Paris – Friday 13th

Seven months ago I and a friend were eating in a small Cambodian Bistro in Paris.  See blog post on 1st April.  We had a lovely time, super food, and friendly, hard-working waiters and owners.  It was clearly popular in the area.

This Friday, Le Petit Camboge, the Bistro in question, was raked by gunfire.  Until I revisit Paris next year I will not know who amongst the staff survivied and who died.

I have nothing new or startling to say over the killings in Paris on 13th November.  It has been said more often and better by others elsewhere.

But Paris feels like my second home and my heart breaks for all involved.

One friend of mine pointed out that this amount of people gets killed in Palestine and makes very little news here: and this is true.

I suppose the shock of this atttack in Paris is because the IS fighting is coming so close to home and, so far, is rare in Europe.

I have no answers to any of this but what I do know is:  that Islam as a religion is not to blame so we must not turn on Muslims as a group and that this will never prevent me from returning to Paris.

Outraged. Again.


The effects of consuming Palm Oil

Because of forest clearing for palm oil, in just the last 20 years 90% of orangutan habitat has already been destroyed.

A primate genocide and ecological catastrophe on an industrial scale is occurring in some of the most valuable, sensitive and diverse ecological habitats on Earth – all thanks to a cheap cooking oil we find in our supermarket products everyday.

Palm oil is a cheap and common ingredient in many foods and household products, but as with everything apparently ‘cheap’ – it comes at a terrible cost. Vast swathes of pristine rainforest are razed to the ground every minute to clear the way for palm oil plantations in countries such a Borneo, Sumatra, Indonesia and Malaysia. The scale and speed of this deforesting operation is staggering.

It tragically appears those people who are managing the palm oil business and the workers carrying out the forest clearing work do not care if they destroy the abundant and endangered wildlife that lives in the forests. In fact deforestation workers are told to dispose of any wildlife that gets in the way – no matter how inhumanely – which includes running over orangutans with logging trucks.

If deforestation continues at this pace, orangutans could be extinct in the wild as early as 2016, and their jungle habitat could be completely gone in 20 years from now.

If this information makes you angry it should – but there is something we can do to help stop this disaster. It’s as easy as stopping buying products with palm oil as an ingredient thus helpimg reduce the insane demand for this massively unsustainable product.

Palm oil is found in loads of everyday products – from breadsticks to anti-dandruff shampoos (you know the one) – so please check the label every time you buy, especially if the products come from the big ‘discount’ supermarkets where supplier corners are cut. Palm oil is not even healthy food for you – it’s bad for the heart.

You could also help greatly by writing to companies and stores who source or sell palm oil and indicate you will boycott their products unless they pledge to eliminate palm oil from their source chain and products.

Finally please share this post widely to help spread the word about this urgent and terrible ecological disaster across the world.

Reposted from: 


Hopefully Palm Oil will soon be as outdated as Whale Oil.

Sorry to rant, but sometimes one just cannot help it.  As most of you know I am always concerned for animal welfare, but this is genocide of a brother species in all terms of the word.

A golden day

I don’t mind admitting that I have found life difficult over the last ten days:

A dear friend who has been my support and refuge in dark times is moving away.  Seeing the cottage being emptied and cleared and smelling the old familiar smell of wood smoke from the evening fires when we used to settle in to talk and watch DVDs is upsetting.

I have real concerns for two loved ones whose health looks to be seriously compromised.  We await test results.

Another close friend has been in an accident and is off her feet for some weeks.  Her husband has to have another round of chemotherapy.

My favourite farmer with whom I exchange memories of the countryside 50 years ago when I go to buy feed, has been in hospital, lost one kidney to cancer, caught a hospital infection, now has breathing problems and the surgeon is concerned over the health of his remaining kidney.

We are noticing our energy levels are decreasing with age but are not mentally ready to give anything up, but we can see the beginning of the writing on the wall.

The Robin is practising his Autumn song: not much yet, just a few notes, but it is on the way. I am not ready for the wistfulness and poignancy of Autumn.

I have been weepy and wanting to hide in corners and pull covers over my head.

So the mood around here has been:

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see.

So yesterday I went to see my doctor and reminded her that the last time I had felt so bad she had offered me HRT.  Then I went to the chemist and begged for the prescription straight away before I cut my throat.

And this morning? I slept well, the sun is shining, and we are having a glorious, sun-soaked, golden day. The kind of burnished gold that comes in late summer when the sun is lower than at the height of the season. The air is humming with insects, the bushes are bright with butterflies, some cyclist went past and commented, “What a lovely garden!”

hay 2015 012

Nothing else has changed, but the hay is cut and the smell is wafting down the valley, nature looks productive and happy, I have spent the morning sowing seeds – Lamb’s Lettuce and Miner’s Lettuce for winter salads – my turnip and kale seedlings are nearly ready to plant out, my winter planting of garlic is on the way by post, and we are all bright with sun and blue skies and lovely smells and activity.

When I walked up to the hay field, the sight of the cut hay drying in windrows took me back centuries.  Hay has lain drying like this since humans began to farm.  The cutting mechanism may be different, the baling may be different, but the look and smell on the field is timeless.

hay 2015 001

Butterflies were patrolling up and down like drops of jewelled light and I sat in the shade of the hedge that I planted in memory of my mother, and remembered descriptions of this scene in music and words, that has entranced so many before me.

Wherever I end up in old age, I must be somewhere in the country, where I can be soothed and healed by such sights.

I am taking a day off from worrying and sadness today.  It would be sacreligious not to.


I have been away from blogland for much longer than I thought.

Neither writing nor reading other blogs.

Summer is short in the UK and while we had good weather I was gardening like mad: then visiting friends, going out and about, enjoying life.

A young friend J.  has been suffering from ill health and various problems since a car crash four years ago: she needed some help and I was involved with that and eventually took her away for a short break. I took her to help me ‘house-sit’ for my friends in Ireland while they were away and it did her the most tremendous good! J left a couple of days before I did because I stayed on to spend my birthday with my friends: the first time for many, many years.  I had such a wonderful day that I will blog about that shortly, it deserves a post to itself:)

Here at home, we are undertaking some work in the Bank field, building a fence round the veg garden so that animals can go back on that field, and incorporating a ‘gathering pen’ for when we need to isolate one animal for a short time from the others.  Also included are two large dung heap containers to prevent it from sliding and covering more pasture than we want.  Photos to follow when finished.

Even now, when I have sat down to write, I am about to go out to visit two family members who have both been in hospital for fairly small procedures, but which involve continuing pain and distress afterwards until healed so I do not have long to write much!  I am taking vats of soup for them, one had four wisdom teeth out at once, the other had his tonsils out, so both have sore mouths.

So, after a short visit to my blog I will leave you with some photos of the Paddock taken yesterday: please excuse the washing.

jane and me in ireland 2015 064

jane and me in ireland 2015 065jane and me in ireland 2015 067I hope that you are enjoying your summer too.

Corvus cornix

On our return home from our cliff walk we found a small fledgling hooded crow nestled in the long grass up against the wire surrounding the vegetable garden. P said she had seen it the night before, there was a nest in the Ash tree overlooking the stables and it must have come down from there. It looked miserable and I was worried about it but then its two siblings flew down to join it. Well, I say flew, I think it was more of a tumbling glide! All three hopped around in a jerky fashion and then their two parents began to come and try to feed them.
I went out and put some grain on the ground and the parents picked it up and fed it to the young.

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After a while I noticed the parents balancing on the side of a large yellow plastic container getting drinks of water. One of the youngsters hopped over and began pecking the water line visible through the side of the plastic but it could not balance on the top to have a drink. Then I saw something I have never seen before and did not even know happened. One of the parents flew up, took a large beakful of water, flew down again, and poured the water down into the baby’s beak. It kept doing this over and over for all the youngsters until they had had enough. It was really interesting to watch but I did not manage to get a photograph.  They both had wide open beaks as the water flowed from one to the other.
So, out I went again, this time with a small bowl, which I filled with water and put on the ground beside the yellow bucket: once inside I noticed the babies immediately came up and drank and drank and drank from the bowl.
They hopped and fluttered all over the ground, being even more ungainly than crows usually are: they tried flying but it was a very low ‘hit and miss’ affair. We noticed that at one point they became interested in the chicken run and we kept a wary eye out in case they tried to fly down to eat some of the chicken food. If P’s chickens get a crow cornered in the run they kill it.
The Starlings who were nesting in the bottom of the stable roof kicked a huge racket whenever the crows came near the area: I know that crows, and magpies for that matter, get a bad press as regards taking the young of other birds, especially our beloved songbirds, and anyone who has seen a Magpie attacking a young Blackbird will be horrified but I gather that this is usually a response to acute hunger rather than a preferred source of food. And when starving I have heard of human behaviour which is not too savoury, to excuse a dreadful pun. But watching the crows they seemed to be pulling leatherjackets and other insects out of the grass rather than going for young birds. However, not very pleasant for the insects either.

By the evening at least one of the baby crows was able to fly up to the gate and perch there:

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Late that evening  –  first night out of the nest.

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Over the next two or three days they grew in confidence and ability and by the time I left they were flying well, although still drinking from the bowl :)

Lining up beside the hanging bird feeder and bird table, waiting their turn to pick up some titbits.

ireland 2015 059 As I am sure most of us are aware the Corvus family has been in the news over the last ten years or so, for its intelligence.  There are clips on Youtube of them deliberately putting nuts on the road in Japan at traffic lights, to be crushed open by the cars, and then retrieved when the lights turn red!  And others of crows operating slot machines to get at food inside, including finding and using items to put in the slots: and the famous experiment in Oxford where a crow was found to make and use a tool for the first time.

According to Wikipedia:

“The crow has the habit of hiding food, especially meat or nuts, in places like rain gutters, flower pots or in the earth under bushes, to feed on it later, sometimes on the insects that have meanwhile developed on it. Other crows often watch if another one hides food and then search this place later when the other crow has left.”

Also, “This species is seen regularly killed by farmers and on grouse estates. In County Cork, Ireland, the county’s gun clubs shot over 23,000 hooded crows in two years in the early 1980s.”

I just hope these babes have a reasonable life and a swift end.

One of the first things on the itinerary was a supermarket shop: the one used the most by my friends is a few miles away in Clonakilty so off we went under a blue sky and in bright sunshine.

Going round the back of the small town we passed a Traveller driving in his trap, going at a very brisk trot.  I have seen them before parked in a supermarket car park and they are taken very much as a fact of life around here.

Next door to the shop we were going to is a really nice Restaurant where we stopped to have lunch before shopping.  I gather it is never sensible to do a household shop when one is hungry, although that was not the reason for our indulgence: growing up we were allowed to do very little together as friends and a coffee and cake, or a lunch out, are still treats for us!  In fact our friendship was very frowned upon.

This Restaurant has staff who are very helpful and I asked for a gluten and dairy free salad: this arrived – full of goodies and was absolutely delicious!

ireland 2015 014

P also had a salad and hers came with Irish Soda Bread:

ireland 2015 017I was sooo envious!!

However, it was not to be for me, so ‘tant pis’.

After a slow chatty meal we departed for the supermarket and parked in the multi-storey car park: I had to take a photo from the roof as I consider it one of the best views I know to be had from such a building:

ireland 2015 018We found a whole section of gluten free baking including some super ginger biscuits and imagine my pleasure and astonishment to find some gluten free Irish Soda Bread which we promptly bought:

ireland 2015 056It was delicious and I really enjoyed it eating it during my stay: however I did notice some effects after a few days and on closer inspection noted that it did have a little buttermilk and some gluten free oats in it.  Now the protein Avenin found in Oats contains similar amino acid sequences as  wheat gluten and can evoke the same immune response.  Oats always used to be considered off-limits for people with gluten intolerance since avenin is so similar to gluten: Today, there is no way to predict ahead of time, which people with celiac disease will or will not be able to successfully consume oats without an immune reaction but since 2013 the FDA legislation has been changed so that it is now considered gluten-free in the UK and Ireland.  I don’t know about other countries. This is a problem because in many places I am offered food which is guaranteed gluten free but later I find oats in it: when I query the product the sellers are most offended when I explain that oats are not necessarily OK: I wish the FDA had not changed things!

I will experiment at home trying to make Soda Bread using lemon juice or apple vinegar instead of the buttermilk.

Apparently Ireland has the highest percentage of people sensitive to gluten of any country in the world, hence the large array of specialist food.

After our most successful lunch and shopping expedition we  decided to use the glorious day to go to the beach and go for a walk on the cliffs – so we returned home, unloaded the car, collected the dog and set off.

Beginning to climb the cliff path

ireland 2015 031We passed Thrift, Violets and Primroses amongst other flowers and herbs: the sea was aquamarine with purple patches and white horses breaking round rocks.  Here we are about 130 feet above sea level: at home we live at 750 feet above sea level amongst moorland and high hills and in the very middle of the country, the furthest you can get from the sea in the UK.  I love it there but do miss the sea terribly so it is a real treat to be able to come here.  Today, in the sun it all looked and was idyllic with unbelievable colours!

ireland 2015 043You can just see Galley Head Lighhouse station: it stands on the end of this promontary overlooking St George’s Channel.

Closer view with a Gannet in front

ireland 2015 035from the cliffs we saw this Gannet, a Skylark, two Stonechats and a Gull, plus, lower down on the cove, an Egret and hordes of Swans, Oystercatchers and Curlews.

According to Wikipedia, “Galley Head Lighthouse station was built in 1875, during the heyday of lighthouse building, and within twenty years of its closest neighbours at Old Head of Kinsale and Fastnet. The Galley Head and the Fastnet have the distinction of being two of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe. https://blogotheirish.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/galleyhead-corksml1.jpg?w=500

(picture from:  https://blogotheirish.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/lighthouses-in-irelandure)

The lighthouse displays an unusual landward arc of light because, it is said, the Sultan of Turkey asked to be able to see it from Castle Freke at Rosscarbery nearby on his visit there. The castle was built in the 1680s but abandoned in 1952 and can be seen from Galley as a Gothic ruin.”

However, I gather that the castle is currently under restoration.


(picture from:  http://angarrancoir.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/castlefreke.jpg)

From 1997 the requirement for an Attendant to live at the Lighthouse station was discontinued.  The tower corridor was sealed off from the dwellings and a remote control and monitoring system linking the station to the central monitoring room at Dun Laoghaire was installed. Then in 1998 the two Keepers’ dwellings were leased to the Irish Landmark Trust, which restored them using traditional materials and building methods after which they have been let to the general public by the Trust as holiday accommodation.

(photo from:    http://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/by-the-sea/)

They would be a lovely place to stay:)  Stone is the building material of choice in this area and the fields also are bounded by stone walls, just as at home, but here they use the stones vertically, whereas at home in Yorkshire the stones are used horizontally.  The effect is startling to my eyes!

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The air here is so pure that lichens grow in abundance: and they find a suitable home on the walls:

ireland 2015 042.jpg  1We stayed out long enough to soak up some rays but then had to drag ourselves back to the house to attend to other things.

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Turning back for home.

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ireland 2015 034Closer down to the bay.

We felt full of good food, fresh air, sunshine and life could hardly be better.  Back home we were met by an interesting spectacle, but more of that next time.

Meeting in May

A month exactly after returning from meeting one dear friend in Paris, I have the good fortune to be spending a few days in the Irish Republic staying with my oldest friend and soul-mate from school days P, (we’ve been friends for over 54 years!). She and her husband live in an old cottage in the hills an hour’s drive West from Cork, ireland 2015 007 and you can see the sea from their South-facing fields! ireland 2015 004 Before coming she warned me to bring warm clothes because the weather had been so chilly.  But here I am on my first morning sitting outside the kitchen door on a bench with a mug of coffee, drinking in the sun and the views. Looking South up to the old Stable block (now unfortunately empty of equines), hen house and run, veggie garden and polytunnel: ireland 2015 002 and looking East down over the apple trees into the valley (with the woodshed at the right at the end), from the same bench ireland 2015 003 going through the gate, you first cross the boreen (sorry for the dreadful lack of focus but it gives you an idea of the lushness this Spring) – looking down the hill from the cottage ireland 2015 009 the top part of the boreen looking down to the cottage ireland 2015 012 Having crossed the boreen you see the tool shed and veg garden on the left, with the polytunnel ahead of youireland 2015 013 The veg garden planted up with onions, leeks, carrots, broad beans, peas, early and maincrop potatoes, beetroot, French Beans, Runner Beans, Cabbages and Sprouts, and –  I have probably forgotten some. ireland 2015 008 Inside the wonderful tunnel, with a super vine producing sweet white grapes, carrots. beetroot, Runner Beans, French Beans, early potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, courgettes, salad leaves, and numerous flower seedlings.  We ate good sized, delicious new potatoes most of the time I was there, all from the tunnel and a few delicious strawberries.  They were coming along beautifully but each night some creature got to them before we did.  Last year P was getting a bowlful each day. ireland 2015 005.jpg 1 ireland 2015 006 Looking to the right after crossing the boreen you see the old stable block and the hen house and chicken run.  We ate fresh eggs all the time, so very good!

Ireland December 2014 541Joseph and his five ladies.

ireland 2015 049They are very sociable chooks and enjoy visiting us in the kitchen:)

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This Spring seems to have brought a veritable munificence of birdlife: there is a Blackbirds’ nest in the woodshed, another in the Quadbike shed, a Robins’ nest in the toolshed, a Wrens’ nest in the workshop, a Starlings’ nest in the first stable bay  and several Swallows nesting in the end bay, So, that is five buildings temporarily out of bounds!  Then there are Crows, Magpies, Great Tits, Bluetits, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Dunnocks and a Wagtail all feeding merrily at or around the bird feeders, suggesting nests fairly nearby in the numerous trees and hedges.

The fields in front of the house are let out to a local Stables at the moment and two young horses are spending their days growing and filling out on the ample grass and resting in the sunshine: ireland 2015 024 My little bedroom, partly in the roof, view from the bed: Ireland December 2014 519So this is my rural Irish idyll for a few days!


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