Monday 29 January 2024


 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


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. 

Friday 5 January 2024

Reveal all....

 After yesterday's revelations about your horror of beasties in various form - from eight legs to no legs at all, from shiny to furry, from teeny to pretty big.  My goodness me, I wonder if it did any of us any good 'telling'.   I know what it did for me.   It made me glad I lived in the UK where things to scare us are, on the whole, small and fairly harmless even those with the ability to invade our houses(thinking here of cockroaches).

In the UK we always say that what happens in the US is always bigger.   It certainly applies to your revealing of what you are scared of - snakes not the little UK adder but enormous and poisonous ones!  And compare being scared of a mouse to coming face to face with a bear!!!

So I thought today - while we are revealing 'all' - let's all have another big reveal.

What are your weaknesses?   What can you just not resist?   I will start the ball rolling by revealing mine (and no Tom if you are reading this - you do not feature as one):

1.Chocolate.   Especially - Kit-Kats (last night's carer told me you can get bags of mini kit kats.  I dare not indulge -  I know I would eat a whole bag full. )  Buying two finger ones hasn't helped because I usually have two so I might just as well buy 'proper' ones in the first place.

2. Clothes.   Leather jackets come high on the list but now I no longer go out they are a bit pointless so I shall stick to the one I have, look at it longingly and wear it on the odd occasion I venture forth.

Sweaters are a close second.   There was a time in the Autumn when my carer J, who is 'in charge' of my wardrobe, threated me with a fate worse than death if I bought another sweater (she washes, irons and returns my sweaters to the wardrobe).   Then she bought me for my birthday TWO sweaters - just because she saw them and knew I would like them. Fitting them on to the wardrobe rail is an art form.

3.  Books.   My philosophy is read a review in the week-end papers - if the book sounds interesting - click on Amazon Prime and it pops through the letter box the next day.

4.  Plants.  Claire Austin's Handbook of Perennials 2023 (it sits by the computer as I write this) pops through the letter box and immediately I just have to have Geranium 'Patricia Josephine' whose Great Grandmother was selected from Claire's  Mum's garden 'years ago'.   Well for many years I lived within spitting distance of Albrighton so that is a good enough excuse isnt it?

All four survive on the one word TEMPTATION.  how far back into antiquity does the word go I wonder?Why am I so weak=willed?   Why don't I convince myself that if I had put all the money I have spent on plants over the last sixty years into a bank then I could probably have a week-end retreat in the Cotswolds? (add that spent on leather jackets, sweaters etc.etc. and it could be "For Cotswolds read the Riviera,)

So come on all of you.   Reveal your weaknesses.  There is a school of thought that suggests that writing these things down is the first step to recovery.   After all it is a new year and that is the time for resolutions.

Thursday 4 January 2024

From ghoulies and beasties

 and things that go bump in the night.....

Deborah Ross in Times 2 this morning speaks of avoiding the kitchen all one day because she saw a spider nestling in the recessed handle of her cupboard door.   Said spider turned out to be a tomato 'haulm' (well from a distance, without one's specs, I suppose there is a similarity)  Set me thinking about things that scare.

STOP PRESS INTERRUPTION     A flock of long-tailed tits has just systematically worked through my garden before swooping over the hedge to do the same next door - and a weak sun helped their search!

Is it just women?   Are men scared of silly things?   I am not speaking here of things which are worth being scared about.  e.g.  I have a dry-stone wall at  the top of my garden.   Occasionally a heifer pops its head over just to have a mosey.   If instead a cheetah got up on its hind legs to have a look round I would be locked in and dialling 999 before you could turn round.

So - trying hard not to be sexist = I am sure some men dislike such things= I would guess that  there are more women who are well ,if not scared certainly not happy to be in the vicinity of spiders, mice, creepy crawlies in general.   So come on - lay your cards on the table.   Let's have a straw poll on what if anything you just can't bear to be in the same room with  (one of my dearest friends has more than a 'thing' about wasps (he will be reading this so yes, P, you know who you are.))


Well I do remember in some foreign clime I found a praying mantis clinging to a fence.   The farmer was already on the coach so I knocked on the coach window and pointed it out to him.   He indicated that I should bring it on the coach so that he could have a closer look.   I didn't,  arguing that I didn't know how to pick it up (legs, wings or whatever were all in funny places) but in fact nothing on this earth could have persuaded me to pick it up.

Spiders? alright using the card and glass method of removal but definitley not alright if I have to raise my legs off the ground because I am causing a road hazard to its progress across the room.

Mice?  Can cope if dead in mouse trap - otherwise forget it.

Moths?  Genuine fear!!!

Butterflies?  Love them.

Rats?   Never come face to face with a wild one - but no thanks.   Years ago a male friend had a quite pretty white, brown and black patch pet rat.   It slept in his knife drawer on a yellow duster.   He was unmarried.  Need I say more?  I am sure you get the gist.

Hedgehogs?  Adore them.

So come on.   Reveal all.   Psychologists say it is better to talk about these things so treat your personal revelations as the first step on the road to recovery.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Award from Laughing Horse.

 Thank you so much those of you who recommended me for the Award - I am very touched that you think me worthy of it.   Sadly my computer skills do not spread far enough for me to be able to transfer it to my page.  I don't think anyone can do it for me but please be assured that although the Laughing Horse is not smiling/laughing at you all as your read my next post (coming shortly I promise) he is there is spirit.   A Happy New Year to you all from a very wet, miserable day in Wensleydale.