Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Well I have'nt written for ages, but the words below were a start over the weekend, my main problem is that my new computer will not recognise my North Stoke blog, and to add insult to injury my email server is also not recognised..
So should in the not too distant future my blog come to a halt, I shall start a new one under the name of North Stoke Two (I think).  My old computer still works, albeit slowly, there I was all hyped  up to clear my desk of keyboard and monitor, and fit a smaller laptop, which could be taken off when I wanted to sew or write, and now it is not possible until my son comes down and sorts it all out!

A mass of presents around my make-do xmas tree, not being mean but there was not enough room for a large tree and all of us. So on Xmas Eve morning (4 am to be precise) the family set off from Whitby across the snowy moor road on their trip down to us in Chelmsford. Okay, hot water bottles, blankets, food, crates of presents and more food stacked high in the dependable land rover was the order of the day, and of course the obligatory spade! They were lucky to get away, the snows came in once more, and the long hill through the village of Staithes became impassable, stranded cars being rescued by the coast guard a few hours later.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, and they arrived later on in the morning, and we all went out to lunch at the Fox and Raven, which was full but two glorious log fires in the old farmhouse is a sight for sore eyes. The children played with the games I had bought most of the afternoon, though there was a drama next door.

At least for the house, for the people had gone off to Thailand for several weeks; a great bang on our front door and an off duty policeman said that it was flooded next door, and boy was it flooded!

The water tank in the roof had given way, it looked as if it was raining on all the windows inside, and the ceilings had collapsed to add to the chaos. Fire engine came to turn off the water, though we did'nt see it, police came and sorted relatives addresses, and so we are now in touch with our next door neighbour in Thailand. Moral of the story; Turn off the water, leave some heating on in your house when you go away in winter, and do leave a key and contact number for panicking neighbours!
Well it was dramatic, he still has'nt come back from Thailand yet, though there are emails now and then.
I see we have a new format on the blogs, which looks elegant.... Christmas went off with a bang, they travelled back yesterday, the weather is warming up and we now have grey skies and fog.  We played games of the boxed kind, though 'Family Fortunes' was a bit difficult for me.  Children got what they wanted, computer for the eldest, phone for Ben, and Matilda and Lillie, got smaller presents, because they had already received their big ones.  Lillie acquired a set of fairy wings from Hobbycraft, she also nobbled a jumper and bag from my sewing bench, which was meant for another. But a good christmas all told......

                                                      The Fairy or Madame Pompadour

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Darkling Thrush a poem by Thomas Hardy

Snow, upon snow.. amid the bleak mid winter carol has been going through my head lately, no prizes for guessing why. People are getting tired of all this snow, out in the countryside according to Farming Today radio this morning, the task of feeding outlying animals, and getting food into the villages is a hard job. Oil is at a premium, let alone getting the tankers to the farm, or to BBs house stuck up high on a hill. People lie around airport terminals waiting for their planes to take off, travel comes to a standstill as road and railway lines freeze up over night.
We are safe, near to shops, our heating mended after one week of no heating, and there is always an open fire in the sitting room. Doubt if my family will make it down, and I don't want them to venture out onto dangerous roads, Xmas can always be postponed to the following week.
Not sure its chaos, the English do so love a drama, and snow is fulfilling that role superbly, perhaps what we need is an extended holiday period, so that people can fly abroad over a longer time, and the festival days can be spread.
My thoughts have been with the birds, out in the cold every night, the doves look miserable, but the starlings still come to the table happily as do the little fighting sparrows.
Anyway it reminded me of my favourite author and poet - Thomas Hardy and his poem to that little old thrush who sang on a cold and miserable evening such as we are experiencing now........

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy unlimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snow again - and a return to warmer days maybe?

The snow arrived all of a sudden whilst we were out in the car picking up logs, it was the usual 'whiteout' the roads covered in minutes. The countryside suddenly transformed itself into a winter wonderland, though everyone was driving very carefully on the roads, and as we turned down into the road where we live, a car had slid into another one, denting it badly. We were supposed to go out for a birthday meal, but I doubt the car will be taken out of the garage again, so it is either walking to the Fox and Raven or fish and chips!

This morning, I received a long email from one of my old internet miniaturist friends who lives in London, and cares passionately for cats. Or at least the stray ones, she makes miniatures of shops, greengrocer and florist come to mind though her tiny little nut fairy house filled with furniture (no bigger than a pansy flower) was something else. Years ago, when we all made miniatures, we would exchange stuff, and Claire made delicious little cakes out of clay of course.

My other friend in Wales, Gwen who lived near to Carew Castle, in a very romantic setting by the great tidal mill there, also made miniature shops in clocks (the insides taken out of course).

It made me look at my album on the site, two of my efforts are below, both destroyed now.

The one is of the chapel at Farleigh Hungerford, the guide there had told me of the story that someone had bet that she could'nt stay the night in the crypt there. Well the crypt was down a flight of stairs outside, and had three little stone coffins of children from probably the 15th or 16 th century. She had taken up the bet, and locked herself up behind the iron grille door. No, nothing terrible happened but she did say that she was visited by a little (ghost) girl who said she was very cold and wanted her cloak......

The other is of a long hall, which my oldest grandchild used to play, mostly stringing up the dolls to hang from the hooks I made, and then skewering them with the sword, grisly child that he was; all gone now though they took an age to make.

Anyway one of my new year resolutions, is to get back to miniature making when the weather gets warmer and I can cut wood outside...

Thursday, December 16, 2010


A painting that hangs in a gallery in Bath; Geese coming down to drink

Geese photos are in tribute to that marvellous tv programme 'Edwardian Farm', last night a gander was introduced to see off the fox, who had mauled one of the female geese - which survived luckily...

Life is busy, christmas beckons, cards are almost done, and so are presents, the next thing is to go out into the countryside to collect ivy my favourite xmas decoration. Yesterday we bought my present, which happens to be a teapot and cups and saucers, for what I call the traditional ritual cup of tea in the afternoon, which is never served too well by the mugs we drink out of on a daily basis. Leaving all my china in the move was not exactly a wise thing to do, as it can be exceedingly expensive to buy afresh, but the pretty turquoise teapot chosen in the end will do.

Next week before the advent of xmas it is of course the winter solstice, when the balance between dark and light starts tipping the other way. It's the pagan festival day of old, though I'm not quite sure how they knew it would happen.

At the local reservoir, on a hot and sunny summer afternoon

Snow ready to come back again on friday with strong Arctic north winds blowing straight down the length of Britain, its a bit surprising all this snow before the 25th, it was always the harsh cold of January and February that one remembers.

The survey report came through on the cottage by email, which was slightly depressing, though at 30 pages long was excellent. He had practically examined every nut and bolt of the place, though not the back wall and its roof, due to snow.

Analysising his findings, I find a couple of things are essential, the chimney stack has to be overhauled, there is slight water ingress into the attic bedroom, the house has readings of damp, which of course is not unusal for its age, but it might be wise to put in gas central heating to contend with the dampness and it has a bressumer beam, which is rather thrilling though not quite sure what sort of beam it is..

Hopefully jobs will pick up after the festive season, and my son will find one, though he is still engrossed in his projects on the computer, which may be coming to fruition next year, there is a 'mmm' in my soul as to the outcome. There was rather a worrying programme on Channel 4 news last night about the expensive use of a particular type of insulin, analogue as opposed to the humalin types. I suspect he is on the analogue one as a type 1 diabetic, as it is supposed to respond more quickly to hypos and keep weight down, though to tell the truth he could put more weight on. The good news last week is that his annual blood glucose check up for two years now has been almost perfect, but I would dearly love to see some sort of stem cell cure for diabetics, promised by my doctor 12 years ago and still not on the horizon.

Insulin of course means a life and death issue for people like my son who have type 1 diabetes, its not something my mind always faces up to, but he is sensible and has far more nerve than me. His trip to Ghana for a year was a brave choice though he went with friends but that moment in time was a worrying one for me. Seeing them set off in a car for the airport was a strange moment of whether I would see him alive again; that I waved goodbye outside the chemist, where I had been waiting for his large supply of insulin (late delivery) to take to Africa. It arrived, and I handed it over, still worrying that they would keep it cool on the plane, and not knowing until a couple of years later that he had had a massive hypo on landing at Accra.

So my christmas present to him if possible, would not be the sweater I have bought him but a cure for his diabetes and not the daily regime of needles and testing he must always go through....

Edwardian Farm review;

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Getting up early

Getting up early and listening to the radio, as I made a cup of tea this morning, I listened to someone on the radio talking about democracy, and the fact that in essence democracy does'nt work. That the system we have is probably the best, founded as it is on hundreds of years of smoothing out the edges. That our form of government, with the house of lords and the royal family appearing in the formalisation of our laws and 'motions passed' is in essence the best.
Well earlier on this week watching the student riots in London, the charging of the crowds by policemen on horseback and riot armour dressed police against young people, I wasn't so sure though; and when Charles and Camilla got attacked, it made me look at the royal family with a slightly quizzical eye.
For a start it was a complete foolishness to take them through this part of London where everyone was protesting, and also it was a complete foolishness of the couple to be seen in an expensive car dressed to the nines when we are all told that austerity is to be part of the next few years of life for most people, and that we were slinging round the necks of our young people, high bills of maybe £50,000 for university costs to be paid off in the future. Given that these young people also have to find jobs, probably pay off mortgages for a greater part of their lives, would they even want to start on this life of debt!
I find it very demoralising sometimes this line between rich and poor, it was poor Camilla necklace that started this trend of thought, large emeralds in a setting of diamonds hung round her neck and outside angry youngsters, who would have heavy debts hung round their necks in the future, the juxtaposition was too close and uncomfortable.
Well the next programme was about walking, something I used to do early in the morning when I walked Moss. Getting up on Sunday, and wandering about the downs is something I miss. Seeing the moon still in the sky on cold winter mornings and the sun coming over the horizon in a fiery glow. Watching the little muntjac make its way home into the woods, and also the deer as they browsed along the edge of the woods.
Walking is a meditation, our minds become cleared of all those small nagging problems and fears, we are part of the greater world, unimportant in the great scheme of things. Sometimes i think it is the time when nature flows through us, welcoming us to the minutae of its abundant life. The skylark soaring up into a tangle of clouds in spring as you venture too near its young hidden in the grass, we are offered the grace of its beautiful song. A single blade of grass, is a work of art, yet their are billions around, insects climbing solemnly to the top of a blade and balancing precariously there.
The form and shape of trees, the music of the wind blowing through their branches, different as the seasons progress, I miss the old ash trees that grew up on the downs, though the beautiful willows here are good enough compensation, I cannot get over their silvery-blue leaves and their fissured bark.
Their are two landscapes that I love, the first is Wales, not always pretty, but still retaining a wildness that is different. The other is Somerset, full of hills and downs, and woods. Yorkshire moors I have still to come to terms with, their bleak bareness is so different and its just a tad colder up North - 3 degrees to be precise, though if you were to move further north it would be another 3 degrees! Essex landscape is also beautiful in its rivers and fields, but it is bounded on all sides by roads which I hate.....
But the one thing I meant to write about was the cutting down of the thorn bush under Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury. Now Glastonbury is supposed to be a magical place, it is the 'mecca' of alternative views and paganism, though in reality it has a very christian background, with the great ruined abbey there and its story of King Arthur and Guinevere.
So who committed the crime? well I can't answer that one, there are dark mutterings on the local paper, only that someone took an axe to it, leaving quite a lot of stump still standing. Funnily enough a sprig had been cut the day before to grace the table of the Queen on Christmas day, so whether that had anything to do with it I'm not sure.
The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus and a merchant, came to Britain and on coming to Glastonbury stuck his stick into the ground, and from thence miraculously a tree grew, and it is from this tree, over the centuries, many slips and cuttings have been taken to preserve the symbolic 'magic' of it. Its magic by the way is that it flowers on Christmas day, it doesn't of course, maybe sometimes 10 days later. But it is a hawthorn tree from a 'foreign' country that flowers at its proper season, like so many of the firs that we find in this country.
Its not such a calamity clones of the tree are apparently to be found elsewhere. The puritans or the roundheads in the 17th century also cut the tree down that was standing then, they did'nt believe that Xmas should be a time of festivity!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

4 Trains and a bus

Snow on the moors; Creative Commons with acknowledgments to Colin May

7.3o start on a very cold morning, the bus took us round very snowy villages, and then up onto the moor, which was very beautiful. I suspect the temperature in the bus was -10 degrees if not more, the snow on the North Yorks moor was deep, blown by the wind, indeed sculpted by the wind, snowdrifts were everywhere, plus that lynchet/wave like affect as the wind ripples over the snow. Everywhere glistened silver with the frost, and as we plunged into Dalby Forest, it stood 2 to 3 foot deep down the tracks, completely impassable. The other road to Pickering had been opened the day before, to get supplies through, as towns and villages were running empty.
Whitby being by the sea was'nt as affected as much and had this rather tenuous link with Scarborough, even so shelves were beginning to run on empty.
A long wait for the Scarborough train, which took us through a magical country of snowy frosted trees, past the ruins of Kirkham Abbey, to arrive and wait for a further 20 minutes outside York station as a train had 'failed' on the platform. Eventually it was moved, and then another wait for the London train, which turned up fairly quickly but only because it was a very late early train, all trains from the north were coming in on one platform, hours late!
Travelling through a snowy countryside with frozen ponds and streams, suddenly changed into a green frozen landscape; the 'ribbon' of arctic cold weather twisted its way all round Britain.
London it had of course melted, so tube from Kings Cross to Liverpool street was easy, as was the Chelmsford train; a long journey though of about 8 hours.

Outside the cottage

one of the many snowfalls treacherous for cars though

Whitby Abbey in the distance

Pottery Cottage 1712 AD, two years till its 300 years old!

Beautiful skies, all this cold weather has created lovely cloud banks

Footnote; Well it seems I got out of Whitby just in time as more snow fell next day, and the road became impassable according to this BBC news item sent by my daughter. Its quite difficult to convey the state of the weather, but heavy falls of snow, combined with sleet and hail, does build up a surface on the roads that no amount of gritting can contend with, luckily it happened in daylight on the Scarborough road whereas a similar happening in Scotland left hundreds of motorists stranded overnight. The same of course happened with the trains, York is a main line station, trains from London to Edinburgh, and all the northern cities pass through this station, that they were reduced to one platform shows just how serious it was up north.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Sunday, and my daughter sits in front of me with the most enormous piles of clean washing, which is being sorted for ironing, Lillie is 'helping' sorting the socks. A rainy sleet is making the snow disappear but it is treacherous out with black ice.

Is the country in chaos because of the bad weather, maybe, but tv shows the lorries back on the roads albeit driving very slowly, so though there will be short term shortages of food, supplies are being delivered. The co-op ran out of meat yesterday and the shelves apparently looking a little bit empty. This because people from the villages come in and stock up for the week.

But they did'nt run out of chocolate cake at Sherlocks this afternoon, the children gorged, to be quite honest this fudgy cake is horrible, I suppose Black Forest gateau must have been its inspiration.

The salt miners down the road (or somewhere on the moors?) have been working flat out to mine the street salt, so its not all gloom and doom as the papers would have us see. Tomorrow I shall try and get home(joy no more non stop Fireman Sam with those terrible Welsh accents on tv) The rather nice woman who drove me to Whitby in her American jeep, in fact owns two famous fish and chip shops in Whitby plus a restaurant; think there might be a bit of competition with the Magpie restaurant for awards but if we are heading for a recession, fish and chips are the business to be in!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Today has been glorious, bluest of skies and crisp white snow, a new fall last night. Children are off school and have been tobogganing in the front garden, though Lillie has come in crying, that it is too cold, too white and too tiring. Late afternoon clouds are creeping in, soft beigy-greys, the birds sit in the tree outside, seemingly unconcerned as they clean their feathers. A thrush plucks a berry from the garden next door.
So can I get back to London next week? for the first part of the journey, its either a two hour bus ride across the moors, hopefully the road to Pickering is open now, but there was talk on the radio this lunchtime of the town of Malton not getting supplies through. Or, an hours' journey back to Scarborough, and then another dicey hour to York on the train. The York train, or at least the Edinburgh train, seems to be keeping to timetable, but the south east trains are having problems.
When we were in town today, we saw 'Jesus' the tramp standing in a doorway talking to himself. Apparently he is well looked after by the restaurants, and collects a daily amount of money from the bank each day for the days wants.He does have a similarityto Jesus, as he is quite a young man, and had a blue and white cloth draped round him. One wonders at the crime rate in Whitby but I am informed (not sure how reliably) that the police run the druggies out of town, and there is hardly any burglaries because everyone knows each other!
Tomorrow is the 'big shop' at the co-op, so I will buy a saturday paper and see how the rest of the world is coping.
No photos till I get home, and hopefully the gas man will have been today to mend the boiler/heating which has gone haywire, seems to me that if we are to make ready for colder winters, then decent boilers and pipes that don't freeze would be of some help. Of course if the snow stays to xmas, there will be no vegetables or sprouts to put on the table.......

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So Britain is stranded under bitterly cold weather and snow, here in Whitby the roads alternately appear and disappear under snow, cars skid on the corner just outside the house. I have seen only one car with chains on the tyres. I should be stoic but that does not come easily, plus I have a wretched bug, caught from the youngest Lillie, luckily she is recovering and seems her usual bouncy self today.

Well I seem to have struck lucky with cottage searching. Walking around the half dozen I marked soon reduced the field to two, the others had a variety of faults, mostly to do with long dark alleyways reducing the light into the cottages.

Tiny is the word, these 18th century fisherman cottages are very small, but at last after all these years of wanting an old fashioned cottage, I seem to be in the process of acquiring one.. true it doesnt have any acres to go with it just a couple of flower pots maybe!

Dependent on the surveyor's report, it should be finalised fairly quickly, basically it is going to be a holiday let anyway but we can use it when its not in use. The selling points were most of the original beams, cupboard doors and the quaint stair door with latch that sold it, plus a warm atmosphere and secluded yard, not forgeting the fireplace -and it was a great deal warmer than this draughty old victorian terrace house.

Houses are very subjective, atmosphere plays a great deal, one had been 'done up', two shower rooms and a whole set of kitchen stuff I did'nt like including the tiles, sad because it was pretty outside. Another had a bad feel to it, not that I believe in ghosts but something 'other' was trogging round the bedrooms I'm sure...

Chelmsford news is not too good either, the heating has gone and the gas people are inundated with calls, so they may come out tomorrow, and of course the snow has hit the London area quite badly. They were talking of people, sleeping on the trains at King Cross which is the station I come back through, (if I ever get back) apparently it was warm though in the carriages.