Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Samhain: Old Customs-The Cailleach's house


The stone family huddle by their turf-roofed shelter, looking eastwards to the shrouded summit of Meall Daill, Perthshire, as the mists roll down from the burnt orange mountainside. The tallest of the figures, still under a foot in height, is a water-worn rock with a feminine torso and slim neck. She is the Cailleach: a seasonal deity in Gaelic mythology who bestrides the winter months, known variously as an earth-shaper, wise woman, storm-raiser and mistress of deer. Around her are ranged her husband, the Bodach, and their children.

There is no back history to this custom of putting this little stone family into their home before winter only a general custom that is adhered to through the last several generations.  But it is as good a custom as any to say goodbye to the summer and welcome the cold days of winter and perhaps not linger on ghosties and ghouls plodding around one's home on All Saints and Souls day ;)

Also there is an essay here on some of the stories round these stones.

Article Source in the Guardian

Classical writings indicate that she was known as early as the 5th Century BC, in the area known today as Galicia, which gets its name from a Celtic tribe known as the Callaeci. This tribe on the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula were first named as the ‘Kallaikoi’ by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th Century BC; before being Latinised by Roman writers to ‘Callaeci’ in the 3nd Century BC - a name which Ptolemy suggested as meaning ‘worshippers of the Callaec’. Interestingly, in Spanish folklore, another name for Galicia is "Terra Meiga" (Land of the Witches).
Given that recent linguistic and genetic evidence points to a possible migration from Spain to Ireland during the Bronze-Age (2500-500BCE) - It is possible that the Irish ‘Cailleach’ is a variant of an ancient sovereignty goddess, brought here in the Bronze Age by the same Indo-European people, from whom the Gaelic peoples of Scotland & Ireland are descended from.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday 30th October - Et tu Brute

 Scapegoating; I don't like cruelty in any form but Corbyn was put out to dry, to pay for the sins of the anti-Jewish feelings in the Labour party.  I am not even a fan of Corbyn, but he is a man of principle, as is Starmer.  I listened to Starmer this morning, an adept speaker, moderate in his tone, the very epitome of a leader, and especially of the Labour party.  But suspending Corbyn immediately after the report came out, on the evidence of what Corbyn had written was shameful, it stinks of 'well here is a chance to get rid of him fellas'.  It won't go down with fair minded people though.

Treading carefully here, for I know little of what has been said against Jewish people, only seeing Margaret Hodge get her knickers in a twist about it, and I like Margaret Hodge as well for her needle picking mind at enquiries, so there must be evidence. Rant over.

The other thing to spring to mind was being buried in a bed ;) I belong to a Patreon Group called the Prehistory Guys, and yesterday they were discussing a burial, late Neolithic I think in which the primary burial was buried in the crouched position, with 'four hoof and horns' cattle hides at his feet.  But an adjacent burial mound had the occupant sitting upright facing the first barrow.

It reminds us that earlier burial ceremonies were different.  You went into the realms of death/sleep, with all your accoutrements of life, food and drink.  To bury four oxen is surely a sign of wealth.

But it brought to mind the 7th century Anglo-Saxon bed burials, mostly of women. The first one is on the East coast, at Loftus, and the burial in question is called a person of royal lineage, though in truth she maybe an Abbess but who knows.  Evidence that remains are nails and cleats, and the staining of the wooden boards in the soil.  This Anglo-Saxon burial ground had many burials though and the women were all buried with exquisite jewellery as was the bed burial 'princess'.

In the seventh century during the Anglo Saxon period, there was a period of time when paganism was giving way to Christianity, so that often you would find the two traditions side by side.  The North gave way to Christianity strangely through the manipulations of a Kentish princess, Ã†thelburh,  who married Edwin of Northumbria in the late 6th century.  It is good to know that Anglo-Saxon women were so strong in their own rights.

Guardian article

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Wednesday 28th October

 I know all our thoughts are with Pat and her stay in hospital and all we can do is wish her well and also her family and friends who must be very worried. So love and strength to her recovery from her hip operation.

Early in the morning and the wretched smoke alarm is going every minute or so.  I presume it needs it battery changing, though I thought electric alarms would look after themselves.  The kitchen also has eight of those silly little lights, three of which needs replacing.  We have had a couple of short blackouts which could be the problem.

The fate of the hens seemed to be drawing to a conclusion if Rosina doesn't take them Jo over the road will, though I think it is  the runs that are the prize.  Chatting to Jo yesterday and they seem to be enjoying this enforced lockdown by going out in their camper van.  I suppose town criers can bellow out the news in the fresh air.

Weather is wet, a rather stormy day a couple of days ago as leaves and twigs hit the windows,  it is the start of the grey dampness of Autumn.  Talked for a long time to my two children, are they always children when in fact they are grown-up adults.  They are both happy in their lives, my grandchildren are all almost grown-up as well, did I ever think that such a tragedy as the pandemic would strike the world, it blankets the world in misery.  Forget the cost and protect those that are young, that starve in far off camps.  

And now for photos to bring some memories back, when the sky was a glorious blue and people walked round freely!


The old coke house hatch

York Minster

Tourists in York

York Station

Bylands abbey


Hutton - le-Hole outside a favourite pub

Sunday, October 25, 2020


The hour has dropped back on this computer but not on many of the clocks in this house.  The cooker needs the instruction book to know which buttons to hold.  What a faff.  Yesterday with tumultuous winds and leaves and twigs beating against the window was not exactly the best of weathers.  The British Gas smart meter man phoned to say he was coping with emergencies and would not be able to come but today the sun shines through the windows illuminating a Japanese print.

My two magazines arrived yesterday as well, Newstatesman and Resurgence.  The environmental and spiritual magazine is always awash with erudite essays on how to cope.  The theme this month is the 'Dark'. so covers moths, Polar nights, dark places and gardening by the moon.  I am not disciplined enough to garden to the laws of the moon.

Also sadly an obituary of John Papworth who started the journal all those years ago, he died at the decent age of 98 years, and a quote from him.....

I know some people call me a crank, but a crank is a device used by engineers to create revolutions.

I am crocheting another blanket at the moment, hygge inspired maybe, but I love the way it comes together so quickly, and yes I am spinning the wool as well.

Meanwhile back at the labyrinth.......

Filling space is what time is about, you begin to question the daily routine as whether it is worth it or not but that leads to laziness and the sun beam has already moved past and now illuminates the window.

I have watched Francesco on BBC4, actually I have been to Venice years ago with my second husband.  We dropped off a young Karen in Switzerland and motored down through Italy.  Impressions are mixed, yes it is an architectural marvel but for me so overwhelming. it drips with a need for an artist's brush but I think Turner got it right by smudging it into a glorious   gold.  There is an uniformity in the buildings, which reminds me of Georgian Bath, the need for replication.  Though perhaps I should read John Ruskin - Stones of Venice - for education


It was incredibly hot when we were there, and I remember a meal 'fruits de la mer' but when I prodded my fork into something on the plate, blood shot out and that was the end for me ;)  I also had a similar experience in France when I ordered some sort of sausage. Uek when it came to the table, it was a stuffed horror of innards.  Luckily the proprietor took pity on me and came back with something else.

Coffee will be an hour later unless I throw artificial time to the wind and go on as my body dictates its need for it.  Today is the official day when summertime ends, though the berries on the holly tree tell me a different tale, as does the Christmas cacti in the kitchen with its tiny knobs of buds. That we are definitely into the winter zone.

Saturday, October 24, 2020


 Here I am, early morning as always, working my way through the unexpected news of Pat's fall and wishing her all the good wishes I can think of. Her blog so inspirational to everyone, I am sure someone will hook her up to the internet soon, and her lovely caring nature will come through.

So lets write about the ordinary in our lives.  For instance yesterday and a phone call.  I have to leave the cottage at some stage to move nearer to my family and so my mind is always on what to take and what to do.  To this end I advertised the chicken coop, runs and my two bantams, for free, on our village noticeboard. A slightly half hearted notice but then Rosina from the farm on top of the hill phoned and said she would like them and something has happened which I am not sure about!  We chatted and agreed that she could have them sometime in the future, but when taking action things do really happen.

Thursday was a busy day with Morrison's delivery coming at lunch time, then BATA the oil tanker suddenly obscured my driveway as he delivered oil. I noted two people also walking away, suspicious said my mind.

Actually it was the vicar and his wife delivering a letter, they came back and left me with a conundrum.  Each year on All Saints Night they have a service for people who have died in the village.  Last year the village had several deaths.  Someone supplies the church with those great white lilies and you can dedicate a lily to the loved one and have them mentioned in service.  Should I go, I can almost hear Paul's voice 'sweetheart I don't want anyone saying prayers for me' but, and it is such an important but.  He loved the village and church, he was part of it for a short time and I feel he should be acknowledged. So I will go.

One of the reasons for getting rid of the bantams, is that Mrs Feral Cat, who believes the creatures are her own property and follows them everywhere, has been caught with them in a head hold.  I don't think she means to kill them and that it is a bit of fun in the end.

And a final thought, Marcus Rushford's campaign to feed children at school, has at last got under way, though shockingly defeated in parliament, by a government who feel that making sure all our children have a decent meal is not on top of the list and called out the whips to make sure the conservatives voted against it.  So in a naming and shaming act, my local MP is Kevin Hollinrake, conservative who voted against with a very lame excuse.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bear witness

A46 Road Protest

"Civil disobedience on the ground of conscience is an honourable tradition in this country & those who take part in it may well be vindicated by history"

So said Lord Justice Hoffman during an appeal by Twyford Down Protestors

When they say interesting times, it is best to take note.  The pandemic will  fade into history it will have brought a lot of misery on its tail.  Yesterday I put a video on about the Newbury Road protestors but it brought back memories of the A46 protest in Bath.  How the young built their tree nests and slowly the strong armed methods of the contractors brought them down.

The young, often dispossessed and in need of something to protest over have often dominated the causes that need to be discussed and perhaps stopped.  What was destroyed by the Newbury bypass.....

The £66 million road was to be the most destructive road scheme in England. The six lane 12 mile road ploughed through rare healthland, ancient bogs, wildflower meadows & the River Kennet (one of England's most beautiful & unpolluted rivers). We lost twelve archaeological sites, nature reserves, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty & three Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Even the DoT's own Landscape Advisory Committee admitted that the bypass would be "massively destructive of a largely intimate landscape unable to absorb the impact of a major highway."

 A few minutes off your car travel that was what was gained.  Well how are we going to read the long list of destruction that HS2 brings in its wake just to take a few minutes off the travel time between London and the North?  It must be noted that even a transport minister Norris  at the time of the Newbury bypass construction said afterwards (shocking coward) ....

At the time the Department of Transport insisted that the road was essential. But Mr Norris, who was transport minister between April 1992 & July 1996, now says he was sympathetic to the protesters at the time but did not speak out. He blames the Government's flawed transport policy for the bypass being built. "I think it's fair to say that the formula was more motorist-based than it should have been & that it didn't apply the same kind of cash values to environmental considerations which it did to motorists' inconvenience," 

We had a fracking confrontation up the road a year or so back in Kirkby Misperton, no tree villages just the ordinary people, young and old standing peacefully in protest mood outside the gates, with the police in attendance.  The company in question was already to frack on the farming land, its ownership passed to American company but  ownership was all about profit which sadly was  never realised. I am not going to say that the protest got rid of the company, the winds of change did that, fracking was obviously a no-no in this country, especially with the small earthquakes in Lancashire.

Kirkby Misperton

I have not followed the protest movement for the new rail line, perhaps I should but it will only be a sad tale of desecration, the government moving forward on a wretched venture and along the stretch people protesting against the loss of their woods, rivers, fields, and old trees.  The only safe place for old trees in this country is the country church yard!  Archaeology of course has to be legally upheld, but I doubt there will be anything to stop the  destruction.  

references; The Green Fuse

photos taken from here; Adrian Arbib's photos in the Guardian on the A46 protest

Tearing up a Turner's masterpiece

"Let it not be said,
and said unto your shame,
That there was beauty here,
before you came".
Sign at Newbury protest site

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

'England what has become of you' Video


The Wild horses of Newbury

1996 and a new road paves its way across the landscape at Newbury, this video capturing the strong arm of the developers against the protestors.  The horses provide the magic.

2020 and the same story is being repeated across the country as the proposed line of HS2 rips through woods and the countryside and takes down the 250 years old Cubbington Pear tree

'England what has become of you' are the words of the video makers', young protestors, scruffy and in despair as they fight another battle.  HS2 has a long length, will the 'Swampys' of this world be able to make an impression?

'Stans' near Chelmsley Wood.  Before and After



Sir William Sharington 1495 - 1553

Sir William Sharington; If you saw 'Wolf Hall', the book was written by Hilary Mantel, but the television adaption with Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, you will have fallen under the spell of the dark Shakespearean time of Henry Vlll.  Velvet robes, intrigues, ghastly deaths and the slow corruption that befalls all high office.

Lacock Abbey with its rather attractive Oriel window

But you would not have come across Sharington, he was a player at the time, buying Lacock Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Greed of course led to their downfall, Henry looked at these large estates and needed the money.  So the lords and business entrepreneurs fell on the buildings and estates and that is why today you see so many magnificent ruins everywhere, robbed of their building materials.

The old cloisters

Lacock though had a different fate, it was redeveloped from an Abbey into a house by Sharington, with the living quarters above the great cloisters the monks used to walk around, but through all this, it kept its great beauty and stateliness. 

But like many courtiers of the time intrigue and devilry were also part of his game.  put in charge of the Bristol Mint, he did not exactly 'clip or shave the coin' but coins were considerably lighter than they should be.  He also minted more than was declared which  went into his own pocket, to help with the building of his home, He was forgiven. But when a plot against the king (young boy king Edward Vl) by Lord Thomas Seymour, then he found himself in trouble.  The execution of Seymour helped him in his plea for mercy and he carried on working for the government.

His role in the plot centred on his ability to make money, Seymour wanted £10,000 to keep a standing army for a month, which Sharington promised him that he could find the money.

He had a varied life, he was also Sheriff of Wiltshire, had three wives but no children but his treatment of the abbey left us with a legacy of great beauty.  He stilled his hand and allowed the natural balance of the stone and long length of the house to settle into the countryside around.


Yt is also objected and laied unto your charge that having knowledge that Sir William Sharington, knight, had committed treason, and otherwise wonderfully defrauded and deceiv'd the Kinges Majestie, nevertheless you both by your self, and by seeking Counsel for him, and by all means you could, did aid, assist, and beare hym, contrarie to your dewtie and Allegiance to the Kinges Majestie, and the good laws and orders of the realm. Yt is objected and laied unto your charge that where you owed to the said Sir William Sharington, knight, a great sum of Mony, yet to abet, beare and cloake the great falshood of the said Sharington you were not afraid to saye and affirm, before the Lord Protector and the Council, that the said Sharington did owe you a great sum of Mony, viz. 2800l. and to conspire with him in that falshood, and take a Bill of that feigned debt into your custody.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Pull up the drawbridge

Cold weather and the covid draws near.  What an upheaval for everyone, jobs on the line, packed hospitals and parts of Yorkshire are fighting back.  Its guns at the OK Corral, drawn and primed between Andy Burnham and the London government.  This part of Yorkshire is  at the second part of the tier, though only 20 miles away the City of York will probably go down to the third tier.

Like tortoises we have to draw into our shells, not mix.  Yesterday I filled the car up with petrol, bought animal food for the birds in the garden.  Then came home and ordered an online delivery from Morrisons - what excitement!  Then the phone started with messages from British Gas.  I have a limited phone plus limited reception as well.  So I struggled through the rest of the morning betwixt computer and phone negotiating a Smart meter, which should be fitted either Saturday or Thursday (smiles maniacally).  The oil man is also coming sometime this week, the manager crows over the phone 'it's very cheap as well'.

But for a moment this early morning, I opened the back door and listened to the owl hooting gently in the trees and thought life is not too bad.  

Resolution through this period: wander through history,  William Sharington passed me by yesterday (he is of course long dead) but he reminded me of the rogues and crooks that dance round the court of Parliament, he lived through Henry Vlll times and profited happily.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Avebury Manor

A broken pediment, my first introduction

There are other things to find at Avebury, one of course is the Manor House, this particular view of it is my favourite. To be truthful I do not visit National Trust properties, I find it an expensive use of time, though I will love the gardens.  Many, many years ago I did visit and all I can remember was a cheap coverlet on one of the four poster beds.  Paul's brother worked here as a volunteer and that is all I know about the place.

View from the South - Wiki photo - Jurgen Maten

The land and the buildings passed through several hands but originally it was a small Benedictine priory belonging to a larger French mother house.  And it turned into the rather beautiful house above.  Crafted loveliness in my opinion.

Its Wiki history can be found here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020



West Kennet Long barrow

Once a long time ago, I stayed in a cottage in Avebury in winter.  There were three of us staying but only two made it, Paul and myself, and so we roamed round the churches and footways of Avebury.  It was the beginning of our relationship.  The cottage was tiny, it was the teacher's cottage, and being the cold months of winter, freezing cold, Moss came with me as well.

Avebury Church from the cottage

I had spent many years wandering round the Avebury landscape, its magic, its prehistory formed a part of my life as it did Pauls.  You can prod at prehistory forever but you will never get to the secrets of the Neolithic, of the great long barrows and round barrows.  Look round and you will see them all over this world, stone places of burial and ceremony.  Lying in the ground, the farmers make their way around them but leaving them there because of the difficulty of moving several tons of stone, they are a testimony to a different time.  See the lane that follows The Avenue of Stones from Avebury and you realise that many a modern road has been built on an old road. The past dictates us even today.

A meandering stone avenue at Avebury

The day came though when the snow arrived, so in the dark of early morning we set forth to explore Avebury in its soft bed of snow.  It was so exciting, the snow still sleeted down but there was no other people around, other photographers only arrived several hours later.  This was once in a lifetime happening, Paul who was never the greatest walker in the outside world was even ready for the expedition though his footwear was hardly suitable. We battled the sleeting snow and wondered at the starkness of the stones in the white.  The little Kennet river still ran but everywhere a winter wonderland.  Moss sitting in the snow ecstatic, he always loved snow!

Clearing the car

Avebury cottages

Old willows everywhere

The Kennet

Dear old Moss

A walk down memory lane I think ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday 17th October


Salisbury Cathedral from the meadow - John Constable

A poem this morning, acknowledging Autumn, which came so suddenly.  Elizabeth Browning and I share one thing in common we both own spaniels, or did own one.   Virginia Woolf wrote a book on Elizabeth's dog called Flush. Apparently she regretted it afterwards, as its story line was about dognapping but I love the way Flush stayed with his mistress through thick and thin as she escaped with her lover and then husband Robert Browning.

I have been busy spinning different coloured Merino tops for a crochet blanket.  My mind captures, like the glitter balls that twirled on the dance floors above your head, memories that make me both sad and happy.  I think the melancholia of Autumn affects the brain!  

The Autumn

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them --
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tuesday 13th October


"Double, double, toil and trouble; / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble"

Nights darken early, we approach the thin edge of the world when the dead will arise from their graves and knock at our doors.  Hopefully they will socially distance and not demand sweeties!

Already I can spy a small revolution here in the North, the mayors of the big cities are getting agitated with the spouted nonsense from down South.  Well there is no Churchill around to rouse us with speeches, but keeping our cool is a must.  Here it is jobs that need saving the entertainment world - pubs, restaurants, cafes, etc.  When I write this, the first thing to come to mind is who is going to police it? hand out the fines for bad social behaviour?  But then will the hospitals become overwhelmed with too many cases if life is allowed to go on and we are not curfewed.

Actually it is a problem but other people around the world have far greater needs as their lives slip away in immigration camps, bereft of their homes, food and security.

Take it on the chin, mask up, socially distance and be responsible for the people around you.

That was yesterday

My daughter is still working in Manchester, arguing with those who won't mask up, mostly middle-aged men.  My grand daughter is tasting the delights of London on her own and settled in for the time being.  This is the moment in time when you fear for your family.  Much as I would like to we can't blame the likes of Johnson for the mess we are in he is just another notch in the misery.  It just happened, mistakes have been made on all sides and we have to live in this maelstrom of a storm for the time being.
Tom Stephenson bought Saint Catherine into it, and I remembered the medieval murals in Pickering church in which her story is painted.  She was really put through it by the Emperor, the church of course emphasising the punishments, that is where martyrdom leads you!  But never forget that in a couple of weeks it will be bonfire night and Catherine wheels will spin merrily around on the trees or fence, but whose macabre idea was that for goodness sake?  

"Are we all doomed? I don’t know, but I don’t see what’s to be gained from giving up." - the comedian Adam Buxton

Saturday, October 10, 2020


Small happenings;  Well Lucy went to the vets yesterday, nothing serious just to have a manicure, her nails were beginning to snaffle the carpet.  The vet took her off (reluctant), and came back twenty minutes later with the same shaggy version of her.  His opinion of her, that apart from a few bumps and plumpness she was doing  well. 

long time since she has been in that chair

Today I go for my flu jab in the afternoon, I never normally have one having caught every Asian type flu that has been around but not local flu.  My first bad bout of flu was as a child, and I was nursed for months at boarding school, the nuns keeping me alive but I emerged looking like a skeleton. All I can remember of that time was toast and Bovril drink.

Talking to a friend in the garden and we are both at a loss to see the end of this pandemic.  I have just read on F/B a blog about the gradual demise of a town here in Yorkshire. This of course has been happening over a period of time, the gradual change in the high street, and only yesterday Edinburgh Woollen Mills going under.  Some people are seeing a looming disaster, and though I find in blog land an attitude to sweep it under the carpet, I think it has to be aired!

Well yesterday, the post bought the Newstateman and the Lakeland brochure full of tempting things for Xmas, sometimes it is like living in two parallel worlds.  I also saw a letter which said that Waitrose was selling Autumn leaves for £6 a packet - is that true?

Well I did spy a Raclette maker in Lakeland, though where I shall find the proper cheese is another matter, though my daughter says Lidl has these things.  Opting for the cheaper version, which  is lit by tealights - A Xmas meal on my own ;)

I have boxed up some books and games for a charity shop, my mind is on moving to West Yorkshire eventually, but there are a lot of things to do before that happens. Not least the ending of the present situation................

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

"a pessimist is only an optimist with more information"


I am beginning to feel like a hermit, the winter draws near and of course it all gets worse rather than better.  Yesterday morning I took a walk round the fields.  Leaving Lucy behind, she would not be able to keep up.  Of course it made me sad, but life has to change even if it is only in infinitesimal ways and she often wakes up with a limp.  I wanted to see if the barn owls were around.

Well as you can see the old barns are still there, no work has been done for the new wedding venue.  The farm itself is always busy now, linked up with the other two farms in Great Edstone,  there is a lot of farm traffic through the village.

The land is rather sad at this time of the year, the leaves on the trees have lost their glow of greenness, already yellowed ones are beginning to tumble.  The barn owl was not to be seen, perhaps winter will bring their cry.  A little batch of long tailed tits have just swept through the garden, their twittering so recognisable.

But the crab apple tree is full once more with fruit turning too yellow.  One good thing has happened in the fields, is new gates with proper easily opened catches.  Heavy gates with complicated locks are the bane of walkers.

And that wicked foreigner - Himalayan Balsam - hangs on in the odd corner, trailing along the river bank, happy in its new found home.

And last of all before I cross the old bridge, the small orchard of apples has a good harvest.  Our apples from the village, and there are plenty of them go to Kirkbymoorside for juicing and the bottles of apple wine sold on.

I sound somewhat sombre, could be because of the music I am playing.  Or it could be that one of my dreams last night was a white-faced Trump, as if he had risen from his coffin to berate us once more with his nonsense.  Here is Suzanne Moore to cheer you up, and also something to remember ;)

Monday, October 5, 2020

Just typing

 Yesterday a message that Matilda, had caught the train to London to start her university course and my heart sank.  On the surface we know that children and young people are not as badly affected by the virus as many of us but what if?  Plus of course the carefree nature of starting out alone in mixed company has to be put on hold - will she manage?

Well it bought back memories of all the language students that passed through my household, the ups and downs, the mishaps, and the funny.

Lets start with my Brazilian policeman, who unexpectedly showed up with his girl friend.  I picked them up from the car park and as we drove through Bath, I stopped at the traffic lights. He was incredulous - you mean people in England stop at the traffic lights - yes of course, unless they want to go to gaol I replied.

I sorted out the attic which had a futon as a bed, and everything was fine, then that same evening they went to the pub way out in the countryside taken by his tutor.  And then it happened, a series of events that led to a few giggles.  Stupid lad threw his wallet and coat on the table at the pub, resulting of course in theft of said wallet.  He came back with girl friend, tears not far away, everything was in that wallet, from passport, licence, money even the key to the suitcase.  

We had to open his suitcase he was panicking but at that late hour there was no one around, so he went down to the basement to try and saw the  lock.  Complete failure.  Next morning, a phone call from Bell Language School, a mother and child walking along a lane to school had found the wallet tossed into the hedgerow, she worked at a local solicitor so could we go and pick it up, which girl friend and Tom in his push chair duly did and calm was restored. The only thing missing was the English money.

There was another girl from Brazil, the Brazilian students seemed to come from a very hot climate to a very wintry English January, and so it was with this daughter of one of the dignitaries of FIFA (I think).  She came through the front door and immediately burst into tears.  Luckily she had a friend with her and I made tea for all of us and then the phone rang, it was her mother anticipating the breakdown. By the next weekend she had completely settled in and was off partying in London, with me clucking around like an anxious mother hen.

Being in charge of young females in a foreign country, can be difficult but it is also true of the boys as well.  The young Arabian lad who came straight from boarding school in England, with  black bags of clothes had hardly ever seen his obviously rich parents, from school to language school and then afterwards to an university in America this was his life.  He was like a child, his room always strewn with a vast amount of clothes as he tried on different things before going out.  He wanted to stay on after his stint at the Language school had finished after two months but I was near to breakdown and he had to move on.

The student from Turkey, off to study textile in Manchester, was one of my favourites.  He wanted to try spinning but we were not allowed to look.  He had a darling sister who would phone up and then say 'goodbye' as a greeting, no matter how many times I said it was hello at the beginning and goodbye at the end it never penetrated.

There were others, I think I saw near on 200 students over the years, it brought the world into my home and I learnt that all these people from other countries were so polite and lovely.

Sunday, October 4, 2020



This morning - the last of the Compassion roses

Pausing for thought.  This is something I do every evening as I go too shut the bantams in.  Last night it was raining and therefore no bats flying around and no moon shining brightly, though it was there this morning.

This morning I notice one of the old yews has been cut to allow one of the grave stones to shine in the sun, rather drunkenly though.  As I write this the church bells are ringing for a Harvest Service, it will not be well attended.  Picking the last of the plums, I hear in the holly tree the little wren and then the robin.  I have seen them round every day in this part of the garden, their favourite perch is again a grave stone.

We have over the Yorkshire Moors a white tailed sea eagle which has given great joy to bird twitchers I suppose, but the piece de resistance is a Hoopoe, somewhere on a cricket ground in Yorkshire this foreigner has made a long journey and was patiently filmed by a photographer. Apparently we have about a 100 visits a year from the Hoopoe bird normally in Spring and Autumn.

Listening to David Attenborough this morning, our new guru on Climate change, and of course action. Slowly the boat of our destruction is colliding into the quay, will we learn? His final message - Do Not Waste - either food or energy.

We have not had those rains experienced elsewhere, the weather system seems to be circling round the South and West but rain comes in showers.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Saturday 3rd October

 Every day I read what people say about the books they are reading, and I am left in a dilemma as to what to read, so I go back to my shelves of books collected over the years.  Books give me a thrill but I can see people wincing slightly at my choice, not much fiction they say.

Well today I pulled out ' The Life and Death of a Druid Prince', a slightly fanciful reconstruction of the death of the Lindow man in a bog 2000 years ago.  Why? well Professor David Wilson, famous criminologist was on the radio this morning.  He mentioned writing a book that investigated a murder, which was pinned on the wrong man by the police - eg he was stitched up.  I felt sorry for this innocent young man languishing in jail all these years.. 

Lindow Man has been seen as a sacrificial death, he seemed to have been hung, hit on the head and drowned in the peat bog.  The golden Celtic torques are supposed to be reminiscent of the rope as well.  Three deaths, (a sacred triad) the number three is symbolic of course.  What I love about the book is that Anne Ross has shown photos of the Gaulish Celtic Gods showing the dark nature of another religion.  You can also find these gods in the Roman Bath Museum.

Taranis the Thunder God

Though I have been over this old ground years ago, the books beckon, or is it the gods?  Another book I pulled out, it has been nagging at the back of my mind for a few days now, is, 'Early Renaissance Architecture' by someone called Gotch.  The book itself is falling to pieces but within its scope are those marvellous old photographs of houses, probably long gone but relics of great ambition.

Tacitus on the goddess Nerthus...

"In an Island of the ocean is a holy grove, and in it a consecrated chariot, covered in robes. A single priest is permitted to touch it; he interprets the presence if the goddess in her shrine and with deep reverence as she rides away drawn by cows; then come days of rejoicing and all places keep holiday, as many as she may think worthy to receive and entertain her. They make no war, take no arms; every weapon is put away; peace and quiet are then alone, known and loved, until the same priest returns the goddess to her temple, when she has had her fill of the society of mortals. After this the chariot and the robes, and if you will believe it, the goddess herself, are washed in a sequestered lake; slaves are the ministrants and are at the same time swallowed by that lake. Hence a mysterious terror and an ignorance fullof piety as to that that may be which men only behold to die"

Friday, October 2, 2020

A favourite poem


The Wild Mushroom

Well the sunset rays are shining
Me and Kai have got our tools
A basket and a trowel
And a book with all the rules

Don’t ever eat Boletus
If the tube-mouths they are red
Stay away from the Amanitas
Or brother you are dead

Sometimes they’re already rotten
Or the stalks are broken off
Where the deer have knocked them over
While turning up the duff

We set out in the forest
To seek the wild mushroom
In shapes diverse and colorful
Shining through the woodland gloom

If you look out under oak trees
Or around an old pine stump
You’ll know a mushroom’s coming
By the way the leaves are humped

They send out multiple fibers
Through the roots and sod
Some make you mighty sick they say
Or bring you close to God

So here’s to the mushroom family
A far-flung friendly clan
For food, for fun, for poison
They are a help to man.

-Gary Snyder

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Fungi recap

Blakes Wood

I put the camera on the ground for this hidden beauty

Mellowed fruitfulness. Well to be honest I have never found a lot of mushrooms round here in Yorkshire.  Essex was the place to wander, and try, but mostly a useless undertaking to identify mushrooms.  I know we have shaggy ink caps, because each morning when I get up they lie like crumpled tissue in the lawn - the great brown slugs have been at them.  Lucy has a taste for them as well.  But what of my favourite mushroom, the Amethyst Deceiver, which you can eat but don't get it mixed up with other Deceivers because they are poisonous, so I gather my written blogs together and remember those Autumn days.

Amethyst Deceiver in Blakes Wood

The Fly Agaric, a fairly common specimen could be found up on the moor at Wheeldale, just on the outskirts of one of the larch woods, it seemed to like the starved earth underneath the trees

Fly agaric

My favourite edible mushroom was eaten years ago in a Swiss restaurant, an orange Chanterelle I think in a creamy sauce with chips, I have never been able to get the the same in this country.  Paul would always soak dried mushrooms to go in Japanese recipes, but they never appealed.  Occasionally I stuff the very large mushrooms, and no life is not too short to stuff a mushroom Shirley Conran, they are very meaty for vegetarians. But I love a creamy mushroom sauce enlivened with mustard and sherry.

Mushroom hunting and Autumn meld together,  the soft heat mist rising from the fields, the barn owl lightly cruising in the daylight, and the damp dankness of woods with hidden mysteries of these wonderful expressions of nature clinging to the woods ground, waiting to be found.

Puff balls, they nestle amongst the wet leaves promising a fried breakfast but I have never been brave enough, and don't pick the large old ones, if green inside out they are developing their spore.

Shaggy parasol

And I think this is worth repeating.............................

Fairy Ring (Marasmius oreades), are best for drying, they are not always true to their habit of growing in rings, especially where lea has been broken. But the delicate 'fairy ring mushroom' is unmistakable. They are seldom more than 2 inches across, and carried comparatively high on slender stems. The gills are deep and very regular, one long one short, like the minute marks around a clock. The top is buff, and the gills are very much paler, the slender stems are stringy and tough so cut them off.

The puff-balls (Lycoperdon); The really giant one (lycoperdon giganteum) can be as big as a football, both large and small puffballs taste exactly the same. Their texture - solid white, like smooth, white cream cheese, and the outer covering is fine as white kid. .....

Cooking; Smallest puff balls, walnut size, are best dipped in batter and fried like rissoles. Drain and serve as a pebble beach around a pool of green spinach. Medium sized, are rolled in flour, pepper and salt, then drop into an earthen ware pan with barely enough milk to cover, and simmer to cook. Thicken sauce after cooking, pour back over the puff-balls and garnish with scarlet barberries and green parsley.
Giant puff-balls are sliced, and dipped in egg and milk and then fine dry breadcrumbs. Fried in hot bacon-fat, drain on kitchen paper, pepper and salt and serve piping hot, sprinkled with cider or vinegar..

Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius); One of the prettiest of fungi. You find them, suddenly, in the autumn woods, sometimes clustered so close that they look like a torn golden shawl, dropped down amongst the dead leaves and sticks. They are all the same clear, egg-yolk yellow, the stem coming up straight, and springing and spreading stiff as a tiny fountain spurting gold. The top surface is damp and glossy yellow; the underside crinkly matt yellow; and they smell faintly of apricots.

Taken from Susan Hartley