Saturday, 31 December 2011

A New Year.......

......a new beginning. Well that is how it always seems anyway. Already the sun is beginning to creep back up and though there is little warmth in it, at least it has been shining today.

What do I want for 2012? Well World Peace would be wonderful - that the Arab Spring should be completed and that democracy would spread throughout the area. That people could stop being killed for demonstrating for what they believe in.

That women throughout the world could get a better deal. Countries like the Congo have a terrible record of unspeakable violence against women and there are many countries where women are still treated as possessions, where they are violated as a matter of course, where they have no free choice in any single area of their lives.

That there should be peace in Afghanistan. I have never agreed with our troops being there - I think it is a war we cannot possibly 'win' - the terrain itself means that locals can melt into the mountains and come out again at will, whether we are there or not. Another young man has been killed today - it has just been announced on the news - what a New Year present for his family.

Closer to home I hope that family and friends have a happy, healthy 2012 and that all my blogging friends have a wonderful New Year.

There will be nine at our New Year's Party tonight. The three dishes are ready to heat up in the Aga - fish pie; pheasant casserole; vegetarian shepherd's pie; the puds are made - trifle; pavlova with fresh pineapple and little chocolate pots topped with a dab of cream and a strawberry. All I have to do now is to put on the vegetables.

Incidentally - the farmer dismantled the Aga and cleaned it out - it was carbonned up. Now it is chugging away merrily and I love it again.

Here's to another year of blogging.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Larkin to Poets' Corner?

I understand from today's Yorkshire Post that there is a move afoot to have Philip Larkin installed in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey alongside the likes of Tennyson, TS Eliot and Ted Hughes.
I think it is a splendid idea, I don't know about you.

Apparently Larkin was invited to be Poet Laureate in 1984. His health was not good and he felt that his best poetry was in the past. Also, as he disclosed to Betty, his secretary and lifelong friend, he didn't feel inclined to have to write poems about royal babies!

Of course Ted Hughes became the Laureate and this meant eventual installation in Poets' Corner. I think this amused Larkin somewhat as he remarked to his lifelong friend, Kingsley Amis, that he found it hard to live with being the cause of Ted Hughes ending up in Westminster Abbey.

Although he was born in Coventry, Hull is the place we always associate with Larkin because he spent the last thirty years of his life there, most of them as Librarian at the university of Hull.
He was given various honours in his lifetime (Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry; CBE; Companion of Honour) but anyone who has read his best poetry (try Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album from his book The Less Deceived) must surely agree that he should be there alongside the greats who go back to 1400 and Geoffrey Chaucer.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Way with christmas Leftovers.

I found the perfect way to get rid of all those unwanted Christmas leftovers today. My two grown up grandchildren came to see me (both at University and home for the holidays) and stayed for a scratch lunch. Everything came out and I included a dish of chips. Now all that is left can be a beanfeast for the hens tomorrow - then I can get ready for my New Year's Eve party.

Yesterday the Aga functioned perfectly and was back to normal. Today it is a very wild day with storms and down it has gone again, so the problem seems to be the wind. The farmer is going to switch it off and have a look if it needs a clean, so fingers crossed it will be back on and working properly when I need to cook pheasant casserole, fish pie and vegetarian shepherd's pie for Saturday night. I reason that the pheasant casserole can be cooked on the hob anyway and the other two can be fully prepared and if necessary cooked in my daughter in law's over at the last minute. Ah the problems of being the head cook and bottle-washer.

Have a good New Year.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Post Christmas

Two m inor crises over the festive season. Dominic's hot water tank sprang a small leak - plumber coming today, so that has been resolved. My Aga, after cooking the turkey well, decided it needed a rest and went onto slow for the whole day. As I had nine people for lunch and seven for an evening buffet it was rather inconvenient - still we managed and today things are back to normal. One good thing, as far as the household cook is concerned, is that there are usually so many bits and pieces left to eat up that no cooking is needed for a day or two after Christmas. One things is for sure - I do not wish to see any turkey for a while.

Not much to write about today but I'll leave you with an amusing little story that my friend G has just told me on the telephone. A friend of hers, along with her family, decided to take the ashes of their beloved dog and scatter them in the Lake District. They are keen walkers and the dog loved that area. They set off up the fells and it was very windy - so windy that they did not go to the top. On the way down they met a lone man striding out towards the top of the fells and G's friend say Good morning and told him to be careful as it was very windy up there. It was only after they had passed that her husband said, "You do realise that you have just told Chris Bonnington to be careful up there!"

Sunday, 25 December 2011

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE from WEAVER, THE FARMER and TESS. See you all after Boxing Day.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Strange Thing.

Memory is a strange thing isn't it? We all take away different interpretations of past events which we shared with others. What looms large in one mind becomes forgotten by someone else; and even the same memory has differing interpretations.

Yet I really think that memory is the skill I would most hate to lose as I get older. Even on a day like today, when my walk with Tess included a struggle across the pasture where the force of the wind hit me full side on and nearly blew me over, I could come back home and sit by the fire and do the fantastic Guardian Christmas Crossword (well, try to) and toast my toes by the stove and indulge in the odd Christmas memory of Christmases past.

Do you keep a Christmas card list to jog your memory each year? I do and before I write the cards I have to go through and eliminate those who have passed away during the year, making sure the card is just addressed to the wife or the husband, rather than to both. And I always have to add one or two new names - people who have become friends during the year. It is always a triumph when I do not receive a single card from someone who has not already got one from me. But this year, three cards are missing as I put them all up on the wall.

The first missing card is from a dear sister in law - still alive at 90 but, sadly in an advanced stage of dementia, so that she no longer remembers me, or even in fact my brother (her husband). What fun we had together when we were younger. I have known her practically all of my life and was her bridesmaid at their wedding in 1941. Until she went into care last year I rang her every Saturday evening and we had a long chat. Alright, so she repeated herself all the time and told me the same story over and over again, but we could reminisce about the old times.

The second missing card is from a relative of my late husband. I spoke to her last Christmas, by telephone, and she seemed fine. Looking back perhaps I was deceived, perhaps some of her generalised comments could have meant anything.. But now she has reached the stage of being in care and not remembering.

And the last is a dear old friend from my musical days. What fun we had on musical weekends away - Durham University, Burton Manor on the Wirral, Theobald's Park in Hertfordshire - all those places where we met up and made music together. Now, after a series of small strokes, her memory is 'not what it was' and I think - does she remember anything of the past fun we all had together?

Babette Deutsch (who she anyone?) put it succinctly - if a bit depressingly - when she said:

'Old women sit, stiffly, mosaics of pain.....
Their memories: a heap of tumbling stones
once builded stronger than a city wall.'

So I shall sit and remember my childhood memories of wartime Christmases - especially one when my brother unexpectedly got home leave and turned up on Christmas eve to our delight.
And then there was the one when we performed a fantastic pantomime in the village hall in our little village and another when the snow was so deep and the ice so thick that we could go sledging on Christmas Day.

Memories of our son when he was so small and would come into our bed with his pillow case on Christmas morning and take all his presents out to look at.

There is a kind of magic to memories and especially to Christmas memories - and long may it remain so.

To finish today's post - a heartwarming story told yesterday by a friend who had given the little girl next door a bag of carrots and told her to put them at intervals down the path to the front gate so that when Santa and his reindeer passed the reindeers would get the scent of the carrots and come up her drive. No carrots out on our drive but I hope Santa calls nevertheless. A mince pie and a glass of sloe vodka will be left out just in case.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Mouse control.

We have passed the winter solstice so the days are slowly beginning to lengthen. The farmer always says that local folklore says, 'as the days lengthen the storm strengthens.' Let's fervently hope that he is wrong.

Bats have gone into hibernation - although where on the farm they over-winter we have no idea. Each Spring they reappear in small numbers, so they must sleep the winter out somewhere near. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, tend to make for the hay barn and the warmth of a covering of sweet-smelling hay. There they stay until the weather warms up - and hopefully they have enough fat layers on them to survive.

But for owls this seems to be THE time of year. When the farmer takes his last walk with Tess at night our Scots pines are full of owl conversations. There are tawny owls in a barn across the field - they breed there every year and have done for years; there are barn owls close by. Our neighbour has a barn owl box in one of his barns and we know they brought off two babies last year, although whether they survived our cruel winter we don't know. What I do know is that if we drive up the lane in the dark, we almost always seen the barn owl's ghostly form gliding across the lane. As for little owls, we always have plenty of those around. They are diurnal to some extent and any time you care to walk down the yard and into the pasture you may well hear the alarm call of a little owl - usually in the same holly bush. And there are several fence posts which are favourite roosts. Last winter, in the cruelest weather, a little owl spent a large part of each day on a gate post watching out for any road kill to provide a meal.

They all make a rather melancholy sound - in fact Ronald Blythe tells us that Byron thought there was only one thing sadder than the call of an owl, and that was the phrase ' I told you so!'
Shakespeare called the owl 'the fatal bellman' in Macbeth. But, of course, their voices are not sad and doom-laden at all - they are the most communicative of birds. And to add to that the Tudor musician used to sing about them, saying: 'Thy note, that forth so freely rolls - with shrill command the mouse controls.

So spare a thought this Christmas for the poor little mouse - victim of owls and farm cats, of necessity searching in the hedge bottom for something tasty to eat rather than becoming something tasty to eat himself. Enjoy the run-up to Christmas day - and don't forget Carols from Kings tomorrow evening - my favourite programme of the whole Christmas on TV.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas thoughts through the ages.

I have been reading the thoughts of others on Christmas Day - they conjure up such lovely images I thought I would share some of them with you:-

The first is from the diary of Frances Kilvert in 1870:

Sunday - Christmas Day. As I lay awake praying in the early morning I thought I heard the sound of distant bells. It was an intense frost. I sat down in my bath upon a sheet of thick ice which broke in the middle into large pieces while sharp points and jagged edges stuck all around the sides of the tub like cheveux de frise, not particularly comforting to the naked thighs and loins.
I had to collect the floating pieces of ice and pile them on a chair before I could use the sponge.
The morning was most brilliant. I walked to Sunday school with Gibbins and the road sparkled with a million rainbows. The church was very cold in spite of two roaring fires.

(Sad that this lovely young man, with such an eye for the girls, died young - just as he was to embark upon a happy life).

Now from the diary of Daphne du Maurier when she was an old lady and lived at home alone in her house Menabilly:

It is so queer having no one down here for Christmas. I have not done my routine decorating, but have put all my cards around, and have lovely flowers everywhere, and an arrangement of holly on the centre table in the Long Room, and so it all looks very cheerful. If I thought about it too deeply, I might be rather sad, but I don't. I think the thing is always to look ahead in life and never look back; except in gratitude.

And finally from the diary of Stephen Spender, who was in Jerusalem for the Nativity. The year is 1974.

After dinner, to the Church of the Nativity, for Midnight Mass. The Church is large and bare, the Mass was intoned in Latin, with some dignity. The most beautiful part of the evening was after we left the service and walked back along the road the two miles to Rebecca's well, where our car was parked. We heard, from that distance across the valley dividing us from Bethlehem,
the voices from the Church still singing, which the cold night air seemed to purify of raggedness and wrong notes, so that coming from the hill above us, they seemed those of a heavenly choir.

I wonder how safe it is these days to walk those two miles in that terribly divided country.

Enjoy these few days before Christmas.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Last Poetry meeting of 2011

It's silly, I know, but I am always sad to see the year drawing to a close. Last year at this time, still recovering from the shock of my illness, I was just very grateful to be alive. This year has been one of good health I am glad to say - and I am sad to see it go because of all the good times we have had.

One of the best of these has been our monthly Poetry meetings, when as a group of friends we meet in one another's houses to read our favourite poetry. Today it was my turn to host the event. The day turned out bright and mild, so road conditions were no problem, and there were eight of us sitting round the fire and reading our favourites - and what a selection.

The poems make us recall events in our lives, we reminisce, we discuss the poets, we laugh at poets like Wendy Cope and Brian Patten and we get that warm, cosy, Christmassy feeling when poems about Christmas are read. Christmas can be a sad time if you live alone, as quite a few of our members do, and I like to think that this coming together in friendship goes some way to overcoming this.

I really feel that the celebrations have started now, although after the Cookery Programmes on television tonight I shall probably be adding more things to my Boxing Day menu. At least the Cookery programmes give one food for thought (sorry about the pun) unlike the Perfume adverts which I think suggest to men that the sky's the limit if they buy a certain perfume for the woman in their life; closely followed by the adverts for jewelry - buy this necklace or that bracelet and you will pull some very glamorous twenty year old rather than the old dear you have been living with for the last twenty years. (I count myself in the latter, by the way!)

I think it is worth reminding ourselves as the jewelry adverts seem to take over the papers at this time of the year, that most of the words for items of jewelry (necklace, bracelet, ring, ear-ring etc.) have their origins in slavery.

And while we are on the subject of crazy things - a friend went into our local superstore, which is on the largest army garrison in Europe, to buy a CD of the wonderful Army Wives song destined to become number 1 at Christmas (fingers crossed), only to be told that they weren't stocking it as they were not a big enough store. Those women are inspirational to us all I think, and what better place to have it on sale than one where the women know all about what it is like to be here while their husbands, sons and brothers are fighting overseas.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It is nearly here.

Does everyone do a lot a preparation and baking for Christmas or is it just me left doing all these things? When I tell friends I am icing cakes, baking pies, making biscuits etc., they tell me to take it easy and shop for them at Tesco.

I do still enjoy making Christmas cakes and have made five this year - two for us and three for presents. The same goes for Christmas puddings. I made a huge tin of mince pies but we had lots of lovely visitors at the weekend and the tin is now empty,, so it has been a mince pie baking day again today. I so enjoy being able to give friends who call in just a little home-made taste of Christmas.

Yesterday the farmer and I had sadly to go to a funeral of an old friend. When we came home we decided to get out the Christmas decorations and put them up, because tomorrow is our poetry meeting and it is here on the farm.

Now all the decorations are up, the tree is lit, the outside tree will be festooned by the farmer in the morning and everywhere smells lovely. This afternoon I have marzipanned two cakes ready for icing and decorated two more with fruit and a glaze. What I would do without Delia Smith's Christmas Cookery Book I cannot imagine.

Now I am going to go on line and see if I can find any Christmas poems to read tomorrow to get us all into the right mood for the celebrations. Enjoy the run up to Christmas.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

An amusing little story.

Not much time today, but a friend came for coffee this morning and told me this little story. Before she retired this friend worked for a well-known (nameless) high street store. Suddenly they kept getting complaints that all the crisps they sold were soft. They were puzzled until one day somebody noticed a little lad sitting on the crisp shelf with a pin and making each packet pop! Have a nice Saturday evening - and if you watch Strictly - settle down early for what should be a jolly good final, because I think these are the best three finalists we have ever had. My money is on Harry winning. We shall know later tonight.

Friday, 16 December 2011

A Jolly but chilly outing.

We weren't sure whether to go or not. My friend W and I had arranged to meet our friends in Kirby Lonsdale, on the edge of Cumbria, for a Christmas lunch in a local Bistro. Whichever way we decided to go meant going either over or down the side of the Pennine Chain, along high and bleak ground. And there is snow lying on the tops. Earlier in the week the weather was awful - snow showers, icy roads, biting winds, and we decided not to go. Then yesterday two things made us change our minds. The first was that yesterday was a lovely still, sunny day - glorious for the time of year; the second was that the farmer suggested that it was hardly the road for two old women to be driving on at the time of the year! That decided us.

My friend was driving (she has a four-wheel-drive vehicle) and we are nothing if not intrepid. In fact it was a pleasant and easy journey. All the way there snow was lying - sometimes just on the tops, sometimes quite thickly on the sides of the road and when we came down to lower ground, to the edge of the Trough of Bowland, there had been four or five inches of snow overnight and all the parked cars were heavily covered in it.

But the roads were mainly dry and we had set out in plenty of time. Kirby Lonsdale is such a pretty little town and decorates so well for Christmas. I did intend to take photographs after our lunch but when we came out of the Bistro it was snowing, and our only thought was to get home before dark. (It takes one and a half hours to get there).

The journey home was in thick cloud, well down over the hills in places. But a lot of the snow had gone during the morning, when the sun had been out. It was an uneventful journey and we arrived home - two old, intrepid ladies, unfazed by a bit of snow and ice - just before dark.

And what of the lunch. Well, W and I had a 'share platter' - laid out on a slate. It was delicious and a splendid idea. A pork pie, cut in half; four triangles of cheese (two blue, two cheddar); a pot of dressed green salad; a pot of sun-dried tomatoes; several pots of olives; a pot of fried whitebait with lemon slices; a pot of hummous; smoked salmon, serano ham, thinly sliced beef; white and brown chunky bread and a pot of butter. I shall certainly try something similar over the Christmas holiday if the occasion arises.

Anyway - for what it is worth - here are a few photographs I took through the car windscreen as we bowled along. As you will see, Ingleborough was - as usual - in cloud. But I think you will also agree that the Ribblehead viaduct in bright sunshine is a lovely photograph.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

How do you approach Christmas?

Assuming that you love Christmas, like I do, then how do you approach it? Some people seem to leave everything until the last minute - present buying, baking, planning, decorating, writing the cards, posting them at the last minute. Some people like it that way - I have friends who say that that is the best way to do it.

I am not like that. I like to start everything well in advance otherwise I get flustered and don't enjoy anything. I am a maker of copious lists and I start early - possible presents, possible food, possible guests. Dare I tell you that I even buy my second class stamps twenty at a time over the space of five weeks, so that I hardly miss the money!

Some people put up their decorations and their tree without doing all that much cleaning beforehand, arguing that as the tree will be dropping its needles everywhere and on the morning there will be wrapping paper everywhere, the big clean up should be after Christmas.

I am not like that. Pre-Christmas is the one time of the year when all the drawers get cleaned out, napkins get washed and put in their proper place, tables and my best pieces of furniture get a polish with 'proper' polish rather than the spray stuff and silver and brass get cleaned.

And only when all that is done do I think of putting up the decorations and putting round the cards. Last jobs include writing the menus (most food is already in the freezer or at least ordered) and a few days before I shall check that I have done all the shopping.

I hope this does not sound 'holier than thou' - it is not meant to - it is just that it is the only way I can keep my head above water throughout the Christmas season. And enjoy it.

One of the things I have polished today is the original brass from the last working farm horse on our farm. It hangs on our kitchen wall - I love it. The farmer well remembers it - they got their first Fergie tractor in 1948, when he was five.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Blogging world.

I could, of course, be making up the whole thing about my age, where I live, what kind of life I lead etc., for blogland does give one the opportunity to do this. And if we were to do so then we would probably get away with it - unless, like me, bloggers who live fairly near, or who are passing through, are welcome to call in and often do.

But it is an interesting thought, isn't it? We present our lives for all to read in such a way that it can be interpreted however you like. I can even write about the lane being muddy or icy, and if I do it in a fairly poetic way then it sounds wonderful. And if the wood burner is stoked up for evening, as it is now on this very stormy day; if the curtains are drawn across, the whole house is smelling of freshly baked mince pies; if the farmer is in from feeding up for the night and has his slippers on - then all does seem to be right with the world. In other words, every blogger can make his or her world sound marvellous if he/she so wishes.

It's a thought.

On the home front I have indeed baked my first lot of mince pies today. Pastry is not my strong point so this year I am making three lots, each using a different method and ingredients and the farmer is acting as guinea-pig having one for tea each night and passing his verdict. The rest of the batch will then be frozen for use when callers arrive around Christmas - they are easily heated up in the oven and are ready in five minutes. It is also true than the baker can almost get away with murder if the said pies are warm and the warmth covers a multitude of bad pastry making sins. He is a very willing guinea pig - I monitor his cake and pastry eating carefully so to be offered some is a treat indeed.

Just in case you are beginning to wonder whether I am making up my persona on my blog - I walked back through the front garden after my walk with Tess at lunch time. The sum total of 'flowers' out in my garden is shown in the photos above - and I have to admit they are pretty pathetic - but we British are nothing if not hardy. By golly we often have to be - and that applies to the plants in our gardens too. Have a nice evening.

Monday, 12 December 2011


I cannot help having a soft spot for the magpie. He is such a very smart bird, always turning up as though he is in full evening dress, whatever time of day he arrives. On top of that he has such a bright eye and such an intelligent look.

I do know the downside - he steals other birds' eggs and even snatches and eats their babies from the nest if he gets half a chance. The farmer hates magpies and this year, when we had two pairs lurking around the bird table, he cursed them cruelly.

Now that the leaves have left the trees I can see why we had two pairs visiting us, for within a few yards of each other, along the lane, are two magpies' nests. Birds are clever in that they build in such a position that their nests are hard to find. Then the leaves fall and many of them are there for all to see.

I wouldn't have seen either nest but yesterday the farmer pointed them out to me and what clever nests they are. All my bird books speak of the magpie building 'a domed nest' but the farmer put it much better when he said they always put a roof on their nest - to protect the babies from predators and from the sun and to keep off the worst of the rain. I always knew they were clever.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Food, glorious food.

This time of the year we need 'hearty' food to keep us warm - well that's my excuse anyway.
So yesterday, while the farmer was out shooting, I made a pan of really hearty soup. It was a new recipe - from January's issue of Country Living magazine, which came this week. Obviously, I can't give you the recipe as that would be breaking copyright but I can tell you that it had mixed diced vegetables, snipped bacon, stock, borlotti beans and savoy cabbage thinly sliced. By the time the farmer came in at half past three, the kitchen smelt delicious and after he had walked the dogs we had a bowl full each and it did live up to its promise. Luckily I had a parmesan rind in my cheese box in the fridge and I added that - it is always worth doing as it gives soup such a lovely flavour.

There is some left for today but we are having stuffed rolled breast of lamb slow-cooked in the oven, so I have decided to drain off the liquid from the remaining soup and add it to the gravy and then heat the 'soup' that is left and serve the lamb on a bed of it. And yes - I have been watching Master Chef The Professionals last week, so this aims to be my go at 'fine dining' - time will tell and I will keep you informed!

At last my pullets (born, if you remember, in mid-June) have started to lay eggs. Yesterday saw the first offering - you will see its size from the photograph of it sitting by a 'proper' egg. Pretty tiny I think you will agree - but it is the first offering and I thank them for it. That is six months almost to the day since they were born and they have had to be fed all that time, so you will see that hens are never profitable to keep these days - it is just that I love to see them about the place and I love those golden yolks as they scratch about the fields and eat the grass. Also it is lovely to be able to give special friends some eggs when they call.

Speaking of friends - one of them has died this week. He was 91 and has been in poor health for some time, but I have been thinking back to the time when we used to have nice picnics on another friend's lawn (remember those times M?) - the death of a friend leaves a gap in ones life whatever their age is.

Keep warm.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Cruel weather.

It looks deceptively pleasant outside; the sun in shining and the wind has almost died down. As the farmer is out shooting today I had no option but to take Tess for her after-lunch walk. I do like to do this anyway but if the weather is particularly foul I do chicken out and let the farmer take her.

Well wrapped-up we sallied forth. As we closed the back door a fine sleet began to fall and the sun popped behind a cloud for a little rest. As we reached the end of the drive I realised that that gentle breeze was actually a cruel, cutting wind and as it came from the North West it was making a brisk cut down the lane. This was not actually noticeable until I turned round to come home and it was directly in my face. I'll tell you this for nothing - it certainly made me walk more quickly!

Now home again, I must say I feel much better for that walk both mentally and physically - in fact I feel almost saintly.

As usual several pheasants are wandering about under our trees - hope they stay there to escape from the guns. There are also a dozen cock blackbirds at the bird table - they only come in when the weather is really cold, preferring to scratch about in the hedge bottom for most of their food. Outside the gate the cotoneaster horizontalis is still laden with tiny red bead-like berries. The blackbirds love these but seem to leave them until quite late in the Winter, then descend and eat the lot in a day.

Yesterday we went to our feed merchants and I was hoping for photographs of some of the flood damage but on the whole it had disappeared without trace. Both the Ure and the Cover had been over the day before but as you will see from my photographs, although they are full, they are certainly no longer in flood.

What did make me laugh was that as we passed a spot where our local beck had flooded the water had gone but the wild ducks had taken it over and were having a whale of a time wallowing, paddling up and down and making such a racket. There are still some Limousine cattle in the same field - they wered ignoring the ducks and getting on with eating.

I say they are wild ducks, but this is something of a misnomer. They are bred for shooting and wander about the fields in huge numbers and are very slow to take off and fly. As long as they stay on the ground or on the water they are safe from the guns. If I could I would go down there before the shooting season starts to give them a few lessons.

The photograph across the fields was taken to show you the barn where the shooters would be having their lunch as I walked (the farmer was having pork and chutney slice, cheese sandwiches, crisps and a banana; a flask of coffee had just a smidgin of whisky in it - last time I overdid the whisky and he had a job to get back home after the shooting finished!!)

The barn they use for lunch is the second highest - almost in the centre of the shot and almost hidden by trees. In there they sit on straw bales and discuss the local gossip! No high-flown putting the world to rights with this lot - euro crisis or no euro crisis. Keep warm.

Friday, 9 December 2011


There has been very severe stormy weather here. Yesterday the wind was storm force almost all day, apart from a short lull in the afternoon, when I nipped into our little town to go to the Post Office.
Trees are down, rivers are in flood and branches are down everywhere. There is at least one bridge that has been swept away and in today's paper there are reports of various people being rescued from cars trapped in flood water. A friend was at her embroidery class when the Police came in to warn them that it was becoming dangerous outside and that if they lived in Wensleydale they should get home now before it got any worse. The schools were already closed and these things are always so much more scary once it gets dark.
This morning the weather is quite benign - a slight breeze and sunshine, but we have moors to the North and East of us and both are covered in snow. Pen Hill - to our West - is white over and is sparkling spectacularly in the morning sunshine.
No doubt by now the worst of the flooding will have passed. It is the combination of rain/snow and high Westerly winds that makes it so much worse up here. And, of course, while we survey the damage the poor folk of Boroughbridge and York, lower down the country, bear the full brunt of the water as the Rivers Swale and Ure join the Ouse to make one very large river. So they will be bracing themselves.
Keep warm.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

More horrible weather.

When the farmer took the dogs round the fields this morning at 8.15 (as he does every morning) he set off in bright sunshine. By the time he got half way round it was absolutely dreadful. I have never seen such weather conditions. The sky was black and an angry red sun was pushing through on the horizon; the sleet was horizontal and the wind was howling. Man and dogs sheltered until the worst was over. The farmer said that there was a fantastic rainbow against the black sky. I'll take his word for it!

It has been our Writers' Group meeting this morning and what a splendid meeting it was. Twelve people turned up in spite of the weather. We meet in the Golden Lion where it is snug and warm. We have coffee (and this morning they brought samples of their new menu too for us to try). This month's topic was 'A Childhood Memory' and it was so interesting. For a start our ages spread from 80 up to early 20's so the memories covered a lot of ground. Each memory triggered off other memories in all of us. There were memories of sea journeys, games on the sand, special rooms in grandparents' houses, climbing trees, childhood games - all kind of things. We managed to stick to the rules more or less - i.e. to discuss the construction of the piece rather than talk about the memory itself. I got such a lot out of the morning - I am sure others did too.

This 'trigger' thing is important I think - for that is where we get our ideas. At the Poetry launch I went to the other evening the poet said she got her ideas from various triggers - sentences in the newspaper, phrases on the TV News, things she heard in the street. If we want our writing to improve (and don't we all?) then I think we have to learn to be particularly sensitive to this idea - would you agree?

At present what the farmer would call a 'Glishy Sun' is shining - that sort of sun usually lasts only a few minutes and then there is another downpour. Guess who is taking the dog for her evening walk???

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Winter arrives.

It did not feel safe driving to Tesco for my weekly shopping today, so the farmer kindly volunteered to take me there. This means that I was able to take one or two photographs on the way back, so that you get a taste of what life is like this week in the Dales.

The photographs were all taken on the return journey. The top photograph shows Arkengarthdale in the far distance. There is much more snow up there because, of course, it is much higher than we are here. The next shot shows our Dale and the fields. There are sheep out - they easily find the grass through the covering of snow (they are also fed with sheep pellets although quite often at this time of the year they don't bother to eat them. The rooks love them!)
The third photograph shows the top road into our village. This is an old turnpike road - the Richmond to Lancaster Turnpike Road of long ago. It was along this road that the old cattle drovers used to drive the herds of cattle. The farm in the photograph - it straddles the road, the house one side and the buildings the other - is called 'Halfpenny House' from the days when the drovers paid to keep their cattle there overnight and have them fed and watered. The final photograph is of our village in the snow
The temperature has not risen above four degrees all day and now that the sun has gone down it is already freezing again, so the roads will become skating rinks. In the past three days there have been three accidents at the top of our lane - luckily no-one hurt but three cars completely written off. If you are in an icy, snowy area - take care.

Monday, 5 December 2011


It has snowed here in the Dales for much of today - heavy snow showers. It is bitterly cold with a biting North wind and all the cock blackbirds in the area have gathered at our bird table (always a sign that it has turned cold).
This bad weather has coincided with a visit from my 25 year old grand-daughter, so we shut ourselves in the room with the wood burner and enjoyed a lovely long chat. Bliss. I so rarely see her that it was a great joy as it always seems as though she has never been away.
Now she has gone back on the train - her father came to take her to the station - I have switched on the electric blanket - the farmer is making the Ovaltine and Horlicks and in 5 minutes time we shall be snug and warm for the night. Night-night - sleep tight to all of you - and keep warm.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Weather and plenty of it!

We have been 'up the dale', as we do every year at Christmas, to a farming Christmas dinner (no calling it lunch round here!!) in Hawes. All these rosy-cheeked farmers and their families - lots of children with equally rosy cheeks and with plates piled high with food- no standing on ceremony - just good plain food and a lovely atmosphere.

This year, for the first time, it was a carvery. Roast turkey, cranberries, stuffing, potatoes three ways, roast parsnips, mashed swede, carrots, sprouts, red cabbage and good, wholesome gravy.
Plus Yorkshire puddings, although I did give them a miss. I have to say that it was delicious. To follow there was Christmas pudding and rum sauce. Could I manage that - well - in for a penny in for a pound, so yes, I had that too, followed by coffee and mints. The mince pies we brought home in a paper napkin because that was just a bridge too far.

On our way there the snow clouds were gathering over the fells (not a spectacularly good photograph but it gives you the general idea). When we came out I was seriously in need of a sharp walk before driving back, so we walked the half mile or so to the Wensleydale Creamery - the real home of Wensleydale cheese of Wallace and Grommit fame. There were lots of people there - eating in the restaurant, walking round the shop, eating in the coffee bar - it is always a popular place.

The half mile walk back to the car was a race against the snow clouds which we nearly upon us. The farmer went on ahead (he walks more quickly than I do) and had the car open by the time I got there. On the way home (it is a mere 15 miles from door to door) we came through snow, sleet, hail, pouring rain and bright sunshine in turn. That is really the nature of Pennine weather I suppose but I was jolly pleased I had chosen to wear my new pure wool Scottish cardigan, bought for just such a day as this.

No more food for me today (at the moment it feels like no more food for a week, but I expect that feeling will go off).

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Book Launch.

Last evening I went with a friend to a Book Launch in our neighbouring town of Richmond. There is a tiny book shop called Castle Hill Bookshop and it was held there. Wine and nibbles, the poet herself there to chat to and to sign copies of her book.

The weather was awful - wet, cold and windy - and dark of course. But I must say her friends and the local literati did her proud. The shop was packed to the gunwales and there was a real buzz.

Her new book (she is an established author and poet) is called 'The Dancing Sailors' and after a while the poet (Ann Pilling) read from her collection. I loved the poems and it was interesting to hear the thinking behind them.

A jolly evening was had by all.

Friday, 2 December 2011

No blog today.

Isn't it odd how blogland seems like family. I have been blogging with John Gray (Going Gently) for a long time and like other of my long-term blog friends - we seem to have become very close. It is therefore with great sadness that I read this morning that his dear brother has passed away - only hours after I mentioned his illness yesterday. I feel incredibly sad and feel as a mark of respect to his memory that I don't wish to blog today. Just to send love to John and the family.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas cheer.

Let's have a change of mood eh? Christmas is coming and the turkey's getting fat - so today my daughter-in-law and I paid a visit to our local nursery so that I could buy my Christmas plants. I do like to fill the house with plants over the next month.

I bought a poinsettia, a bowl of hyacinths just peeping through their mossy bed and two beautiful cyclamen - a pink one and a white one, They are so beautiful and it is a joy to walk round the greenhouses just to look at the cyclamen en masse, so I have attached a photograph of one row of cyclamen - there were many rows like this; and I have just been into the sitting room to take a photograph of my poinsettia. In addition, they made me up a lovely holly wreath for my late husband's grave - they didn't have one but made it up while I waited. We are so lucky to have such a good nursery in the area.

The two nurserymen who run it have been on the go for years - I have been going there for twenty years at least and of course, they have grown older as the nursery has too. They are always cheerful and always have a joke. This morning my daughter in law asked one of them how he was as he passed us. His reply? 'Well I think I must be alright because I woke up this morning!'

Another Christmas cake has just come out of the oven (number four). One of my cakes sat awkwardly in the tin and came out of the over with a slope on it! I decided we could eat it early, cut it in half and gave half to Dominic last night. (he is a fruit cake addict). After I had given it to him he suggested I could have instead iced it as a ski slope and found a model skier to put on the top. Good idea but too late as the knife had already been wielded.

Now the house has plants all over and everywhere smells of Christmas cake - what could be better to welcome in December? Light snow is forecast for the weekend in the Pennines and we go out on Sunday for our first Christmas dinner. So, to finish the rhyme I started with...
Please put a penny in the old man's hat! (in other words let us all remember that it is a time for giving and there are so many charities that need our support). I try to choose a charity each Christmas and this year I have decided it will be the Motor Neurone charity - of all the blogs I read the one I consistently enjoy is that of John Gray - Going Gently - and it is a charity dear to his heart.