Monday 30 October 2023


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you tomorrow.

Friday 27 October 2023

Back and perky with it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday 26 October 2023

A Big Thank-you.

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

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

Wednesday 25 October 2023

A Short Post

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

Monday 23 October 2023

Dog or Cat?

 Or neither?   Or both?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dogs look up to you.

Cats look down on you

But pigs is equal.

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

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

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

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

Sunday 22 October 2023

What are you reading today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Friday 20 October 2023



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

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

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

Thursday 19 October 2023

Gathering Storm.

Looking at the weather map amd listening to the lovely Carol Kirkwood (every 'thinking man's 'pin up' if they're approaching 60) on BBC 'Breakfast', we are in for another STORM - very ferocious it seems for us Northerners on the East side of the country.   Its name begins with a B I think but I can't remember what - but plenty of alternatives beginning with B if it turns out to be as bad as predicted.  An aside here:  I have just looked Carol up on Google - she is over 60. With that lovely Scots accent, the gorgeously curvy figure and that charming smile, no wonder she is such a hit.

So back to the storm.   Gone are the days when my dear old father-in-law would judge the weather by looking out to Zebra (a hillock with three old trees on the top) and saying 'it's black ower be Zebra'.  But the outcome is the same.

It is a few years - maybe three or four - since we had a horrendous thunderstorm here - a storm which indiscriminately swept through one or two houses on the estate.   We are on a slope downhill so that water,  gathering speed as it flows off the fields through our gardens as we live at the top , crosses the road and then goes in the front door and out the back door of just a few houses as it goes.

Higher up - in Arkengarthdale  - the same storm destroyed a few old cottages and created havoc in The Red Lion which was closed for repairs for several months I believe..   A bridge at Grinton was completely washed away making the jouney into the dale 'a long way round'.  Let's hope it isn't as bad this time.

The lane where my son and his wife live is an unadopted way with a downward slope both of the lane and the beck which flows alongside.  In that storm a quarter of the houses (8 on one side - very      inviting for the flood water and only two or three on the top side where the land slopes steeply uphill so they are safe),  My son's house stands well back so hopefully he is safer, although his garden is built up and a small housing estate sits above it.   They will be watching the weather over the next few days. 

It is already bad in Scotland with huge waves battering the East coast.   They have been told to batten down the hatches - and it should arrive down here overnight tonight.   Luckily I take out my hearing aids overnight so any howling wind goes by without waking me (I hope).

I am on a bit more even keel today after a couple of very disturbed hectic days and writing here always calms me like old friends dropping in for a chat would.   At half past one this morning I was looking at the lovely crafts displayed on the  etsy shop at' ook' on my side bar.  That had a hugely calming effect on me.   An hour of just quietly looking through beautiful examples of pottery, lovely greetings cards and the like (some people are so very talented aren't they) and I was ready to return to bed, put the blanket setting on 1 (all night) and I overslept!

 See you tomorrow unless the weather is so bad the swimsuits are the order of the day - at which point 'No' almost 91 and swimsuits should never be seen in the same sentence,( especially if the figure concerned also has arthritic knees )!

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Old Age

 Yes I know I wrote along these lines only the other day but yesterday I had perhaps the worst day for a long time.   And it was entirely ruled by my age.

I have always been tidy, organised, precise in how I do things.   I would admit that this has, as I have aged, got worse (they say your worst faults tend to take over as you age!) and things got altogether too much yesterday.

I keep a calendar on the wall of the kitchen and I write every single appointment on it as soon as it is made.   Every week-end I take it down and look precisely what I "have on" in the coming week and then plan accordingly.

This week it was Tuesday - yearly Phlebotomy tests at the surgery - son collecting me for my mid-day appointment.  Wednesday - first cataract operation on my right eye - friends T and S taking me to Darlington.  Thursday - my Tesco order delivered at lunch time.   Quite enough for one week and all organised.

Until yesterday morning.  I am waiting for tests at the hospital followed by consultation with the Specialist.  The hospital rang.  Can I come next Wednesday at mid-day?   Yes but when I said my cataract op was today - he wouldn't do the necessary tests until six weeks after a cataract op.  Really, as my son rightly pointed out, the surgeon's investigation was far more important and if I changed them round the cataract could be done quickly even if put off for a week.

That is when old age kicked in.   I returned from Phlebotomy to a mind in chaos.  Rearrangement was complicated (wouldn't have been ten years ago).  Hospital A rung to cancel eye.   Hospital B rung to rearrange appointments as I had previously thought to leave it all as it was.  Ambulance to ring for collection and return here as I am not mobile.  I made a list and ticked them off as I completed each one.   Everyone was helpful, and as I got increasingly confused everyone was placatory and comforting (apart from ambulance when I was treated to half an hour or so of music and finally abandoned it.)

After my final call, when all was rearranged successfully I began to shake.   And I mean shake.  As so often friends T and S arrived - T put on the kettle and made me a strong cup of tea; listening to the ambulance story they said 'forget it - we will take you'.   Half an hour later I was more or less back to normal (whatever that is).

In the middle of all this I met B, a neighbour, who I rarely see other than through the window as he toddles past on his way to do his weekly shop in our little town - shops about a mile away.  We had a chat - he 'boasted' was was still managing his shopping and he was 84.   I told him I had mine delivered as I was 91 in a fortnight.   I said to him, "At what age do we start boasting about our age?"  We decided 80 was probabloy the kick-off.   And then he said, "My dear, if I get flustered then I say -

"I do apologise but I am in my 85th year -sounds so much more refined I think".

So there you have it - lovely cold but sunny, breezy day.   No cataract today so lovely quiet day to recover my equilibrium.  And to emulate B "I do apologise for off-loading this on to you readers, but I am in my 92nd year at the end of this month!"


Sunday 15 October 2023


 Lovely sunny day with clear blue sky here - chilly wind - too strong for Priscilla so here I am mooching up and down the bungalow getting a bit of exercise.  My carer this morning said she drove the one mile here at crack of dawn (7am -another fortnight and it will be light again at that time when the clocks go back) through what she called 'thin' flakes of snow.  The sun has seen to them by now - he gave them very short shrift.

This sort of day lends itself to sitting looking out of the window.   Sunday - in my childhood the day of rest.   Chapel, Sunday School, Chapel again.   In between no playing out - just quiet games like Dominoes or reading a book. (in my Dad's day even that was forbidden - unless it was the Bible!)

But looking out of the window brings on what I think might be called 'a stream of consciousness'.  Right across the dark blue sky - one after the other - six thinnish white lines moving slowly (well slowly from where I am sitting but not so up there in the wild blue yonder) West.   And at the same time four thinnish white lines moving East.

The lines going West are being drawn going up.   Those coming East coming down.   Immigrants of a sort I suppose - but certainly enough money to pay for the flight.  The only distinction being some turn right and some turn left on getting on the plane.

My Great Grandparents on seeing such a sight would have thought it was invaders from another planet.

As I sat there I thought about the migrants - any trying to get here today are facing bitter cold and choppy seas to say the least.   But then I thought of the millions of Palestinians on the move - any way of getting out of a terrible situation is better than what they are going through.    Mums, Dads, Grannies, Grandads, children, tiny babies - all moving in the same direction but moving to God knows where.

And here's me - sitting in a sunny spot drinking my morning coffee and eating my two finger kit kat - with nothing better to do than muse.   If I believed in God I could do no better than to thank Him for my situation - as it is, as a Humanist there is nothing I can do but wish fervently that there was not such terrible hatred in the world.

Saturday 14 October 2023

Hand dominance.

This has been at the front of my mind over the last week or two.   A subject that has not really interested me since my teaching days when it was thought that cross-laterality often accounted for pupils getting behind with their reading and maths skills.

I go on Wednesday to have my right eye cataract 'seen to'.   My sight has deteriorated rapidly, so much so that I can only see the top of my garden through a 'mist'.   On having my 'pre med' consultation I noticed - and remarked upon - the fact that the consultant was left-handed.   Some folk may think this 'rude', but my view is that the days are long gone when on these sorts of occasions one has to treat the person 'in charge' with deference.   I feel strongly that I need to establish some kind of relationship with anyone who is about to tinker about with some part of my anatomy - a very intrusive act and not one I care to have seen to by a perfect stranger.   We had an interesting conversation about it.   He said, "All the best people are!"   And  went on to ask if I was..   I'm not but my son is.

I know for sure that I was born with a propensity to be so and when my son showed the same it reinforced the view.   My mother was constantly threatening to tie my left hand behind my back if I didn't hold my spoon with my right hand.   My infant teacher (we still had slates and chalks in my infant days) would rub out my work and make me start again if she caught me writing my letters with my left hand.

My son at first, although quick to read long before he began school, when writing liked the teacher to put a mark where he had to start writing otherwise he would rattle along quite happily from right to left. *  Of course quite few countries do their script right to left - but not so here.

Often countries eat with their fingers rather than with tools and usually keep their left hand for 'unclean' activities.

There is no doubt that cross-laterality can cause some children to have a bit of a slow start in the three Rs.  (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic). Cross laterality applies to hand, eye and foot.

Today I have bought a new vacuum cleaner - a cordless one which was delivered by our local electrical shop. J, the owner, kindly brought it round for me, took it out of the box and put it on charge.   I no longer write my own cheques as the bank is happy to return it  unpaid if I have forgotten to cross a t or dot an i.   My signature -14 letters long and with 4 t's - I have hopefully perfected.   So J wrote the cheque out for me to sign.    And I noticed he too was left handed.

He confirmed that his treatment at home and in first school was in many ways the same as mine (and he is forty years younger than me).  Old habits die hard.   Mr Google advises me that prejudice against left handedness only began to die out in this country towards the end of the twentieth century.  And the Consultant told me he often had the back of his hand tapped with a metal ruler if he was caught writing with his left hand.

I can't help wondering what other 'habits' we have that in the future will be considered so very old fashioned.

*Leonardo was a left hander and quite a lot of his writing is mirrored.



Friday 13 October 2023

'Not for Cissies!

I think everyone over 65 knows that Benjamin Franklin - in 1789- said Death and Taxes were the only two certainties in life.

We all cope with old age in a different way.   My way is to get on with it to the best of my ability.   I have so many bits that may be wearing out and maybe need a bit of a mend but in metaphorical terms my hands are too shaky to thread a darning needle so very little 'mending' can be done.   The only thing I am managing to do is to keep two things in check for as long as I can - brain power and attitude. 

Brain power fluctuates a bit from day to day.   Some days I sail through the Crossword without a hiccup.   Other days I cannot really get a good start and as other Crossword fanatics will confirm - if that happens the crossword is not going to get finished even if one sits with a dictionary and a thesaurus on one's knee all  day (plus a magnifying glass for the small print).

I put that sort of beginning to the day down to the particular compiler for the day.   It's not me   - it's him (always a good get-out). 

Attitude - now that is quite a different  matter. 

Here are a few rules (for me at any rate):

Have a good comfy chair and place it near a window (and hopefully a radiator too judging by this morning's temperature).

Your view might be distant hills, your back garden, the outside street where there's plenty going on all day, the bird table (keep a bird book handy).

Develop the art of being nosey.  Folk expect old people to be nosey so prove their point.   Dogs, clothes, who's walking with who (wonder where they are off to) or (wonder if his wife know's).

Have a few handy snacks near at hand (two finger kit-kats are delicious especially with a good strong black coffee( or if it is a  particularly chilly morning drinking chocolate enhances the 'choccy feeling). 

A good book, the Radio Times and nearby controls for radio, television and any other gadgets  ( no day is complete for me without at least two renderings of Christy Moore's 'Ride On'  at the flick of a switch) - incidentally Christy Moore is in his late seventies now - wonder how he's coping with old age).

A walk every hour at least - round the garden on a nice day, along the road a short way - if anybody's putting the front garden to bed as you pass - there's a good opportunity for a chat about their garden; the bathroom - almost always a necessity to us oldies - once an hour does no harm at all.   Sticks, trolleys on wheels, Zimmer frames - I find it helps to give them names - my Rollator sounds much better called Priscilla - and my (hated) Zimmer frame never sounds so bad if I call it 'Zim'.

This post was sparked off by a lovely couple of paragraphs in The Times about Billy Connolly's attitude - told he had Prostate Cancer and Parkinson's on the same day).

He is obviously jollying himself along - talks of the ten years since his diagnosis and how he has adapted to being dressed each morning by his wife, forgetting the name of his dog sometimes and having to call him "Here Doggy, Doggy" -  I love the way he speaks of his dog.   He says he feels genuinely embarrassed for his dog when it happens, saying "you could tell it knew".   He says, "I can laugh myself out of most things".

I have just had a long visit from a lady in our Medical Practice team and have now had the 'Red Folder' delivered - and put into a prominent place on the welsh dresser in the hall (handy for the ambulance man (do not resuscitate in large letters)) but pretty useless for the undertaker as obviously it is too late.

And Billy has this to say about death.   Where to end up?   He favours burial on an island in Loch Lomond.   No gravestone - just a picnic table for fishermen to picnic on.  ('you're standing on my balls' in tiny wee writing written somewhere on it).  That's the spirit Billy - laughing to the very end - let's all try to emulate that eh?


Thursday 12 October 2023

An Autumn Day

 Today was the day for my lunch out in the village of Carperby with friends T and  S.  Chicken casserole with cauli, carrots  and new potatoes; delicious (Aldi) sweet - a sort of roll with hazelnuts and cream and served with soft fruit.  Lots of villagers there and lots of chat - difficult for me to hear with hearing aids which amplify everyone's conversation.

It was a blue sky Autumn day cool but pleasant and the Dale was looking well as it rolls into Autumn.  The fields were full of contented sheep doing what sheep do - either eating or dozing; still cows out after milking - it won't be too long now before they are tucked up indoors eating silage and chewing the cud.   The field behind the village hall had about twenty sheep in it - ordinary common-or -garden sheep of no specific breed I could think of (mules?) and two very black sheep with just a white stripe down their noses.   I was pleased there were two - would a black sheep feel 'left out' in a field of white(ish) sheep?  The two weren't grazing together so the answer is 'probably not' I suppose.

There is definitely a bite of Autumn in the air.   The cottage gardens all seem to be in that stage where their gardeners are 'cutting back', 'chopping down', 'composting' ,' building piles for the bonfire'- or 'let's leave it all over winter and attack things in the Spring'.

The trees are in making =up =the= mind mode - some - the early harbingers of Autumn - the acers, the hawthorns (many already stripped of their red berries)-  have pretty coloured leaves shouting out the season.  Others - the oaks, the ashes, the sycamores are still busy making up their minds, the horse-chestnuts are well on the way and silver birches and hazels are seriously on the way with leaves floating to the ground as we pass.

Wensleydale always does us proud this time of the year.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Mirror, mirror!

 Mirror, mirror

on the wall -

who is the cleverest

of us all?

This morning, watching the early (7am) News on TV - not pleasant watching at present.   Ukraine has slipped well down their place in the bulletin.  Israel/Gaza/Hamas has gained prominence.

But two things caught my imagination.

First of all a photography competition - didn't catch the details.    The entries shown - wild life/nature being the theme- were spectacular.   One of the winning shots was incredible and the chap who took the photograph was in the studio to explain how he got the shot.

It was of a group  of killer whales hunting for a breakfast.  It was in the Arctic and the three of them had ear-marked a sleeping seal on an ice floe.   They had plotted together (in whale-speak not shouting out loud and making a lot of fuss and noise to advertise to the world) to 'home' in on the unwary 'meal' and had swum in together, gaining speed as they went (I think the  photographer said around 10miles an hour) to create a wave strong enough to wash the seal off the ice floe into the water so that they could swoop in for the kill.

Who says we are top of the world inhabitants when it comes to planning and carrying out our intentions?

Second was shots taken in the Gaza Strip.   I am not taking sides here - the whole situation is far too dreadful to even contemplate.   But I did watch Simon Raven's "Mediterranean" some weeks ago and I tell you for nothing - the Gaza strip is a terrible place even in peace time.

Then I pick up my Times as it falls through my letter box.   The Headline:  "Hamas 'cut the throats of babies' in massacre".

Plotting again.  Contrast the whales - just plotting how to get a legitimate meal (if seals have seal-speak then I am sure they would immediately say it was definitely not legitimate ) with the human race - so full of hatred, so hungry - not for food but for revenge - that eventually it all boils over into this.

Impossible for me to take sides.   I try not to be politcal on here as my readers know.   But the two 'scenes' in my head this morning - one of those whales, the other of the terrible hatred (on both sides) that has once again enveloped a whole area.  And for what?   Certainly not just to satisfy hunger - well not hunger for food anyway.


Monday 9 October 2023

Autumn and Winter

 Yes, it's here whether we like it or not.   There are so many things in our privileged West that we can choose - shall we eat in or shall we eat out?;  shall I splash out on that new jumper or maybe that new shrub for the garden?; is it time to change the car?:  But, like it or not the seasons roll on.

Scotland this week has been deluged, the South Coast has basked in 23 degrees.   But we have no control there - we either bask flat out on the beach or watch in horror as the flood water creeps nearer.  My Tesco delivery man comes from Glasgow - tells me his parents are flooded whereas his wife's Mum and Dad, who live in Kent, are enjoying a 'Spring in Autumn' walk on the beach.

We're a small(ish) island and yet how areas differ.   It set me thinking - wouldn't it be interesting if, during one's lifetime, one could experience the seasons in various different places.  (It would mean living there for a few years to really experience it).

The Scilly Isles - October through to March - rare frosts, even rarer snow.

The North of Scotland - ice, rain, gale force winds, snow.

The South coast -bask on the beaches at Bournemouth, Lulworth Cove; join Cro and sit in the sun in Brighton.

Alright - I am simplifying things and one thing is certain - the winter weather in the UK can be capricious wherever we live.   But even the difference between town and country can be startling.

'Townies' almost always have wet pavements when it snows whereas we country folk have to get our snow pushers out and clear a path.   Traffic in London rarely comes to a standstill in winter snow, whereas here a 'good' snowfall and for a while things come to a standstill.

And in Dungeness (I am still reading Modern Nature) there is always a' cruel wind' whipping the waves to a frenzy.   Oh wouldn't it be wonderful if I could experience that (from the comfort of a hotel window and with a mug of hot cocoa in my hand of course).

My father had a collection of sayings which he trotted out at the first of the month - November's was always 'Winter draws on'.  (we called good old-fashioned knickers (with elastic in strategic places -you oldies will know what I mean) draws in Lincolnshire. (It might interest readers to know I have not abandoned my thermal vest this year apart from one day (my carer reminds me!)

I can watch the waves crashing over the harbour wall in a howling gale on the television news; I can see the brilliant sunshine on a South coast beach on television while outside (remember hot cocoa in hand) heavy snow fills the air and the wind tells me that the snow is already drifting and sheep in the fields are huddled in the shelter of a stone wall.   And I know that in the morning the farmer will be out early with his shovel and his dog to find where they are and dig them out.

But, selfish as I am, I don't want to see the effects of Autumn and Winter on television - I want  - just for a day - to be magically whisked round the country to experience it all before I pop my clogs.

Saturday 7 October 2023


 Several busy days over the last week, plus the mini-trauma of a morning having my cataracts examined - all adding up to last night being a night of restless sleep.   So today I am weary.   I just feel like sitting about doing very little.   Watching World Gymnastics - such brilliant young men and women launching themselves into thin air, trusting their skill to stop them falling headlong in a heap on the mat.  Such elegance.   Yet watching them is not relaxing.   The possibility of falling heavily is never far away.

Trawling through 'rubbish' that has accumulated in my computer I came across this poem I wrote a few years ago for The Poetry Bus.   This is just how I feel today:


Today the dust lies thick

as the sunlight falls on the shelf.

It also falls on the apple-blossom

on the tree by the window.

I go out - touch the blossom -

smell the scent of Spring;

watch the honey bees

-models of work and efficiency.

The dust lies thick.


Yesterday the weeds were crowded in the garden:

chickweed, groundsel, fat hen,

the ubiquitous dandelion.

I bend to weed -

touch the yellow flowers -

miniature golden suns all over the garden.

Count the heads. 

I cannot destroy

a hundred suns.

Someone should clean the windows;

sunshine shows up the smears

- it shines on the cobwebs

of fine gossamer -

threads that shimmer and 

tremble in the breeze.

The busy spider is

weaving his way across the web.

I fetch my sketchbook.

I need to capture the beauty

on the page.

(Scrimshanker - an avoider of work)

Friday 6 October 2023

The Brain

 Because of the nature of my job throughout my teaching career and add to this the fact that I also have Epilepsy, the functioning of the brain has always interested me.

The brain really is such a fascinating organ.   My son, as a child of about eight I suppose, was bought for Christmas one year a book about the Human Body.   I can't remember what it was called but I do know that (at the age of almost 66!) he still has it on his (very laden) booshelves and both of us still call it by the name it went under when he was a young boy.  It is the "Whirl, whirl, down into the butt book".   This was because the frontespiece was a line drawing of the human body filled with drawings of various functioning parts.   The brain was a mass of little compartments, each one with a little chap working hard at the task assigned to that part of the brain.

The body had somebody with bellows working hard keeping the lungs full of air - and so on to the lower bowel and bladder which exited into a water butt.   It fascinated him as a child and we spent hours looking at it.

It always comes into my mind when I go on a 'trip' like yesterday, when friends T and S  kindly took me to Woodlands Hospital in Darlington for a preliminary examination to have cataracts removed.

It is a good six years since I stopped driving and sold my car. (I strongly believe that nobody over 85 should be allowed to drive.  However good our reflex systems are they are not capable over that age of quick reactions in an emergency).

Yesterday, driven very efficiently by T, who was being fed directions equally efficiently by S from the rear seat, we went on quite a roundabout route as they kindly like to take me through the villages rather than on the A1, so that I can see - and enjoy - the seasons.  Yesterday the beginning of the changing of the colour of the leaves as Autumn begins to bite.

I used to drive regularly from here to Lincoln (my sister in law still lived there) there and back in one day.   Leave the farm at 7am - the farmer waiting for my call at 9am to say I had arrived and again watching for my car coming down the drive at around 7pm.   I could recite off by heart all the villages I passed through.   Can't remember them now.   Similarly of my regular trips for the day to Derby to see my sister and take her out from her Care Home for lunch.   Can't remember the way there now either.

But - and here is the point - I could still take you in my head from my home in Lincolnshire to any point around the county.   I can still remember the Lincolnshire Road Car Bus Inspector standing at the door of the last bus (I had had to leave the cinema early to catch it (10pm) calling out:  "Last bus to Sleaford calling at Washingborough, Heighington, Branston, Potterhanworth, Nocton, Dunston, Metheringham, Ruskington, Dorrington and Sleaford."   Similarly I could drive you in my mind from Lincoln to Horncastle, to Woodhall Spa, to Louth.

Yesterday we drove through lovely villages, through trees just beginning to exchange their leaves for the bare branches of Winter.  I knew the names of the villages and often recognised a house where I had been with various friends over the last thirty years.   But if T had dropped me off anywhere en route (having got fed up with my rattling on about the beauty of the countryside  we were passing through) - I would have been completely lost.

I suspect you are the same.   Over the years our brains seem to fill up with a lot of what becomes superfluous information as we move on literally and metaphorically but somehow what we learned in childhood seems to stick there.

(Dare I say that that even is true of our times tables. the Pythagorus theorem and how many days there are in each month).

You may not agree with me but I think the brain is the most fascinating thing - its working defies my imagination- but I know that now I shall never be able to recite off by heart the way from Leyburn to Darlington.   I shall for ever have to rely on dear T and S to get me there.

Thursday 5 October 2023


 Sorry - no post today!   I have been - courtesy of the kindness of friends S and T- to Woodlands at Darlington for the initial examination for removal of my cataracts.   Just back home but everything is very blurred so back tomorrow. xx all round.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Welcome to the quiet life.

 Living alone, being almost 91 and unable to walk without a variety of walking aids, usually adds up to a quiet life as I am sure you can imagine.   I don't bother about this, I like to wander round my garden with Priscilla to give myself a bit of exercise (weather permitting.   Today there is a howling gale or as the gas man said when he came to read the meter "not a day to be wearing a kilt".)

I like to complete the Mind Games in the Times and I like to potter around doing various jobs.

But sometimes there is a day - like today - which I can only describe as pretty hectic.

Because I have to visit a Specialist for a medical problem my urgent two week application has to be accompanied by two blood tests.   The District Nurse came to take them yesterday but for some reason best known to themselves my blood vessels steadfastly refused to cooperate and after three attempts she had to abandon the idea and left with instructions to drink/drink/drink water this morning.

I had a glass of fresh orange juice and a cup of Earl Grey  with my breakfast and then - in the next two hours four glasses of water.   She arrived bright and early and hey presto blood flowed freely.   By ten it was all over.

As the nurse drove off the electrician arrived to attend to my outside sensor light.   The sensor strip had rusted so he replaced that.  The 'plinth' had gone rusty so he painted it black.  The shade had six years of 'dirt on it so I scrubbed it inside and out so that it looked like new - and hey presto, an hour later it was done and he could turn his attention to putting me a new socket in my computer/bedroom to accomodate my 'nitelite' USB, my bedside lamp and my electric blanket.

By this time friend J had arrived for coffee and we sat having a lovely cheerful chat for a couple of hours.  (she threatens to bring her 'pet' chameleon, Charles with her next time (ugh)).

Interruption here for one hour 'chat' on telephone with my old school friend.   So now it is time for my tea - and I expect it will be interrupted by the arrival of my new vacuum cleaner.

Well - at least life isn't dull.   Nails to do tonight in preparation for my visit to the cataract man tomorrow - more of that anon.  (Yes I do know he isn't going to inspect my nails but they are disgustingly long - 'talons' my mother would have called them.

See you then.

Tuesday 3 October 2023


 Kemi Badenoch = the business secretary - told the Conservative Party Conference yesterday that Britain is the best country in which to be black.

It was good to hear, but I would suggest there is still a long way to go and I am not sure that the 'long way' can easily be shortened.

I spent twenty years teaching in the West Midlands - most of that time in a Comprehensive S chool in one of the most deprived areas of Wolverhampton.   I retired in 1983, stayed in the city for another two years and then came up here with my first husband - who had taught in the Prison Service in the West Midlands - in what were then Detention Centres and Borstals (I don't think either exist any more).  Our school was -roughly - a third West Indian (mostly Jamaican), a third young people from Pakistan (almost all Sikh), and a third white - from a deprived area of the city.

If there was racism in school I can't say I ever came across it.   The city was such a mixture of races even as far back as that that it was largely accepted.

Moving up here was a bit of a revelation in that here in The Dales there was hardly a black face to be seen.   We have a Chinese take-away but I have never seen either of the people who run it outside of the premises - they presumably live elsewhere.   We have a good pizza take away and two \Indian restaurants - both very good I understand.   But the Proprietors of all live in the Bradford area (where there is a large community) and travel up daily - and work jolly hard.

Our Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, happens to be our Constituency MP and on the whole his is the only 'non-white' face ever seen.

Until last week-end when a black (I would guess West Indian) young man walked past my bungalow in walking gear and carrying a rucksack - we live on the approach road to several walks featured in walking books.

The only 'local' jobs, apart from the Building Trade (plenty of building firms and decorating firms up here ) are jobs in quarrying and farming/agriculture. People tend to sell up in the South and move up here where property is cheaper thus giving them money to spare on updating/adding to property they have bought.

So this is not an area to attract an influx of black people.   Who can blame them for wishing to stay together.    It must be so very isolating for a family to move alone into such an 'alien' environment.

I remember when Rishi Sunak fir st stood for this constituency in a General Election I was appalled to hear a friend remark that he would never 'get in. '  She was sure 'people here will never vote for someone with a black face'.   Having just moved up here from a very multi-cultural school and city this was an alien remark - and as it happened not true anyway.   He got in easily (after following William Hague!)

Speaking to young people before I retired - over and over again they said that they did not wish ever for people to not notice their colour.   They were black, I was white - they needed to be seen for who they were and what kind of person they were - regardless of the colour of their skin.

I hope that in large connurbations that state is being reached but in areas like this not so I'm afraid.   It is, I am sure, still a case of 'colour first' ''what kind of person they are" second.   I fear it will be so for a long time to come sadly - and I can't think of any way of making it otherwise.

Monday 2 October 2023


 Life has been uphill over the last week or two, hence the poor quality of my posts.   One of the most irritating things I find these days is that when I was younger I used to thrive - enjoy - lots of things going on in my life - the dashing about, the ticking off when I had fully completed a task, the satisfaction of 'a job well done'.   Now I hate it.

At the moment I have a series of things which are neither done nor undone if you know what I mean.

Medical problems which involve step by step pushing through a degree of beaurocracy (don't get me wrong - these things have to be like they are and have to go stage by stage).  Luckily for NHS appointments I do get provided with Ambulance collection.

Cataracts.   I am having these done privately as I just wish to get them over with.   But, of course, this means (as I live in the country and no longer drive) arranging transport to and from the private hospital in Darlington.   Friends are brilliant but I cannot expect them to 'drop everything' to ferry me about, and sometimes taxis have to be organised and this means correlating appointment times with school times as most of our taxis do the school run.

Rearrangement of my bedroom on the insistence of my doctor.   My dear main carer J has been trying to twist my arm for the last two years to have the spare 'twin' bed in my room removed and I have held out with various excuses which I now accept have been spurious.   Now the job has been done.  The spare bed and mattress - in excellent condition - have been advertised 'free to good home', snapped up by a very nice young nurse with three growing children (and a cockerpoo dog) 'poo' being the operative word as he left a 'thank you' heap in the middle of my lawn (yes she did bring a poo bag and cleared it up with apologies!)   I am getting used to the new layout but have ordered a 'nitelite' as I have to get out of bed two or three times during the night ('old' bladders being what they are - and yes you forty something year olds who might be reading this - it will catch up with you some day along with creaking joints and hearing aids).

The said 'nitelite' has just arrived with Amazon Prime - the nice chap who brought it rang, waited all of five seconds and then ran round the back and left the parcel on the patio-door step - retrieved it when he saw me and got it back for me.

Now the Occupational Therapist is coming for a 90 minute assessment to 'see how I am coping and to view the new bedroom arrangement taking the future into account (a bit ominous).

Oh and I am expecting the District Nurse any minute to take blood as the Consultant wont see me without an 'up to date' blood test. (and my arms are notorious within our Medical Centre as being extremely reluctant to agreeing to release any blood.

  1. Is that all?   Not sure but it is enough to be going on with.  It is Quiz Night on BBC1 tonight but don't expect me to answer more than one on University Challenge and as for the wall on Only Connect - forget it.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday 1 October 2023

message on a wire

 Before the farmer and I married in 1993 I would often walk across the fields from my cottage towards the farm, hoping to meet him as he walked up to the pasture to gather the cows in for the evening milk.  Sometimes I would walk back with him and stand and chat as he milked his girls and then walk back to the field with him.

When he collected them he would move the electric fence giving them new grass after the evening milking.  If I missed him I would gather up a few flowers from the grass or the hedge-bottom, tie them into a bunch with a strand of grass and hang them on the electric wire, knowing he would find them.

Here is a poem I wrote about it:

  Message on a wire.

There is a stillness in your field:

Not a silence

(for the mistle-thrush sings

on the topmost bough

of the hawthorne tree,

and the beck finds its voice

as it slips over the stones

in the South meadow.)

But a stillness

from long ago

when the grass was first sown

and peppered with wild flowers

in their season. 

One day in July

the stillness would be broken,

the grass would be mown,

tossed, dried in the sun, smelt

and carted away to the stack.

Then the stillness would return.

Men who care for fields

feel that stillness,

(It soaks into their bones)

become that stillness,

protected, cocooned

within the confines of the walls.

I walked across your field today.

I could leave you a message

on your answer-phone.

Or I could leave

two buttercups, a herb-robert

and a cuckoo flower, tied

with a strand of grass,

hanging on the fence.

Either way

and you will know

I love you.