Saturday 13 July 2024


 Dear Blog friends far and near,

After goodness knows how many years of doing this blog I have finally decided to call it a day.   As you know I am on 'End of Life' care for cancer.   I am still doing alright but even with carers I  manage to fill my day with various little jobs.   I read my e mails and deal with them every morning and do the Mind Games in The Times and that more or less fills my day.

I often got my ideas for a post from reading my daily paper (without which I would be totally lost) but now find I have lost the impetus needed to convert my thinking into words on the page.   I still read your posts and occasionally comment but as my faculties begin to fail this gets harder and is in danger of becoming a chore.

Sorry Dylan (Thomas) but I am happy to go 'gently into that goodnight'.   There is no rage - ninety years is a good innings (and I have lived to see the election of a Labour Goverment!).   My eyesight is poor, sometimes I find it difficult to keep my mind on the subject and even if I do, transferring my thoughts into words on the page is not easy with my trembly fingers.

I shall miss you all.    You have been good, faithful followers and you have taught me such a lot.   I don't want to mention anyone in particular because you have all given me hours of pleasure with your chat about where you live, what you are doing, where you have been - and taken wonderful photographs to prove it.

So a final good-bye.    To the several who I know are in a similar position to me healthwise - I say - be of good cheer.   We walk the road together.   And to you all - sincere thanks for many happy hours in your company.   We never have managed to all get together in one room and 'chew the fat' with a drink in our hands.   But you know what they say - it is better to travel than to arrive.

Thank you all.   And good-bye.

Monday 24 June 2024

Going, going, ....

 Yes.   At last, after a gruelling fortnight, much of which has been spent lying languidly on my bed, my Covid test this morning tells me 'good-bye'.   One more test to go and then hopefully I shall feel better.  (difficult when one is going 'downhill' to decide when one feels 'better' from Covid but the wonderful herbaceous geraniums and roses are definitely making me feel more human (as long as I don't try to do anything!))

The sun certainly does the old bones good.

The irritant at the moment is that the batteries need changing in my garage door.   I have them here but cannot change them because it needs two hands.   My electrician is on holiday but is coming home today  (must be hard as the joyous background 'noise'  (or should I say 'nature's music') sounds so very tempting.  He  says he will pop round and change them for me this evening.

Off now to look for something tempting to eat (for  the past fortnight everything has tasted like cardboard).

Friday 14 June 2024

A Hurrah for Newspapers

 I understand that Newspaper sales are not what they used to be. Folk these days rely on TV, their mobile, all the fancy ways now of getting to know what's happening without spending their money on a daily wad of paper stuck through the letterbox, three quarters of which they never read (and if you don't catch the arrival of the paperboy quickly on a pouring wet morning then the half of it sticking out of the letterbox needs pegging on the line to dry out).  You can easily rustle up an argument to understand why sales are down.

But I love my newspaper.  Perhaps it is a family thing.  My father took The Daily Herald until it disappeared from the newstands in about 1964 just a few years before he died.   It doesn't need saying that he was  staunch Labour Movement man but as a child I found it very boring.

My first husband's father was a Daily Mail man.  Each morning an unopened edition was by his place at the breakfast table.  Woebetide    anyone who had dared to read it before him.  My husband loved Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail (a strip cartoon) and he would carefully open the paper and read him each morning (|if there was an accident  and the page got ruffled his mother would iron it before she folded it by 'the Old Man's' place).

I am addicted to The Times and wait for its arrival each morning in anticipation of a good read.   It is like a best friend who saves up special things to tell you; little snippets of information -useless information some would call it- that stir up the old brain cells and start the day off well.

 I have just spent an hour (after spending a similar length of time on the Mind Games)  reading snippets and I thought I would share one or two of the interesting snippets with you:

Did you know that it is exactly 105 years ago today since Alcock and Brown took off in a First World War biplane to attempt a flight across the Atlantic? After a nail-biting, hair-raising flight they made it, thus winning a £10,000 prize for the first non-stop flight over the Atlantic.   That landed in what they thought looked like a flat green field in Ireland but what turned out to be a bog, so they came to a halt nose first but unhurt after 1890 miles in around 16 hours 10 minutes (120 mph) - at that time the longest distance flown by man.   They were both knighted by King George Vth.   That's surely worth keeping in the brain's memory box for next time the Red Arrows scorch through the skies leaving a red white and blue vapour trail and gone before you can blink.   (Thank you for that Paul Simons)

Then a quick turn to the Comment section to find out what snippet Jonathan Tulloch has today in his beautifully written Nature notes.   They are never a disappointment (just a tiny bit of irritation that this neat, always nicely illustrated, snippet never appears on a Saturday).   Today's is about the Water Vole (or as he points out), Ratty in Wind in the Willows.   He is apparently becoming more "fossorial" (hands up those of you who knew that word - it means 'adapted for digging') and can    now be sussed out at Easterhouse near Glasgow where he forages above ground but lives in subterranean holes.  Apparently Water Voles feature quite heavily on the menu of American Mink so I hope he has done his homework thoroughly.

There you are.   Two snippets for your digestion.

Covid still taking its toll but we are getting there.  Bad sleeping and poor appetite but improving.   And it is snippets like these that keep  me going!

Thursday 13 June 2024


 Just a quickie to let you know I have a nasty bout of COVID!!!   Started on Sunday - have had a couple of days showered and dressed then laying on my bed under a blanket all day.

I am beginning to feel better today.  But couldn't help thinking how I said in my last post to always look for the good things.   Well I wasn't tired, just weak and unable to even read the Times.   But my garden is fully visible from my bed if I pile up the pillows and what joy it has given me this week.  It is ablaze with colour:

Pink Valerian all along under the hedge,    then pink Osteospermum, purple and yellow iris, foxgloves - both pink and white, two huge clumps of bright pink rock roses separated by a Heuchera with dark  purple/brown leaves, deep purple campanula, the last of the aquelegia, a big patch of tall purple thistles well within chatting distance of a dozen or so tall pink foxgloves, vying to see who can grow tallest, my rose Gloire de Vivre - pale apricot/pink- 7 blooms out and another seven buds and a lovely patch of summer bedding pansies - so far apricot, purple, white and yellow out.   There are a lot of herbaceous hardy geraniums to come shortly - white one and pale pink (very invasive) one are out - waiting for the others.  Anyone who says it is boring just laying on the bed all day needs a garden to look at!

And that is without the tiny wren in the garden all day flitting from pillar to post - so tiny that if it stands still  it is easy to miss, Mr and Mrs Blackbird searching for food for their nestlings and visits from various other feathered friends.

The sun has just broken through and is making everything look brighter.   I am trying to stay upright today and also trying to eat after two days of almost fasting.   I am off to make myself a hot choc and with it a couple of chocolate digestives.  Life is returning to normal .

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Be Happy

 D Day and the 80th commemoration is upon us.   Speaking to a chap who was not born until the late 1950's yesterday, was interesting.      He felt the 'fuss' being made was really a bit 'over the top' after all these years.

I could not agree less.   Remembering  those young men in the prime of their lives and the sacrifices they made in the wiping out  of Fascism in Europe at the time should not be forgotten just because it is 'a long time ago'.   I believe over 2000 a day were killed in the first fortnight - many before they even got their feet wet - being shot at by snipers and the German guns as the jumped down from the landing craft into a jolly cold and rough sea, many drowning.  Those who reached the shore after pushing their way through their dying and dead comrades experiencing things most if not all of them who survived the war never forgot even if they rarely spoke of it.

I intend to watch the first ceremony in half an hour on TV but first I just wanted to say this:

We owe it to ourselves and each other to search out the good, the beauty there is in the world - the good people there are everywhere.   Not everything is bad even though the News bulletins do tend to dwell on that side of things.   So here are one or two things in today's Times which cheered me up no end.

Remember those two tunaway horses spooked by a noise on a building site as the Household Cavalry rode past?   Do you recall the pictures on TV and in the papers of the black and the grey horses, covered in blood, galloping wildly through London streets, riderless, bumping into vehicles, thoroughly scared?   Well, they are almost better and ready to return to work.  In today's Times there is a photograph of the two of them hob-nobbing over the fence in adjoining buttercup-strewn fields, noses touching, communicating as horses do, saying who know what (unless one is a horse).  What pleasure I got from looking at them this morning - not in their usual environment but 'on recuperative 'holiday'- the shot gladdens and uplifts the heart.

And want a laugh - or at least a smile (especially if one has been a parent of a young boy)?  In the US a Congresman is denouncing Donald Trump's conviction.   Goodness knows why but he has taken his seven year old son with him and there are three photographs.   In the first his son, Guy, who is sitting behind him, is leaning into the picture and smiling at the camera (aw - lovely little red-haired boy proud to be in a photograph with Dad) but by the time the other two photographs are taken boredom with the proceedings is setting in. (with a vengeance).  In one his head is lolling to the right and his little pink tongue is  poking out.   By the time the last photograph is taken boredom has really taken over.   He is sitting upright but his shoulders have flopped, his eyes have taken on a vacant look and his tongue is poking out and touching his left cheek.  Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words.

Life is so full of posturing politicians, we read what is written, we never know the whole truth - only what is fed to us.   Sometimes it is good - after admiring those wonderful old men - and women - now all in the nineties and some over a hundred, who tearfully (me included here) listened about, in some cases talked of ,their fallen comrades who they all said deserved the medals far more than they did, voices choked with tears sometimes, many with loving family members there for support,  sometimes its good to find something to smile about, to get a good feeling about.

Heaven knows almost every page in the newspapers at the moment is doom and gloom, wars, election promises we all know will be broken, crooks, staabbings.   Follow my example, search for something/s to make you smile, to give you a good feeling.   You know it makes sense.


Thursday 30 May 2024

Eva Petulengro

 I see in the Times Obits today that Eva Petulengro has died, aged 85.   As this is 6 years younger than me then the figure who I heard of regularly during my childhood was obviously her mother - also Eva Petulengro - quite a well-known figure in the 'old days'.

The family had a history  of being Clairvoyants and reading through the Obituary today made me think about the 'old days'.

My father always assured us all that my Mother had Romany blood -she always played it down although never actually denying it.   I am not suggesting they were related to one another but it is interesting to read that Romany families were frequently found in the Lincolnshire Fens, which is where my mother came from.   As a young woman, looking at photographs that I have of her, there is no doubt she was a very beautiful young woman.   Also she was black-haired as are most Romanies.

My Dad spoke often of visiting her Grandfather, who lived on Bardney Common in a Caravan and who my father insisted kept his Sunday Joint in an enamel bucket under the van with a sod of grass for a bucket-lid!

I don't know - and I suppose never will know - the truth of the matter and to me it doesn't really matter in the slightest.   All I do know is that Mother wished me to be called Rebecca, but considering the political 'climate' in the World at the time (1932) and the association of the name in both Jewish and Romany communities my parents decided against it and called me Patricia Ellen instead.

Now, as Romany and Traveller communities are trekking through Wensleydale this week on their way to the Appleby Horse Fair which begins next week-end (and holding up traffic a bit), and now today reading of the death of Eva Petulengro, I recalled the old days, when country folk (as we were) did rather believe in such things; how she grew up in a traditional Vardo having a Romany mother and a gorger (non-Romany) father and how her father embraced the traditional life of the Romanies;  how the family always travelled in a convoy of three wagons, each drawn by black and white cob horses, the wagons painted red and gold; it does make me wonder.   My mother's favourite novel, throughout her life, was a book called "Red Wagon" (I believe by Lady Eleanor Smith).

The obit speaks of their food being wild mushrooms and illegally bagged pheasant and partridge (and hotchi - hedgehogs - baked in clay (ugh!) and tells of male members of the family carving clothes pegs from lengths of willow and the woman tying them in bundles and selling them in the villages of the Lincolnshire and East Anglian Fens.  (these were always the pegs of my childhood)

And one final note about how Dads toughened up their kids to suffer what were definitely the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' in those days:

Her Dad would encourage her to jump from the steps of the caravan into his arms and then at the last minute step out of the way so that she fell on her face in the mud.  (Can't imagine any child not being wise to that after trying it once).

Thursday 16 May 2024

The Portrait

 It seems the nation (well, those who take an interest in such things) is split down the middle on the subject of the recent portrait of King Charles by Jonathan Yeo.

I will come straight out with it - I love it.

The Divine Right of Kings has thankfully disappeared into Antiquity but Queen Elizabeth II was catapulted into her role in a totally different age to the one we live in now.  She tried hard to come across as a 'woman of the people' but I think she sometimes found it difficult.  I think we must realise that however hard we try we can't imagine the life they, the Royal Family, lead.    She was a figurehead and worked jolly hard throughout her life to live up to the standards she had set herself.

King Charles waited a long time to take over her role.   Prestige, money, privilege, trecking about the World always in one's best clothes or worse still Dress Unif orms - the life of a King is not all it is cracked up to be - always on display, always on one's best behaviour (we'll ignore the tussle with the pen), every tiff, every action likely to become headline news if one puts a foot wrong.   And add to this in the case of HM cancer, close family eruptions disturbing the water and a past life that was by no means 'plain sailing.'

I think (whether I believe in having a Royal Family or not) that the King is doing his absolute level best.

Most past Royal Portraits and indeed those of so-called 'important figures' , have been on the whole a bit wooden**.   Holbein's Henry VIII - like many earlier portraits of Kings and Queens = shows nothing at all about character.   It just shouts out loud and clear - I'm the King and don't mess with me - the face shows nothing of what the man is really like.

And here Yeo has given us - standing out so clearly that is is almost painful to see - the man.   His seventy odd years are etched into his face - his years at a hated school,  his unhappy marriage, his struggle to find a role for himself and the sudden transformation of a love for Nature, for wild life, and a marriage to the woman he truly loved.

I think Jonathan Yeo has captured it all so well.   All the King's troubles and family worries have become public knowledge - not an easy burden to bear.    The face of the King in this portrait I think gives true meaning to the phrase 'A picture is worth a thousand words'.   You have only to look at that face to know for certain that for all his money,  all his privileges, he is - like all of us - a Human Being - has lived through all life's ups and downs and weathered them.  

One things is for sure.   Yeo has - in that face - and those hands - shown us the real man - not the king but a man like the rest of us who has suffered 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and pulled through.   Oh and, by the way, that Monarch butterfly on his right shoulder (I understand suggested by the King himself) is a stroke of genius.

**   I rather think that in the seventies Graham Sutherland's portrait of Winston Churchill was chopped up and burnt by Lady Churchill because looking at it gave Churchill such distress.

Monday 13 May 2024


If only I could be up every day when most of the Estate is still asleep.

This morning, drinking my first cup of tea  and looking out onto the plot opposite I saw such an  interesting series of events.

As usual all  was quiet.   We caught the tail-end of a storm last night and had a rain just as I went to bed.   This morning all was fresh and green.

In one of the ash saplings sat 5 jackdaws (they spend a lot of the early morning poking their beaks into my quite large front lawn looking for grubs).

Then I suddenly saw the barn owl arrive.  As one the five jackdaws rose and attacked him, chasing him off between my bungalow and M's next door.   They flew right by my window and I got the best view ever.

So all you bird folk out there - I presume there were jackdaw nests with young nearby (a lot of the bungalows have chimneys and most are protected with a wire chimney guard  to stop nesting birds.) but where they are I have no idea.

Were the birds consciously waiting for the owl's arrival?

Do owls eat young birds from nests?   I have always assumed they hunted for vermin. 

Had they plotted the attack?  (ie  are they intelligent enough to do such a thing?)

 There is only one thing I am sure of.   That owl beat a very hasty retreat when those jackdaws took off from their sapling perch.

Sun is out.  Have a nice day. 

Saturday 11 May 2024


Early on a bright Spring morning; early, before I do anything else like going round the bungalow to check that everything is 'shipshape' and I can relax knowing that nothing is going to disturb me until my Tesco delivery man raps on the kitchen door just after noon, I have come into the computer room to write a post.   I apologise for writing so infrequently but I tend to be brain active these days but not so body active. But not a bad thing.

Knowing that the time one has left on this earth is - although no-one has specified how long that time will be (things, including malignant tumours, take their time when one is 91)- going to be limited, but is such a great 'mind-concentrator'.

What is important suddenly narrows down to just a few things.  The dandelion 'clocks' with their hundreds of seeds for next year's flowers, are so beautiful in the early morning sun.  They can stay - I shalln't  be asking the gardener to mow them off quickly before they are moved all along the Grove's gardens.  I shall instead take the time to watch the gentle West wind do it's best.

Sorting out 'things' becomes paramount.   Even the order in which this is done - jewellery? books? financial affairs? weeds in the flower garden? cupboards? drawers and wardrobes?

'Financial affairs' has to be first and once that job is done as well as possible, leaving everything as ordered as possible for the next generation to 'sort things out', then relaxation and reminiscence take over.

R and R.  One job a week.   This past week it has been holiday photograph albums.   Mentally it has been good.Physically not so good as huge, heavy albums take some lugging about.  So far I have re-travelled the coast of Norway, over the Arctic Cicle and round the top to the Russian Border, photographing the midnight sun on midsummer's day while wearing a winter anorak!

I've been round the Alhambra, stood in the oldest bull ring in Spain, wandered through the cork-oak forests of Spain and Portugal, been round the lovely gardens of Dumfries and Galloway, stood on the Athabasca Glacier.  I have re-met folk we met in all these places and promised to keep in touch with but didn't. (who are Tom and Rosie in this photo? we ate each night with them, first there saving places because we got on so well.  Now just 'ships that passed in the night').

The difficulty is concentration.  There is so much beauty as - at long last - we have had a whole week of warm, Spring-like weather.   My window by the computer looks over the garden. At the beginning of the week the Bearded Iris had one emerging flower stalk; at the end of the week there are twelve.  That is certainly worth stopping to look at and count isn't it? 

Two years after M, my husband of 39 years, died, I occupied my time by photographing farming life in the village.    Now two large albums of these photographs - blackthorn blossom and marsh marigolds along the beck, ploughing, harrowing, fertilising, the first day the cattle are released from Winter captivity and gallop round the pastures with joy at being back where they belong, lambing, silaging, hay-making, Show,-time, winter's arrival.   Now what will happen to the albums?  Thirty years old.  Helpers in the school holidays now grown-up and farmers themselves, quaint, rather old fashioned machinery, middle-aged healthy farmers now some gone (like my own dear farmer) and the rest in their seventies and most of them arthritic!  Hopefully somebody will take the albums and preserve them for future generations to look at.   The search is on.

No more albums this week - the major job today will be putting away the Tesco order. And the rest of the day - thinking, reading The Times, chatting to anyone who calls (the Tesco delivery men are marvellous at helping, chatting and generally brightening up the day), walking once round the garden circuit to keep my legs working (I must keep doing this to stay upright although a bit wobbly), reading, dozing and above all else thinking.   No rest for the wicked as they say.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

The sweet sights and sounds of Spring!

 Yes, I dare to mention it this morning because the sun is shining, the weather forecast is 'improving' and I feel better than I have done for some days.

My bathroom window is one of those 'tilting' ones that opens from the bottom.   Each day - unless it is very windy - my Carer opens it a tiny bit.   I keep it open as long as I can (if the wind gets up it can blow the window wide open), especially at the moment.   Why?  Because Mr Blackbird has to advertise to the world (and, unfortunately to every nasty thieving magpie in the area) that ere long baby blackbirds are due!  One of the side effects of colon cancer is frequent loo visits and it is so wonderful to be greeted every single time I visit the smallest room, with the wonderful song of the blackbird (not quite as melodious as his cousin the song thrush but that is a sound I haven't heard since I left the farm).

'When does he eat?' I ask?   I think he gets most of his food intake from my front lawn where he hops up and down very early in the morning poking his beak deep into the ground every now and then.   But, believe me, he gives me such a lot of pleasure.

As to my lawn!!!   A week ago I sent my gardener a text saying that within a day of his last mowing there were 49 dandelions in full bloom.   Today I started counting them and got to eighty then lost my place. (they don't grow in straight lines so when the numbers rise counting is difficult.)

They are such beautiful flowers,   The piece of ground opposite has a thick border of them in full bloom,   They might just as well have a sign saying "You'll never beat us so why not join us".   In a couple of weeks those beautiful yellow flowers, which are so beneficial to so many insects, will be dandelion 'clocks', each one carrying hundreds of seeds.   And every time there is a Summer south wind blowing gently (well we can hope can't we?) those seeds will find a new home in my front lawn. Don't know whether to smile or weep.

My side lawn, not to be outdone, displays three large clumps of mushrooms.   Not dainty fairy ring types but great hulking fully grown things - not edible, but distinctly noticeable.

It has not been lawn mowing weather.  Monday is my gardener's mowing day.   I expect he began doing just that yesterday but soon after lunch we had a couple of hours of heavy rain.

I shall now put on a coat and have a walk round my bungalow, looking what is out (from the patio it looks as though    Asperula Odorata has colonised a large area at the top.)   The white flowers are just coming out and as they emerge I can just about see them.   They are so pretty but need watching otherwise they take over.  The Mare's Tail - (my enemy although it is quite attractive)- will be well up now and every clump needs cutting off at ground level to discourage it. (You will never get rid of it if you have it, but never be tempted to pull it up - always cut it off.   There is nothing the roots of Mare's Tail like better than a chance to put out another hundred or two shoots from a roughly pulled up clump.

So all you gardeners out there - good luck with your garden this year and remember a plant is only a weed if it is growing where you don't wish to see it.   I have a single dandelion out in the middle of a clump of Grape Hyacinths of the deepest blue.   It can stay (for now at any rate) - it looks divine.

Tuesday 23 April 2024

The Brain.

What a fascinating organ it is.   And for all the research I understand there is still so much we don't know about it.

Can you stop your brain from thinking?   Is that what meditation is all about?   I ask this because I find it impossible not to think.   It would be so good if, when I wake at 4am I could just relax in my snug warm bed and lay there thinking about absolutely nothing.   Can some people do this or is everyone like me? 

I woke up at four this morning; woke up thinking about the days of the week in French.   Why?   And as I lay there going through them over and over again I could only think of six!   Eventually I drifted off to sleep again.   Half way through eating my fruity breakfast a word popped into my head from nowhere.........Mercredi!!!

So please dear readers put me out if my misery.  a) have I got them right?  b) are they in the right order? and c) have I spelt them correctly?  Can't be bothered to look them up myself (truthfully that should read (can't remember how):

Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi, Dimanche.

But, joking apart, isn't it a fascinating organ?  The older I get the more words (especially names of people, places and things) escape me at the moment I want them.  Long after I have stopped searching for the word I want, the old brain will be working  on it and will suddenly (no roll of drums, no fanfare) pop it into my mind.   Sadly by that time I might have forgotten what I wanted it for.

And to end - a rather daft connection, but one that fascinates me every morning.

Opposite my window is a small, smart red mail box on a black metal stalk.    On their morning walkies every male dog in the vicinity stops at that stalk for the same purpose.   It goes like  this:

Stop (and refuse to walk on however taut the lead goes):

Sniff from top to bottom (if it is a labrador, or as far up as possible if a chi hua hua),

Raise appropriate hind leg.

Pee for as long as possble.

Is this instinct?  Does the brain control instinct or is instinct inate in us all?   The dog has no words (except the few he/she learns which are to their advantage: Walkies, Tea Time,) so what makes them do this every single day?  Yes, I know they are covering up - or trying to - every drenching which  has preceded theirs that morning in order to attract every passing bitch.  But without words they can't think ' I fancy that beautiful Basset Hound' can they?

I'll stop there.   Sex comes into everything sooner or later doesn't it?

Have a nice day.   And do pop over to Si's 'Careering Through Nature' to view his superb photographs of Spring flowers - especially that cheeky long-stalked dandelion who pops up to almost steal the show from those dark blue Bluebells.   Does it know that yellow is the complementary colour to blue?  Don't let's go down that route.


Saturday 20 April 2024

Just a thought.

Mr Blackie is singing from the topmost bough of the hawthorn tree next door, two or three 'little brown jobs' are scuttling about in the winter debris under the hedge (and yes they do have wings, not four legs each) and-at 11.03  precisely according to my computer- I have gone round opening the curtains and wiping out the fridge ready for a 12-1pm Tesco delivery.   In other words 'done' for the day - crossword done,codeword  done, supplements read (frankly these days if you have no desire to go on holiday, and no wish to buy anything from the countless pages of adverts there is not enough reading left to keep you going).

So I am off to make a hot choc and lament that I am out of Kit-Kats until 12 - 1pm.   I leave you with a brilliant 'Thought for the day' (Thanks Times Leading Articles)

"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams"  Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Something to ponder over your morning coffee, tea, hot choc, sherry or whatever. 

Thursday 18 April 2024


When faced with the fact that The Grim Reaper is on track to meet up with you in the not too distant future you really have only two choices if you get down to basics:  Accept it and sit and wait for it to happen, ending your days in quiet contemplation.  Live each day as if it is your last and enjoy it as much as you can.

I have chosen the latter.   If I feel frail I have a quiet day.   If I have more 'get up and go' (a very relative term when on 'end of life' care is all there is on offer) then I do things I fancy doing - chat with friends,have a hot choc and eat two two-finger Kit Kats kidding myself that two two fingers is not quite as calorific as 1 four-finger, watch day-time TV (especially The Bidding Room which I love for its sheer daft behaviour), go to bed at half past eight having put the blanket on a couple of hours earlier (a single bed is a lonely, cold bed after two happy marriages).   There is a freedom of choice in it.

I read a Book Review in Saturday's Times  -"Running on Empty" by Guy Deacon.   It looked like a good read and good old Amazon Prime had it on my doormat by lunchtime on Sunday.

Guy has had Parkinson's for almost fourteen years after a brilliant Army Career since 1985.   Faced with the awful truth that bit by bit the disease would take away almost all his faculties,he set out to plan and then carry out a mostly solo drive down the length of Africa; his aim being to 'advertise' to the World and to Africa in particular that this awful disease is shared by many the world over and that it is a nerological condition and - in Africa in particular - that it is nothing whatsoever to do with evil spirits, with witchcraft, with anything other than an illness like any other and that it should be treated as such; that sufferers needed compassion, understanding, love, care, medical attention not ostracization.

Believe me it is the most fascinating and inspirational book I have read in a long time.   The scrapes he gets into, the battering hisVW Campervan gets, his bad days when  Parkinson's attacks with a bit more ferocity  than usual.  This often makes painful reading but that is far, far offset by the kindness, the helpfulness and the hospitality he encounters throughout his trek.

I had finished the book by yesterday and this morning saw him on Breakfast  TV.   Apparently there is a Channel 4 Documentary on parts of the expedition and there is also a Charity set up to ensure that all proceeds from the sale of the book go to Parkinson's charities.

I hope the author realises that his book is  an inspiration to anyone nearing the end of life.  I have neither the funds, the knowledge, the energy or indeed the inclinatiom to follow in his footsteps (My 'off road' travelling never got started - travel companies for me I am ashamed to say.  Off-road was always got from books and imagination.   I am ashamed to say I like a nice lav and a clean shower). 

But my goodness me it has certainly given my 'get up and get doing something' a giant boost.

Monday 15 April 2024

Still alive and kicking.

I thought I had better put a post on before you all think I have gone for ever.   I feel alright but am a bit frail - not eating all that much but still walking about the bungalow and walking in the garden when the weather allows.   I can't go out on windy days and obviously not on wet or cold days and we have had plenty of those.

I am sorry not to have posted.   I like to read the posts of anyone on my sidebar who has posted and answer them if I can.   But as for putting a post on myself - my philosophy has always been to put on something to make you think.  And at present my brain doesn't seem to be throwing up anything.  Not that I personally have stopped thinking.  World affairs at present make me wish I could stop thinking sometimes - don't know about you.

Life is precious.   If only our World leaders thought that.  When they meet to discuss what to do next  do they think of maimed children,    homeless hungry people, terrified people, those left to die under bombed buildings, those dying of starvation? They can't do, otherwise this awful conflict would not be going on.

Their philosophy at the moment seems to be 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'- no sign at all of anyone thinking 'these are all people - let's talk, let's all pull together in the same direction.' ' Enough is enough'.  As Winston Churchill said, 'Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war'.

Where have all our 'great' men (and women) gone - suddenly everyone 'in authority' everywhere seems 'past it', seems more than ready for the scrap heap? I begin to think there ought to be a world-wide law saying at the age of sixty everyone should take compulsory retirement if they are in a position to be able to have their finger anywhere near the nuclear button.

Sorry about the rant but like Peadar on his Facebook this morning - I needed to get it off my chest.

My gardener has come to attach  a storage unit he has made to house my green and black bins.   Wherever I put them the vicious winds of the past months of this winter have blown them over.   As I write this he is drilling holes to attach the  unit to the garage wall.   It is a typical spring day here - as one of my carers said in a text earlier this morning as she arrived home from Spain "bloody cold" -glorious blue sky one minute, heavy sleet the next and so black you need the light on if you want to read the depressing news in The Times.

Let's cheer up everyone.   It is Spring after all.   Maybe things will get better.  As my father always said (he had a brain full of sayings)  'Nil Desperandum'.

Off to make my gardener a hot choc (and me too of course) (sitting here typing this next to the garage wall is sending my ears into meltdown.)


Friday 5 April 2024

"Busy old foole......

......unruly sun"  as that wonderful MetaphysicalPoet. John Donne" called him.

Last evening I watched the programme on the Yukon River.   I looked at my Atlas afterwards and traced its progress through Alaska.   And during the programme they briefly mentioned the Athabasca River and I know Red lives by the Athabasca Glacier so wonder how far you are from the Yukon Red, if you are reading this. 

It takes seeing a programme like that to make us realise just what cissies we are where the sun is concerned.   I am not a 'sun worshipper'  (one of my carers is ) and if it does get really hot then my reaction is to go and lie down in a darkened room until the sun sets.

But this year, with Easter being at its absolute earliest, we seem to have been expecting Spring sunshine early too.   And we do have to remind ourselves that it is we humans who have imposed dates and names for the Seasons on the World.   Plants know better.   They go on hours of daylight - they don't know when March 21st is or when the first day of Spring is.   And as for the first day of the Meteorological Spring - forget it.  The days get lighter, the shoots pop out of the ground.

But looking at the Yukon proogramme last night (especially as the week before last the river we looked at was the Zambesi) made me at any rate jolly pleased I lived in what is called a 'temperate' country.

Could I cope with a good six months of the year being dark and icy and bitterly cold and with living in such a remote settlement that if I wanted a new vehicle or a new settee I would have to either wait for the thaw or stand out watching for a vehicle coming up the frozen river with a whole load of things for various drop off points.  Thinking about it certainly tends to make one get things in proportion.

But the beauty of it all is unmistakeable, the joy on that day when the sun first breaks through on the horizon; or the morning when you wake up and hear your first drop of water plopping off the end of a huge icicle.

It made me remember flying over I think maybe Greenland and seeing where a glacier met its Waterloo, the sea.

But come on there Mr Sun - I know you are warming up, I felt you on my face when I opened the front door this morning - get a move on and warm a few 'cockles' - we are getting desperate.

If only we could learn to accept each day as it emerges for what it is.   But then, if we are farmers and our fields have been under water all winter and the ground is too wet to put our new-born lambs out, and if we let our milking herd out on the fields they'll plough it up for us in a couple of weeks, who can blame us for lying awake worrying?

Monday 1 April 2024

Might put a heading on later if I can think of one.

Writing my posts is becoming more difficult day by day I am sorry to say.  I like to read those who have posted that day who are on my side bar and comment on their posts.   But by the time I have done that I am too weary to think about what to put on my own site.

So - reverse way round today and let's see how it goes.

I live on  a very pleasant estate of bungalows, detached houses, semii-detached,  a few flats - a nice mixture and nice trees and greenery around and quite a few green spots.   The top of the estate, where I live, has a lot of different bungalows - detached, semi=detached, large, small -a good mix and all have pleasant gardens and from what I see most seem to have retired couples, widowed men or women, one or two single folk of both sexes and not many children in them.   But judging by who walks past there are plenty of children further down the road.

It is a wetish, greyish day, chilly and with a brisk wind blowing.   My pot-hole 'rain-gauge' at the bottom of the drive suggests it has been like this all night. Coated -dogs and anoraked- human beings walk past on this Easter Monday (I think unless you have a dog or are a strong-minded fitness freak you would choose to stay in today but there is nothing worse than an ' it is way past our walk time' stare from your best four-footed-friend to make your guilty feet get their wellies/boots on.)

And so they mooch past, pale green pooh bags swinging from the hand which is not holding the lead.   I wonder what they are all thinking about (remember we are all 'oldies'  up this end so no smart phones held aloft).   Heads full of words, words, words - so easy to think on a relaxed walk but then ten minutes later when you get home, try to recall something you saw and tell your housemate and you are raking about in  brain so full to over-flowing with words that you need a giant metaphorical sieve in order to recall some important noun or something without which the whole story you wish to relate becomes useless.  And if you are under sixty and don't understand what I have just written in that last sentence don't worry - you'll arrive there soon enough.  Make the most of it while you have it.   'It' being perfect recall. 

According to Matthew Syed in yesterday's Sunday Times, Professor Neil Lawrence  has written a book called 'The Atomic Human' in which he suggests that communicating with our fellow-humans by speaking to them is an inefficiant way of transmitting information - one to two hundred words a minute -  compare this with two connected computers which over wi-fi can transfer information thirty million times faster.   Syed suggests that all humans have some degree of 'locked in syndrome' when it comes to communication with others.   We know what we want to say but we just can't get it over to the listener.

And, says Syed (and I wholly agree) that we humans have what he calls 'implicit forms of communication' which no machine can replicate.  We are made free by poetry, prose, painting, music and love.

Do read his article if you can.  It is incredibly mind-bending, for me at any rate.   I have always argued that Picasso's 'Guernica' - a picture which says more than a thousand words on war and fascism can possibly do to me - is quite literally 'stunning' when you stand in front of it.  Stunning and quite frighteningly unforgettable.

And on a lighter note (because I always manage to work this into my posts as Spring approaches - still in its slippers, especially when Easter is as early as it can be-)

'Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

is hung with blooms along the bough;

and all along the woodland ride

is wearing white for Easter-tide'. 

Try telling somebody about a cherry tree in bloom which you have seen and I will guarantee they won't get the picture as well as Houseman does in 'A Shropshire Lad'.

Hopefully see you tomorrow.


Saturday 30 March 2024


'Oh to be in England

now that April's there (well nearly).

And whoever wakes in England

sees some morning, unaware,

that the lowest boughs of the brushwood sheaf 

round the elm tree bole are in tiny leaf;

while the chaffinch sings from the orchard bough

in England, now.

Browning's poem - maybe not exactly verbatim, I type it from memory - just jogs my mind on two fronts:

Firstly the elm has mostly gone through Dutch Elm Disease.    They really were the most magnificent, stately trees weren't they?   When I lived on the farm my farmer would point out elm saplings in the hedge as we walked the fields with the dogs.  And a glimmer of hope for their return would rise - only to sink again in the sure and certain knowledge that in a few weeks the leaves would wither and die.

Secondly the silver birch which stands in the hedge about 150 yards from my bungalow has been threatening to burst into leaf all week.   The very  early morning sun catches it and as my carer draws back the blind in the sitting room I have thought I could almost detect green here and there on the branches.   This morning there was absolutely no doubt at all.  The silver birch is in leaf.

And the dwarf tulips are all out - and the aubretia.  Trouble is  that nobody has told the wind, which is still very cold.   I opened the garage door ten minutes ago with a view to walking round the garden and back across the front path.   I quickly closed it again - the wind is still icy.  

Walkers going past to take the footpath across the fields are still in Winter anoraks and most dogs still have their jackets on.  Are they really necessary?  I have never had a dog I felt needed one.  Certainly my Pointer, Oscar, would have been off at breakneck speed if I had attempted to try one on him.  (He could be round the hedge bottom of a field and back with us before we had got half way down one sid). And Tess, my last and much-missed Border Terrier, had a good thick coat of her own and as she spent a large part of her 12 or so years with her front half down a rabbit hole I am pretty sure she never felt the need for one.

Maybe elderly dogs, small short-coated dogs and dogs who have been ill - but I do question how they have sprung up - almost as a fashion-accessory.

No more to write - feeling a bit frail at present - but I do wish you all a very happy Easter weekend and I hope to be back soon. 

Monday 25 March 2024

Smaller crisis

 I have never been a very practical person.   I am just about one step ahead of those old ladies who, when electricity was first put into homes, stuck Elastoplast over the socket holes when they unplugged everything before going to bed at night.   Gas scares me stiff.  Believe it or not, living here in my bungalow is the first time I have had anything to do with a gas appliance since the Bunsen Burner days of Science at Grammar School in the nineteen forties and I was always scared stiff of the things.  (Looking at my school reports for Science would tell any good teacher that I needed help with learning to apply myself to coping with gas!)

I think I have given you enough background for you to imagine my horror when I saw that the smoke alarm on my hall ceiling had come away from the ceiling and was hanging by a wire which disappeared into the false roof.  6.30pm on a Sunday evening!

I rang my son who assured me it would be alright until this morning but I was, to say the least, uneasy.   Finally, plucking up courage to disturb him on a Sunday evening, I rang P, the electrician. He assured me the bungalow wouldn't burn down overnight and he would come this morning.  He then rang back to say 'Just don't play tennis in the hall until I have looked at it.'

On the doorstep at 9am, he came in with his steps, took it down, ensured that the wire (covered with blue plastic and disappearing into the roof-space) was not connected to anything on the other end.   He had gone by 9.15!   There is another smoke alarm next to where it was - that has a ten year guarantee and will then need replacing.   Crisis over.

So, in a relatively short space of time, I have had a)ridge tiles on my roof re-concreted in; b)garage ceiling re done; c) valve replaced on Worcester gas boiler; d) old smoke alarm removed.   I need a lie down.

After two days of brilliant sunshine when, unless you stepped outside into a brisk, bitterly cold, sharp wind, you felt like shouting 'Spring has finally sprung' we are back to grey, barely light, neither raining or not raining - just miserable damp stuff. All the dogs going past are back in their Winter jackets and their owners hooded, scarved and gloved.  Wellies are not uncommon.

So it is good to sit here, two jumpered, and look out on red, yellow, cream and purple winter primroses, golden tete-a-tete daffodils, patches of dwarf tulips in a bright pink - plus the bright pink flower that has established itself everywhere but is so far nameless,  and stop typing long enough to warm my hands on the hot radiator by my side.   Sorry folks but Winter is having its last hurrah before Spring finally shoves it to one side.

Pity the poor farmers down the Eastern side of the country - Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex in particular - where the land is so very wet - in many cases under water still.   Farmers are a hardy breed and I suppose they have seen it all before, but it is soul-destroying apart from in many cases being hard on the bank-balance.

Until tomorrow dear friends.

Saturday 23 March 2024


 Crisis this morning.   7am Carer arrives and, as always, her first job is to put yesterday's newspaper in the blue bag in the garage.   She came into the Sitting Room where I was watching the News (not a good idea at present) to   tell me that my Worcester gas boiler was leaking water all over the floor.   Too right it was and trickling out of the garage door and down the drive.

I rang the Gas Board - after not knowing which button to press as all seemed inappropriate for my problem, I rang my plumber who lives just round the corner.   Sensing my panic (I thought it might leak to 'empty' and then blow up!!) he told me in a calm, very soothing voice that he would be round shortly.   And ten minutes later, as I sat here reading your yesterday's amusing replies, I heard tap-tapping in the garage.   The relief force has arrived.. Might need a new gas boiler - but it is an elderly Worcester boiler so be that as it may.

Plumbers, electricians, builders - here they are quite plentiful and so reliable.   I now have one of each I know I can rely on utterly.   What a relief it is too.  

One of the really comforting things is finding the tradesman that suits you and knowing when you ring him that he will come.

He has just been into my computer room with a faulty valve in his hand.   All done and dusted - took him all of ten minutes and I can relax again.  Should I come into this world again (my belief is that my ashes will settle into the earth along with all the other living things and hopefully any useful bits in the ashes will encourage beautiful flowers to grow where I lie) I think I shall make sure any children I have go into the Building Trade.   One thing's for sure - they would never be out of a job.

Lovely but very cold sunny day here at present - blue sky, bright sunshine, white puffy clouds, strong wind from the North East.   But the sun is warm now that Spring is here.

Have a nice day.

Friday 22 March 2024


Nice word that.   It can cover a multitude of sins.   I would hazard a guess that each and every one of you has a 'miscellaneous' drawer??   In the kitchen maybe - bits of string, elastic bands the postman dropped on the drive, a couple of unidentified keys you daren't throw away in case they do still fit something (because sure as eggs and eggs if you do throw them in the bin within a few days something you wish to get into will pop up and you'll remember then what that key was for you allowed the binmen to carry off yesterday on their fortnightly collection).  Or perhaps a drawer in the bedroom? A couple of half finished lipsticks you just might need one day and maybe a blusher?   A necklace or two - only 'fashion' jewellery - not expensive but you never know when they just might be right for some occcasion.

Anyway, by now you will have got the idea.   My mind is full of miscellaneous bits and bobs that have sat there for years and years, suddenly to pop out when I least expect them to rear their ancient heads.

Example - transport.    You youngsters - well anybody fifty or above I guess - to you 'transport' usually means 'the car'.   I no longer drive and haven't done for a few years.   If I was Transport Minister in His Majesty's Government I would immediately pass a Law banning over eighties to drive.   I expect protests but I handed in my licence because when I got to late eighties and nobody had forcibly stopped me driving I sent my Driving Licence back with a thanks very much note saying I was too old.   Nobody argued.

Our ancestors relied on Shanks's Pony - two legs, or if they could afford it then a horse came in handy and no need to build a garage.   On my kitchen window cill is a mule shoe I picked up on a track in the High Atlas Mountains about thirty years ago.  When I look at it I think of that track.   Wonder if it is bedevilled by cars now as the villagers have 'modernised'.   When I walked that track I met dozens of male villagers on their way to market - all riding mules.   The 'park' at the market had a couple of cars and perhaps fifty or sixty mules tied up. (How do you tell  which is your mule - no make, no number plate, no bright red which stands out well in a sea of silver or black cars).

I have just read Martin Samuel's "Notebook" in The Times.    On March 31st Manchester City are playing Arsenal.  There are no trains running from London to Manchester over the Easter weekend.

My carer and her husband will attempt to get down to Folkestone to get on Eurostar - I can only imagine the queues and shudder at the thought.   You see them at holiday week-ends snaking back along the motorway, stationary, and wonder what goes on inside those cars (and do remember it is an offence to hop out and pee on the edge of the hard shoulder so be prepared.)

And in case a plane would be a good alternative my advice before you go anywhere on the Easter week-end do check the price before you press the 'Buy Now' button.  According to Martin Samuel the cost of a seat on the Heathrow London to Manchester Shuttle is - well too much for me at any rate.   In any case I am neither a City or an Arsenal fan.

So I shall sit at home - as I now do all the time - and dream about the days when you had to watch the end of the film, sit through the adverts and then see the first seven eighths, slipping out quietly in order to catch the last bus home.   To think - my Dad never learned to drive a car and could remember the days when a man with a red flag walked in front of a car on the road!!

Today, March 22nd, marks the seventh anniversary of the death of my very dear Farmer.  I remember him, as I do every day, with love.


Wednesday 20 March 2024


If I had to choose only one book to keep - in spite of  all my well-loved and well-read collection - I would have to choose The Chambers Dictionary.   In order to try and maintain full working order in my brain until the day I die I start the day with The Times Mind Games.   Because I do them every day I become familiar with the words they use and can usually do the ones which involve words (codeword and crossword) fairly quickly and accurately.   The number ones I never venture into  'tricky' territory - I know my limitations where maths are concerned.  (But it is surprising how much better my maths is getting by doing them regularly).

But this morning I had to look up what a unit of pressure was - I searched under 'ma-a' for ages rather than 'mega' which I should have realised might give me a result.   And I got side-tracked.  

As regular readers will know I love birds and I started reading what Chambers had to say about 'magpie'.  ('a black-and-white chattering bird of the same type as the crow').

But then it quoted Shakespeare - he called it 'magot-pie' or 'maggot-pie'.  And then I began to think about this handsome, always neat and tidy in appearance, bird.  I haven't see one since I came to live here I don't think - they are more of a field, open space, rubbish-tip kind of bird  I think.

But they are much maligned.  They are not averse to robbing the nests of hedgerow birds - a lunch of eggs (easy to break in with a beak like that) or - dare I say- nestlings - is always a possibility on their menu.

But I love the crow family.   One of my memories of Russia in the Gorbachov days - my first visit - was walking into our room in the hotel in Moscow and looking out of the window onto a flat roof with dozens of hooded crows.   I had never seen a hooded crow before and I always thought of crows as rather solitary birds - but not these chaps!  A roof full of them noisily discussing something or other. 

The magpie of course is not a crow.  (Crows are 'corvus ' and the magpie is 'Pica' but all the big birds with wicked beaks are gathered together in my book so I shall just say they are close relations).

And my mind wandered to the time when gamekeepers exhibited their catches - on a wire just outside their cottage door  - mice, rats, voles, weasels, stoats, moles, rabbits, rooks, crows, magpies, maybe a fox's brush tail.   My dad had a gamekeeper friend and they would chat while I wandered down the line of that week's catch.  What I remember most (apart from the often 'ripe' smell) is the beautiful velvety skin of the mole.  (Did men really wear moleskin waistcoats?)

So I apologise - today you have a taste of how my wandering mind works.   As a matter of fact I did find out the word I was looking for (which finished my crossword for today) but as for the magpie - I hope one pops up in my garden one day but not at the moment please - Mrs B is nest-sitting and Mr B is combing the garden for tasty treats to tempt her.

And my butterfly mind (my first husband's name for it - hence the lovely enamelled butterfly brooch he bought me as a reminder) now has to go to the hall and to the Welsh Dresser.   In an hour my cleaner will be here and I always do the Welsh Dresser with its little things I treasure.  Then if anything gets broken it is my fault.

Have a nice day.   And apologies for the wander. 

Saturday 16 March 2024

Sunday morning early (ish)

I switched on during my first tour of the bungalow to look at my e mails.    I had some lovely photographs of their new house from friends who have moved from Devon countryside into Sussex and I was so pleased to see that they are surrounded by trees and open countryside.  How good that they are still in such a lovely area.

After twenty odd years of living in quite a lonely spot I had to move when the Farmer died.   And being alone meant living near to other people.   My back garden looks over the fields and I can't see another building - just one very large ash tree which the rooks who flew over the farm each morning have chosen for their late afternoon roost before flying over one more field, then the farm and then finally to  the very large rookery which I suppose one can say they call 'home'.

I am on the road into the  estate and luckily the 'plot' opposite my bungalow is at present 'wild land'.  I expect it will be built on eventually but at present it has a silver birch and a row of hazel 'trees' along the back edge and a few ash saplings here and there (cut back every year to head height) and plenty of 'hillocks' covered in grass.   Here and there are clumps of daffodils just coming into bloom.

Now that I can no longer go out,  this bit of 'open country' presided over by a little red mail box on a black stalk, is a great asset.   Doesn't make up for the swallows who nest every year in the barns around the farm or the house martins who nest under the eaves of the house or the little owl who is diurnal and usually watched us from the same gate  post on our morning walk, or the one song thrush who at this time of the year sang my favourite song.

I have spoken before about the neighbourhood cats and how they stalk among the hillocks on the waste ground - on the look-out for mice, voles - who knows what lives on the plot.   Don't know whether they ever catch anything but they do a lot of sitting very still in one spot and then doing a 'balletic' pounce.

But - surprise surprise - what  did I see this morning at around 6am?   The sky was blue (a rarity at the moment), the air was still, the sun was up and as I drew back the sitting room curtains guess what I saw???

Hovering over the grassy hillocks opposite was a BARN OWL!   And as I watched he pounced and came up with a tiny rodent in his beak and then he was away swooping behind the bungalows on the other side of the road.   Was he the barn owl who used to check the paddock hedge late each evening (we could watch him from our kitchen window)?  Maybe not - it is seven years since I left.   But he has certainly started my Saturday morning off on the right foot.

Oh and just as an afterthought = yesterday, March 15th=  was the 72nd anniversary of my first marriage and the beginning of 39 very happy years with Malcolm.  And Malcolm would have been 100 in late April this year.

Nothing is forever - make the most of every day.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Spring sweet spring....... the year's pleasant thing - well it goes something like that anyway.

Well friends, however you look at it, next Wednesday is the Vernal Equinox, the day when the day and night are both approximately the same length.   Of course this will be all 'mucked up' shortly when we get British Summer Time and have to get used to getting up in the semi dark again for a week or two.

You, like me, may well still be wearing two sweaters, your room thermostat like mine, may well be set at 21  and the radiator may be  hot so that you can keep putting your cold hands on it (pause in writing while I do just that).

The North Yorkshire Community Policeman is still warning us about where there is floodwater and reminding those who drive not to risk driving through it.

We are supposed to be top in the Species Chain but really I do sometimes question it.   We need the calendar on the wall to tell us it is Spring. And unless there is a sudden dramatic change our behaviour will not change on the first (or second) day of Spring.  We will still be well-wrapped up in our winter jackets.

Gardeners may be out there 'topping' the grass on their lawns with a first gentle mow but they may well be nipping out between showers (and leaving ruts in the grass with their mower wheels).

But my flowers in the garden know Spring is coming - primroses, tete a tetes, hellebores, mauve striped crocus, dark purple crocus and a very pretty pink flower which creeps about my garden as it will every year popping up in different places - all going ahead as per usual.

And Mrs Blackbird is sitting - us girls aren't daft you know - a snug nest in mid hedge is probably the warmest place to be in this wind (from the East and  blowing across a North Sea before it reaches here).

The sky is full of heavy black clouds, the East wind is cutting cross the top of all the flowers, the sun is unlikely to show its face today around here and everyone passing has the hood up on their anorak and every dog passing is still wearing its fashionable winter coat.

And I am signing off and going to make a cup of hot chocolate to drink with my kit kat.   So I'll sign off with what I usually say at this time of year (especially for you Tom)

"Loveliest of trees the cherry now 

 is hung with bloom along the bough.

 and all along the woodland ride

 is wearing white for Eastertide"

                                        A E Housman

                                    'A Shropshire Lad'. 


My son bought me the collected poems of Roger McGough for Mothering Sunday.  Sifting through it after writing this I came across a poem called 'Trees cannot name the seasons'.   He says it so much better than my post above does.   Google it - it is beautiful.  Enjoy.




















Monday 11 March 2024

Mountains out of molehills grow!!

 Yes I am afraid that tends to be the side effect of time on one's hands.   Here is the tale - laughable in the end and ridiculous.

Yesterday, Sunday, Mothering Sunday, a day when my usual Sunday visitors were otherwise engaged, dawned cold,dull and promising to never get 'properly' light.   My carer came and went, hot choc poured and two biscuits, false flames on my electric fire for comfort, table lamps on to make it look a bit warmer, central heating up a notch, I settled down with the Sunday papers ( three quarters of which always get put in recycling unread!)

My son was due to come round to move my Sim card into my new phone and to sit and chat for a while.  We had a lovely chat.   Changing the Sim failed - we need some sort of adaptor which he duly ordered and is coming today (good old Amazon Prime) - yes I know some of you will disapprove of using Amazon but believe me - when you are slowly dying off, are immobile more or less, never feeling quite 100% - it is wonderful to need/want something, press a button and know that that something will arrive within 24 hours.

All was lovely and peaceful - we had a lovely morning.   It was as I closed the door after his departure that I noticed it.   Slap bang outside my front door, on the edge of the lawn, there was a large dog 'turd'!!

I can't bend down to remove it.   It had to stay until either another visitor arrived or my evening carer came.

How had it got there?                                           

Had a stray dog wandered up my lawn?   I never see a dog wandering unattended.   Most of the dogs I see are expensive pedigree dogs (almost a compulsory attachment on my estate) so I doubt it.

Had one of the dog walkers taken umbrage at the way I sit up straight in my chair when a dog walks past, so that I can see it properly.   Ageing eyesight means I get a clearer view.  And I take such pleasure in seeing the dog, guessing its breed (not always easy as there is such variation).  Did the walker perhaps mistakenly think I was making sure any pooh on my patch was picked up and bagged?  Had he thought ' I'll show the nosey old baggage that it is nothing to do with her'?

And so dear reader I spent most of the afternoon (between TV Crufts) pondering and making the whole episode into a mountain of anxiety.   Was he going to keep doing it?   How did he get up to my front door unseen?

By the time J, my evening carer, came I had got quite 'hot under the collar' about the whole episode.  How long would the aggravation go on for?   How could I let he or she know that I meant them no harm but just loved looking at their dogs?

J looked at the offending turd in the gathering dusk and came up with the comment, "That's not a dog turd - its more like cat pooh!"

Had one of W's Bengal cats been around?  W is often my evening carer and they often follow her here - she only lives about six doors away.  On well that's a relief then - just a one off - can stop worrying.

As J went after helping me into my dressing gown she was armed with a pooh bag to pick up the offending object on her way out.   I was much relieved  and reassured that it was not after all the start of a 'hate campaign' against a nosy old bag who should find something better to do than be sitting there on permanent 'pooh watch'.   As I sat back in my chair much happier the sitting room door opened and J held up the offending 'turd'.

It was a brown curly leaf.



Wednesday 6 March 2024

Human Nature

Strange thing Human Nature.  As my father used to say 'Everyone's funny except me and thee and thee's a bit peculiar'.

Yes - in the main we have all got two arms, two legs, a head and a body and all the dangly bits that Nature added to make certain we don't die out as a species. But there the similarity ends.

Reading The Times this morning over my "after breakfast" coffee just endorsed this view.  Do you remember the (very good) 1995 TV adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice"?   If you watched it and you are a woman then I hardly think you need reminding of the moment when Mr Darcy walked out of the lake towards Elizabeth with his very wet fancy shirt sticking to his body.  (Pause here while I compose myself - I might be 91 but some things keep going to the bitter end).

But what endorses my view on Human Nature is that at a Sale in London this week that same shirt (dry and just an ordinary rather fancy shirt but without Colin Firth inside it)was bought by somebody (wait for it) for £25,000!

If you had £25,000 going spare what would you do with it?   Invest it?  Buy Premim Bonds?  Give it to a needy friend?  Give it to your child towards a deposit on his/her first home?  Buy a new car?

I could go on with that list for ever couldn't I?  Money buys THINGS.  Money doesn't stop wars.  Money doesn't stop young people dying.  Money doesn't stop Homelessness or people starving all over the world.   There is truth in the statement that 'the rich get rich and the poor get poorer'.

And would you believe that just because Victoria Beckham had to use 'Cool Crutches' when she went to the Paris Fashion show, same black 'Cool Crutches' searches  rose by 350 % and sales increased by  70%.

Try explaining that to a starving Palestinian, or a homeless young man sleeping under a leaking shelter on a pouring wet night, or a man or woman from Afghanistan who has struggled across half the world and is crossing the Channel as I write this, in a boat not much more seaworthy than a child's plastic paddling pool.

Human Nature has a lot to answer for.


Friday 1 March 2024


 I apologise for the absence, not in any way anything to do with my illness but simply to do with not having time.   I cannot begin to tell you how busy I have been this week - some days having as many as seven or eight visitors; it would be so good to ration them but, sadly, life doesn't work like that.

Far back in the "innocent "days of my childhood and teenage years, as a country child in a county which might be the second largest (Lincolnshire) in the country but probably because of its isolation and its large amount of land reclaimed from the sea, was - in pre-War days - I guess rather lagging behind in its efforts to 'keep up' with the then 'modern' thinking, Leap Year to us just coming into the idea of "boys" as something interesting rather than something to avoid was important.

(I meant this post to be put on on the 29th February but I am a day late and apologise.)  I think we rather thought that a woman could actually 'propose marriage' to a man rather than the other way round on this one day every four years.

Was this common to the whole country in those far off days or was it just in our "backward" neck of the woods? (And please don't tell me we weren't  backward in coming forward.   Our total lack of sophistication when compared with teenagers in large towns and cities was no mean thing.)

I was lucky (well I consider I was) in that I married a well-travelled, sophisticated man ten years older than me.   He pulled me up by my shoelaces so to speak.   He taught me that Romance, Love, call it what you will, is something quite different from the images we were brought up with.   One should not get carried away by a bunch of red roses on St Valentine's Day, by a mental image of happy ever after once the knot is tied.  As I said in my "poem" of a few weeks ago in this blog - small everyday things add up to more than any "gaudy bunch of red roses".

Which brings me to today's title and to Matthew Parris's Notebook in this week's Times.  One paragraph "Poetry in Motion" in which he talks about 'love hearts and schmaltzy verses" being alright in their place but forget St Valentine, forget that extra Leap Year Day.   What really matters is a much more sensible way to see "Love" as expressed in the ordinary, everyday things.   As  he says -  "fixing a leaky cistern in the toilet" or "emptying the dishwasher" or in my poem bringing me the first golden marsh marigold from the beck, or a beautiful partridge feather picked up in the field.

LOVE is such a funny word isn't it?   We use the word so often:  "I love to see the rooks flying over a backdrop of a pink dawn"; "I love my dog so much - I can't imagine life without him by my side", "  I do love Seville Orange Marmalade on Sourdough Toast with my morning coffee".

The word has become too commonplace.   'Living together' I understand has now become  more popular than 'Getting married.'   'Easier' say the cynics - no great torment of divorce if it doesn't work out.   Very true and perhaps the way forward.   In my day many, many couples stayed together not because they  still loved one another but because a woman leaving her husband and taking their children with her was just not possible in those days before child benefits and suchlike.

The young seem to view life, having children, finding a partner, everything to do with the progress through life, in a totally different way from how it was viewed when I was young.   I am not for one moment suggesting this is a retrograde step.  Far from it.  I think the young in this respect have a far more realistic view of life than we did (if we thought about it long term at all - I am not sure we did).  I am reminded of the last verse of Robert Herrick's 'Gather ye Rosebuds' which is advice to a young lady:

So be not coy, but use your time

And while ye may, go marry.

For having once but lost your prime

Ye may for ever tarry!

May we never return to that kind of thinking.   Womens' Lib may still have some way to go but don't let's go backwards.

St Valentine's Day, Leap year, may now be viewed almost with amusement.   But 'real' love is more about cooking the dinner if you are first in, sticking the washer on when you see a pile of school football gear piled on the kitchen floor by an open washing machine door, putting the bins out.   Oh and the odd bunch of flowers/box of chocs/surprise meal of your partner's favourite food never comes amiss.   Let's keep things in proportion.

Monday 26 February 2024

Today's the day

 At least it is for those two tete-a-tete daffodils who, at the first hint of a sun-ray reaching them, decided to open their petals to greet it.   Sadly, by the time they really managed it the sun had gone behind a cloud as it crossed over on its way out to sea(I hope),  The weather man says there will be the 'odd bright spell' this afternoon so perhaps they won't live to regret it.

I am still quite well and enjoying a somewhat limited life - but as that situation has approached stealthily rather than happen overnight I have gradually adapted to it.

An hour's chat morning and evening as my Carers scurry around doing their allotted chores - lots of laughs and a good start and end to the day. (7am morning shift and 6pm evening).   I am still able to put myself to bed thank goodness and need only to remove my dressing gown and slippers.

The middle of the day passes quickly - various friends pop in (yesterday T and S came for the usual Sunday chat with tea and kit kats and as they went D and J, my gardeners and friends, arrived with a very large bunch of roses.   Red ones, yellow ones and apricot ones.   This morning they  have all opened out and the apricot ones in particular are an absolutely luscious colour.)

Already this morning soon after J, my morning carer, had gone, friend and carer K arrived on her way back from Tesco with some bananas to top up my fruit bowl.   She arrived in windy weather, cold with bright sunshine, and stayed a quarter of an hour for a quick chat before going home to put her frozen stuff in the freezer before it began to defrost.  Now it is cloudy and light rain is falling.

When I read Rachel and Derek I feel I shouldn't complain about a little rain shower - really poor old East Anglia has suffered greatly throughout February  (and I rather think most of the winter) with awful rain.   I suppose it is the price they pay for sticking out into the North Sea and catching the worst of the cruel East Wind.   I don't know about them but I always feel rather smug up here in the North of the country when the weather map shows horrible weather in the South and sunshine up here (a somewhat rare occurrence though).

Nothing much to tell you today.   Last evening, after two lovely visits from friends, I was very tired indeed.  I made myself a milky drink and dozed until time for Channel 4's 'Great Pottery Throwdown' - last night was a real cliff-hanger with tears never far away from the contestants left in the competition (and I suspect many of the viewers too).

Today is quiet so far.   Mondays usually are these days but thinking back to my young days when Dad lit the copper before going off to work and Mum slaved away in the wash-house washing heavy twill sheets (no non-iron fabrics in those days) and lugging them in the clothes basket down to the line across the lawn to peg them out after first putting them through the big old mangle with wooden rollers (keeping a close eye on the weather) - Lincolnshire, the second largest county in England, carries on North from East Anglia and is not noted for blissful weather on Mondays - in those far off days the obligatory 'wash day'.

Saturday 24 February 2024


 It is a glorious "Spring" February day here - bit chilly with it (sharp frost this morning) but a beautiful, unblemished blue sky.   All the birds in the area are singing their beaks off and every single flower out in my garden is singing.

I couldn't resist a walk round the garden so I put on a topcoat and walked out onto the patio (in my slippers!).   All the golden crocus were out - and the snowdrops, the winter primroses in all  their bright finery and two tete-a-tete daffodil buds, sitting next to one another, are having a discussion about whether to open or not.

One clump of very large purple crocus had been decimated by the frost.   Three of the flowers were laid flat on the soil, cut down by it.   They were close to the edge and I could reach them - each had a long white 'stalk'- almost inviting me to pick them.   My farmer loved purple crocus so I brought them in and put them in a specimen vase by his photograph in the sitting room and lo and behold within five minutes the flowers had opened wide - their bushy stamens are thick with golden pollen and they look superb.  I don't expect they will last long.  That is three that my solitary bumble bee will miss if he calls again today.

On a wider front I am reading again -dibbing into here and there - a book my son bought me years ago - 'BETTER THAN FICTION ' edited by Don George.   It is 32 true travel tales from great fiction writers (Isabel Allende, Joyce Carol Oates, Jan Morris and many more).   Over breakfast this morning I read 'A visit to San Quentin' by Joyce Carol Oates.   Not jolly reading by any means but her standard of writing was so brilliant that I was there with her.  If you like travel writing give it a whirl - I'm sure you'll enjoy it.  

As I look out of the window nothing much is moving.   A couple of hedge sparrows are hopping along the top of the wall and - as usual - Mr Blackbird is showing off in the hawthorn.   Incidentally I asked about Hazel catkins and Derek kindly let me know that on the Reserve they are full out.   If you are reading this Derek, the sun is really bright on the hazels I can see from my sitting room window and here too the catkins are waving in the breeze.

Yes - Spring is winning the battle.  Enjoy your day.

*In case you are wondering B.B.B. in the title stands for "Big, Bright and Blowsy" - a good description of my three purple crocus.

Friday 23 February 2024


Chatting with Derek on e mail this morning about sleeping - how long we sleep   Thinking about things after reading his e mail, I got into another 'stream of consciousness'(see yesterday's blog about such things) which has gone on all morning more or less.

I did the Mind Games, read my e mails, cursorily read bits of the Times which were not depressing, but all the time I was thinking on and off about the transitory nature of life. .

Last night I watched 'Dynasties' on BBC 2.   It was about Macaque monkeys and their way of life.   About who was the boss of the troop (always a male of course but then they are bigger and stronger and that is what matters in the animal world).  About how you really had to fight to be the boss and when you got there it was a constant strain to keep there.   You needed eyes not only in the back of your head but on each side too.  And when a male who was bigger/stronger/more wily picked the right moment it was very easy to be toppled off your perch.

Then this morning I read how the writer moved to the country almost 'on the spur of the moment' during Covid (time to really 'think about things'  for so many who were isolated) and I thought of Robert Frosts's 'The Road not Taken' (yes I have a 'Butterfly Mind') - how when we come to a metaphorical fork in the road we have to decide which fork to take - often having to make a quick decision rather than pondering on it for days.   And how such decisions can in an instant alter the whole course of our lives.

And as Priscilla and I did our 'fineweather' circuit of my garden in chilly sunshine I stood and watched my first bumble bee of this year as he investigated every flower then moved on.   Hopefully he would find pollen,    enough work to keep him going to get back 'home' before he ran out of steam - otherwise at this time of the year it would mean the end for him.

And I thought about what a short time we are here in the giant scheme of things.   How the tiniest of decisions - pondered on for days or made in an instant - moves us on to the next stage in our lives.

Here we all differ don't we.    Some of us think hard at a fork - shall I do this or shall I do that?   Others go headlong into a new adventure - go to the Antarctic,  climb Everest, go to Glasto, move house, decide to marry (or these days 'shack up with), change careers, row the Atlantic.   the list of possibilities is endless and often we make the wrong choice.   But it all builds up to a life lived.

We are transitory beings - flitting from flower to flower, deciding where to settle and I suppose hoping for the best of outcomes.  And then  one day we are gone.   And in a couple of generations we are forgotten - that is unless we have written a book or won Wimbledon, or fashioned a beautiful garden or a fine building, or 'ruled' a country or some such.

Or to quote Macbeth we are mostly poor players who strut and fret their hour upon the stage and then are heard no more'.

I suppose the moral of all this rambling is - don't look back and regret - move on and enjoy every minute.