Sunday, 30 November 2008

The fifth element

Earth. air, fire and water - the four elements. The Chinese add a fifth - wood. As Roger Deakin says in his splendid book (photo above) there is little difference between the rise and fall of the tide and the rise and fall of the sap - both are influenced by the moon. Deakin sees wood as existing "in nature, in our souls, in our culture and in our lives." Trees are the largest living organisms and they are barometers of the weather and the changing seasons.

Here on the farm we are lucky enough to still have a log fire every day in Winter. In many parts of the world wood is still the main fuel. We use dead wood from our own land - trees that have died, nature's prunings - anything we can find.
We have hawthorn and holly when the trees in the hedge grow too high and catch on the electric wires. Both have a beautiful colour (holly creamy yellow and hawthorn deep orange) We are still using wood from trees which died in the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic. Occasionally nature helps us out by pruning a few branches from other species of tree around our field margins.

Earlier this year, in the great gale, an old plum tree blew down in the orchard. The plums continued to grow, ripened and are now in the freezer; the branches are sawn and make a sweet smelling fire in the evening, nearly as good as the apple wood which blew down last year.

There is a saying around here that wood warms you three times - once when you fell the tree, once when you saw the logs and once when it burns on the fire. My father-in-law who died in his late eighties ten years ago, added another one to that saying that larch warmed you an extra time when it was burning as you had to keep dashing round the room stamping out the smouldering carpet!

Everyone loves trees. As we get to December and the coming Winter Solstice, when some days get barely light and we begin to prepare for the Christmas festivities and the Christmas tree and the Yule Log feature heavily in our folk lore, I for one shall toast crumpets by our log fire and give thanks for that fifth element.

Read the book "Wildwood" "A journey through trees" by Roger Deakin (pub Penguin) - it will make you see trees in a new light, particularly when you are sitting by a blazing log fire.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Christmas Decorations!

On the road once,
on a dull November afternoon,
when the clouds hung low and heavy
and mist clung to the cobwebs,
I saw,
in a gap in a garden wall,
a leafless apple tree, its branches
ablaze with golden fruit,
glowing like lanterns
in the darkening sky.

I thought of Christmas -
the candles,
the baubles,
the festive cheer:
And I knew that Nature
in that instant
had surpassed them all.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

"By any other name................"

There are usually one or two names that remain in the teacher's memory for ever. Usually - but not always -they are the names of troublesome children. I'm sure I taught plenty of angelic Stephens during my teaching career, but one or two naughty ones mean that I get a certain sort of feeling when someone is called Stephen. Sorry about that any Stephens reading this!

I wonder to what extent what we call our own offspring influences what they become. Probably not at all, but I think it might influence how other people view them sometimes. In our village there was a family called Dickinson. They had six sons and desperately wanted a daughter, so tried one last time - and got a little girl, very much loved. But what did they call her? Lucy Ann! Do you think they realised that her initials spelt LAD?

My best friend when I was very young was a girl called Pamela Green. As she got older she became very embarrassed by her name being P. Green.

Once, on holiday, I met the sweetest, most charming and gentle lady who seemed to sail through life with a smile. Towards the end of the holiday I found our her Christian name was Venice (she had, apparently, been conceived in Venice!) Was it coincidence that her name evoked images of La Serenissima?

When I was young an elderly Great Aunt used to visit my grandmother. My brother christened her The Bede. At the time I was really into history and thought of The Venerable Bede and imagined her tall, gaunt and austere. What a surprise to meet this little round lady like Mrs Bun the Baker in Happy Families. When I asked my brother why she was called The Bede he pointed out that he meant BEAD - she was round like one!

All families must have anecdotes about people and events in the past. Three of my bits of family folklore concern LUKE, the brother of Bead. I never met him, in fact I think he died before I was born but here are our three bits of lore - they could well be apocryphal:-

My grandmother got a telegram saying "Come quickly. Luke dying." She caught the bus to his outlying village and as she walked down the street she saw him digging the garden. He had made a speedy recovery.

He once called on his bike to see my mother and she gave him a jam pasty she had just baked for his tea. He was so busy chatting that he tied it to his bike saddle rather than his carrier and promptly sat on it.

He was an agricultural labourer for the same farmer throughout his working life. He left school at 12 and always worked on the same farm. When he was 70 the farmer suggested it was time he retired and he is reputed to have said, "If I had known this job wasn't going to be permanent I would never have taken it."

I don't know whether they are true but I do know they have been passed down our family through the generations. And they have certainly influenced my first impressions of anyone I meet called Luke!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Textiles again!

I thought it was about time I put another example of my textile work on my blog. I get so carried away with my writing (and often write ten words where one would do) that I forget that when I started this blog one of my aims was to show my poetry and my textile work. Well, I've kept putting bits of my poetry here and there but it is quite a long time since I put on a piece of textile art.

So here it is. This one one of my very earliest attempts. All the material used is silk dupion, which has a lovely lustre to it. It is an attempt to show a townscape at sunset, when the sun would be reflecting back off the tall, mainly glass buildings.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hard work in the past!

To Windermere yesterday from Wensleydale. First of all to Hawes and then a sharp turn South along the road to Ingleton and the lovely green pastures of the Trough of Bowland.

The Hawes to Ingleton road goes through some very wild country almost empty of habitation apart from the odd isolated farmhouse. It is wonderfully scenic and wonderfully bleak, especially as it goes over Blea Moor. Here, suddenly, the Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Raillway comes into view. The Viaduct spans Batty Moss - a huge boggy area and has the scenic, snow-topped Whernside (one of the Three Peaks) in the back ground.

Mike harding talks about the viaduct in his book "Walking the Dales". This line was the last one to be built by hand rather than using machinery - of as Mike puts it, by "handraulics".

When it was being built this wild, empty landscape was home to three thousand people living rough. When we stopped to look at it yesterday it was bleak but then the winters were a lot worse and it is no surprise that over two hundred people died in the building of it. Many of those who died, itinerant navvies, were only identifiable by their nicknames - Wheelbarrow Jack; One-eyed Charlie and the like.

It took seven years to build and each navvy was supplied with 4 pounds of beef and 14 pints of ale a day as part of their wages. Mike quotes a lovely old navvy song he found in Manchester Central Library some years ago, called "Navvy on the Line" and I quote it here in memory of all those men who put up with appalling conditions such as we can barely imagine to build what is now seen as little more thana tourist attraction. My maternal great,great grandfather was a navvy. He appears on the census in the eighteen hundreds at various places as he moved with the railway builders. Then suddenly you can't find his name on any census anywhere.

So here's to you William Everton, wherever you ended up. Let's hope your life was bearable and that you didn't come to a terrible death in the bleak, boggy Batty Moss.

Oh I am a navvy bold
And I tramp the country round, Sir,
Seeking for a job of work
Where any can be found, sir.
I left my native home
My friends and habitation
And went to seek a job of work
Upon the navigation.

Chorus I am a navvy don't you see
I love beer in my prime
Because I am a navvy
That is working on the line.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

An early fall of snow, but enough to see............

Footprints in the Snow!

An early fall of snow takes the farm by surprise. We feel reluctant to go out in it, but when we do make the effort our walk has its rewards.

The thin covering of lying snow has become a note book of which animals frequent the farm when we are not looking. A fox has been to the hen house overnight. His long, straight tracks go to the door and then back to the window where he has got up on his hind legs to look in on the perching hens. (oh! what a tremor must have passed along the perch). The dogs' noses work overtime on his tracks and there is much barking and growling. It is easy to be brave when you are not face-to-face with a wild dog fox.

Pheasant have criss-crossed the pasture from hedge to hedge in slow, leisurely fashion, their tracks neat, measured and perfectly formed. They learn very early on in their often tragically short lives that it is safer to walk than to fly and risk running the gauntlet of the guns.

Where bits of grass stick up out of the snow rabbit tracks abound. There a buck rabbit's big feet, there the tiny tracks of the newest arrivals - all searching for something - anything - green to eat.

A hare has run diagonally across the meadow, his footprints much larger than those of his cousins and his purposeful tracks indicating that he has passed through rather than stopped to look for breakfast.

Two roe deer have jumped over the wall into the meadow and walked towards the hay rack. Then something has startled them - or they have changed their minds - and they have gone back the way they came.

A rat's track crosses the yard from the hen house to the hay barn; tiny, neat claw marks and the tell-tale long tail trailing behind. A timely reminder to the farmer to renew the rat poison under the hen house.

Then of course there are the farm cats. From the snug warmth of the hay barn their paw prints come to the kitchen door and back to the barn and out again in an "are they up yet?", "Do they realise we want our breakfast?" kind of way.

By ten o'clock the snow is gone and the sun is shining. The comings and goings of all the wild things will be a mystery again until the next snowfall.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Another farming week.

The fields on the farm are very wet. Although we are at 600 feet asl, the land is quite low lying and is cut through by the beck, so it does tend to retain the rainwater. In some places the limestone is quite near the surface and there is a lot of heavy clay. It is in the gateways that the mud builds up; even if the gates are left open for the livestock to roam at will, they still seem to congregate in the gateways. Last week a friend lost her boot in gateway mud and put her socked foot down to keep her balance and then lost the other boot. She walked back to the farm in her stockinged feet as she didn't want to ge the inside of her boots dirty too!
Wet land leads to foot problems in sheep (if there is anything "going round" sheep will catch it - some say sheep are born to die.) Over the last few weeks an increasing number of Swaledale sheep, which we are over-wintering, have begun to limp badly. They are used to rambling about on the rocky tops in Summer and they are not used to this damp land, but the tops get too bleak and snowy in winter, so they have to come down.
On Tuesday the owners came to doctor them all and we had to get them into the barn, then create a passage where they could be caught one-by-one, drenched and given a pedicure and then released back into the field. All went well and we are hoping that the majority of foot problems will soon be cured (it doesn't happen straight away as often there are abcesses which need spraying with antibiotic.)
Most of the sheep are pedigree Swaledales, bred to keep the breed alive and in the hope of producing a prize-winning ram. But there are also some Leicesters (there is one quite prominent in the photograph, along with some texel ewes. The Swaledales have the characteristic black faces and white noses.) There are also some mules (Swaledale crossed with Leicester ram). Twenty of the best mules were side-tracked into another field close to the farm house. They look very settled and happy there and are awaiting the arrival (although they do not know it!) of a Texel Ram. This should produce "fat lambs" for sale at Auction Mart next year. He will be here any day so watch this space for a photo of him in all his glory.
The last of the eatage heifers have gone now, so all the gates have been opened and the sheep are totally free to roam wherever they like on the farm. As they are used to complete freedom they will be happy with this, although no doubt some will still feel the need to get out. Earlier this week our neighbouring farmer spotted two of his sheep in with ours and with a lot of effort managed to separate and catch them. He popped them into one of our little field barns and went to fetch his dog to take them back to their own flock. In the meantime David heard sheep in the barn and opened the door, thinking they had got in by mistake. It was only as they were joyfully legging it out into the freedom of the field again that he noticed a red mark on their backs (ours are all marked blue) - so they will stay with our sheep for the forseeable future.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi does it in music - leaving us with a musical picture of each season.
Dominic Rivron (see my blog list) suggested that my window pictures were the equivalent of John Cage's "4 minutes 33 seconds" in which there is silence so that the audience can hear the sounds of the world, so I hope it is not too presumptuous of me to suggest a written account of the four seasons.
Outside most of the leaves have fallen, everywhere is damp and there is a smell of Autumn that you cannot escape from. Each season has it beauties - each its downside.
I thought you might like to read these four word pictures:

Autumn: Crisp leaves lie underfoot; ash keys spiral down; elderberry fruit glows darkly in the hedgerow; meadow grass is thick with gossamer, shining silver in the weak sunlight; the smell of bonfires filters through the senses. There is a smell of decay and dying - yet under the hedge violet leaves are beginning to emerge.

Winter: Bushes are heavy with berries - red haws, orange hips, purple-black sloes;
they shine damply in the morning light. Fieldfares - a thousand - fly in and settle on the branches. By evening the berries are gone and the bushes are bare and black.
A robin sings his shrill song from the topmost bough but the fieldfares have moved on to pastures new.

Spring: A celandine under the hedge; a marsh marigold hiding on the beck side; aconites under the tree in the garden; the first primrose in the wood; a lone daffodil by the side of the lane; pollen on the pussy-willow; hazel catkins shining like lanterns; the sun shining weakly through thin cloud - all yellow - the colour of Spring.

Summer: Hay lies drying in the bottom meadow; a plane drones overhead in the deep blue; bees work the meadow flowers - corn cockle, milkmaids, pimpernel and buttercup; a brown hare watches from the sidelines, his tipped ears alert. The haymakers gather round the blue checked cloth on the warm grass and eat their sandwiches in the warm Summer air.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Sigmund Freud once said that collecting artefacts around us fulfilled a human need.
I think we all gather memorabilia from an early age - first it is our old toys, then presents from friends, holiday souvenirs, and so it goes on until by middle age (whenever that is) we have got shelves of the stuff.
I like this "clutter" because each piece holds a memory for me. I pick it up and think of the occasion - a paperweight fromn Malta, a bull's head from Salamanca. Each piece holds its own story.
The piece of faience in the picture holds a poignant story.

The year is 1947 and two young men in their early twenties meet at Art College and become friends. One is a frail young man, Mark, with quite severe health problems; the other, Malcolm, is a returned prisoner-of-war. He had been a "Band Boy" in the East Surrey Regiment, and had been sent to Shanghai in 1938. Taken prisoner by the Japanese shortly before his seventeenth birthday, he had spent the war on the infamous Death Railway in Thailand, suffering intermittent bouts of dysentry cholera, typhoid, pelagra, leg ulcers, beri-beri cerebral malaria and all manner of other indignities. Many times he had almost died but he had survived and at the end of hostilities was airlifted to Bangalore in India where he spent six months in hospital before being repatriated, discharged from the army on health grounds and sent home.
In the summer of 1947 these two young men decided to spend several weeks cycling round the Lincolnshire Wolds with easels and canvasses, camping out and painting.
On the first day of their holiday they came to the Lincolnshire village of Hemingby, where they found a suitable field and went to the house to ask permission to camp there. And that was how they met the two Misses Atkins, middleaged spinsters who ran a small farm with hens, ducks and a house cow. They had lived in the village all their lives.
The two men never moved on. For the duration of their holiday they camped in the field, set up their easels and painted every day, sketched, drank in the pub every evening, and had their meals provided - free of charge - by these two dear ladies. They were plied with fresh eggs, home grown vegetables, milk, butter, cream, cheese - all given to them with pleasure. For three weeks they pottered about the place, making friends with the villagers, helping with small jobs on the farm and eating very well.
Five years later, when Malcolm married, a small box arrived for him. Inside, wrapped in many sheets of newspaper was this small Victorian Hair Tidy - Quimper pottery from Brittany, dated 1896. There was a note attached, which read "Have a long and happy life."
And we did, until his death in 1991. Every time I look at this pretty little hair tidy I am reminded of those two gentle village ladies, now long dead, who kick-started a very broken and damaged young man on the road to recovery with their kindness.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Words..............Just Words

He wrote I LOVE YOU in the sand
but the tide washed it away.

He fashioned I LOVE YOU from the
golden leaves of Autumn
but the wind blew his words away.

He carved I LOVE YOU on the bole
of an oak
but the woodsman sawed it away.

He looked into her eyes and said
But it was too late -
the sea and the wind and the woodsman
had done their work well
and the words vanished
in the thin air.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


The view from my study window, looking across
the fields towards the village.
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Windows as Picture Frames.

"About New York" (see my blog list) had a lovely photograph on a few weeks ago, showing a view of the road and the Autumn leaves from a window.
It struck me, looking at the picture, that the window frame made a kind of art and that the scene within the frame changed by the minute.
I love art of any kind, but particularly beautiful paintings and my walls are covered with examples; I know them all intimately as I look at them every day, examining a particular section, a favourite patch of colour, a method of adding paint to the canvas. I see bits of them in a new light each time I study them. But when I sit and look through any of my windows on to the outside world I see a similar familiar scene but it changes constantly so that it always a surprise. A different bird lands or takes off from the bird table, a sheep wanders in or out of the picture, a clear sky one minute changes to angry black clouds on a blustery, showery day, the leaves come and go on the trees, the light falls in a different way.
John Nash, the artist, did many of his woodcuts from inside the house in inclement weather. He called them his indoor work. These exquisite works either framed within the window space or sometimes with glazing bars added, show snow scenes, garden scenes, pheasants in the field. Sometimes he adds a vase of flowers on the inside window sill.
My favourite window picture is probably in my bedroom window, where I can see the sun rising this time of year when it is a bit tardy, while drinking my morning cup of tea (the farmer has been well-trained to bring me a cup of tea every morning).
I see the sun, often a ball of fire at this time of year, the clouds tinged with an incredible array of dawn colours, never the same two days running. The icing on the cake is that suddenly the window will be filled with a thousand rooks as they make their way from roost to feeding ground. But then I think of the view from my study window as I write this and I know I am spoilt for choice.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Another week!

I have been thinking a lot lately about family resemblance. When my oldest grand-daughter comes to stay she always reminds me of myself at her age and sometimes, when I look in the mirror (I try not to do this very often as it is too depressing!) I see a look of my mother or my sister. Being the "baby" of the family I am now the only one left - brother, sister and both parents are long dead. It happened again yesterday when I caught a glimpse of myself as I passed the mirror and for a moment it so reminded me of my mother. It also reminded me of an incident on a train journey a couple of years ago.

The Dark Window.

Passing through a tunnel I saw
in the dark illuminated window
my mother.

Thick, dark hair streaked with grey;
deep-set brown eyes looking straight at me;
cheek bones high and sharp.

Then she was gone!
We burst out into the light
and I travelled on

Saturday, 8 November 2008

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Castles in Wensleydale.

This area is steeped in history - we are not all that far from Border Country and there are plenty of fortified manor houses and castles which date back to the days when marauders rampaged through the countryside. I have been photographing them over the past few months, so I thought I would put one on to my blog now and again.
The first one is Pendragon Castle.
This castle goes back into antiquity. In legend it was thought to be the home of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur. How old it is nobody really knows but it does stand on the side of a prehistoric route through the Dales, later to become a Roman marching route and later still Lady Anne Clifford Highway.
Lady Ann Clifford was born in 1590. In those days estates passed only down through the male line and as she had no brothers, her father's estates passed to her uncles.
When they died, with two unhappy marriages behind her, at the age of fifty two she set about claiming these estates back and once they were in her care she began to restore them to their former glory. By the mid sixteen hundreds she was living part of the year at Skipton Castle and part at Pendragon.
There is a small hamlet nearby called Outhgill (a Norse word meaning "Desolate Ravine") but apart from that the moorland is empty and very bleak in Winter. The castle stands on a slight rise overlooking Mallerstang Edge at the top of Wensleydale.
Nearby lies the source of two rivers - one, the Ure, flows into the North Sea and the other, the Eden, into the Irish Sea, so the castle stands on what would have been an important vantage point.
Now, as you can see from the photograph, it is a picturesque ruin populated by nothing more than a few sheep seeking shelter.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

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The first five dry cows come in for the winter.

Farming this week.

It is almost time for the ewes to be put to the ram for April lambing. The Swaledale ewes roam on the tops between Wensleydale and Swaledale and become hefted (they know their own territory and stick to it, and pass this knowledge on to their offspring). So the rams are being brought up to tip top condition ready for the fray! We will eventually over-winter these breeding ewes (maybe next year), so we went over to have a look at the rams. They are magnificent creatures with fantastic horns. Sometimes these horns press so near to their faces that they have to be cut away. A dozen or so of them were indoors getting special rations and having chiropody (their feet need to be in pristine condition). Some of them were penned individually like the one in the photograph and most had carpet draped over the hurdles separating them, to stop them fighting through the bars! Some of the rams have cost thousands of pounds so they need to do the job properly.

At home the first of the dry cows have come into winter housing. We no longer have dairy cows ourselves but our neighbouring farmer and friend has a large herd of Holstein cows and we help with the overwintering. The dairy herd is already indoors and for the dry cows to stay out the ground has to be pretty dry, otherwise they have such foot problems. This year has been so very wet.
The rainfall figures for the last four months make soggy reading:-
July 123mm (5 inches); August 95mm (4 inches); September 166 mm (over 6 inches); October 84mm (over 3 inches) - so you can imagine, our fields are absolutely sodden, and the grass is pretty devoid of nutrients.
So the first five dry cows came in on Monday. They came into their winter home, looked around, chose a space and lay down - all within five minutes. Now they are in residence. Soon some in-calf heifers will join them (all five of the cows are in-calf). When they arrive there will be a bit of a fuss and a bit of jostling for superiority, but they'll soon settle.
I love it when the loose housing is full for winter. We keep our car in a garage right next to this and every time I go to get the car out they come to see what is happening - cows are such curious creatures.
When we had dairy cows they were Friesians - but these are Holsteins. They are what I would call raw boned - much more bony than Friesians, although when I said to their owner that they were bony he was quite hurt. Like all farmers he loves his cows and considers them part of his family.
Today the farmer and I have been to get our flu jabs and have our blood pressure taken - all on a conveyor-belt action; we were in and out of the surgery in ten minutes.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


In your black tie and tails,
you strut
round the garden,
clearing up the crumbs,
eyes alert – watching
like a maitre d'.

Unafraid of humans,
you court their company,
envying their bright playthings,
catching their attention.
“What a smart bird!”

But Beware!
Come Spring, with its
eggs and nestlings;
then you show your
True Colours.

Monday, 3 November 2008

It's that time of year!

It has started again - the sound of guns fills the air - pheasants are creeping through the hedge into the garden for refuge.
The pheasant is hardly a wild bird round here, where thousands are bred each year for the corporate shooters. Driving down our lane between June and October, when the young poults have been let out of their housing and introduced to the big, wide world, is like driving through some bizarre obstacle course fromn "Alice in Wonderland."
The young birds crowd into the lane, pecking at their new-found source of grit. Along comes a car (a fairly rare occurrence on our lane). "Could this be the Gamekeeper with corn?" they think and rush towards it. Rash, hardened drivers keep going, hoping they'll get out of the way. (is being killed by a car any worse than being shot by a gun?); others blow the horn, slow down, stop, get out and shoo them on to the grass verge, get back in the car only to find the birds are all crowding round them again. Or, worse still, they appear to be going purposefully in one direction, then just as you move off they change their mind and rush resolutely across your path.
Last year at about this time a cock pheasant adopted us on the farm. We called him "Fez" (not very original) and after a few days he would come when we called him and eat the corn at our feet. One night he ventured into the hen house and found himself shut in for the night. Next morning he was frantic to escape and we never saw him again.
One year the farmer ran over a pheasant's nest while haymaking and came into the kitchen carrying a clutch of pheasant eggs in his cap - he had killed the mother. We slipped them under a broody bantam and reared six healthy chicks. They thrived, lovingly cared for by the bemused bantam who couldn't understand why they preferred to hide in the brushwood we put in the run, rather than under her skirt.
When they outgrew the pen we made a run in the meadow for them, only shutting it up at night to be safe from foxes. Gradually they moved away, became more wild and disappeared. We were surprised to see all six, later in the year, snug in the corner of the greenhouse one frosty night.
I don't cook or eat pheasant. Seeing them about all the time and sometimes forming a relationship with one - holding that bright eye in my gaze for a split second - has crossed them off my menue. It would be like eating a friend.
Now, when we drive down the lane , after only a few days of pheasant shoots, there is not a bird to be seen on the road. If you meet one in the fields you see that it has very quickly learned the golden rule for staying alive - when startled don't take off and fly away, run along the ground to the hedgebottom - that way the guns can't fire at you and you'll live to fight another day.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Memories of Venice.

The last time I went to Venice was in 1984, I hope to go back one day but in the meantime I have these two memories of that holiday. They were both painted, in oils, by my husband, Malcolm Rivron, who died in 1991 and they hang on the wall in my sitting room. Every time I look at them I am transported back to that week in late October, when the streets were almost empty of tourists, the weather was perfect and the sunsets were deepest pink. On the vaporetto going down the Grand Canal, we came across this hanging garden with its wooden walk way precariously balanced over the water.

During the week we went to La Fenice to see the Shanghai Opera Company - a most exciting event where we queued all afternoon for tickets to sit in the tiny stalls . All the locals sat in their very grand boxes around the walls. It was a wonderful evening - in retrospect even more wonderful as La Fenice was burned to the ground within a few years.