Sunday, 31 May 2015


The weather here is deceptive.   Bright sunshine and a Westerly wind, but step outside the door only to find that that wind is bitterly cold and certainly not conducive to a spot of gardening.

We have a garden stall on our Friday market and he was doing a roaring trade on Friday - as I said to my neighbour in the waiting queue 'the triumph of hope over experience once again'.

I love pot geraniums (pelargoniums) and always buy lots to plant up various  and tubs and planters.   I could only carry nine of Friday and aim to get those planted before next Friday so that I can buy my next lot of bedding plants.   It was to be my afternoon's job after giving Tess a bath, but it is too cold so it can wait for a warmer day.   Then I shall take out the tete-a-tete daffodils from the wall manger under the front window (which faces due South.  Geraniums love the sunshine) and fill it with my nine plants.

Then before next Friday I shall survey other planting spots and decide what to buy next.   Any of my readers who blog with folk in the US will read that gardens are blooming, hay is being cut, veggies like cauliflowers are off to market - our veggies in the garden are just pushing through the ground.

Interesting that Barbara (Homestead Hill Farm) speaks of selling garlic curls on her Farmers' Market Stall.   These are the long green shoots from garlic bulbs, which must be cut off in order to prevent the garlic bulbs from beginning to make seed.   She says they look rather like scallions (spring onions) and of course have a really strong  taste.  She says they are very popular.   I wonder how long before they begin to arrive here.

Asparagus is in full flow here.   All the way back from Suffolk and through Lincolnshire we passed stalls on the roadside selling it.   I absolutely love it, although the farmer can take or leave it.   Asparagus, melted butter and brown bread and butter is a meal in itself.

Finally, a recipe for you.   Yesterday I went into town with friends W and E and we had coffee (and a delicious scone) and were rather late back.   I made a rushed macaroni cheese and it was the best I have ever made.

Handful of chopped chesnut mushrooms.
4 chopped spring onions.
6 slices of snipped  good streaky smoked bacon.
Handful of tiny broccoli sprigs snipped from a large head.
Jar of macaroni cheese sauce.
Generous quantity of finely grated parmesan.
 Pack of fresh spinach macaroni (always available at our local deli
and quite delicious, only needing 2 minutes cooking)

Fry bacon for a couple of minutes, add chopped mushrooms, spring onions, finally add the broccoli sprigs and keep stirring for a minute or two until everything begins to colour.
Meanwhile cook macaroni in boiling water for three minutes and drain. Amalgamate all and put into a greased dish and cover
with the jar of sauce.    Stir well and then cover the lot with as much grated parmesan as you can find.   Pop into the top of a hot oven to heat through and brown.   Absolutely delicious.  Enjoy.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

That time of year.

Yes, in the middle of next week the Appleby Horse Fair begins, so at the moment scores of travelling folk are making their way through our Dales with their heavy footed horses, their gypsy caravans, being followed by their posh four x fours and their luxury 'modern' caravans.

Many people hate it and many villages have fenced off their village greens (there are some large ones in our villages) to try to keep them off.   There is, of course, a new law now about fly grazing horses - but it doesn't seem to have any effect.

Our local Auction Mart field always welcomes two families - they are there now with their horses, their trailers, the cattle wagon for the transporting of the spare horses, their gypsy caravans.   I must say that when they move on they always leave everything as they found it.  (not the case always)

The tradition of Royal Oak Day (yesterday's blog) may have died out but not that of the Horse Fair, where horses are raced up and down the streets, washed and groomed in the local river and traded at the big auctions that take place throughout the week.

Not unlike the Harley Davidson Festival we encountered in Lincoln last weekend, this is an event that means a lot to a lot of people, who meet up only once a year and catch up on the gossip.   I have always wanted to go - but not now - too much walking.

I imagine there will be plenty of horse manure for the local gardeners who are willing to go out with a bucket and shovel.   The farmer saw folk shovelling horse manure up on the London streets after the Queen's state opening of parliament - should be more than that - so plenty of good veggies to be had this year on Appleby Market!

I shall try Googling the horse fair to see what I can find out.   If you are interested you could do worse than try the same.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Royal Oak Day

Royal Oak Day,
The twenty-ninth of May.
If we don't have a holiday,
We 'll all run away!

Above is a picture of a descendant of the oak tree at Boscobel House in Shropshire in which Charles II is said to have hidden.
I used to live in Wolverhampton, which is near to Boscobel (well worth a visit), and it always reminded me when we went there that when I was a child we still had a half day holiday for Royal Oak Day - a day meant to celebrate the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

I asked this morning at our usual Friday Coffee morning and out of the eight of us only two of us knew anything about it.

I think it has probably died out completely now (unless it survives in village or town festivals somewhere), but we had to wear a sprig of oak or risk being stung with nettles by the boys.

So many of these ancient customs have faded into antiquity - don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.   What do you think?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Need a haircut.

My header picture (courtesy of the farmer) says it all without a word being written.

The Swaledale ewes and their lambs have arrived for the Summer and have settled into the pasture.   But already they are shedding their coats.   They must find it an irritant because they seem to spend a lot of their time in the hedge bottom rubbing among the branches.

I don't expect the shearing to take place before July and by that time many of the ewes will have lost almost all of their wool in the hedges and will look very moth-eaten, poor things.

A couple of years ago I went round the hedgerows and collected all the wool for Fiona ( who lives in Hawes, about fifteen miles from me.   She made me this cute little Swaledale sheep on a green ball.  Pop over to her site and see what other goodies she makes.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Back to normal.

Here we are then - back to normal; all the washing, ironing and putting-away done, cases back in the boxroom, fridge full of eatables again and our Poetry gathering this afternoon.  I am putting my post on early as I rather want to watch the ceremony of the Queen and the State Opening of Parliament - really the parade, not the speech, so hope they show some of that.
Animals have started to arrive for our Summer eatage.   Yesterday friend and farmer G, brought eleven of his rather hefty young heifers to spend the Summer eating off the grass in one of our large pastures.   They are all either Belgian Blue X or Limousin (some cross and some pedigree).   These girls, who with the exception of one, are only a year old, are destined to join his suckler herd next year.  The one exception was here last year also and mysteriously got pregnant at a very young age (they later realised that one of their young bulls had been kept in the same pen for a few weeks, and had obviously been testing out his 'pulling the girls' skills).  She was really too young to calve and lost the calf anyway, but is being given a second chance!   At the moment they are rather wild and waiting for the farmer and Tess each morning, to follow them up the field.   Tess is very wary and it has definitely interfered with her rabbit-skills (which are pretty rubbish anyway).

In another field our friend and neighbour A has put his very young pedigree Holstein heifers,   They are so pretty and so elegant compared with the Limousins (bred eventually for meat rather than milk like the Holsteins).

The blossom is very far behind the blossom in Suffolk last week.   Our hawthorn is only just coming into flower and our plantain is absolutely full of bluebells. Today's shots were taken very early this morning by the farmer, so thanks to him.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Magna Carta

There were several reasons for us spending a couple of days in Lincoln on our way down to Aldeburgh.   First of all it is my home city and I do love to go back.   We always stay at The White Hart Hotel, which is within sight and sound of Lincoln Cathedral.   As I went to the High School, which in those far-off days was situated very close to the cathedral, it is all familiar territory.

Secondly, it is three hundred miles from here to Aldeburgh and I - rightly as it happened - judged it was too far for the farmer to drive in one day.

Thirdly it enables me to see some old friends - I still have a few down there and meeting up with them this year was lovely

Fourthly - and such an exciting reason - the Magna Carta is on show in Lincoln Castle and we were able to see it.   Signed of course by King John at Runnymede in 1215, Lincoln Cathedral has one of only four remaining copies.   It was in amazing condition - the "ink" was sheep's gall, pale brown but still, after all this time, eminently readable (if you could read Latin of course.)   The writing, done with a quill pen, was incredibly neat - a little work of art really.   And part of the seal made of beeswax and resin still survives on Lincoln's copy.

 I love wandering round Lincoln Castle.   It was a lovely day, so we wandered together and then I sat in the sun while the farmer walked the ramparts.   He doesn't like heights but, camera at the ready, I managed to catch a distant view of him.

One other thing - as a child my bedroom window looked over Greetwell Church, not all that far away, maybe a mile and a half, but separated by the River Witham.   I had always wanted to go and have a look at it and as we passed it on our way to see our friends we called - a beautiful building, parts of it dating back to the eleventh century.   Sadly it was locked (a sign of the times I suspect as it is in a very isolated place) but just standing outside was enough and really added a lot to the day.

Monday, 25 May 2015


For me, and for the farmer too, one of the nicest things about going on holiday is the coming back home.   We were away eleven days and that is just about long enough for us.  (and long enough for the grass on our lawns too!)

But Aldeburgh really is a lovely place to be.   The weather was decidedly warmer than it is back up here and we managed to dodge the showers as most of them took place while we were in having lunch somewhere, or just back at our hotel.

Here are some of the things we found so enjoyable about the area:

The colour of the place.  Most of the cottages are colour-washed in blues and pinks and ochres, the shingle is a sandy colour, the sea is a sandy colour - there is an over-riding gentleness to the colour everywhere, which is very restful.

Visiting the site of Sutton Hoo and the excellent museum was certainly one of the highlights.

I'm sure everyone knows that Aldeburgh was where the composer, Benjamin Britten, lived with his partner Peter Pears for well over twenty years.   Visiting his house and touring his studio and looking at the excellent exhibition with taped commentary through earphones was always going to be one of the highlights and it didn't disappoint.

And last, but by no means least, just gently riding round the beautiful Suffolk countryside - so different from our own here in The Yorkshire Dales,  was a delight.   Narrow country lanes, very little traffic, hedges white over with hawthorn blossom, lane-sides frothed with cow parsley, purple and white lilac in bloom everywhere, horse chestnut trees in flower -some with white 'candles' and some with pink or red, field after field of arable land (we have so little of it up here), lots of it sown with bright golden rape in full blossom, I shall remember it all forever. 

Here are a few more shots:
This is the side view of Britten's house, but the Wisteria was so beautiful I thought you (and probably they when they lived here) would like this view the best.
The Maggi Hambling shell on the beach - a contentious issue I believe in the town, but the farmer and I loved it - most impressive.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Back again.

Thank you to everyone who showed concern at my absence.   The farmer and I have been away on holiday and it did seem a sensible idea not to publicise the fact on my blog page.   But it has really been heartening that folk are so concerned - thank you all so much.

We spent a few days in Lincoln (my home town) and then a week at The White Lion Hotel in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.   It is an area which has always interested me - it was for many years the home of the composer Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears.   We went round The Red House, which was his home, and I must say that I found it all very inspiring.

And we met - and went for coffee - to see Sue and her husband Col.
They invited us round one morning - their small-holding being only a very few miles from where we were staying.   We had a lovely chat and also a tour of their set up.   Golly, they both work hard and keep the whole place in such a smart way.   We really enjoyed our time with them - so thank you to you both. (a quiet life in Suffolk on my side bar).

We drove back to Lincoln yesterday and have driven home today - I thought (quite rightly as it happened) that the journey was too far for one day  for the farmer to drive.   It was interesting staying uphill by the Cathedral last night as this weekend there is a convention of Harley Davidson drivers in Lincoln.   There are hundreds of tents on the Lincolnshire Showground field, and many of the hotels are full.   Judging from the signs on the back of the hundreds of bikes we saw, the drivers seem to have come from all over Europe.   Masses of middle-aged, rather portly, grey haired men, standing around in groups and talking bikes.

Our bedroom window in The White Lion Hotel (lovely and I can thoroughly recommend it) looked over the sea and I was fascinated to see this fisherman go out to his crab and lobster pots each morning and then sell his fish from the shack on the shingle.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Countryside is full of busyness.

Yes, there is no doubt about it, everything and everybody is busy in the countryside at this time of year.   There is so much to do, so much to look at, so much to think about - no time for boredom at all.

In March the Lesser Celandine put on a magnificent display of miniature suns, all over our front walled garden.   Some might call it a weed - but I like the definition of a weed as a plant that is growing somewhere it is not welcome.   Well, I say welcome every year to the Lesser Celandine.

But, sadly, it does outstay its welcome and has, over the past few weeks, become Persona Non Grata as it has taken over the front garden.   Every available empty space is now covered in tiny green leaves, shallow rooted but growing fast.   So the farmer has been all morning in the front garden with the hoe.  

I was watching him from the landing window and I saw what I have suspected for the last week.   A blue tit has nested in a hole in the garden wall.  There must be babies because mother and father have been so busy all morning, in and out, one after the other with never a pause.   It must be so exhausting and they were very aware of the farmer, only yards away, but soon lost their fear in their frantic effort to keep up the feeding.

Yesterday eleven young Holstein heifers came into the field next to the paddock.  It is one of the fields rented by our friend and neighbour A.   When he brought them yesterday morning a roe deer was feeding mid way down the field.  As he let out the heifers from their cattle carrier she saw them as they leapt and careered about for the sheer joy of being let out for the first time this year.   She took off like a jet plane, straight down the field, clearing the hedge at the bottom in one leap - and away.

Two pairs of yellow hammers are more or less a constant at our bird table - both Mr and Mrs are there  - another case of babies to feed I suspect.

What I want to know is how anyone like me ever gets any work done when there is so much to see from my kitchen window.   I think it is a jolly good job I have a cleaning lady and a dishwasher.

Monday, 11 May 2015


There are nine dead cock pheasants on our lane this morning, all killed by cars (except one which the farmer thinks was probably killed in a fight).   The trouble is that this time of the year cock pheasants are very territorial - one is 'in charge' of our garden and the area under the trees by the side of our house.   He calls constantly for his 'girls' and they come running.  Any intruder is fought off savagely and while these fights are happening both contestants are totally oblivious to anything going on around them.   The fights can go on for hours if neither gives way.

Casualties - either in the fields after fights or on the roads after car deaths - are usually collected up by crows, or by buzzards or even by rooks and jackdaws.   They soon disappear and are a valuable food source for other wildlife - foxes are round at night, and badgers.  There is always something on the lookout for dead food around.   This is probably the reason why so few dead birds are seen in the fields .

Rabbits, of course, are killed on the lane in their dozens.  Several folk go round shooting them at evening and there are the organised shoots.   Anyone who thinks this should be banned needs to remember that from the farmer's point of view  ten rabbits eat as much valuable grass as one cow.  Often folk who shoot or use ferrets to kill rabbits, remove the dead ones and take them up on to the moor, where they are valuable food for the buzzards (we have quite a lot round here) who prefer their food to be dead.

Apparently all this road kill provides some food too.  People who run over deer (it happened recently further down our lane, where our neighbour did £4000 worth of damage to his car when he hit a deer) sometimes take the deer home, have it butchered and put it in the freeze r.   And in some parts of America road kill which is suitable for human consumption has become known as 'highway pizza'.   A new cookery book called 'A Feast before your very tires' has been published, which tells its readers how to skin a duck and de-bone an elk!

Over here in the UK there is becoming a movement for eating fox cub fricassee, badger or hedgehog casserole - can't say I fancy it myself.   You may be interested to see the results of a National Road Death Survey, which was carried out by the Mammal Society in 2000-2001.   I don't know how it can have achieved any kind of accuracy, but it should be a guide and it makes astonishing reading:

Suggested Annual Toll of Road Deaths. 2000-2001

100,000 foxes
100,000 hedgehogs
50,000 badgers
30-50,000 deer
Plus quite a large number of birds of prey - mostly
kestrel, tawny owl and barn owl.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Love of the Beauty of the Countryside.

There really do seem to be an awful lot of people who do not care two hoots about the beauty of the countryside.   Do I look back to my childhood with rose-tinted specs?   I hope not, but maybe I do when I say that there was little or no rubbish lying about.

My father and I used to walk miles looking for nests (and leaving them untouched once we had found them) - wrens in lane-side banks, yellow hammers in hawthorn hedges, blackbirds in holly hedges.  We would take our wild flower book and identify (but not pick apart from perhaps one bloom for me to press in my wild flower diary) any wild flower we passed.   We would look up leaves in my tree book to identify the tree.   Did we ever leave, or even see, any rubbish?  Not that I remember.

I have spoken many times on this blog about folk driving down our lane and throwing beer cans, fish and chip boxes and papers, out of car windows.   I go round with a bag and rubber gloves and pick the rubbish up from our bit.   But why do they do it?   Do they not appreciate that there is such beauty in the countryside and it should not be desecrated?

Luckily round here we do not get too much fly-tipping.   Perhaps it is because we are not near to any big urban conurbation.  We, on the whole, don't get the dumping of white goods (fridges, washing machines etc.) - after all we have a jolly good tip in our little town and private individuals can take any of these items and leave them free of charge.  (Companies have to pay I believe, but surely it is not beyond the bounds of their intelligence to add on the cost of this to the original estimate.)

In the year 2013/2014 did you know that local authorities in England spent a total of £45.2 million on the removal of fly-tipped waste?   500,000 enforcement actions were carried out, local authorities spent £17.3 million in carrying these out.   It is an offence and and there were over 2000 prosecutions.

From the end of this month another law comes into effect - that of fly-grazing.  It will be illegal to graze a horse and if one is grazing on a farmer's land without permission the farmer can detain it.  The same applies to local authorities and horses found grazing on common land, roadside verges, village greens and the like.   The sad thing about this is that many of the animals we are talking about are probably not wanted anyway - farmers don't want them either and they become desperate for a home (a horse sanctuary, or worse).

I look out of my window this morning on green fields, blossom, neat hedges just coming into leaf.  The whole world is beautiful and yet it can be spoiled by the thoughtless few who choose to throw their rubbish out rather than make a tiny bit of effort and take it to a tip.   Sometimes I despair.

Reading this through it does occur to me that the invention of plastic bags has a lot to answer for (none of that around when I was a child).  Not only plastic bags blowing about in the breeze but also scraps of plastic draped about in the hedges along roadsides.

Friday, 8 May 2015

A lonely little petunia..... the onion patch!

We still have in-calf cattle in our loose housing.   They can smell the grass growing and they are getting restless.   A few at a time they are being let out and when that happens they frolic down the pasture like little children (albeit ungainly little children).

But some have to wait in for the freeze-brander to arriver, hopefully this week-end.

In the meantime we have a pedigree Jersey heifer in among the mature in calf Holstein ladies.   She is also in calf, but it is her first calf.   I wonder if she realises that she is different.   She is certainly beautiful, especially around the eyes.  And she is very tame.

Whenever the farmer goes to bed them down in the morning, she comes across for him to stroke behind her ears, which he does.   But there is a down side to this because when he stops she is inclined to nudge him to do it again - and of course she doesn't know her own strength so a nudge from her is enough to send him sprawling.   It hasn't happened yet, but he is very aware of how dangerous it can be in there - thirty or so animals, none of them meaning any harm, but all of them capable of doing him some injury.

Here is her photograph - don't you agree she is a beauty?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Telephone call.

The party with which the farmer and I have the most sympathy (they hope) made me smile this morning.   After a six o'clock news last night when it became obvious that there was nothing of importance in the whole world other than our election, and after an eight o'clock news bulletin on Radio 4 in similar vein, when the phone rang I thought it would be a cold call.   Not at all.   A charming chap asked for the farmer and when I said he was out doing what farmers do during the day - i.e. work outdoors, not sit in the kitchen drinking coffee - he asked if I was the farmer's wife.

When I said I was he said he was just ringing to remind me that it was Election Day!!!   I told him that after blanket coverage I was unlikely to forget the fact.  He then said he was just reminding me of the candidate's name and also the candidate in the local elections too.

It was only after he had rung off that I wondered why I hadn't made some kind of reply to his enquiry for the farmer first and me a poor second when the farmer wasn't available (or am I being unreasonable here?)

It is so easy in these days of so-called equality of the sexes (rubbish!) to get hot under the collar and read too much into things, but I did feel the chap was taking rather a lot forgranted.   Do you agree or is it just me?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Last post.

No, don't listen for any bugles - I mean this is the last post I shall write before I have to go to the Polling Station and cast my vote tomorrow.   And I have no more idea of who to vote for now than I had at the start of the campaign.   As all the Party Leaders were buzzing around like blue-*****-flies yesterday, getting their responses wrong, slurring their words, generally looking exhausted (which I am sure they all are) - Nick Clegg even managed to travel all the way from Land's End to John O'Groats - I found them all totally unconvincing, I suspected lies from all of them on one issue or another, and my brain just seized up.

Yes I shall go and put something on my Ballot Paper - but how I feel at the moment it might well be 'I don't wish to vote for any of them' written across the top of the paper, making sure I don't get anywhere near a voting square.   And the possibility of the  whole thing being so indecisive that we have to have another election before Christmas just doesn't bear thinking about.

Meanwhile, everything here carries on as normal. The flowers continue to come out slowly in the garden, the weather is unseasonably cold, we have had well over two inches of rain this week, my exercise class has just finished and I am pretty much exhausted, but I did enjoy it tremendously.   So until tomorrow, relax, put your feet up and totally forget that there is an election tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


There is an interesting article in Times 2 today, really as a result of the birth of our new Princess, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Diana.  It is all about the stereotyping of boys and girls and I do so totally agree with every word of it, so I am going to attempt to give you my views.   It will be difficult not just to paraphrase the article, but I will do my best.

For the last couple of decades or so little girls seem to have been conditioned to wear pink.   Now that we have a new princess I have no doubt at all that within a week or so all the shops selling clothes for babies and little girls will be absolutely choked with pinkness.   Look at how when the Duchess of Cambridge wears an 'off the peg' dress rather than a designer number, the shops sell out of that particular number within a couple of hours.   There is absolutely no accounting for the daftness of women sometimes.

So it is to be hoped that they will resist the temptation to dress her in that girly pink.   Yesterday in the ice cream parlour I noticed a little girl of around six or seven in a bright pink and white spotted
dress, which could only be described as a party dress.   She was wearing it with silver shoes and her hair was tied up with bright pink ribbons.  I am sure she had deliberately chosen to wear that outfit (I tried to imagine my own mother giving in to my desires to wear anything other than what had been put out for me to wear on a specific day!!).   To add to that her finger nails were already pink-polished.

I just don't remember anything like this when I was a child.   Clothes-rationing and lack of money contributed largely to what we all wore.    School uniform came first, then the new best frock for the Sunday School Anniversary and then a new Winter coat (I would always have grown out of last year's).  My mother had, as it happens, a hatred of pink, so my best dress was never pink, and never pretty and frilly(which I always wanted).   I particularly remember one green and white striped linen dress with a detachable white collar, which I wore with white shoes and with a straw boater hat with a green ribbon.  (oh, how I longed for a straw bonnet, such as was fashionable in those days - one with flowers round the brim).   She always told me I was not a bonnet kind of girl - I suppose she was right, or I was conditioned to believe it, because I have never worn those kinds of clothes since.

Baby Charlotte will be brought up as a country child at their new home  on the Sandringham estate.   Hopefully she will be brought up in dungarees and wellies and mixing with horses and dogs.  if the young couple follow that line then hopefully the fascination with pink for a girl and with silly girly clothes will fade for ever.   Princess Anne managed it with her daughter Zara; let's hope that the young couple follow suit.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Alas, no signs yet.

I took Tess for a walk down the lane after lunch intending to take some photographs of 'signs that Spring is here', but alas I could not find any at all.

Yes, there was gorse on the distant hillside, but then somebody once said ' never fall in love unless the gorse is in bloom' (meaning it really flowers all year round).   Here and there the hawthorne hedges were greened-up, but by no means everywhere. Ash trees are not even obviously in bud and blackthorne blossom is only just beginning to emerge.

The grass was greened up and growing nicely until last week's sharp frosts which brought it to a standstill from which it is just beginning to emerge.

Dandelions are out here and there but by no means all of them.   I love dandelions (as long as they are not in my garden or on my lawn) but they seem to be dawdling this season.

Probably the only real sign of Spring is the lambs in the fields and as no one near to us keeps sheep I didn't get as far as a lamb field.

The farmer is digging out the midden (with his new digger) and I intended to take a shot of that but he omitted to tell me at lunch time that it is quite inaccessible

I am cutting short this post because a friend has just rung and we are off to have an ice cream at our local ice cream parlour - I'll pop back later to tell you what flavour I have had. 

It was lovely to see our little market town so very busy.   Every cafe was full and those who had outside seating were doing really well.  The car park was full and the streets were full of folk looking in the shops.   The sun was shining and there was a real holiday atmosphere - just what we need for trade in the town.

The ice-cream parlour was also heaving; there was a queue right out of the door (friend W counted it and got to forty people) and during the ten minutes or so it took us to eat our waffle cones we calculated that two hundred people had gone through - and this must have gone on for most of the day.   Again - jolly good for business.

So many winter months when there is nothing much going on up here and the weather is far too cold (and often wet) for visitors means that days like today are very welcome.

Friend W had a black cherry whim-wham, I had a chocolate fudge brownie - both much enjoyed.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


Are you a creature of habit or do you vary the order in which you do things from week to week, or even day to day?   I think that once I retired from the busy life of teaching I became a creature of non-habit - that is until I met and married the farmer.   Since then things have become very ordered indeed!  (and that is twenty-two years).

When we first married it was pre 'Foot and Mouth' and this was still a working dairy farm.   Cows are definitely creatures of habit and at a quarter to six every morning the cows would be queueing at the pasture gate - and what is more they would be calling (loudly) for the farmer to get a move on.  Similarly at half past five in the afternoon.   On the odd occasion when he was not there they would not be pleased.

That of course meant a couple of slices of bread and butter left covered on the table for half past five in the morning,  breakfast always at around nine o'clock, when the cows had gone back to the pastures, lunch at 12.30 so that wherever the farmer was on the farm he knew that that was the time to come in for lunch,  and tea at five o'clock.  At least I knew precisely where I stood and what I was getting into!

And that is how it has remained apart from breakfast, which has moved to seven in the morning, although we are now semi-retired.   And I must say there is a certain orderliness about it which I like very much and most of the time it makes life much easier.   If I am out with friends I can always leave something for him to manage for himself (he is very good on the microwave - much better than I am) and he does a very good crispy fried yesterday's potatoes.

 Even my shopping has that same orderliness about it.  I order on line and each week it is delivered between eight and nine in the morning on Tuesdays.   That just gives me time to wipe out the fridge and put the breakfast pots in the dishwasher before my order arrives.

Does all this sound boring to you?   Well, maybe it is but it does make life so much easier and more comfortable.

Today, the second day of the local Food and Drink Festival in our little market town, has dawned with pouring rain.   The fields need it badly.   After a couple of warm weeks when the grass grew well, we have had a cold week with night frosts and the grass has gone backwards.   Most farmers have put out their dairy herds and the situation is that they will be short of grass before long unless things improve.   This rain will be gratefully received by those little green blades - not so the Food and Drink Festival folk.   Good news is that it is set to clear the country before lunch time, so perhaps they will have a good, successful afternoon.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

It is here.

Well the Royal Baby Girl has arrived, so that is one bit of important news out of the way in good time before Thursday isn't it.   I am not a Royalist in particular, but as with any couple, it is nice when their baby arrives promptly and is well - and, most importantly, - is loved.   That is certainly true of this young lady.   I wonder what she is to be called.  No doubt we shall hear in due course.

The Queen is in Richmond, about seven miles from here, today for the amalgamation of two regiments.   She is taking the salute in Richmond castle, which stands on top of a hill in a windy, exposed position.   Our Queen is a toughie and even at  89 she will no doubt stand there in a freezing cold wind and take it on the chin, whereas I have chickened out of taking Tess for a walk (too cold, I complained to farmer).  I am sure she will be delighted that it is a girl - the first one for quite a long time.

Today has been the church coffee morning.   Friend W and I always go, and now friend J always joins us too.   It is well-attended - maybe fifty or so this morning.   It is a pound entry and there is a raffle, a pie stall (the lady's pies are delicious) a home-made card stall and a baking stall.   Today I bought a turkey lasagne (which we had for lunch .  They are always delicious) and a chicken leek and mushroom pie topped with mashed potato, which I have frozen.

The trouble with regular events like this though is that they make time go so quickly, and as one gets older that happens without any extra help.   A Coffee Morning on the first Saturday in the month, hairdresser each Thursday lunchtime, exercise class every Wednesday afternoon, cleaning lady every Monday morning, meeting friends for coffee every Friday morning - the week passes by in a flash.

I am reading an excellent book -'Regeneration' by Pat Barker, first published in 1991.   It is a book about damaged people in a hospital for officers during the First World War.   It leaves nothing to the imagination and is gruesome in the extreme.   Pat Barker really does get across the dreadful awfulness of the conflict.  It is compulsive - if not entirely pleasant - reading.  It centres on Seigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen amongst others.   Barker must have done hugely extensive study of the war to write such a powerful book.

It is The Festival of Food and Drink here in our little market town this week end.   People come to it from far and wide.   Locals tend to stay away from the congestion - and this year from the cold and damp weather too.

Friday, 1 May 2015


I find it so sad just how much prejudice there is around.   I have always felt that it is every woman's duty to vote even if only because women died almost within living memory in order to get the vote.   My father's generation could remember a time when 'the common man' did not have a vote.   Now it is everyone's right.

Yet there is a degree of prejudice against women still.   A male politician who is 'bullish' is seen as an admirable man - one who will fight to get things done.   A female politician however - well that's a different  matter - so people like Nicola Sturgeon are seen as pushy.   People comment on her clothes - how red suits her and makes her stand out in a crowd.   I have not heard anyone comment on suits any of the men wear, or the ties, or the way they do their hair.

A little of the prejudice disappeared with the advent of Margaret Thatcher and her era, but that time has disappeared.   Until people stop commenting on whether a politician is a man or a woman, but just that they are a person standing for Parliament, then it won't have gone away.   And that applies to all aspects of life -equal pay, equal rights.  Sadly it won't happen in my lifetime.  Maybe not in yours.

And that brings me on to another, if anything more serious form of prejudice.  That is prejudice against the colour of anyone's skin.
I have been a couple of times with the farmer to Baltimore and it is a beautiful city.   I am glad I am not there now - the racial tension is terrible and a disgrace in this day and age.

The farmer and I live in a constituency with one of the safest Conservative majorities in the country - farming country, plenty of rich landowners.   For years our M P has been Rt Hon William Hague - much to be admired by everyone in his constituency whether they were of his political persuasion or not, becase he was such a jolly good constituency MP.   Well, he is retiring and we have a new Conservative candidate.

A charming young man, a real live wire, a businessman, a family man, educated at an English Public school, followed by Cambridge.  His father a GP and his mother a Chemist - so far it all sounds so good.  But many in The Dales have doubts about it all.   Why?   I am ashamed to say that it seems to be because of the colour of his skin.

He has an Indian name and I believe his parents were first generation incomers to this country.   He himself was born here and is English.

I have lived in a large Midlands multi racial city, taught in a multi racial (Sikh, Jamaican and local children) school for almost twenty years.   Most of the time it worked - folk worked together and race didn't matter - wasn't often spoken about.

Up here it is rare to see anyone who is not white and English.  I am horrified by the attitude of some people - I had not thought such attitudes existed up here, but now I find out that they do.

To people who say they are 'worried' about the colour of  skin I would like to point out our two very good hospitals.   The Friarage, our 'local' hospital in Northallerton and The James Cook University Hospital, a much larger establishment in Middlesbrough.   If you removed any Consultant with a foreign name (of African, Caribbean or Asian descent) from the list of people you can see for every illness, then there would be very few left to see.   The treatment one gets at both hospitals is first class, the Consultants are charming men and women and instil the patients with that sense of hope and trust that is so essential to recovery.   These same prejudiced people are not so likely to reject treatment when their health is at stake.

Please note that I am not a Conservative - to date I have little or no idea who I shall vote for next Thursday - too many issues, too many candidates, indecision on my part.   But one thing is for sure - vote I shall for sure.   And the colour of anyone's skin will not make the slightest difference to my choice.

On a lighter note, my hairdresser asked me to have a bet with her on the following:
If the Royal baby arrives on Election Day, which story will be the Headline News on the BBC Six o'clock News in the evening?  Like to have a bet on it?