Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Potted thoughts

Looking at Dominic Cummings;  Well first let me say he has swallowed a whole lot of books and their theories and then regurgitated them into his blogs.  Okay says he, lets head for the highly intelligent person, whip them into shape and allow them full throttle over the landscape of our lives and the government of this country.  
In fact he reminds me of those  brick like computer books that came with the first computers that entered our homes.  A blow by blow account of how to use your computers (tedious and dull) and in his case how to run the country.  Is this what we have engineered in this particular generation a person who sees the managerial side in such a manner. 
Perhaps more frightening is this, that which is being taught in our schools and colleges to unleash on us a robotic figure wedded to a particular ideology.  Rachel mentions Seumas Milne on the Left, and the same restricted viewpoint is there as well.  What were our two opposing political parties aiming for? Do we need such radical restructuring?  Maybe yes is my answer, after all it is the young who inherit the earth.  But in the era of AI are we not already beginning to be the robots, calculating how to win a viewpoint, a statistical nightmare trying to herd kittens.
I came across a figure like Cummings very early on.  This was Derek Wall, a Green Party figure in Bath.  He emerged as a young lad on my then husband's  archaeological dig.  Intensive, very intellectual, an argumentative soul.  I remember him now grown up marching into a GP meeting room with several of his cohorts and changing the vote in his favour.  He was frightening in his determination to rule.  This was the split in the GP, into red/green. a socialist split that took many years to come to terms with the radicalism of the people involved.  Perhaps comfortingly, he now sits on the sideline but to be honest I have never scrutinised the inner workings of the GP party.
It will be an interesting year 2020, will Johnson fulfil any of his promises, or will there be a sneaky attrition of many values, and will Cummings still rule quietly in the Cabinet, undermining the old guard. And do we want that old guard back anyway?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Monday 30th December 2019

I decided to take up crochet this year, so bought these two books to get some ideas.  Well 'Rainbow Crocheted Blankets' is the one I like, but.... she dyes the wool she uses, natural dyes no less.   Have decided one in the colour-ways red and some green, my choices are limited in terms of material, cochineal and madder for red, dyers weld for green, though playing around with the mordant copper can give you some pretty greens.   So some more spinning, I only have Downland wool, rather harsh compared to Blue faced Leicester wool, but it will have to do.
One problem is that ordering small items over the net, the price of what you order is small and the price of postage high. 
Last night the most fabulous sunset, you could almost believe in God when you looked up at the sky, Turner is the only person in my books who captured the sky.  My camera definitely does not, but I refuse to buy another.  Clouds dimple in their colour ways, which meld with such beauty.

I like the starkness of the built environment against the sky.  It reminds me of those black and white Victorian cut outs.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A lighter look at life

Olga Wisinger Florian 1844-1926
Poppies chosen for their summery feel....  Words chosen at random.  Years ago I kept 'commonplace books' and then threw them away.  Perhaps I regret that action now, but there again we move on and restructure our thinking.  Jane Goodall is the only female amongst the four, and that is something new in my lifetime, the rise of the other half of the world, commonly referred to as 'women' ;)  The youngest kid on the block, Greta Thunberg has sailed into view and I wish her success as she ploughs on but in the end it is us that must do the groundwork of seeing that we do not destroy the world we live in.

As for Jeremy Corbyn being included, I think a great disservice has been done to him, by the lightweight cruel commentary that goes for our newspaper media nowadays.  But then because political battles are fought with words my New Year resolution is going to be.....................read up on Dominic Cummings, one should always know one's enemies!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Wurzel Gummidge

Wurzel Gummidge. 

Mackenzie Crook has captured the moment once more in his adaptation of Wurzel Gummidge.  The Scarecrow is really scary and this lovely evocative drama gently makes you laugh but then there is the frisson of fear as the unknown is called on.  Anyone who has seen The Detectorists will remember the gentle humour that ran through it and also the loving look at the countryside.  Well Crook has managed it again.  With hints of a pagan nature era, he goes and chats to the 'tree of trees' to unbind the spell that has made the seasons stop. Reminding us that on the Winter Solstice not so long ago, for three days the sun stays where it is before it moves on again.  The crows are called into action (remember the magpies in The Detectorists as their nest of gold coins fell to the ground below). too divest the tree of trees in the supermarket of all the plastic bags that hang so untidily from its branches, in return for the secret of how to start the seasons again.  The key is to be found in a pattern on Wurzel's neck tie, and one night the scarecrows gather in the ten acre field to make the pattern.  This is made like a crop circle under the full moon, and of course everything returns to normal, the apples ripen in the orchard and the wheat turns yellow overnight.
A pretty eco fairy story but cleverly written and the countryside, which is Bedfordshire is glorious.

Wurzel Gummidge on BBC Iplayer

27th December 2019

John Bercow, ex Speaker of the House; Another person telling us to behave graciously, I would just like to say that I have never argued with anyone over the touchy subject of Brexit, only got cross on my blog about it, and of late have accepted the inevitable. I shall miss John Bercow, his successor is so quiet just like a mouse whereas Bercow was flamboyant and opinionated.  And obviously this 'alternate Christmas speech' was pulled apart by the right wing papers but the Queen's speech was as always as gracious as ever.  

Over the Xmas period I have had to deal with people who did not know of Paul's death.  I wrote to the studio in Japan after receiving a card, and they must have told another friend of Paul's, and once more I glimpse a fragment of the person I loved so much.  This friend works in America in Boston and was full of praise for Paul, he sent me a long email this morning.  Sometimes when I look back at the gentle person I knew and how he felt about the work he had devoted his life to, in the end saying he could not do it anymore I feel I should write some kind of essay for him.

"Paul paved the way for many of us working in Japanese paintings conservation and he wrote eloquently on his subject, editing a special edition of the Paper Conservator – ‘Hyogu – the Japanese tradition in picture conservation’  that was published in 1985 and has since become a standard reference work on the subject.  The techniques and materials he wrote about were also an inspiration to conservators of Western paper, who were keen to adapt and adopt them for their work, too."

Paul collected many papers and was indeed an expert on them, there are in his study four great parcels of them, one of his dreams was to make paper, but you have to live by a clean river or stream, we had thought of this once when in Wales.  We had visited the mill at Middle Mill just outside Solva and watched the small river flow through the mill, the old mill wheel still in place but now there are just looms for making the rugs there.  It was a  place I had always loved, very tranquil, approached by lanes from four sides, deep in the heart of Pembrokeshire.  But Paul did not fancy Wales so in the end we ended up in Yorkshire.

By Dr Duncan Pepper, 
I shall stop for the moment, memories are rushing through my head, but somehow I am energised by the landscapes that float through my brain.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

26th December

Well what to touch on this morning? Well what about funny presents.  I am walking around in a new pair of slippers, which I asked for, stipulating no mules as I would probably fall over and may I say they are warm and comfortable, good show M&S and to my daughter.  But then when I mentioned my hair was getting thinner, my daughter rushed out of the room and came back with a caffeine shampoo, weirdly it was for males so obviously not bought for me.  I expect you have seen that creepy advert with the woman saying 'especially good for women over 40' well I tick the box there, though I do drink a lot of tea as well, perhaps I should just pour it over my head.  Also there was a delicious box of M&S chocolate biscuits, thickly coated in chocolate.  The family had started eating them on the train but I will forgive there.....
My son never buys me any thing, though I hint loud enough but Xmas passes him by and his nose is buried in his laptop.
Xmas lists are the best answer, I give my daughter money for all of them which goes into a central pot, and they can buy what they want.  Tom, who likes good clothes but can't choose them, gets an overcoat from his mum.  Ben, who buys specific  clothes that are very expensive treats himself to the latest.  Matilda, clothes and makeup star on her list.  Lillie, desired a Swiss army knife this time around, she is part of the scouts/guide team which explains the need for a good penknife.  My daughter's list included pillows and mattress cover, like me she is more practical.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Christmas family ;)

I want to learn how major trends in human history, both hopeful and worrisome, work themselves out: the dangers and promise of our technology, say; the emancipation of women; the growing political, economic, and technological ascendancy of China; interstellar flight. If there were life after death, I might, no matter when I die, satisfy most of these deep curiosities and longings. But if death is nothing more than an endless dreamless sleep, this is a forlorn hope. Maybe this perspective has given me a little extra motivation to stay alive. The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”
Carl Sagan,  Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium.

Well it is Xmas day, my daughter phones, you haven't written anything on your blog for two days mum!  Well there is hardly anything to write about, my visitors, children and grandchildren have visited and it was truly lovely to see them.  Matilda asleep on the sofa after a late night, and Lillie as ever herself.  My daughter Karen, is just happy to rest after working long hours in her new job, with which she is perfectly happy, so we did not go out.

Matilda asleep

Lillie and the psychotic dog Lucy, who misbehaved all day

Xmas table, those crackers had useful items in like shoe horn and nail clippers.

Another branch of the family taken early in the year in London.  Leo, Paul's grandchild sits in the middle
I chose Sagan to head the blog, I like his tone and his extraordinary ability for enthusiasm, I wonder how he would see the world today though? What with Trump, Johnson and several right wing politicians in power.  I pick my gurus carefully, Sagan will always be one, and just to throw some pepper into the mix, I think Greta Thunberg will be another. 
Picked up the Times on Saturday, to read Matthew Parris, sadly he was away, but Giles Coren was there, as also Caitlin Moran for her sharp wit.
Finished my Newstateman, they have no answers to the future, think it rests on us to keep on fighting for a different world.  A rather good article on Woodstock and where it all went wrong.
And something we all watched on TV, the 1970s music era, Karen's 'growing up' period to her with music that has not been matched since!  Also she mentioned she still had some records of mine Leonard Cohen (dark and dismal) and Melanie, who never seemed to make it big in this country.  But hear she is singing 'Ruby Tuesday' though I always remember 'Lay Down'

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday 22nd December

One of my favourite songs at Xmas 'The Boar's Head' sung in this instance by Steeleye Span with Maddy Prior.  Though I must admit 'The King's Choir' Cambridge is probably better.  It is an early medieval carol, and is often described as macabre, probably for the image of the severed head of the boar. 
Today my daughter, two grandchildren and Teddy the whippet come for a couple of days.  Lucy will have fun terrorizing Teddy, she is very sneaky, and just growls very quietly her lip raised.  Teddy will head straight for the bedroom upstairs, terrified by her and there he will stay and Lucy will reign supreme.  Wretch that she is. 
When I was a child, bought up by my grandfather, he once cooked a pig's head.  Basically you do this to remove the meat, it can look pretty  in aspic jelly, with a few other things, I remember sliced eggs and tomatoes.  But  doubt if I ever ate it. Nowadays we have 'clean' butchered meat but in the 50s food was still scarce, and every bit of the pig was eaten.  Trotters and green pea soup another.  
Today the candles and fire will be lit, the girls will sprawl with their phones and the television will catch all those Xmas programmes!  On the 25th, I shall be quiet and alone but with Paul.  I shall spin, or maybe even set up a warp on the long dining table, something I have been wanting to do for ages.  A friend will call in as well and there are invitations from people in the village, but i want to be quiet.
In many ways I write for Paul, he always read it each day in the past, I can hear the robin outside demanding attention......

Saturday, December 21, 2019

21st December = Winter Solstice

A Happy Winter Solstice, may the candles burn on this shortest of days and may light once more return to our benighted land in the New Year. But I can't resist the factual evidence on this day.
A Game of Henge - Stonehenge

Phillip Gross

A game of Henge, my masters?
The pieces are set. We lost the box
with instructions years ago.

Do you see Hangman? Or
Clock Patience? Building bricks
the gods grew out of? Dominoes?

It's your move. You're in the ring
of the hills, of the stones, of the walls
of your skull. You want to go?

You want out? Good - that's
the game. Whichever way you turn
are doors. Choose. Step through, so...

And whichever world you stumble into
will be different from all the others, only
what they might have been,
you'll never know.

I had coffee with my friend yesterday morning and we chatted away, she mentioned the Ronald Hutton book on the table about Pagan religions, well if you want to know what the professor thinks of this subject on which he has written reams, then read this article.  His gentle historian's viewpoint and intellectual knowledge of such things as paganism and Druidism will settle your mind about religion, as Phillip Gross's poem does.  But it is a long read working through the imaginations of so many men through the centuries.  
We create our belief systems and then get cross when others take a different view, this is wrong, welcome the creativity of belief, foster it if you must, but don't let it turn to hate and violence.
Why do I write of Stonehenge today?  It is the Solstice when people gather (for free, occasionally English Heritage is kind) at Stonehenge on Sunday, though this wet miserable weather that is flooding our fields, roads and railways will be difficult for travel.

I spy Arthur Uther Pendragon, on the right of the central figure.  Yes fancy dress is acceptable!
I actually respect these modern day druids, but they are playing around with facts, Stonehenge was not built by the druids, basically because they came later.  Paul and I went to the opening of the new EH centre at Stonehengein 2013, again wet and miserable you can read the blog here, it was my birthday present to Paul, though he hated the weather.  And you should be able to spot Pendragon in the next, rather badly taken,  photo as they demonstrated once more that Stonehenge belonged to modern day Pagans.....

Alice Roberts - archaeologist, article

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday 20th December - shortest day tomorrow

 Taken by Pwojdacz, Public Domain,

We went to Castle Howard in the end, in dull wet weather, it hardly looked the place where you would spend £20 on a ticket - so we didn't!.  I took photos of the surrounding area and puzzled at the so called  schemes of the wealthy who built such piles.  It looks gorgeous in the sun in the photo, a symmetrical classic, started in 1699 though it took a 100 years to build.  The grounds are surrounded by roughly a fifteen foot wall with turrets strategically placed.  But this is not a defended castle just a pretty show of wealth and aspiration.  You will see from the following dull photos the actuality of it.  But that did not stop hundreds of people coming, the car parks were full
I have just delivered my son to the train, and in tears drove home, though my friend is coming for coffee this morning, so the day will be full for there is shopping to be done as well for my daughter and grandchildren this weekend.
My son managed to get Paul's two computers going, after we had sussed the passwords.  One is on Window 7, Paul hated 'new' programmes, but of course it will be updated at some stage. 

there is a folly on the horizon

reckon these are stables

near to the house

I love this old tree and so do the owners obviously

The wall

large festive garland
We did try to go to the moors, but persistent fog and snow as we drove up to the moors made me turn round, not a place to get stuck on in winter. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thought Fox

Today I read a beautiful blog on wolves, how their presence to the writer was suddenly made aware.  It brought to mind 'The Thought-Fox written by Ted Hughes.  That moment when the fox/poem  takes form in his head and daintily steps onto the paper.
It also reminds me of looking out of the window of the Bath house and seeing my teenage son kneeling on the lawn holding his hand out to a fox that was very familiar in the garden.  This fox would sleep in the bed of flowers by my rabbits - yes I knew what he was after!  Only once did he get his teeth into one of my angora rabbits, and she screamed so loudly he let go and she escaped without injury.


I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Writing in the dark

Or at least before daylight appears.  I have already seen the thick ice on the car when I let Lucy out into the garden and it is also foggy once more.  Welcome winter weather!!
The radio is awash (couldn't resist) with news of hundreds of thousands of washing machines with an inherent weakness in their opening catch which causes fire, and if you own one well just put everything on 'cold wash'.  Funnily enough a friend came yesterday afternoon saying that her washing machine had broken down and she was thinking of having it mended for £600, one would have thought a new one might be cheaper.
Yesterday evening Mark and I went to the Carol Service in the church next door, Jo had made me promise to go there and there was surprisingly a good turnout.  Deep bass of the men offset by the higher notes of the women.  The readings were short and sweet and though I had said to Mark he could leave if he found it boring, he stayed.  
The church was decorated with the rich dark green of the holly and the ivy, threaded with thin red ribbon and fronted with dozens of small candles, it looked beautiful, some of the holly came from our holly tree.
When we started to leave, the vicar came down the aisle, obviously intrigued by the youngest person in church - Mark.  When Mark said he came from Bath, vicar thought he meant the village up the road - Great Barugh, which is always called Great Bath, which  goes against the grain of sensibility I call my brain.  We explained we came from down South.  I do like the vicar and his wife, they really care for their communities, he is a bit of an evangelist but if you believe you believe.  But he was the one who regularly visited our widower who sadly took his own life a couple of weeks ago.

As for words...........

"The name "Barugh" means 'rise of the land' which has its origins in Anglo-Saxon. The name was first recorded as Berg and Berch in 1086 and comes from Old English beorg 'hill.' The pub in Great Barugh, which dates back to 1632, is the heart of the community; it is one of the oldest remaining buildings in the village. This is the only local village amenity, with Great and Little Barugh having no shops, post office or village Hall. Ruins have been found at sites in both Great and Little Barugh including those of a Roman villa. There is also evidence of a Roman road which led to York. "


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tuesday 17th December

Gloomy fog is today's weather.  My son is staying for a few days.  Picked him up from the station yesterday and watched with horror as the people disgorged themselves from the train.  It looked like a London tube train, yes the new timetables and training of train drivers has hit most services  yesterday.  The board read 'cancellations' on every other train. Just to add to the fun the town of Malton was choc-a-block with traffic and diversion signs, the A64 going to Pickering was closed at the traffic island.  Welcome to the small island of Britain!

I can hear him showering next door, strange having someone around.  He should be showering in the 'en-suite' in the back bedroom, hate that word so pretentious.  But it is leaking somewhere and now a water stain decorates the ceiling underneath in the sitting room.  But my plumber is coming today to do something about it.

Feeding my family is not too hard, I made a chicken dish with lemon and sage yesterday and it reminded Mark of the creamy, lemony dish I did with rice.  Funnily enough that was my grandfather's dish and I haven't done it for ages, basically because I don't buy cream any more.  Today it will be salmon with sweet chilli sauce, red cabbage and new potatoes.  They also like my version of a pasty.......... which is basically bacon, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and herbs wrapped in puff pastry.  The real pasty has of course real beef and turnips?

The joke comes from the Cornish Pasty, the Ginster is apparently but a pale image of the real pasty.  See they can't spell tolerate, but then I get picked up countless times by the American version of my own language!

The other Cornish joke I picked up from a friend on F/B was this........

It of course refers to holiday homes that stay empty for much of the year, forcing the youngsters to stay in the towns and unable to afford the houses in Cornwall....

Monday, December 16, 2019


Before we all start kicking people who are already down, take Alan Johnson for instance,  I would say that I have never had any strong feelings one way or the other for Corbyn.  His sons stood up for him firmly in the Guardian and I applaud their sentiment.  Corbyn has battled against those of different views to him, in the arguments, stupid simplistic words are hurled around.  He also has had to battle against right wing news coverage by such papers, that unfortunately seem to dominate  public space.
Whoever he stood up for in the past, would have been seen as right at the time, things move forward though.  The delicate issue of antisemitism in the party is still to be sorted and I have neither the understanding of these inner politics or how prevalent they are.  Unfortunately in my simplistic world, Israel has a lot to answer for in its dealing with the Palestinian problem but that doesn't make me antisemitic.
But enough of that, today I thumbed through photos of a different kind on Facebook.  This time from 'Incredible Edible Todmorden' a town I shall probably move to.  It is community involvement at its best, they tend vegetable and fruit trees in the public spaces, they come together and in the space of the church, create things for their town.  Someone cooks for all of them, children and old people mix together.  One can see traces of the old hippy brigade amongst the gray hairs but it is how we should be moving forward.  Also when at times flooding occurs in the town, it is Islamic people who bring hot and cold food to help out those who have no electricity.
Britain at its best is 'kind' that is what the children were making in signposts in that church, as sticky chocolate fingers made truffles, and grown-up fingers stuck cloves into oranges, they had come together in the true spirit of Xmas.

Yes even outside the police station

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Catching the moment - Cornwall

North Cornwall;  Land of the Celtic Saints and prehistoric stones, a strange landscape for it has been industrialised in its past and Bodmin Moor ground is undulating from past diggings. We visited twice, and each time the weather was dour, mists rolling across the moors, the stark deserted buildings with their tall chimneys.  A creative muddle of a hard past as people tried to make a living, and never forget that the Cornish people would like independence from mainstream Britain.
But the sun must have shone for I found one photo with the bluest of skies.  We have a good friend down there, fascinated by the prehistory he has his own small group which 'restores' the stone circles on Bodmin and is at the moment doing work on King Arthur's Hall, a strangely fascinating archaelogical feature that is in need of interpretation.  Large, it is rectangular shaped with standing stones round its perimeter and  these stones and bank surrounds a pond.  Set lonely on the moor with a prehistoric settlement but a twenty minute walk from it, it is an enigma, why rectangular when stone circles seem to predominate. 

Here on the moor you will find the three stone circles called The Hurlers overlooked by the Cheesewring Tor,  not too far from the quarried tor there is the bronze age Rillaton barrow in which a gold cup was found, and just further along hidden in a jumble of rocks, is the remains of Daniel Gumb's cave home.
Famous cromlechs such as Trevethy and Lanyon Quoit and the exquisite little quartz stone circle of Duloe and not too far from it a 'sacred' well.
There are disappointing aspects to Cornwall, too many tourists and such famous places as 'Jamaica Inn' well don't go there if you remember the drama, it is a dull building.

King Arthur's Hall

Unknown church

Celtic crosses

Moor ponies near the car park

Daniel Gumb's 'cave' with the mathematical equations carved on the top, he carved gravestones for a living.

Here I lie by the churchyard door
Here I lie because I'm poor
The further in, the more you pay
But here lie I as warm as they.

Chief sitting below the Cheesewring

Trevethy cromlech

Lanyon Quoit

Part of The Hurlers

A happy time

Duloe Stone Circle
Rillaton barrow, gold cup resides in the British Museum

Jamaica Inn

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday 14th December

What do I do in the early morning? I potter through photographs of sunny days and churches.  What I notice is the stark difference between the uncultivated land and farm land.  This morning they have been discussing the constant rain that has fallen on our poor benighted* land the last few weeks.  Will they get the wheat sown? a farmer in Lincolnshire spends half a million quid on seed for peas, and is dithering at the moment - no 'Bird's Eye' peas next year?
We live in an incredibly beautiful country, yes it is crowded and its politics make you sick but our temperate climate has drawn a palette of colour and pattern that speaks to the heart.  In Yorkshire, it is the pleasing sight of cottages lining the road way.  Set back from wide verges, it is a reminder of the drover roads as the cattle came down to market.
Our cows are out in summer on the fields and in winter housed in  sheds on straw,  I can only hope we keep this system going and do not fall foul of the industrialisation of farming animals in artificial conditions on lots.
We can go through as many elections as possible, but it can't stop good people gathering together to save the environment around us.  Each day I follow the adventures of the Hedgehog Trust in our district as it takes in the young, starving little hogs and feeds them in a warm environment sending them off to safe gardens when they have recovered.  There is someone down the road that works tirelessly in planting trees and protecting the natural world. We are in the village questioning where to plant a tree donated by Ryedale Council, one tree will not solve the problem but hey-ho its the thought that counts...

*Words suddenly come to the fore and 'benighted' is how I see our poor country at the moment.  Something to read on rain, who puts it so much better.

The open road out of Hutton-le-hole


You are never far from sheep in Yorkshire

Issues always need fighting

The old rubs shoulders with the new.