Stranger in the night

A few nights ago I was woken by the upset bellowing of our little goose flock: as it was two in the morning I waited a few minutes before getting up, expecting them to settle down, but they went on and on.  Something was afoot.

So I went to explore: five very angry but mainly upset geese greeted me and all stared fixedly in one direction, at their door.  They were talking to me but not looking at me which is unusual.  When a goose wants to communicate it looks at you and uses its neck, wings, mouth and voice.  cabeza oca by system25 - This is a goose drawing.Although vocal, they stared as one creature at the closure in the door.  It was uncanny and spooky.  It took me half an hour to calm them down.  I got the message: something or someone had been outside the door and they did not like it.

Now when the parrots are scared at night I whistle Victorian hymn tunes to them, like, “O God our help in ages past” or ” For those in trouble on the sea”: you get the idea.  And it soothes them down.  When they begin to join in I know they are over the upset and now calm: but singing hymns to the geese did not work.  I just had to talk them down, reassuring them by my presence and voice.  When they were quiet I went back to bed, leaving them still staring, as one, at the door, but at least silent.oca gris by system25 - This is a goose drawing.

We have about ten inches of snow here at the moment and this morning my husband reported seeing a large animal’s footprints leading up to the gooses’ door, then stopping.  Not going past.  Clearly someone is keen on having our geese, and stops at night to sniff and perhaps try the door.  Either the geese are reassured after the first incident that their door is predator proof or they are getting more used to the intrusion, but they have been quiet ever since that first night.

Much as I feel for the wild animal that is cold and hungry, I also feel for my geese: it must be very unnerving having some predator huffing and puffing at their door in the middle of the night. Still, their house is built neither of straw or sticks but good old stone, so they should be OK.


I must go through my hymnal or folk song book to try to find something soothing for my geese: but perhaps they are just not musical.  Any suggestions?

There is a really interesting post about foxes and geese through history and folklore and with lovely illustrations at the following:



P.S. Clip art in this post is from a site which WordPress assures me is copyright free, at : https://openclipart.org





Charlie Ebdo


I’ve recently been reading two long posts from Recollections of a Vagabonde at:   http://avagabonde.blogspot.co.uk    in the aftermath of the Charlie Ebdo tragedy.  I felt I really must point you over in her direction because her thoughtful and learned posts are really worthy of wide distribution, in my opinion: I suspect some of you read her blog anyway, but for those of you who do not, please go over and read:)  They are most enlightening.


P.S. Clip art in this post is from a site which WordPress assures me is copyright free, at : https://openclipart.org



Last summer I went to a live screening of Monty Python’s Live (Mostly) tour.

As always there were some things I did not like but on  the whole I had a wonderful time and laughed till tears streamed down my face.

Now at this time of year things can be a little grim for many of us, so I thought I would remind myself, and you, of one of my favourite Python songs:  this is followed by Brian Cox debunking the science, and then Stephen Hawking’s contribution.  Wonderful.

I do hope you enjoy these:)


Parisian bombing.

I could weep for the journalists killed yesterday: and also for the good people who are trying to stand together and fight for our views on free speech whilst also confounding a back-lash on innocent and moderate Moslems.

I know that many species, including humans, are suspicious of ‘the other’ and also that we sometimes feel that we suffer from well-meaning authorities who force integration on people faster than is natural.

But do not let us forget the lessons of the past and Niemoller’s warning after the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis:


One version of Martin Niemoller’s famous quotation:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me

and there was no-one left

to speak out for me.

Please do not let another line be added after yesterday’s bombing in Paris:-

Then they came for the Moslems

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Moslem.

That is just what the extremists want.



First they came …” is a famous statement and provocative poem attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. There is some disagreement over the exact wording of the quotation and when it was uttered as Niemoller changed the wording slightly depending on when he was speaking, and to whom.

Just before Christmas I, husband and one grand-daughter went down to Warner Bros. at Watford to visit the studios where the Harry Potter films were made.

In fact, the visit was to redeem tickets which were last year’s Christmas presents.

We had a wonderful time, and I hope to post about it shortly, but we also bought a few souvenirs in the shop at the end.  Amongst which a chocolate wand, which mysteriously ended up in my stocking, a chocolate frog, which equally strangely ended up in husband’s stocking and a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which I decided to take along  as a fun ending to Christmas Dinner.

The day began well with everyone in festive spirit:

10347771_10152932884992412_1385759663114105767_n.jpg after christmas lunch 3

although rather sleep deprived

10415657_10152932884707412_4309226746931141687_n.jpg after christmas lunch 5

with six of us sitting down to a traditionally groaning board


10888417_10152932884747412_2667201025648158757_n.jpg after christmas lunch 4.jpg christmas lunch 6

followed by Christmas Pudding, Brandy Butter, Chocolate Log and cream, musical crackers, and then, the BBEFBs.

10882324_10152932885237412_8536669487588735445_n.jpg after christmas lunch 2

These were available, in the first film, on the express train to Hogwart’s, for sale from the refreshment trolly which came round.

Ron Weasley says to Harry,”You want to be careful with those.  When they say ‘Every Flavour’ they mean every flavour!”

The choices apparently on offer were: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Bogey, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm,  Earwax, Grass, Green (Sour) Apple, Lemon,  Marshmallow,  Rotten Egg, Sausage, Soap, Tutti Frutti, Watermelon, and lastly, Vomit.

20130213_175823.jpg flavour guide

 Now, being a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, I expected the manufacturers and salespeople to have ‘sanitised’ these flavours to make them acceptable to a wide audience.

I was wrong.

10425053_10152932885282412_3427172819248039622_n.jpg after christmas lunch


 We appeared to have got very few of the nice ones and nearly all the horrible flavours, and they were, really, really, horrid.

But, oh, such FUN!!!


The sun is shining, the sky is blue, most of the roads are now passable and there is actually some visible grass for the geese who are now sunbathing with their feet on grass instead of snow and ice.

A suitably optimistic morning for New Year’s Eve: so, on that note, I wish anyone who visits this page a healthy and happy New Year:)


Amber 2014 062.jpg 1



Living history.

When we moved into our run-down and delapidated 200 year-old stone cottage we had restrictions placed upon us by both the mortgage company and the local Council.

bingley 2009 024

The mortgage company demanded that we replace all the old, wide, floorboards with narrow modern ones, and also replace the old plank doors which had latches, with modern panelled doors with doorhandles.  The Council demanded that we fill in with concrete all the drains in our back yard.  I refused point blank the former requests (being a cussed young woman even then) and covered the drain holes with stone flags so that they looked as if placed out of use, but were in fact just concealed.

We moved at the beginning of January, and were immediately faced with heavy snow:

2010-02-09 late winter bingley 107since we were living in one upstairs room with no heating other than an open bedroom coal fire, and one cold water tap downstairs hanging from the ceiling by baler twine, this was grim.  However, that is another story, and we just about survived.

But come the thaw and Spring, came the rains.

And 20 minutes after the first heavy shower began the kitchen began to flood.  When we were up to four inches and rising rapidly I went down the lane to our middle-aged neighbours (they were locals born and bred) to ask for help, my husband being unavailable.  The neighbour’s husband said we should not be flooding because the drains in the yard were built to avoid that very occurrence.  He came straight up to our cottage, helped me lift the stone flags off the drains and immediately the water began to vanish away; in the 40 years since we have been here we have never filled in or covered those drains again, or been flooded.  The drains run from the back yard, which is built into the hillside, under the cottage, and then release their burden 20 yards further on, into the lane in front of our house.

Thus began my relationship with these neighbours of ours who were to prove good friends indeed.  All through that first winter the wife invited me down to sit by their roaring fire, get warm, and have tea and scones with them each day at 4.0 pm, tea time.  One day she went to her old upright piano and began to play.  Tunes I had never heard before.  She gave me a dog-eared booklet full of songs, words which were equally new to me.  They were the Stannington Carols.  The original, old, country carols which still linger on here, although they have vanished in the rest of the UK.  They are named after local pubs, farms, cottages, cross roads and lanes.  And I love them.

Titles such as, Sweet Chiming Bells, Spout Cottage, Back Lane, Malin Bridge, T’owd Virgin ( The Old Virgin!), Stannington (our local village).  Later, when I joined a local choir, I had the opportunity to learn the alto part and sing these carols around the area.  But they are not the province of choirs alone: each year the local pubs are full of people who all know these carols, and there is standing room only for several hours of carol singing, robustly accompanied by alcohol.

They are quite distinct in style, repertoire and performance from the conception of carolling which arose in Victorian times.  These village carols predate the more well known carols by at least a hundred years, being composed by working people in the 1700s and 1800s. In fact, this singing of these carols in the pubs is the norm.

The tradition was explained to me thus: when England had her Civil War, Christmas was banned by Cromwell and consequently the singing of carols in church was also forbidden.  The country folk refused to give up their customs and took to singing in local houses and hostelries. Later on as the Church relented these carols were allowed back into Church services.  However, in Victorian times they were often considered to be too rowdy or lacking theological accuracy and were spurned once more. Thus for centuries the pubs have been the refuge of our local carols, and still are today, although sensible churches also give them ‘house-room’ now if they wish to please their congregations.  Musical accompaniment was not always available and thus the performance of unaccompanied part-singing has continued to this day.

Hearing the robust country voices, often with no music or words, just belting out these old carols in harmony, red-faced and enthusiastic makes one feel one is living, for a few hours, in a Thomas Hardy novel.  This is no conscious keeping-up of some outdated social practice, but living, breathing local history, which is lived and loved.

Sometimes the local silver or brass bands also come along to provide some accompaniment, and if there is a portable organ, that is wheeled out too.

The following Youtube clip contains 16 of our carols sung locally and I do hope you will take the time to dip into them, they are unique, and I love them.  As each ends, the next will begin automatically.

The Guardian newspaper has written about the singing in my valley at :


So, whatever your tradition, your culture or your celebration at this time of year, from mine to yours, I send you the very best of wishes for a Happy time from this village in the South Pennines of Yorkshire.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers

%d bloggers like this: