Thursday 31 August 2023

September tomorrow.

Where has August gone?   Wherever it has gone it has gone there in a flash.   My last lovely village lunch was in June - there was none in July and none in August, but I do rather think they begin again next week.   I do hope friends S and T are going to continue taking me - it is such a lovely occasion.

 I had a really lovely evening last evening.   I rarely listen to music because my hearing loss tends to distort my hearing of musical sounds and, being a musician, it distresses me that I am not hearing the right note.  It got so bad that if The National Anthem was being played I could not tell what it was from the musical sounds, only from the beat. 

But since my attack last October and the complete change of medication from Epilim to Leviteracitam  the condition seems to have improved and when I saw that last night's 'Prom' concert was a really special one - the "highlight this year" as suggested by one of the music critics- I decided to give it a try.   There is always the 'off' button.  

But I have to say it was not needed.   The concert, on BBC2 from 7.30 to 9.30pm and it was Sir Simon Rattle's farewell concert -  the Prom of Sunday August 27th -  as he leaves his job  as Director of Music and Chief Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra to do more or less the same job as Chief Conductor of the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Chorus.   (He has both German and English nationality).

He chose to leave with Mahler's Ninth Symphony - the 'farewell' (it was Mahler's last symphony - his Tenth being unfinished upon his untimely death.)  It is a mammoth work.   It was superb and Simon Rattle's last concert coupled with Mahler's last finished farewell symphony made it quite an emotional evening for everyone - audience, orchestra and conductor.

Before that mammoth work there was another emotional piece -  Poulenc's 'Figure humaine' a poem set to music during the second World War and smuggled out of Nazi occupied Paris to London, where it had its premiere on 25th March 1945.   It is an unaccompanied cantata and it was such an emotional piece sung so beautifully.

By the end of the evening Sir Simon Rattle, the orchestra and the singers were all emotionally moved as I suspect a large part of the audience were too.  (and me)

I drew the blinds, turned the lights low and switched both phones off before it started and it is a long time since I had such an evening. 

It has been a lovely sunny day today - a definite Autumn chill in the air but nothing that an extra jacket wouldn't cure. 

Hopefully I will be back with more thoughts tomorrow. 

Tuesday 29 August 2023

The Black Dog

 Does everyone have a visit from 'the black dog' now and again - or are some people always happy and carefree?

I get 'down in the dumps' rarely but when I do get the feeling I recognise it as soon as I wake in the morning.   In my working days I had to be up, get chores done, get son to school, say farewell to husband as he set off for work - and all before 8.30 which was the very latest I allowed myself to arrive at school - can't bear a rush at the last minute.  I was happier if I could get there by 8am.   Whichever it was any down feeling I had woken up with had well and truly dispersed by the time I got to school.

But now that I live alone (albeit with so very many happy memories of  two marriages, both with countless fascinating holidays and the pleasures I get from my son and his wife living near and my grandchildren all happy) I do sometimes wake up in a strange kind of mood when it would be very easy to slip into a slough of despond; to miss the fact that there are steps over the bog to rise above it.

We all have our 'steps' in place if we have thought about it enough (I am not of course speaking of people who suffer from severe depression and I am not belittling it in any way.   Severe depression is an awful thing , a clinical condition and one which needs treatment.)  I speak here of just feeling a bit down in the dumps, feeling the weight of our worries and concerns and tending to get them 'out of proportion'.

I lay awake half the night 'worrying' about such a petty thing.   I got up, had a cup of tea and a custard cream (alright 2 custard creams), put on the world news which, although it made me realise just  how fortunate we are to live where we do - no worries about some of the awful things going on in the world, did nothing to stop me worrying about my small worry (which, as I predicted, this morning was not a worry at all and had completely disappeared).

I am sure this happens to us all.   In 'Our village' a book recommended to me by 'From my mental library' on my side bar ,the author, Mary Russell Mitford, suggests that one of the best antidotes (for women I hasten to add) is needlework (the most effectual sedative, the grand soother).

I woke up like that this morning - no needlework for me- can't even thread a needle any more - so after breakfast and the departure of my carer and the finishing of the Mind Games I did as Bunyan suggests and took a couple of steps, went out into the garden with Priscilla, put her brakes on and just sat in the sun.

Blue sky, white clouds, light breeze, slightly Autumnal.  Have you ever noticed how those white puffy clouds, floating about in a bright blue sky, play games with you?   You admire their nonchallant shape and think how pretty they look.   You pick on one and admire it, take your eye off it for a second and when you look back it has completely changed its shape.

So you sit and watch it carefully, waiting for it to change shape again.   Does it?   Not 'til you look away then pouf - there it changes again.   Try doing it - I promise you it works.   Of course its probably windy up there and it is changing imperceptibly all the time - tiny little bits breaking off, other bits hurrying to tag on to the end.

But I assure you - ten minutes watching white clouds playing around on that blue backdrop, followed by another ten minutes dead-heading the most exquisitely brightly coloured pansies - yellow, white, orange, deep purple - and then on your way back in pausing to see the gallardia absolutely covered in bees - and you will go back indoors feeling a jolly sight better than you did when you went out!

Monday 28 August 2023

All things doggy.

This week my main carer is on holiday (she also brings me a lunch every day).   She offered to cook a week's meals for me but she is ready for a well-deserved holiday so I have bought them from a local supplier.   Would you believe I have not used my oven for three years and had to be shown how to use it by my evening carer who has a double oven exactly like mine.   My first day's lunch is in at the moment - cook from frozen - but I switched off my computer expecting it to be ready.   It is cooking nicely but needs longer - wonder about temperature but we shall see.   Pulled pork hotpot with a potato and cheese topping and for side red cabbage with apple and onion.   It smells tantalising.

So to today's post.

In the pages to the rear of today's Times there is a photograph of a woman standing with her Great Dame (spotted black and white).   It is up on its hind legs and is standing close to her.   She has her arms round its body and it is taller than her!   The photo was taken at the World Dog Show in Geneva - 21,500 dogs representing 350 breeds.

Sitting in my chair at half past six in the morning I got a sheet of paper.   There are many dogs on our estate and they are mostly walked past my bungalow every morning towards a field.  (presumably to save in pooh bags).

Owners range from fashionably dressed young men (knee length shorts, dark T shirt, calf length socks and trainers) to elderly gentlemen wearing more or less anything - retired (definitely the person, possibly the clothes too).

When I was a child there were loads of dogs in the village (one called Butch, big, black, of indeterminate breed and age, called at lunch time every day from his home at The Ferry Boat pub to see what was on offer.   My Mum found him something most days).   I only remember 2 pure bred dogs - the rest were mongrels (is that still a word - perhaps towns still have gangs of roaming dogs who meet up each day for a mosey - and during the meet-up there are probably a few couplings (I don't think dogs are particular as to who they 'go around' with)).

The 2 'posh' dogs  as we called them were Borzois -large, white and long haired - (Russian hunting dogs I think).

Here I never see what I would call a mongrel.   Here is a list of the dogs - on leads/harnesses, smart coats on for rainy days, snowy days in winter but now in their own coats -who passed my window this morning between 6am and 9a m.   Some breeds  were represented several times:

Labradoodle; Cockapoo (could of course be called 'mongrels' but these days are 'cross-breeds' and cost thousands of pounds in some cases); Beagle; Red Setter; Dalmatian; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; 2 Labradors; King Charles Spaniel; Cocker Spaniel; Saluki; Pug; BorderTerrier; Shidzu; Dachsund; 2 West Highland White Terriers and a Cairn Terrier.

All are well cared for and look to be much loved.  No expense spared in accoutrements.

One of the Labradors I have known since he was a puppy.   His master has trained him carefully!  When they are walking along the footpath and get to a road junction he has been taught to sit - at which point he is always told he is a good dog, gets a pat on the head and a 'treat' before crossing.   Trouble is now that he is an adult dog he won't get up from his sitting position on the footpath to cross a road until he has had his treat.

Writing this I must say I still miss Tess, my Border terrier, although she has now been gone for two years - I would love another but couldn't walk her and couldn't bend down to collect pooh in a pooh bag,  Lots of happy memories of her though - and pictures on here.

***In addition to these my carer, who lives just along the road to me, has three chihuahuas who stay in the house and garden mostly and just go for occasional scampers and an ancient German Shepherd who is at present pulling at their heart strings and will shortly have to be put to sleep (all dog owners know that feeling don't we?).  And then, of course there are all the dogs who don't come this way on their daily 'constitutionals'.

Until tomorrow.....



Sunday 27 August 2023

Things are 'on the up'.

You will be pleased/sorry/relieved to hear that    Jeremy Clarkson is still away (cross out which ever words you feel necessary).   This week his space in The Sunday Times is taken over for the second week running by someone called Stephen Bleach (have just read up about him - he has worked at The Sunday Times for years but must have kept a low profile).

I read him in his entirety (don't always with Sunday 'articles' because some irritate/bore/plainly annoy/ me.)   He would I hope be pleased to know that at the end of his article he had almost pushed me up to the top of the imaginary ladder of my feelings.   Mostly I hover around the middle, occasionally I fall off the bottom but only very occasionally do I rise to the top - let's face it most News is Doom and Gloom.


A complete aside from what I want to say but what do you feel about the Spanish chap kissing the footballer ON THE LIPS and hugging her when the team stepped up to be congratulated after becoming world champions?   I am very pro womens' lib but I do feel this was such a jubilant occasion and it all seemed so spontaneous that I can't help feeling what a pity to spoil it by bringing up something which could have easily have been said in private. I feel we are in danger of protesting too much.   I would love to hear what you think.


He took several things which he cited as being so much better and when I had read them and agreed with him I really did metaphorically climb up a lot of steps.

We all moan about kids having their noses stuck to their phones texting their friends.   He said at least it was helping their reading skills.

He said 100 years ago life expectancy here was 50 - now it is 80.   Can't complain at that - I hopefully add to statistics that  eventually that 80 will rise to 90. 

He spoke of housing and how it had improved.  A bathroom is now essential.   Nearly everyone has an inside lav.   My parents never did until the last six weeks of her life when my father reluctantly agreed to move into an old persons' bungalow (they were the village's oldest residents and were offered the vacant bungalow).  It had a bathroom - the first time in her life when she had actually had one.   This was the early 1970.s.

And did you know in passing that the murder rate in England and Wales is only a little more than half what it was as recently as 20 years ago.

I made a resolution as I put the paper down.   I am for a time not going to read about Putin and Russia, about Trump and his "crimes",  about the fact that there now has to be another by-election because another so called top politician has resigned.  I really think papers should start printing all the good news in a different coloured print so that we don't have to search for it.   Then we would all be climbing that ladder (as it is an imaginary one we don't have to say we can't because of arthritic knees) and we could all feel a jolly lot better.   Let's face it most of the doom and gloom is about stuff we have no control over - let's spend that saved time in looking at the blue sky, the white clouds, the lovely trees which will soon be turning into their Autumn Sunday best, the children out playing with their Unicorn balloons (up here they are definitely the IN thing.)

See you tomorrow. 

Saturday 26 August 2023

The Big Day

 The big day has arrived as it always does every year.   This year it has coincided with our August Bank Holiday week-end.   (BANK holiday no longer has any meaning at all in our little town as we are one of those places which no longer has a functioning bank).

Yes.  Today is the Wensleydale Show.    Most of the  Dales have their own Agricultural Show each Year.   Their dates are 'set in stone' and 'ours' is always at the end of August and will be followed on Monday by Reeth Agricultural Show (Reeth being a small town/village just as one enters into Swaledale from Wensleydale) and then by Muker Show (even further into Swaledale).   The last Show of all is the Show at Pateley Bridge and then it is all over (bar the shouting) for another year.

I am sure the Shows have changed a bit over the years (the vintage car parade will no doubt feature cars which I had when I first had a car) but basically it is the place where all the farmers meet and chat - farmers in the 'old days' having absolutely no time for socialising, especially as most farms up here (where it is primarily grassland) were dairy farms with milking (by hand in the old days) at 6am and 6pm or thereabouts.

All the Feed / Fertiliser / Farm Supplies Merchants have their stands and tents and most offer a set lunch to farmers who buy their supplies from them.  I don't know what it is like these days when costs are so high but I do know in the days when my farmer farmed you tended to stick with your supplier and build up a relationship.

When I had two legs which would work on a field I used to go with my farmer and as lunchtime approached we would make our way to our Feed/Fertiliser Merchant, sit at a table in the tent and wait for our lunch.   It was always the same - half a small pork pie, four sandwiches and a piece of fruitcake (and perhaps a mince pie) and unlimited cups of tea.

The marquees go up during the preceding week  - Large ones - Vegetable and Produce Tent (Fierce competition in all classes), Flower Tent, Competition Tent (Many childrens' classes, cake classes, jam  classes, photographic classes - and many more. )  These tents mean competitors have to be there early with their entries and the tents are  then closed for judging and opened at around lunchtime when competitors can go and see whether they have come in the first three or not)

There are stands showing off the latest Agricultural Machinery and such like and of course - perhaps the most important of all, Shows for the Exhibition of the best cattle, sheep and poultry (Poultry in a marquee - Cattle in a Marquee but sheep (hardy and used to standing about in all weathers Winter and Summer alike) have to rough it in the open air.  Rosettes abound and Supreme Champions get an extra rosette proclaiming the good news.

The farmer never missed a Show until he was in his final illness.   The same applied to his father.    Today friends T and S intended to leave their car on my drive and walk the short distance to the Showground.  (I live very near to it) but when they tried to get out on to the main road the queue of traffic for the showground was over a mile long, so they have walked instead.   Even when my carer came to me for 7am she said the queue of cattle wagons stretched back as far as the eye could see.

Weather?   When the Showground opened to the public the sun was shining.   An hour later there was one clap of thunder and a heavy shower.  Now another hour later is is pouring with another heavy thundery shower.   But we are a hardy lot up here.  Although I have seen several groups of families from around me coming home (all seem to have gone ready prepared with brolleys and macs).   The 'toy' of popularity this year seems to be the large unicorn shaped balloons (I had it on good authority the other week from my great grand daughter that unicorns are 'in') and each family which has included a little girl seems to pass preceded by a flying unicorn.

It is perhaps the most important event of the year up here - especially for the farming community - and long may it continue.

Friday 25 August 2023

A Jolly Jaunt.

A nice trip out today - not very far.   The roads here are busy at this time of year, - third silage continues, it is The Wensleydale Show tomorrow (just behind my garden is the Car Park Field and beyond that the fields where the show takes place), there is holiday traffic now that the schools are well and truly 'on holiday' and there are walkers afoot.  In addition Friday is Market Day (both Auction Mart selling cattle and 'ordinary' Market' in the market square.

But by some accident my ordered meals for next  week when J, my main carer and supplier of my mid day meal each day is on holiday, failed to arrive.   So friends T and S drove me the four miles or so through Wensleydale to Swinithwaite to the Farm Shop and cafe where they had been ordered.

They were all ready but first we had a sandwich and a coffee. Then we fancied an ice cream.   I would just point out that T and S had not had their lunch (they have their main meal in the evening);  I had just eaten three sausages, four new potatoes and two tablespoonsful of chopped, cooked tomatoes.  But I still managed to find room for a cheese and pickle sandwich with coleslaw and leaves garnish.   T had ditto but chicken and chutney and S had a club sandwich with salad garnish.   We then each had an ice cream.   I shall definitely not want any more to eat today - I am sure you will agree.

Now my meals for next week are in the freezer and I shall not starve.

 We were in the opposite direction to the show but I am sure all the show tents and marquees are up and many of the cattle will already be there (someone will stay overnight with them).   The weather forecast, like today's is for cool with sunshine and showers but the showers seem mainly to be in the West and so far we have only seen a slight smattering of drops of water - so let's keep fingers crossed for tomorrow to be a similar day.

It does feel like Autumn here already and with the first of September only a week away and then the schools starting the Autumn Term  and teenagers setting out into the Big Wide World of College, Uni or Gap Year Activity, or first jobs, there always seems to be an 'all change' taking place.   And in the garden plants are seeding, some are making a valiant effort at putting on a second flowering (helianthemum, hardy geraniums, perennial wallflowers) and Michaelmas Daisies coming into flower, there is just complete change in the air.

Looking out of the window into my garden I see a (I was going to say 'sea' but more of a 'pond') of pansies left after my front door pots had been planted up, pink scabious, yellow gallardias, red gallardias, hardy geraniums and a   lot of clumps of the rusty flowers of Euphorbia Robbiae ,putting on a show since Spring and going from pale green flowers, through yellow to rusty orange (and all lovely with it).   And Michaelmas Daisies just bursting open their distinctive mauve flowers - yes Autumn is about to arrive. 

See you tomorrow dear friends. 

Thursday 24 August 2023

Age related?

 Dame Helen Mirren (aged 78) appears in Times 2 today and she really does Wow! pages 2 and 3.   Sort of ' I am 78 and you can take it or leave it.   This is me -maybe a tweak here and there but I am still going strong and shall look and dress as I please'.   (same goes for Dame Judi Dench who is almost as old as me - and that is really ancient.)

It set me thinking about dress, hair styles, and all things age related.

I thought right back to the birth of my son in 1958.  I bought yards of cream Viyella and sewed 10 long nighties with raglan sleeves, open down the back and fastened at neck and middle with tape ties.

These he wore until he was about three months old - easy to get on and off and nice and loose over the terry towelling napkins (we had lessons at ante natal classes on exactly how to fold them diagonally, lay baby on one, fold over the two sides, bring up the pointy end and insert safety pin to hold all three together. )  (inner muslin nappy also recommended for softness on tender skin).

At three months baby is to be 'shortened' - boys into romper suits and girls into tiny dresses with a yoke often decorated with embroidery.   (And ' to hell ' with how much washing and ironing this entailed, especially on cold, wet winter days - no tumble driers in those days - at least not that I was aware of.)  When I think now of those nappies and the long nighties I think of the chore compared with disposable nappies and clothes made of materials which dry easily whatever the weather.

Once school came in - although no uniform kids dressed uniformly and it was all so easy.   I have recently had a photo sent me of my 7 year old great grand-daughter togged out on the first day she is about to enter P2 class.   It is obvious that she has helped choose her clothes (albeit an obvious school uniform.)  Yes children these days are much more involved in what they wear and especially girls are aware of what is in fashion from a very early age.

I watch the mums go past pushing their prams, often one or two toddlers skipping along behind.  All fashionably dressed -all in many ways in a fashion/uniform.

And it is the same in retirement.   I look through the fashion pages and I get a lot of catalogues and fashion stuff through the door as I have to buy my clothes on line these days.

Sadly we are not all Dame Mirrens and Dame Denches

Out of school these days it seems children choose 'fashion' clothes - (yes we all keep our eye on fashion whether we admit it or not).   

But considerations enter in - are the clothes easy to get on and off.  Are we going to be warm enough (gents close your eyes here) August - I am still wearing a thermal vest!   I hate my shoes but they are easy on my swollen ankle and my carer finds it easy to get them on  and off.

But I love Dame Helen's clothes -  and her figure looks as elegant as it always did.   And I love the way Dame Judi dresses - not tall and stately like Dame Helen she accomodates her figure beautifully by wearing exquisite loose coats and dresses which are always in lovely materials and she too always looks divine.

So thanks for the push Dames H and J - I shall wear my new navy leather biker jacket and I shall squeeze my feet into my ballet pumps on the rare occasions when I go out, and I shall put on my Sea Salt blouse which I bought on a whim because I loved it (blue silky material, three quarter sleeves and covered in large white peonies) even if the model wearing it in the brochure did look about 25.

To quote from Farrah Storr.s article on Dame Helen as she stands there , hands on the turned up collar of a ruby red trench coat, looking like "an upmarket madam" - oh how I would love that coat - and here's the rub - at 90 I never go out in the rain or if there is any suggestion of rain around unless it is a trip to the hospital.   Hardly the place wouldn't you agree?

As to the men - they haven't got a mention here so far - well the chaps on my estate don't seem all that bothered about fashion in their Summer shorts, some covering the knee (gratefully I might add) some short and rather tight across the bum,  (age related here) tee shirts in a fairly uniform khaki.

But just a little footnote.   My 'pin up' (remember my garden is my passion) has for many years been Monty Don in his gardening clothes and wellies but when I see him occasionally on telly all poshed up in a suit and tie he doesn't have the same appeal.  So I must conclude from that that it is his gardening that I find attractive - his appeal lies not in his apparel but in his ability to get his hands dirty in the soil.

Wednesday 23 August 2023

Bits and Bobs

It is that sort of a day.   My brain is in tatters and I can't think of an idea for a post while it is in that state.   Why is it in tatters.   An insurance policy is up for renewal.   I renew it every year - I pay it by Direct Debit- nothing changes and nor is it likely to.  But each year I get about twenty foolscap sheets of tight print - imagine the trees that have been knocked down over the years- does anyone ever read through it all?   After reading through half of page of Gobbledegook I rang them to say - had anything changed (apart from the fact that the premium had gone up!)   No - all was the same. 

In the process I discovered that the very efficient lady I always speak to actually lived only a few doors away from me and passes my door every morning on her way to work.   I established the make and colour of her car - I shall look out for her in future. 

Result - my brain is gradually ironing itself out.   Why do companies have to send out so much info every year?   I suppose they are covering themselves but it does my brain no good at all.

So what else?  Oh yes it is 'rubbish collection' day - this week green bin and recycling.  My carer artistically arranged the long box (almost as tall as me) yesterday and as I may have said  - the sharp Autumn wind (yes I am sorry but that it what it felt like) blew it down the drive.  So I brought it in (with great difficulty I might add,) but I did manage with Priscilla's help and careful use of her brakes to get it - and the box my Hoover vac came in - back into the garage overnight.   This morning my carer put them out again.   The bin men haven't been yet (they usually come at 7am) so I am on tenterhooks waiting to see if they take them or whether they deem the boxes too big (in which case I shall spend an artistic afternoon cutting/tearing them in shapes and then tying them into a bundle for the next collection day.

Nothing else to report so ham salad ( plus Baxter's Baby Beets from my store cupboard) calls.   See you tomorrow.

PS   Wasn't that amazing rescue of children and 2 adults from that teetering cable car absolutely breath-taking.   I could hardly bear to watch.  (and they do that journey over a ravine  every day to save them a couple of hours travelling. I hope they all have the rest of the week off).

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Miscellany (I hope)

 I have titled today's post as such in the hopes that as the day progresses I can think of other things to put on - so far just one thing to share with you.

I usually start getting ready for bed at 9pm and am often getting into bed at 9.30 and asleep by 10pm.  My morning carer comes at 7am and I like to have got my own breakfast before she comes.

But this means that I usually wake somewhere between 4am and 5am, knowing that I shall not go back to sleep.   Sometimes I get up - my favourite thing is to get up, draw back the sitting room blind and sit and watch the dawn break and the neighbourhood cats prowl around the plot opposite. 

If I can't be bothered to get out of bed then I just lay and think and let my mind wander at will.   And that is what I did this morning.   I had a lovely trip down Memory Lane.

The year is 1967.   I am 35 and just starting my Teacher Training three year course as a Mature Student at West Midlands College in Walsall (we lived in Wolverhampton - only twenty miles or so away - my husband, son and I).   I loved it.  (I would love to have been a Perennial Student - bliss to me is studying and writing essays.   Was then, still is which is why I love blogging so much).

It was my first Teaching Practice.   The very words stike fear and dread into the hearts of many students because for the first time they are going to face a room full of children and be expected to not only teach them something but also (the dreaded phrase) KEEP CONTROL.   Essential - make relationships, learn individual names as fast as you can and get them on your side.   This is much easier for Mature Students I think - if they have children and the children bring friends round to play you are half way there - you have learned the tricks.

The school I was assigned to was a Junior School.  It was a Friday afternoon - first period.   The Head had intended a Staff Meeting straight after school and then found out that two members of staff couldn't attend.  I was at the end of my first week in the school and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  I offered to have the whole school in the Hall for the one period (this meant about maybe 6 classes of children from aged maybe 8 to 11.

I am a musician and played the piano a lot in those days (not now because of arthritis in my hands and a bad hearing loss).   1967.   The year Sandie Shaw (remember her?) won the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Puppet on a String').

Unbeknown to me until the last minute it was to be the period when the Assessors from college were coming to see how I was shaping up.

So there we all were in the Hall.  I chatted to them for a few minutes and then asked if they would like a sing song.   Yes they would.   What shall we sing? Immediately "Puppet on a String"!  (Dead easy to play - and sing - no music necessary).   And so we sang it, then we had a contest - who could sing it best boys or girls?   I said well I could sing with the girls - one of the boys piped up with 'those two men at the back could help the boys!!  And my goodness me - those two serious-looking Assessors were put in a spot.   I can only assume they were Dads but they joined in with Gusto.   Girls and me/Boys and the two men.

I wasn't a shy young student not long out of school and I was used to playing in public.   We had a whale of a time and after deciding the contest boys v girls was pretty equal I suggested that the prize would be that they could all get up from sitting cross-legged on the floor and we would all sing it again and they could be puppets too - they could move their arms ad legs but because they were on strings it had to be on the spot.   And to their eternal credit the two Assessors joined in with the boys too.

 The bell went for the end of the lesson and I hope it was deemed a good lesson by the Assessors.   I never heard another word about it.   But I - and the kids - enjoyed it thoroughly.

Why the song should suddenly at half past five this morning pop into my head I don't know.  But it was a happy memory - and I could remember the words.

If you were around in those days - can you?

Monday 21 August 2023

Collecting seeds!!!

 Have you tried it?   With foxgloves?   My garden was until this afternoon awash with dying foxgloves, their seeded stalks blowing back and forth in a strong breeze. (note to self - watch out for an invasion of tiny foxglove plants while the soil is warm).

At two o'clock my gardeners turned up to mow, edge, weed, cut back and generally tidy my plot.   As usual I sat on Priscilla and watched proceedings.   Both D and J were invaded by foxglove seeds - in their hair mainly.   Foxglove seeds are minute - about the size of the working end of a pin.

I had promised my grand daughter some seeds from them  so together D and I shook a stalk on to a sheet of white paper on the bench in the garage.   I have just poured them into a thin paper bag, cut it down to size and sealed it well and folded it to fit into a small plastic 'purse' which held a specs cleaning cloth then   sealed that with sellotape, put it into an envelope and stuck two second class stamps on it.   It will go into the mail box in the morning.

One thing is for sure - they will escape if they can.  Nature is wonderful, seeds are programmed to be hell bent on getting to somewhere fertile where they can do their job properly.

The garden is looking a lot tidier, I still have a lot of flowers out and D cut back things like hardy geraniums, santolina, alchemilla mollis.   All the foxglove stalks are in the green bin and tomorrow in green-bin-day - so somewhere there is a site which will receive millions of foxglove seeds in a short while.   Somebody somewhere is in for a colourful treat next Summer - lucky things.

If I had sent all the seeds to my grand daughter that somebody could probably have been the whole of Glasgow where they live.   I will swear, hand on heart, the total would run into millions.

Sunday 20 August 2023

The 'Glorious?' Twelfth.

 I forgot it!   My dear farmer never forgot at Breakfast on August 12th to remark "Glorious Twelfth today".   I am not sure why.   We are surrounded by shooting estates and at this time of the year you can drive up on to the moorland and be sure to see Grouse.   But my farmer was just not a shooting man.  When the local farmers and a few friends formed a shoot and shot on our land it was rabbits, rabbits, rabbits.   Maybe the odd pheasant but they quickly learned to keep well out of the way every other Saturday.   The farmer was always a beater - never took his useless gun.  He owned two guns.   When he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma - in his case the most aggressive form of brain tumour - he had by law to surrender his guns.   I took them to the 'Hunting, shooting, fishing' shop in our little town - one didn't function at all and was fit only for the scrap heap - the other was worthless.  The shop dealt with the paperwork.

Not a shooting man, but a countryman through and through.   And - like most countrymen- very aware of all that went on around him and had done for a very long time.  The Twelfth came into being in  1831/2 when a previous law was overturned (banning hunting of game between August and Dcember.)  From then on it has been Grouse from August 12th and Pheasant from October 1st.

I have a feeling that Grouse are almost impossible to breed 'in captivity' whereas Pheasants are reared all over around here and let out to be 'wilded' when they grow to a certain size. (but usually still fed by various means to fatten them up for October.)

It has always been so.   I find the whole thing grotesque - but the shooting fraternity pay large sums of money for a day's shooting - money I suppose which goes towards keeping the  shooting areas at their peak (e.g. the burning of swathes of heather in controlled burns to encourage the heather to produce new shoots for the young grouse to feed on.)

I remember as a child walking with my father and coming across a wire strung with the spoils of a local gamekeeper - dead stoats, weasels, crows, the odd very dead fox's brush,voles, all very dead and strung in a line for all to see.  Rod Liddle in today's Sunday Times (where he decries the whole practice) asked a gamekeeper what proportion of what he, the gamekeeper, called 'vermin' he hoped to kill - he answered 100% but he said 'some slip through the net'!

I understand the big estates still rush grouse on the 12th up to London in time for them to appear on the evening menus of the 'posh' eateries.   Have you ever tasted grouse?   I have once.   One mouthful was enough - my thoughts on the whole shooting thing being what they are plus the fact that the meat tasted of heather and nothing else was enough to just endorse my feelings about the whole thing.

Red kites were reintroduced into England, Wales and Scotland where there had been more or less a national extinction.   The reintroduction has proved such a success.   At the last count there were at least 4,400 breeding pairs.   Their main foods are carrion, worms and small mammals.   Yet they are destroyed where possible (it is a crime) in case they dare to pick off the odd grouse/pheasant.

The same goes for Buzzards and any other Birds of Prey who dare to encroach on the moors.   Poisons which are illegal are still kept secretly and still used.  Buzzards feed mainly on voles, mice, shrews, rabbits and pigeons (although there is a report of a Buzzard attacking a Yorkshire Terrier and badly injuring it.   The vet managed to save it's life but the buzzard returned shortly after and this time killed it.)

There was a time when villages were small, many of the folk who lived there worked for 'the big house' - women as domestics and men looking after the estate in various ways.   But - like the second home owners in places like Cornwall - life is not like that any more - incomers(a dreaded word to some in what used to be villages where everybody knew everybody - and often three quarters of the villagers were inter-related) : the genuine Countryman is dying out.   Everything is mechanised.  Villagers 'have cars will travel' and often  go 30 miles or more to work each morning (clogging the motorways)- and have never even heard of the twelfth and probably never eaten grouse either.

I am not sure there is anything 'glorious' about it any more.

Friday 18 August 2023

Dear Parky

I think everyone loved Michael Parkinson who died recently at the age of 88.   He had a long and happy marriage with his wife Mary, had three sons and was the son, grandson and great grandson of Yorkshire miners.   He was such an ordinary chap - never lost his Yorkshire accent, never put on 'airs and graces'. Eddie Izzard called him 'the king of the intelligent interview' and as Nick Robinson of Radio 4 said, "He was the greatest interviewer of our age, who owned Saturday night TV for year after year'.   Two years junior to me he looked an old man in recent photographs and of course I immediately was pulled up short knowing that is how I must look to friends who haven't grown up alongside me.

I was touched by what his lifelong friend Dickie Bird of cricket fame said of him. Dickie was for a short time totally overcome.

There was a clip on TV Breakfast of Michael speaking of his Dad who had a dream that Michael might one day play cricket for Yorkshire (both he and his dad were cricket fans).   Apparently his Dad spoke to him along the lines of how he had become so well known and had 'earned a bob or two without breaking swet' but how he still wished he could have played for Yorkshire.

We shall no doubt now get to see many of those interviews from the past and I for one look forward to every one of them they choose to show us again. He offended Helen Mirren by referring to her 'equipment' and whether it had hindered her career and he lost his temper with Meg Ryan when she kept giving one word answers.  But really he didn't interview - he just liked a good, friendly chat.   As he said himself 'I doubt I could do an interview these days without being sent off'. 

Rest in peace Michael.    

Thursday 17 August 2023

The good/bad old days

You 'pays your money and takes your pick' as they say.   But last evening I watched Michael Portillo (he of the fancy trouser/jacket combinations) as he watched the cranberry harvest in Wisconsin on one of his rail journeys in America.   (Bright yellow jacket/bright blue trousers ).   As an aside - he never carries anything but a rail guide when he steps on or off the train - he must have a gang of bearers and surely his own private dry cleaning firm,  How many times can he wear that yellow jacket without it being dry cleaned (or does he have half a dozen jackets in each colour)?

But:  down to business.   Harvest.   Now well underway if not finished.   My farmer friend told me yesterday that he has finished third silage (what? in this weather).   I suppose one has to measure the amount of rain to make the grass grow like Billy - o (spelling?) against the amount and heat of the sun to dry the field enough to stand the weight of silaging equipment.

I watched the giant cranberry harvester harvesting millions of individual cranberries in water almost thigh deep from the giant Mississippi.   Wisconsin is the largest producer of the fruit in the US and it has to be in and ready for Thanksgiving.   And it was fascinating to watch but it took me back to the god/bad old days.

I am still a Lincolnshire lass inside and harvesting/caring for the crop as it grew and harvesting it at the right time was almost the sole topic of conversation in our village, where few were well-off and probably a third of the men worked in the fields ninety years ago.   

Each county will stir up different memories -corn growing areas, grass lands - and in my case good fenland soil.

Loads of potatoes. No fancy potato harvester.   Us kids on Saturday mornings and/or school hols got paid so much for doing it.   I was desperate to go and my Dad kept telling me it would kill me - but eventually gave in and let me go for a Saturday morning.   One morning was enough.   Can't remember how much I got paid - pence probably (remember this was still in the days of farthings) but I can certainly remember my bad back which lasted for days afterwards.

Plenty of corn - not sure what but it is wheat I remember.   Would the farmers sell it or would it be part of animal diet on the farm?   No idea but I do remember gleaning.   Another back breaker but everyone used to wander the fields after they had been cut and gather up the corn lying on the ground.   What did we do with it?   Can't remember.  We could have fed it to our hens, or perhaps the farmers bought it off us for pence.   But that was a time we looked forward to.  The village turned out in force - reminds me now of hop-picking when whole families used to go and view the whole thing as their family holiday.   Do they still do it or has it too surrendered to some giant machine.   Anybody reading this live down the Kent way?

Hay - when the grass fields (in those days when I guess 'muck' - that good old-fashioned fertiliser was all that went on the crop) were thick with poppies, cornflowers, wild pansies, ox-eye daisies and many more wild flowers, the farmer would come with the hay cutter behind his Fergie - or maybe a good old farm horse - and we would see the grass lying in the sun ready to be gathered, tied into bundles and stooked.   Then was the time we went round the fields - and especially the hedge bottoms- raking out every last stalk of grass that had been  and adding it to the stooks.   Every single bundle made a differenc, especially in a bad winter.

Now I see these giant machines - computerised, constantly being updated with the latest technology, costing heaven knows how much - certainly a quarter of a million at least I would guess.   Money the small farmer can't afford - so bring in the contractors.   Milions change hands every harvest but hardly a man is needed and there are few  laid flat with back-ache.

The only job round here which still seems to be done the 'old way' is the dry-stone walling.   One of our best known dry stone wallers (Fez) has just recently died at the age of 71.   No machine ever surpassed him.   My garden ends with a dry stone wall.   I love it and so far it has stood the test of time.   Perhaps it will need rebuilding in my life time in which case I shall have to ask around for someone to rebuild it.   Fez will no longer be on the end of a phone.

Wednesday 16 August 2023


Before I get on to today's topic - I watched the Lionesses and their match against the host team Australia this morning (our time).   Absolutely gripping, brilliant play, no nastiness at the end  such sportsmanship from the Australian team when England won.   Very impressive.

Are you still watching The News on television (or listening on radio)?  So many people I know - both 'in the flesh' and from my blog - have stopped watching long ago after becoming disenchanted with it.

It was a family tradition (I am speaking now about after World War Two because during the war I think everyone sat round their radios and listened to every bit of news they could get.)   I have always carried on with that tradition but sometimes I am sorely tempted to stop doing so.   I usually switch on Breakfast television when I get up and turn it off when my carer opens the front door and shouts 'Good Morning' on the stroke of 7am. 

So my usual watch is either over my lunch at 1pm or, more usually 6pm.   And always BBC1 - I only rarely watch ITV. 

But I do get very annoyed - and disillusioned- with it.  A dramatic - and sensational - usually   appalling headline piece will be followed by lesser stories as the reader 'goes down the line.'   Some of the recent ones have been:

the wild fires in Hawaii.

the wild fires on Rhodes.

the Junior Doctors strike.

Some of the less recent ones have been:

the war in the Ukraine.

the strikes on British Rail.

and even less recent: 

the earthquake on the Turkish/Syria border.

For a couple of days these stories are well publicised and then miraculously disappear as either 'cured' or 'no longer worth mentioning'.

Life just isn't like that.   Are children still starving to death in places like Yemen - or has manna miraculously appeared from the skies?   Could we at the very least have an update please?   You could always take off some fatuous piece abour some minor Royal, or some fashion model.   And are less people dying in the terrible conflict in Ukraine, or isn't it worthy of headline news any longer?

And have clean up operations after the Turkey and Syria earthquake suddenly taken a turn for the better?   I doubt it.   Judging from seeing the images on Simon Raven's recent series on The Mediterranean the buildings destroyed in the conflict in  Libya many years  ago. are still raized to the ground.   And judging from the plight of many North African refugees/illegal immigrants earning a pittance in the huge plastic greenhouses in Spain - where once the plastic  wears out it is literally thrown into a spot where when the rains come it will all be washed down into the Med as plastic waste - and incidentally those same migrants, aswell as earning a pittance are housed in awful conditions.   (and please don't say they should go back across the Med to where they came from because one of them said when asked why they didn't try to go back - their culture would deem it such a disgrace for them to go back - they would lose face.)

I just ask because the desperate plight of human beings in all these situations - and I won't even mention the plight of women and indeed some men in places like Afghanistan- haven't gone away.   It just isn't deemed sensational, headline news any more.

If I am sleeping badly, which I often do, I switch on to 231 and watch 24 hour News from the BBC - even at 3am we get long reports but rarely on any of these topics.   They're not News any more, just news and as such swept under that giant carpet of things not "newsworthy" enough to merit a mention.

And still I watch - like a lemming - hell bent on destruction.

Any suggestions?   Do you still watch?

JOHN (Stargoose)   Thank you so much for pointing my error out.   'Gamesmanship' was indeed entirely the wrong word to use.   On looking it up in my Chambers I see - as you hint at in your suggestion - that Gamesmanship is not a very flattering word and gave entirely the wrong picture of the behaviour of the Australian players' reaction.


Tuesday 15 August 2023

Following on

Following on from my post yesterday - your replies were so interesting.   Derek Jarman's book 'Chroma' is fascinating.   It takes me back to the days of my first marriage.   My first husband, Malcolm, (who died in 1991 of kidney cancer at the age of 66) was a painter, a watercolourist, a painter in oils and he also worked in pastel.   He was fascinated by colour and spoke about it in a way which I could really never fully understand.   The same is true of Derek Jarman in his book.   It was written when he already knew he was dying of Aids (' the HIV virus is a blue frost') and when he had already created his garden in Dungeness.

It is making me look at colour in ways I have never looked before.   It is not a book to read from Page one to the end.   At least not for me.   It is a book to be dipped into, to read the quotes from good writers down the ages (e,g, Leonardo 'white may be said to represent light without which no colour can be seen'), and then to sit and mull over in one's mind.   Do add it to your Christmas list if you think it is for your eyes (it is a paperback and hopefully still in print).

Malcolm dreamt a lot.   Sometimes dreams about his long time on The Death Railway but more often, luckily, about the beautiful countryside where we live - about walks there, about everyday things like playing music with friends there.   But always in colour which he used to rave about.   How wonderful the colours were he used  to  say.

I wish I could dream in colour - can you?  I wonder perhaps do we all dream in colour but forget in waking? Because usually one can't recall a dream in pictures, rather in remembering the happenings.

Interesting that most of your replies told me your favourite colour was green.   I suppose it is hardly surprising because living as we do in a temperate climates we are literally surrounded by green everyday of our lives.  Just as, I suppose, if we lived in the desert perhaps our favourite colour would be a sandy one.   Certainly when we see pictures of the markets and the towns surrounding the area white and brown seem to be the most predominant colours.

Interestingly quite a lot of green plants are poisonous.   A good example is Helleborus viridis.  (Green lily or Fellon grass).   It flowers in the middle of Winter and its seeds are eaten by snails and then the seeds get spread in snail slime!   In times long ago it was the remedy for worms.   But as Gilbert White in his Natural History of Selborne says  - it certainly killed the worms but worst of all it sometimes killed the patient too!!

And most horrible little goblins and little men from Mars were always depicted as green.   And did you know that arsenic was used to colour wallpaper and Napoleon died from arsenic poisoning when the green wallpaper on his prison cell on St  Helena went rotten on the damp walls?



Sunday 13 August 2023


 I have been leafing through Derek Jarman's 'Chroma' over my after-lunch coffee (while waiting for a visit from T and S my 'almost every Sunday' callers. )  It is a fascinating book

Do you have a favourite colour?   I think mine has changed a few times.   After putting on a few pounds black is always fairly near the front of the queue with me for choice (slimming - well you like to think it is when you stand sideways to a full=length mirror and pull your tummy muscles in and hold your breath!!) but these days kit-kats and lack of any masculine admirers have both proved strong temptations and black (and yes I do know it is not a colour) is a  bit drab.

Navy - fairly safe - I do tend towards navy trousers mainly because Chums had a good offer - too good to refuse.   And after finding them a really good fit and brilliant in the washing machine I sent for two pairs of wine coloured ones too.

Blue is quite flattering to my colouring and I succumbed earlier in the year to a Sea Salt blouse - blue with white peonies all over.   Trouble is we haven't yet had a warm enough day which has coincided with a trip out which has meritted getting 'poshed up'.

So if I have to name my favourite at the moment it would have to be green.   Someone in the gardening world (Claire Austin? Vita Sackville West?) when writing about colour in the Herbaceous Border said (and gave me both comfort and food for thought for 2024) that you can never expect to have everything out at the same time   You should always aim for leaves in different shapes, sizes and shades of green.   Then your border would always generate interest.

A few weeks ago now I did not feel well and J, my carer, insisted my morning ablutions and getting dressed should be followed by a lay on top of the duvet for  a couple of hours.   I didn't go to sleep - I just spent the time looking out on to my garden at all the different greens in the plants not actually flowering and all the different shapes.   No two plants were exactly the same shade of green and here and there a Heuchera with dark red leaves, or bronze leaves also broke up any suggestions of monotony.  Acer and Euphorbia Robbiae stood out too - the self coloured flowers of the Euphorbia have now turned to bronze.   Wonderful value as a plant in the border (seeds a bit too freely but easily pulled up and not given to sulking).

We are lucky in a way to live in a temperate  land.  I would guess that if one lived with the Touareg on the fringes of the Sahara it could be quite monotanous to be totally surrounded by the colour of sand.   How exciting then would be the sudden sight of the green of an oasis. Even the sky over the Sahara never seems to be that glorious blue that it is here at the moment - ten minutes after one of those heavy showers the weather man forecast this morning.  It always seems colourless to me when I watch travel programmes.   The sun always seems to have burnt any colour out of it.

The absolute fiery red of my crocosmia at the moment almost makes me change my mind and a sneaky, slightly shorter clump of leaves amongst the tall spikes has suddenly today burst forth with a yellow/orange version (I can almost hear my father chuntering from above "it's montbretia") but no - I will stick to my original choice.   Green for me.   What about you?

Saturday 12 August 2023


 First of all apologies that my asterisked footnote appeared in sickly green and heavy type.  I had no idea that had happened - it wasn't intentional so I must have pressed the wrong button somehow.

The trouble with reading a really good writer like Steinbeck (who I wrote about yesterday whilst reading 'Travels with Charley',) is that it makes one realise just how pathetic one is at stringing words together.

Driving through 'Redwood country'  Steinbeck marvels at the beauty of the remaining giant Redwood trees - so few now remaining where there used to be thousands.

He speculates that so many have been chopped down and what a crime it was to do that.   He suggests that perhaps we don't like to be reminded that we are 'very young and callow in a world which was old when we came into it'.   And maybe a good reason for using their timber and chopping down so many of them is because there is perhaps a 'strong resistance  to the certainty that a living world will continue its stately way' long after we have ceased to inhabit it.'

A genius like Steinback can say in one or two sentences exactly what the likes of me, struggling along to say what I am trying to say every time I put a post on, can take fifty times as many words and still not hit the nail squarely on the head.

Yet again I have been transported through  America with Steinbeck and Charley enjoying every minute of the ride  as though I was travelling with two good old friends.   But that is I am sure the intention of all writers of his calibre. 

Must try harder.   See you tomorrow.

** And thank you to readers who corrected me to say that the writer of   'Ann of Green Gables' lived on Prince Edward Island which is, of course, in Canada not the U.S.                        

Friday 11 August 2023


 Books are so important to me - I guess most of you feel the same - somehow 'book-loving' and 'blogging' seem to be bed-fellows I think.   Do you agree?  I have bookshelves in my sitting-room and they were until recently absolutely crammed with books - some shelves so tightly packed that it was nigh on impossible to get a book out and impossible totally to get it back in.

Then a couple of weeks ago (as you will know if you are a regular reader of my posts) I had a really good 'clear out' - mainly of books of reference.  These are often large and too heavy for me to lift with one hand now.   And much of the content is easily looked up quickly on good old Google.

The first book I ever bought for myself - I mean without anyone with me to 'advise' - was 'Kurun around the world' by Maurice le Toumelin.   He sailed single-handed around the world in his boat Kurun - I think it was published in 1955 - and believe me I sailed round the world many times with him over the years until the book fell apart.   I have just looked on Amazon - I can buy a second-hand copy for six pounds or a collectable one for £72!

But I do have favourites.  Do you?

If I am feeling 'under the weather' then it is often 'Anne of Green Gables' (and I have never forgiven Jeremy Paxman for calling her 'insufferable' once on University Challenge!)   I have been to the house somewhere in the U.S. where the author was born.  It is a lovely house and reading the book always brings back such fond memories of our visit there.

But my all-time favourite travel book and the one I turn to time and time again - I have just pulled it out of the shelves this morning as I have nothing in particular to read- is John Steinbeck's 'Travels with Charley' 'In Search of America'.   If you are a Steinbeck fan ( writers like Hemingway  and Steinbeck seem to have fallen a bit out of favour these days) and you have never come across it - please do search it out and give it a go.   It is light-hearted and easy to read - and bliss.

The sun is shining, the sky is - well - sky blue and at the moment the floating clouds are white and  puffy, but the weather man suggests it will be a 'deteriorating day' and already there is quite a strong wind (Priscilla's enemy).   Shepherd's pie with a medley of vegetables for lunch (my carer makes a good shepherd's pie and has gone through a lot of shepherds in the four years she has been bringing my lunches, so if you read that Wensleydale Shepherds are getting thin on the ground you will be able to guess why.

The door bell just rang - E a friend and neighbour has called with my drugs from the Pharmacy (E my usual drugs-collector is away) and we stood on the doorstep and had a chat.   So back  to the Sherpherd's Pie.   Thank goodness for the micro wave - lunch in five minutes.

***  I have just looked inside the front cover of Travels with Charley and see that I bought it at Borders book shop in Pheonix, Arizona in May 2008.   Happy days

Thursday 10 August 2023


 It is still early in the day and I have no idea what to write about yet.   But I am expecting a friend for coffee and flapjack and decided to get over to the postbox  before she came.   It is the most beautiful day.   We have had such strong winds and so much rain - and both are forecast for the weekend but once I stepped out of the garage with Priscilla the warm air enveloped me.   The sun is shining, there is only the lightest breeze and the warmth just hit me. Perfect English Summer Day. Bliss.   Hopefully see you later:-

Wednesday 9 August 2023

You can't do it anyway!

Most of my friends, acquaintances,  neighbours, callers, are ,let's say, "over sixties".   Sooner or later during the course of our chat we get talking about things along the lines of 'what is the world coming to?'   And not long afterwards  he or she (or they) will say -'I wouldn't want to be young now'.

I'm sure the same happens with you all.

Well, let'sface it, none of us could be, even if we wanted to be.   As Benjamin Franklin said - the only certainties in life are death and taxes (or something like that).

This week there have been a couple of programmes on BBC2 about the Mediterranean; not the Med that the giant cruise liners show you as you go around on your giant floating hotel (heaven forbid - never my choice of holiday) but the murkier side.  We went to the 'toe' of Italy - to Puglia- to Sicily, to Cyprus, to Lebanon, to The Gaza Strip, to Israel amongst other places  and let me tell you - the picture was not a pretty one.

It was one of old feuds going back many years, of religious differences, of huge  areas of poverty, of neglect, of evidence of war-torn areas long ago where no clearing and rebuilding had taken place, of complete absence of women on the streets anywhere but in the markets buying food to lug home in heavy bags to cook for their menfolk.   There was often a tense atmosphere,  sense of foreboding hanging in the air.   Nowhere was this more evident than in The Gaza Strip.   But there was nowhere anyone would have cared to go to on holiday, or in many cases could have gone had they wished to.

It was all proof that things have always been thus - there never has been a time when the world was a happy, peaceful place, where there was no religious hatred, or discrimation against races, religions, sexes.   There have always been areas of immense wealth and areas of the direst poverty, areas where folk are living lives of subsistence, where there have always been folk wondering where their next meal was coming from.

We can gloss over it by sailing into places like Venice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and the like on giant ocean liners where we can eat exotic meals and sleep in palatial cabins with fresh linen sheets every night but let's do it realising that we are never that far from the exact opposite.

Of course we can't go back - only forward.   And our children have by the very nature of their birth (and let' accept that most of our children, grand children and in my case - and some of yours too - great-grandchildren ) have been luckier than many many more in the world.

I have no desire to be any younger or any older than I am.   I shall continue to the end to be as mobile and as cheerful as I can be.   I abolutely refuse to feel sorry for myself - I might be 90 but I shall endeavour to still keep getting pleasure from the simple things in my life - my family, my friends, my carers, my garden, the dogs going past, their chatty owners, callers.   My window cleaner, C, has just been - cleaned my spider-cobweb-ridden garage window inside.   We had a chat while he did it and a laugh.   That's another little perk for today, along with my morning carer, my neighbour popping in for ten minutes, a lady further down the road bringing me half a dozen cherry tomatoes out of their greenhouse and a text from my gardener saying he will re-do my pansy tubs by the front door.   They have been in since March and are 'past their best' - will I trust him to get what he fancies?  (of course I will).

Sufficient unto the day say I.   Must sign off - W my evening carer has just come in the front door. 

See you tomorrow. 

Tuesday 8 August 2023

No inspiration

 Sorry but after a few very busy days and then yesterday when D, who cleans through the bungalow for me once a month had arranged to come at lunchtime, followed by D and J, who together keep my lawns and garden tidy; add to that a friend for an hour and J - my morning carer and C my Monday evening carer - J 7am to 8am andC 5pm to 6pm and there was not much of the day left for blogging.   Or for mulling over what to write about either.

But food for thought really has centred on The Lionesses and their progress through the World Football Championships.

I think it is brilliant the way women have found their place - certainly in the Western World - and in many other countries - Australasia, China, parts of Africa for example- in the World.   It is hard to think back for getting on for a Century (gosh - am I really that old?) and to think of any time when I was made to feel inferior or discriminated against because of my sex and female readers I would be interested to hear your views on this.  I think perhaps that discrimination is not so obvious in Universities  nor in the teaching profession (in my schooldays boys and girls usually went to separate schools from the age of eleven) and thinking back to those days in Grammar School I do remember that girls tended to be pointed in the direction of professions thought 'suitable' for girls - teaching, nursing, to think of two.

But now there has been this giant leap forward to girls not only playing tennis professionally (tennis was always viewed in a rather 'genteel' way) to girls playing FOOTBALL.   And 'our' team have always shone in the world.

But I was oddly saddened yesterday to see photos in the newspapers and shots on TV of       one of 'our' team actually walking over  and treading on the prostrate body of a member of the opposing team in what I can only describe as a 'nonchallant' manner.   I haven't actually seen a shot of a male footballer doing that - although it may have happened but my immediate thought (old-fashioned as it may seem) was just that it was such an 'unladylike' thing to do.   But no doubt you will say that football is a tough game where ladylike behaviour gets you nowhere.

But I do ask myself does equality of the sexes equate with everyone behaving in the same 'tough' manner -in fact has that stage already been reached in the fight for equal rights?   It puzzles me to even think about such things.

I heard on the News at lunchtime that the 'offender' concerned has apologised for her behaviour and I do appreciate that in the heat of the moment we can all do things that with hindsight we wish we hadn't done.   And - as would have happened    just the same had the offender been a male - red cards and suspension for a number of matches (especially at this stage in the competition) has been implemented.

Female elephants (I have just read a series of books on elephants), just as with lionesses and I suppose all other female animals, will fight to the death and be just as tough as the males to protect their young.   So if we accept we are all in this together - all part of the animal kingdom where we are (or think we are) 'top dog' so to speak then that puts a bit of a spanner in the works of my thinking.

Have I got my head round this in the wrong way - help me out please with some of your 'round the table discussions' however far apart we are globally..

Monday 7 August 2023


What yesterday was a wilderness today is once again serene.   Why and how?   My Gardener D and his helper J have been for a couple of hours.   The lawn is mown and, after a good week of non-stop rain and then two days of sunshine, is looking lush and green.   Not a white clover knob or a single Bird's Foot Trefoil to be seen and I have to admit it looks very smart. 

Up the side of the bungalow the side lawn is the same and J has cut off all dead and dying flower heads .   The Crocosmia is in full flower - deep, vibrant red and the smaller yellow variety is just coming into bud so plenty of that still to come. 

While D was dealing with the lawns J  carried on in the back garden.   What a difference it makes once all the dead and dying foliage has been cut away and dead flower heads removed. 

Then D cut giant swathes of Aquelegia which have flowered and now seeded out of the herbaceous beds allowing sun and fresh air in.   Who knows might have lain hidden for months and might pop up now.   Watch this space!

Saturday 5 August 2023


 My main carer, J, who has now been coming to me for four years, looks after me so very well and in addition to that she also cooks me (and her mother in law) a lunch very day.   Monday and Tuesday lunches are particularlt good as her partner M does the honours on Sundays.   They (as is traditional round here) rotate beef, pork, chicken and  ham.   Lamb only occasionally and M makes the most wonderful Yorkshire puds each week and also gravy to suit the joint.   I love his beef gravy best - drips from the joint, red wine, marmite and beef stock (not from a cube).   Twice a week I have cold meat or Scotch egg or pork pie or quiche (home made) with salad.   The other three days will always have one fish dish and then two others- sometimes pasta - and she makes a really good lasagne.

In a fortnight she has a week's holiday and has been fussing about my meals.   I have forestalled her and am going to order my week's meals from Fairhursts a local meal provider I used to use before I needed carers.   I shall have a good salad I shall make myself one day and the other a jacket potato with a good filling.   Here are the meals I have chosen:

Beef  Lasagne

Fish pie

Chicken, bacon and mushroom pie

Pulled pork hotpot

Vegetable chilli.

And the vegetable side dishes:

Medley of green veg

Pickled red cabbage

Potatoes Dauphinoise

Bubble and Squeak

Cauliflower cheese.

The whole lot only come to £42.50 and delivery is free for orders over £30.   So if they are as good as when I used to use their service before - very good value.

I am afraid to say I have two ovens (Bellings) built into my units and standing one above the other.   I have forgotten how to use them!

Pouring rain again today - absolutely abysmal weather and chilly with it.   Added my first cellular blanket of winter last night as the previous night I never really got warm.   Now it is sure to mean another heat wave!

Friday 4 August 2023

Two questions for you.

1.  Do you remember your grandparents?

2.  Are you a worrier or a devil-may-care 'what will be will be' or somewhere in between?

I vaguely remember my father's father - my paternal grandfather - John James Smithson but oddly enough I really only remember his funeral.   I was too young to go to it but I watched the funeral procession go past from my neighbour's window.    But I remember my Grandmother Smithson well.   Martha (always called Patty) - a rather stern lady who ruled the household -striped silky blouses often red and white stripes and a long full skirt almost touching the floor.A chatelaine hung from the waistband.     She had snow-white hair and round glasses.   I don't remember ever getting a cuddle.

I never knew my mother's mother, my maternal grandmother - she died of a strangulated hernia after refusing to go into hospital in her mid-forties.

But my paternal Grandfather I remember very well indeed - a character!  Retired by the time I came along - he had worked in some capacity on the Railway.   William (Bill to everyone in the Lincolnshire village where he spent his whole life).  Known mainly I believe for dancing on the table on The Black Horse when he had had a few too many.  Cuddles?   Any time, anywhere and with a mint imperial thrown in!   He kept a permanent supply to suck and - hopefully - cloak any smell of beer on his breath (he lived with Uncle Albert and his wife - both primitive methodists).   Tall, upstanding, handsome with dark hair greying at the temples (masses of it but always well cut) and a large moustache which tickled beautifully when he gave you a kiss.   A great countryman, brilliant at poaching rabbits - he usually had a few stashed in the shed for any villager who fancied rabbit pie for dinner.

Now to why I asked the questions.   I am a grandma and a great grandma.  I wonder how my grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember me.   All three - and a step grandma extra one - are in their thirties.   Only one, E, is married to J and they live in Glasgow with their children U (7) and H(soon to be 2 ).   I am in regular contact and get masses of lovely photos to keep me going.   But tomorrow they come down on a round trip to see my son and his wife (grandma and grandad) and on Sunday morning to see me - always called great grandma Bellerby ( the village where I lived when their Mum was their age - so a tradition which has been handed down;  their other grandma - even older than me - is called great grandma Bolton.

How will they remember me - for to be sure I shall not be around when they become adults.  When they come I wrap a present or two and hide it - they have to find them all before they open any.  I hope that triggers memories in the years to come, along with the frequent hugs.

And where does 'worry' fit into this?  They are doing a 5 day round trip taking in the other grandma who lives in Newcastle now.   And horror of horrors they are CAMPING and the weather is awful.   So I worry about them having to put up the tent in the rain, having to cook their meals, having to sleep with such awful conditions.   I can't get the situation out of my mind.

When my son rang last night I voiced my fears and said I had been worrying all day. The gist of my son's reply (himself a keen rambler/camper in his younger days) -.

He had not given the matter a single thought.   Two grown people long married, healthy, both with good degrees, one a solicitor, one a teacher, intelligent folk, seasoned campers and ramblers - what on earth was there for me to worry about?

So here I sit looking out on a grey sky and a wet patio. - every puddle filled with wet spots constantly falling.  I have just had an e mail saying they are busy packing the car (they are all four vegetarian)and trying to cover all eventualities.  They are seeing E's dad tomorrow evening and me on Sunday morning.    

Better get the presents hidden and the possible food they might eat( if they make time before they move on), prepared.   Then together with a heart full of hugs I am ready.   Am I worried?   Well I shall be glad when they arrive and everybody is seen to be in camping mood, when they have found the presents and are sitting playing with them.   And when my clogs finally pop - I hope that is how they remember me.


Thursday 3 August 2023

No exercises no gain!

 As I expected and reported here yesterday my aches and pains are so much better today and after a  week or two, when I have not dared to walk to the Post Box, I ventured across the road to post my monthly cheque to the milkman who silently pops a plastic carton of milk on my doorstep twice a week (I don't take milk in either tea or coffee but do need it for my morning cereals and for any visitors.)  Although he only lives a short distance away (I can see his house from my window) his front door is hard to get to (he needs to severely prune several evergreen shrubs by his front door).  I am always super-conscious of the possibility of going full-length on his doorstep!

I decided to come back home up M's drive (my neighbour) and she has a friend staying who called out to her that there was a 'woman with a funny walking thing' coming up her drive.  (I don't think Priscilla heard what she was being called).   M's drive is far less steep than mine.   We chatted for a while - me in several layers of clothing (definitely not August weather this morning) and M in pyjams and a cardigan.   As we chatted she picked me a nice bunch of lavender from a pot by her garage door.

The lavender now sits by the side of my favourite photograph of the farmer and the whole sitting room smells lovely.

Yes, doing the prescribed exercises my Physio set for me yesterday is so far doing the trick and I am feeling much more agile - only relative you understand not 'leaping about' agile.

I intended to walk slowly round the block this afternoon but then saw that what had been a lovely blue sky was a dark grey matt finish all over and, sure enough, as I am typing this rain is falling heavily.

My carer has just come to help me so I'll sign off until tomorrow.   See you then.

My lawn with its white clover and its birds foot trefoil is growing apace - two weeks since there has been a dry enough gap for the gardener to mow.   I  did say to him how frustrating it must be not to be able to keep up with his work but - like C, the window cleaner, he said 'swings and roundabouts'.

Wednesday 2 August 2023


 My Physiotherapist has been again this afternoon - in the most appalling weather - absolutely pouring with rain here for most of the day.

The pain that was bothering me which made me call her in the first instance has disappeared after following her given exercise regime and - for the first time in months - I can now get both legs into bed unaided.

But accommodating my new reading light entailed a lot of moving and shaking for want of a better phrase.   Emptying book shelves - reaching up to the top shelf, the sorting books out into my chosen categories = Poetry, Novels, Wild Life and Natural History, Autobiography and Biography.   Then after the electrical work was done, putting everything back in its right place.   Hard work and next morning realising that I had done too much and that although my first set of aches and pains had gone a new set had taken its place.

So today within five minutes of arrival - as usual - she put her thumb on the offending place and nearly made me hit the ceiling.   Ten minutes of pain and a new set of exercises and off she went, trusting me to do the exercises and saying she doubted I would need another visit.

By the time she left the rain had stopped and looking out of the window now thin streaks of blue are showing here and there in what has been - all day - a grey, threatening sky.    Still we won the last Test so I really don't mind if it rains now.

Having said that - I take it all back.  Farmers who are wanting to harvest must be despairing at the weather.   At least grassland farmers will mostly have got two silage crops in and all this rain will be making a third crop highly likely.   There was a time a couple of months back when it was so dry after a cut that the new grass just wasn't growing.   Now it has gone to the other extreme.   Is there ever in our lovely island a perfect year for the farmer?

Tuesday 1 August 2023


 Sadly little towns like ours are slowly going 'downhill';  we are becoming 'forgotten', 'unimportant' - life is passing us by.

Oh yes, folk love us for holidays - on the edge of the Pennines, pretty villages all around, plenty of eating places, a good choice of places to stay (very expensive holiday cottages) - wonderful walks/rambles/climbs (take your pick), friendly locals who hate tourists taking up all the free parking places in the Market Square (honesty box!) early in the morning and then going off for the day walking, leaving the locals to pay in the Car Park, lots of  shops for buying presents to take home.

But then the Tourist Season ends and reality sets in.  I am sure many folk make their living from the tourists and they do bring large amounts of money into the area - money which is sorely needed because although there are jobs to be had a-plenty up here most of them are poorly paid - and the price of food from Tesco et al is just the same for us as it is in the more affluent places.

But what are we left with?   When I came to make this place my home over thirty years ago everywhere seemed almost too good to be true.   There was a wonderful Friday Market where almost everything could be had.   Wonderful fruit and vegetable stalls (they are still here and as good as ever, wonderful fish-- fresh from Whitby (still available and as good as ever), clothing, china, tools, garden (still here and equally good) - everything you could possibly want from a small town.  Most of the Market has disappeared - it is not what it used to be - too easy to buy stuff delivered next day on line.

Now things are different - times have changed - Covid has intervened - most locals buy their food on line.   Supermarket delivery vehicles pass my window on to this estate - Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Iceland, Amazon Prime.  But here we are lucky - we have what must be one of the best Co-op stores in the country.  Everyone who is not 'on line' shops there.  We have a family-run Deli and Butchery which has been here for a very long time and has a wonderful selection of goodies and a whole floor of wines and spirits.

When I moved up here with my first husband there were two banks.   HSBC aand Barclays - life was so easy - pay your cheques in, draw money out, know your Bank Clerk on first-name terms, sort out any problems on the spot.   HSBC closed about four years ago;  Barclays closed in May of this year.   There is still a Barclays in Richmond (about ten miles away); the nearest HSBC is in Thirsk which is around thirty miles away.    Both buildings are empty and verging on becoming derelict.   Both are in the Market Square.   HSBC is a complete eyesore, weeds growing out on to the pavement (it was for a while Costa coffee but that didn't last long.)  There is a cash machine in the Co-op and one in One-Stop.   All monetary transactions are a nightmare.  Cash (actual 'in your hand' money)needed for your paper (I have mine on subscription - not everyone wants to do that. )  We have a very efficient newsagents shop where money can buy a paper (providing you have actually got real live money).   We don't all bank on line - our population is an ageing one and not everyone can cope with on line money management (me  included).

Post Office?   That is a laugh if you can manage to think about the situation without crying).   Most of the time the Post Office (which is at the back of the Co-op store) is not open -mainly it seems because 'they' whoever they are ,can't get staff to man it.  (Very low pay I am told.)   Two local villages have a Post Office Van two afternoons a week for a couple of hours and I understand provide a very efficient service (if you can get there.)  Many folk are elderly, don't drive.   We are  very lucky to have brilliant post men/women who go out ot their way to be helpful.

Bus service?   I believe that works well with buses to Richmond and to Ripon (and on- going buses from there) and bus passes for the elderly help greatly.

We still have a thriving Auction Mart for cattle (fridays) and sheep (not sure what days).    My dear farmer - and even more so his dear old father- saw this as a fixture for Friday mornings.   It was a ritual - he drove down and parked in the Mart field.  I took my shopping trolley, stocked up with first class fruit and veg then met 'the girls' in 'The Post Horn' for coffee (around ten of us - reserved table - coffee (and toasted tea cake if you fancied one). I then walked back to the car, left my shopping trolley for the farmer to put in the boot and then sat and read the paper (the weekly 'Darlington and Stockton Times') until his cattle had been sold and/or he had caught up with the farming gossip.

Times have changed - every small country town can no doubt tell the same story.   Time marches on but most of us reach an age when we can't keep up with it all.   I count myself lucky that my laptop is my saviour and anything too complicated and I can call on friend S or my son.

But is it sad - or is it progress?