him!)

I understand that the tablets which I now take in an effort to control my epilepsy do tend to affect one's sleeping patterns.  (I am brilliant at dropping off in my chair after lunch to compensate).

So back to bed I shall go.   Give it another hour and if I am still awake I shall go and make myself a cup of tea (Promise I won't burden you with another garbled post.


Friday 21 April 2023

A change in the weather.

 I can't think of a lot to say today - I had a really poor night's sleep for some reason.   After waking up at half past two I never really got to sleep again - but I did go to bed at half past nine so that's 5 hours when I think about it.

There was a distinct change in the weather last evening when, after a week of clear evening skies we had black clouds on the horizon - a warning that things would change and today there are bits of blue sky but an awful lot of threatening cloud.

I got such pleasure reading the replies to my yesterday's 'tongue in cheek' post and I am pleased to say that the gentlemen who left a comment took it all in good spirits - Tom even asked me to advise on the shoes to go with his outfit!

As Rachel commented that it would never catch on in the farming community I had to smile - I had proof of the conservatism (with a small c) and her comments reminded me.   When I'd not been married to the farmer all that long he said he would like a shirt for his birthday.   Reader I confess that I rather admire the way Michael Portillo dresses for his railway journeys on TV and the way David Harper dresses on Antiques programmes, so I pushed the boat out and bought him a pale pink shirt!   His face was a study (in scarlet).   I didn't even take it out of its box - I returned to the shop and exchanged it for a blue and white striped one (not sure he thought that was all that wearable).

My outdoor walking is progressing well - a bit further each day and a major effort to stand up straight while pushing Priscilla.   Because there is a very strong East wind blowing I was advised by my carer to walk on the back patio only rather than on the road/footpath.   I intended to do five laps but I gave up after three because a bird (not a blackbird - I know their danger calls to their young well as they nest in my back hedge every year.) -possibly a hedge sparrow or maybe a chaffinch I think- was frantically shouting to its young to' beware the strange woman walking in our garden'.  The danger calls stopped the moment I closed the garden gate. It did rather make me wish I could speak 'bird' then I could have remonstrated with the said feathered friend -saying -'if you think it's YOUR garden then get out here and start scratching out a few weeds - then I shalln't have to pay the gardener so much'. (My garden is infested with 'Mares tail' - such a pretty weed but give it half a chance and it will take over the whole plot.

And speaking of Mares tail - if any of you have it in your garden - here are a couple of things to help:

1. Friends went to a Stately home last year where they employ several gardeners.  They spotted mares tail and asked one of the gardeners how they dealt with it.   The reply was - just like any other weed.

2.  A tip I read somewhere is never to pull it up - always cut it off at ground level and always dispose of it in your green bin if you have one.   Never ever put it on the compost heap - even the tiniest bit will take root.  (Derek - if you are reading this - how are you getting along at trying to clear Mares tail from your partner's garden - you said last year you were making progress)

Until tomorrow dear bloggy friends.

Thursday 20 April 2023

Thoughts from a dedicated 'follower of fashion' - I don't think!

Lovely day looking out of the window but sharp chilly wind blowing.   Clear(ish) blue sky and puffy white clouds.   According to Carol Kirkwood on Breakfast (the middle-aged thinking man's - aka the men amongst my followers! --pin up) - always smiling, cheerful, well dressed and lovely with it, today is the last totally sunny day as  our contrary Spring weather blows clouds and chilly temperatures in.   So keep your top coats handy - you may need them again before pushing them to the back of the wardrobe 'til next winter 'ne'er cast a clout' remember.

And so to today's topic:   Fashion.  Here is advice for both men and women amongst you.

About maybe twenty or more years ago I bought - at quite great expense - a coatigan.   For those of you who don't know what the garment is - it is a very long cardigan - mine comes to about shin length.   I wore it a few times but after marrying my farmer I soon found that farming and coatigans don't marry well, so it was consigned to a shelf high in the wardrobe.   But guess what???   They are back as the height of fashion (I moved mine back into a prominent place on the rail yesterday; all I need now is somewhere fashionable to go - but remember I made it to the post box yesterday). 

So there you are girls - something to bear in mind. But for the men amongst you - here is a hot fashion tip!   According to today's Times PJ's; for wearing around in the daytime as a real fashion garment, are IN!  Erling Haaland (who he?) is shown wearing a classy set (only £2410 (Dolce and Gabbana).  And do bear in mind it makes going for a wee much quicker and easier.  You can wear them just as they are or you can mix and match - they come in such a variety of colours and patterns.   I amused myself over my breakfast coffee imagining how the men amongst my followers would make a choice.   Here is my list:

John (Going Gently) well - anything goes really.  Apparently 'feather trimmed co-ords' are available - now that sounds very John to me.

Tom (Stephenson) always comes across as rather 'risque' so I chose red white and blue striped ones with darker red 'cuffs' on bottoms of arms and legs - (can be worn with 'heels'!)

Cro - I see him as wearing classy ones - 'a silky navy oversized' top and perhaps cargo pants and white trainers.

Si - now Spring is almost here and he will be off photographing bumble bees, butterflies and wild flowers for our delight, then I wouldn't like to think of him getting saddle sore in PJ's so I'll excuse him.

John (by Stargoose) - thinking of his brilliant photography and his interesting tours of beautiful villages and the like, I think it has to be something green to fit in with nature - could have some wildlife patterned on the 'jacket' - but going through remote villages means he has to bear in mind not scaring the villagers and in any case the trousers would have to be tucked in his wellies most of the time so perhaps it's a no here too.

Red - as he has told me he lives close to the Athabasca glacier then obviously pyjama fashion will not reach there - so you are safe from my imagining Red.

Tasker - not sure I know him well enough but reading his posts leads me to imagine him as a man of  learning so it would perhaps have to be something along the lines of what I suggesr for Cro.

As Hannah Rogers suggests in today's Times 'these co-ords' are really only like the latest designer track suit.  

So there - I have for you all how to update your spring into summer wardrobe.   Good luck with it is all I can say.  When I see the first co-ordinates pass my window I will let you know (if I manage to pick myself up off the floor).


Wednesday 19 April 2023

Seduced by a pansy!!

 'I am not going to have my pots by the front door this year' - I have said it over the past few years - they do need feeding and watering and I am now rather frail.   My main carer.J. immediately counteracts by saying there is no reason why she should not water them as part of her care.   'No, I definitely mean it this year'; true until the Thompson and Morgan very showy catalogue arrived containing a picture of the pansy 'Summertime' - exquisite.   I pictured a tub either side of my front door.   I was completely seduced.

This morning I sent my gardener a text saying I was ordering thirty 'garden ready' Summertimes' for my pots (any left over to fill blank spaces in the garden) and would he bring a bag of peat-free compost next time he comes please.   That was the easy bit and what happened next more or less describes what it is like to be ninety and unable to walk unaided (and prone to falling at the drop of a hat and with 'the trembles'.)

First hurdle - how to order.   Phone? if I get someone with a quiet voice I can't hear and have to keep asking them to repeat what they are saying.   So no.

Second hurdle = on line.   So I assemble debit card, reading glasses and catalogue on my trolley and make my way to computer.   So far, so good - I find the plants, say I would like thirty and up comes the form to order which I fill in - the usual stuff name, address, post code, phone number, e mail address, requirements (then fill in exactly what I want).   Then I press 'pay'. Do I wish to pay with my Amazon account?   I am not ordering from Amazon but from a well-known plantsman.  So the answer is No.   Do I wish to use Pay Pal?   Don't even know what that is.   So again the answer is No.  Fiddling about I decide this is not for me - the order sits in 'Basket' but won't go any further.   I switch off and decide I will post my order and a cheque.

Find the appropriate cheque book - always kept in the particular bank's file but it entails switching off the computer, getting the cheque book and going back into the sitting room to sit at the table where I can support my trembly hands while writing the cheque.   Make out the order form (slowly because of said hands,) cut it out of the catalogue (after collecting scissors from kitchen things pot in the kitchen, folding form and cheque and putting them into pre paid envelope, sealing them, finding that - as is usual with envelopes like this - the said envelope doesn't seal properly.  Go to desk in study to fetch sellotape and with difficulty stick a piece over the flap to ensure cheque and order don't fall out en route.   Phew!   almost done.   Put on coat because although the sun is just breaking through there is a strongish sharp wind blowing.  Get into garage from kitchen by clinging on to safety handles on the wall, open the electric garage door, struggle down the drive which is quite steep so that I have to use the brakes on my Rollator (Priscilla). wait at the kerb until the road is clear to cross, walk slowly (very) along the footpath to the letterbox and post said letter. I beat the post lady coming to empty the post box by about thirty seconds.   Hurray.   Do the journey home , climbing the steep drive, parking rollator, shutting garage door, heaving myself up the step from garage to kitchen, taking off coat and hanging on hook, pushing my walker/trolley into sitting room, collapsing into chair.   Whole operation has taken an hour and a quarter but I managed it and I beat the postie - so all in all a successful operation.  Hope the pansies realise my efforts and flower all summer!

Tuesday 18 April 2023

National spectacle or public disgrace

 No excuses today for pinching the idea for my post from Robert Crampton in The Times today.   I had intended to write about The Grand National but he got there first by this morning when I read his comment.   But it is a subject worth airing and I would like to hear where you stand on the issue.

The first race was run in 1839, so it has a long history.   I am not a betting person but I think many of you might have been involved in staffroom, workplace sweepstakes where everyone puts a pound in the kitty and the organiser puts all the participants' names in a box and everyone draws a horse - or two if the entries in the sweepstake are small.  I was in such things on and off for most of my teaching career - I think I might have drawn the winning horse one year but it is all so long ago I have forgotten. 

But I have watched it on TV for many years - mainly to see the beautiful horses.

But of course some of them die.   TV is very good at shielding the viewer from this and even folk there rarely see what happens - screens are rapidly put round.   But if you are a watcher you will notice that along the track which follows the course there is an ambulance and a car (presumably containing a vet and a so called 'humane killer' - to the likes of you and me 'a gun')and they follow the race from beginning to end - ready to jump out if they are needed.   16 horses have died this century - and I am sure that in the minutes before they were shot they were in agony.   Jockeys are injured too of course but they choose to ride and are well-paid for their riding.

This year protestors tried to disrupt the race but the police - and some locals who also helped - managed to foil the protestors and the race went ahead.   Thirty nine horses started and seventeen finished - some falling, some shaking their riders off and some pulled out of the race.

There have been many protests over the years and many modifications like lowering the fences/hedges have been carried out over the years.  But, let's face it - it is a cruel race.   Horses haven't got the same brains that we have, and all the talk about how well the horses are treated is no answer really.   It is no doubt true that they are treated well - comparably like we are treated in a five star hotel and this clearly shown when they  line up in the ring before the race.   They are indeed beautiful specimens - adored by those who care for them.   Their coats shine, they are bright-eyed and obviously relishing the thought of the gallop.   What they are not capable of, of course, is knowing they might die a horrible death.   And make no mistake about it - if the worst happens their owners, trainers, stable girls/boys are devastated.   These top specimens of horse are dearly loved.   No expense is spared in their care.  

Loose horses gallop along with the others and often cut across in front usually at the next fence.   The hazards are many.

There are many questions to be asked - but the most important is - if the race is to continue, how can we make it safer?   Obviously some of the 'also rans' should not have been entered - they were not up to it.   Maybe some of the fences need lowering - some of them carry the extra hazard of being placed on a bend so that this makes them extra hard to cope with.

And we must take into account the fact that when we get down to the nitty-gritty the bottom line is money.

I love the spectacle, I look forward to it every year  - along with The Derby and The Boat Race they are the only 'sporting events' I ever watch.   But that doesn't mean it is right does it? The Boat Race crews 'work their guts out' to put it crudely - but that is their choice.   Not so the horses.

I think I shall 'chicken-out' - I don't think I shall watch it again.


Monday 17 April 2023


Well, busy for me at any rate.   The chiropodist came for her six-weekly visit and as she went my gardener and his assistant came - he to mow the lawns and weed and feed them, clean out the gutters and stain  both front gates as the stain had faded.   His assistant meanwhile finished the weeding of the back garden (making sure to cut off any bits of Mare's Tail she came across rather than pulling it up, which just encourages it to spread more.)   She then fed any shrubs and my one rose (Gloire de Vivre), they both had a coffee and off they went.   The garden looks lovely - daffodils fading and tulips in full bloom.   The daffodil leaves look awful - faded and straggly - but need to stay longer (they have given their all this year and now it is pay-back time - as it should be with all plants.)   Interestingly there is now a wavy line of tiny mushrooms across my side lawn!

Now I am weary - not sure why as I have largely watched proceedings rather than take part. I sat over my lunch for an hour and then had to force myself to get up and come to the computer.

But back to my chiropodist - she made my next (six-weekly appointment and informed me that - as there were no fewer the three Bank Holiday Mondays in May (Mayday, Coronation and Spring Bank Holiday) she would be working on the latter - 29th of May.   That made my ears prick up.   I immediately quoted:

                    Royal Oak Day, **

                    The 29th of May!

                    If we don't have a holiday

                    We'll all run away!!

Remember that anyone?   Well it wasn't yesterday I'll grant you that.   But I remember when I was at the village school - before winning a scholarship to the local High School in Lincoln- so the years between 1937 and 1942- we always had the afternoon of Royal Oak Day off.   All girls had to wear a sprig of oak on their blazers otherwise the boys would chase us with stinging nettles.

**  Often known as Oak Apple Day - always on May 29th and to commemorate the restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in May 1660.

Can anyone else remember it or am I the last 'man'  standing?



Saturday 15 April 2023

What's in a generation?

 Chambers - my trusty Dictionary - says a generation is roughly thirty years.  This means that I have lived through three generations and am just entering my fourth.

I sat idly this morning contemplating the great issues of  the day (like getting up off my bottom and doing something) and asking myself what has been the greatest change throughout my life.   Lots of things vie for first place - getting to the moon, the ending of the Second World War,  the mixing up of cultures in this country (still ongoing -a black or a Chinese face is indeed a rarity up here still), the invention and the rise of the computer/internet/ Zoom and the like, cheap air travel so that we can all jet off anywhere whereas holidays in my youth were usually spent at Skeggie (Skegness to  anyone not a Yellow-belly)it being the nearest seaside place.   I could go on as we all have our own ideas.

But living here in the Yorkshire Dales, mostly made up of small villages which - until fairly recently- housed 'locals' (all quite often related in some way I have learned - mainly from my wonderful carer J'.)   Northallerton seemed like 'the metropolis' until fairly recently, before the advent of everyone owning a vehicle of some sort, and the village roadsides  now 'nose to tail' with cars each evening as none of the old stone cottages have room for a garage having been built before cars were even dreamed of.And of course folk from 'the South' having sold their houses at grossly inflated prices, have moved in along with their 'sophisticated outlook' so that everything has changed and there are now plenty of folk around about whom the 'villagers' know little so that village gossip has been greatly curtailed.

But maybe the greatest change over the last ninety years- up here at any rate- has been the invention of 'the pill''   Frollicking in the hay at hay making time (always  a time for stirring up suggestions of sex with a capital S) often meant children who grew up thinking and being told that their grandmother was their mother.   Many never found out even though everyone in the village knew.  Some found out on applying for a passport to take part in the mass exodus to Bennidorm or somesuch place - a birth certificate was necessary to get a passport, or when they decided to look into their family history on cold, dark, wintry nights when they wanted something to do.  (plenty of cold dark nights up here, even if there is now elec tric light. )  Imagine trying to do that by candlelight- illicit sex was a much more tempting idea I'm sure.

But now, when I believe 'living together in an unmarried state' is more common than getting married, even on our estate there are several families when at week ends children swap over to another household for their week end stay with mum or dad -going back home to mum and step dad (or various other combinations) ready for school on Monday morning.

My carer often talks of who belongs to who - and I have lost the threads of it all.   But the difference now is that nobody cares, nobody looks at a village girl and points the finger of scorn.   The disgrace of an unmarried mother has largely disappeared.   This has got to be a good thing but it has -up here at any rate and I suspect everywhere - changed our definition of family life for ever.

Thursday 13 April 2023


Do you subscribe to one?   Or do you buy one now and again, or read them 'on line'?   Well, I have always liked the feel of a newspaper in my hand.   For many years I took The Guardian, until it began to feel so flimsy and Araucaria died so that the amazing crosswords he concocted were gone for ever.   So I converted to The Times (I hear imaginary gasps from Guardian readers).   But I am in no way a political animal and I take the Times purely because it has, in my opinion the best daily Mind Games, and at my age I have to keep the old grey matter working hard.

But sometimes I get disillusioned by every newpaper.   They are so addicted to sensationalism and some of the columnists have to churn out three columns each week and it must be difficult to keep thinking of subject matter.

But today I find things very depressing.   Deborah Ross writes three columns about Golliwogs.  Her article can be summed up by her last sentence.  She speaks of the attitude of the police to golliwogs and says 'political correctness gone mad' after police seized a collection of golliwogs from a pub.   I don't agree with her at all - I spent most of my working life teaching black boys and girls of teenage years and I found almost all of them delightful, eager to learn, well-behaved and polite in school.   What they were like outside school I have no idea, but I can say the same for white teenagers under my care,   but I can say with certainty that they would all have found the golliwog - both the name and the doll offensive, as I do.

Then there is a couple of columns about  Harry (no need to say which Harry - all the newspapers have done him to death haven't they?)   He is coming alone to his father's Coronation, his wife is staying at home because their son's birthday coincides with the date of the coronation.    Why not just say this - why speculate on reasons and possible outcomes.   Could we please, just f or a little while, give it a rest?

Frong page 'Harry heads for coronation without Meghan', 'British lives at risk from US secrets leaks'.   Inside is no more cheerful - 'Homeowners face squeeze as Covid mortgage deals end', Truss attacks Macron over him going to Beijing, Duke torn between duty to families (yes, it's that man again).

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture - Doom and Gloom all round.   Yes, there is a lot of terrible doom and gloom in the world today but please, newspapers, could you all have a combined effort to lighten things up?   Cats, dogs, babies, Spring (sunshine and flowers not pouring rain and strong winds) - all bring a smile to our lips.   One of the reasons I watch Antiques Roadshow on Sunday evenings is that the cameramen seem to focus almost as much on the dogs folk are dragging round on leads as they do on the antiques. 

I shall continue to take the good old Times - it has the very best Mind Games - I do them all every weekday - straight after my breakfast - they usually take me a couple of hours but being housebound I have little else to do (except of course to chat to you all - the highlight of my day).   And it keeps my mind active.  Week ends the Mind Games are slimmed down somewhat and I have to resort to Wordl- the good old computer is  good old stand-in-.

Have a good evening.   Look at the blue bits in the sky at sunset, not at any big lurking black clouds please.   See you tomorrow.

Wednesday 12 April 2023


 April!   What wonderful images we get when we are huddled round the central heating in the middle of January with deep snow outside and a howling gale down the chimney.

April has arrived and is more than a third way through,, but - as usual - it is a capricious month.   The Silver birch tree I see from my window - my friend who tells me how windy  it is without me listening to the weather forecast, has at last burst into full leaf and is shouting Spring every morning when I draw back the curtains and see it greener than yesterday.

The Hellebores might be fading, their flowering time come to an end, but the tulips, the cowslips and the asperula and aubretia (the two have 'married' and are now inseparable) are out in full force, vying for attention in competition with the late daffodils.   And when, like at eight o'clock this morning, the early sun is shining full on them, there is no doubt that the whole world from my windows is shouting 'Spring'.

But fast forward to lunch time and look again.  The wind has risen to gale force, the silver birch is thrashing its branches against each other and something which looks suspiciously like sleet is pouring down the window.   The central heating has come back on, I have added a layer of clothing, a shawl I bought in Ulan Ude (while on the Trans-Siberian railway, where I am sure it will  have experienced far more wintry weather than what is happening here on the edge of the Pennines).

I understand from my carer that the river is 'over' -the Ure is a fast riser when it experiences gale force winds and heavy rain-and given that when I opened the front door last night on my way to bed someone was throwing buckets full of the wet stuff down outside for the wind to blow down the road in waves- I was quite surprised to see the bright Spring morning when I got up at eight.

But, as anyone living in the UK knows - there is nothing about our weather that can be called settled. Perhaps that is why we enjoy living here.

As I sat in the window at breakfast time a family went past,   Mum and Dad were in shorts (the first I have seen this year and I would say a bit optimistic), the two children, a boy and girl, both of early school age, were capering about in front of their parents and bursting with energy.   Mum and Dad** had hiking poles, the family dog, on a long lead, looked excited at the thought of the forthcoming day out, and they were obviously setting off on an expedition.   I wonder where they are now and what sort sort of weather they are having.

Whoever it was who said 'N'er cast a clout til May be out' knew what he/she was talking about.   Have a nice day whatever the weather.

**Nice to see that Dad was encumbered with a large rucksack - good to see that some things surpass the clamour for the equality of the sexes.

Monday 10 April 2023


 Rachel in her recent post speaks of possessions and the memories they have  - memories personal to the owner so that when the owner dies they become just objects which the observer either likes or dislikes - or as is usually the case - neither one nor the other - just a thing which one would hardly notice if the object wasn't somewhere 'asking 'to be noticed.

As I age - and bear in mind I am now ninety -such objects become more and more important to me.   The pottery bison the farmer and I bought at Mesa Verde and which now sits on my mantlshelf next to a bull we bought in Salamanca which always reminds me of two things - both of which I can imagine clearly as though it were yesterday - the bull ring at Ronda and the Seville Orange trees which as we walked in the street where we bought the bull were being lopped - oranges and all.   I can feel the dust and the heat of standing in the bull ring and I can smell the sharp tangy smell of the oranges.   Noone else can do that now that the farmer has gone - no longer can I pick it up and hand it to him and chat about it.  And, if no-one wants it when I die it will stand with other objects on the table at the Auctioneers and be sold for some paltry amount.   And I don't want that.

So that fact - which applies to so many of my possessions - gets more poignant with every day that passes.

Sometimes I think possessions are not easy to live with.  Do you feel the same?

Friday 7 April 2023

Getting into the habit

 Now that I have opened the Chambers Dictionary it is hard to close it, but I promise this is the last post on words - for now at any rate!

We do seem to take animal's names in vain.  On looking round the curtain in the front room (a common pastime in any village), if Mrs So-and-so went past unsuitably dressed (in my mother's eyes), Mother would pass on the information to my father at tea time, telling him .she looked like 'the dog's dinner'.    If my mother went out in her best clothes and asked him 'How do I look Jack?', my Dad would often reply (usually without raising his eyes from the Lincolnshire Echo)  ' The Cat's Whiskers!'

I looked these two up in my dictionary this morning and then thought I would look just how many other animals there were whose names we take in vain.

Most villages used to have their little quiet unmarried women ( usually spinsters as a result of the shortage of young unmarried men after world war 1).   Many were quiet little 'mousy' women dressed in grey.   And as such they were  usually referred to.

And my Dad always got 'The Lion's Share' when it came to Mother dishing out the dinner when he came in from work.

There was usually somebody in the family who we didn't speak about - they had gone off with a married man, they had offended someone of 'importance', or worst of all they had landed up in prison for some minor offence.   It could be they 'drank like a fish'; - whatever it was their predicament  was  best ignored - their lack of presence  was  like 'the elephant in the room'.

When as a teenager I got dressed up to go out I often felt I looked 'the bee's knees'.

But I did find when last evening I was meandering through Chambers that the poor old pig seemed to come off worst.  :- pig-headed, piggy in the middle, pig-sick, making a 'pig's ear' of doing something, or going somewhere beneath one's dignity and 'pigging it'.

But, take it from me - 'straight from the horse's mouth' that my 'piggy bank' is very heavy and so full I can't get another coin in.   The coins have been in so long I have a feeling that they are obsolete.,

Thursday 6 April 2023


My poor son, who has plenty on his plate caring for his invalid wife, has to bear the brunt every time anything is wrong with my computing.   Today Google (bless its heart) challenged me with its sword drawn, refusing to print my thank you for yesterday's blog unless I proved who I was.   I tried dear readers, I really tried, but after failing on two 'verification codes' it gave up and told me to try again later.  My son has just been round - click, click and it was done.  My brain shatters into tiny pieces when Google asks me a question - worse than having a lover (which of course is now well out of the range of possibilities for me - don't know whether to be happy or sad!   See you tomorrow when my brain is in top gear rather than neutral.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

What's in a word?

 What's in a word?   Fascinating question really.   I am a dictionary fanatic.   Chambers    is my favoured choice and I am on either my fourth or fifth copy.   I always keep it by me and I can honestly say I use it every day - sometimes - like earlier today - I read it just for pleasure when I find something that catches my eye.   Six centimetres thick and heavy with it, it usually rides around on my walking trolley so that it is always ready to hand.   I could do with a little mobile 'crane' to lift it on to my knee but probably it is good for my muscles to have to lift it myself.

My spelling is not what it was.   Sad to say I often have to use my Chambers for that purpose.   It is usually 'double or single?' letters which let me down and often remind me of my firt husband who used to tell how his teacher in junior school told him that if he couldn't think how to spell necessary to think of it as nekessary - and he always did.

But, back to Chambers and a look in for how to spell something I thought might be a good starter for the Codeword I always do in The Times (Peekaboo) the book fell open at B and the word 'burn' which takes up almost half a page.   I don't think it is a word I use much unless I burn myself - and that was usually on the oven shelf when my wrist caught the edge of the shelf when taking something out of the oven; this no longer happens as I no longer cook.

I realise that if I see something I really want (like the chair I bought yesterday) money could be burning a hole in my pocket.  Should I buy the chair or not?   Yes I'll burn my books and get it.  I am not likely ever again to burn the candle at both ends (too old for that these days) but I did burn the midnight oil last night (and am paying for it today as I can't keep awake) by staying up very late to read the book 'Trespasses' by Louise Kennedy (winner of the  An Post Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year 2022).

I am not likely to suffer burnout and become overworked, ineffective or  exhausted (although as many folk who have been teachers would describe it 'dead beat') by the end of each Summer Term.

But it would be rather nice to sit in the heather on the side of a burn somewhere in Scotland and dabble my toes in the water - once the water has warmed up a bit.

Have a pleasant evening.

But watch what you're doing - don't get your fingers burnt!

Monday 3 April 2023

Dog' s Breath anyone?

 No of course not - the very thought of it is off-putting isn't it?   Not so Elephant's breath (I think it is Farrow and Ball) which conjures up a pleasant image.   Elephants eat an awful lot of greenery so their breath might well smell sweet, whereas dogs, given a choice eat meat, bones and all in some cases. This conjures up something I read somewhere about huskies pulling sledges in the Arctic where the dogs are only fed a couple of times a week but have enormous meals then and sitting behind (an appropriate word here if ever there was one) them on the sledge the next day is not a pleasant experience!

But back to my original thinking.   My carer yesterday was talking about the new kitchen she is about to have.   The units are pale grey - apparently the 'in' colour this year.  She went to buy the emulsion paint for the walls when it is finished.

First of all you have to decide whether you want matt emulsion or that with a slight gloss.   There is even another one now which is a sort of matt, matt but I can't remember what that is called.

She tells me that as the kichen gets little sun she needs a 'light colour'.   She finally chose one called white with a hint of creamy-yellow.

Do you remember the old days before Emulsion paint became a reality?   Then  our Mums either whitewashed the kitchen wall or did it with distemper (which before that was 'invented' had been a disease of dogs) so I would have thought not a very inviting name when our Mums went to the Hardware shop to buy it.

I am as guilty as anyone else for being 'tempted' by a name.  I just went out into the garage to look at one or two half-empty tins (we all have them don't we?)- keep them a year or two 'in case' and then in a fit of cleaning out the garage (rarely used for cars on my estate - rather as a repository for everything that you can't think where else to 'reposit' ) take them to the tip.   There was one tin on the shelf - Natural Hessian the label said (fawn to you and me).  Had I been tempted by the name - I suppose so - but I hope to goodness I looked at a colour card and chose it for the colour.

My big farm kitchen at the farm I had painted (I did the easy bits the farmer did the bits that needed a step ladder)  yellow.   It looked out due West on to a beautiful stand of tall pine trees just the other side of the drive (beautiful they were too)  so was quite dark in spite of two large windows.  We repainted it every other year and the colour -which looked exactly the same each time - was 'sunshine', 'butter' 'buttercup', 'daffodil' 'summery golden'.  Yes - in other words the whizz kids had been at it.   Change the name, tempt, tempt, tempt.

I don't think our mothers would have stood for it.  I can almost hear them saying" I don't want any fancy stuff - just plain yellow!"   And they would have ascertained before they spent good money on it that it wouldn't come off on the damp cloth when Dad was a bit too enthusiastic when shaking the brown sauce on his chips.

I would hazard a guess that there were at least a dozen' whites with a hint of ' on the shelf when she bought her choice - but I know for sure none of them would have been 'white with a hint of brown sauce'!


Saturday 1 April 2023

What shall we do tonight?

Is it just me or has the quality of television programmes gone downhill?   I don't care for Soaps so watch none of them.  I quite like some of the Antiques programmes although many of them are repeats.   Breakfast television I enjoy as it keeps me up to date with the News.   I never watch serials which involve Murders - I live alone and I don't watch anything which might keep me awake after I have gone to bed - or cause me to have scary dreams.  Now and again there will be something really interesting - like a recent series called 'Villages by the Sea' which told about things other than fishing which took place there - like Alum mining at Staithess in North Yorkshire (I have been many times to Staithes but never knew about it) but by and large there are many nights when there is nothing I wish to see (apart from BBC4 every Saturday when they are showing 'pruned' versions of all the old Michael Palin travel series - so far 'Pole to Pole', 'Around the World in 80 Days', and now, starting this evening the first part of another of his wonderful travel series from years ago.   And there are also wonderful wildlife programmes with incredible photography.  But so much of what is on is 'rubbish', what I call fill in programmes.

I sat here this morning thinking what did we do before TV?

In our village every Tuesday night was 'Threepenny Hop' night, when all us young ones went to the Village Hall and danced to records played on an old Radiogram (remember those?)  controlled by the Vicar. ( Remember The Palais Glide?).And every Friday night there was a Whist Drive which was always packed out and had good prizes.   As a teenager I used to go sometimes with my mother.   Once I won first prize and chose an embroidered tablecloth rather than a joint of sirloin of beef given by the local butcher,   I don't think my mother really ever forgave me for that.  She was a fanatical whist player and had had her eye on that beef all night.

There were three pubs in the village - The Royal Oak, The Ferry Boat and The Hunter's Leap.   The Royal Oak had good darts facilities and the Hunter's Leap had a billiards table which you could book.   My father, brother and brother in law had a permanent booking for three hours each Friday night.

In addition there was the radio to listen to (I can even remember when we had an old valve radio) and I recall the old favourites - ITMA, Henry Hall's Guest Night and the (often very scary 'Saturday Night Theatre) and of course 'Dick Barton - Special Agent' (remember that?)

When I first married the farmer some of the old traditions still remained up here - one being the Domino Drives.   They were especially popular around Christmas time when almost every village had one.   Refreshments were provided in the interval.   The farmer was a dab hand at dominoes and I (an absolute novice at the game) used to go with him.   The most popular one around where we lived was at a village called Carlton in Coverdale - I think the main attraction was the home made mince pies in the interval (everyone got two on  a plate and it was pot luck - some of the ladies made beautiful mince  pies, some were pretty basic).

These days with all the games on computers and on mobile phone this must sound very old fashioned and out-of-date' but of course every dog has its day and no doubt in another eighty years things will have changed again (unless we have all been nuked out of existence).

But my domino-playing never really improved and at the Carlton drive one Christmas I without thinking completely blocked the game by making the line a five at each end with the last five available.   There was uproar from my 'partner' (you moved around so I had ended up playing with the champion domino player I didn't know.)   A few years ago I saw in the local paper that he had died.   I fully expect he remembered my faux-pas until the day he died.