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

Spring

'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!

 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

Miscellaneous!

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

WORDS!

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.......

......is 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

Love

 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

B.B.B.*

 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

Transitoriness

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.

 

Thursday 22 February 2024

Stream of consciousness

 Good morning on a dull, wet and typical February day - and commiserations to anyone down the Eastern side of the country as we are under dull, dour February skies.   But Spring is beginning to shout out all over  knowing it will win in the end, so let's square our shoulders and get on with the day.

When the 'solitudes' begin to close in - as they inevitably do  when one is on 'end of life' care - suddenly memory becomes incredibly important.  I usually wake around 5am - as I go to bed around 9pm (apart from the odd evening when there is something tempting on television) and I rather look forward to that hour when I can lie warm and relaxed and let my mind wander wherever it chooses to go.

This morning I woke up playing music.   For almost twenty years my first husband,Malcolm,  and I played with a group of musicians regularly each week and managed to get quite a lot of pieces up to performance standard.  We also played with another husband a wife friends and really enjoyed just playing rather than 'working' to improve our performance.   And this morning I woke to Bach's Brandenburg 4 playing in my head.   And I thought of F and K - we loved having a go at this in the privacy of their music room where nobody was listening or criticising. 

Now long retired and in their eighties F, who was a highly intelligent man in a top job in a hospital - a rambler, a musician, a committed Christian, friend and helper to many - a really lovely man, has dementia and can no longer remember the music he used to play - or the friends he used to play with.

And I thought of our playing, of our walks together in the Clee Hills of Shropshire, and on the Long Mynd and of visits to Scotland to stay in a cottage in Kincraig and our wanders in the surrounding countryside (nothing too strenuous).

All these ordinary, everyday things which we did - and took forgranted in a way.   Now I can no longer walk unaided I can do them in my memory as I lay snug and warm in the early morning (and I never make mistakes when I am reliving them - no wrong notes, no groaning when I lag behind on a too long walk, no stumbling on stony ground.)  How kind our selective memory is at this time of life.

F can do none of this and I grieve for him and his solitude - so different from mine.   And for K who looks after him with a mixture of love (they have been married a very long time) and sadness.   As she says in her letter 'he can no longer remember the Brandenburg 4'.

Tomorrow I shall have my float down memory lane - a personal journey, many of those with me are no longer around.  Those who are will have a totally different memory of the same events.   The memory is so selective (and sometimes so inaccurate).   But my   ' stream of consciousness' spurs me on to get up when the clock shows 6 and then I can potter around with my wheeled trolley getting my breakfast and my morning cuppa.

Have a good day - oh and if you live in the UK and have to go out  - take your brolly.

Monday 19 February 2024

Perky today!

Feeling my old self today - long may the feeling last.

I am in no doubt that my garden keeps me cheerful.  I suppose non-gardeners might not feel the same, but having been a gardener since I was a child I just can't imagine life without growing plants just outside my window.

A friend called on Friday to show me some of her exquisite handwork - neat and precise (two strengths I never really achieved with my handwork apart from beading, a craft I enjoyed until trying to get the beading needle and thread through the tiny hole in the bead (having already spent a long time actually threading the needle) became impossible)).  If you are reading this G then I hope you realise just how much I admire your craft work.  And in case you think you are too precise you then let yourself go entirely with your highly colourful, hand-dyed material using wax-resist so that the colour and pattern burst out and dazzle.  I do wish you had a blog so that we could all enjoy that colour.

As one's end of life becomes visible even if on a fairly distant horizon (and yes I do realise I might fall on the garage floor on my way to the freezer at lunch time today) it concentrates the mind beautifully.   So many things one worried about suddenly become unimportant and tiny things which were hidden in secret corners of one's mind pop out and loom large.

Marvel at the way the blackbirds suddenly seem to know St Valentine has woken up  their 'flirting songs'.   As I write this a male blackbird is singing his beak off in the hawthorn in next door's garden.  I have no idea whether Mrs B is impressed because I am sure she has heard it all before.  But I do know that come hell or highwater it won't be long before the pair of them will be wearing themselves out flying back and forth to my hedge with beakfuls of twiggy bits - I just hope they build far enough down in the hedge so that they are safe from bigger beaks.

It's hot choc time (11.30) and an added Kit Kat but before I go I wonder if anyone out there can help me.   Some time ago I read a verse on line somewhere which I thought was very beautiful.   Now that it so appropriate for me I would like to find it again - but it seems to have disappeared.   I write it here.   Does anyone know where it comes from please?

At this time I would ask three things

as the Solitudes round me close.

Spare me the sensitive nerve that sings,

the storm cock*

and the rose.

*the storm cock is the Mistle Thrush

Enjoy your day if it is warm (16 degreesC) and very sunny - unseasonable but welcome.  As the doom-mongers will say - it won't last!

PS.    If you have access to The Times do please read Melissa Harrison's Nature Notes on   Page 23. The uncompromising first sentence "Badger droppings are fascinating" might be a bit off-putting but the paragraph is well-worth the read.

 

Friday 9 February 2024

Typical!

 Yes typical indeed.   Just when we begin to marvel at the absolutely glorious sunrises (they were exquisite last week - especially when flocks of rooks chose to fly right across the deepest red part), just when folk began to say,"at last the dawn is coming that bit earlier and did you notice it was still light at half past five last night?" February chooses to remind us that Winter is not yet past.   It obeys the Weather Forecasters on the TV - they said the snow would begin here in the foothills of the Pennines at around 8am yesterday - they were two minutes out.   8.02am light snow began to fall.  By tea time the darkness had set in and it was turning to sleet.  But February had the last laugh - the temperature went down a tad (minus 0.5 degrees C according to my carer's phone), what had been sleet turned to 1p sized snow flakes and when I went to bed there was about four or five inches of the stuff (sorry in an emergency metrics go out of the window quicker than a gnat's fart as a dear member of staff in my teaching days used to say - a male member I hasten to add as it is certainly not ladylike language).

My milkman delivers my Friday milk at 5am.  He walks across my front lawn and I haven't the heart to tell him to use the drive at that time in the morning.   When I unlocked the front door and looked out at about a quarter to seven his footprints were melting nicely.   And now - at 1.48pm according to this dear laptop - the cars have swished the slush off the road and into the gutters and there is green grass where his feet trod.

Apparently there were photographs abounding on Facebook of abandoned cars  littered across the roads through Wensleydale (we are a mile or so outside the National Park and just in the 'foothills' of the Pennines so not so bad here).

Neither of my morning carers for today could get here on time.   W had to go right into the Pennines for an hour before 7am (and managed it as much of the worst of it had melted overnight) and J couldn't get the car out of the garage.

So a rather different (and rather nice ) morning.   I always get my own breakfast (porridge this morning  - Flahavan's Organic Jumbo Oats) with the obligatory prunes, banana, grapes and orange juice. Two cups of tea.   Times spot on cue at 8am, Mind Games until 9.30 and then half an hour of TV News on 231.  A message from both carers.  W to say she would call in on passing = she lives nearby  = to bring in the milk and see if I was OK (I was) and one from J to say she would be round shortly. So here I am - showered, dressed, sprayed with Elizabeth Arden Toilet Water, de-whiskered (a secret from the Boudoir - everything might slow down when one is on 'End of Life Care' but whiskers just have not got the message yet).

My Son is bringing my Grandson, over from Shanghai, later - that means a nice chat and I am so looking forward to it.

Hope you are all coping with the weather here in the UK - it is set to get better over the next few days.

Thursday 8 February 2024

Busy

'Busy'.   A pretty meaningless word I think.   It means something different to each one of us.

There was a time - in what seems to be the far distant past - when I was busy. Our bedsit (wash basin, kitchen cabinet, table with two dining chairs, two single beds, small wardrobe  and small settee) - our very happy home for five years of our married life-and a full time office job kept me really busy and fully occupied - Saturday morning was bedsit cleaning morning.  Then it was off on the tandem if the weather was fine.

The arrival of a baby and when he was fourteen days old moving into our cottage in the Lincolnshire countryside - baby, new home, front and back gardens  to work on from scratch (it was the old school which we had had converted so the surroundings were what had been playgrounds).  I used to think I had never before known the real meaning of busy.

Teaching in a large comprehensive  - first as Head of a unit for ESL, then as a Head of a large department and finally as Senior Mistress -made me interpret the word again.

Now - 91 - on end of life care - cancer known to be at least in colon, liver, lungs and now bones - it has a different meaning altogether.   

One tiny quarter of a hour activity means busy.   The rest of the time I sit in my comfy chair (on a cushion aimed at avoiding sores on my bottom from sitting too long), do the mind games, make a pot of coffee, open the curtains all round the bungalow, sit down again, read the Times, get up from my chair, put my dinner in the micro wave, sit and eat it.  Gosh I have been busy all morning.

Monday my Grand daughter, her husband and my two Great Grandchildren (7 and 2) called in on their way back home to Glasgow.  They stayed for a couple of hours.   It was so lovely to see them all.  Gosh - what a busy time I had - chatting, laughing with them, generally catching up.

Tuesday my friend E came for sherry.  Carer J provided us with a lovely scone each - and E poured the Croft Original - nice large ones!  What did I do?  Well I put the daffodils E brought me in a pretty jug, put it on my trolley along with the sherries, the scones I had buttered and two paper napkins and pushed it through to my chair.   Two and a half hours of chat, laughter and reminiscence followed - lovely busy morning.   Friend W called after lunch for an hour and then nearer tea time friend S called with the cash she had got for me.  I slept well after such a busy day.

Yesterday?  My cleaner D, who comes once a month to clean through the whole bungalow, came.  Simultaneously my Doctor came for our half an hour monthly chat.   What a brilliant Palliative Care programme we have.   District Nurse, Palliative Care Nurses and the Doctor call each month to check on me.  Doctor T told me that the whole team then meet once a month for the afternoon during which they discuss each 'end of life care' patient under their care idividually.  Carer W came to help me get ready for bed (and brought me a bag of oranges picked the previous day from the orange tree in their garden in Spain!!) - I ate one as soon as she left.  Watched a programme on Chimpanzees and how the 'top' male has to constantly plot and fight (and get 'allies' on his side by grooming them), drank my Ispaghula Husk drink and went to  bed musing on them being one of our closest relatives and thinking we haven't evolved all that  much.  Phew - what a busy day - slept like a log (apart from numerous 'toilet' calls best glossed over).  Phew and double phew - what a busy day.

Today?   Nothing planned.   Light covering of snow - that fine stuff you can hardly see falling but which covers all surfaces like a coat of paint.  Off now to make a cup of hot chocolate, get a two-finger kit-kat (or maybe a couple of chocolate digestives (decisions, decisions), sit down and do the mind games.   Am exhausted at the thought of it all - but at least the house is all clean and shiny and smells of polish.

Looking forward to seeing my Grandson - all the way from Shanghai (must remember to greet him with Ni Hao - the only Chinese word I know).

Sunday 4 February 2024

Hello again

 Hi everyone!   Still alive and kicking - more lively some days than others.   Sunday is a good day for me in that I have my dear friends S and T each week for a couple of hours.   Today, as often, I have several jobs lined up for T - a letter to post in the box opposite (I can no longer go that far) and a message for the milkman in the morning in our secret place.   He comes at 5am so there is no catching him unless I happen to be having a sleepless night.  At present I am sleeping like a baby so no making cups of tea at dead of night.

Friend E is coming for sherry in the morning at 10.30  so I look forward to that - we always find plenty to chat about (as ladies who sherry always do).

S and T went a while ago but I dropped off to sleep - perhaps as well as I intend to stay up until ten tonight to watch Simon Reeve's "Wilderness".   It is a wonderful hour if you like travel programmes.   The first episode was in the Second largest rainforest in the world (the first being the Amazon) in The Congo.   Last week he was in the wilds of Patagonia with the Pumas who were magnificent animals - not by any means tame but certainly not afraid of humans.

Speaking of animals - in case you don't live in the UK you may not have heard of our escaped monkey!   He escaped from his 'home' in a wildlife park somewhere in Scotland - somewhere near Kingussie I think - and has been 'on the run' for about a week - spotted now and again in various villages around the area.   He became adept at dismantling bird feeders to get at the peanuts and villagers were I believe asked to take them in.   But most of all I love the way he was finally caught: LURED BY A YORKSHIRE PUDDING put out for the birds.

In these days when all the news is so dreadful - both at home and abroad - wars, stabbings, attacks with a corrosive substance, terrible, terrible days, isn't it good to have just a little bit of light relief?

How are your gardens doing, those of you who live in the Northern Hemisphere.   (Pam feel free to tell us of your Australian garden.  We are  within spitting distance of Spring now so it will give us something to look forward to).  I have golden crocus, a few purple ones (they never seem to do as well as the 'ordinary' golden ones), snowdrops, Helleborus Niger - four plants all in full flower with snow white flowers and a host of different coloured Winter primroses - red, orange, yellow, cream and purple.   The one or two really sunny days have brought them out.   Today is dull, windy and chilly with that thin, drizzly rain than soon gets you wet through.

I am just going round drawing blinds and curtains and washing up ready for my carer coming at 6pm to help me get ready for bed. I have one night each week when a carer doesn't come but I think shortly I shall have to have her as it is becoming harder by the day.   Last Friday I accidentally pressed my lifeline button while getting ready for bed.   My answer  button machine is in the sitting room so I didn't hear her asking if I was alright.  Alarm bells must have started ringing as she telephoned me on my mobile (I always sleep with it on my bedside table) to make sure.  Lifeline is a really excellent service.   Do any of you have it?

Hopefully back tomorrow.   See you then.

Saturday 3 February 2024

A Short Post.

John (Going Gently) has given me a 'kick up the knickers' to say I have to keep going.   Thank you John.   I absolutely must not give up.   One of my daily drugs became unavailable, another was tried and was not helping at all - at last an alternative seems as though it might be going to 'work' (only started on it yesterday) so hopefully I will be back.   In the meantime just a short quote from  today's Times which will make us all - whoever's side we are on (I am on neither or both whichever way you choose to look at it - believing I know nothing about the real situation so I am better not taking sides):

It is 55 years ago today when - in 1969- Yasser Arafat was appointed chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.   What more can anyone say?  But we should all be aware of the fact and ponder on it.


 

 

Monday 29 January 2024

Janus

 Yes he has a lot to answer for this year hasn't he?  Two-faced as he is he has sent storms,  floods, a volcanic eruption in Iceland; then he has taunted us this week with the warmest day ever recorded:19.6C in a most beautiful little village in Wester Ross in Scotland (hotter than Rome or Cote d'Azur!).   As the two-faced one disappears for another year he has one last taunt - for us here in the Yorkshire Dales - a dark, dismal, pouring-wet day.  It is 11.20am here - I have completed The Times Mind Games (well, the ones I do every weekday), read my e mails and answered the one or two that needed an answer, cleared out my Spam and Trash files and I am sitting at my Laptop and he is still beating on my window.   Yesterday for the first time in weeks my patio was completely dry.

My garden is steep and is landscaped with  a couple of retaining walls to hold back the rockery.  Where the bottom wall meets the patio there is a row of       small drain holes all the way along to allow the water to drain out - and drain out it does.   Until yesterday.  Suddenly all the surplus water  had drained away.  Back to January 'normal' now as Janus empties gallons of the stuff out of great black storm clouds.   I, like most people in this country at least, will be glad to wave goodbye to Janus - the two faced one - the day after tomorrow.  And then folk will speculate on what February will bring (I don't think he is named after a god).   One thing is certain - the old adage 'January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow' does hold any longer does it?

I don't want to go on about 'the good old days' but I do know that when I was a child the sledge was always at the front of the shed, given a cursory wash and brush up and ready to go.   I would hazard a guess that there are very few sheds on this estate that even hold a sledge.

So, brace yourselves for February in the sure and certain knowledge that anything might happen where the weather is concerned - hottest/coldest recorded day - one year during the six years I have lived here - we had snow and it lasted a fortnight on the ground; another year we had absolutely no rain at all in what used to be called 'February fill-dyke' in Lincolnshire when I was a child.

I wonder what would happen if we did away with months and consigned their names to the history books; decided to just have one big year with no such things as seasons (they no long hold good do they?).  That would mean we are on day 29 this year.

By my calculations (maths of any kind not my strong point) that would make the new tax year begin on day 97 and my 92nd birthday (if I am still here) will   be on Day 305.   Fancy the idea?

Just a thought but I bet it would smarten up our arithmetic by the end of the year.

Have a good day/

Thursday 25 January 2024

Nature or Nurture

 The eternal argument which is never settled.   I remember discussing it during Teacher Training over fifty years ago.   My son and I fell into discussion about it only last evening.

My son reminds me so much of my first husband - my son's father.    With both parents practising musicians it was inevitable that he would grow up playing an instrument and I suspect he didn't so much choose the Double Bass as drop into a gap in the school orchestra (he went to a Cathedral School near to where we lived) and have a wonderfully sympathetic and inspiring teacher who everyone called 'Uncle Bertie'.

I was always a reader/writer and have a love of literature - especially poetry and books about Natural History.   My son writes very well and writing now that he has retired has taken over every spare moment when he is not being a Carer for his wife. I have to say his poetry and his writing in general has long surpassed mine - his use of language is now often 'out of my league'.

But my goodness me his character, his decisiveness, his 'no nonsense' approach to life, his enthusiasm for filling his life with things to do (ham radio, astronomy, keeping in touch with old friends) is his father through and through.

Me?  I have my mother's insistence in almost excessive tidiness.   When my main morning carer, J, who is the same, goes I get the first exercise of the day as I walk round checking that everything is in its place.   I can't relax even if a cushion on the settee is out of alignment!!

But from my father I have a love of the countryside, of nature in general and a love of poetry.   And from them both I get a complete and utter love of the hare.  My dad loved the hare for its fearlessness, its speed and its sheer beauty.  I hardly dare tell you that my mother loved it for an entirely different reason!  Jugged hare was her very favourite meal.  She loved preparing it,  she loved cooking it slowly in the fire oven (coming home from school I could smell it cooking as I turned down the drive at the side of the house. ) I hated it and always had something like a jacket potato instead.  My parents would savour it and tell me that it was healthy to eat food which came from the open countryside.   Much better than what my mother scathingly called 'shop bought'.

I love the hare still - I have books on the hare, a bronze hare cleaning its paws sits on my hearth, another smaller one leaps across the top of my bookshelves.  They remind me of my childhood in the open fenland countryside of Lincolnshire where hares were plentiful.  Years ago I wrote a poem on the hare - I leave you with it:

The Hare.

Dew flirt,

Mysterious, wild thing of the ploughed earth-

birthing in the furrow and

living for the free, open ground.

Tales of mystery and magic surround you.

How little we really know you - the wild one.

'Familiar' of the goddess Freya as the black cat

to the witch.

You stand tall, tipped ears erect,

 meet my eye with your fearless gaze.

Then you are gone, leaping and flying

through the air in one gigantic burst of speed.

Sleep with your eyes open if you will.

Dance to the rhythms of time

as you have always done.

Shun taming.

Stay free.  But

give me that occasional glance

to gladden my heart.

 




Wednesday 17 January 2024

O Fickle sun - and other complaints.

 It snowed - rather half-heartedly- here on and off all day.   Miserable little-flake stuff.   Then about 3pm it stopped and a ball of pale yellow appeared surrounded and slighty shaded by snow or snow clouds.. After this brief glance by golly it snowed - enormous great 'I really mean it' stuff.   After about ten minutes it gave up just as it was getting dark.   My evening carer chose to leave her husband's BMW on my drive (her car was at the garage) which then meant an urgent text this morning to my morning carer not to swing round my hedge into my drive otherwise she would cause a crash and last evening's carer would be up the creek without a paddle as they say.

Main roads clear, side roads skating rinks.   Sun up bright and early, clear deep blue sky, brilliant sunshine, even colder tonight forecast.

So to today's thoughts.   Do you have a list of Pet hates (not talking animals here necessarily - using 'pet' as an adjective)?

As I have got to 'elderly' with little to do except  wander about the house with my walker, watch the passers by, chat on the phone, greet callers and eat the lovely lunches J my main carer provides for me (Scotch Egg with jacket potato and salad today), I find that pet hates tend to fester and become more uppermost in my mind than they merit.   So in an effort to rid my mind of the festering heap here are a few:

Dog walkers who allow their dogs to poo on the piece of land opposite and because it is just a 'spare bit of land' don't clean it up if nobody is looking.  I tend to sit up straight if I see it might be going to occur and regulars seem to look at me before turning and getting a poo bag out.  Sometimes I am tempted to knock on the window but I fear getting a reputation of an -'old fussy hag' or worse.

Litter louts.  I am lucky to live in an area where it doesn't happen much except on nights like Bonfire Night, Boxing Night, New Year's  Eve, when cans, the odd bottle (a broken on on the bottom of my drive last New Year) and worst of all left over take-aways (will not mention s***) which my carer hates and I suspect on the odd occasion it appears is the result of youth/too much alcohol.  But alleyways in our little town are apparently reservoirs of cans, bottles, even the odd old mattress.   We have a jolly good collection service for domestic rubbish.   Would a few yards further to a litter bin/ the tip/ be too much to ask?

And last, but by no means least and apologies for mentioning it (ladies of a nervous disposition look away now) men who feel the need to sit with their legs wide apart.  I watch 'Mastermind' - love it - it always reminds me of just how little general knowledge I have.   Some of the male contestants adopt this pose (a la Boris) and I find it objectionable.   If their trousers are too tight and that is the only way they find comfortable to sit then buy bigger trousers.  As a child/young woman my mother would correct me if I sat in what she called 'an unladylike manner' and that was in the days when girls/ladies never wore trousers.  I hope these men are just adopting  what is their normal way of sitting rather than making a statement, but wouldn't it be good if they realised that there are more 'gentlemanly' positions to adopt?

There has been a pause while B, my District Nurse attempted - and eventually succeeded -  to draw blood from the back of my hand.

Off to microwave my jacket spud now (not as tasty as doing it in the oven but too late now).   Enjoy the sun - and I promise you it is creeping up a tiny bit every day - Spring is on its way.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Dulce Domum.

 These days my brain does not seem to be fuctioning enough to read anything of any depth.  I read The Times, do the Mind Games, put on a post when I can think of something to post about and then if I don't watch out subside into a semi-stupor in this weather.  Today, determined not to do that, I c arefully ordered my Red File (if you haven't got one (or a yellow envelope which pre dates red files) it is probably because you are not yet on the endangered list (makes me sound like a rare mountain lion or something doesn't it).  It is to be displayed in a prominent place in the hallway (on Welsh Dresser in my case) the DNR form (do not resuscitate) clearly showing for any visiting Ambulance man to snatch up in passing.

However, fighting fit today - just lacking the will to do anything other than sprawl - I picked up one of my 'go to' books when my brain is in neutral.  Kenneth Graham's 'Wind in the Willows' (with Ernest Shepard's illustrations) and turned to read one of my favourite chapters: Dulce Domum.  Perfect for today.  (Now really raining)

After a jolly day out together in mid winter Mole and Ratty have said goodbye to Otter and are off home to the fireside.   They pass through a village as darkness falls and look in the windows where families are sitting round their log fires - Dads are knocking their pipes out on logs, children are playing games, the family is sitting round a table having tea, a cat is being stroked.

They carry on, out in the countryside again and suddenly Mole catches a faint whiff of his old home and despite his happy new life with Ratty, Badger, Toad et al, he is desperately homesick.   He tries and tries to not weep but can't help it.

To cut a long chapter short Ratty insists on taking him there.  They go in, Mole dusts the furniture while Ratty lights a log fire. Before they can eat the meagre store cupboard food the field mice arrive carol singing, are invited in and because this is 1908 in "Willows Land" all the shops are still open a mouse is despatched by Ratty (with money and don't spoil it by asking where he keeps it) for all kinds of goodies.   They eat a hearty meal, the mice depart and Ratty and Mole hop into the two  bunks, pull up the blankets and are asleep.

For a while I bask in the delightful scene that has been painted.   Then I think of Gaza and the children and the image disappears.   And to add insult to injury it has begun to snow again bigger, faster and heavier flakes.

Monday 15 January 2024

Cold??

I have just read Red's post.   Where he lives he has stepped out to take sunny photographs in a temperature of minus 42C.   If I could remember a) where my camera is and b)how to transfer camera to blog and if I could stop the pins and needles in my hands then I could step out and take sunny photographs here too in a temperature of plus 3C - when my carer came in at 7am this morning it was - to quote her bl***y cold.

But I shall look on the bright side because - let's face it- a cold day with a beautiful apricot dawn (how fantastic the rooks looked as they chose the strip of deep apricot to fly over on their way to feeding grounds) and a temperature of plus 3C is far better than our usual cold, damp, foggy morning when the sun chooses to stay in bed all day.

What can I see as I sit here multi-layered (even in an 'old lady' shawl) next to a radiator at 10.18am?  Well there are primroses out - pale yellow ones and a couple of red ones.   I think I can see a clump of snowdrops right at the top of the garden but that might be wishful thinking.  But my Viburnum is covered in pink blossom and I have plenty of Helleborus Niger (Christmas Rose) in bloom.   And plenty of Spring bulbs are  oh well on the way with inch long green shoots poking through.  Oh and a blackbird is singing atop the hawthorn tree next door and 'my' resident wren is quietly working its way along the dry stone wall at the top.

What people miss when they are not interested in Nature.   Sometimes my son and I have  competition to see who can get the most answers correct on 'University Challenge'.   He always wins.  I think my usual average is about five - the odd poetry, the odd music, the odd geography in the old sense(ie when I was at school Geography meant Atlas)but mostly birds, wild flowers.   Usually the University Students are pathetic - rarely able to name a blackbird or a starling.   (I suspect, like the young people I see from my window they are too busy scrolling rather than strolling).   I expect they would say the same about me not being able to answer anything on Quantum Physics (what is it?)

Which brings me to a puzzle.   For weeks there has been a bird hanging around looking rather sorry for himself.  He is Jackdaw size, he walks rather than hops, he traverses my lawn poking his beak into the grass and getting grubs.  Jackdaws are black.   He is part black and part dark brown.  No specific parts - just here and there.   He stretches his wings a lot as he stands there and at first I though perhaps he had injured a wing and couldn't fly.   Then he suddenly flew off (rather awkwardly) and the next time I saw him he was in the hawthorne tree next door.  When he is on my front lawn folk often stand and look at him - presumably trying to identify him.  We do very  occasionally get a blackbird with a white wing feather (haven't seen him lately).   Are some birds perhaps of questionable sex like we humans? Often the mostly drab females of birds have indiscriminate feathers (eg Mrs Blackbird who is more or less brown).

Almost 11am now so off to make a hot choc and get a two-finger kit kat from the tin as I pass it (as I am on my 'last legs' might even get 2 - after all that is only an ordinary kit kat size isn't it.)

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Big fleas etc

Oh dear - Covid seems to be back with a vengeance round here at present.   But somehow, after lockdowns everyone seems to take it less seriously.  A close relative of mine who has very many health issues has to keep clear of Covid as it is likely to prove very serious should she catch it.   Both she and her husband wear a mask if they go out.   These days folk look askance at masks in this country but I have been to several far east countries where certainly in large cities and crowded places in general most folk wear masks.  But on the whole I would guess that most folk just carry on and many who do get Covid do shake it off in a few days.

I read in the Times today how studies in Brazil seem to suggest that Vegetarians and Vegans come off better where Covid is concerned.   Will this prompt thousands to become Vegetarian?Vegan?  

But it did make me think about how we look at diseases.   When I was born in 1932 Pneumonia was a real killer, especially of babies and young children.   I was the youngest of 5 children and out of us 5 two - Irene and Colin - died of pneumonia in infancy.   We other three all had it but survived.  We were born well apart (my sister was 22 years older than me).

When I was growing up in a small Lincolnshire village the scourge was TB.  Most families in our small village lost at least one member to TB and everyone was scared of getting it.   My mother fed me up - had there been the variety of foods there are today I would probably have had a weight problem but being Second World War time and there being no way to get about except by bus or bike (and the latter was cheaper once the bike was bought ) plenty of leg-power was needed to get from A to B .   That - and walking everywhere kept us all pretty fit.  Or so we thought.   But still the TB deaths carried on.   Or did until I think (this is only a guess, so please feel free to correct me) antibiotics arrived on the scene.

When I had my medical examination before going into teaching the doctor asked me when I had TB.  I said I had never had it but he said X Ray showed up plenty of 'TB Scars'.

I do remember the  advent of M and B tablets in 1938 (rather unimaginatively called after the producers May and Baker) and of course they were closely followed by Penicillin which I rather think was used to good effect during World War 2 to treat Winston Churchill's pneumonia.

Now antibiotics are bandied about like Smarties and many folk are saturated I understand. Folk seem to ring Medical Centres and ask if they can have an antibiotic as they have a throat infection and can't get an appointment to see their doctor for another three weeks.

And so back to Covid.   Will the small study in Brazil mean a giant rush to Vegetarian?   I doubt it.We have learned to take it in our stride - until the next nasty microbe makes an appearance.    Until a 21st century version of Spanish flu wipes out more people than died in whichever war precedes it.

Not a pleasant prospect from where I sit at my computer.  I try to watch the News as rarely as possible but sometimes I feel compelled to switch it on.  Some days it is as though Ukraine and Gaza and the dreadful killing and maiming, the hatred and the barbarianism don't exist any more.    Either they come last as an add-on or they are not mentioned.   Like Covid, like pneumonia, like TB - out of sight out of mind.

Everyone just keeps ploughing on.   Is there an alternative?   Can't think of one.