Thursday 30 May 2024

Eva Petulengro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 16 May 2024

The Portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 13 May 2024


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun is out.  Have a nice day. 

Saturday 11 May 2024


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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